This book is a hard read.
It’s a hard read on many levels.
They say the things most worth doing are the most difficult. Reading Joseph Sciambra’s Disordered fits into that category.
This is not a book for the faint of heart or for people will have an idealized view of gay culture or of the Catholic Church. The author uses his literary knife to cut deep into the wounds of both and expose the corruption within.
As a man who has struggled with same-sex attraction for most of my life who ministers to other men with similar struggles, but who has never been actively involved with gay culture, this book was most eye-opening.
Obviously, I am no stranger to same-sex eroticism and attractions between men. I published a book about my own journey and run this blog as a testament to what the Lord has done in my life in that area.
This is Joseph's story…
It’s not glorious and it’s not fun but it is true.
There is no happy ending but there is peace, reconciliation and the knowledge that truth comes with a price and Joseph is willing to pay that price so maybe others won’t have to.
That is the mark of a true saint.
Stylistically, the book follows a sort of stream-of-consciousness style. Indeed the reader feels that he is sitting down to coffee with Joseph as he lays has life bare for all to see. He doesn’t really hold much back. He tries not to spare the reader any of the gory details while still trying to maintain an air of dignity and honesty.
Some readers may get confused by a lot of the back-and-forth storytelling. Others may get mired in the details as far as chronology is concerned. Because Joseph includes so many cultural phenomena, research and anecdotes through his own story, he weaves a rich tapestry of thought which is all interconnected. It is at the end of the book that the reader finally comes to a full realization of what happens in the beginning and the middle.
As a man who has sexualized and lusted after other men, I was initially fearful that the book would be somewhat triggering and although there were moments that peaked my curiosity because of my own lack of firsthand knowledge of the gay lifestyle, Joseph does not sanitize or glorify anything. Indeed, some readers might even be a little scandalized by some of the content which apparently is much toned down from a previous edition of the book.
Other readers may find Joseph’s critiques of the Catholic Church, both the mainstream post-Vatican II Church and, surprisingly, even some traditional orders and organizations to be jarring.
But again, truth comes with a price and it is important for all Catholics to know that some members of the church hierarchy and the Church at large, even those who hold themselves up as the paragons of orthodoxy, have fallen to the sin of sodomy and are actively involved in networks to enable it and cover it up.
Although this is not the main focus of the book, it certainly explains and justifies Joseph’s anger at those in all levels of the church hierarchy who seem unwilling to deal with the gay culture that seemingly penetrates the Church and causes such irreparable harm to her members.
In today’s culture and unfortunately even in the Church, the LGBTQ movement and culture is very often sanitized and whitewashed. The darkest parts of it are never really spoken about among “respectable” people under the guise that such honest discussions are manifestations of “homophobia”.
It certainly could be argued that Joseph presents somewhat of a stereotype of the darkest edges of gay culture and that perhaps not every man who identifies as gay partakes of the same practices he did but the simple existence of things like the Folsom Street Fair and the proliferation of many other similar gatherings which cater to men who identify as gay certainly lends an air of credence to Joseph's claims.
On a different but related note, I particularly enjoyed how he sets his story within the pop-culture milieu of the 70s and 80s and shows how that culture both influenced and was influenced by gay culture. Joseph’s research is excellent with copious footnotes and references. He has clearly done his homework here. He is a man who knows what he’s talking about and can back up everything he says. Some readers may not like his message but they would be hard-pressed to argue with his facts and experiences.
The author also includes a series of essays many of which dovetail with or, in some cases, repeat experiences related in the book. These appear in an appendix at the end so they don’t interfere with the flow of the narrative yet provide a sort of topical index and a thematic re-organization of the story for interested readers.
Although this may not be a book for everyone, it is a book that should be read by anybody who is serious about ministering to the LGBTQ community. It is important to see all sides of the story, not just the one that makes us feel good but also the ones that challenge the cultural narrative that we have been fed both the inside of the Church and outside of it.
It takes a man of great courage and conviction to be willing to make himself vulnerable to readers in the way Joseph has, sometimes at great cost to himself. As an SSA man, I stand in Joseph’s spiritual shadow and I owe him a debt of gratitude.
I have often said that the only reason God would permit men to experience same-sex attraction is so that He can use the great suffering caused by those attractions to make them into great saints. If suffering and repentance are the measures of that, then I am sure Joseph will one day be counted among their number.
You can get a copy of the book directly from Sciambra's website. The price includes shipping for both domestic and international orders.