At the end of the Academy award-winning movie The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, mathematician and inventor of the modern computer, there is a scene that haunted me. After brilliantly enabling Britain to break Germany’s secret Enigma code and thus win WWII, this secretly gay man is left in a deep state of loneliness and fear. Roaming the streets looking for brief tastes of companionship, he is caught in a homosexual encounter, and under the laws of 1950s Britain, given the choice: two years in prison, or house arrest with a chemical treatment essentially designed to kill any kind of sexual desire. In the last scenes of the movie, a former friend and co-worker finds him at home alone, a shadow of his former self, unable to do even the simplest intellectual task. In our last glimpse of this broken man, he turns out the lights and disappears into the darkness, an allusion to his eventual suicide.
The only solution his society could offer Alan Turing for his same-sex attraction was profound isolation and a reparative therapy that killed his entire being, not just his sexual urges. It is no wonder that he eventually took his own life.
Deep in the heart of every human being is what the board of faith and life has defined as “embodied desire for intimacy.” Turing’s “treatment” took away the possibility, not only of homosexual intimacy, but of any intimacy at all. In a sense, his ability to be human was being denied him. He was considered nothing more than a problem to be solved.
This tragic and haunting story of isolation and rejection has been in my mind as I have anticipated attending the Study Conference on God, Sex and Church, and particularly as I attended Daniel Komori’s workshop on Spiritual Friendship on Thursday afternoon. Daniel works with Journey Canada (formerly Living Waters), a ministry that exists to help people find hope and live life through experiencing Jesus in their relationships and sexuality.
The purpose of the workshop was to help us imagine how to create a safe place for people to journey through brokenness. It’s this kind of safe place in community with others that could have saved the life of Alan Turing (and perhaps countless others). It’s the kind of safe place that Christians who know the transforming work of Jesus ought to be most equipped to provide!
Sometimes I wonder how many people, myself included, are carrying the burden of our brokenness and the shame of our sin in isolation, poisoned by inadequate “solutions” to our issues, and dying inside. Whether someone else has given us the impression that our issues make us unwanted or we’ve simply come to that conclusion on our own, our sense of human worth and dignity withers up.
But the solution is not to lie to ourselves and conclude that this broken self is our true self, to find a stronger treatment, or to deny the very presence of our embodied desire for intimacy. Most profoundly, we need Love – an embodied love – that embraces and transforms our brokenness through a faithful and tangible presence.
This is the embodied love that Larry Crabb describes in his 1997 book, Connecting:
“God’s method is neither to merely issue commands from the general’s tent (do what’s right) nor to improve the functioning of diseased organs (fix what’s wrong). Instead he becomes so intimately a part of us that we want to resist whatever he doesn’t like and release the good things he has aroused within us. The most powerful thing we can do to help someone change is to offer them a rich taste of God’s incredible goodness in the New Covenant” (p 10).
But I can only offer that rich taste if I have tasted it for myself; not as orders from a general or a prescription from the doctor, but as the soul-nourishment of the Spirit.
As I’ve heard about the work that Journey does, deeply rooted in the gospel of grace, I’m more and more convinced that what they are doing with people whose issues are often considered more dirty than others is actually deeply needed by the whole body of Christ.
I need to be friends with people who have been courageous enough to walk into deeply broken places, not just for their sake, but for mine.
I need to realize that the same gospel that frees othes from sexual brokenness can free me from my own sins, idols, coping mechanisms and control complexes, in whatever form they appear in my life.
“We only come into inner authority insofar as we admit a positive and mature dependency on others and freely enter into a mature exchange of life and power,” said Richard Rohr (quoted in Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership (2008), p 173). My authority to minister to those experiencing brokenness increases as I am willing to make myself as vulnerable to the transforming work of grace as I’m inviting them to be.
I long to experience more of that kind of community and friendship with people – the kind of friendship where we can be real together, and where we can find that the grace of God is even more real and more powerful than any of our brokenness. I have tasted it at various times in my life, in a variety of degrees.
As a pastor, I long for everyone in my church to be able to experience something of that safety to be vulnerable in a healing environment. Sometimes I wonder if those who are courageous enough to come forward with their sexual and relational brokenness could be the forerunners of a sweeping and reviving move of grace in our churches, if we would be willing to accompany and learn from them.
The great sufferer, Job, said to his unhelpful, isolating friends, full of quick answers and simple solutions, “He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14). The opposite, then, is also true: genuine devotion to God will always produce a kindness that walks with friends through their brokenness, no matter how long it takes – a kindness that we ultimately see in Jesus, who shared all our infirmities and bore our shame.
—Tim McCarthy is pastor of discipleship and community life at North Langley (B.C.) Church.
Speaker: Bruxy Cavey is the author of bestselling The End of Religion and serves as teaching pastor at The Meeting House in Ontario.
Scripture: Matthew 19:3–11, 1 Corinthians 7
Online teaching series:
Let’s Talk About Sex: http://www.themeetinghouse.com/pageid/1738/
Modern Family: http://www.themeetinghouse.com/teaching/archives/2013/modern-family/
Bruxy Cavey focussed on two passages of Scripture. The following are some condensed ideas and questions from the address.
In Matthew 19 Jesus is challenged by the Pharisees regarding divorce. Jesus hits the rewind button and goes back to Genesis. We were created male and female. Marriage was God joining the male and female.
Moses permitted divorce as a concession to hard-heartedness. We are called to a higher standard than the law. What is moral is not determined by what is legal.
Then, Jesus addresses the idea of being a Eunuch (born, made or chosen) and service. Are there implications regarding biology, gender and same-sex attraction? There certainly seems to be indications that this is about singleness. Bruxy Cavey suggests, ‘Eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’ have the advantage of no distractions so they can live to serve. Is singleness Christ’s ideal?
In the Old Testament, God’s blessing is CHILDREN. In the New Testament, God’s blessing is the CHURCH (caps lock Bruxy Cavey). Eunuchs gave up more than sex; they gave up family, which was security. The Kingdom was their family and therefore their security.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 says you can marry if you must. Marriage isn’t sin, but it will make life harder. Admit that marriage divides our attention. Those married can’t do all that a single person can do. It is terrible to be married to a person who is trying to accomplish the goals of a single person.
Bruxy Cavey concluded with the following points:
1. Renew our emphasis on spiritual transformation above ethical legislation. Keep our energy and leadership in the church.
2. Be intentional about celebrating singleness in our churches, alongside if not above marriage.
3. For “eunuchs for the kingdom” to thrive, the church must become their family, providing ways for married and single people do life together. Many of our churches must start here.
In response, I think of John 4 where Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman by the well. It is an amazing look at breaking societal norms, expressing love, truth, revelation and the acceptance of hospitality in a potentially hostile setting.
Do I break societal norms? Do I create community with LBGTQ people? With their family and friends? Do I express love?
I wonder how truth can be expressed without answering these questions first.
Singleness and celibacy are something to be admired. Too often, sorrow or pity is the first response.
In response to Bruxy Cavey’s themes, Mary Anne Isaak (pastor at River East MB Church, Winnipeg) gave us 4 community practices of intimacy that will help church be family to all people, single or married.
1. Integrated relationships (intergenerational, long-term communities)
2. Physical touch
4. Keeping God at the centre
—Richard Rempel is a member of Crossroads MB Church, Winnipeg.
There’s a lot to figure out yet, but there’s tremendous possibility for MB Mission and the C2C Network to help each other resource our brothers and sisters reach immigrant churches here in Canada, congregations across the border in the United States, and across the world, says Reg Toews. Read more here.
It’s Back to the Future in the MB Herald/Communication strategy session, says Brad Sumner. The language may have changed, but the mandate is still to “educate and edify…, to inspire and inform…, to criticize our vices and credit our virtues.” Read more here.
Meanwhile Leonard Klassen calls for a family meeting. The survey affirmed that constituents still value the Herald. but constituents recognize the need for diversification of delivery and more dialogue on perspectives. Let’s continue to engage the executive board with our ideas and hopes, he writes here.
A “prep materials” tab has been added to the study conference website! Participants will find books and resources specifically selected to assist you in preparing for study conference.
Read the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches response here.