welcome to the family pt. 2

There is a reason why Christians call each other brother and sister; the Church is a family. But the Church, unfortunately, receives the most press time for certain congregations displaying the ugly side of family gatherings: the bitterness, the dark secrets, the infighting, and the awkward scenes in public. We can do better.

We all have to do better, because I am convinced the integrity and credibility of the Church’s teachings on homosexuality depend entirely on its response to actual gay people in its community. If the Church expects men and women to give up something that can seem so natural, so essential to happiness, so culturally acceptable, it needs to show that it has something even better to offer the gay person than marriage, sex, and the small thrills of a daily romance and companionship.

To be blunt, we are by and large terrible at that. For reasons we have previously discussed (notably in Tony’s excellent post on marriage), the Church (at least in the USA) is often less an invitation to a full and communal life as it is a sparkling infomercial for something unavailable to the chastely single gay person – marriage.

So I thought I’d write down a few of the things that I will be looking for in a local church, things I expect from every church, specifically in regard to my homosexuality.

– I expect to become family. This is possibly the biggest thing a church can do to make singleness seem bearable (and maybe even, gasp, attractive?). If I cannot start a family of my own, the families surrounding me should be darn well prepared to invite me to meals, holidays, children’s sporting events, movie nights, whatever. An enormous part of feeling loved and whole is knowing that people want you to be in their lives and miss you when you are gone. Lonely people are very aware that everyone else is probably having a good time without them.[1] It’s one thing to develop a healthy appreciation of solitude and quiet, and it’s another thing to have no other options available because people are not including you as they should.

I don’t think I have to write anything more about this here. It should be obvious what it would look like to treat someone as family. Honestly, I’m not too worried about finding “family” in my 20’s. Churches are used to twenty-somethings needing to be included in home life. But what about when I’m 40, 50, 60 (is there life after 60?). It kind of scares me. I trust God will provide, but the small whispers of anxiety linger.

– I expect to be able to minister, as God leads, in any role a straight, single guy could. I have heard too many stories of men and women being restricted from serving in leadership specifically because they are gay, notably in children’s ministry (even if they are celibate!). I don’t get it. If there is a Men’s Naked Mud-Wrestling ministry, I will happily take the advice that perhaps my strengths are needed elsewhere (though now we’ll never know if I possess as-of-yet untapped evangelistic mud-wrestling potential…sigh). Otherwise, I would love to be able to use the passions and talents God has given me as he calls me.

There are pervasive cultural messages out there that tell me I am broken, compromised, and tragic because I’m attracted to men or because I won’t have sex with them. Some days I believe it all. One of the most powerfully transformative times in my life was when I lived and worked with abused kids for a summer. The all-Christian staff were ceaselessly affirming, always letting me know how proud they were of me, how excited they were that I was there with them, and how much the kids loved me. For one of the first times in my life I was being empowered to use all of me constructively for the sake of these beautiful children and the glory of God. That summer was the least lonely I have ever been because I finally experienced, and believed, that I was not “broken” beyond use, was not “compromised” beyond love, and not “tragic” beyond celebration.

Making sure that the gay members of each congregation are being encouraged to minister in life-giving ways and are validated for their contributions is an important part of preserving the church’s role as a place of where all people, no matter their background, can humbly take part in blessed service for the sake of the world.

– Lastly, I expect to be used as a resource. For too long the church has tried to “solve the problem of homosexuality” without drawing upon the experiences of its gay members. Remember that time they successfully built a safe and sturdy highway bridge with zero input from qualified engineers? Me neither.

Not every person who is attracted to the same sex wants to be so “public” about it, and that is totally fine. I personally feel strongly that I can be a helpful resource for my church as it becomes more passionate and capable of loving gay people of every conviction. The pastor at my current church has been wonderfully open to talking and has shown an eagerness to learn that makes me feel both validated and hopeful – that the pain and darkness I have gone through might be used to save someone like me from the same anguish. I won’t have all the answers, but that won’t stop God from using my story to build up his Church.

***

I guess the longing behind much of these expectations is that I simply want to be seen and loved as I am. For the gay Christian, rarely do the two coincide. Often we remain invisible out of anxiety that we will lose what love we do have, or maybe just because no one has noticed we were there to begin with. But visibility frequently seems to draw out confusion and fear far more readily than love and inclusion.

But isn’t it a truth of the Gospel that God sees each of his children fully and loves us unconditionally? Isn’t the Church supposed to embody (literally) that same, startling, counter-cultural embrace? How can we expect the world to think we are anything but crazy homophobes with a ridiculously backward sexual ethic unless we display this kind of inclusive, Christ-centered love to the gay men and women already kneeling under our steeples?

I’m excited. We have quite the opportunity here, I just hope we don’t miss it entirely.

Peace, brothers and sisters. Peace.

Jordan


[1] …and may fill 50% of their journal from Junior year with whiny complaints about it.

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13 thoughts on “welcome to the family pt. 2

  1. I don’t know what church you belong to, or attend, but your firwt paragraph is totally wrong for my church, and many, many others. I did not read the rest of your tirade.

    • Hey there!

      I guess I didn’t do a good job of making it clear, but I was not trying to attack the character of churches in general; I was simply making an observation about the way the church is perceived by our culture. I’m sorry for the ambiguity, and I went back and worked on the phrasing.

      If you’ve been following the news recently, there is a seemingly endless supply of stories detailing some pretty terrible things coming from the pulpit (especially after the controversial bill in NC passed). Between the Vatican scandals, the ever-distressing Westboro Baptist antics, and the general perception that the Church is composed of hypocrites, homophobes, and judgmental bullies, Christians have a lot of self-explaining to do. By default people usually don’t trust us. I think most churches are not even remotely as hurtful as the few exceptions that make the news, but I also don’t think most churches are doing enough to try and counteract the wrongly attributed stereotypes, especially in regard to homosexuality. Thus my post.

      I do think, though, that if you would have continued reading the initial ambiguity would have been resolved and my love and respect for the church made evident (pt. 1 of this post should also have made it clear, I hope). For future reference (I hope you will keep following us!), if something strikes you as odd or wrong early on in the post, I would request that you please finish the post before commenting, because often I, or Tony, will clarify ourselves.

      Thanks for letting me know my language was a bit unhelpful. Peace!

      Jordan

      • Now I’m curious, are there people out there who ARE doing what the author of that article wants to see, but who don’t get air time because they are neither pro-homosexuality nor a complete homophobic wacko?

  2. I appreciate your post on the church and am glad to hear that you have been able to have somewhat of a positive experience in regards to finding community or family in the church. Unfortunately I cannot say that I have had the same experience. However, it is good to see people posting more in regards to the churches role towards those who struggle with homosexuality. There have been plenty of people talking about the issues of homosexuality, but very few actually calling out the church on what their response should be. Hopefully your post is seen by plenty of people in the church.

  3. Great stuff. Thanks for posting, and keep up the good work.

    I liked this part especially:

    “If I cannot start a family of my own, the families surrounding me should be darn well prepared to invite me to meals, holidays, children’s sporting events, movie nights, whatever. An enormous part of feeling loved and whole is knowing that people want you to be in their lives…It’s one thing to develop a healthy appreciation of solitude and quiet, and it’s another thing to have no other options available because people are not including you as they should.”

    This is something that it’s often hard for me to admit, because it sounds like self-pity (and, unchecked, can often lead there), but these desires are 100% legitimate.

    Conversely, I often have to remind myself to be aware of, and sensitive to, the other lonely people in my life — I’ve often been resentful over not having been invited to some gathering or other, while at the same time excusing myself for not having included somebody else when I had the chance.

  4. ‘If I cannot start a family of my own” Again, you are starting with an indefensible premise. You have bought into the anti gay hysteria that Gay men can’t have loving relationships, families, children and still be religous. Again, why can’t you start a family? There is no reason you can’t and certainly NOTHING in the bible that says you can’t. You cite chapter and verse where you think it does and I will be happy to prove you wrong. From the few posts I have read it seems like you have not tried to have a relationship, and have taken the easy way out. How convenient. Unless of course you have actual or perceived mental, physical or personality flaws which you are not dealing with that make you undateable.

    • Hey again!

      Thanks for taking the time to read through so many posts! If you want to have a more direct conversation with Tony and I, please email us at gaysubtlety@gmail.com . We’d be happy to clear up some apparent confusion.

      I mentioned it in my other response to you, but I absolutely don’t buy into the harmful opinion that gay men and women cannot have loving relationships, or that gay couples are somehow instantly anathema. There are some deeply committed Christian gay couples. Please do not assume such things about me or Tony before taking the time to really understand our beliefs. I understand many churches have done a poor job of communicating a love that counteracts the stigma (with some specific churches contributing horribly to it), but, as I hope you’ve seen from the responses on this blog, there’s a growing number of Christians trying to enter lovingly into this dialogue who are intent on fighting the hatred and stigma. That’s what this blog is for.

      I am quite capable physically, psychologically, and emotionally to be in a relationship. Of course I realize that marriage is a huge calling that requires herculean efforts to make work well. Remaining single *does* save me from some of the difficulties of being in a relationship. However, being single (at least the way I want to be single) is not free of effort either. Both realities, if pursued with passion and proper intentions, are immensely difficult. And yet both provide unique and beautiful fruit.

      Our fundamental difference, of course, is that I do think the Bible prohibits me from entering into a relationship with another man. This blog is not the place to discuss that, though, and there are countless resources from both sides. We hoped to make this a space to simply talk about the reality of being gay in general, and the reality of being gay and chastely single by Christian conviction in particular.

      I imagine you were aware of this when you wrote the response, but some of the ways you articulated your disagreements were fairly hurtful to both Tony and I. You made light of decisions that we have not taken lightly a single day of our lives. A part of my own struggle has been against feelings of undesirability, of being ugly and unwanted. Though I am largely free from such lies, they can still sting if touched directly. To imply that I might just be flippantly avoiding relationships due to a stultifying laziness, or that I may actually be “undateable,” does not seem to do justice to your desire for careful understanding of the LGBTQ community. Other people who read the comments may also be put down by such a remark. Hopefully we can elevate the conversation above those kinds of words.

      You are absolutely free to comment on our posts, and just as free to disagree! But we would appreciate it if the tone and content of your responses were a bit less provocative and free of ad hominems.

      I hope you have a wonderful evening! Peace,

      Jordan

      • 1) “I am quite capable physically, psychologically, and emotionally to be in a relationship” Not buying it. That is a statement with no supporting facts, What significant emotional, sexual relationships have you had? With women, with men? How many, for how many years? That is like a 12 year old saying they are ready to get married. 2) “marriage is a huge calling that requires herculean efforts to make work well” Not buying that either, not if you are doing it right, with the right person. My partner and I have an astoundingly good relationship and it certainly does not take herculean effort. 3) the “undateable” reference was very pointed for a reason. My personal experience has been that many people are not in a relationship for a reason, and usually it is not physical, it is usually personality. There are people attracted to every type of physical person e.g. chubby chasers. I don’t know you, so I don’t know whether you are not in a relationship because you don’t want one as you claim (and using the bible as a crutch to justify it); or because no one wants to date you and you are using the bible again to justify not being in a relationshi , instead of figuring out what part of your personality is turning people off (non stop navel gazing, introspection and whining), or you are just too scared of losing what few friends you have because you are afraid they won’t like you anymore (due to you background and cultural conditioning) if you actually have sex with men. 4) why are you looking solely to the church for your friends and emotional fullfillment, in any major city there are a thousand gay groups, two of my favorite being running and volleyball (tall skinny guys, woof), softball leagues, book clubs, chess clubs, wine tasting groups, etc. All of them filled with gay men who actually like gay men and have created communities for themselves. Because you are right to worry about what happens as you get older. Once every one gets partnered up, as the majority of people do, (and especially after kids) there is not a lot of time in the day for single friends. It is easier to do things with couples, the single person is always the third wheel.

      • Hey there! This’ll be a little too long already, so I’ll just jump into the questions!

        1) Having been in a relationship is not a prerequisite for being capable of being in a relationship. It’s probably due to an unfamiliarity with the real character of my beliefs, but if you would have thought about it a bit more I think you might have realized that a long history of emotional/sexual dating relationships is horribly undesirable for Christians, much less a sign that they’re ready for marriage. In fact, it usually means the opposite (as sex should only happen after one is married). Some people marry the first person they ever date. It happens a lot at my college. So… your point?

        I have never dated anyone. I *can* date, but why would I? I’m not attracted to girls, so I have no desire to date them (I would feel disingenuous and manipulative anyway), and I’m not allowed to date the guys I am attracted to. Again, I think your questions stem from a lack of familiarity, so I hope that clarifies things a bit. You may see this as some sort of proof of my deficiency or something, but, again, it’s in full accordance with my beliefs and that is essential for understanding why I live as I do.

        2) If marriage were easy we wouldn’t have a 50% divorce rate. Relationships with anyone are not easy all the time. Certainly there are moments when it feels as natural as breathing, but talk to any older married couple and they will have their war stories. Marriage takes work to foster love, respect, and an abiding commitment that withstands the strain of two different people trying to live as one.

        3) Again, if I felt the Bible did not prohibit me from marrying a man, I would. Not a question. But, well, I think it does prohibit that, so there we go. For what it’s worth, I have had girls want to date me. Am I perfect? Nope. But I certainly don’t have any of those crippling turn-offs that you seem to hope I would have.

        4) Because the Church is my family, my home. I don’t look solely to them – I think it’s very important to be involved in communities with people who aren’t brothers and sisters in Christ – but I do see the Church as my primary community to which I will dedicate myself and in which I will spend most of my time. For millennia the Church has treasured single people and incorporated them into the fabric of daily communal life. Some churches have lost sight of that, but definitely not all. There is much hospitality and warmth and fulfillment to be had as a single person. You have a very low, uninspiring view of what it means to be single. I don’t share your vision, for mine fills me with hope and anticipation. You may think I’m naive, but I simply refuse to believe the lie that being single is a tragic error to be avoided. So long as I am not pursuing a relationship, I will be passionately striving to live a beautifully full and life-giving existence as a chaste single man. Friendship does not replace romance, I get that. I am giving something up by remaining single. But I also gain something, and that excites me.

        I hope that clears up some of the apparent confusion. I’m not sure what you hope to gain by arguing as you are. Like I said before, we are open for communication, but I really would appreciate a slightly less acidic tone. A desire of ours is that we can learn how to elevate the character of the discussion. Again, I apologize for any ways churches have hurt you or your loved ones and for any ways what I’ve written fails to respect you. I hope you can see how we are trying as best we can to speak with greater love and nuance. We still have much to learn.

        Peace,

        Jordan

  5. Jordan, I appreciated your June 3rd reply, and I am sorry that your understandable request for less hurtful language went unheeded. Those of us who actually know you don’t give a second thought to the suggestion that you are undateable. We admire you. We love you. We’re here. I’m here. To stay.

    The devil comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. Jesus comes so that you, Jordan, may have life, and life in abundance.

  6. Sorry you perceive my comments as “acidic”, they are actually not meant that way. I am by nature and background direct and to the point. By nature, not very touchy feely. By background, when i was in the military in a battle situation clear and direct communication is a necessity otherwise men die, hurt feelings are a very low priority; and in my current profession the ability to argue a point in a direct expeditious manner is preferred and admired with no consideration or expectation of hurt feelings. We can and do argue directly, vehemently, and profanely on a regular basis without regard for “hurt feelings”, and still go out for a beer afterwards as friends. Those who can’t stand the heat are not respected or admired. So I will try to be less direct so as to not to hurt your feelings.

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