Thursday, December 16, 2010

Provocative Reality: "The Pain That Dares Not Speak Its Name"

As we consider the onward push for nation-wide same-sex marriage, and open homosexuality in the military, here is a question: Is our culture being shaped by the rule of law, or is it being molded to conform to some deep pain that can never be satisfied by law?

In 1895, Oscar Wilde spoke of "the love that dares not speak its name" in his public trial for homosexual conduct.

I once spoke of "the pain that dares not speak its name" to a crowded and astounded legislative assembly.

But the content was not original; rather I was speaking the words of others.

In 1988, while working on my Th.M. in Ethics and Public Policy at Harvard, I was in a class on feminist ethics. One day at lunch, three female classmates sat down with me.

One woman spoke, saying, "You know John, for an evangelical, you're a nice guy." As if encountering an oxymoron. She continued, "The three of us are lesbian, and every lesbian we know has been physically, sexually and/or emotionally abused by some man in her early years." I was stunned, as this was new to me.

I immediately prayed in my spirit, "Dear God above, has the church heard this, or do we just pass judgment?" This was an anecdote, not a statistical claim, but I have since learned how pervasive it is, and for male homosexuals as well.

In 2002, I was testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, with 600 people crowded into the main room and two overflow rooms, and it was being broadcast live on CT-N.

I shared this story from my Harvard classmates. When I came to the line about the abuse, I could hardly hear myself speak due to the groans that then filled the room. Afterward, a friend told me that all the groans came from women wearing same-sex marriage stickers. They then literally held their breaths until I was done with that thought.

Despite the highly anguished response to my testimony, the media had no interest in follow through, and never even attempted to criticize it. Silence.

This is reality. This is the forbidden question in politics and media, for such abuse is far broader than just that experienced by people driven into homosexual identities. Unless those of us who are servants of the Gospel can speak to the pain that dares not name itself, to an undeserved shame imposed on so many children and teenagers -- giving love and hope for deliverance instead -- then our national politics will continue to get sucked into the cesspool.



Daniel Mann said...


Thanks for the reminder of our mandate to speak to "the pain that dares not speak its name" even as we try to fulfill the mandate to also speak to the moral question.The Christian message requires both -- the bad and the good!

Anonymous said...

No doubt that story or something like it is true in an untold number of cases. Also anecdotal, but similarly, as a pastor I've now ministed to two men convicted of child molestation. Without in any way condoning what they did, it just happens that both of them were victims of molestation themselves. Thanks for drawing attention to this issue John.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprized to hear a rare confession by some same sex individuals as to the origin of their orientation. The role of parents, was no doubt, part of this, or other family members or friends who somehow did not set proper examples.

And I wonder with TV programs like "The L Word" and others glamorizing lesbian trysts and pornography that caters to boys and men full of graphic lesbian images, it is not surprizing that society has made many laws to tolerate and endorse "marriages" of lesbian couples. I wonder how many female actors who are exploited as "lesbians" in the media, were never so before they were offered $$ to make lesbianism glamorous. There is a new book out "Pornland", how porn has hijacked our culture. It was mentioned on this site:

The Bible is absolutist when it comes to acceptable relationships. I wonder if sometimes as Christians we don't set up standards that are almost impossible to fulfill except for the extremely well-disciplined.

Jim Dewar said...

Hi John: I posted your link on my FB page & this is what came back from my brother in law. I'd be very interested to read your reply; I think he makes some very common arguments.

Jim, this is baffling, and somewhat horrifying. Baffling because Rankin is making several assumptions that are patently absurd. His conversation with three lesbians is his basis for a generalization that all gay people are so because of abuse? Huh? The theory of abuse as a basis for homosexuality has been dismissed repeatedly - and never once supported - by serious studies. Also, remember that homosexual behavior occurs across all mammal species at about the same rate, which logically refutes his position. Lastly, he assumes that being gay is a disorder when there's no rational basis for viewing it as other than a difference.

What's somewhat horrifying about Rankin's screed is this: The suffering that gay people have experienced through the millennia has come from their persecution, not their orientation. For Rankin, as a representative of a religion that has been the direct cause of so much death, torture and misery for gay people, to offer such a lame theory for their "pain" is as offensive as if Himmler were to wonder whether weak lungs explained Jews' "pain" in the gas chambers.

John Rankin said...

Jim: Thank you.

First, your brother-in-law can look at five articles on my website that will defuse his accusations ( at the "Marriage or Pansexuality" icon: 1) The Ministers Affirmation; 2) the Mars Hill Forum at Yale Divinity School; 3) the Mars Hill Forum at Smith College; 4) Slander and Self-Censorship; and 5) Fred Phelps and the Idolatry of Hate. If he is willing to actually learn what I say and believe, even as he misconstrues what I have clearly said here...

Second, I do not base my view on one anecdote. Rather, that story opened me up to the reality. This testimony of abuse is all-pervasive, and I have shared it in the presence of many audiences of homosexual persons, and the one before the Connecticut Legislature was definitive as well. I have a Unitarian minister friend who has very many avowed homosexuals in his church -- and he agrees with this reality, while affirming homosexuality.

Third, I would challenge his scientific presuppositions, and am willing for the most scientifically rigorous review. Too, the literature he cites I am familiar with -- it is painfully tendentious.

Fourth -- and most importantly -- I am aiming to respect the most profound self-testimony of suffering. But it is a deep soul pain, and defenses are always up.

Fifth, to equate me with Nazis shows an unbalanced and pained soul.

Anonymous said...

"Lastly, he assumes that being gay is a disorder when there's no rational basis for viewing it as other than a difference."

Scott Lively has investigated this issue as much as any minister. Maybe he would be willing to weigh in on this issue.

By making sexual "orientation" and people "coming out" such a monumental issue, and by characterizing those who disagree with them as "haters", the gay and lesbian "rights" movement have reduced the issue to caricatures and absurdities. A human being is not defined by sex that he/she has engaged in any more than by churches he/she has attended are they rightly labeled or branded by that church, but rather by contractual arrangements.