Hope for the Gay Undergrad
Not all such stories end this way. Some students with same-sex attractions align with pro-gay student and alumni organizations. Others have left the faith altogether. In a few extreme cases, students have taken their own lives. All in all, dealing with same-sex attractions is a lonely road for many Christian students, and Christian colleges are trying to become places where these students don't have to struggle alone.
The debate over homosexuality on campus is being recast by new research on sexual identity, which goes beyond a person's hetero- or homosexual behavior and orientation.
Understanding sexual identity is a continual process with many stops and starts regardless of a person's religious convictions, according to William Struthers, author of Wired for Intimacy and a research psychologist and professor at Wheaton. He said that the traditional labels (such as gay or straight) concerning sexual orientation are outdated and inaccurate. "Human sexuality is a lot more complex than four or five letters."
He continued, "We're being forced to think more deeply about what role sexuality plays in life. All of these categories we thought were hard and fast really aren't. There's a nature to it. There's a nurture to it. It's how the brain develops." His research has focused on sexual arousal, addiction, and pornography. "Sexuality is about a lot more than just who you want to have your orgasms with," Struthers said.
He said churches would benefit from the experience of people like Jordan. They choose to forego their own sexual desires through celibacy because they see something beyond themselves. To Struthers, this is a sacrificial display of loyalty to Christ.
But as a student, Jordan found himself in the minority of his peers with same-sex attraction. According to Jordan, many individuals who took part in a same-sex attracted small group during his senior year expressed desire to pursue same-sex relationships upon graduation. Many join liberal congregations that affirm gay orientation. Others may leave church altogether.
"If I could redo my life and like women that would be great, but I'm happy I'm gay," Jordan said. "God might change me, and I'm fine with that, but the experiences and conversations I've had have drawn me close to God and revealed him to me in awesome ways."
The prospects for change of sexual orientation remain extremely controversial. At the pastoral level, Mario Bergner, founder and director of Redeemed Lives Ministries, is a deep believer in the ability of gay individuals to change.
Bergner encourages students to identify themselves as individuals before God, apart from their sexual desires. Bergner said, "I see them as a person first, and as a Christian, if that's how they self-identify." As a young adult, Bergner actively pursued a gay lifestyle before participating in pastoral care and therapy groups that enabled him in time to enter into heterosexual marriage. "The embracing of celibacy is a legitimate Christian option, but then again, so is embracing a dynamic process of sanctification," Bergner said.