In recent weeks several conversations on my social media pages have turned to LGBTQ issues. One was not a surprise, since it was about another denominational break-up driven by sexual orientation concerns. Another though was not about sexuality in any way, yet surprisingly and quickly turned toward that issue. Evidently, sexual orientation continues to be on people’s minds. Trying to answer why would take more blog space than I could afford to purchase, so I’ll leave that to the experts.
Instead, I would like to offer more down-to-earth perspective; a more practical and actionable pathway. I’m remembering when I served as a pastor and then as a therapist for the first half of my vocational life. For every one person walking through the pastor’s door or making a therapy appointment regarding their sexual orientation, there were at least 25 others coming through the door to discuss other sexual issues. When pastoring, the majority of my conversations with people experiencing angst, conflict, problems, or otherwise dis-ease regarding sexuality were heterosexual people. Then as a therapist, LGBTQ issues were occasionally the focus of therapy, but couples considering separation, divorcing, or trying to recover from affairs was far more common.
I wish I could lay my hands on the study I read in 2002 or 2003. I can still remember the primary finding….that 40% of people in churches are either actively in an affair (heterosexual type) or have been at some point during their marriage. At the time, I thought this percentage exceptionally high and factually suspect. But then, as a therapist, I can’t tell you how many stories I heard of people starting affairs while they served together on pastor search committees, or on the lay leadership team, or on the church staff. Who knew travelling to hear prospective pastors preach was such fertile ground for infidelity! Rarely were these affairs of the same gender type. Add this to the fact that 50% of marriages end in divorce, with those who participate in church divorcing at the same rate as those who don’t, and it appears the church has a major problem with sex….just not that kind (same gender).
This makes the Church’s current fixation on LGBTQ issues strange indeed. It appears as if we have far bigger concerns to address. Here’s where this discussion takes me.
- Sexuality is a powerful drive in we human beings. Surely this doesn’t need written or spoken! Or, does it? Our silence on sexuality when it comes to church speaks volumes. Since sexuality is part of us, being expressed in so many healthy and unhealthy ways, perhaps we should accept ourselves more fully as sexual beings. Just naming this reality as a normal part of the human experience may help us drop some of our dysfunctional baggage when it comes to sexuality.
- If making pronouncements and taking moral stands on issues was a primary strategy for managing ourselves well regarding our sexuality, one would think it would have resulted in better results by now. The traditional orthodox perspective about fidelity in marriage has been taught for centuries, yet infidelity flourishes. Many denominations, local churches, and even individual disciples are fixated on crafting their precise position regarding LGBTQ issues, while nearly half their people are experiencing great pain and heartache due to their struggles to manage their heterosexual selves. Pronouncements by themselves help, maybe, but just not that much.
- Perhaps it’s time to refocus our energy. What is it we aspire to as sexual people who follow Jesus Christ? Well, I’m not the go to person with all the answers, yet from where I sit it seems that fidelity in covenant relationships is the ideal. If so, let’s put our energy and effort as churches into helping people toward faithfulness and integrity. Imagine generating more interest in a couples enrichment retreat for your church than for debating same sex relationships on the internet. Imagine starting a men’s group where healthy sexuality and growth in integrity were the primary focus. Imagine robust premarital counseling groups where couples can actually learn about the rigors of marriage before tying the knot. Imagine denominations who redirected the thousands of hours spent on conflicts around LGBTQ issues, with the inevitable fall-out after decisions, shifting their energy to strengthening the faithfulness of heterosexual persons.
One other note: in no way am I minimizing the issues related to LGBTQ persons in the church. Instead, I’m suggesting that we may be focusing great energy and effort on the sexuality of a small sliver of the persons involved in church, while the majority go right on acting-out all kinds of brokenness. Maybe it’s time to lower the reactivity, step back, and take a good long look at what’s really going on regarding sexuality and the Christian journey.