Matt Moore, a figure in the "ex-gay" movement, was recently discovered to be using a gay hookup website unpoetically called Grindr. (All this per HuffPo). He admits that the profile is his, describes it as "major disobedience ... to a loving and gracious God," and says that he'll never do it again.
It is easy to dismiss Moore as just another religious-right hypocrite, who says one thing and does the other. More charitably, though, we can regard him as he presents himself: a young man committed to a specific vision of morality, struggling (as we all do) with temptations of the flesh.
However, his struggle -- and apparent failure -- does bring into question the entire rationale of the "ex-gay" thing. If the idea is that prayer and grace and so forth can if fact rid a gay person of their sexual desire, or more improbably still transform it into a straight desire, then stories such as this suggest strongly that the idea is nonsense.
There are people who teach that, and they are full of malarkey. They are really very cruel to the conflicted young people who are their usual target: first they afflict consciences, and then they offer them an unrealistic (and un-Biblical) "hope" which will inevitably disappoint.
In fairness to Moore, however, he appears to take a more traditional line on the matter:
He told [the Christian Post] that it is idolatry to simply seek out a "sexual conversion," and churches need to understand this point.
"I think that their call out to homosexuals is, 'Come to Jesus and he'll make you straight,' whereas the Bible doesn't promise that.... The Bible doesn't promise that our temptations will end. Actually, it promises that temptations shall surely come.... With some people it's heterosexual lust, with some people it's anger, with some people it's homosexual desires," said Moore.Well, that's not wrong. Still, it leaves us with two nagging concerns.
First, Moore accepts the widespread opinion that all gay sex is de facto sinful, and (apparently) sinful in a way that straight sex is not. We wonder whether he might be open to the alternative view that -- while sexual desire is indeed so powerful that it can incline the heart to sin -- marriage, straight or gay, exists in part as a means to locate that desire within the context of a permanent and accountable relationship, which the Church can bless insofar as it offers an alternative to promiscuity. This, of course, is the logic behind Paul's faint praise, "better to marry than to burn."
Second, it seems that Moore is embracing a particular view of "sin," about which we have expressed reservations before. He seems to treat each particular sin as an isolated incident, which one confesses and from which one moves on. This is a popular and traditional view; it is essential to Roman Catholic penitential doctrine. Protestantism, though, has generally taken a more expansive view, and described sin as an alien power which pervades the fallen world, and which -- even when original sin is washed away by baptism -- continues to condition our lives. This vision is compatible with familiar idea of "concupiscence," the sinful desire which never disappears, but perhaps a little more fatalistic.
Roman Catholic doctrine invites sinners to confess, be forgiven, and hopes sincerely that they will "go and sin no more." It is a pious hope, but one which is inevitably dashed upon the rocks of lived experience. (It may also open the door to Pelagianism). Contrariwise, there is in Reformation teaching a clear belief that we cannot fulfill the Law -- we cannot in practical fact keep from sinning -- and must therefore simply be accounted righteous for Christ's sake.
So to Protestant ears, Moore's confession -- for all his evident earnestness -- sounds a little facile. Not because we doubt his intention, but because we doubt his (or anybody's) ability to follow through. When he says "I'll never be on Grindr again," we suspect that this may be true only because he will be on some other website, or in some bar. And why? Because he has failed to grasp the persistence of sin, and the way different aspects of it work together. So long as he can imagine no sexual outlet apart from loveless, secretive hookups of which he is himself ashamed, the fact is that his conscience will never be free. This makes him a terrible spokesman for the cause of sexual morality; worse yet, though, it means a life of loneliness and humiliation, deprived of the comfort that God offers (at least in some churches nowadays) to his conscience.
In other words, we wish he could just find a nice guy and settle down, so that if he is going to burn with lust, he might at least indulge himself in the Biblical remedy.