Michael Foster recently shared “Love, Again” by Revoice speaker and author of Spiritual Friendship, Wes Hill. Having gotten sucked into reading it, I figured I should redeem that time by sharing my thoughts. There’s no particular order here, except that looking back I think there is: [ Wesley Hill, Love, Again: On a celibate breakup and what happened after in Comment (vol. 36, issue 2, May 2018).]
1. Emotional fragility
Wesley embodies why regular folks sense that they’re walking on eggshells around malakoi. Throughout the piece, it feels like the diary of a teenage girl: we’re reading someone who thinks (s)he is saying insightful things, someone who is desperate to be unique and interesting, but ultimately is too emotionally fragile for an adult to have a real conversation with, about how these desires and expectations match up to reality.
The desolate lack of what I think of as “personal gravity” is as palpable as it is pitiable. One of the core elements of being a man is learning self-sufficiency and becoming comfortable with the idea of commanding your own life. You go from being like a moon in your childhood, orbiting your parents, to being like a planet: you still orbit the sun (God), and you may form complex systems with other men, but you are not orbiting them, or anyone; when you meet women, their tendency is to orbit you; and when you marry and have kids, your wife is in your gravity well, rather than you in hers, and your kids are in turn orbiting this binary system.
Wesley is the opposite of this. He has at least dimly realized that orbiting another man, as a woman would, is not on the table for him, after his failed “friendship” with Spencer. But rather than grow up into a man, he has tried to deal with his intense effeminacy by orbiting other binary systems instead. He desperately clings to them in the hope that he can share in their identity. It’s easy to despise this, because it really is detestable, but at the same time he needs mercy. Sadly, he is instead getting enablement from these families.
Despite plainly describing his friendship with Spencer as an unrequited romantic relationship ending in a breakup, Wesley can’t bring himself to the obvious conclusion that there was something really wrong with this. He admits that he can’t be in a relationship like that again, but rather than then acknowledging the biblical reasons why, he defers to it being unfair and unhealthy; he continues to seek healing of his brokenness in relationships with married couples, where it will be emotionally safer. Unfortunately, safety is not the issue.
4. Father starvation
In this vein, it’s hard to tell whether he is more like an adoptive child in arrested development, or more like someone who is pursuing non-sexual polyamory. I suspect a little of both. At the very end, he openly admits that the love he entertains for these couples is analagous to the obviously degrading passions he felt for Spencer (Rom. 1:26). At the same time, his almost obsessive pride in being a godfather shows how desperately he hungers for real fatherhood.
This in itself is telling, since effeminacy seems to be strongly correlated with father failure, and of course the only true solution to it is the fatherhood of God. Wesley, I’m afraid, would rather be a pretend husband in these families than pursue real fatherhood; and while he tries to pass it off as healthy and beautiful and—of all things—sacramental, it is obviously perverse.
5. False approval
It is a sad testament to the state of the assembly that this is not only tolerated and enabled within his own congregation, but has found a wide audience in larger christendom. Rather than recognizing an obviously needy, damaged man with a shameful problem, needing biblically-grounded pastoral care and firm admonition to save his soul from hell, people are falling over themselves to publish the equivalent of Dr. Phil letters and praise his virtue and insight.
6. Assimilation into the world
The fact that the praise heaped on Wesley and his ilk is indistinguishable from that heaped on sodomites by the world at large shouldn’t be terribly surprising. This is depravity in Christian trappings. What is striking is how flimsy the trappings have become. The influence of secular language on Wesley’s writing is conspicuous. He has a “spiritual director” rather, apparently, than a pastor. He talks about “flourishing”—a term of art in utilitarian ethics—as the end of biblical morality, rather than holiness or sanctification. He refuses to use biblical language for his feelings, because obviously that language would condemn them as “degrading passions” and “contrary to nature”—so he chooses rather the positive term “gay.”
Along the same lines, I’ve seen a lot of Revoice apologists recently condemning faithful Christians for taking exception to certain terms, like “sexual orientation.” It can hardly be a coincidence that the same people adopting the language of the world are the ones condemning us for quarreling over words.
7. Denial of creation distinctions
I’ll finish with a broader observation about the general confusion inherent in Wesley, and people like him. Their views, and events like Revoice to celebrate them—are a natural fruit of an existing evangelical theology: namely, the well-established agreement that gender roles are not part of the created order. They are, rather, divinely-imposed exceptions to a general androgyny, which are restricted to the home and church. [ G. Shane Morris, Rules Without Reasons: Why the Culture Is Eating Evangelicals for Lunch (June 2018).]
The logic is straightforward and reasonable: since men and women are generally interchangeable, with only very specific roles being explicitly prohibited by Scripture, then it follows that there’s nothing inappropriate about treating a man as your helpmeet, provided you avoid violating the specific prohibitions on marriage and sex.
If there is no creation principle to say e.g. that being a fireman is a man’s job, then there is no creation principle to say that being a helpmeet is a woman’s job.
The fact that even quite radically feminized evangelicals are able to spot the problem with Revoice suggests that this is a critical time for pushing back against their broader understanding of gender roles. It will either go one way or the other: either they will recognize their inconsistency and turn to a more robust understanding of God’s design for sexuality, or they won’t, and lacking any principle to stand on they’ll slip into approval for spiritual friendship as much as for all the other gender-bending they already affirm.