Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Crowing from the Hills

"Just another Catholic mom" wrote, in her blog, that when she purchased Sexual Authenticity she was worried that it was going to be a "saved" lesbian crying from the hills that all homosexuals can be saved from homosexuality by prayer and the love of Jesus. She was relieved to find that it wasn't.
I was less relieved. We worked quite a bit to get the back-of-the-book text into a form that would suggest that this wasn't the standard sappy-clappy ex-gay conversion testimonial. For some reason, though, this standard keeps cropping up in various places.
For example, the first time that I did a radio interview to promote the book, I was strangely disappointed at the end of it. It took a couple of minutes thinking to figure out why; then I realized that I had been somehow or other guided into giving that standard testimonial. The "I felt God calling to my heart, and then He made me straight. Ain't Jesus wonderful!" story. Blech.
I'm not sure why, but for some reason Catholic publishers, radio hosts, etc. seem to be under the impression that modern Catholics want to hear this kind of rubbish. There's a sense that the streamlined, perfect, all-to-easy, glowing reparative therapy tale is going to be "edifying" to any poor sodomites who happen to tune in.
The reality, of course, is quite different. People with same-sex attractions are never edified by the standard testimonial, because they don't believe it. They don't believe it, because it isn't true. It's too good to be true. It's too clean. Not messy enough. More to the point, it's bad plotting. It's a contrived tale: very predictable. You can tell exactly what is going to happen at every point along the road, the end is implicit in the beginning, and there are no surprises, no twists, no unexpected upsets in the plot. It is a tale told by a Hollywood script-writer, full of cliches and stereotypes, signifying nothing.
Real conversion stories are dramas scripted by God. They're better than Euripedes and Shakespeare. They're weirder than Pinter. They're peppered with strange and bizarre characters. They involve absurd twists like "Saul of Tarsis, on his way to persecute the Christians, sees a vision of Jesus and falls down blind on the road to Damascus."
Only when a tale has this sort of reality does it have any chance of edifying. Because people can tell a forgery when they see one. They can recognize the air-brushing on our autobiographical testimonials. And that never fails to disedify.


  1. To play devil's advocate here for a moment...why is "[another] 'saved' lesbian crying from the hills that all homosexuals can be saved from homosexuality by prayer and the love of Jesus" necessarily a bad thing?

    If I understand correctly, you make the claim that such a story would be too simple, and therefore if ever asserted by someone, must be false. This is, of course, an argument from aesthetics; and as far as it goes, it's not half bad. I note that you even included a Biblical example that is perfectly suited to your intended audience.

    But still, what would you say if someone accused you of being too complex? I can easily imagine this occurring; indeed, it is occurring right now, if only for the purposes of curiosity.

    In summary, it troubles me that you are so quick to question the integrity of another's testimony merely because their testimony is simple and predictable--couldn't it be just that simple and predictable, after all, at least in some cases? Why does complexity somehow bestow an extra degree of genuineness, other than a feeling that it must?

    In the final analysis, your position's antithesis--namely that "all homosexuals can be saved from homosexuality by prayer and the love of Jesus"--does not seem to be any more or less believable. It would not be hard to construct an argument that even though things are this simple, some people are blocked from such an straightforward course because of sinfulness or stubbornness or what else have you. This argument might come across as dismissive or condescending, true, but in and of itself I do not see any real theological problems with it.

    But I tend to side with you, which is why I said I'm playing devil's advocate. What I'd like to know is why I tend to side with you. After all, feeling that things are complex rather than simple can be wishful thinking in the end, or perhaps a way to explain away the shadows of our inadequacies when faced with the blinding light of better people around us (well, better relative to whatever issue is in question).

  2. "For some reason, though, this standard keeps cropping up in various places."

    And this is precisely why I had my reservations despite the book description, which was quite clear. That generic "God made me straight" script is a pervasive part of modern Christian culture, and those of us who have been burned by it are naturally going to be cautious.

  3. Your Paul of Tarsus example works against you, I think, because it is one of those "God made me..." examples. God made Paul a Christian...just as God converts homosexuals. This is the bottomline of any conversion..."God made me...".

  4. The reason why many tend not to believe in 'extreme', and apparently simple accounts of conversion, is first, because it is not in their own realm of experience, and second, because of intellectual pride. They WANT it to be more complicated, but in truth, it often isn't. Jesus did say that he rejoiced that God chose to reveal the truth to the simple/child-like, trustful, etc., and that this would be remain a mystery to those blindede by pride and sophisticated 'complication'. You needn't doubt that God CAN morally transform a life from one pole to the other, He certainly wants to. It's a pity, really, for a convert to be forced to defend their spiritual re-birth and reformation of life- it is a first principle of Christian life and experience.
    Thank you very much.

  5. Just read the review, dang! You should put that on the back cover of the next printing.

    I know I am looking to purchase because of it.

    God bless you and your work!

  6. Melinda
    I loved the book and read it in one sitting.
    Will you ever elaborate any more extensively on your conversion to catholicism, either in this blog or elsewhere?
    Im a cradle catholic and i never really fell away from the faith. Not that Ive never had doubts, but stories of how ones heart is changed always interest me.


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