It’s not news that the solution Exodus gives to young people for their attraction to the same sex is to refrain from acting on it and “deny themselves for Christ.” But a recent article brings Exodus to a new Orwellian level, this time by saying that being ascetic with one’s interpersonal relationships is a Godly calling when you are gay.
In “Loneliness is Good,” an article cross-posted to the Exodus Student Blog, Mike Goeke tells of his struggle to find Christian male friends after being told doing so would be a way to help heal his homosexuality.
I read many books, and a common ‘cure’ for my problems included finding some good male friends with whom to have healthy, authentic relationships.
This is in line with the disproven hypothesis that gay men become gay because their lack of “authentic” relationships with other men, especially of their fathers. But despite joining an inter-denominational Bible group, Mike found himself more alone than ever:
I sat alone most nights, and rarely spoke to anyone. I looked around the room and everyone seemed to know everyone else. Instead of finding friends, my loneliness only seemed to grow heavier.
One night, after he had decided to give up on Bible study altogether, God caused him to come to a realization.
In the dark of my room, as I expressed my frustration, I sensed God speaking into my heart. He said, not audibly but clear nonetheless, “go to the Bible study to meet ME.”
In the days that followed, I realized that my greatest need at that moment was not connecting with a friend. My greatest need was connecting with my God. As I quieted myself down, it became clear to me that God could not entrust me with the kind of friendship I longed for at that time. I had set up ‘friends’ as a sort of idol and made friendship the key to my joy and my fulfillment and my healing. I would have devoured friends had He given them to me then. God was gracious in many ways to deny me what I so longed for because it compelled me to Him and the true source of my affirmation and identity. And, amazingly, as I pursued a deeper relationship with God, I found myself developing relationships with other men, and the friendships I had longed for began to happen.
For ex-gays, just about any red flag or stumbling block can be justified as part of the struggle, maybe even as a message from God Himself. Struggling to make friends? God must be denying you friendship for some reason. And it must be related to your struggle with homosexuality. Exodus’ real purpose, it appears, is helping one rationalize all of life’s stumbling blocks into something God intends.
I have gone through several seasons of loneliness. I believe that God orchestrates those seasons in my life – in all of our lives – to help pull us back to Him. We can be so prone to lose sight of Him and to make something else or someone else our center. But when He becomes all we have, we realize more clearly that He is really all we need. When He, in His godly and relational perfection, speaks affirmation and friendship and love and acceptance into our souls, we are perfectly satisfied. And when we are perfectly satisfied in Him, we are so much more ready to be a true friend to someone else, and to receive true friendship in a healthy way.
I agree that any obsession or extreme dependency can be unhealthy. It can indeed cause one to lose sight of what’s important – for the religious person, it can cause one to lose sight of God. But why must simple social awkwardness or a struggle to connect with strangers be conflated with one’s struggle with same sex attraction?
God designed us to be in community and to be in friendship. Those are good things, and things we all must have. But God did not design us to idolize or worship friends and relationships.
It’s natural for human beings to seek out communion with other human beings. We are, with few exceptions, social creatures. Experiencing loneliness, even in an extreme way, does not mean one is ultimately “idolizing friendships.” But I suspect a different motive behind Goeke’s longing for and wariness of male friendship.
Befriending someone is a natural first step to a romantic relationship – something disallowed as a celibate gay person.
He promises that He can satisfy you, and you will discover the immensity of what it means to be fulfilled and have abundance in Christ alone. And when your eyes are off of you and on God as the true center of your existence, you might just realize that you are not alone after all.
But such ethereal comfort is not the same thing as earthly comfort. This article does nothing to address specifics of a lonely, if religiously devout, life. The plain fact is, not all religious people are called to be celibate, and being forced to embrace such a lifestyle can cause extreme loneliness that feels anything but “good.” In fact, it can lead to depression, despair, and all the consequences associated with it.
It is a twisted way of telling young gay people that a “Godly” life of loneliness is how it “gets better.”