Journal of Christian Nursing:
Department: Think About It
Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner, PhD, RN, serves as editor of JCN and with Nurses Christian Fellowship USA, and works per diem as a staff nurse. She lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her family and is active in a local church.
The editor declares no conflict of interest.
I'm uncomfortable admitting it, but this has been a challenging issue of JCN to prepare. Some time back I realized I needed to know more about gay issues and concerns. I regularly encounter gay patients in my work as a staff nurse and I don't like the uncomfortable feeling on the unit from other patients, staff, and myself toward them. The church I am a member of in downtown Wichita tries to be welcoming and culturally sensitive to all. Among the mix of internationals, people living on the street, and various minorities, on occasion gay persons come to our church. I don't like the uncomfortable feeling I sense from others at church toward gays. I don't like the uncomfortable feeling in myself.
It's not that I have shunned people who identify as gay or made fun of or been inappropriate with gay persons. I've had a number of gay friends throughout the years for whom I care deeply. Two were people in a church I attended who loved and followed Jesus just as I do. They lived celibate lives like any other single person who wants to be obedient to Christ. One was a friend who was very gifted in his work and I benefited greatly from his gifts. One is an extremely talented Christian musician whose music has blessed thousands. Three are healthcare professionals for whom I have deep respect; one is one of the best staff I've ever worked with in behavioral health.
Then I met Sarah Sanders, who is not gay, when she had a poster presentation at the Westberg parish nurse symposium. I was challenged by Sarah's zeal for Christians to be welcoming and caring for gay persons in faith communities. Sarah wasn't radical or promoting a gay agenda, she just had a heart of compassion. I was moved by her comfort level for engaging with and loving persons in the gay community. I decided God wanted to address this issue in JCN and believed he was providing Sarah to do it. I asked her write a continuing education feature to help nurses understand gay terminology, health issues, and help us care more effectively and compassionately for gay persons we encounter.
I also searched for Christian and nursing books about sexual identity and gender preference. Three of those books are reviewed in the Resources section (pp. 251–253). In the process of researching and praying, I came to realize some things. I agree with author Andrew Marin that a tremendous amount of hurt has been thrust on gay persons by Christians. We don't treat other “sins” in the church with the same fierce emotion we thrust toward homosexuality. The “God Hates Fags” approach has to stop.
Second, as author Jenell Paris suggests, the first thought when we encounter gay persons shouldn't be, “Isn't homosexuality a sin?” One's sexual preference isn't a sin whether you are heterosexual or homosexual. What becomes sin is what we do with our sexual preference. Throughout Scripture we see that God planned for the act of sexual intimacy between one man and one woman within marriage (Genesis 2:18–25; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 19:4–6). When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin came into the world (Genesis 3), a lot of things got twisted and changed, including sex. People started abusing sex, raping, molesting, committing adultery, and doing all manner of things. My colleague Grace Tazalaar, NCF Missions Director who worked in Uganda as HIV/AIDS broke out in the 1980s, pointed out to me that because sexual intimacy reflects a picture of our intimacy with God (i.e., Isaiah 54, Hosea, Revelation 21), it makes perfect sense that Satan would attack and distort sex to twist our understanding of the intimacy God longs to have with us.
There are no clear answers as to why some people have same-sex attraction. What I do know is that God calls me to show compassion to those who struggle with this issue or encounter unfair treatment whether in churches or healthcare. I would be deeply wounded if Christians I know treated issues in my life like we treat homosexuality. My desire for us as Christian nurses is to be compassionate, aware of how we interact with gay persons, and ask ourselves if we are reaching out with love, offering the best care possible.