Virtual Voices

To thine own self be true

Culture

I've been thinking about this Ray Boltz business, perhaps because news that the Christian singer had abandoned his wife to embrace a homosexual lifestyle surfaced not long after I learned that someone I know in the business world had done the same thing. His case was different than Boltz's because his children were far younger, but the storyline from a sympathetic observer was the same, and one we've heard before: He couldn't live a lie; he had to be true to himself.

Whenever I hear the admonition to be true to oneself, I recall former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry's press conference before he went to jail, in which he proudly declared: "The Bible says: 'to thine own self be true.'" If Barry had chosen to hold, in that hotel where he got busted, Gideon's Bible instead of a crack pipe, he might have learned that the Good Book says no such thing. It's a line Shakespeare gives to the windbag Polonius in Hamlet.

Many people like that notion of self-allegiance, however, and so no small wonder that it is continually elevated to the level of sacred wisdom. When coupled with the notion that homosexuality is an inescapable designation, it leaves people prepared to sanction what even pagans consider beastly: a man abandoning his wife and children. Whether he leaves them for another woman, or drugs, or his job, or in order to pursue his dream of being a rap star, Christian and non-Christian alike is apt to deem the family-deserter a low-down excuse for a man. Should he fancy sex with other men, however, the notion many have is that he has no choice. To thine own self be true.

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That's nonsense no Christian ought to embrace, of course, though we shouldn't be surprised in this age of ear-tickling doctrines that many do. It's nonsense because the Christian is not called to be true to himself; he is taught that the version of himself that he has pursued before Christ is a lie, a sickness unto death. "Listen to your heart," goes the chorus of a recently popular song, but the Christian understands: "The heart is more deceitful than all else / And is desperately sick" (Jeremiah 17:9).

It's nonsense, further, because it accepts the Freudian deceit that we are our sexuality. Even assuming that a man's sexual orientation is entirely outside his control, how does it follow that his sexual gratification is more important than his freely chosen obligations as husband and father? In other words: So what if you want to sleep with men? See that man over there? He wanted to be a rock star. That one wishes he could date swimsuit models. Plenty of women, meanwhile, long for romantic walks on the beach.

Welcome to marriage, which has never been about your fulfillment. Shame on the pastor who married you if he led you to believe otherwise. And shame on you for claiming to be a mature Christian if you still haven't figured it out. And shame on you further, pagan and Christian alike, for walking out on the person you promised never to leave.

I suppose that makes me unChristian in some quarters. After all, doesn't the Bible say something about being true to thyself? If it doesn't, says the modern moralist, then it should. And thus do we declare selfishness a virtue, and applaud men who abandon their duty.

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