Ron Citlau. Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted: Biblical Direction for Friends, Family Members, and Those Struggling with Homosexuality. Bethany House, 2017. See here to buy the book.
Ron Citlau is a pastor. He himself has struggled with same-sex attraction, and he is married to his wife, Amy.
Ron Citlau believes that the Bible is opposed to same-sex sexual relationships. He does not present a biblical defense of that position in this book, but he presented a defense in a previous book that he co-wrote, entitled Compassion without Compromise. In Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted, Citlau focuses on offering strategies for Christians wrestling with same-sex attraction. Hope still has some theological content, however, for Citlau argues that homosexual marriages and unions cannot provide fulfillment, since it is marriage between a man and a woman that reflects the Trinity and the marriage between Christ and the church.
Citlau offers a variety of strategies for Christians who have same-sex attraction. For one, he argues that they can still be sexual, without being in a same-sex sexual relationship. He seems to have a broad view of sexuality here, for he appears to argue that men fulfill their sexual nature when they are sacrificial, and that women do so when they create. For Citlau, a single same-sex attracted Christian can do this, without having sex.
Second, Citlau stresses Christian community among Christians who have a thirst for God. This can alleviate loneliness while also providing opportunities for service. Third, Citlau discusses lament in prayer: a same-sex attracted Christian can pour his or her pain out to God and pray about his or her longings and struggles. Fourth, Citlau maintains that, in some cases, the same-sex attracted person may benefit from marriage to a person of the opposite sex. Citlau does not regard this as a universal panacea, and he offers guidelines that same-sex attracted Christians can consider when evaluating whether to pursue such an option.
The book has some positives. Citlau tries to be empathetic towards Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction. He tells stories about such Christians who found a path that worked for them, apart from a same-sex sexual relationship. I also learned more about the different voices in this discussion, such as Wesley Hill, who advocates same-sex spiritual friendship as a path for same-sex attracted Christians. Citlau disagrees with Hill’s approach but still supports building relationships in Christian community. I enjoyed some of Citlau’s personal anecdotes, such as his story of how he felt that God encouraged him to ask out a woman, she said no, and he still felt that God was the one encouraging him to ask her out. I am not saying that I like this story because I believe that God pressures homosexuals to be heterosexual: Citlau distances himself from such an idea, as he says that therapy may not cure a homosexual of same-sex attraction. But it may be a good story for those coping with rejection.
In terms, of negatives, the book was a bit too chipper and optimistic for my taste. Citlau tried to understand people’s struggles, but the book lacked pathos and depth. The book also could be rather contradictory. Citlau would make a statement against one-on-one therapy in favor of groups, without any elaboration, then he would talk about one-on-one therapy as a legitimate option. Citlau would say that same-sex attracted Christians should try to crucify their desires rather than accepting them and channeling them into a positive direction, but later he would say that same-sex desires are not always curable. On page 123, Citlau states: “There is simply no reason that a man or a woman with same-sex attraction who loves Jesus and wants children cannot have the opportunity of marriage with someone of the opposite sex.” Elsewhere in the book, however, Citlau acknowledges that opposite-sex marriage may not work for a same-sex attracted person (for Citlau, it may, or it may not). Citlau extols lament and being honest with God, but later he says that “Gloomy and despairing Christian leaders give very little hope for anxious sinners” (page 155). Citlau says the same-sex sexual relationships cannot be fulfilling, yet he tells a story of a gay professor he knew who was happy in his relationship.
There were things that Citlau said in this book that encouraged me to question the fairness of requiring same-sex attracted Christians to abstain from same-sex relationships. (I questioned it before reading this book, but Citlau unintentionally confirmed my questioning.) Paul in I Corinthians 7:9 said that it is better to marry than to burn. Paul most likely was referring to opposite-sex marriage, but couldn’t the same logic apply to same-sex desires? Should same-sex attracted people have to “burn” sexually in a state of singleness? Some may tell them to marry someone from the opposite sex, but Citlau acknowledges that “You cannot marry someone to whom you are not attracted” (page 126). (Citlau says this in offering advice to same-sex Christians considering opposite-sex marriage: they need to be attracted, on some level, to the person of the opposite sex.) Citlau acts as if service, friendships, sacrifice, and creativity can take the place of a monogamous sexual relationship, and yet, on page 123, he states that “Marriage is unique from any other relationship.” Should same-sex attracted Christians be forbidden from ever having this kind of relationship, with someone to whom they are genuinely attracted?
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest!