A response to Brett McCracken's Boy Erased Review

A year and a half ago I heard about a book coming out called Uncomfortable. It was about the importance of the local church community, commitment to a local church, how true community can be uncomfortable but as a Christian, it is needed.

Here is a quote from the book that I really like,

“If the church is going to thrive in the twenty-first century, she needs to be willing to demand more of her members. She needs to assert the importance of covenants over comfort, even if that is a message that will turn off some. She needs to speak prophetically against the perversions of cultural and consumer Christianity, seeker unfriendly as that will be. She needs to call Christians away from an individualistic, “just me and Jesus” faith, challenging them to embrace the costliness of the cross and the challenge of life in a covenantal community.”

I loved it.

As a Christian who struggles with homosexuality, a local church is what I have needed for a while. I felt like I kept getting burned by friends in certain churches or it was hard for me to feel I can fit in. Evangelical churches in my area seemed to be built off of what heterosexuals and married couples want in life or what nuclear families needed vs what Christian church has historically been about.

Once I read this book, it gave me hope Christian leaders are pushing us for deeper community. Brett was speaking at his local church about his book called Uncomfortable, I decided to attend this church service and wanted to attend it as my own church. It is a great church all around and I started going to a small group.

I gave in to my married friends Lindsey and Jeremy, who I live with, who have been telling me to attend their church for the last year or so. Their church was a church planted by the church Brett attends.

This church teaches from a strong reformed/Calvinist/complementarian/conservative worldview. I'm a little far from that, but they love Jesus and people and so do I.

It’s a community of churches who care about the gospel and holds it’s elders quite high in regards to leadership. Since I am attending a branch from the Church that Brett is a leader/ influencer in,

his review of Boy Erased scares me a little. Some of his views can impact me when it comes to being attracted to the same sex and how pastoral care is applied to me.

He missed some very important truths that were in the film as well as his perspective of Christians struggling with homosexuality is not a view I am fond of. I needed to write a response so others who attend the same local church community I am also a part of can know there is a lot more to discuss when it comes to the topic of Christians who are attracted to the same sex and how to meet their needs.

Bretts opening,

Brett says, “For Jared, there can be no meaningful father-son relationship so long as his dad thinks a gay lifestyle is sinful. “I’m gay, and I’m your son,” he says. “And both of those things are not going to change.”

The father’s fidelity to Scripture’s witness on sexuality, however, is the only variable that can be changed, Jared implies. Change your view, or lose your son. This is the ultimatum implied in the scene—to Jared’s father and to anyone in the audience with LGBTQ loved ones. It’s black or white. Lose your old-fashioned religious view of sexuality, or lose us. It’s your choice.

I get what Brett is writing here, it isn’t fair for the Christian to walk away from their belief just because it goes against the beliefs of someone else.

But there is quite the complexity going on here.

First off, The movie starts with a scene were this Baptist Pastor is preaching all truth is found in scripture, in the Bible. I completely disagree here with this baptist theology, which I suspect Brett is quite sympathetic too.

I don’t believe scripture is the final authority on Christian truth, also, in regards to same-sex attraction, the Bible has never helped me deal with this brokenness in my life.

Actually, most of the Christians I know that do struggle with homosexuality have never communicated the Bible has helped them in their struggle with this. In my life, God has used other means to show me his truths, not all God’s truth is found in scripture, but a lot is in there.

First, through reality, a man and a woman fit together sexuality, and Church tradition and great church theologians from the past have written extensively about it. This is where Church authority comes in. Authority given by Christ and truth lead by the Spirit.

The writers of scripture have never helped me with understanding same-sex attraction. And I don’t believe the writers of the scripture ever address same-sex monogamous marriage or talk about sexual orientation. But boy do they have a lot of good things to say about friendship and community.

But gay marriage is sinful because it goes against the art of God’s idea for human sexuality and I would argue same-sex friendship.

But within this story, the real problem is this movie picked a region in American, the South, that is known for ultra-conservative religiosity.

Hollywood picked a region I would argue is a little less educated in regards to were psychology has taken this conversation. Even for a licensed therapist who practices conversion therapy, this was an extreme example of conversion therapy.

This Baptist pastor/father believes his son is making a choice to be attracted to men. He gets this view from his view of scripture which I would actually say is not in scripture.

The writers of scripture never talk about sexual orientation. They don't talk about homosexuality or heterosexuality. But they do have a lot to say about human connection, emotionally and physically.

Brett isn’t really addressing the more important discussion.

When Brett says, “This is the ultimatum implied in the scene—to Jared’s father and to anyone in the audience with LGBTQ loved ones. It’s black or white. Lose your old-fashioned religious view of sexuality, or lose us. It’s your choice.”

Well, both are wrong, obviously, the son is wrong, but this pastor/father who believes being attracted to the same sex is a choice is also wrong.

Which is why the pastor/father wants to send his son to THIS certain conversion therapy camp. To help his son make the right choice to not be attracted to men anymore.

Christians need to realize all attractions are tainted by sin with a perversion of bad mixed in with the good. Wanting a spouse the way I have heard many Christians want a spouse has been so unhealthy. Which is why many young Christians are getting divorced. They don't understand their unhealthy sinful HETEROSEXUAL lust for a spouse.

The more important discussion, that Brett missed, is how can we have deep healthy same-sex intimacy, which is something that doesn’t need to change in a person.

I would argue some of this has to do with having the 4T’S in the life of a Christian who struggles with homosexuality.

Bretts “Valid Critique”

I actually agree with most of Brett's critique but I also want to add something. There are many different forms of reparative therapy or conversion therapy.

Again, Hollywood picked a very uneducated part of Christianity to represent discipleship and healing. There are many reparative therapy methods I would actually say are very helpful for a Christian that is attracted to the same sex, or any human for that matter.

Although I STRONGLY DISAGREE with the goal of reparative therapy, which is to become attracted to the opposite sex, some of the more professional reparative therapists do some really good work in regards of healing inner childhood wounds, and learning to build more self confidence as a man or woman, which is what I and others have benefited from when we read books from reparative therapists.

I spoke to a group of side b men a couple of years ago about the 4T'S and the Church and took my friend Nate with me, and most of the adult men there found reparative therapy extremely helpful in their pursuit of truth and holiness.

But this movie is talking about uneducated abusive reparative therapy that takes place in the south without any professional psychologist involved. It was horrible.

Brett’s “Is change possible?”

This is where I think I hope to make the most important point here.

Brett writes, “Imagine being told that your unwanted desires to drink or gamble or envy are “just who you are” and that changing your desires is impossible. To suggest an unchangeable givenness to the matrix of desires that constitutes a supposedly fixed “identity” is a truly novel and unbiblical anthropology. It is a notion fundamentally at odds with a faith defined by resurrection and renewal, where to be in Christ is to be a “new creation” 

What Brett needs to understand is that being sexually attracted to someone of the same sex is not the same as being attracted to drinking, gambling, porn watching, or any other sin that we need to be "renewed from."

Being attracted to the same sex is a complex entanglement of a want for a healthy same-sex intimacy, connection, and belonging vs a want for a sexualized version of intimacy, connection, and belonging.

There isn’t anything that needs to be changed or renewed, what needs to happen is a Christian needs to learn how to separate his or her healthy feelings for the same sex from the sexualized feelings for the same sex, and this process can be agonizing but really good and sanctifying. Saying no to what you want and what feels natural is extremely emotionally painful.

Brett, imagine being married to your wife and never having sex with her?

It would suck, right?

That is what we feel at times with our brothers and sisters in the Church.

We long for this deep intimacy and when we get that, sometimes we, without a choice, want more than that.

It's a different struggle brother.

Most Christians who deal with same-sex attraction still don’t know how to separate these feelings because that has never been the narrative of what it means to deal with same-sex attraction (even using the word attraction is the wrong word for this)

There is a scene when Jared stays the night on the bed with another gay man and they never do anything sexual. They just sleep together.

I think that is a GREAT Scene. It shows that not everything gay men or Christians who struggle with homosexuality want is actually sinful.

I long for those nights when I can just share a bed with a friend and feel close to them. It isn’t sexual or arousing, and if it was, I hope I can learn how to renew my mind to see the goodness in that type of intimacy and brotherhood.

We long for affectionate TOUCH, quality TIME, daily TRANSPARENCY (even normalcy like changing in the men's locker and partaking in communal showers without being criticized), and being a part of a life-long TEA, brotherhood.

So many of the needs that gay men and women have could be found in friendship if the Church offered that type of intimate healthy friendship.

Jared believed being gay was the truth because his only truth was what he naturally wanted, which I would argue is a healthy platonic same-sex intimacy mixed in with sexualized same-sex intimacy, he only saw this as purely sexual, so he accepted a gay identity.

Also, the Church wasn’t there to talk about the complexities of broken sexuality.

The camp would have been amazing for Jared if the camp taught that friends can live lives together. Share the same beds, have pillow talk, vacation together, give each other affectionate touch, give hugs and kisses, spend time together, make covenants with each other, develop friendship goals, talk about sexual brokenness in a graceful way.

This isn’t gay, its good old Godly friendship.

Brett says,

“Indeed, the most important “conversion” in the Christian life involves a changed heart posture toward God.”

Actually, it should be written, "Indeed, the most important “conversion” in the Christian life involves a changed heart posture toward God and others. How can I have an honorable heart towards my male friends that I might be attracted to when we live life together, change clothes in front of each other, experience our emotional and physical bonds in friendship with each other, etc?”

This isn't a direct God related struggle, this is a "God help me love my guy friends that right way."

Brett’s “Truly Erased”

Brett writes,

"If anyone is truly being “erased” today, it is those who fall in the category of pursuing Christian faithfulness despite SSA; those who have chosen the costly path of celibacy or the complex pursuit of heterosexual marriage; those who have embraced the cost of discipleship in choosing Jesus over sexual fulfillment. We need more stories like these, showing how Jesus followers can pursue Christian faithfulness even while living with the challenges and complexities of sexual desires (which are challenging and complex whether you’re attracted to the same sex or not).

Brett, Hollywood has no reason to make movies of Christians that are in these narratives because the Church has erased them and is barely addressing the idol of marriage in the church. Kevin Deyoung writes a twitter post that Christians idolize family and all hell breaks loose then he has to clarify it with an article.

We also need to be careful when using the term “heterosexual marriage.” Heterosexuality is a modern word that does not follow the ancient Hebrew language. The writers of scripture are never talking about what you are attracted to, but about your actions as a follower of God. Many Christians have a strong desire to be married and are actually making it synonymous with their pursuit of the Kingdom of God. It's an idol that is still flourishing in our churches.

Let’s not expect Hollywood to make movies about Side B Christians until the Evangelical church is ready to acknowledge how horrible it is to let an idol like marriage dictate the mission of local churches and its huge lack of pastoral care for side B Christians, look how the Revoice conference was handled. Some writers of the Gospel Coalition that signed the Nashville Statement has dismissed many of these devout Side B Christians,

the very Christians you are saying there should be movies about.

If Evangelical leaders are going to dismiss many side b Christians, expect the same from Hollywood.

Brett’s “True Liberation”

Brett Writes, “One of the saddest things about Boy Erased is that Jared is sent away from his church in his time of need. He’s sent to a “specialist” parachurch program to work on his temptations in a context far from his local church family. But church members tempted by greed or pornography or heterosexual lust are not sent away to specialist camps to be “fixed.” Why is Jared? Same-sex-attracted Christians should be discipled within the church family, along with everyone else.”

Brett, the fact that you lumped up a Christian that deals with same-sex attraction in the same categories of other brokenness concerns me and then you use a Sam Alberry quote as if it justifies your idea.

This isn’t a salvation issue Brett. This is a human flourishing issue. Humans cannot survive without connection with other humans. That is why Eve was made for Adam.

A Christian can live without material possessions, a Christian can live without porn, a Christian can live without heterosexual lust (I hope you mean the idolization of marriage) a Christian can live without a spouse. A Christian can fast from sex, which I wish was preached over the pulpit.

But a Christian cannot live a Christian life without same-sex intimacy. The reality is, in local churches, Christian leaders and Christians don't know how to meet the needs yet of these brothers and sisters who struggle with homosexuality. This is why there was a "GAY" conference for side B Christians in St. Louis. You are giving to much credit to local churches right now. I am happy you have a lot of faith in the local church though to address this.

Brett writes,

“In the upside-down kingdom of God, this is what true liberation looks like. It is the freedom to follow Christ rather than our fickle hearts; the freedom of being caught up in God’s story rather than our own; the freedom of not being slaves to our desires.

God doesn’t promise the removal of same-sex desires, or heterosexual marriage, to those who, like Jared in Boy Erased (at least in the beginning), wish for “change.” God promises himself. To have God, are we willing to say no to our disordered desires?”

Brett, this isn’t about a justification situation which I feel like you bring up by saying, “God promises himself. To have God, are we willing to say no to our disordered desires?”

It is about Christians being PRACTICALLY cared for and getting their needs met by the Church.

I totally agree that God doesn’t promise the removal of same-sex desires, or that I will be married to a woman, but as God promises himself, he promises another human,

I was never made to be alone with God. This is why Jesus becoming a human is so important, but also, God doesn’t promise himself to ME.

He promises himself to the CHURCH, his bride.

And the only way I can say no to my sinful ways is if I am allowing the HOLY SPIRIT to let me be loved by the bride of Christ as I fulfill the law of Christ.

My “disordered desire” which is healthy same-sex intimacy mixed in with lustful same-sex intimacy is not one I need to say no too.

This isn’t black and white.

God wants me to love HIM and to love OTHERS.

His command to love others just gets a little complicated since it is mixed in with brokenness.

When the only brokenness that is mentioned in church is always tied to marriage, we are not helping all the men and women who deal with porn daily, cross dressing, hooking up anonymously,

I mean, I can create a list of sexual brokenness that doesn’t get addressed over the pulpit. I can’t wait for the Church to grow a pair (I know the church is a female, but still) and start talking about real life shit. Life is rated R, it’s not PG.

The bible is rated R.

I suspect that we agree with each other more than disagree. I just I need to speak up about some things you missed that down the road can lead to dangerous pastoral care concerning same-sex attraction that can directly affect me,

even if this makes things a little uncomfortable.