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The Problem with Deception

A recent CNN article discusses a young man's experiment of posing as a homosexual for a year in an effort to understand and sympathize with that community better:

It's getting a backlash from the very community with whom he hoped to sympathize.

No wonder.

The problem with deception is that it undermines trust. When trust is eroded, then your intentions are irrelevant. He would have fared better as an evangelical who simply befriended homosexuals and asked them about their insecurities, difficulties and challenges.

Frankly, it may even have made for a better book. The difficulty with this book is that it seems gimmicky...even if he meant well.

It's strange how silent the evangelical community is about his efforts. They were deceived as well. And now the problem is that no one knows whether his faith struggle is as a result of intentionally giving ones life to follow Jesus or a struggle against an evangelical conservative background. And though many struggle with that line of deliniation, we tend to forget that there are many people with backgrounds of all faiths and lifestyles who have made the choice to follow Jesus deliberately and have found transformation in the process. 

For those desperate to make all things acceptable to God, they actually cheapen the very faith that requires a total giving of the life irrespective of what is acceptable to your background and culture. And yes, Jesus is an equal opportunity offender - to religions and cultures and lifestyles alike.

One more issue with this type of deception is that it reduces the homosexual to with whom they have sex. People have sex with all sorts of people, objects, or beasts. In history, people have even fallen in love with all three. The issue is not one of where you derive sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is not the sum total of your identity. People are made of deeper stuff.

So addressing the human, rather than sexual, struggle is probably a more worthy endeavor. Now if the author states that "homosexuality is acceptable" he has a real issue: does he means homosexuals as people or the act of sex? And does the fact that he's okay with both make both okay to God? And if he thinks its okay to God, then what else is for him more about comfort than about faith?

So the experiment, while a noble effort, is a sad one. He had good intentions and probably hopes to illuminate the evangelical world that prejudice often hurts witness. I think the author really meant well. I think he saw a form of "de-humanization" or of being "cast out" that he thought was unjust. 

He's right about that.

But the answer is not to deceive. The answer is to be truthful, authentic, and genuinely interested in the homosexual community. You don't have to pretend to starve in order to feed the hungry. Being less than who you are - and especially less than who you were created to be - is an insult to everyone.

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Derek Webster is pastor of Radiate, a new church planting movement in Richmond, Virginia. Derek also works for a national think tank addressing major demographic trends.