As a lead, Friday is usually "Best of Phil" day, and I have changed it up on you this week because someone on the internet is wrong, and of course my office is holding all my calls until the matter is resolved. "Best of Phil" will return next week. BTW, if you are an able-bodied Blogger user and you wanted to join the unpaid and over-worked TeamPyro staff for a thankless job of reviewing the Phil Johnson Archives to provide us with a weekly "Best of" post using an anonymous account and receive no recognition for it, please contact me at email@example.com.
 Adult theme. Homeschool families are warned and should act appropriately
 Pack a lunch. This goes way of the 1200-word guideline for posting here. Again.
I was alerted to this story earlier this week by a concerned reader, and it's one of those stories where all manner of addled thinking comes to the surface from everyone on the spectrum of lifestyle blogging -- from the secular liberals and conservatives to the panoply of Christian bloggers in the weird polygon of ideas bounded by points produced by mixing the adjectives "conservative," "liberal," "radical," "progressive," "traditional," "biblical," and "missional," with the proper noun "Christian."
Let's start here: praising or condemning any private letter without considering context or source is, I think, probably of limited value. Most people don't write private letters with any thought that they will be shared publicly -- let alone shared on a global platform -- and there ought to be some kind of filter we have in place to read anything written in that mode.
The other thing we ought to put in place before discussing this is a very simple question: "What must a parent do when his child is trapping himself in a mistake (willful or otherwise)?" The question is not really changed up a lot when the child is an adult child. It may actually be a more-important question when the child is an adult because dealing with an adult trapped in a mistake is, in all cases, dealing with a person who is removing all the means at his own disposal frankly to recognize his own ways of destroying himself. A child can be restrained from destroying himself; an adult will simply do it and be destroyed unless he does what any reasonable adult would do -- and take good advice at face value. I think it's utterly unquestionable that a loving parent will give the best advice he knows how to give.
But this assumes something which, I think will not be assumed in this discussion: declaring and embracing homosexuality as a lifestyle is a self-destructive mistake. You know: embracing the homosexual lifestyle is not dangerous because it is likely to make you a target of violent hate crime. It's true enough that a homosexual is 10 times as likely to be a victim of a hate crime in the United States as the average citizen, but let's unpack that. According to the FBI, the last year they have a uniform crime report for is 2009. In that report, in the general population the likelihood of being a victim of a hate crime is 0.2 per 10,000 citizens; being a LGBT victim of a hate crime occurred at a rate of 2 per 10,000 citizens -- which, the be fair, is 10 times as likely, but still not a raging epidemic of violence. You're five times more likely to be the victim of a fatal traffic accident than you are to be the victim of a LGBT hate-motivated hate crime if you are a homosexual.
But think about this: the CDC reports that when we observe all reported cases of STDs in the United States, 63% of primary and secondary cases of Syphillis occur in the LGBT community. If that population is, as they say they are, 10% of the population, that means it is 15 times more likely to contract Syphillis in a LGBT lifestyle than it is in the general public. If the LGBT population is more realistically 3% of the population, it means that the LGBT community is 55 times more likely to contract Syphillis than the average person in the general population. That's not to mention the problem of AIDS at all. This isn't happening because there is hate against the LGBT community: this is happening because of how that community conducts itself towards its own members.
So when a father wants to discuss this matter with his son, who is coming out with his confession of his situation, a father ought to be cut some slack if he is deeply and grievously concerned about his son's safety from a strictly secular and humanitarian standpoint. He ought to be excused if he sees the confession more as a resignation from "inner turmoil" to "active danger" so terrible that in some sense, he wants to give up all hope and protect the rest of his family from the consequences.
But then, from a Christian standpoint, there is a problem greater than self-harm: there is the problem of sin. A Christian father talks to his son about sin -- not just from an accusatory place as if, as a father, one has arrived at the dizzying heights of human sanctification, but from the place as (one hopes) a battle-scarred soldier in the war against sin in one's own life. A father, it seems to me, confesses his own sins against his own son when they are apparent to him -- and seeks forgiveness. So when a Christian father has to talk to his own son about this young fellow's sin, it is not as an impeccable jurist with nothing on the books against himself, but as a known felon who is, at least, confessed as guilty of his crimes -- and working to seek the solution to sin in his own life before seeking to apply it to the unsuspecting lives of others.
They say that you can't "live the Gospel," or "obey the Gospel" (in spite of, for example, 1 Pet 4:17), but you can, in fact, live as if the Gospel is completely true. It has necessary consequences -- and if you are caught up in all the things you cannot do which Christ must do, you will overlook all the things which you must do if the Gospel is true, and is for you. For example: living as if we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
So to be uncontroversial for a moment, let's imagine that my son came to me and said, "Dad, I have something to tell you, and it's not going to be something you want to hear. I know something about myself which has always been a part of me, and I just am tired of trying to deny it: I'm a heterosexual, and I'm going to live a heterosexual lifestyle and follow all those desires because that's who God created me to be. I have to be honest with myself and I can't fight it any longer."
What should my reaction be? Maybe I could say this: "Son: you are who you are. Wear the right PPE, keep off the drugs, and make sure you do what makes you happy."
But listen: that's frankly moral malfeasance. That's ignoring all the things frankly-wrong with embracing physical urges as moral imperatives. If you said that to a 12-year-old, you would be brought up on charges for fostering delinquency; if you say that to a 25-year-old, you are giving a grown man license to ruin his life and the lives of others.
Before you go on, put my view of it to the test: watch any two episodes of the Maury Povich show (which, unbelievably, is still in new-episode syndication). Tell me that the version of heterosexuality represented there is just fine -- just what two consenting adults ought to be proud to do. If that is a totally-acceptable moral way of living, then don't bother to read the rest of this post. If that way of living is morally-sound either my post here is utterly false, or else you have no way to understand what it is saying. In either case it will be of no use to you.
My view of it, then, is that somehow the topic of sex is, in anyone's view of it, governed by some set of principles which are not utterly dictated by the reprehensible slogan, "The heart wants what it wants," and all its more-repugnant cognates. What makes Will Ferrell's oafish lout characters tenable at all is that everyone knows it is utterly and patently obscene to behave that way -- and their failure to see themselves clearly is what makes them laughable (if not actually funny).
But if this is true, what should a father do for his son who has to confess that he must live that lifestyle because that's who God created him to be? I would say that, in the first place, a letter is not at all adequate. It would take 10,000 more words to say that in a way which would convict you, but I'll settle for this: you can't mail in your paternal responsibilities to the next generation any more than you can mail in your duties as a husband or even an employee for a decent company.
That said, if it were a letter to be sent, or you wanted to round up your thoughts before sitting down with this young fellow, maybe something like this would work for starters:
Dear Son,Now, consider it: if that makes any sense at all, what ought we to then say to our son who, frankly, changes only one word in that confession? What if his confession is that he is lazy? Or full of rage? or what if he says he wants to be a liar?
You've made a confession to me that you do not expect me to receive well, and I admit that what you have said has wounded me, because it is not what I wanted for you. In fact, it is not what I still want for you, which is only the best personally, mentally, and spiritually. While it took some sort of single-mindedness on your part to admit this to me, I think it was difficult in part because you knew it would hurt me. I am not going to lie to you: I am, in fact, hurt.
What puzzles me is that you want me to accept this for you and from you when you know I don't think this is what's best for you. I can accept that this is what you want for yourself, and that it seems good to you right now, and that in some sense you cannot help yourself but feel this way. But let's face it: there are many things we know we want which are not even good for us, let alone right or worthwhile.
Since you have made your confession about your situation, let me confess mine: I have never really been a good man at all. I could make a list here of all the times I have failed you, and your mother, and your siblings, and my employer, and the elders at church, and so on -- but I'll bet you can make that list also. You may remember some things I have forgotten, and I'll simply stipulate to the entire exercise. I want you to know that I know I am not a good man, and I come to this problem we now face as a man who, at the end of the day, can't advise you from the moral high ground.
I can only advise you, my son, as a man who has spent his life utterly at the mercy of Jesus Christ.
You know: in some sense, I feel like I love you, so it's easy for me to have done things for you all our life together like buy you clothes and give you a house to live in and feed you and play games with you. But let's face it: every day has not been a day full of duckies and puppies of paternal love overflowing from me to you. Some days I was angry at you, or tired of your shenanigans, or just tired from work and marriage, and I didn't feel loving toward you -- I just felt sort of numb, or worse: burdened by you because you were a handful (as any human being is). In those moments, I was what I know I am, and I didn't want to do what I knew otherwise was right. The difference between those moments and this moment, with you, is that in those moments, I knew that my feelings and urges and dissatisfaction were wrong, and did not justify failing to do the right thing.
Having said that, let me make a confession: there were a lot of those days. That's not because you were especially bad, but because I am. And when I knew my own sin, my own weakness, my own unwillingness to do what I would do if I were full of emotions to point me in a direction that looks so good to other people, I knew that I needed a savior for more than just some kind of final victory: I needed him for a victory today, minute by minute, to become a person grateful for what he has done for me. In some way, I had to remember that the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
So I didn't just accept that Jesus loved me, or even that he died for me -- as if that kind of story really means anything except as a spectacle anyone could watch in a movie. I accepted that his obedience made out of love, which caused him to want to die on a cross for a person like me, was so that I would know how to obey when I was personally out of love, and out of strength, and out of patience, and all that was left was the way I felt when I felt like I wasn't made to do any of this stuff.
Now: so what? What does that have to do with your confession that this is who you really are? It is my answer back to you, which I think somehow you do not expect: this is also who I really am. The difference between you and me is that I think I need to be saved from it, and you think you do not need to be saved, but rather accepted, so that other people's acceptance of your problem is substituted for real redemption and real resolution.
I love you. I want what is best for you. What you are committing to right now is not it. I am willing, after all these years, to die for you, or die with you, in pursuit of putting the sinful things we both face here and now to death. But I cannot tell you that your decision today is the right decision, and I can't tell you that your confession is anything but a resignation to do what is right in your own eyes in spite of what you know to be true about the moral and spiritual order of the world. We both have a problem -- and it is the same problem. Thank God, we both have a solution, and it is the same solution. Please do not toss out the solution, because it is the only one for you. I am praying for you, and will pray for you, and until you accept the solution, I am also weeping for you.
With love in spite of disappointment,
Why would we think that we would respond in any way to those things except in this way?
Now in utter seriousness: if the sin is homosexuality, and that is just like all the other sins we would ache over if our son or daughter was convinced it was simply "who they were," why would we not address it just like this -- like the source of death which Christ died to overcome?
Do we not believe the Gospel? If not: OK, but lets cut the malarkey with the conferences and books and websites and projects with the "G" word in the title. But if so, let's get ourselves together on this subject. Let's Gospel Up. Let's get serious about the reasons we need the Gospel so that we can get serious about expressing it to our friends and children who need it as much as we do.