An ad for Dr. Tony Campolo’s recent book, “20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid To Touch” states that he is “not a man to shy away from controversy”. In the chapter, “Does Christianity Have Any Good News for Homosexuals?”, he has certainly stirred controversy. The definition of controversy is a “dispute concerning a matter of opinion”. In his introduction, Dr. Campolo says, “The time has come to be bold and to declare from the rooftops what I have been hiding away in my closet of opinions”. We believe any condition that has caused as much suffering and confusion as homosexuality has, requires true analysis, not opinion.
Dr. Campolo makes his statements from a powerful position. As an internationally recognized speaker and writer, he must be called to account for the damage his writing has done to the cause of freedom for people ensnared in homosexuality. He has further clouded the thinking of the church and has given “aid and comfort to the enemy” by distorting and avoiding the truth. We do appreciate the author’s eloquent, much-needed statements about the church’s failure to reach out in love, compassion, and truth to those caught in this sin.
However, for those ministries all across the nation that have been helping people overcome homosexuality for many years, and for those of us who have been set completely free of both the condition and the orientation, Dr. Campolo’s writing is cause for distress and yet, an opportunity. For distress, because he is so misinformed; an opportunity, because we can hereby respond and hopefully awaken the church.
The one resounding message he sends forth is his compassion for the person who has had these feelings all his life and has prayed for the desire to be removed, to no avail. Of course, this is a painful fact – many people have agonized over their homosexual desires with no relief. But is the answer, then, to plan “creative” ways of handling these desires as Dr. Campolo does, by suggesting that they live as “covenantal” homosexuals without sexual activity? To be “romantically” involved, but not made one flesh? It would seem to us this is a torturous plan leaving the person on the horns of a dilemma: “I feel it, but I mustn’t do it”. Is this the way of God, the perfect Way, Truth, and Life? We think not. It is for freedom we have been set free.
So how is this freedom won? First, by understanding that the condition is involuntary, coming on during childhood as an emotional or psychological deficit due to broken relationships (usually with parents) or other circumstances of life in a fallen world. Since this condition is involuntary, many homosexuals will say as adults that they were “born that way” and should be given the freedom to pursue their “sexual preference”. However, men can love each other without sexual desire for each other, and so can women. Yet, for most, this has been a thorny path of hurt, anger, self-hate, rebellion, compromise, envy, and despair, causing a great need for affirmation as a worthwhile person.
Sexual relations are seen as a quick fix; the pain is covered with pleasure; we receive what seems to be love; we idolize and feel esteemed by someone like us or by someone we would like to be; there seems to be some relief from confusion of identity, and we defy and feel protected from a hostile society. When one realizes this is a problem of repressed emotions and relationships, with sex being used as a narcotic, it is easier to understand. Pastor and author John Stott has said, “Christians know that the homosexual condition, being a deviation from God’s norm, is not a sign of created order but of fallen disorder. How then can we acquiesce in it and declare it incurable? We cannot”. (Christianity Today, 11/22/85, pg. 28.)
That means we must ask God for the wisdom and insight to free others of addictive behavior and emotional compulsion. We have done this, He has been faithful, and many have been freed. We must not fall into the folly of some who have adjusted their theology according to human experience, and have concluded that something isn’t really wrong because we haven’t been able to do much about it.
For instance, we hear that “since so few really get free of the orientation, maybe some are born that way” or, “how can we deny them sex?”. There is something terrible happening when we do this. The church is guilty of not believing enough or caring enough, because she has reacted emotionally to an issue that is inherently repugnant, and reaction has ranged from total rejection to total acceptance – stone them, or ordain them. Let us stand firm on the rock of God’s Word, confessing that it is truer and more reliable than our feelings. The problem is for many people, their emotions are the truth.
We were disappointed that, as Dr. Campolo exhorted us to treat homosexuals as Jesus would treat them, he asserted that Jesus would work for social justice. Perhaps, but not before loving them as he did Samaritans and lepers, calling them to repentance, comforting them in their affliction, casting out demons, healing their wounds, and giving them new life.
This is exactly what He is doing today, but it seems that Dr. Campolo either does not know this, or does not believe it, because he put the words “healed” (of homosexuality) and “former” (homosexuals) in quotes as if it were not possible. This is typical of the lack of investigation in the whole chapter.
One of the more glaring statements by Dr. Campolo is: “More and more research suggests that in a great number of cases, if not in an overwhelming majority, homosexual orientation is inborn”. This is conjecture and must be refuted. He uses as a resource, a colleague in sociology, William Kephart, who has no more proof than his own opinion and studies of physiologists in research on animals.
Dr. Campolo further states it is difficult, if not impossible, to get evidence in regard to human biological factors in orientation, thereby contradicting himself on the same page. Dr. Campolo makes this conjecture about biology four times in the chapter, yet if any proof of biological or genetic basis for homosexuality had been found, it would have been headlined immediately through “gay” activist connections. Instead, while on the “Donahue” show last April, we heard Dr. Richard Green and the four “gay” activists on the panel all acknowledging that environmental factors affect orientation. They could only speculate about biological factors, because there is no proof.
Dr. Campolo contradicts himself again when he says, “Most homosexuals have the orientation they do through no choice of their own nor any failure on the part of their parents to socialize them properly”. Then, on the next page, “I believe there may be a variety of causes for this orientation, including problems in the socialization of the young and faulty parental identification”.
How are we to take him seriously? We cannot, but the matter is serious because of his prominence. Dr. Campolo is not THE author of confusion, but he certainly is AN author of it. He brings forth an oxymoron in the term, “evangelical homosexual” though he is not the first to use it. We presume he means a person who is born-again but is struggling with lingering homosexual feelings and/or temptations.
This is certainly a common situation, and it calls for understanding and wisdom from fellow Christians to help complete the change process, to “remove the grave clothes from Lazarus”. This conflict between feelings and knowing one is saved is a point of confusion and defeat for many. This is the point at which Scripture MUST overrule our feelings and experiences. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; behold, new things have come.” (NAS). John 1 says we became sons when we received Him and became born of God.
Though we may be known by a sin-habit (thief, or drunkard), it is not who we are, and to refer to a born-again child of God as a homosexual is biblically wrong and detrimental. This continues the error of taking identity from feelings; it insults the gospel and confuses all who hear the term. Many children of God are in the sanctification process, overcoming an old sin-habit like gluttony, pride, anger, gossip, etc.
The sin-habit of homosexuality has more of an identity grip than other sins, so it is very important to stand in our new identity in Christ. We need this firm place to stand (Psalm 40:1-3), and fight our way to freedom. We have no “homosexual brothers and sisters” – we have brothers and sisters in the Lord who are overcoming the world, the flesh, and the Devil. It is vital to know who we are in the Lord. There is no such thing as an “evangelical homosexual”.
It must be made clear that homosexual behavior is ADDICTION – addiction to relationships and/or activity, and addictive problems are not solved by Bible reading and prayer alone. Many of our counselees tell us that they felt fear, hurt, rejection, or shame before they ever felt homosexual longings, and the sinful responses of anger, envy, resentment, or rebellion helped establish the orientation.
The development of the true self is retarded by a lack of healthy interaction with peers and family, and feeling “different” and left out at home and in society, one grows to adulthood with arrested emotional development. We are persuaded that Satan enters this process, telling us we are helpless and hopeless, and that the addiction is stronger than we are. It may seem that way in the battle for freedom, but with God working in us, we can see that it’s another of the Devil’s lies.
Perhaps with these brief insights we can see why God does not answer a prayer to remove the feelings or attractions, when they are only the “foliage”, the visible part of the problem. We don’t get rid of dandelions by mowing the lawn. Homosexuality’s roots are buried emotions and sin. Yes, needs for love and security that have not been met, but also sinful reactions to being hurt and rejected. Therefore, God in His wisdom wants to uproot the problem totally, so that we can walk in freedom. As we work with people overcoming homosexuality, we see regular changes in them, because the roots and causes are specific and the work can be specific. There are people in our ministry and others across the country who testify there is no more attraction, no more keeping feelings in check – the problem is gone!
How is this possible? As men and women turn from the ungodly relationships and activity, there is withdrawal, because homosexuality is addictive. During this withdrawal, old hurts, anger, etc. that the activity was covering will surface, and can be cleansed by forgiveness. Wrong thinking is directed to accept God’s truth; demonic power can be broken; the passive mind, an escape mechanism from reality, is challenged to deal with reality, and relationships are developed on a truer base. These things are not accomplished in a weekend, but through this process liberty is found.
What is orientation? What is “being cured”? Would we say to a former chronic thief, “I’d better not catch you stealing!”, or to the former glutton, “You’d better not eat too much!”? Former homosexuals may have some evil thoughts or temptations, especially when the self is threatened or stability is challenged, but temptation is not condition. When a person chooses to stand up to frustration, fear, rejection, failure, demanding relationships, and all the rigors of maturity, and deal with these without escaping into homosexual pleasure or fantasy, he is overcoming his orientation.
One very good reason we must have parachurch ministries is to make a “neutral zone” for those who know they are not going back to the old way, but don’t feel at home in the new, yet. Although the transition is not easy for some, the church offers a new life of excitement and a new circle of friends to replace the old, and it is marvelous to see. Heedless of this prospect, Dr. Campolo tells us how two homosexual men “solved their problem of loneliness” by living in a celibate “covenant” relationship “in all love and tenderness”. He claims that Christians will have difficulty finding any biblical condemnation of romantic feelings between persons of the same sex. What is the motive for such a statement?
Obviously, Dr. Campolo has bought the lie and is content to argue that, since some have not found answers, there aren’t any answers. Those “romantic” feelings are the unhealed disorder, the orientation that he thinks hardly anyone overcomes. One wonders what Dr. Campolo thinks “romantic” feelings are? Just what is “a deep love commitment between homosexual Christians”, and where does such an idea fit into the revealed plan of God? Any erotic/romantic feelings between persons of the same sex indicate a DISORDER, and if we accept it, we are cooperating with the problem and disputing God’s design. He even uses the term “lovers” in referring to Christians romantically attracted to each other. Has he never heard of emotional dependency, of gender confusion, of the various personality distortions caused by sin?
Furthermore, if we discern carefully, we will see that no homosexual relationship actually has love in it. This is very difficult for many, and they will argue this point, perhaps. But if we seek a clear, true definition of love, using the biblical model that GOD IS LOVE and fortified by I Corinthians 13, we get a higher, purer sense of love. We maintain that, since all the available evidence indicates that homosexuality is a relational disorder, it precludes a valid use of the word, love. Of course, there are very deep, human needs that drive us to seek another human being’s arms for consolation and affirmation. This may feel very much like love, but as many in our ministry testify, they see now that it was not.
We find no joy in criticizing Dr. Campolo’s work, but since the issue is literally a matter of life and death for those in need, we had to speak out. To his assertion that homosexuals will very likely not be able to change their orientation, we quote Jeremiah 32:27 – “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for me?” Shouldn’t we draw our conclusions from those who have changed and have found victory, rather than from those who haven’t? The counsel of God simply cannot fail, but man’s faith and methods can.
Perhaps we can conclude that Dr. Campolo has gotten carried away by his own premises, opinions, and a love of sharing, but it displays a serious lack of integrity. He said in the introduction to his book that he wanted to boldly declare his opinions. We do not question his sincerity, but we advise him to seek the wise counsel that he could have sought before writing, and return with more than opinions. What the world and the church need is TRUTH. Christianity – that is, the Gospel – does have good news. Dr. Campolo unfortunately does not.
Homosexual Covenant – Good News?
published July 1989
by Ron and Joanne Highley