“Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted” (Bethany House, 2017) by Ron Citlau is subtitled “Biblical direction for friends, family members and those struggling with homosexuality” with the intended market of “pastors, church leaders, parents of a same-sex struggler, and Christians who want to work very hard to make their church a place where same-sex strugglers can flourish.” (p 16)
Before reading and reviewing this book, I completed “Compassion without Compromise,” a book co-authored by Citlau and suggested by him as “a more in-depth discussion on what the Scriptures say about homosexuality and biblical ethics.” Once familiar with Citlau’s theology, I was better equipped to read and review this book. [I posted a review of that book as well.]
Citlau’s says there are three obstacles that stand in the way of God giving His gifts to “same-sex strugglers” (a term that Citlau uses to gross excess. The term often appears over six times on a single page.) The author lists the three obstacles: identifying as a gay Christian, gay marriage, and the spiritual friendship movement.
With those “obstacles” out of the way, he then suggests five “biblical gifts” which are available to same-sex strugglers: the gift of the church, the gift of therapy, the gift of singleness, the gift of marriage, and the gift of lament.
Okay, time to enter chapter by chapter into “the valley of homosexual brokenness” (Citlau’s words) with overcomer Citlau (although he admits he is still same-sex attracted) as he shares what God has done for him and “wants to do for everyone who will give their life to him (Jesus).”
Chapter 1: The Obstacle of Gay Christian Identity. As if to dismiss the gay Christians movement because it is relatively modern, Citlau states “the idea of happily joining a gay identity with your Christian identity is a new perspective. At no time in Christian history has it even been considered.” (p 23)
My goodness, of course historical figures Paul, Augustine and Martin Luther would not have been writing about gay Christians. The medical community only came to realize in the early 1970s that there is a natural spectrum of human sexuality from homosexuality to heterosexuality. Yet, the movement is not as new as Citlau alludes.
In the late 1960s, Reverend Troy Perry began the fifty year process of banging on the doors of conservative churches to be heard and included. It is only recently that the affirming Christian movement, or “revisionists” as Citlau identifies this group, has gained greater movement and a more broad reach.
Citlau suggests that those who identify as gay and Christian are doing more harm than good to themselves and that they “stand directly in the path of the same-sex struggler’s flourishing.” (“flourishing” is another word Citlau over uses and never defines what that might look like for a believer — up to five times on a single page. Citlau thinks “the embrace of a gay identity leaves the door open for sexual sin and temptation.” (p 25) Perhaps he is suggesting that using the term “same-sex struggler” will shut that door.
Problem #2 with identifying as a gay Christian — it creates a barrier to the possibility of God changing a person’s orientation (Citlau does not use the word “orientation,” yet that is the proper term). “ . . . whatever you do, do not name the fractures of same-sex attractions as a good thing to be embraced.” This does not make, as an all-powerful God can chose to change orientation at any time, regarding of the label one uses. However, He simply doesn’t make that change.
Problem #3 with identifying as a gay Christian — it is not a “biblical category.” See #1. Female leader and black pastor were also not “biblical categories.”
This is followed by several pages of encouragement to remember who we are as male and female, with no recognition of those who are intersex. Perhaps intersex people are not a “biblical category”?
Citlau writes: “Biblical sexuality is more than having a gendered body, there is a psychology of gender given by God that is developed through the traditional family.” (p 30) My goodness! What does that even mean? Here are some clues as to what the author means. “Biblical masculinity” is a man fully living out “his sexual identity” “through sacrificial love and sacrifice.” (p 32). Biblical femininity is “creative and protective love.” (p 33)
I wish it were mandated that pastors had to have some professional education in human sexuality. This might have helped stave off the misleading section on “biblical masculinity” and “biblical femininity.”
Gay people are those who are attracted to the same-sex; they are not people who are questioning their gender in relation to their body. That would be transgender people. The Bible is not a treatise on human sexuality, yet bad theology and ideology result when we use it that way.
Chapter 2: The Obstacle of Gay Marriage. “Marital difference has a purpose, it points to God. Each person has roles and functions born out of our gender differences.” (p 41) When your foundation is built upon assumptions of what “biblical masculinity” and “biblical femininity” are, this is the expected destination which find no support in the Scriptures.
Without saying it directly, Citlau alludes to the principle of “complementarity.” People who support one man, one woman marriage frequently cite this doctrine. Is complementarity the rejoining of the two parts of Adam and Eve, or is it gender differences, or perhaps anatomical differences that make a marriage? It really does not matter which definition you select. None of them are supported anywhere in the Scriptures as a condition of marriage.
“Complementarity” was created in 1987 to fight biblical feminism in the church, then to thwart rising interest in same-sex marriage in the early 1990s. It is hardly a “biblical doctrine.”
Citlau then takes on procreation. “Essential to marriage is the ability for the two to create a third.” (p 44) Again, this is stated nowhere in the Bible as a mandate for marriage.
The Genesis “go out and multiply” passage is a blessing, not a mandate for marriage. Still drifting from what the Bible actually does say, Citlau insists “Procreation is essential to traditional marriage because it points beyond itself to who God is and what he is about. It is not only the foundation of society but it also points to the very nature of God.” (p 44)
Chapter 2 is filled with ideology and assumptions.
It ends with the declaration that gay marriage does not allow gay Christians to “flourish” because there is no ability to create oneness, for there is no gender difference, because same-sex couples cannot procreate, because they can never be “on a Jesus mission,” and because same-sex marriage cannot reflect the love Christ has for His bride, the church.
There is so much wrong with this chapter. Too much to tackle here. I’ve written an entire chapter about the history of marriage, civil marriage, and same-sex marriage in my book “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon.” Read it.
Chapter 3: The Obstacle of the Spiritual Friendship Movement. I have to be honest, this chapter stunned me. Gay Christians who have decided to live a life of celibacy and not marry often engage in deeper spiritual friendships, and Citlau sees this movement as an obstacle to “flourishing” in a relationship with Jesus.
Citlau writes: “There are troubling things within the spiritual friendship movement as well: the embracing of gay identity, a real danger of entering into a train of thought that will end up with the full embrace of gay relationships, and a loss of biblical language that speaks of sin, idolatry, mortification, and transformation.” (p 68) So, Wesley Hill, Ron Belgau, Eve Tushnet — yup, all doing dangerous stuff according to Pastor Citlau.
Chapter 4: The Gift of the Church. “Same-sex strugglers need to be involved in a church to flourish.” But, it has to be a church that is “profoundly biblical,” meaning that the leadership interprets the Bible the way Citlau does. It has to have the power of the Spirit (so that your sexuality can be transformed).
Chapter 5: The Gift of Healing Communities and Christian Therapy. Christian therapy “seeks to understand the cause and roots of the same-sex attraction as a result of sexual identity in crisis; and finally and most important, as a person lives in union with Christ, Christian psychology seeks to help one experience regeneration in his or her sexual identity so that he or she can live a holy life through his or her gender for the glory of God.” (p 91)
The aim of Christian therapy “is to become whole in our sexual identity as a male or female.” (p 92) Stop right here. If you were to ask a strictly gay or lesbian person, there would, in all likelihood, be close to zero confusion about was sex they are, whether that is male or female. This supposed “gender confusion” on the part of gay people was a silly and long-ago tossed out imagination from the 1950s and 1960s.
Additionally, American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Counseling Association, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association,.American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, American School Health Association, National Association of Social Workers, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): Regional Office of the World Health Organization, and World Psychiatric Association are all in agreement that therapy of any sort to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of people has been discredited, ineffective, and dangerous.
Is that a long enough list of expert input to effectively counter Pastor Citlau’s claims that gay Christians have “a sexual identity that is in some way fractured”? When the mental, emotional and the physical well-being of people is at risk, it is not okay to make stuff up. Especially, if you are called to be a pastor and care for people!
Citlau suggests checking out ministries to help with your sexual brokenness: Living Waters, Desert Streams, and Restored Hope Network. Noteworthy, after almost four decades in business as an umbrella organization for Christian change therapy ministries, Exodus International closed its organization and acknowledged both lack of success in orientation change and the damage such work had done in the lives of LGBT people.
Chapter 6: The Gift of Singleness. There are no surprises in this chapter. “Same-sex strugglers,” if they cannot enter into a heterosexual marriage, can see “the beauty, the viability, and the ability of singleness to be the means of a same-sex struggler who follows Jesus to flourish.” (p 104) Citlau has previously stated, “Humans flourish in relationships,” (p 46) and “marriage doesn’t just point to God; marriage points to the purposes of everything,” (p 47) and further, “absolutely everything.” (p 47) Yet, because a person does not have a heterosexual orientation, they should be denied flourishing, and living out the purpose of everything, absolutely everything, unless they heterosexually marry.
This ideology does not reflect the riches of God towards His gay children. However, this does reflect the dogma of people who abuse Scripture and ignore grace without add-ons.
Chapter 7: The Gift of Marriage. Marriage is great; it has caused “profound good” in Citlau’s life; it is a place to be “loved and encouraged to run the race of faith well,” but gay people can’t have it unless they marry heterosexually.
Citlau warns there may be some “pitfalls” for a “same-sex struggler” to marry heterosexually. (Ya think?) But, it can be beautiful, a place to express sexual intimacy, the best place to have children, produce deep friendship with your spouse, flourish (again) in a place of submission, services and love, and live out a Jesus mission together. Though same-sex marriage is legal and all the preceeding beauty can be accomplished in that union too. Yet Citlau thinks same-sex marriage would be an “obstacle” to flourishing in God. Just because.
Citlau cites several mixed orientation (my word, not his, he is slow to acknowledge orientation at all) as success stories. While reading this section, I finally realized why Citlau looked so familiar. He attended the inaugural conference of the Restored Hope Network (RHN), as did I in September 2012. I respect that Citlau’s marriage story belongs to him, but it most certainly does not typify the story of strictly homosexual people who have tried to heterosexually marry.
There was a distinct vibe I felt at the RHN conference where about 40% of the 125-ish attendees present were in mixed-orientation marriages. There was a lack of joy, spontaneity and playfulness that I sense in the presence of couples who marry “correctly,” or, heterosexually, not according to their natural orientation. Also, I wrote a chapter in my book, “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon” on mixed-orientation marriages. Such unions generally had disastrous results. One caveat to all of this, however. Those who are bisexual (an orientation that is utterly unacknowledged by traditionalists) are attracted in varying degrees across the human sexuality spectrum. They could certainly and successfully marry heterosexually.
Chapter 8: The Gift of Prayerful Lament. The “gift” of lament over same-sex brokenness will help you “journey well with Jesus and flourish even in dark places.” (p 136) There are plenty of things to lament about, one’s natural sexual orientation should not be one of them.
Chapter 9: A Note to Church Leaders. It is the goal of church leaders to find those who “identify as LGBT and are in relationship” and “introduce them to the living Jesus” to help them “make peace with his or her God-given sexual identity as male or female,” and to help them “learn(ing) how to be a good gender gift.” (p 149)
Leaders need to be careful though to make sure “your stance against same-sex behavior is rooted in the Bible, not your bigotry.” (p 151)
Chapter 10: A Word of Hope to the Same-Sex Attracted. There is “real hope for the same-sex struggler” when you do all the above steps to try to change, be celibate, or heterosexually marry.
So, there you have it. That is Citlau’s “biblical direction for friends, family members, and those struggling with homosexuality.”
This book was an exhausting read. When I finished it, I was thinking about two verses: “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” Matthew 23:4, and “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:30.
Now, may I suggest this step-by-step biblical direction for friends, family members, and those struggling with traditional views on homosexuality:
Get educated and realize that there is a natural spectrum of human sexuality from homosexuality to heterosexuality, including bisexuality.- Read and study the passages on same-sex behavior in context and using good exegetical skills.
– Read and re-read Galatians until you sob.
– Stop ignoring the history of marriage, human sexuality, the historical and changing roles of men and women, the impact of politics on the Christian ideology, and the patriarchal lens the Bible was written in and you continue to interpret through.
– Get to know LGBT Christians who are single, married, and have created families.
– Attend affirming churches so that you may realize such churches can indeed be “biblical” and spirit-filled.
– Repent for the damage you have done to the LGBT community.
And, maybe read my book, Walking the Bridgeless Canyon: Repairing the Breach Between the Church and the LGBT Community . May you leave your blindness and come follow Him.