/rant

Ok, I was halfway through a much more informative post on a different subject when I randomly switched topics and wrote an entirely separate entry. So, this is a detour post. It’s kind of like that time I was trying to get home but my GPS brought me to a dark, creepy wheat field in the middle of nowhere instead… except there’s a much lower risk of being eaten by a vivified Scarecrow this time around (though I’m not saying there is no risk, mind you).

What do Santa Claus, Bigfoot, appealing shades of taupe, leprechauns, and life-long chastity as a single, gay person have in common? They don’t really exist, apparently. (Please don’t argue with me about Santa, just accept it and move on). Obviously I’m being dramatic; with the exceptions of Santa and non-ugly taupe I’m actually open to suspending my disbelief.

Ill-crafted joking aside, I’m a bit discouraged at the moment. The source of this slight melancholy was hinted at above: it doesn’t seem like anyone around here actually believes I can live my whole life without having sex of one kind or another. Our culture is simply too sexual, our biology too compelling, to remain chastely single as a gay Christian.

Recently, it feels as if my life has become the unfortunate playground for the unfounded fears of many dear and wonderful people. Being honest, it’s a wearying thing to know that respectable men and women think of me as an exceptionally weak, sin-prone, sexually perverse man. They wouldn’t say it in that language, so I’m probably being unfair. Anyway, that’s how it feels.

It’s frustrating that so few people seem to have faith that I’ll remain chaste for any amount of time. If I were straight and single, even though I’m sure they would want me to get married, they would expect me to remain chaste until that day and would encourage me that such a life is possible and totally within the reach of my Christ-empowered, regenerate self. That is not the message I am receiving. And that, more than anything, has made these past weeks difficult. I hate being on the crappy end of a double standard (to which the rest of the whole world – after observing my upper-class, white, male self – says, “HA!”). This reaction bewilders me. I get that people are just trying to look out for my future, but I don’t think they realize they are literally sabotaging the holy path to flourishing.

Western culture at large already relentlessly smashes me in the face with ads, movies, shows, and music that tell me there is absolutely no way I can possibly control my sex-drive, that I’m some kind of deluded, Amish/Victorian/Alien freak-show for thinking, just maybe, I can go my whole life without sex and avoid shriveling up and evaporating from a severe case of being prudish and ultra-lame (little do they know I suffered from that in middle-school and have developed ample antibodies). But when I turn to the church and I hear basically the same message, it stings a lot, and I start to wonder if I really am crazy.

Over and over it’s implied that the best possible outcome is that I would get married to a woman some day (as soon as possible) because it is simply too hard to live in this culture without having sexual release in marriage. I hear things like, “Man, I wouldn’t be able to do that” or “You’re setting yourself up for a huge fall by the time you’re forty” or “I’m just praying that God will provide you with a wife because it’s so difficult to be single.”

Has the Gospel become less compelling than sex? Really?! We proclaim the same miserable message as “the world” if we cannot trust that chaste singleness is not only possible, but wonderfully blessed. Maybe instead of trying to be a glorified Christian Mingle the church should focus on being a stunning community of brothers and sisters so dedicated to the all-consuming power of God that the single members know without a doubt that they are living a beautiful and full life that is not any less profound because they haven’t taken someone to bed. Maybe we should be spending less time telling single people how tragically unlikely it is that they will be able to resist the siren song of sex and more time exhorting them to passionately model the inclusive and healing life of Christ, assuring them that, with God’s help, they are truly able to live chastely without being married and then coming along side of them every day to support them on that road.

I have nothing against marriage or the possibility of being married (I wrote a post about it), but it is no more “good” than being single. Maybe it’s just my context and I am over-reacting, but for this whole year I had been increasingly excited about being single in the church until that church started telling me singleness was going to effectively drag me to hell.

So go find a single person and give them a huge freaking hug and let them know, by the grace of God, they can make it! That their lives are wonderful beacons of hope in a culture drifting anchorless in a roiling sea of sexual obsession. And if you are single, find a mirror and tell yourself that God loves you, that he is with you, that chastity is not beyond you as you dive deep into the still waters of his grace, that you have astounding and unique gifts to be used for his glory through edification of the Church and service of the marginalized, and that one day Christ will look at you, whether you ever get married or not, with overwhelming joy in his eyes and welcome you into his eternal rest. Because God knows somebody needs to say it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger on repeat until my ears bleed and my parents take a shotgun to my speakers.

Sorry for the rant. Has this been the case for anyone else? I’m really interested in knowing how other church communities have responded.

EDIT: I felt the need to add that even if a person falls and gives in to the temptation to have sex outside of marriage, it’s not like they instantly become the most abhorrent of sinners. Sexual sin is a big deal, but it’s not any bigger than the power of God to forgive and not any dirtier than what he can make clean. Everyone screws up in some way, and I hope the church can be there to help pick them off the floor and point them back to Christ and walk with them along the way. Am I being naïve? I’d just like to think this is what the Gospel can do…

Jordan

P.S. And I know it doesn’t seem like it from this post, but I’m doing well. Still optimistic about my church’s progress in understanding where I am coming from and really becoming a community of safety for men and women like me. I am confident God will work in mighty ways here (and I swear it really is a wonderful church). I’ve had some good conversations with my family and some friends recently, and can definitely attest to the faithfulness of God in my life this summer. He deserves some serious praise, lemme tell ya. Peace.

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26 thoughts on “/rant

  1. I know a guy who got married a few years ago. He said “Yeah, sex was good, but the Gospel is better.” Obviously he finds the Gospel more compelling.

    I agree. People just don’t think it’s possible to live without sex or romance. We’re too obsessed with it. When I mention my gay, chaste, Christian friend to my mom she always tells me that it’s “so sad he’s torturing himself and denying himself love.” Little does she know that he’s a very stable person who is dearly loved by many, and in no way is romance the end-all-be-all of existence.

    As a mid-20’s single myself, I try to be an example to my family of how singleness can be lived: contently. It took me a few years to get to that place though.

    • “Maybe we should be spending less time telling single people how tragically unlikely it is that they will be able to resist the siren song of sex and more time exhorting them to passionately model the inclusive and healing life of Christ, assuring them that, with God’s help, they are truly able to live chastely without being married and then coming along side of them every day to support them on that road.”

      YES! It’s like when a young couple gets married and people keep telling them “you’re gonna divorce!” Seriously? Shouldn’t you be exhorting them and encouraging them so that they DON’T? Isn’t placing that fear in their hearts constantly just making things worse? I feel it’s the same thing with the situation you’re describing.

      • Thanks for all your comments man! I think they’re dead on. I’m sure it’s not always easy, but it seems pretty clear to me that you’ve got a blessed grip on your life, by the grace of God.

        I’ve never heard of people doing that to young married couples… that’s scary, and totally tool-ish.

        Keep on keeping on! I appreciate your willingness to read the blog. Peace.

        Jordan

  2. Well, you are definitely my hero, if that means anything.

    I was recently talking to a friend about this. I believe that every Christian needs to take a serious look at the celibate life. Reach the point where they would at least be willing to pursue it if they felt God’s calling. Does anyone think themselves above this calling, that this is surely, not a possibility for them?

    • Thanks Kendall! I agree – I think it would be supremely healthy for everyone (at least in the Western church context) to come to appreciate their singleness rather than resent it. It would at least cut down all the dramatic groaning that plagues Wheaton! Man, I am not going to miss the dating-mania, that’s for sure. You’re great, thanks for posting!

      Jordan

  3. Chaste singleness is TOTALLY possible. There’s a long history of godly men and women living productive, glorious, joyful single lives as Roman Catholic priests, monks, nuns, etc. and they also have a really good understanding of the value of that sacrifice. It is a sacrifice, but it’s one of love, and in doing so, you’re actually following in the footsteps of Christ.

    More power to you. I love this blog and all the thoughts and honesty that are a part of it.

    • I second that. There are many saints in the Catholic church who lived chaste, single lives. Not to mention that is also expected of our priests and other religious. If they can do it, why can’t you?

      • I have a pointless hypothesis that Side B Christians perhaps feel more at home in liturgical communities, and this is one of the reasons: because there is a vast precedent of faithful, admirable single people who are total bosses.

        Thanks for the comment and encouragement!!

        Jordan

  4. In fairness, even Jesus admitted that the call to life-long celibacy was a hard one and not for everyone.

    Do I think people can remain celibate for life? Sure, if they are called to that. I’m just not convinced that it’s smart to assume that being LGBT (or same-sex attracted, if you prefer) is automatically a sign of such a calling.

    • I think I agree (depending on what your last sentence means), which is why I try not to use the word “celibacy” in reference to myself and just stick with “chaste singleness.” At some point I may feel sure enough of a calling and begin to use “celibacy,” but I’d like to think, even if that never happens, chaste singleness is still quite possible.

      I just feel like the church is issuing self-fulfilling oracles of doom, basically.

      Jordan

  5. Jordan, know that even in liturgical communities such as the Catholic Church, much of what frustrates you where you are now still remains. I struggle with it a lot because many of the assumptions and cultural biases you speak of sometimes have the support of Canon Law or formulated doctrine – for example, many in the Catholic Church hold that “celibacy” is only a vocation when lived in the context of a priestly, formally consecrated, or formally recognized vocation, and “singleness” as such is only a transition into marriage, the religious life, or the priesthood. Common sense, I think, should suffice to demonstrate that this position is deeply flawed, as the role of the Church shouldn’t be first to define what vocations can and cannot be defined as valid, but to provide the support and the community needed for everyone’s vocation to thrive. The Church is at its best when it doesn’t try to canonically micromanage the personal and devotional lives of its members.

    (And you’re right – many of us “Side B” Christians feel at home in liturgical communities, I think, for two main reasons: their historical awareness and connectedness to apostolic Christianity, and the structure and order that this brings, and the remarkable aesthetics of lace and incense during Divine Worship. Unless you’re in a more contemporary Catholic parish, you won’t find globs of taupe, puce, or mauve bedecking the sanctuary. Can’t say so much about Father So-and-so’s vestments though…)

    I will say, however, that in my case at least, I don’t feel much of an interest in holding out for heterosexual marriage. I suppose part of the reason is that, far from simply not having any substantial attractions to women, I don’t see how heterosexual intercourse would alleviate my desire for sexual intimacy, because I largely think it would be forced on my part, and the sexual intimacy I am physically AND emotionally drawn to is male. That rules out both, in my experience, and I’m okay with that! Even in one case a couple years ago, when I thought I might have been falling for a young woman, I never felt that visceral, unbidden, “magical” pull toward her in the way that I think she would have deserved. I’ve known several gay men who have developed this for particular women, but I have not been one of them. And those men are quite few in number.

    I have deeply wished the Church would act like it was actually on my side for once. In focusing on family programming, “Theology of the Body” catechesis, and the oh-so-holy abstract ideals of marriage and family (which even most married people hear, cock an eyebrow, and utter something to the effect of “Oh really?”), what the Church is saying is that singleness is an aberration that doesn’t fit into its checklist of acceptable vocations. Even more problematic, this becomes the way in which the Church loses sight of its vocation to be a family itself, not just an organization that supports the family. Because chastity and celibacy, no matter what formal vocation one is called to, isn’t based on abstractions or ideal, but on the lived and shared community of the Church as a family of faith. Even marriage is based on that. I just wish that the Church would come to realize this about itself, instead of being just another voluntary social organization.

    Sorry for the mini-rant myself! Keep up the good work, Jordan. You’re in my prayers!

    Kevin

  6. As another Side B gay Christian, I can totally relate to where you’re coming from. When I first started talking about my sexual orientation with a couple of very dear people (Christians), I mentioned the possibility of a lifetime of singleness for me. For them, celibacy/singleness was a dangerous idea and they counseled me against it.

    One of the verses they cited was 1 Cor. 7:9: “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” In their minds, it was simple. If you experience a powerful sex drive, you need to get married (to the opposite sex, of course), regardless of your sexual orientation. In other words, Christians are only called to celibacy if they do not struggle with sexual temptation.

    All of this leads me to think that the church (especially Protestantism) really needs to focus more on communicating the beauties and possibilities of chaste singleness and friendship for the glory of God. Local churches could do so much more to celebrate, affirm, and support their single members.

    Jordan, you are an inspiration to me as well. Don’t get discouraged; we’re all in this together. Thanks for ranting.

  7. I believe in you! Don’t give up and don’t lose heart! God is with you and your brothers and sisters in Christ (even those that only know you through this blog) are praying for you!

  8. I think it is really good that you are being very honest about your life. Don’t worry friend, it sounds like Jesus is the center of your life. He is the one leading you. All He wants are good things for your life, but it sounds like you know that well. I’m also glad you are getting to know Jesus for yourself. So many times, people in the church say hurtful things without thinking and turn searching people away. Jesus is showing Himself to you in a real way.
    ~Blessings, Sophie

  9. I found myself really resonating with what you wrote, even though I am straight. I am, however, divorced, from a person who is doing his/her utmost to derail the annulment process (dishonestly). I am in this for the long haul, but the number of good Christian people around me who think I should follow my heart rather than my Church is deeply discouraging. I want support to remain obedient! I am not doomed to be some kind of half-person unless and until I can remarry. And the Gospel is indeed more compelling than sex.

    • I’m sorry for your suffering. Keep going strong; I’m sure the God of redemption will use your faithfulness as a stunning witness to those around you. I hope you are doing ok. Thank you for the kind words and wisdom.

      Jordan

  10. Well, from one single person to another: *HUG!!* We can do it!! (24 and proudly virgin.) I am fortunate enough to know a number of priests, nuns, monks who live out a beautiful example of celibacy, but I also know a few of a growing number of consecrated lay people – people who feel called to commit to chaste singleness while living in the world. So maybe you’ll find it encouraging to hear that even if the people around you don’t understand, there ARE others (both straight and homosexual) who believe it can be done, and are doing it. God bless.

  11. Yeay! Great post, Tony. I’ve been “holding out” as a single man for 32 years now. Sometimes people act like there’s something wrong with me 😛 Thanks for the encouragement!

  12. I lived a very sexual life before my marriage, 5 years ago, after about 3 months of marriage we experienced a very sudden conversion to Catholicism (as young people both with ssa living in VT without a single conservative type in our social circle I’m pretty sure we were more likely to get struck by lightning, and is a testament to God and fate). Due to a variety of reasons we have the grace of a celibate marriage. It was a pretty difficult transition, and its still a struggle, to go from considering myself ‘poly’ and very ‘active’ to what my life is now. But my life is so changed, in that God has given me wings and peeled the culture fog from my eyes. I think people can lack perspective, when they think its not possible to live a chaste life. Not only does God give us the strength, but He gives us the truth about sexuality. That who I want to ‘do’ is not my identity, and sexuality isn’t even remotely the end all be all of who we are. It is a gift, and aspect that God has given us, but it isn’t the key to some sort of better life. Emphasis on sex is a cultural, and satanic view, not the truth. In fact God recommended we remain chaste, and if He didn’t think that was possible He wouldn’t have told us to. In some ways it may be like being on a diet while sitting next to a buffet, but the beauty, the graces, and the all around benefits of choosing to be as spiritually healthy as you can, far out weighs satans ex-lax laced cheesecake.

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