walls

To follow up Tony’s post on interacting with Christians who are “affirming,” I thought I’d offer a reflection on my own journey of moving past the simple stereotypes and pervasive fear than can cripple church unity. I hope it is helpful and encouraging to you in your walk.

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“So, before we leave can we just maybe go around the table and see where everyone is at with, you know, understanding their sexuality? Like, how you’re planning on living and stuff in the future?”

The girl who asked the question, Lea, was sitting to my left and volunteered the first response. Like good Americans we went clockwise around our little five-person group, each taking the time to explain if he or she planned on, or was open to, marrying someone of the same sex after graduating. I was in the unenviable position of going last, and grew increasingly anxious as each member talked happily about the possibilities of marriage that awaited them, or how they hoped to find churches that were affirming but not flaming (except with the presence of the Holy Spirit, of course). The whole time they were talking I felt a foreign twinge of…something, and it only got worse as the meeting went on.

By the time it was my turn, I realized I was going to be quite the black sheep. “What should I do? Will I offend them if I say I don’t think having a boyfriend is theologically permissible? Will I damage our new friendships if I talk about my convictions? Will they think I look down on them? Pity them? Fear them? Will they feel condemned?”

I stammered out some rushed sentences accompanied by my own nervous laughter and diverted eyes, “Well, uh, I’m still totally a conservative evangelical so no sex for me! Haha ha aha…” Not the most auspicious beginning, and it only got worse from there. I peddled meaningless clichés and abruptly concluded my ill-fated response mid-sentence, hands waving as if I had actually said something of consequence. I felt like there was a chasm in between me and them, and I didn’t know what to do.

I barely noticed the beautiful spring weather as I marched back to my apartment. “What was that? What is wrong with me?! Am I ashamed? Afraid?….. Jealous? Dang it, why does my chest hurt so bad? Crap. Crap! Not now. I’m stronger than this. Not now! I promised God I’d never feel this way. God please don’t let me feel this way! God, make me stronger, make me stronger, make me stronger…”

I made it home, numbly mumbled at a roommate, shut my door, fell into my chair, and started journaling. My painfully etched words helped bring focus to my frantic imagination as thoughts, laced with profanity and madness, began to coalesce into something solid. One of my fears was becoming reality. For the first time in my life my convictions seemed inadequate to sustain me. They were like a bitter vapor before me, and I resented them. I felt that if I tried hard enough I really could convince myself they weren’t true. I started to cry.

Up until that point I had never questioned if God really did require me to remain single and abstain from same-sex romance. Of course he did! If I wanted to live otherwise I would have to throw Scripture and salvation out the window, right? My counselor always praised the strength of my convictions; they were seemingly unshakeable. No matter the pain, the heartache, or the loneliness, I never wavered. But now…

I felt so exposed. Something had shifted in my half-manic mind. Something was different. And then I saw it.

I moved to my laptop, still in tears, and quickly wrote to a friend, “Today’s meeting was hard for me. This group is the first time I’ve ever talked with other gay people my age, and it’s also the first time I’ve ever talked about homosexuality with people who don’t hold the same convictions I do. This is a very good experience for me, but at this particular time in my walk hearing people talk about homosexuality without language of celibacy and with hope for future same-sex relationships…well…it’s really hard. I’m in a lot of pain right now, and I think it’s just because I’m being forced, and rightly so, to move past my flimsy shield of rhetoric that gay Christians who ascribe to non-celibacy are weak and disingenuous. This shield has to come down for me to grow in love and compassion, but it’s leaving me vulnerable in a way I was unprepared to deal with. My convictions are fine, I think, but life just became more complicated. A good, painful kind of complicated.”

What I had realized was that the strength that had sustained my convictions for so long, that was such a reliable stabilizer, was not so much drawn from a passionate, consuming love for God and my neighbors as it was from a self-righteous stigma and fear. My focus had shifted imperceptibly from being like Christ to not being like those weak, disingenuous Christians who caved and bought wholesale the shallow, faux-theology of the “affirming” camp.

Those people in that small group, those beautiful, hilarious, genuine, loving, passionate, Christian people, exposed the untenable basis for my convictions simply by being. Their hollow-point presence ripped through my previously bullet-proof pretensions and sent me reeling. Praise God for them. I never would have realized my sin unless they had befriended me.

From the chaotic haze, the truth that I had deprived these people of the love I owed them as brothers and sisters in Christ slowly emerged. The barriers I had erected were not so much protecting me from struggles as they were preventing me from loving others fully. The walls had to come down. I felt clearly that God was telling me, “Have your convictions, but if they are grounded in anything but the radical power of my Gospel and the desire to love as I love then they will never be holy. This will hurt, at least for a while, but know that I love you too much to let you love others so poorly.”

This was how I would move forward. The desperate cries of “Make me stronger, let me know that I’m right!” turned into a whispered plea, “God, teach me to love as you are love.”

I decided to stay in the group and to learn from the others in it, to patiently work through the rigor mortis of dying sins and live into the new flesh that was offered to me by the man who loved at the greatest cost to himself. I felt weak, I felt exposed, I felt inadequate, and I felt so, so free.

I quickly typed the final lines of the email, hit send, closed my laptop, placed my head in my hands, and wept harder than I ever had before.

Jordan

understanding this blog

Who is my audience?

My audience is everyone except those on the far right with more fundamentalist views about homosexuality. Here’s why:

Those with that position assume that same-sex attraction is strictly choice and are unwilling to change their view on this position. It’s not a choice. There is a plethora of substantial research to document this. It is also bad theology to believe this and is a Gnostic position (I will explain this in a post). When someone holds that it is a choice, this makes my entire blog irrelevant because as you’ll see, it hinges on the position of it not being a choice. Plus, someone who thinks it is a choice would think this entire discussion is pointless because they could just say one should simply stop being gay — problem solved.

As a side note, I also think it is absurd to hold to this position if one has actually critically thought through the implications of it. If being gay were a choice, almost no one would be gay because no one would want to endure the alienation and persecution that comes with being gay in our society. This comes back to basic behavioral principles — if someone has a great enough punishment, people will tend to avoid it. Being gay comes with a large intensity of punishment — just ask any gay person to tell their life story. It is not a choice that people would make.

For those who do not believe that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead and saved us from our sins and death, you may also have difficulty understanding my position, but once you understand my worldview, I think we can have meaningful discussions.

What terms I use + how I define them:

Same-sex attracted: Attracted to one’s own gender, either slightly or strongly.

Gay: Strongly attracted to one’s own gender. Male or female. This is all I mean by gay.

Gay sexual behavior: Partaking in gay sexual acts.

I do not like the term gay lifestyle because I think it attaches stereotypes to people that are likely untrue, especially for those who identify as Christian.

I will not use the term homosexual as a way to describe people. This is because the term is offensive to many who are LGBTQ because of how it has been used as a slur against them. I also expect it not to be used in the comments, but I will not take the time to censor this.

What is my view?

From a Christian worldview, I believe gay sexual behavior is morally wrong but that being gay (having strong same-sex attractions) is not.

If I were not a Christian, I would 100% be in a gay relationship. From a secular worldview, it makes perfect sense to actualize one’s homosexuality. And at times, I wish I was not a Christian because I want to be in a gay relationship. (I do know that there are Christians who believe in a Biblical case for gay relationships, but I disagree with these conclusions).

But….

Life is not about what I want. It is about submitting my life to Christ. This is what Christ did when He died on the Cross for us —- He chose to give up His life for the redemption of the world and our salvation. So if Christ can do this with His life, then I can do this with being gay. I don’t have to have a gay relationship. And I also don’t think this will provide me with a less satisfying life. The Church should help gay people find a satisfying life without a gay relationship, but all too often I feel that the Church obstructs rather than facilitates this.

And as a disclaimer, I do not question the salvation of those Christians who affirm gay relationships or are in a gay relationship. While I disagree with them, I will believe these people are still Christians.

Why write this stuff?

Some may disagree, but I don’t think the views that I represent get adequately represented.

I get frustrated by the dialogue on both sides, and I feel that we need much more subtlety in our discussions than we currently have. I get frustrated by those with more conservative positions because their language and actions often hurt those who are gay, even those who are gay and agree with their view on traditional marriage. I believe it is tenable to hold to traditional marriage but still treat gay people in a loving, respectful, and empowering way — yet the Church has done this very poorly. I think this is because of inaccurate gay stereotypes and presumptions that linger around but also because Christian heterosexuals have largely not attempted to understand what it would mean to be gay, especially gay and Christian. If the Church is going to have credibility in defending traditional marriage, it must find a feasible and loving way to incorporate gay people into its community, and this requires a lot of subtlety, which I hope to unpack in this blog.

I also get frustrated by those Christians with more liberal positions — especially the claim that “God made gays that way, so why would He not want them to be who they are?.” This statement said alone is very, very bad theology, which I will explain in a later post, and it really frustrates me. Quite honestly, some of the worst Christian theology I’ve seen has come from those advocating for gay marriage. It would be one thing if this poor theology was consistent throughout a person’s worldview, but all too often the poor theology about homosexuality is in tandem with good theology about everything else. And I am convinced this is why conservative Christians are very suspicious and distrusting of those advocating for gay marriage and partly why the conversation becomes stuck on theological arguments about homosexuality while those who are gay are silently wasting away around us.

So I am writing this blog because I am tired of the same old theological gridlock between the conservative and liberal positions. We need to develop and articulate a sophisticated theology to understand this topic. I am also tired of the lack of intentional care and awareness that the conservative side has towards gay people, even its own gay members. I don’t know if those with a conservative position realize just how damaging this is to the Church’s reputation.

Who am I?

I am a male who is sexually attracted to other males. I have never recalled having a significant sexual attraction towards a woman.

While I would like to be publicly open, I am not choosing to reveal my identity yet. But there is a good chance that I will tell you if you contact me. What you should know is that I am a Wheaton College (IL) alumnus, which is a conservative Evangelical (but not fundamentalist) and academically rigorous institution. I was heavily involved on Wheaton’s campus, which included building relationships with Wheaton administrators. I volitionally shared my gay orientation with some key administrators and faculty and received very caring, supportive responses. Since Christian college and their stances on homosexuality have recently come in the spotlight and are under attack, I will incorporate my experiences at Wheaton in this blog. Largely, I think conservative Christian colleges are handling homosexuality wrongly, and there is good reason for them to be under pressure for this. But I also think there are some things that some of these institutions are getting right, including Wheaton.