The Pain That Dares Not Speak Its Name

John C. Rankin

(January 16, 2013)

In 1895, Oscar Wilde spoke of “the love that dares not speak its name” in his public trial for homosexual conduct. Even now, with homosexual identity openly proclaiming its name – along with a growing wave of legal endorsements – there remains the prior gnawing tumor of “the pain that dares not speak its name.”

This reality is the most closely guarded injury to the human soul. So long as it remains hidden and festering, those who suffer only suffer more, and those who shape public policy to cover this soul pain only multiply the suffering further.

In 2002 I spoke of this pain to a crowded assembly in the Connecticut State Legislature. The main hearing room was packed with 200 people before the Judiciary Committee, and two overflow rooms of 200 each were linked by close-circuit television, and broadcast live on CT-N.

The overwhelming majority of the same-sex marriage advocates were women, wearing yellow stickers identifying their advocacy. They were there early, accounting for perhaps 120 of those in the main room, whereas the clear majority for all three hearing rooms together believed otherwise.

I was on a panel of those testifying in favor of marriage as one man and one woman. Our time was limited greatly by a political enterprise that had a foregone conclusion already in place.

I set the stage with the story from my studies at Harvard. And when I mentioned “Harvard,” there was a wave of gasps across the room, as if to say, “Surely no one who has gone to Harvard could possibly say no to same-sex marriage.”

Then I gave the testimony of my three fellow students – professing lesbians who spoke of the reality that all other lesbians they knew had suffered physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse as young girls (as detailed in article [1] in this series).

As I mentioned this abuse to the legislative assembly, I could hardly hear myself speak as a cacophony of spontaneous groans filled the room. Afterward, a friend told me that all the groans came from women wearing the same-sex marriage stickers. Accordingly, they literally held their breaths until I was done with this thought.

I thus realized I had spoken a publicly unspoken pain, while seeking to affirm the human dignity of those who know such suffering; but also being unprepared for the searing depths of emotion that were unleashed.

It was a pain that I, as an evangelical minister, was not supposed to know about, much less, care about. In other words, I do live as much of my life as possible among various skeptics of the Gospel (or in truth, among skeptics of the church who do not yet grasp the Gospel). Jesus always sought out the disenfranchised and hurting.

Despite this response to my testimony, the media had no interest in follow through, and never even attempted to criticize it. Silence. This is a forbidden question in politics and media, for such abuse, and any range of hurts, is far broader than that known in the homosexual world. Abuse cuts through the lives of so many people from so many angles.

As a minister of the Gospel, I have deep anguish for “the pain that dares not speak its name,” for the undeserved shame and suffering imposed on so many children and teenagers. Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who toil and are loaded down, and I will refresh you” (Matthew 11:28).

How well do we in the church communicate the Gospel in the face of the pain and acrimony of this political debate? Do those who struggle with homosexual temptation see in us the Good News, or merely a competing political idolatry of winning the debate at all costs?