Henri Nouwen and homosexuality
Charlene recently posted a quote by Henri Nouwen. Someone left a comment there, apparently dismissing anything Nouwen has to say based on this bit of news:
Henri Nouwen was a homosexual though. It was discovered in his journals after he died.
I did not know this. A quick Google search led to more information:
Ford says it is impossible to “understand the complexity and anguish of the man” without considering his homosexual orientation, something he was aware of from the time he was a boy, but started to come to grips with only in his final years. At Menninger, he wrestled with his homosexual leanings, which he regarded as a disability, a cross to bear. While Nouwen was at Harvard, he was hard on gay students, telling them that homosexuality was an evil state of being… Nouwen was troubled by the possibility that people would reject him if they knew about his sexual orientation. “This took an enormous emotional, spiritual and physical toll on his life and may have contributed to his early death,” Ford says. There is no indication in the book that Nouwen was anything but celibate.
That led to some thoughts coming together in my mind. This isn’t a new thought, but there’s no difference between being tempted with homosexual desires and any other temptation. The fact that Nouwen struggled with homosexual temptations doesn’t diminish his legacy in any way. I’m always surprised when someone thinks that a temptation alone is enough to disqualify you. Even Jesus was tempted. I really wish that Nouwen could have felt safe revealing this in his lifetime. No doubt there are many who have the same temptations, but they don’t feel safe admitting same-sex desires within the church. Someone with Nouwen’s stature might have made it safer for others. It reminds me of an interview I read with Larry Crabb yesterday. Crabb wrote this in The Safest Place on Earth:
A spiritual community consists of people who have the integrity to come clean. It is comprised of those who own their own shortcomings and failures because they hate them more than they hate the shortcomings and failures of others, who therefore discover that a well of pure water flows beneath their most fetid corruption.
When asked if he had seen such a place, Crabb replied:
When Philip Yancey read the book, his comment to me was, “It seems to me you’ve written about a place you’ve never seen but hope you will someday.” (Leadership Journal, Summer 2004)
I’m hoping we’ll see lots of safe places one day, but we’re not there yet.