Same-sex attraction: ‘It isn’t really a choice’
He remembers coming home from school and leafing through Strong’s Concordance of the Bible to search for scriptures on homosexuality. He could quote the prohibitions against same-gender relationships — Old and New Testament.
“I wanted it to go away,” he said, but knowing the Scriptures “didn’t change my attractions.”
For eight years Cottle, who grew up in Churches of Christ, lived as a gay man, with a mission of proving to the world — secular and religious — that his lifestyle was perfectly natural.
“If I could get everyone to see me as normal and average, I would have done my job,” he said.
For a while, it seemed to be working. Cottle became a successful businessman and even reconnected with his parents, who wanted a relationship with their son in spite of their disagreement with his lifestyle. He and his partner were invited to Christmas dinner.
“In the process of (my parents) loving me, we established a relationship — them loving me gay,” Cottle said. That led him to examine his own life, full of apparent successes, and he realized that “I was still very empty inside.”
That emptiness, he later discovered, was “God’s Holy Spirit in me … calling the prodigal home.”
Today Cottle, a member of the Farmers Branch church, Dallas, runs a ministry called Living Hope, a spiritual outreach to those struggling with homosexuality, sexual addiction and their spouses and families.
Those served by the ministry find it by word of mouth, through its Web site, www.livehope.org, or through Exodus International, a Christian referral and information ministry that works with 130 support ministries across the country.
Cottle said that a person struggling with homosexuality often is “covering up a lot of underlying pain (that) goes way back, before that person made the decision to act on their sexual orientation.”
“Sin is an illegitimate way of meeting a legitimate need,” he said. Homosexuality stems from “a legitimate need to bond with someone of the same gender” which is confused with sexual attraction.
“It isn’t really a choice — that’s over-simplifying it,” Cottle said. Rather, those who act on homosexual desires are “led to believe that that’s the only legitimate choice to make.”
MORE COMMENTS FROM CAMPUS MINISTERS
Danny Vaden, who works with the campus ministry at Clemson University, Clemson, S.C., said he’s friends with a man who has struggled with homosexually throughout his life.
“We have talked about it extensively, and the main difficulty I had with him was getting him to truly appreciate the sinfulness of his behavior and its consequences, both spiritually and physically,” Vaden said.
At the same time, many church members have assigned a level of sinfulness to homosexual behavior that outweighs other transgressions, several campus ministers said.
Letting students know that “sin is sin” is vital in counseling those struggling with homosexuality, said Kerry Cox, campus minister for the Crossings church, O’Fallon, Mo.
“Their struggle is no worse than a heterosexual’s Internet porn addiction,” Cox said, but “it is a tough struggle to talk about, and it takes a lot of love and trust for students to be able to honestly open up.”
“I think one of the most difficult challenges in dealing with same-sex attraction is hope. This struggle is not easy to overcome. There is no light switch.”
Dean Barham, campus minister for the Broadway church, Lubbock, Texas, works with Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University. Students on both campuses struggle with same-sex attraction, he said, and those at Christian schools often find it harder to ask for help.
“For some reason we’ve placed a stigma on this sin,” Barham said, adding that Christians should “show love first” to homosexuals, focusing on the common weaknesses shared by all people.
“We’re all messed up, but here (in church) we don’t intend to stay that way,” he said. “There’s brokenness in the world, but God has come to deal with it.”
GAY RIGHTS GROUP TARGETS CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS
The student handbooks of most universities associated with churches of Christ forbid homosexual activity. Many require counseling for offenders or, if that counseling is refused, dismissal from school.
Those policies have caught the attention of Soulforce, an advocacy group that sponsors non-violent protests against “the misuse of religion to sanction the condemnation and rejection of any of God’s children,” according to the group’s Web site, www.soulforce.org.
“These bans have many damaging effects,” the Web site states, “for not only do they force (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) students to remain in closets of fear, but they also spread the dangerous notion that homosexuality is a sickness and a sin.”
The group has scheduled a series of “Equality Rides” for 2006, targeting military and religious campuses. A Soulforce representative told the Chronicle that stops along the route could include Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, and Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City.
MANY MEANS OF MINISTRY
Angie Burns, a church member in Starkville, Miss., said she was called to minister to homosexuals because of the struggles of several of her friends.
“Being open to this issue has brought many other people into my life over the past 14 years,” said Burns, an alumna of the Mississippi State University campus ministry.
“I have not intentionally sought out gay people in my life, yet I have lost count of the wonderful people God has put in my life.”
She wants to do what she can to help, though she has no advanced counseling degrees or deep financial resources. Still, “I feel that I know too much to ignore this area,” she said.
That’s a good starting point, said Randy Thomas, membership director for Exodus International, an Orlando, Fla.-based evangelical organization “dedicated to equipping and uniting agencies and individuals to effectively communicate the message of liberation from homosexuality,” according to the group’s Web site, www.exodus.to.
“A lot of people have a heart for the gay community,” said Thomas, who struggled with same-sex attraction himself, but not everyone is equipped for public speaking or counseling.
Ministering to homosexuals may involve something simple, including “taking your gay neighbor dinner one night,” Thomas suggested.
“You probably don’t want to go to their gay bar,” he said, “but you certainly can help them mow their yard.”
FeedbackI pray for all these people struggling. I pray for everyone to treat them with love…right and fair. Mean people are absolutely sinful people and when you treat someone badly you will pay for it in the judgement day! You cause lifelong damage when your mean to someone!! Love everybody no matter what!!!pamelaC of CAustin, TX
USAJune, 19 2011