We often hear pastors express their conviction that they welcome all to their flock, and increasingly—in an attempt to love those they don’t completely understand, and to minister to real needs and questions—their churches are offering “reparative” or “conversion therapy” in an effort to change gay people’s orientation.
First, such “therapy” hasn’t been shown to change anyone’s basic makeup. People’s attractions are pretty hard-wired – some of us are attracted to women, some to men, some to both. The question is whether we’ll choose to behave in ways that are exploitive or caring, selfish or nurturing, violent and abusive or lovingly accepting.
Take a moment to think about the first times you noticed being attracted to someone. Were they male? Female? Some of each? The pattern of these attractions usually shows up in childhood or early adolescence, and as you probably recall, it’s not something you chose.
Still, what about people who claim to have changed their orientation through ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy? In making that claim, they appear to be confusing their behavior (what two people do together), their identity (what a person says about him or herself), and their orientation (who a person is attracted to).
While it’s possible that they had been able to stop acting on their attraction for a time, and they may have publicly identified themselves as heterosexual, nothing has been found to change people’s internal orientation. Consider that God’s intent for each of us is already evident in who we are.
The choice you and I have is not whether to be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but how to be whoever we are. The question is whether we’ll choose to behave in ways that are exploitive or caring, selfish or nurturing, violent and abusive or lovingly accepting.
While it’s true that gay people in the church frequently do struggle and are in pain, it’s not from being out of line with God. They struggle and are in pain because of their experience of discrimination and condemnation. Attempts to change them do not occur as loving and welcoming; they just add to the pain and hurt.
Consider that God’s intent for each of us is already evident in who we are. A rose is the way it is because it was made that way. A lily is the way it is because it is a lily. Would we challenge God’s creation and say that there’s something wrong with being a rose; it really ought to be a lily?
Just as we celebrate and enjoy roses and lilies equally, so can we celebrate and enjoy all of God’s creation, knowing that each one was made in God’s image.