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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published at Clash Daily on April 18, 2108.
“Am I Gay?” Today, every family in America faces this question one way or another. Even the best families. Maybe you have a child, or sibling, or close friend who feels attracted to people of the same sex. Maybe a niece or nephew or grandchild wonders about their sexuality.
Maybe they are asking YOU these questions.
The book “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay” challenges the idea that feelings of same sex attraction necessarily mean a person is “gay.” The author, Daniel Mattson, tells his story of experiencing same sex attraction, acting on it, and ultimately, allowing Jesus to turn his life around.
This is not a “pray away the gay” message. It is something much more powerful. The “pray away the gay” slur is meant to demean people’s efforts to change their patterns of sexual attraction. Mattson’s message is that every person can and must, make choices about their feelings. Even if same sex attraction persists, or reemerges, every person continues to have meaningful choices about important topics:
What meaning do I assign my sexual feelings? Whom do I choose as my friends? From whom do I chose to draw inspiration, advice, and encouragement? And most of all, how do I decide to behave?
I have heard Dan speak. (Full disclosure: Dan and I are friends. He says nice things about me in the “Acknowledgments” section of the book.I say nice things about him on the back cover.) Dan has a wonderful way about him. He loves talking with high school students. He invites them to write their questions on index cards, so no one knows who is asking what question.
Inevitably, a few kids will write “Am I gay?” on their cards.
Dan answers them so gently.
Feelings of attraction to the same sex are just that: feelings. Those feelings are not the same thing as an identity. You are more than the sum total of your feelings. So is every human being who has ever walked the earth.
Did you know, that in some states, Dan’s message could be considered illegal? That’s right. “You Must Stay Gay” laws are being proposed and passed across the country.
Of course, no one comes right out and says: “You Must Stay Gay.”
They say they are outlawing “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.”They claim offering therapy is an “unlawful business practice.”
In other words, the government is telling you and me and every young person how they must interpret their own feelings. “You feel same sex attraction: you are gay.” End of story.
But Dan Mattson begs to differ. We can feel all kinds of things. We still have choices about how to label ourselves, what to think, and how to behave. He is not a therapist, and not making therapeutic claims. He is just one man, who is telling his own story. That is still legal. At least for now.
My identity: I am a child of God.
Noted Catholic Cardinal, Robert Sarah of Guinea, wrote the foreword to Dan’s book. Cardinal Sarah says of persons who experience same sex attraction:
Only when they lived in keeping with Christ’s teaching were they able to find the peace and joy for which they had been searching… They are called to chastity, and we demean them if we think they cannot attain this virtue, which is a virtue for all disciples.”
In fact, the subtitle of Dan’s book is “How I Reclaimed My Sexual Reality and Found Peace.” People need to hear this message of hope for people who experience same sex attraction.
A word to the many non-Catholic Christians on this site: Yes, this book is written by a Catholic man, published by a Catholic publisher, and endorsed by a Catholic Cardinal. There are plenty of culturally-Catholic quirks that may strike you as odd. But the overall message is just as biblically sound and solid as it can be. In this age of so many religious leaders in so many branches of Christianity promoting so much confusion, we small “o” orthodox believers have no choice but to support one another wherever we can.
Please buy this book. Read it. Share it with your pastor, youth minister, and others who work with young people. Help give Dan Mattson’s message of hope and peace the wide audience it deserves.
Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, located in Lake Charles Louisiana. Daniel Mattson will be the keynote speaker at their First Annual Awards Dinner June 15, 2018.