I want to make an appeal to those Christians who are sympathetic to those who identify somewhere in the LGBT conglomeration, even those who adhere to the doctrine that marriage is only between a man and a woman, yet they view LGBT-identified individuals as some sort of marginalized group deserving compassion.
There are those who desire to remain doctrinally faithful while avoiding the animus that comes from a certain strain of fundamentalism. And, of course, there are those who have chosen progressive, revisionist theology that fully affirms the range of sexuality concepts within LGBT.
If I am giving the benefit of the doubt, I can see how Christians who are either fully or partially affirming of LGBT self-concepts may be doing so out of a sincere desire to demonstrate compassion. Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, better known as the Christian music artist Plumb (one of my personal longtime favorites), comes to mind as an example. When June 1 rolled around, she posted on her Facebook page a rainbow with the following caption: “Happy Pride month! To all my LGBT brothers and sisters … I see you and I love you!”
At this point, I’m confident she’s far from the minority among artists in the Christian music scene; I’m certain most others are testing the winds before they make such public declarations of LGBT-affirmation. I was not surprised by her position. Not only was she dropping hints over the past few years on her social media that she’s growing more critical of conservative theology and reevaluating norms of Evangelical Christianity, but I’m not surprised because of the very reason I have always liked her as an artist. Listen to her albums and you will hear carefully worded reflections on the pain and brokenness of the human experience. Her songs depict a heart for the hurting, and that has always resonated with me. Here’s why.
I’m a psychotherapist — a trauma-informed one to boot. In particular, I work with individuals with struggles over their sexuality. I started off as an accountability partner to friends with sexual addiction struggles when I was a student at a Christian college. After interning at a counseling center that specialized in a whole range of sexual issues, I launched a support group on campus for men dealing with past trauma, and by God’s design, all of them dealt with some sexual struggle, half of which would be same-sex in nature. I ran that group for eight years. During graduate school, I experienced intense discrimination for the work I do.
I’m now certified in Reintegrative Therapy, a treatment approach for trauma and addictions using evidence-based interventions, which has been found safe and effective in helping people explore shifts in their sexuality. I consult with Joseph Nicolosi Jr., whose father was the founder of authentic Reparative Therapy, the therapy approach that is probably the most misrepresented and reviled among liberals and conservatives alike. I could certainly save myself much risk and controversy if I specialized in any other area.
I share my background to point out that this is more than just a job for me. I care deeply for individuals with conflicts over their sexual attractions and identity. It infuriates me when I see Christians — including fellow conservatives with whom I agree with so much on — speak so recklessly and harshly about sexuality strugglers.
A certain stream in the church sees homosexuality only in terms of its sinfulness, some of which go so far as to insinuate that the person having same-sex attraction (SSA) experiences is committing the sin of idolatry just by suffering involuntary arousal sensations and intrusive same-sex thoughts. I can thus empathize with the impulse to assuage the burden on the person who is subjected to such insinuations.
But to those inclined toward LGBT affirmation, do you really want to be an ally to those with sexual attractions and self-concepts that diverge from the norm? Do you want to demonstrate love, mercy and grace? Excellent. Then please, listen to my plea.
I put my livelihood at risk working in the most controversial field of psychotherapy and ministry because when I hear the stories of men and women with SSA, my heart breaks. I hear stories of failed attachment with one or both parents, rejection by siblings and peers, shame for not fitting the culturally bound stereotypes of masculinity or femininity, contempt for their bodies, intense loneliness and anxiety, and sexual exploitation (to name just some of the common factors). It is quite evident that the tendencies toward homosexuality or insecurity in their gender identity are derived from these experiences. But the self-examination required to work through those root issues is difficult.
When you go along with the narrative that people are “just gay” or “just trans” and you deny the impact that their experiences had on their sexual development, you are actually allying with the very wounds, developmental deficits, ingrained lies, and sin (both those committed against the person and those by the person) that causes the sexual brokenness you are affirming. It is akin to attempting to ally with a trauma survivor by celebrating the alcohol abuse or self-harm the person uses to cope with the trauma.
When you ally yourself with LGBT activism, you are allying with the forces of darkness that seek to steal, kill, and destroy personal dignity, sexual integrity, and the hope of marital and sexual fruitfulness.
Quite frankly, we default to LGBT affirmation because it eases the burden on ourselves to do the difficult work with them. If you want to be a true ally to their dignity and wholeness, get in the trenches and aid them in their process of healing.
I care too much for men and women, and children, who endured developmental wounds, to see their progress in healing and reintegration derailed by a movement of misguided compassion.
In trauma treatment, we commonly say that trauma reactions (such as hypervigilance and flashbacks) are normal reactions to abnormal experiences. But we know that the trauma reactions are themselves disordered and lead to interference with living a safe, healthy, productive life.
A trauma-informed lens leads us to ponder questions like “What happened or failed to happen in your life?” Rather than “What’s wrong with you?” We don’t simply try to convince our clients that they’re “born that way.”
As trauma-informed professionals, we foster curiosity about the connection between the present and the past. We educate our clients to know what types of experiences are necessary for normative development so they can be aware of their own needs and vulnerabilities. We equip them to regulate their involuntary physiological and cognitive reactions; help them establish and enforce boundaries so their behaviors are prosocial, healing, and in line with their values; and we wisely expose them to the experiences in the past that keep them bound to their distressing emotions and distorted beliefs.
If you fail to see the parallels to how we ought to address same-sex attractions and gender confusion, then you are lacking an awareness of the truth, goodness, and beauty of God’s design for us.
Yes, sexuality strugglers do need compassion. And true compassion affirms the reality of God’s design while offering competent help to those who desire it.
Andrew Rodriguez is a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania. He's the director of Integrity Christian Counseling and the creator of the YouTube channel PsychoBible, in which he discusses psychology, theology, and sexuality. He's a certified Reintegrative Therapist. He's on the board of Voice of the Voiceless, uplifting the voices of ex-LGBT people. And he does work with ReStory Ministries, equipping churches to address LGBT. He's been married to his wife Jessica since 2007.Counseling practice website: integritychristiancounseling.care PsychoBible: youtube.com/PsychoBible