Here Goes Nothing

I’m finally pulling the trigger and being open about what’s been in my heart for a long time, over a year if I’m really being honest with myself. While the non-affirming Side-B gay Christian community has been a great home for me for the last few years, the truth is that I don’t believe God condemns same-sex love and same-sex relationships. I recently went back and read some of my old blog posts and and realized that, like Laura Jean talks about, it was about fear. I was afraid of being wrong. I was afraid of letting myself off the hook and making my theology about me. It’s been a very gradual process that really began as soon as I started researching the arguments for and against an affirming stance.

You can see in my posts as far back as May 2015 that I was on the fence. I wanted to hold to the beliefs I was raised in and hold to a strict view of scripture. I wanted to be a good Christian and a good example of how someone can be gay and still a follower of Christ. But I also wanted to love people fully and not put restrictions on them. I didn’t want my other gay friends to always wonder if I was secretly judging them and their relationships. It was an internal struggle that was often just below the surface of many of my posts around that time.

Then, in early 2016, I began a long distance relationship with a guy I met at the GCN conference in January. As both of us were dedicated to being Side B, we committed to be celibate for the duration of our relationship and (mostly) maintained that. However, there were a lot of bumps along the way and we eventually parted ways later that year. As this was my first romantic relationship, I finally understood what it was like to be able to fully love someone without having to hold back for fear of my affections being misinterpreted. I could flirt and laugh and tell him how much he meant to me instead of feigning indifference like I often felt the need to do in other relationships. It was a wonderful time in my life even if it had to end. Through this experience, though, I realized that I really did want a romantic relationship. Friendships are wonderful and I hope that no matter what, I’m always a good friend to the people in my life, but at least for me, friendships were not satisfying my relational desires.

Then, in October 2016, I moved to Austin with my very good friends Aaron and Steph. This was and continues to be a wonderful experience. I love them and their girls so very much and I can’t express how happy it’s made me to be part of a family again. However, it also made it clear what I was missing. While my relationship with the U’Rens fulfills nearly all of my emotional and relational needs, I still find something missing. I still desire that singular person who I can love fully without worrying about crossing boundaries or making them uncomfortable. I still desire physical affection that just isn’t feasible in this situation. I hope that I will always be part of their family, but I also think this arrangement isn’t sustainable long term. I don’t have any plans or desires to make a change at the moment, but at the same time I realize that it’s coming at some point in the future.

In early 2017, I attended the wedding of my good friends Joe and Andrew. I found that I held no hesitations about attending their wedding and celebrating their love for each other. I know many people who hold to traditional Christian sexual ethics struggle over attending same-sex weddings, but I had zero doubts about it. This realization made me question what I believed to be true because I was still trying to hold on to those Side-B non-affirming beliefs, but at the same time, when it came down to those beliefs or supporting my friends, the answer was clear.

And the final straw came about six months ago. I was sitting in church listening to Pastor Jen preach on Peter’s vision in Acts 10. In this story, God speaks to Peter and says “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” While I’m not one to claim to hear God’s voice or to know His thoughts, I had the clearest impression I’ve ever had that God was telling me that He felt the same way about same-sex relationships. It just seemed to make so much sense. It’s a common interpretation to understand the food in the vision as a metaphor for the uncircumcised members of the early church. At that time, there was rampant debate about whether these gentiles should be allowed to be fully engaged in what God was doing in the early church and Peter’s vision confirmed that they should. To me, LGBTQ people in the church fall into the same category. It all just makes so much sense to me. I remember sitting there in my seat and crying because I felt God convicting me of the harm I had caused by holding to non-affirming beliefs when I knew that wasn’t God’s heart.

Also, along the way I’ve been experiencing a major (and somewhat unrelated) shift in my theology. It has really begun to hit home that both Jesus and Paul say that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others and that the rest of the law is fulfilled by doing this (Matthew 22:36-40, Galatians 5:13-14). As long as we’re actually doing those things, I think that’s what’s really important. Some people might say this is taking the easy road because you no longer have to worry about following the law of scripture, but, while it’s definitely more simple than making sure you’re abiding by all the rules, it’s much harder if you’re really evaluating all of your actions and decisions to make sure that you’re actually expressing love to the best of your ability.

I think many Christians look at the verses I mentioned and assume that whatever actions they feel compelled to take are the most loving. They decide, whether as a result of their own desires or through a commitment to tradition or what they’ve been taught, that the Bible and, therefore God, requires them to act a certain way and assume that means they’re loving God and their neighbor. At this point, all use of logic is left out of the equation and refusing to bake a cake for a wedding suddenly becomes the loving thing to do. Maybe it’s a mistake to bring logic into it, but for me, it makes a lot more sense to bake the best damn cake you can and then go home and think about why the Bible seems to forbid same-sex relationships while also requiring us to love others to the best of our ability.

Since all this happened, I’ve basically just been looking for the right time to speak up. I’ve been feeling guilty because not only do I feel like I’ve been lying to my Side B friends, but I also feel like I should be speaking what I now feel is the truth regarding my friends who are shunned by conservative Christianity. I was finally inspired by a post by Devon Bailey in which he expresses his regret for his past words against his LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I feel a similar regret for things I’ve said in the past and looking back at some of my old blog posts, I’d be ashamed for many of the people I call friends to read them (side note: I’ll be going back and posting disclaimers on these posts to mention my theological shift and point to this post).

I know a lot of people will probably read this and see it as selfishness. I mentioned that friendships weren’t satisfying my needs like they once were and I know many of you will see this as a mistake that I’m making to fulfill my own desires and for all I know, you could be right. Another thing I’ve learned over the last couple years is to accept doubt. To be willing to admit that I don’t know everything and that I never will. All I can do is make the best decisions with the information I have and that’s what I’m doing.

Thoughts on the Pete Heck/Michael Kimpan Debate

Recently, Michael Kimpan, executive director of the Marin Foundation, was a guest on Pete Heck’s radio show discussing his views on the same sex relationships/actions.  The Marin Foundation’s stance is one of “intentional and strategic neutrality on this subject” siting Romans 3:23, James 2:10, and Matthew 7 to show that: we’ve all sinned, having sinned, we’ve broken God’s entire law, and that, as sinners, we must attend to our own sin before pointing the finger at others.  Pete, on the other hand, believes that refusing to point out the sins of those around us “leads people away from the grace of Christ.”  As someone who finds biblical arguments both for and against same-sex relationships to be less than completely convincing, I often find myself torn between the two sides in these debates.  I understand Pete’s desire to call a spade a spade and to help people turn from their sin, but I also see the value in Michael’s instinct to love first to build relationships with our neighbors.  I appreciate the Marin Foundation’s refusal to proclaim people’s sins from the rooftops and to point an accusatory finger in the face of every gay person they meet, I just hope that, when asked one-on-one by an LGBT person about the Bible’s stance on same sex relationships, that they are willing to have a thorough and honest conversation about what it says and not ignore the fact that scripture does seem to have something to say on this matter.

In the second half of the discussion, Kimpan brings up the story of the woman caught in adultery to show that Jesus refused to condemn the woman when Pharisees insisted the law stated she should be stoned.  Heck, on the other hand, chooses to focus on the end of the story when Jesus tells her to go and leave her life of sin.  It’s interesting because I think these are both important parts of the story.  First, Jesus protects the woman; He sees her and loves her as a beloved child of God and chases away those who condemn her and then refuses to condemn her Himself even though, as the sinless Son of God, He had every right to.  The thing is, Jesus didn’t need to call her out on her sin, she knew what it was.  It was common knowledge that adultery was a serious offense.  The people dragging her through the streets made sure she knew what she had done.  However, it was only after they were alone that Jesus privately tells her to go and leave her life of sin.  So, if we are viewing LGBT people as the woman in the story, do we want to be the accusers publicly dragging the sinners through the streets parading their shame in front of everyone or do we want to be the ones to love and protect first, and then, when we’re alone, encourage our brothers and sisters to sin no more.

How Best to Love

I find it interesting that for almost every argument in all of Christendom, someone has argued the point that love is the most important thing, that God is love, or that, of faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love.  How can this same argument be used for both sides of every disagreement?  I think what it comes down to is we often fundamentally disagree on how best to love those around us.

The definition of love that my pastor likes to use is “to will the good of another” which, while simple and beautiful, leaves a lot of gray area regarding how we ought to act towards one another.  In many instances, it’s self explanatory, don’t murder, steal from, or otherwise harm other people.  In short, treat others as you would like to be treated.  However, what happens when things become a little less clear and how I want to be treated is different from how you want to be treated?  What happens when we act in what we think is someone’s best interest, but in reality, we’re causing more harm than good?

For example, what if I found out a friend was having a difficult time in her relationship with her husband and I decided to bring this up to my prayer group.  I could see that as trying to help and being concerned for my friend’s well being, meanwhile, she could feel hurt and betrayed that I broke her trust.  As another example, many Christians vote against same sex marriage based on their belief that such a relationship would be sinful and therefore decrease a person’s likelihood of entering Heaven.   They do this (or at least claim to do this) out of love, but gay couples hoping to marry see it as rejection of their deepest selves, a dismissal of their rights, or plain hatred.  When we claim to be doing something out of love, we need to honestly examine our motives and be sure what we’re arguing for is the truth and not an unexamined belief.

Now, that’s not to say that we can’t question someone’s actions and confront them out of love.  I definitely believe there is a time and a place to broach the subject of sin in someone’s life, just make sure you don’t have a log in your own eye first.  Also, make sure you and the other person are on the same page.  People aren’t going to want to change their behavior if you haven’t first convinced them that it’s unhealthy/unbiblical and that distinction might not be as clear to them as it is to you.

Familial Support

I’m always inspired by the stories of young gay people who come out to their Christian parents and find that, though they may be resistant at the beginning, their parents love them enough to see them through the difficult journey of figuring out how their faith and sexuality fit together.  I sometimes find myself wishing that my mom’s reaction had been more in that vein, that she had told me she would stand by me no matter what.  That if it came to choosing between me and her faith, that she would choose me.  At the same time, it’s a tough spot to be in.  I do believe that God should take the highest place in our lives and I believe I would always want her to put God’s desires above her own or my own like a modern day Abraham and Isaac, but I do wish that it was little bit of a harder decision than it seems.  I wish that part of her wanted to choose me even if that wasn’t her final decision.  I imagine that’s probably a selfish desire; we shouldn’t ever want to be more important than God in another person’s life, but at the same time, it would be a nice feeling.

I was reminded of this topic after listening to a podcast interview with Matt Jones where he talks about his parents’ reaction when he told them he was gay.  At first, they were very upset by it and took him to a counseling to help fix him, but I was moved to tears when he describes how, after a particularly intense session, his dad went back to the counselor and said, “If I were gay, and I heard you say those things that you told my son, I would go home and put a gun to my head and that would be on you.”  To me, that’s conveys such a strong desire to protect and I wish that I felt that from my parents sometimes.  Maybe it’s because I waited so long to tell them and was fully an adult by then and not a child needing comfort.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t cry or really show much emotion beyond some nerves.  Whatever the case, I wish my mom’s primary concern at that moment hadn’t been for my eternal soul, but for her hurting fearful son sitting in front of her, even if it was just for that one night.

I do want to be clear about something, though.  My parents are wonderful people.  They love me and they did an awesome job raising me.  They instilled me with a healthy sense of self worth and regularly made sacrifices to give me the best life they could.  They raised me in the church and modeled a life of strong faith in Christ.  In fact, I believe the reason that I am who I am today, the reason I’m (relatively) well adjusted while so many other gay people growing up in Christian homes commit suicide or end up on the streets, is because of the strength and love my parents showed me.  They weren’t perfect, but I love my parents with all my heart and couldn’t have asked for more.

Conversion Therapy

Conversion therapy is one of the primary ways many Christians struggling with same sex attractions attempt to change their undesired orientation.  Had I been open and honest with my friends and family about my struggles earlier in life and began exploring the questions that have only recently presented themselves to me, I imagine I would have likely attempted conversion therapy or at least seriously considered it.  However, my first real exposure to it was in college when I first saw the movie Saved.  In the movie, the main character’s boy friend is found to be attracted to other men and sent to the fictional Mercy House where they “deal with all kinds of problems, like drug addiction and alcoholism to de-gayification and unwed mothers.”  This farcical view of conversion therapy where the movie subtlety points out the humor of placing young men struggling with these issues in a private room together gave me a fairly negative view of this method.  Not that I didn’t have the same end goal, but deep down, I really didn’t think that God would allow me to suffer this type of temptation only to have it to be removed by a 12 step program (here I may be showing my ignorance of the actual processes involved in this therapy as I must admit I am not familiar with the standard methods).

The more I prayed and begged God to remove these sinful desires, the more hopeless I became when it didn’t work.  I thought maybe I just had to say the right words or ask in the right way with my body in the proper posture.  I eventually became convinced by sermons given in my youth group that sin’s power over me would be broken by confessing my sins out loud to a brother in Christ.  Due to my fear and self-loathing, it took years of agonizing over this thought before I was finally able to vocalize my struggles and, while this did significantly decrease my burden and relieve much of my loneliness, the desires remained as strong as ever.  I began to realize that if it was in God’s plan for me to reorient myself to being attracted to women, it would happen in His time and that all I had to do was to devote myself to Him and live the best life I could.  I began to identify with Paul and his “thorn in the flesh” which he prayed to be taken from him, but to no avail.  While I would never try to make a case for Paul struggling with homosexuality, it is encouraging to imagine the possibility of such an inspirational biblical figure having once walked the path I now find myself on.

Instead of praying for God to remove these desires and take this cup from me, I now pray that His will would be manifest in my life and that I would follow the path He has planned for me, but that doesn’t stop me from slipping in the occasional prayer that, if it could maybe possibly fit into the plan, that I find a wife to grow old with.

Expectations, Desires, Hopes, and Fears

After finding Julie Rodgers’ amazing blog which opened me up to so many thoughts and feelings that I had never had before, I was inspired to start a place where I could write down some of my experiences and, hopefully, help people who are going through something similar take solace in the shared experience just as I have with Julie’s site.  I’ve been planning to start writing for a week or two now and I even started a quick outline of somethings to write about, but never got around to it until the events of tonight spurred me on.

Like Julie, I grew up in the Church and eventually found myself struggling between my beliefs and the romantic feelings I had towards those of my same sex.  Also like Julie, I have decided that these feelings are not part of God’s plan for my life and have chosen to remain celibate.  However, unlike Julie, I still cling to the hope that somewhere down the line, there will be a woman I can fall in love with and marry and spend the rest of my life with.

Those hope rose higher than they had in a long time when I was setup with the friend of a friend and we actually had a real date (the first I’d ever had).  I was ecstatic that the date seemed to go well and we agreed that we should do it again sometime.  But as time went on and more and more plans fell through, my hope started to wain until tonight when they were put to rest.  I finally received confirmation that she’s not interested in a relationship and that’s that.

I’m glad she was honest with me instead of letting me hope and wonder and bounce around between a dozen different emotions.  I really do believe that it’s better to know than to be kept in the dark, but at the same time, there’s still a crushing sense of sadness and despair that comes along with it.  I feel like I was given a finite amount of hope regarding my romantic future and every time something like this happens, a little more of it drains away.  In addition to the pain and hopeless I feel each time a potential relationship doesn’t work out, I also feel bad for the person on the other end being put in the uncomfortable position of ending it.  After each time something like this has happened, I go through a period where I tell myself that if it’s in God’s plan, it’ll happen and I just need to be patient, but after some time has passed, I start to think that maybe I just need to put myself out there and it’ll happen.  I really wish I just knew for sure what God had in store for me.  I definitely have a preference, but I think, at this point, I would rather hear a definitive no than to wallow in this constant place of not knowing.