“Broken” is a word that is often used, particularly by evangelical straight Christians, to describe the LGBT community. What do evangelical Christians mean when they call gays “broken”? How does the LGBT community feel about being called “broken”? And what does God say about this issue of brokenness?
It’s been my experience that the word “broken” is used to describe the LGBT community for several reasons. Some might use the word “broken” because they believe there is something wrong with a person who experiences same-sex attraction. Many evangelical Christians believe that anyone who is LGBT must have experienced sexual abuse at some point in his/her life, or perhaps a distant relationship with one/both of his/her parents, or some other trauma that has occurred that has caused the same-sex attraction. Other people may use the word “broken” to describe the LGBT community because of the false belief that a person with same-sex attraction inevitably is characterized by alcohol, drug, and/or sex addictions, casual sex and promiscuity, and other illegal and unhealthy behaviors. And some just say it because they believe that same-sex attraction is a sin and a sign of separation from God. Along with this “brokenness” people say that LGBT individuals need “healing”, insinuating that there is something inherently wrong or wounded about them. Unfortunately, this type of language goes a long way towards making those within the LGBT community feel shamed and demeaned.
There is nothing offensive to me about maintaining and asserting conviction on sexual morality/ethics – I think it extremely important to have a firm grasp on the topic. What troubles me however is that when I hear language like this, I sense an undertone of condescension paired with an undergirding belief that people who experience same-sex attraction are inferior. And truly, who wouldn’t feel patronized by a perfect stranger telling you that you are “broken” and “need healing”?
With that said, I don’t know that I can fairly respond to the accuracy of the stereotypes I’ve listed above because it demands some scholarly citation and unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to do it justice at this point. But I will say that if you’ve done your research, and if you’ve talked with people who are part of the LGBT community, you will see that there are some individuals that reinforce the stereotypes, and there are others who don’t. In fact, I think many evangelical Christians would be truly surprised by the number that do not. If you could meet the people I know, you would know that there are many good-hearted, moral, relationally-gifted people who experience same-sex attraction and who identify as part of the LGBT community. And some of them even love, follow, and serve Jesus daily. So in response to the stereotypes I will say this – yes, there are some people who are responsible for them, but it is only fair to note that there are also many “heterosexuals” who are characterized by alcohol, drug, and sex addictions, casual sex and promiscuity, and other illegal and unhealthy behaviors. A person’s orientation does not indicate the extent of his/her morality or religious commitment.
But let’s get back to the topic at hand – what can we make of this term – “broken”? As I said before, I find it harmful to call a person “broken” (really, it feels like name-calling to me), yet at the same time, I am struck by this term because it is the very word I so often use to describe myself. The truth is we are all hot messes! I think it would be best if we would all just own up to it and admit that we know what it feels like to experience pain that forever alters us. While I don’t think it’s helpful to call each other broken, I do think it’s important to realize our own brokenness. At the core of our humanness, there is a profound longing to belong, to be loved, to be known, and to feel presence in our most desperate and ugly moments. We all have had moments where we’ve sat in unspeakable pain, hiding our shame, suffering quietly with our debilitating depression, feelings of failure, and crushing emptiness. We force our fingers down our throats so we will feel lovable and in control again, we cut ourselves because we feel we deserve the pain, we bury our pain and lonliness in an addiction – to a drug, to a bottle, to a relationship. We make our schedules full so we will feel important. We stifle our pain and we disguise it so everyone will see our perfect life, our perfect family, our perfect 5-year plan. Someone asks us how we are doing – we say “fine!” Someone asks us what is new – we say “not much really!”
What a mess we all are! Let’s face it – we are all broken! It is part of the human condition. If any of you are not “broken” you have not lived. We all want someone to break through all the JUNK for us, to rescue us and tell us to stop hurting ourselves, tell us we are worthwhile, tell us they won’t leave us like everyone else has. We all want someone to believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves anymore, someone to reach to us when we feel completely lost and alone, someone who will chase after us even while we run away, someone to call our bluff when we pretend we’re fine, someone to break through the walls we keep constructing at the smallest inkling of a threat. We long for someone to pledge to us their presence, their unconditional love, their reckless pursuit of us.
We are all broken.
The good news is that there is an answer. True communion with God and with each other will restore our hearts, our communities, our churches, and our world. It will be hard to achieve and it requires us to listen, respond, risk, and grow – but it’s worth it. It is in our communion with one another that we experience an incarnational form of love that God offers us. It is powerful, healing, restorative, and transformational. Instead of calling one another “broken” let’s live with each other in our pain, realizing that none of us fully understand how to be like Him, or how to receive the belonging and fellowship that he has to offer us. And yet, somehow in community with one another, we experience glimpses of the perfect oneness that God wants us to have with him. This kind of communion is threatening, and challenging, and difficult, and terrifying. But it is the hope we hold to in the midst of our brokenness. It is the hope we land in when we come to the end of ourselves and when we see that there is no more we can do, no further effort we can make, no further clarity we can gain, no further strength we can muster. It happens when He sweeps in and reminds us that we don’t need to try to fix things, because he already has. We can rest our brokenness in Him.
For some, the process of reconciling faith and same-sex attraction is one of those dark hidden places, a process laced with deep confusion, paralyzing fear, heart-breaking rejection, overwhelming conflicting voices, and severe pain. When we see a person going through a time like this, we ought to remember the pains we have experienced, and the need we have had for the presence and strength of God, and of others, to pull us through. May we never waste a pain! May our brokenness allow us to comfort one another with new depth and sincerity. And may we find our strength in Him when we realize there is none left in ourselves. If we can remember these things, we will seize the opportunity to become incarnational to one another in the midst of our great pain, as God calls us to.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
I’d like to close by living up to the challenge I have just issued to you. I have been in a lot of pain over the past several years, and God has at times felt completely distant. He is faithful though, and he is the only one who can bring me the healing I need. Over the past two weeks, I have been meditating on a passage that Brother Lawrence, a great Father of our faith, wrote in his “The Practice of the Presence of God” It speaks to the brokenness in me, and I pray that it will speak to your area of brokenness as well. He says:
“I imagine myself as the most wretched of all, full of sores and sins, and one who has committed all sorts of crimes against his king. Feeling a deep sorrow, I confess to him all of my sins, I ask his forgiveness, and I abandon myself into his hands so that he may do with me what he pleases. This king, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastening me, embraces me with love, invites me to feast at his table, serves me with his own hands, and gives me the key to his treasures. He converses with me, and takes delight in me, and treats me as if I were his favorite.”
Remember today, that this King is full of mercy and goodness, and very far from chastening you, he delights in you, as if you were his favorite.