The Lie That Saved My Life

OK, this title may be a little overly dramatic, but since we can’t visit alternate timelines we’ll never know for sure how accurate it is. All I know is that telling the truth in the situation I’m referring to would have had some serious negative results and would have drastically altered the course of my life, probably for the worse.

Back when I was in junior high, around 13 years old and trying to figure out why I was attracted to men and not women despite my best efforts, I decided to do what all millennials do when faced with a challenging question: I used the internet. And I say the internet and not Google cause if Google was even around at that time, I didn’t know about it yet. My explorations lead me to some…unsavory parts of the still burgeoning world wide web and, being that I was new to this whole internet thing, I didn’t yet know that when you go to those kinds of sites, you’re supposed to clear your browser history. Oops…

And so, one morning while I was getting ready for school, my mom called me into her office (aka the bathroom where she spent hours every morning doing her hair and makeup) to talk. She informed me that she and my dad had found some interesting things in the browser history of the family computer and wanted to know if I knew anything about it. Like any teenager caught up in something like this, I lied my ass off. I blamed it on a friend from school. His family didn’t have the internet, you see, so he came over to use the computer (this part was all true) and then, when I wasn’t in the room, he must have gone to that weird website and I knew nothing about it (that part was very not true). Whether because I was a convincing liar or because my mom didn’t want to believe the truth, she let it go without much else being said (except that said friend was no longer allowed to use the computer unsupervised which was why it made it harder to blame it on him the next time this happened).

I make light of it now, but I still remember how my heart stopped for what must have been a full three seconds when my mom revealed what she had found on the computer. I thought for sure that she would know about the struggles I had been dealing with and while I had no idea what she would do about it, I knew it would be bad. I knew that if she found out my life would never be the same and that everything would be terrible forever. I didn’t know about reparative therapy back then, but that’s probably where I would have ended up and I would have been thrilled. I would have tried anything to be rid of those feelings, those longings. I would have given up just about anything if it meant having the feelings about a girl that I was supposed to be having.

But it would have all been a lie. I would have spent years being trained and molded and coerced and in all likelihood, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Instead, I was allowed to wrap those thoughts, feelings, fears, pains, and passions into a little cocoon inside myself that I could pretend didn’t exist. For years I knew that I was gay, but I didn’t acknowledge it. Like a sink full of dishes I wasn’t ready to wash, I turned a blind eye to my sexuality until I was mature enough to deal with it in a healthy(ish) way.

I have no idea if this is the ideal way to address ones sexuality, but for me, it worked out quite well. I still had to deal with the confusion of being in love with my college roommate while not being able to admit it to myself. I still went through a period of trying to date women despite knowing deep down that it wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved. I still felt deep loneliness that I didn’t know how to address.

Did everything turn out perfect like some kind of gay Cinderella story? Not even close, but I’m in a hell of a lot better place than a lot of people I know. I don’t bear the emotional scars from being berated for not changing my orientation. I still have a good relationship with my family. I didn’t become sexually promiscuous or addicted to drugs or self harm due to unbearable shame spirals. All in all, things are good. I stumbled around for a while, found some good mentors¬†and wise counsel (as well as some great friends), and I think I’ve ended up in a good place with a family that I love dearly. There’s never a way to know what would have been, but I’m glad I made the choice I did.

Side-B Retreat/National Coming Out Day

Today, it just so happens, I have two fairly unique topics to talk about. I tried to think of how I could tie them together and nothing is coming to mind so I apologize for the disjointed nature of this post (and it’s title ūüėú ). The first thing I want to talk about is the retreat I went on this past weekend.

For those who don’t know, I’m part of a Side-B gay Christian Facebook group. I joined the group after meeting some awesome people at GCN this past January and, while I was not particularly active for the first few months, recently I have been making so many friends and connections there and receiving so much support and it’s been an amazing blessing. This past weekend I attended the annual retreat for this group and it was absolutely outstanding! In addition to meeting several people in person who had previously only seemed to exist on my computer screen, I was also able to meet several new people who I had never interacted with. Every single one of them was amazing and such a source of joy and encouragement (even the one who routinely calls me a turd and a moron ūüėú¬†).

We prayed and worshiped together, I attended my first Catholic Mass (an awesome experience so hit me up if you wanna talk more about it), hung out at the Cincinnati zoo, and did basic gay stuff like musical/Disney sing-a-longs and talking about which guys we think are hot (I know some people might disapprove of this part, but for those of us¬†who weren’t able to do this with their peers growing up, there’s something incredibly freeing and normalizing about it). In addition to the deep conversations we had and the blessing of being reminded that we’re not alone in our struggles, I was incredibly blessed by the gift of physical touch that I received this weekend.

Again, some of you might doubt the prudence of putting a bunch of celibate gay Christians together and allowing the freedom to express our affection physically, but again, it’s something that our straight brothers and sisters often get to enjoy, but that we are often sadly left out of. I know that, personally, I almost never have physical contact with anyone other than a handshake or a quick side hug. I’ve become more convinced recently that expressing love through physical touch is a very important part of being human. It was so healing to have someone come up behind me and rub my shoulders or to embrace in a real tight hug with someone. I even learned about the Maori greeting called hongi¬†which now holds a special place in my heart.¬†All in all, I can’t express in words just how much this weekend meant to me. I love and desperately miss every person who was there and I’m already looking forward to next year.

The second topic relates to this day in particular. October 11th is National Coming Out Day. I first began coming out during a church winter camp almost 13 years ago. Back then it involved a lot of tears (so many that I usually couldn’t even get the words out) and an overwhelming fear that I would become a pariah in my church community. I’m so glad that, as a Church, we have come a long way from those times when a young gay person naturally assumed that admitting their sexual orientation would result in excommunication and disgrace. We still have a long way to go and there are many churches where this fear is still a reality and that’s why¬†I want to take a minute to address why I came out and why I feel like it’s so important even for people going the Side-B route.

Many Christians will say that there’s no point in coming out and being open about your sexuality if you are planning to remain celibate however I believe the potential benefits are very significant. For one thing, being in the closet is a sad lonely place to be. It’s so easy for the shame and guilt to pile up and with no outlet, ¬†it can easily lead to depression and self-harm. When you are upfront with your friends and family about what you are feeling, you open yourself up to all the love and support they can offer you. I suppose the potential downside is that you also open yourself up to the potential for rejection and that is why it is probably important to take it slow and test the waters with safer people.

Also, being willing to be honest about your sexuality can help someone else who may be struggling. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t found Julie Rodgers’ blog and the Spiritual Friendship community. They helped me realize that I wasn’t alone in my desire to be open about my sexuality while remaining faithful to traditional Christian views on marriage. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I started this blog (and the reasoning behind the blog’s title). Even if you decide not to come out on a large scale, you can still share your story with individuals and bless them that way.

Finally, I want to be clear that I am not suggesting that every queer person immediately come out to everyone in their life. While I would love to see everyone have the freedom that I enjoy, our society still isn’t there yet. There are still many places where being open about your sexuality can cause significant harm. Be wise and prayerful about who you choose to speak with and where you choose to post. Also, know that I am always here and I hope that you will reach out if you need someone to talk to.

Enough

There’s something I’ve been struggling with a lot lately. To be honest, it’s been around for several years now, but the intensity has ramped up these past few weeks and this question sits pounding away in the back of my psyche demanding an answer. It’s a two part question which is this: Is God really enough and, if so, what does that mean for human relationships?

There’s a common belief among Christians that often comes out as a cliche when some is stressed or lonely or in want. “God is enough. He is faithful. He will provide. Trust in Him. Don’t look for fulfillment elsewhere because everything you need comes from the Father of Lights.” Like many of the things we Christians believe and say, there’s definitely some truth in it. There’s biblical backing¬†for this idea, but do we take it too far? Obviously He created us with needs: physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, etc. and He asks us to trust in Him, to rely on Him, but I doubt that means the idea is for us to sit back and let the fulfillment of these needs rain down from above. As with most things, there must be a right balance there somewhere, but the hard part is finding it.

At the moment, the primary need I’m concerned about is relational or more specifically romantic. I’ve wanted to be in a relationship for so long it almost feels like that desire has become a part of me. I want shared history, I want inside jokes, I want someone to think of fondly throughout the day who just may be thinking of me too. I need support and encouragement, someone who can make me believe that the things I do matter. I need someone to lavish with affection to show how much they mean to me. What’s often so difficult is determining if this is a want or a need.

I’m immensely grateful to my friends and family who are often able to meet these needs in their own ways. Without them I don’t know if I’d have been able to survive this long, but I feel like I’m constantly starved for love, never knowing where the next bite will come from, looking out at the future and wondering if I’ll ever be able to settle into a comfortable pattern or if this constant search for affection will be how I live out my days.

And here’s where the question comes in: Is God enough? Is He waiting to fulfill all of these needs either directly or through other means that I’m just not taking advantage of? Am I refusing to let Him provide for me somehow? If I search for a partner to love me, am I rejecting the love of My Father that’s being graciously offered? Does He have a design for how these needs get me or is that up to me?

I often wonder if growing up on TV and rom-coms has twisted my thinking. Has this idealized version of romance caused me to turn what was supposed to be a gift into an idol? The desire becomes almost all-consuming at times and I think there must be something off in my thought process. I often find myself praying to be fixed, that He would patch this hole that lets the love I receive from friends and family leak out so quickly once I’m no longer in their presence. I wish that when God made Eve and said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” that He had been a bit more specific so I’d know if I really do need a partner (a help meet¬†if you will) or if company is enough.

There are No Words and Yet I Write

shutterstock_90981842Airbrush illustration courtesy Leonello Calvetti

Our country and our world is quickly becoming a shit show. I’m sure those who read this soon after it’s posted will know what I’m talking about, but I’m referencing all of the terrible things going on in the world that make it feel like everything is falling apart. Like a lot of people, I’m grieving tonight. I’m grieving over hate and death, animosity, racism, xenophobia, fear, terror. I’m grieving alongside my black brothers and sisters who are repeatedly reminded of how much they have to be afraid of day in and day out and who can’t stand to lose one more of their own. I’m terrified of the inevitable backlash that’s coming after tonight’s events in Dallas.

My spirit tells me I have to join the fight but my body is exhausted, my mind can’t fathom what action to take, and my heart has overheated trying to produce the requisite emotions to respond to all the tragedies that are so deserving of my attention. I don’t know if I have anything left in me with which to fight and yet I can’t give up when tsunamis of pain and anger continue to wash over humanity. I can’t hide away in my room trying to squeeze out the last few tears I have in me.

After months of trying to figure out the proper way to display my LGBTQ activism, I determine that what made the most sense for me was to become a punching bag. To let the people who are angry and afraid throw punches while I absorbed them and returned only love and understanding. You may think this is a sad excuse for activism and you may be right, but it’s what felt right to me. Unfortunately, this same strategy can’t work when I’m fighting for my black brothers and sisters. I can’t be a punching bag because the fists aren’t aimed at me and I can’t ask those who are the targets to react in the same way; they’ve already taken too many blows.

I guess the point of this post is twofold: first, to selfishly complain about how the recent tragedies have affected me. Second, to hopefully act as a rallying cry for those who read it to do what I’m sometimes afraid I can’t do. To stand up for justice and peace and righteousness in whatever way you are able. To welcome the stranger and offer protection to the outcast. To be a light of God’s love in the inky blackness outside our windows. To act in a way that makes Him proud of us.

One final note: I often mistakenly use prayer as a last resort. I try to be self-sufficient and to make it on my own, only turning to God when I’m out of hope. This is one of those times. I feel helpless to do the slightest bit of good to stem the tide of evil that may have already overtaken us. All I can do is offer my tears and honest prayers to Him and to beg for His love and mercy to be poured out before another innocent is killed and our world’s collective heart breaks irreparably.

A Response to Brant Hansen

I recently came across a¬†post¬†by Brant Hansen in which he discusses his thoughts on homosexuality. ¬†I was glad to see that a fairly conservative straight Christian can have such a welcoming view towards something he can’t fully understand; this gives me hope that the Church can continue to grow in difficult areas without causing major schisms and exiling those who don’t fit into the box (that wasn’t meant to a dig at the¬†Anglican Church, but as I wrote it that situation did immediately come to mind).

There is, however, a couple things I want to address about Hansen’s post: first, he seems to be¬†discouraging gay Christians from identifying as gay. ¬†While I completely understand this opinion, I’d like to talk about some of the reasons I decided to begin to identify as gay rather than same-sex attracted.

To be honest, part of it was a solidarity thing. ¬†There’s something very encouraging about being able to identify with a community after so many years of feeling alone. ¬†Sure, we could all identify as same-sex attracted, but that feels more like a group of people in some hopeless drug trial longing for a cure rather than a faithful community banding together to help each other on the road towards holiness.

Another reason for choosing this language is that SSA, ex-gay, and other such terms still imply or implicitly state that I believe these attractions to be temporary which I no longer do. ¬†After years of prayer and struggle and begging, I’ve come to a place in which I’m content in my orientation. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, it’s not something I would have chosen for myself, but I also think it can be used to advance the Kingdom in unique and inspiring ways so in that sense, I’m OK with it. ¬†Likewise, in Two Corinthians¬Ļ 12, Paul talks about how he was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble. ¬†He prayed three times for God to take it from him, but after that, he decided it was not meant to be and seemingly gave up asking. ¬†I can tell you, I begged God to remove my same-sex attractions a lot more than three times. ¬†Does that make me holier than Paul? ¬†I’ll let you be the judge (Actually, no, no I won’t. ¬†I’m not holier than Paul. Definitively.)

Lastly, it’s about honesty. ¬†There’s something so freeing about just being able to say what I am because there’s so much more to the word gay than my attractions. ¬†Being able to find other people who can relate to those things and say “Me too!” has been a huge blessing. ¬†One insignificant and yet strangely wonderful things has been singing along with sappy love songs and using male pronouns. ¬†I know it sounds dumb, but it has been freeing to express that part of myself even if it’s only in privacy of my car

The next thing I want to address from Hansen’s post is his discussion of marriage and singleness in the church. ¬†He approaches singleness and celibacy for LGBT folks in a way that I’ve seen a lot of straight Christians address it which is this: sex and marriage are not the¬†solution to all your problems nor are they the penultimate state for a person to aspire to. ¬†The Church has incorrectly¬†made marriage out to be an idealized concept that God didn’t intend and, as a result, people can’t see an end to their loneliness that doesn’t involve a committed relationship and usually sex along with it. ¬†I wholeheartedly agree with Hansen on this; I think this is one of the biggest problems facing Evangelical Christianity in our time. ¬†However, what I disagree with is his solution or lack thereof.

What’s important is for the Church to promote true community and a sense of family for all singles, especially those who identify as LGBT since they are so much less likely to have the opportunity to enter into a church sanctioned relationship. ¬†As others have said, it can’t be a matter of simply inviting a single person to dinner once a week. ¬†That isn’t family and it’s not likely to assuage the intense loneliness that many singles in the church face. ¬†Until the Church is able to really step up and invite single people into true community, it’s going to be really difficult for them to accept pronouncements about how to live their lives. ¬†And since I hate when people point out a problem without at least giving some ideas or a solution, here’s my list of things people have done or that I would have liked them to do in order to make me feel a part of a community:

  • Keep an eye out for single people during your church service and invite them to sit with you. It’s a small thing, but it can have a big impact on a lone person watching a room full of happy families.
  • Invite a single person to live with you long term. ¬†I know this is a big one and it can be hard to give up your personal space and freedom, but I think this can be really beneficial to everyone involved.
  • Welcome a single person to be a part of your kids’ lives. ¬†Invite them to birthday parties and school plays and sports games. ¬†I think there’s a stereotype that single people (especially LGBT single people) don’t like kids, but I think that’s related to a feeling of being an outsider.¬≤
  • Involve your single friends in important family decisions like moves or job changes. ¬†While I don’t think anyone would expect their input to be given the same weight as an actual member of the family, I think it would be great to at least ask their opinion and let them express how they feel before the decision is made.
  • Take your friends with you for family vacations. ¬†I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that my friends invited me on a family vacation with them. ¬†It was a lot of fun and I think it really cemented our bond of friendship and family.

And one final note, yes I did get the memo about how today’s blog should be about Holy Saturday and how it’s always overlooked in favor of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but I decided to shake things up.

 

¬Ļ Sorry, I couldn’t resist : )

¬≤ Additionally, there has long been an¬†unsubstantiated¬†fear that LGBT people are more prone to sexually abuse children which, I know for me, has made me fearful making any type of connection with my friends’ kids. ¬†It may all be in my head, but I feel often feel like I’m under extra scrutiny because I’m single and gay. ¬†Meanwhile, if there is extra scrutiny, I can’t even fault parents because they’re trying to protect there children which is obviously immensely important.

1 John 3

This will be a quick one because I’ve gotta leave for work soon and I can’t stand the thought of this being another draft that sits in my list of unfinished ideas. ¬†Recently, I’ve been having a lot of second thoughts and questioning my decisions. ¬†I’ve wondered if my choice to be Side-B and to stop trying to change my orientation is what God would want for me. ¬†Though I honestly don’t think it’s the case, I sometimes worry that every breath I take is painful to God because I’m living so far outside of His will. ¬†It’s frustrating that no matter how much I pray, read scripture, receive wise counsel, or think through these issues using God given logic, I’m never 100% sure I’m doing the right thing. ¬†This morning, though, I was reading 1 John and I came across this passage:

7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

As I read these words, I was again confronted with doubt: Am I sinful? ¬†Am I of the Devil? How I can I know for sure? ¬†Then that last line: “Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”

I may screw up in a lot of ways, but I think, in general, I do a pretty good job of loving my brothers and sisters in Christ. ¬†In fact, it seems to me that, according to John, the ones who are rejecting their gay brothers and sisters are the ones who are not of God. ¬†Sure, I may be taking it out of context, I may be proof texting, but these words spoke to me this morning and gave me a confidence I’ve been sorely lacking and I thank God for leading me to them.

 

I Love You But…

Let’s be honest, there is always going to be something we don’t like about our friends and family. ¬†No one is perfect and we all have flaws, but what I’m interested in is how we love people despite their imperfections. ¬†I know it must be possible because I’ve felt it; I’ve experienced genuine love from¬†people¬†who knew my flaws and failures. Sometimes it seems like this is a result of ignoring or overlooking these seemingly small issues and choosing to see only the good in people. ¬†Other times it can be accomplished by choosing to see flaws as quirks or alternative life choices instead of deep moral failings. ¬†That’s not what I’m talking about, though, because people can tell the difference. ¬†People know¬†when there’s a silent “but” at the end of your “I love you.”

I think a key component is realizing that you can’t really love someone if you are overlooking their flaws. ¬†Turning a blind eye to something potentially harmful isn’t love and neither is harboring anger and judgement and simply avoiding the topic. ¬†Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not saying to just modify your feelings, thoughts, beliefs etc. in order to make space for other people’s hangups. ¬†This is where the difficulty lies; as with most things, I think the key is hidden somewhere between the two extremes in some mythical middle ground.

While I wanted to discuss this in a more generic way without relating it back to LGBT stuff, I think it’s important to note that in many cases, the “agree to disagree” approach just isn’t sufficient. ¬†When the topic is something external and relatively innocuous, this may work, but when talking about something as personal and emotion-laden as a person’s sexual or gender identity, a key aspect of who they are as a person which touches nearly every aspect of their past, present, and future, simply agreeing to disagree often times just won’t cut it. ¬†I think they key to this conundrum might lie in our definition of love which my pastor always describes as “willing the other person’s good.” ¬†If you are truly and honestly seeking the best that God has for your friend or family member, you should be able to convey your disagreement in a way that doesn’t make them feel attacked, ashamed, rejected, or insufficient. ¬†You should be able to make it clear that this minor point of contention is nothing when compared with the overwhelming affection you feel towards them.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this has been a tough piece to write, primarily because the questions it asks are at the heart of the conflict that has raged within me for the last few years: the place where my desire to love like Jesus meets my futile attempts at living as a righteous¬†child of God. ¬†Matthew 5 concludes with the impossible directive to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” and that is a command I have tried to take very seriously in my life despite the fact that I’ve never been anywhere near achieving it. ¬†However, I think it is also important to note what is said just before this, a reminder that “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” That’s God’s way of showing His love for us: no matter how badly we’re failing at living up to His standards, He set a flaming orb in the sky to give us heat, and life and light and He causes droplets of moisture to condense in the air and fall down on us to our delight and dismay. Wherever we are on that continuum from perverse to perfect, we all experience the same rain and the same sun.

#GCNconf2016

gcnconf first time

As you may or may not know, this past weekend I attended my first Gay Christian Network conference. ¬†I didn’t really know what to expect or what I really hoped to get out of it, but luckily, God knew.¬Ļ ¬†I went to the conference for two main reasons: I didn’t really have any gay Christian friends with whom I could relate and also because I decided it was about time I get out of my safe, comfortable bubble and stop waiting for life to happen to me. ¬†I had no idea what success or fulfillment would look like for me, but I said to hell with it and booked the trip. ¬†In the interest of making a long story short, I’m going to skip over descriptions of the conference itself and just talk about the impact it had on me and how I hope to move forward, but if you would like to hear more about my specific experiences, hit me up and we can chat.

So, the first and most important thing I got out of the conference was a great group of caring friends. ¬†I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a strong bond with a group of people as quickly as I did with those¬†I met this weekend. ¬†Everyone was so friendly that despite my (sometimes extreme) introversion, I was almost never alone. ¬†I felt drawn in and accepted in ways that I’ve never experienced before and not just in a “you look lonely, come hang with us” kind of way, but in ways that made me feel truly wanted and the best part is, it didn’t end with the conference. ¬†I’ve kept in almost constant communication with my new friends since we left each other and I get the feeling that it’s going to continue. ¬†In many ways, this is an extension of my discovery of gay Christian bloggers a few years back. ¬†At that time, I realized I wasn’t the only person who was gay and Christian and doing my best to live faithfully to the live God called me to. ¬†Now, I am able to truly interact with others instead of ¬†having to satisfy myself with one way communication.

The second important takeaway from the conference was receiving important suggestions on how to relieve some of the tensions between my parents and I as well as ¬†how to help my church be more welcoming of LGBT folks. ¬†My hopes of ever seeing eye to eye with my parents hit an all time low this weekend, but that only inspired me to search for answers and I believe I may have found some thanks to a wonderful woman named Ruth and her free mom hugs. ¬†The first thing I learned is that I need to give my parents at least as much grace as I’m hoping to receive; after all, I’ve had 18 years to process this and they’ve had less than two. ¬†I think another important step will be to finish another post I’m working on called, “I Love You But…” in which I’m contemplating how to truly love people with whom we fundamentally disagree. ¬†It’s one of the toughest topics I’ve addressed here which is why I still haven’t posted it; there’s so much to think through and unravel so it’s taking some time. ¬†However, I think it will also help me with bringing this topic to my church. ¬†If I’m able to come to some good conclusions, it will be a great asset in finding a way forward in being more welcoming in a place where our theology doesn’t allow us to be fully affirming. ¬†I also received a lot of great ideas from a workshop on this topic led by Eve Tushnet¬≤¬†and I’m really excited to try to make use of some of those strategies.

My last big takeaway is a little more nebulous, but it has to do with social justice and privilege. ¬†Privilege has always been a difficult topic for me because, while I am aware (though definitely not aware enough) of how much privilege I have as a white, cis-gender, able-bodied, male, I never knew what to do with that. ¬†It felt like it was a guilty weight around my neck that I never asked for and couldn’t give up even if I wanted to (though if it ever came down to it, I doubt I would have the courage to do so). ¬†But in the final keynote of the weekend, Justin Lee made it so much clearer by comparing our privilege to the parable of the talents: it’s something to be used and invested, in this case, primarily, as a way of benefiting those who weren’t born with the same privilege. ¬†This is a completely new concept for me and, while I’m still not sure what to do with it yet, I can at least wrap my head around it much better. ¬†Along with that, Allyson Robinson had some amazing words to say about laying down our arms in the LGBT culture war and making sure we use our increasingly dominant position in our culture not to oppress others, but to bring reconciliation and grace. ¬†It was fantastic to hear a leader in the LGBT community conveying that message in such a powerful way.

So, all that to say, it was an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to go back to GCNconf in Pittsburgh in 2017. ¬†I’d love to bring friends or family along with me next year and straight allies are always welcome so if you have any interest in attending, let me know.

 

 

¬ĻI usually hate phrases like this as they’re pretty cheesy and often times attribute things to God that are questionable at best, but the words just kind of came out and as I looked at that sentence and considered deleting it, I teared up a little bit and knew it was true.

¬≤I’m not gonna lie, I definitely had a bit of a fanboy moment getting to have dinner with her and talk about Marilynne Robinson even though Eve did call me a bad reader : p

 

Nobody Needs To Know

Nobody Needs to Know2

If we’ve talked much in the last year or so, I’ve probably gushed about my favorite musical (which I have, on at least one occasion, also called my favorite anything), The Last Five Years. ¬†It’s the story of a couple’s doomed relationship, how they meet, fall in love, and fall out of love over the course of five years. ¬†It’s sad and funny and beautiful and if you haven’t seen it, you should. ¬†Anyway, I was watching a scene and crying (as I am wont to do) and this song, which I’ve never really paid much attention to struck me tonight. ¬†The song, Nobody Needs to Know¬Ļ, is sung by the husband, Jamie, and is basically his excuse for cheating on his wife. ¬†That’s the story I always heard and I was disgusted by his selfishness, but tonight, hearing the song again, I saw some of myself in it.

All right – the panic recedes
All right – everyone bleeds
All right – I get what I need
And nobody needs to know

Jamie is able to overlook his own infidelity because he sees it as a necessity. ¬†His needs aren’t be met by the woman he married and so he thinks it’s OK to go outside those bonds and find fulfillment elsewhere. ¬†I sometimes find myself thinking of my desire for romantic partnership as a need. ¬†Whether it’s a result of cultural influence or just my own selfishness, I’m not sure, but I think it’s pretty clear that no one¬†needs to be in a romantic relationship. ¬†No matter how much expectation is placed on us, no matter how lonely it sometimes gets, no matter how much it seems like we’re the only ones who are alone, there are other ways to satisfy our desires for companionship. ¬†The song then finishes with these lines

And since I have to be in love with someone
Since I need to be in love with someone
Maybe I could be in love with someone
Like you…

Like Jamie, I often think I have to be in love with someone. ¬†Not that I go out looking for it (it finds me just fine on it’s own), but when one of these crushes comes along, I find it so hard to avoid imagining a life together. ¬†The desire is so strong it begins to look very much like a need.


I recently had a difficult, but important conversation with a friend in which I confessed my most recent dude crush. ¬†I knew that any chance of a relationship with this guy was improbable and impractical, no least because I’m still very conflicted regarding same¬†sex relationships, but, as they say, the heart wants what the heart wants. ¬†Anyway, I called my friend to ask for her help in talking¬†me out of it and she did her job well, maybe a bit too well. ¬†By the end of our conversation, I was thoroughly versed in all the ways this crush was ridiculous and the thought of anything coming of it was gone, but even more than that, I was beginning to resign myself to lifelong singleness.¬≤

I’ve tried very hard to keep hope alive since my desire for a genuine connection/relationship/partnership is extremely strong, but maintaining that hope in the face of so much disappointment is extremely hard at times. ¬†In those times, I think it may be better to stop imagining the typical life of two people together. ¬†As has been suggested by Wesley Hill and many others, it might be time to think about life in community rather than couplehood. ¬†I’ve definitely considered this approach before, but one of the reasons I’ve always been hesitant to pursue this as my sole source of relational fulfillment is that it seems like so much work to try and maintain multiple friendships and make sure that I’m spending adequate time with each of them. ¬†I’m already in that situation, but it always seemed so much easier to have one primary person to maintain a relationship with and have the others on the periphery. ¬†Of course, we were never told the Christian life would be easy. ¬†So, I guess that’s where I’m at currently and once gain, I’m ending a post without a real conclusion or wrap up or anything so…yeah…

 

 

¬Ļ I really like the name of this song and how dramatic it seemed to use it as the title for this post despite the fact that it doesn’t really accurately reflect the content. ¬†Deal with it : )

² It should be noted that the conversation also had several uplifting and hopeful moments and my friend did a good job of being supportive despite the fact that I kind of make her out to be the bad guy here.

Differing Levels of Gay in the Eyes of Conservative Christianity

final

My last post was a little on the heavy side so I thought I might do something a little lighter and more fun this time around (well, that’s the goal¬†anyway, it may not have ended up that way. ¬†Oops). ¬†I started this a while back, but never got around to finishing it until now. ¬†So without further adieu, here’s a post on how Christians view various categories of gay people in the church.


While the conservative Christian Church can sometimes be¬†pretty anti-gay, there are still various levels of respectability within the umbrella term of “gay.” ¬†I’m attempting to separate out the various groups and organize them by how acceptable they are to those who hold ¬†a traditional sexual ethic. ¬†I don’t think I really have a point to make here, I just thought it would be an interesting exercise. ¬†So here’s my list ranking from the most accepted to the least:

1. Ex-gays

This group consists of those who were once gay, but no longer identify that way, usually as a result of conversion therapy.  Most in this group spent at least some time engaging in same-sex activity at some level, but eventually turned to Christ and, with hard work and prayer, have come to a place where they no longer consider themselves gay.  For some, this means they report no longer being attracted to the same sex and sometimes even express feelings of attraction to people of the opposite gender.  For many, it simply means that they have maintained what they believe to be a sufficient level of sexual purity to allow them to forgo the use of the term gay.

2. Single SSA Gays

This refers to those who, for various reasons, don’t use (and often never have used) the word gay to describe themselves and instead, employ the term same-sex attracted. ¬†This can mean that they believe the word gay is inextricably tied to being sexually active or simply that the word makes them uncomfortable or doesn’t fit with their image of themselves. ¬†Many conservative Christians applaud those who eschew the term gay because, to many, it expresses an acceptance of ones attractions and an unwillingness to change them.

3. Mixed-Orientation Married Gays

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a mixed-orientation marriage (MOM) refers to a heterosexual marriage where one spouse is straight and the other is primarily or exclusively attracted to his or her own gender. ¬†I, personally, have a huge amount of respect for those in mixed-orientation marriages as it adds a massively¬†disruptive component to the already complicated sacrament of marriage and shows incredible dedication to living out one’s Christian values. ¬†The reason I believe this is viewed as less acceptable than people who identify as as SSA is due to the fact that those in MOMs typically self-identify as gay and aren’t necessarily working towards changing that aspect of themselves which, as previously mentioned, is something traditionalists often disapprove of.

4. Single Celibate Gays

Like the previous group, single celibate gays often receive disapproval because they self-identify as gay rather than SSA.  Again, this is often seen as a way of accepting a gay identity which many believe should be overcome through prayer and therapy.  People in MOMs are seen as making strides towards heterosexuality through their marriage, however, celibate gays, though often committed to life long celibacy which can lead to difficult bouts of loneliness, are sometimes viewed as complacent in their attempts at living a holy life.

5. Gays in Celibate Same-Sex Relationships

It takes at least a moderate if not progressive theology for someone to be accepting of any type of romantic gay relationship even if those involved refrain from sex. ¬†I imagine that many Christians are skeptical that two people who are, presumably, sexually attracted to each other, can engage in a long term romantic relationship without consummating said relationship (which, really, should be between that couple and God, but I digress). ¬†However, whether they believe claims of celibacy or not, the mere fact that a romantic relationship exists is viewed by many as a rejection of the Bible’s condemnation of¬†ŠľÄŌĀŌÉőĶőĹőŅőļőŅŠŅĖŌĄőĪőĻ (arsenokoitai, translated in some version of the Bible as “homosexuals” and in others as “men who defile themselves with men”). ¬†The belief that those in this type of relationship are ignoring God’s law in favor of satisfying their own¬†desire for companionship can lead those on the more conservative end of the spectrum to express feelings of antipathy towards those in this group.

6. Gays in Sexually Active Gay Relationships

Finally, those who are in consummated same sex marriages are typically the least accepted group of gays in the Church.  Many who have dug deeply into scripture and studied the language as well as the cultural context still interpret passages such as 1 Timothy 1:10 or 1 Corinthians 6:9 as condemning all sexual activity between two people of the same gender even in the confines of marriage.  As a result, there is often widespread disapproval of such couples in conservative churches which results in a distinct feeling of unwelcomeness and discomfort when they visit such a church looking for a spiritual home.


My hope is that wherever an LGB person falls on this list, they will be fully loved and supported in the Church. ¬†When I say support, I’m not necessarily asking¬†you¬†to adjust your theology regarding LGBT Christians¬†and how they live their lives, but merely suggesting that we can still worship alongside, love, and be a family to people with whom we don’t necessarily see eye to eye. ¬†Remember,¬†sexual identity and it’s Biblical implications is a hot button issue right now and is therefore an a subject where it’s easy to identify disagreement. ¬†For every Christian you know, there is probably at least one topic on which you and that person passionately disagree. ¬†Don’t let this subject be one that divides and weakens the Bride of Christ. ¬†Love each other in and through our disagreements. ¬†And while the idea of “love the sinner, hate the sin” makes sense in principle, the rampant misuse of it has led to severe¬†harm and a widespread call to retire it (for more info on that, see Beth Woolsey’s post here). ¬†As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.