Impoverished Care, Part II
By Marco Casanova and Andrew Comiskey
Review of ‘Still Time to Care: What We Can Learn from the Church’s Failed Attempt to Cure Homosexuality’ by Greg Johnson Editor’s Note: TOB is the abbreviation for Pope St. John Paul II’s book “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body” Pauline Press
Johnson usurps hope by muting the power of Incarnate Jesus to redeem sexuality. The Savior took on flesh so that we can remain disordered in ours? Merry Christmas? What a buzzkill.
Our first problem is his impoverished vision of ‘orientation.’ Johnson assumes a psychological paradigm rather than a biblical anthropological one. We prefer Pope St. John Paul ll’s better use of the term: ‘the deep orientation [of man and woman is] to personally dignify what is intrinsic to her femininity and his masculinity’ (TOB 131:4). My masculinity is designed and ordained to uphold and dignify the intrinsic good of her femininity, and vice versa.
Our bodies are spousal, living emblems of our identity and direction (orientation). Our bodies are theological. While dissing Exodus for its theological ‘superficiality’, Johnson ponderously justifies socially constructed identities on the rainbow spectrum. These are built on shifting sand, hardly a place to construct a pastoral response. We’ll stick to thinkers with some philosophical heft who get it right.
Our second problem is Johnson’s impoverished vision of psychological insight in understanding our painful depths. Though he majors on Yarhouse for outmoded terms like ‘orientation’, Johnson embodies the ‘reformed split’ from discernably good insights from psychology. Sound therapeutic care helps hurting ones make meaning of their confusing proclivities. We can and must discern wheat from chaff in the study of sexual development, as such wisdom feeds our integration as persons and our sanctification as Christians. Though Johnson asserts that 66% of sexual identity is environmental, he fails to delve into the profound roots of our frustrations and thus provides no light for their resolution.
The result is the ultimate poverty—fatalism. For Johnson, this ‘orientation’ just is, can’t change, won’t change, and thus one need not look deeper at what is going on in same-sex attraction. Give us the hope that comes through guides who help us explore our cavernous wounds so we can open to the One by Whose wounds we are healed! Here is light: both psychological progress and deepening spiritual intimacy with Jesus.
Though adoring of some evangelical pioneers (Pope Stott, really?), Johnson gives off a sour odor of impoverished spirituality. He dismisses Spirit-filled Christians, and thus the searching power of the Holy Spirit to probe our depths and to expose and expulse spiritual darkness at play there. Absent is any expectation of the Kingdom of God to break into our sorry lives and restore what is divided. Failing to honor the Spirit that helps the rainbow blinded to see, Johnson has little spiritual authority to guide those he represents.
We believe in ‘Jesus, who opens for us the mystery of creation and redemption’ (TOB 46:5). Jesus’ Spirit frees us to get back to Eden as ‘to rediscover our lost fullness’ (TOB 43:7)–stolen elements of our sexual and relational personhood.
Then there’s the moral and ethical impoverishment that runs like a dirty river through Revoice. How tenuous is the commitment of Side B people (‘gay’ but no sex) to not join Side A folk (‘gay’ and active) as they cavort together at conference? What moral authority prevents A from seducing B? How could this not be a constant tension, temptation, a slippery slope? What a moral mess, a sloppy sexual ethic that befits no serious Christian (Eph. 5:3-20)!
If Johnson, a serious reformed Biblicist, can get away with this muck in the PCA (the most reformed of Presbyterian reform), what standard are we talking about? Johnson needs a long ‘retreat’ with his bedfellows from the PCUSA.
To combat this nihilism, Pope Benedict XVI declares hope. ‘The Christian message was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known – it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life’ (Spe Salvi, 2).