Why Pope’s Response to a Gay Man is Wrong, But in Line With Many Evangelicals

It was the most depressing conference I’ve ever attended. For two days, people on different sides of the gay issue debated how Christians should counsel those with same-sex attraction. Some pushed for gay affirmation and full acceptance of same-sex relationships; others upheld the Bible’s prohibition on homosexuality and urged gays to remain celibate. Many expressed sympathy and compassion. But none believed in healing – and no one offered hope.

I couldn’t help but recall that conference when I heard Pope Francis’ reported comments to a gay man several days ago that “God made you like this. God loves you like this.”

“The pope’s alleged statement that God would make someone gay and would want him to stay gay violates Scripture . . . This is what happens when compassion is divorced from truth and any hope of transformation.”

The LGBT community is hailing the comments as a sign of the pope’s great compassion and enlightenment. And certainly, the pope’s message that God loves people who identify as gay is true, and in some segments of the church, extremely overdue.

But the pope’s alleged statement that God would make someone gay and would want him to stay gay goes against Scripture and established Christian doctrine. The Vatican will not confirm or deny the comments, so it’s possible the pope was misquoted. Yet the comments seem congruous with the pope’s statement in 2013: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

This is what happens when compassion is divorced from truth and any hope of transformation. And sadly, it’s not just the alleged position of the pope and many in society, but of many evangelicals too. This should not be.

Evangelicals’ Depressing Response to the Gay Issue

The conference I attended in 2015 was distinctly evangelical and marked a departure from the message of hope and healing that evangelicals used to hold out for those struggling with same-sex attraction.

Matthew Vines, a gay Christian leader, argued that condemning same-sex relationships results in psychological harm. It merely produces the so-called “bad fruit” of brokenness and pain among same-sex attracted Christians.

Similarly, David Gushee, a prominent Christian ethicist, said, “What (condemnation of all gay relationships) does to the (gay) 16-year-old in the church is it creates a disastrous box out of which he cannot escape with any good options from the church. So, we have kids throwing themselves off of bridges because they are in such despair because of what they have been taught and how they have been treated.”

“(W)e have kids throwing themselves off of bridges because they are in such despair because of what they have been taught and how they have been treated.”

That kind of emotional argument was pretty hard to combat, but some tried. Julie Rodgers, who at the time was an avowed gay, celibate counselor at Wheaton College, argued that gays could remain single, yet fulfilled. She said her attempts to change her sexuality proved futile, but added, “I just trust that the boundaries God put around sexuality are for our flourishing.”

However, Andrew Sullivan, a gay Catholic columnist, pushed hard against the notion of gay celibacy. “The argument being made is that gay people should be somehow eunuchs,” he said. “And, I’m saying that practically speaking in the world, it just can’t happen.”

Additionally, Sullivan suggested that gay celibacy leads to things like the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. “I’ve seen what that does to people. I’m from a church where that syndrome created an atmosphere and a culture that perpetuated the rape of thousands of children.”

I came away from the conference extremely sad. The outlook offered same-sex attracted Christians was so incredibly bleak. I knew there was a better way, but unfortunately, no truly redemptive options were even presented.

White-knuckling Leads to Capitulation

Sadly, the only prescription many evangelicals and conservative Catholics seem to offer same-sex Christians who want to remain faithful is to white-knuckle their way through a lonely life. This approach is extremely ineffective.

About three months after the conference, Julie Rodgers announced that she had reversed her stance on same-sex relationships, resigned from her position at Wheaton College, and today, she’s engaged to a woman.

“The white-knuckling approach seems impossible to same-sex attracted Christians and cruel to their straight counterparts who empathize with them.”

The white-knuckling approach seems impossible to same-sex attracted Christians and cruel to their straight counterparts who empathize with them. That’s why I’m not surprised by what Pope Francis reportedly said, especially considering the background of the man to whom he directed his comments, Juan Carlos Cruz.

Cruz was sexually abused as a child by the notorious pedophile and priest Fernando Karadima. Yet when Cruz, who’s openly gay, began speaking publicly about the abuse, he was victimized again by Catholic leaders, who discredited him because of his espoused sexual orientation.

Hearing Cruz’ story, and the stories of many Christians who identify as gay, evokes sympathy in anyone with half a heart. Yet as C.S. Lewis famously said in The Problem of Pain, “Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. . . . Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.”

A “More Stern and Splendid” Way

Unfortunately, the pope and much of the church have seemingly succumbed to the sentimentality of our culture. We care more about alleviating the immediate suffering of gay Christians than we do about condition of their souls. This is not love.

As Lewis additionally wrote, “It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms; with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.”

If we affirm gay relationships, we either have contempt for those whom we say we love, or we do not believe Romans 8:13: “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

Homosexual behavior leads to death. If you love someone, you do not encourage him to destroy himself.

“Sometimes I wonder if Christians really believe what the Scripture says. Not only does Scripture proclaim death to those who obey their flesh; it proclaims life to those who obey the Spirit.”

Yet sometimes I wonder if Christians really believe what the Scripture says. Not only does Scripture proclaim death to those who obey their flesh; it proclaims life to those who obey the Spirit. It does not condemn them to a lifetime of grueling struggle; instead, it proclaims freedom from sin and hope of redemption.

Though I don’t believe that God will make all gays straight, or subscribe to cartoon caricatures of healing ministries that supposedly help people “pray the gay away,” I do believe in healing and growth. I could not be a Christian and believe otherwise.

Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” And Second Corinthians 3:18 proclaims that every believer who focuses on Christ will be “transformed into his image with every increasing glory.” Do we think that our sexuality is somehow exempted from this redemptive work of transformation? It is not.

First Corinthians 6:9-11 says that “those who practice homosexuality” were among those delivered from their sin in the early church. “And such were some of you,” the apostle Paul writes. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

I don’t want to diminish the difficulty of overcoming homosexual desires. I spent years volunteering in a ministry that helped people overcome sexual brokenness, and I understand the moral effort and miraculous work of the Spirit required to gain victory in this area. But it is possible.

I know several people who once struggled with homosexual desires who aren’t white-knuckling it anymore. They haven’t experienced change in their sexual orientation, but homosexual desires no longer dominate their imagination, and they’ve been delivered from sexual bondage.

“The same power that raised Christ from the dead is alive in us. We should not be resigned to defeat; we should be proclaiming the hope of victory.”

I also know some who have experienced change in their orientation. They struggled with same-sex attraction 10, 20, or even 30 years ago, but now are married and have children. Many of them don’t talk about their past gay struggles out of respect for their kids, but these changed men and women exist. The narrative that homosexuality is an immutable condition is a lie.

Wrong sexual desires are part of our sin nature, and Scripture is clear that because of the cross, we can overcome our sin nature. That is the gospel, and Christians need to start believing it. But it’s not just our sexuality we need to trust God to transform. It’s any ingrained pattern of sin – alcoholism, gambling, pornography, you name it.

That is why at its root, the gay issue isn’t so much a crisis of sexuality; it’s a crisis of faith. Sadly, we have become a people “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Tim. 3:5)

But that is not who we should be. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is alive in us. We should not be resigned to defeat; we should be proclaiming the hope of victory. We should not be affirming the sin nature; we should be affirming the new creation.

That is the job of the church, and it’s about time the pope and Christian leaders – both Catholic and evangelical – return to it.


 

I discuss these issues further in “Redeeming the Feminine Soul: God’s Surprising Vision for Womanhood.” Order now! Still 1/3 off list  price!

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29 thoughts on “Why Pope’s Response to a Gay Man is Wrong, But in Line With Many Evangelicals

  1. steve boles

    Julie – excellent article. I do have a question that is perhaps tangential to the main focus of your article. The quote attributed to the Pope by CNN is from a reported private conversation between Juan Carlos Cruz and the Pope. How ought a journalist treat this when he or she is not sure whether this conversation actually happened as stated? Translations, misunderstandings, bad reporting, and even and an outright lie may be what happened here. (I’m not saying it happened in this particular case since I wasn’t there, but HOW does one truly know?). I know from personal experience, having been interviewed by local newspapers a few times, that reporters often “get it wrong” when quoting people sometimes. Your thoughts?

    • Margaret Honore

      Good article on a painful issue. Are you aware of the Catholic Apostolate for SSA people called Courage? They have the message of healing and hope you seek. Here is an article about them from Crisis Magazine, which gives a link to the Apostolate’s legendary video documentary entitled “Desire of the Everlasting Hills” from Psalm 49:26
      http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/bounty-everlasting-hills-leaving-gay-life-behind

  2. Journalists can’t know whether someone is telling the truth. All we can do is report what sources say and attribute the information accurately. And you’re right, we don’t know for sure what transpired during the pope’s conversation with Juan Carlos Cruz. The Vatican will not confirm or deny Cruz’s account. That’s why I said “reported” comments. However, the comments seem congruous with what the pope said in 2013 about gays: “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” And given that these comments have been reported all around the world, it would seem the burden now is on the pope to clarify what he said or didn’t say.

  3. Steve Barack

    The challenge we face (sadly) as evangelical pastors is to deal with questions the parents have concerning their gay children. “Do I attend the wedding?” “Do I invite ‘them’ to my home?” There are many good procedures but if there’s a cessation of communication, how can we make an impact?
    The issue is not clear cut. The scriptures are an excellent guide but who expected this avalanche of pseudo lifestyle choices spurred by today’s confused culture?

  4. First Corinthians 6:9-20 completely covers the issue of homosexuality and several other sexual sins. It also explicitly defines sexual morality. Verse 15 notes “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I them take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never. Verse 11 notes God’s love and forgiveness: And that is what is some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. How more CLEAR could the Word of God be about Homosexualigy being a sin that separates an individual from any saving relationship TILL there confession of the sin of Homosexuality and the other sins listed and receiving of God’s Forgiveness and being then accepted into the Kingdom of God.

  5. Judy Hundt

    Great article. I am not gay or lesbian. I struggle with my compassion for people who are gay/lesbian and the right or wrong of there orientation. I see these people with physical attributes so much like that of the opposite sex. Somehow chemically or psychologically the wires got messed up. These are the people that I have great compassion for that the feel like their body does not match how they feel inside. But the scriptures you presented make it clear. They should repent and turn from their ways. The church needs to change though to open their arms to this community. To love them and help them through this difficult struggle same as an addiction. I don’t think I’ve seen that at any church that I’ve attended.

    • “The scriptures are clear.” Except when they’re not. Actually, they do seem pretty clear. The thing is the church applies context and nuance to other apparently clear scriptures, that ones concerning misogyny, slavery, and genocide but somehow, curiously, not those that address homosexuality. The inconsistency is jaw drapping.

      • William Clark

        THANK YOU

      • Lovewonout

        No one is saying sins of misogyny, slavery and genocide are acceptable behavior, but the world screams that the sin of gay behavior is acceptable.

  6. Thank you for this article, Julie. The balance of grace and truth in your Biblical response to same-sex attraction and homosexual behavior hits the nail right on the head. If someone asks me how I feel about the whole issue, I’m going to refer them to this thoughtfully written piece by my Wheaton classmate.

  7. Carrington

    Not long ago I saw a clip of the Pope speaking in a public forum with a young boy whose father had passed away. The boy was grieving his father’s death and his particular worry was that his father would not be in heaven because he was an espoused atheist. The Pope, no doubt, is full of compassion, but his words of comfort to the boy seem similar to his apparent stance on homosexuality. The Pope noted what a good man this boy’s father must have been to raise such a fine boy, and to have his kids baptized even though he was not a believer. “Do you think God, who loves everyone, would bar such a good man from heaven?” was basically what the Pope asked the boy. The watching audience of course yelled “No!” and the Pope indicated to the boy that there was his answer. I was aghast. When we overlook sin and depart from Biblical teaching to appease the wounded hearts of the questioning, that is not love. If only we knew how to operate in both love and truth, as Jesus did.

  8. William Orris

    Julie
    At some point in time you might want to consider Lot’s wife. It appears that it was easier for God to get her out of Sodom but He was unable to get Sodom out of her. Hanging around someone who is living in open rebellion and disobedience is spiritually unhealthy. This generation all to quickly interprets loving someone as accepting a life style while they consider if the actions are morally wrong. Having compassion is no excuse for not clearly teaching what God has said. Take the Romans passage where Paul shared the downward spiral from not glorifying God which led to God giving them over to vile passions of the type her discussed. In addition, Proverbs and Psalm 1 clearly teaches that we are not to walk, stand or sit with evil or tolerate sinful behavior. Yes, I know that we need to evangelize, but if we don’t intend to present scripture because we might offend another human being, then we need to consider weather we’ve just offended God. There might just be a bigger problem than the homosexual issue and that being that of a disobedient, Christian who cares more about being liked than being obedient. If the un-churched crowd hated Jesus because he insisted that unless they repent they would all likewise perish, then they will hate us also.
    Your thoughts???

  9. steven m antonelli

    Very blessed,compassion is not compassion when you lie………… i have have been celebate for over 12 tears, i left a homosexual relationship because the truth did set me free, from my-self, if i went back to that life i would only be living a lie,God Bless………………..steven

  10. Tri

    I completely agree with both Julie’s article and the 8 comments that I have read. My nephew and my niece are practicing homosexuals. I remembered them as little ones growing up. My sister, their Mom, had two other sons and they were both murdered. Our hearts ache, we love them so. My sister and I have talked and she said they would both have been such great parents. Life is hard and messy. Jesus loves with agape love but he spoke clearly concerning sin. The Eternal Soul is what he came for let us walk as he did.

    • How heartbreaking. I’m so sorry to hear all you’ve been through. Keep praying for your loved ones. We are never so far away that God cannot save. Blessings…

    • Excellent letter. What’s happening in CA is insane.

      • William

        What is happening in California regarding the rights of your LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters that you see as ‘insane?’ I’m confused.

      • William

        It really saddens me to see someone who calls herself a Christian defending something as inhumane and despicable as conversion therapy. I exhort you to soften your heart towards the immense pain and suffering that reparative therapy has caused the LGBT community and perhaps read some firsthand accounts. I hope that as we all grow in our relationships with Jesus, we would grow in love and understanding of all people, recognizing that even those who who are different from us are made in the image of God. Have a wonderful day, Mrs. Roys!

  11. Dana

    Julie, by far the best article ever written on this topic!! I am going to share with some of my loved ones who battle this. Well done and something I have been searching for to be able to hold more effective conversation on this topic. God Bless You!

    • I’m glad you found it helpful and am thrilled you’re sharing it with people who need hope. Blessings to you too!

  12. A resounding AMEN, Julie. Thank you so much for articulating a clear and compassionate argument for sanity and the Gospel! Thank you!

    • Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. “The narrative that homosexuality is an immutable condition is a lie.” I find these sorts of statements endlessly frustrating and depressing. I shy away from absolute statements that I can’t back up. Perhaps a small fraction of people have been able to shift their orientation. However, the evidence is overwhelming: the vast majority of people are not able to change their sexual orientation. (Behaviour, sure.) I don’t see anything in the Bible that promises that someone will be able to go from gay to straight, either. I’m sorry if this observable reality butts up against your world view.

  14. Drew, I don’t know what overwhelming evidence you’re referencing, but there actually are lots of studies showing that sexuality is fluid. But frankly, I’m amazed in the current culture where the LGBT community dictates the narrative that any honest studies are produced at all. If you research the move by the American Psychiatric Association to change homosexuality from a disorder to an accepted condition, for example, you’ll find it was not motivated by scientific research, but was the result of virulent lobbying and protest by gay and lesbian activists. Also, I didn’t say the Bible promises that someone will be able to go from gay to straight. I said Scripture promises that we can overcome our sin nature and become more like Christ. For some, that may mean they become straight. But for others, it may mean they are able to gain victory over their same-sex desires and live chastely as singles. Either way, Scripture is clear that we are not slaves to our sinful desires, nor do they define us.

  15. The people who tell us sexual orientation is immutable are the same ones who tell us that gender is fluid. In other words, a natal male can become a female, a natal female can become a male, but a gay person cannot become heterosexual.

    • William

      What do you mean when you say that LGBTQ+ activists are arguing that gender is fluid? Are you referring to trans individuals as having fluid gender? Because if so, the argument was never that men can become women and vice versa, but that some of those born in physically male bodies (sex) are actually women in the way that they think and interact with the world (gender). These individuals may feel uncomfortable in their biological bodies and seek affimative surgeries to ameliorate that discomfort. There are quite a few neurological studies to back this up, and I think your compassion for and understanding of the trans community would grow if you were to read up on the difference between sex and gender. Have a wonderful day! I love and respect you.

  16. Lazetti

    Julie, as a woman who identifies with 1Corinthians 6:11, I so appreciate your articulate article. I’ve forwarded it to our pastoral care team at my parish. The Body of Christ needs to hear this. It refreshes my soul and challenges me to obey our Lord who won the victory for us all! I received the link through Restored Hope Network. Thank you for blessing my deep heart today. May He bless you richly!

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