Recently I experienced, once again, a pastor with whom I had contact only on the internet, telling me that my problem is that I should accept “truth” rather than “feelings.” It is a similar argument to the whole “you should not call yourself ‘gay’ because your identity should be in Christ, not your feeling or ‘sin.'”
For a lot of my life I bought both arguments. And wound up feeling guilty for feeling guilty and ashamed for feeling ashamed. I would feel bad for feeling temptations for guys but then I would feel even worse because I was not supposed to feel bad but joyful that Christ had overcome sin – and I simply could not make myself feel joyful, or even less bad. So, I felt, I must be a really really bad Christian indeed.
Over the last couple of years, however, it has become more and more obvious to me that while statements like “our identity is in Christ” and “it’s about truth not feelings” are abstractly true, they become false when they are used as they currently are, as abusive paths to avoid responsibility for the actions of Christians and the Church.
I have already written about how it was the Church, not society, that pushed my identity into my sexuality by, primarily, making stands against sexual behavior into stands against people (for instance, the whole consternation that wracked our church body over gay kids being allowed in scouts). But the same is true of emotions and feelings. Even our theology acknowledges this by stating that a repentant sinner who is given law and little gospel will become a despairing sinner. What is that other than an acknowledgement of the creation of emotion?
The reality is that the sexual minority does not, in fact, have a choice between truth and emotion. Rather, the sexual minority individual is often feeling the expected and correct emotion that is the result of being given half truth. The law with little or no gospel. And a half truth is not truth at all – it is a lie.
I am not saying that it is the pastor’s responsibility to make a person feel good. But at the same time, a pastor who ducks his own responsibility in creating despair and misery by pitting feelings against truth while delivering a lie is not acting like a pastor and is pushing the blame and shame onto the victim.
Similarly, a pastor recently asked me if I understand that Christ died for me too . I think I said I can acknowledge it intellectually but have trouble actually picturing it or imagining it at all. His response was that I should go to my pastor because it was my pastor’s responsibility to help me apprehend the love and forgiveness of Christ. Again, objectively true but contextually abusive. My identity as gay and my difficulty in accepting the Gospel for myself comes from a life time of public comments from pastors, synods, districts and denominations making crude and thoughtless remarks about LGBT people and delivering law without Gospel in various public settings. And one pastor who, as good as he is, is fairly young and new in the ministry, is supposed to undo and fix all that? Wow, I don’t think so. No, pastors and officials can’t pass the buck to the local pastor for the damage they themselves have done. The treatment of gay people is a public issue and has been discussed in public. It needs corrected publicly – on blogs and district and synodical levels.
Frankly, as a I look at the public ministry on this issue as a whole, I am very discouraged. Overall I see a willingness to condemn but very little desire to accept responsibility and correction and a lot of abusive passing of the buck.
No, its not about feelings but those who hold public office do need to accept the blame for the many times half truths created hurt and despairing feelings.