Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about celibate same-sex relationships. Until a year ago, I had never heard of such a thing or even considered that it might exist. In the faith tradition in which I grew up, celibacy was only ever talked about as a person’s state before getting married, then they met someone, dated for a while, there was a wedding and no more celibacy. It was almost like being single and celibate were synonyms and could be used interchangeably. However, about a year ago, I discovered the blog A Queer Calling and it’s writers Sarah and Lindsey and I was suddenly aware of the possibility for gay Christians to be in a committed celibate same-sex relationship. It never crossed my mind that this would be out of bounds because the sex is the bad part, right? However, it also never crossed my mind that this might be an option for me. Though I’m a hopeless romantic and often found myself suffering from bouts of loneliness, the only futures I ever saw for myself were finding a woman who didn’t mind marrying a gay guy or staying single till I die. I had come to terms with this and, though I definitely had a preference, I felt I could handle either outcome.
Over the last few months, though, I’ve been working on a novel about this type of relationship and the difficulties and confusion that goes along with it (shameless plug). The more I write, the more a celibate same-sex relationship sounds like exactly what I would want. It sounds like it pretty much checks all the boxes: no sin, no loneliness, a person to channel my affection towards, and no more being the awkward third wheel! Now before you start telling me I’m idealizing being in a relationship and that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, let me just say, I understand that. I think I know it as well as I can without having actually experienced it and I also realize that it’s not good to look to another person to fulfill my needs. That being said, if an opportunity to begin a celibate relationship with another man were to present itself, I’d probably take it.
On the other hand, my pondering has led me to wonder where the line is. Is it just the sex that’s bad? What about cuddling? Kissing? Would we live together? Get married? Adopt kids? If we did all these things, but didn’t have sex, would God still be OK with it? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a biblical argument against any same-sex activity other than sex. Getting married would probably cause a lot of people to assume we’re having sex which is kind of none of their business, but I don’t know if I’d be willing to leave it at that. Many people would argue that it would be irresponsible to adopt kids since there has been some research proposing that it is better for a child to be raised by a mother and a father, but two gay Christian dads is better than a group home, right? Anyway, it’s a lot to think about and I still don’t know where exactly I land on all of this, but it’s definitely seems like something worth thinking about.
It’s an oft discussed topic among non-affirming gay Christians that, being unable to marry in good conscience, our deep need for intimacy must be met by those in the Church, typically married couples and families since they make up the greater majority of the Church. That’s why I find it so frustrating when I read comments like the one below from an article in Christianity Today. When discussing why he would refuse to attend a hypothetical friend’s gay wedding, he says, “Our age makes people think in their bones that only sex and marriage provide the intimacy and love that sate us.” While I agree that our society (including the Church) has put way too much emphasis on sex, Christians can’t pretend that we don’t feed into this feeling that marriage and sex are the answer to intimacy. All the subtle (and at times not so subtle) messages to hurry up and get married so you can have sex, the sermons preached to our youth about the wonderful gift of sex, and the abnormally early age at which Christians tend to marry. This all feeds into an overwhelming feeling that if you want to avoid being alone, you’d better get married. Not to mention the fact that, in my experience (and most of what I’ve read leads me to believe I’m not alone in this), the Church isn’t doing a great job of being welcoming to singles. I often find myself having to fight and plead to get anything resembling regular time with many of my married friends (married could probably be left out here since that’s the only type of friends I have). I’m trying not to whine (and doing a pretty bad job of it), but it’s frustrating that the Church, who is supposed to be so loving and welcoming, is often very lonely and isolating. Meanwhile, Christians are getting upset and the rate at which people are beginning to affirm same sex relationships. Go figure!
I do feel I need to take some responsibility because I haven’t put myself out there as much as I should have. I’ve skipped a lot of events and stayed closed off when I should have tried harder to build relationships, but it seems like the Church is a club of marrieds and families and single people just don’t quite fit in. Even when churches have singles groups, it’s a little depressing because it kind of feels like a party of the rejects. We’re the ones no one wanted to marry, the leftovers. I just hope there’s a shift coming; I hope there will be a time where we can all be a family together and welcome in anyone who desires to love Jesus together.
As you may know, I’m a bit of a movie buff. One thing I love about movies is when the writer, director, and actor come together to portray an amazing, relatable character. This kind of character allows you to really put yourself in their shoes and feel what they’re feeling: their hopes, failures, pain, and joy. I personally believe that going through these emotions helps us to better live out our humanity. One of the primary ways that a character becomes relatable is through their mistakes, flaws, and hardships. These are all things that everyone understands because they’re what all humans have in common. As Orson Scott Card says through his character Ender in “Ender’s Game,” “I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.”
While I’m sure there are other ways to develop love, without these qualities, I find God to be difficult to understand and relate to and therefore to love. I read the scriptures and what they say about God can pretty much be summed up with one word: perfection. He’s the epitome of all that is good and right. That should make Him easy to love, but for me, it just seems so…vanilla. He’s like the red Power Ranger or Jon Snow: the team leader who everyone likes by default. Me? I want someone with scars and a backstory, someone who’s three dimensional and can surprise you sometimes. Maybe God has some of those qualities and I just haven’t found them yet.
I’ve also been wondering if a better way to know God is through the reflections of Him in the people in my life. The Bible says that God created man in His image so, presumably, there are aspects in God in each of us. It seems to me that facets of God’s perfection are in all of us and if I seek those out in the people I meet, and then attempt to piece them together in my mind, I can get a better picture of what God is like and hopefully that will be something I can relate to and love more deeply. I’m still not sure about all this so if anyone has thoughts or ideas, I’d love to hear them.