A Place of Safety
I expect simple behaviours here. Friendship, and love.
Any advice should be from the perspective of the person asking, not the person giving!
We have had to make new membership moderated to combat the huge number of spammers who register

You are here: Home > Forum > A Place of Safety > General Talk > What the Pastor or Priest or Rector Should Have Said!
What the Pastor or Priest or Rector Should Have Said!  [message #78672] Mon, 11 December 2023 23:42 Go to next message
Bensiamin is currently offline  Bensiamin

Likes it here
Location: USA
Registered: July 2019
Messages: 372

Last week, a "recovering" Evangelical Pastor by the name of Dan Foster who writes on Medium published an astounding piece titled "The Hidden Pain of LGBTQ+ Youth in the Church." It's subtitled "Rethinking Inclusion in Christianity," and is astounding for its palpable empathy, compasson and inclusiveness. I reached out to Dan and he gave me permission to post it here. I do so not just for the regular forum readers, but hopefully for young readers (I hope you're out there!) who may be struggling with the own sexuality and personal identity and need to hear what should be said.

The Hidden Pain of LGBTQ+ Youth in the Church

Rethinking Inclusion in Christianity

Ian was the first kid who told me he was gay.

I remember the conversation as if it were yesterday, much because it took me completely by surprise, and found me hopelessly unprepared to respond.

I was a twenty-something-year-old youth pastor in a church. And, Ian had decided that I was the one person that he could trust with his 'terrible' secret.

In that moment, as the weight of his words hung in the air, I grappled with my own internal conflict. The church environment I was part of hadn't equipped me to handle such revelations with grace and understanding. I was left torn between the teachings I had inherited from my Evangelical upbringing and the compassion my heart urged me to extend.

Yet, as Ian poured out his heart, I knew that this was a pivotal moment. It wasn't just about his journey; it was about the response I would provide -- a response that could either perpetuate the pain of rejection or ignite a spark of acceptance.

I swallowed hard.

"Ian," I said, "There's nothing wrong with you. You're okay and I don't think any less of you."

You could see the relief in his eyes.

Don't think of me as some kind of saint. I confess that at the time, I felt that while I had comforted Ian, I had somehow betrayed God. You see, I was taught -- indoctrinated really -- with this idea that same-sex attracted people were wicked and hopeless sinners. But, when I was confronted with the humanity of Ian's struggle, the first cracks began to appear in the dogma I had been force-fed since my youth.

The seeds of acceptance were planted.

In the two decades I was a pastor, I heard dozens of young people confess their secret struggle with same-sex attraction. And, in the process, I watched myself shift from a hardcore anti-gay warrior to a full LGBTQ ally, with a particular soft spot for same-sex attracted people who have had the misfortune of growing up in fundamentalist religious systems.

My heart just goes out to those people.

As a young person, it's tough when you realize that you are gay. It shouldn't be, but, in reality, the world still has a long way to go when it comes to full acceptance. However, it is doubly tough when you realize that you are gay, and you find yourself enmeshed in a faith community that condemns you, and your identity.

I have nothing but compassion for these people. The reasons for that are simple.

They didn't choose it

I have never met a young person who chose same-sex attraction. Same-sex attraction chose them.

It was not like when puberty kicked in, they walked into the school yard one day and, standing amidst the swings and slides, whimsically said to themselves, "Who am I going to choose to be attracted to? The opposite sex or the same sex? Hmmmmm.... I chose the same sex."

That's a ridiculous notion.

On the contrary, almost without exception, every young person who confided in me, indicated that they had been aware of their same-sex attraction for as long as they can remember -- certainly well before the sexual awakening that happens during puberty.

These brave young people were not the architects of their desires, as if they were handed a palette of preferences to paint their identity. Yet, within the church, there persists a narrative that suggests gay individuals somehow choose their own orientation, overlooking the innate and enduring nature of their same-sex attraction.

And if they believe that homosexuality is a choice, and homosexuality is a sin, then they believe that same-sex attracted people are wilfully in rebellion against God. It is a burdensome label that does profound harm.

Which leads me to my next point...

Most didn't want it

It's crucial to understand that not only do they not choose their same-sex attraction, but many of them earnestly wish they did not have it. This sentiment is not a reflection on the nature of same-sex attraction itself, which is neither good nor bad, but rather an indictment of the church system they found themselves entwined with.

The church, by framing homosexuality as a grave sin, instilled in these young people a profound fear. As they grappled with the dawn of their same-sex attraction, they were thrust into a tumultuous inner struggle, haunted by the prospect of rejection from their families, friends, church community, and even their perception of God.

It's important to emphasize that I believe that there is nothing inherently wrong with same-sex attraction. The predicament lies in the church system that communicated to these young people that their very essence was sinful. This created a painful dissonance between their authentic selves and the teachings they were taught as absolute truth.

So, they were left with a terrible choice: Leave the church, or bury their true identity. Sadly, many chose the latter...

They tried to bury it

Inevitably, most of the young people who were carrying this burden, tried to carry it alone. They dared not mention it to anyone. The church, intended to be a place of solace, became for them a silent torture chamber where the echoes of their authentic selves were stifled by the weight of social expectation and religious doctrines.

The struggle to conform to an ideal that denied the validity of their same-sex attraction pushed them into the shadows, where the fear of judgment and rejection loomed large. As they attempted to bury this intrinsic aspect of their identity, the toll on their mental and emotional well-being was immeasurable. The isolation was palpable, as they grappled with an internal conflict that seemed insurmountable.

In the silent battles fought within their hearts, they yearned for acceptance, understanding, and freedom. The choice to bury their true identity became a heavy burden, carried in solitude, with the unspoken hope that one day, they could reconcile their faith with the truth of who they were.

In desperation, they turned to the one thing they believed could help them...

They prayed for healing

Without exception, every single young person who confided in me about same-sex attraction, has laboured through many months, or even years of begging and pleading with God to take it away.

Without exception, God did not answer this prayer, for any of them.

Not one.

And that silence cut deep.

The became like modern-day Apostle Paul's pleading for God to take away the thorn in their flesh, only to be denied. Most came to believe that God either couldn't change them, in which case he was impotent. Or, he wouldn't change them, in which case he was callous.

What a tragedy.

They were terrified to talk about it

When the burden finally became too much to bear, some of them would finally seek out a trusted person to share their struggle with. It was a privileged position to be on the receiving end of such a conversation.

The conversations would inevitably all go the same way. They would say to me, "Hey, there is something that I want to tell you."

Then there was usually a long, awkward pause.

It was as if they were psyching themselves up to tell me that they had murdered someone and hid the body somewhere. The irony is that, in a strange kind of way, they really had -- they had tried to put to death who they really were. But they found that person painfully hard to dismiss.

When at last they disclosed their deep, dark struggle, often through tears, what broke my heart was always the look in their eyes. Their eyes would betray a profound fear of judgment, rejection, and a potential fracture in the fabric of the relationship. There was always a pleading in their eyes that said, "Please don't reject me!"

Of course, I never did.

But, I pity the young person who told the wrong person.

They abandoned the church.

The unfortunate truth is that some found themselves sharing their vulnerabilities with individuals who were more interested in "fixing" them than providing empathy or understanding. Instead of finding solace, they encountered judgment and condemnation -- a heart-breaking betrayal that often severed not only their connection to that person but, in some cases, to the church community as a whole.

In the aftermath of misplaced trust, some chose to abandon the church. The very institution meant to provide spiritual guidance and unconditional love became a source of pain, rejection, and alienation. The departure was not a rejection of faith necessarily, but a desperate attempt to preserve their mental and emotional well-being, seeking refuge in spaces where acceptance and understanding weren't conditional on conformity to outdated norms.

They received a terrible message from the church: You must conform to the heteronormative ideal to be accepted here. Many would go on to reject God as well. After all, if this is what the people of God were like, then what of God?

My Deepest Wish

The reason that I have completely changed my position on same-sex attraction is pretty simple. Once you start meeting people who have actually walked this road, it become impossible to keep up with judgment without some serious denial of the facts.

If a person has a sexual identity that they didn't choose and probably didn't want, and have begged God to take it away, but he hasn't, what is the appropriate response to that person?

It has to be nothing but compassion.

Throw out the theology textbook.

My deepest wish for LGBTQ+ people who also happen to wish to be followers of Christ, is that those two positions would not be viewed as mutually exclusive, but are able to be lived in harmony. And, my prayer is that the church would come to see them as sisters and brothers and non-specific others who belong as much as anyone else.

To all those people who grew up in church who lived with the 'terrible' secret they never felt safe to share.

God loves you.

I love you.

You belong.
Dan Foster writes in "Backyard Church" on Medium, and is the author of "Leaving Church, Finding God: Discovering Faith Beyond Organized Religion."
The original Medium post appears here.

[Updated on: Mon, 11 December 2023 23:45]

Re: What the Pastor or Priest or Rector Should Have Said!  [message #78681 is a reply to message #78672] Sun, 31 December 2023 14:11 Go to previous messageGo to next message
SAW is currently offline  SAW

Getting started
Location: Midwest
Registered: August 2022
Messages: 9

Very powerfull and well written that touched on so many struggles in my life. Thanks for sharing this Ben.

You touched on so much of this yourself Ben in your three part novel " Revelation and Redemption"
A novel that I feel is a must read for more than just a gay love story, but also to find and come to terms with your true identity and accepting yourself.

Re: What the Pastor or Priest or Rector Should Have Said!  [message #78712 is a reply to message #78672] Sat, 03 February 2024 20:17 Go to previous message
ray2x is currently offline  ray2x

Really getting into it
Location: USA
Registered: April 2009
Messages: 429

It was a very good article. The pastor did his best, him struggling to stay with doctorine. He took the road less taken by many of his peers.
I come at this from a different view, as an adult education counselor. I recently retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District after 38 years. My last 12 years were spent in the academic program, helping adults finish their high school diploma or to complete the California Adult Equivalency Certificate (commonly known as the GED). Adult ages range from barely 18 years old to 88 years old. Their reasons for wanting to finish their diploma requirement vary: some had to go find a job to help out their struggling family, girls who became pregnant, some who became addicted to alcohol or other drugs, some joined gangs, and so on. I had many young adults who were homeless for a few years. I ventured to feel these young adults were the gay or lesbian or trans kids whose family withdrew their love and pushed them out.
Before enrolling into classes, adult students must take a 4-day orientation. The bones of the orientation class were the students' high school transcripts. That in itself was the opening struggle for many. The first day of the orientation was just facts of the diploma program. The second day was somewhat similiar to what the pastor felt, what to tell them to make them feel that their problems leading them to hurt was unfortunate but the district had many programs to assist them. The gay young adults were most often homeless and needed the most assistance. Also, in place was non-discrimantion LAUSD policy that all adult ed instructors, counselors, administrators, ground maintenance workers, and so on, that we took very seriously. All adult students understood the policy as well. I made sure that they did during the orientation classes. There were those adult students who had to be told to leave.
This was not only about those students who were gay, but for all adult students with their struggles.
We all should have at hand resourses to offer: a homeless shelter, a food pantry, a cleric who understands their problems and struggles.
Previous Topic: Awesome Dude story site
Next Topic: New Home for Codey's World
Goto Forum: