Praying the Gay Away

Original source unknown.

Original source unknown.

Author’s Note: I’ve not been able to verify all the facts of this story, as it has been told to me second hand. However, as it has been told to me, it highlights a big problem that a lot of churches have. They don’t know how to handle gay members.

Recently I was made aware of a northern Alabama Lutheran church that had refused communion to one of its members. Catholics and other Lutherans (and maybe some Presbyterians and Methodists) would understand the significance of this; refusing communion is a very public way of telling a member he or she isn’t welcome. In some churches, this is a direct refusal to forgive sins, which is a big deal for people that think they need communion to get right with their deity. So it’s never done lightly, and it’s done for super serious reasons.

The reason? The church elders found out this person was getting counseled for having gay thoughts.
That’s right. Gay. Thoughts.

This person (I don’t know the age, but he has to be above 13 and confirmed to go for communion) felt ashamed as a result of having these thoughts, and sought private counseling from the church pastor. This is a Missouri Synod church, so it definitely teaches homosexuality is itself a sin. So, the congregation member acted to try to save his immortal soul. And he made the mistake of getting counseling that wasn’t privileged to do it.

Small town churches being what they are, word eventually spread around after the pastor left. The church elders found out about it, and they decided to take this very big step at letting this person know they did not approve of having gay thoughts. Essentially they delivered the strongest reprimand they could find, using a proverbial nuke to swat a fly.

At no point did anyone consider accepting this person for who he is, including himself.
This entire affair only highlights how Christian teachings can lead people to genuinely hate and fear themselves. Rather than simply accepting homosexuality as natural and part of one’s identity, it’s shunned and thought of as a voluntary moral wrongdoing. How dare people love differently than what a religious text permits!

But wait, we’re not even at that point yet. Here’s this person, figuring out his identity, and he’s having thoughts about liking people of his same sex. Alarms go off, indoctrination kicks in, and the conclusion is already made that this is a bad thing.

Divine assistance is needed to help you not be…yourself.
That message is toxic enough to cause church elders to deny someone imaginary redemption for his imaginary crimes against an imaginary being, to publicly shame and humiliate someone who has questions about his identity and still did not question religious interpretation of it. In a way, it’s the perfect form of abuse, because there’s no crime, no civil wrongdoing, and no reason to call the community’s attention to what’s going on. This can happen, and nobody’s going to question whether the belief system is wrong.

Fortunately, this kind of stuff can be brought to public scrutiny. For many Christians in the U.S., y’all will have to ask yourselves if this is what you believe. Do people really need to be humiliated and shamed about things they can’t change?

Personally, I cannot describe any belief system as “uplifting” that encourages people to do their worst in the face of no moral crime. Sexual orientation isn’t something that can be shamed or prayed away.

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16 thoughts on “Praying the Gay Away

  1. I’m a mental health counselor, and I’m dismayed that confidentiality was broken. Not sure if the pastor was licensed as a counselor or just ministering, but if it was the former there is recourse to take with the state’s licensing board for breach of confidentiality that I hope this person learns about.

    One thing I have found as a counselor in the south, even religious people appreciate that I don’t minister or rain down judgement on them. I’ve heard so many horror stories about religious counselor that when I hear someone talk about wanting to talk to their pastor or something like that all sorts of alarm bells go off.

    Liked by 2 people

    • From what I understand, the pastor is not licensed. Essentially the person also didn’t see the option of talking to a real counselor – it is a faith matter. I really hope the person is able to get help outside of a church for all of this.

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  2. I don’t get why they took this so seriously as to deny him communion. People have sexual thoughts of all sorts that don’t necessarily align with their primary orientation. Plus, even outside of sexual matters people have thoughts of doing things that aren’t socially acceptable in a given group on a number of issues. Obviously it’s complete shit to discriminate against someone and abuse them based on their sexual orientation but it’s even more horrific (to me) that these were just *thoughts* they were responding to. I’ve seen this sort of thing happen in most of the churches I’ve attended, though. The whole thing is disheartening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I almost put in this post that churches won’t deny child molesters communion (like Josh Duggar), but this stuff happens too often. All the time there’s condemnation of gay people, but sexual predators need forgiveness and prayer (as long as the victims are women).

      Which then goes into how churches are incredibly sexist, but that’s a different rant for a different time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope to hear you rant about these issues as well in future blog posts (if you have interest and are up for it). Really, one could write all day about how ridiculous the church is when it comes to sex, homophobia, and sexism. Makes me livid.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We don’t know the entire story but.. that church sucks! lol

    Yes, I am an atheist but was in the process of taking my son’s to various places of worship a few years ago to help him understand various beliefs. I walked into a Catholic church (Farmingdale, NY) and was please to hear the Priest mention the LGBT community and the priest said (paraphrasing) “Who am I to tell someone that they cannot come into this church and through it’s door?”. He was basically telling his congregation he was welcoming everyone. I was like… I like this Priest!

    When my sister was in town, we visited the Basilica (Notre Dame University) and because they know they get visitors of each religion, when they did communion, the priest acknowledged people of other faith and stated that if you did not want to receive communion but wanted a blessing, you just had to cross your arms and they will give you a blessing. I thought this was cool as well.

    Why can’t all churches be equally understanding?

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  4. On one hand you have the Pope making public statements about LGBT community and putting a stop to discrimination, and then you see how little the message actually trickles down. It is horrifying that not only the man was not allowed to express himself but also his trust and right to privacy was broken.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, he’s got no right to privacy when he talks to a pastor. As Roianna alluded to above, it’s messy when people talk to pastors about some of their problems. In small towns, secrets are even more likely to get out, and the town this happened in is still very much not friendly to the LGBT community.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You said, “That message is toxic enough to cause church elders to deny someone imaginary redemption for his imaginary crimes against an imaginary being, to publicly shame and humiliate someone who has questions about his identity and still did not question religious interpretation of it.”
    From a religious standpoint, if they are going to follow Christ’s example, even Jesus was tempted. It’s supposed to be what you DO with the thoughts that matters. I agree that, if he discovered that was his orientation, there is nothing wrong with it. But they couldn’t even allow him enough grace to be transparent and seek God’s will in the matter. Just harsh judgment.

    Liked by 1 person

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