Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
The “Cure Me, I’m Gay” documentary earlier this week has got me thinking.
One thing that I have noticed amongst men who seek to change their homosexuality is that often they feel that the church will see them as somehow inferior if they “stay gay”. The attempt to “repair” one’s sexuality then becomes less about trying to function in a way that the church approves of and more to do with being able to fit in with or conform to an assumed “better” way of being. If one then fails to “change” having accepted this basis for trying to change, one has to either alter one’s view on same-sex behaviourÂ or somehow admit that you have not arrived where you need to be as a Christian.
I think this is the main failure of the ex-gay movement, that in defining “success” as a change in sexual attractions, it has created a generation of men who failed in what they set out to accomplish and in doing so had to reconcile that failure, often by embracing same-sex activity as a good and right thing. Once the straw man has been shown to be fragile, often the rest of the Christian structure comes down with it.
Here’s the thing though, what’s wrong with being homosexual, or same-sex attracted, or gay, or whatever you want to call it? Seriously, what’s wrong with it? Why do you need to change? Don’t get me wrong here – I’m not in the slightest bit advocating same-sexÂ behaviour, far from it, but simply being attracted to someone of the same sex, why is that a problem? So what?
Let me let you into a secret – you don’t have to change. Really, you don’t. I mean, you might change, but you don’t have to. As you stand here today in all your attracted to people of the same-sex glory, there is nothing wrong with you, nothing that makes you worse than the man who sits down next to you in the pew with the throng of girls around him, nothing that makes God see you as anything less than any other Christian.
But, I hear you ask, what will happen to me if I don’t change? How will I have a fulfilling life if I don’t end up with a sexual partner, if I don’t have someone to share my emotional life with? Listen to yourself! Look at the other single people in your church. Are they inferior to the couples? Does God think any less of them? Is there something spiritual inadequate about them because they are not hooked up with someone? Is celibacy a second-rate choice? Are the other singles better than you because they are straight?Â Have you even read 1 Corinthians 7:7?
Why do you need to change? Will you be a better person? Will God love you more? None of these things automatically happen just because you are “straight”. Really, they don’t. God loves all Christians just the same because the same Jesus died for each and everyone of them and imputed his same righteousness into each and everyone of them. Sanctification isn’t dependent on sexuality (though it might very well be dependent on sexual practice) and if you think it is, please point out the bit in God’s Word where he says it is.
I love what Sean Doherty wrote recently in the latest issue of AnvilÂ about his experience as a young adult not hiding away from his sexuality but rather simply accepting it for what it was.
During the period that I identified myself as gay, I was celibate. As a teenager and then anÂ undergraduate I attended evangelical churches where the classic Christian understanding ofÂ sex and marriage was taught and explained. Such an understanding was not forced upon meÂ â€“ wise and supportive clergy encouraged me to read widely about the subject and to exploreÂ the different points of view for myself. This exploration led me to the conclusion that sexÂ was indeed created by God as a good gift for marriage, and that recent attempts to findÂ exceptions to this teaching were deeply unpersuasive. To my mind, the classic teaching ofÂ the Church about sex was indeed the biblical and authentic Christian one.
As an undergraduate I was fairly open about my sexuality in church and college settingsÂ alike, and I never experienced homophobic treatment from evangelical Christians â€“ althoughÂ I was at times scorned by non-Christians and certain liberal Christians for believing that IÂ ought to be celibate! Indeed, far from being ostracised by the evangelical Church, I wasÂ nurtured, given responsibility in ministry, and encouraged to consider whether God might beÂ calling me to ordination â€“ and this in a Church which vocally opposed the appointment ofÂ Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. I was on the Exec of the Christian Union at my university,Â working alongside a mixture of charismatic and conservative evangelicals. Christian UnionsÂ are not normally bastions of radical liberal theological sentiment, and mine was noÂ exception. But my colleagues on the Exec treated me with nothing but respect and affection.
I know in my journey that it was only when IÂ stopped trying to change, when I realised that God wasn’t going to think any less of me simply for being homosexual (though he might have a few things to say about sex outside of the marriage of a man and a woman), that it didn’t, shouldn’t limit me in ministry and Christian life, it was only then when I chose just to live for God and not other people’s (or my own) expectations, only then that I actually started to change. It was only when I let go of the idea that I would beÂ better if my sexuality was different that God finally had the space to do with my sexual identity what he wanted. Before then I had been trying to satisfy myself, afterwards, when I was trying to satisfy God (realising that being straight wouldn’t make him any “happier” with me) that I became open to the changes in my life and thinking that happened and led me to where I am today.
Friends, we live in such a open and accepting time in Western culture, for better and for worse. Almost one of the last places where people feel uncomfortable being same-sex attracted and having other people know it is the Church. It shouldn’t be that way. The Church should be the place of acceptance, not of what weÂ doÂ (because some of the things we do are wrong and need to be identified as such) but of who we are and what we feel. And that should be the same for anyone LGB or whatever. You don’t need to be straight to be in the right place. You don’t need to change your sexuality to fit in. You don’t need to repair anything to have a better spiritual life. Jesus takes us all, warts and flaws and imperfections and wonky desires and everything. He takes us and makes us into what he wants, and when we realise that we are defined by what he thinks of us, not what we what others think of us, then that prepares us for the greatest change of all – being shaped into what He wants us to be.
Misfits of the world, come out come out wherever you are. You don’t need to change – he’ll change you into whatever he wants you to be in his own time once you let him be in charge.
We should want all our brokennesses to be healed by Jesus, even if we accept that this will not fully happen in this life.
So the question is: is being same-sex attracted a brokenness, a result of the fall?
If it’s not, then I would agree that people with SSA are not called to desire change.
But if it is, surely we should want it repaired as part of our sanctification, even if we accept that it might not be, and if we are sure to affirm that people for whom God doesn’t repair it are not second class (because everyone has unrepaired brokenness – there should be no boasting here). And sanctification is something in which believers and God collaborate. Your desire to be sanctified (in various ways) is important.
Saying that “you aren’t second class if it’s not repaired” (true) is not the same thing as saying “there’s no need to desire that it be repaired” (the point in question). Saying “you don’t have to change [to be a proper Christian/for Jesus to accept you]” (true) is not the same thing as saying “you shouldn’t want to change” (the point in question).
I think that perhaps I can help here.
â€œSo the question is: is being same-sex attracted a brokenness, a result of the fall?â€
That question is, I would say, the crux of your post. The short and obvious answer to it is: No, any more than being other-sex attracted is a brokenness, a result of any fall.
â€œBut if it is, surely we should want it repaired as part of our sanctification…â€
If it were, then no doubt we should, but since it is not, it does not need repairing, any more than other-sex attraction does, and there is no need for â€œrepairingâ€ it to form any part of anyoneâ€™s sanctification.
I entirely agree that â€œYou aren’t second class if itâ€™s not repairedâ€ and â€œThere’s no need to desire that it be repairedâ€ are quite different statements. Both statements, however, are correct.
Adam was opposite-sex attracted to Eve in the garden pre-fall, which makes a good case for other-sex attraction not being a result of the fall. But the same case cannot be made for same-sex attraction. So I’m curious as to why you think it’s so obvious as to not require supporting argument that the two are the same with respect to their level of brokenness.
Few educated people nowadays, I would have thought, seriously think that the story of Adam and Eve is history, but it makes no difference, for present purposes, whether you do or not. Letâ€™s treat it as history for the sake of argument. Itâ€™s a story about how the human race supposedly began, so since only heterosexual sex is procreative, it would obviously have to begin with a male-female couple.
Does that imply that ALL subsequent members of the human race are meant to be heterosexual (other-sex attracted), and that if any are homosexual (same-sex attracted), that must be a form of brokenness? No, it implies no such thing. If it is Godâ€™s intention that the vast majority of the human race should be heterosexual and a minority homosexual, which is what the actual situation is, the story would be no different.
If it were God’s pre-fall intention that “the vast majority of the human race should be heterosexual and a minority homosexual”, Romans 1 would probably be rather different.
I agree with you that Romans 1 would probably be rather different IF PAUL HAD BELIEVED THAT it was Godâ€™s pre-fall intention etc. etc. Obviously he didnâ€™t. That doesnâ€™t mean that I canâ€™t. Paul apparently believed that everyone is by nature heterosexual, but that people ditch their customary heterosexual habits and turn homosexual as the result of worshipping images of mortal man, birds, quadrupeds and reptiles. That doesnâ€™t mean that I have to subscribe to this remarkable theory. I donâ€™t.
“Paul apparently believed that everyone is by nature heterosexual, but that people ditch their customary heterosexual habits and turn homosexual as the result of worshipping images of mortal man, birds, quadrupeds and reptiles.”
No he doesn’t. He argues that those who worship the created, not the creator, are handed over to their desires. *For example* he says, they turn to their sexual desires.
What are you trying to say? That the people to whom Paul refers are â€œsame-sex attractedâ€ already, but that they only start â€œacting outâ€ their â€œsame-sex attractionâ€ after ceasing to worship God and worshipping idols instead, thus causing God to open the floodgates? If so, I find that a rather strained interpretation.
Just read the text:
“ThereforeGod gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, tothe dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,”
God gave them up in the lusts TO impurity. The lusts already existed – God let them fulfil their lusts and become impure.
Want to do it in the Greek?
No, the Greek would be of no use to me: Iâ€™ve forgotten nearly all the Greek that I ever knew, which wasnâ€™t much anyway. What kind of lusts already existed? â€œSame-sexâ€ lusts?
Yes, that is clearly the implication. “epithumiais” covers a multitude of sins, and the verse clearly contextualises what the lust was.
So where, on your interpretation, did these pre-existing same-sex lusts come from? How did they come into being in the first place?
They’re obviously part of our fallen nature. How they come about is a question we’ve explored before…
Well, O.K. Not something that I see any reason to believe, but I canâ€™t say that youâ€™re wrong.
From someone who does agree that same-sex attraction, at least to the extent that it is ordered toward sexual behavior, is a result of the fall, I don’t agree that a fix is necessarily part of sanctification. Sanctification is a matter of the will. It is ordering my sinful will to be in line with that of God’s. Some forms of brokenness that come from the fall are not willful. For example, genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis are in this class of things. I would argue that sexual attraction to any non-spouse (as opposed to how someone responds) is a similar class of brokenness.
The danger of wanting to have it repaired is that people invest a lot into the expectation that it will, and we don’t have evidence that change in sexual orientation is all that common despite having some people (like Peter) who have experienced some incomplete degree of change.
So if I have cystic fibrosis, it’s entirely normal if I don’t desire to be healed of it? That healing may well be entirely out of my hands, and the same may be true of SSA. But it seems odd to say that just because I have no power to effect some change, it’s unreasonable to argue that I should be desiring that change.
“The danger of wanting to have it repaired is that people invest a lot into the expectation that it will”. That may be a danger. But I don’t think the pragmatic argument that “well, if people do Y, X sometimes goes wrong” is a good argument against Y if Y has a Biblical case for it. Which is what we are discussing.
Well, I’m not trying to say that no one should ever desire their orientation to change, or that something is terribly wrong with someone who wants that kind of change. I’m defending those of us who have come to accept our orientation as something we just have to live with in a fallen world, and that can actually have some positive aspects insofar as it’s not just a desire for sinful acts. I don’t think it’s unhealthy to get past a constant desire for a specific type of change we are not promised in this life. Yes, we will have a general desire for the healing of all brokenness when Christ returns, as we should. But I don’t know that a gay person needs that more than anyone else, and I think it’s helpful to maintain that perspective.
I also don’t believe that orientation change per se is part of sanctification. It’s more analogous to a disease or disability in that particular respect, although that analogy is often taken too far. Sanctification will involve overcoming habits of mind like lust, and will affect our desires regarding how we respond to our feelings. But that’s not specific to same-sex issues, and is something straight people deal with just as much. I don’t think it’s legitimate to expect orientation change per se as part of sanctification, and that was the main point I was trying to make.
I’m not sure how much we actually disagree.
I wonder if comparing homosexuality to a disease falls under the category of hate speech in respect of the Equality Act. I feel a spot of legal research coming on.
In any case, whether it’s actionable or not, I find it incredibly offensive. It’s this kind of talk that makes me realize there can be no compromise when dealing with a certain kind of Christian. If they think we’re a disease that has to be eradicated then we’d better make sure we act to disable and disarm them before they move against us.
“I find it incredibly offensive”
Get over yourself. If you get offended the moment someone asks a question, you need to go somewhere else.
” If they think we’re a disease that has to be eradicated”
No-one said that so get off your high horse.
No, Iâ€™m sure that comparing homosexuality to a disease doesnâ€™t fall under the category of hate speech. It just falls under the category of ignorance.
I’m an American living in the United States, so I’m not under the jurisdiction of the Equality Act.
I’m sorry if my comment was offensive. Perhaps that’s a comparison I shouldn’t even mention. I only brought it up because I was using cystic fibrosis as an example to gerv to demonstrate that it was possible for something to be fallen without being morally bad. That’s why I clarified about how I was talking about one particular sense and immediately clarified that the analogy was often taken too far. I’m not straight, so I’m well aware of the way that some straight Christians make hurtful comments based on disease comparisons.
As someone who does hold to pretty traditional theology, I’ve found I have a lot of inroads with conservative Christians just talking about my own experience. I often try to talk people out of a war mentality, and a number of them have been quite receptive.
Rhibeor, I think you’re offended because you’ve come here to be offended. If you’d come here to have a discussion, people might take you more seriously.
“I don’t think it’s unhealthy to get past a constant desire for a specific type of change we are not promised in this life.”
Which specific sanctification-related changes _are_ promised in this life?
If I said to you “I’ve come to accept my internal hatred of ginger people as something I just have to live with in a fallen world (after all, I don’t act on it)”, would you challenge me on that attitude?
Perhaps this rests on the distinction you are making between “habits of mind”, “desires” and “feelings”. You say we have feelings, which can’t be sinful (?), and we respond to them with desires, which might be sinful, and a regular desire is a habit of mind, which might also be sinful. Is that a fair summary?
“I’ve come to accept my internal hatred of ginger people as something I just have to live with in a fallen world (after all, I don’t act on it)”
Depends what you do with it. If you constantly engage the anger in your heart and fuel it, then yes that’s a problem. If you recognise it’s a problem but don’t indulge it, not so much of an issue.
But if I recognise it’s a problem (but don’t indulge it), it’s still a problem, right? And it would be better if I didn’t have it? So I should desire that change?
I’d really like to see you in particular engage with this para from my original comment, because I do think you’ve mixed up two things in your original piece:
“Saying that “you aren’t second class if it’s not repaired” (true) is not
the same thing as saying “there’s no need to desire that it be
repaired” (the point in question). Saying “you don’t have to change [to
be a proper Christian/for Jesus to accept you]” (true) is not the same
thing as saying “you shouldn’t want to change” (the point in question).”
Do you agree these two things are not the same?
In my mind, the proper distinction is based entirely on when the will is or is not involved. I have some conscious control of my mental habits, which form desires in some sense, but there are other kinds of feelings or even “desires” that are not subject to conscious control.
We have good evidence that sexual feelings in particular are biological, even though we don’t know a whole lot about the origins of particular sexual orientations. So that means that sexual feelings are outside the realm of the will or heart. Jesus promised to regenerate our hearts and wills through sanctification, but didn’t promise to change our bodies.
Furthermore, if you don’t subscribe to the heresy of docetism, I think you’re pretty much obligated to believe that Jesus had sexual feelings, too, even though he wasn’t to be married. Sexual feelings are a normal part of being human (even though there’s a small population of asexuals who don’t have them), and Scripture teaches that Jesus was tempted the same way we are. Jesus was also without sin, so there’s a way to have sexual attractions you can’t fulfill without sinning. Jesus didn’t need sanctification.
“but there are other kinds of feelings or even “desires” that are not subject to conscious control.”
Are you arguing that such feelings cannot be broken/fallen/in need of redemption, or are you arguing that they can, but we are not called to desire such redemption? (I don’t think you are arguing that the Holy Spirit can only change those things within us that are subject to conscious control, but correct me if I’m wrong there.)
It seems like you are saying that Jesus did not promise such redemption so we are not called to desire it, but if it happens, which it will for some people, then it happens. Is that right?
Entirely agree with your last para. I guess the key question is whether a same-sex sexual attraction is a source of temptation in exactly the same way an opposite-sex one is. (Hmm: if Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, does that mean he experienced both?) I’m not sure it is, but I haven’t thought about the question hard yet. It does seem to be true to me that there are a set of things one can rightly desire of one of the opposite sex (“Wow, I’d love to get married, settle down and start a family with him/her”) which are not rightly desired of someone of the same sex. If Jesus had had the first of a woman he knew, his rejection of those thoughts and the possible courses of action to which they lead would have been based on his mission, not on the inherent sinfulness of the thoughts or actions. But if he’d had the second, then wouldn’t he have rejected them for different reasons?
Let me ask you this: do you take a charismatic view of physical healing? If someone came to you who was born blind, would your exhortations to that person be based on the possibility that God could restore his or her physical sight?
Because I’m wondering if your position is based on believing that physical redemption of everything fallen is something we are supposed to desire (expect?) in this life, or if it’s because you’re viewing same-sex attraction as something that is in and of itself morally problematic in a way that, for example, physical conditions are not.
Yes, good question :-)
I have cancer (see http://www.gerv.net/cancer/ ). They don’t know what causes this particular cancer (ACC) at all – no environmental or genetic factors have been identified. And it’s pretty rare. I wouldn’t call myself charismatic, but I believe that God does have the power to heal me supernaturally if he chooses, and that I don’t rule out the possibility of him exercising it. Although I think it would be difficult to be certain he had, and I think it’s pretty unlikely he will; such things are not common. More likely is that he will choose to heal me using means – such as doctors and treatments. This is also unlikely (there is no known cure) but less unlikely :-)
But I desire to be healed. I know that in the new heavens and the new earth, I will be. I know that short of that, it’s fairly unlikely that I will be. But I strongly desire it – for myself, and for my wife and two small children. And I pray for it, leaving the mechanism up to God.
To pick up on your question mark, desire is not the same as expect.
So do I think that having SSA is like having cancer? Very good question. I’ll need to think about that more.
For the sake of discussion, what would you say if I did say that having SSA was like that, and so just as I desire but do not expect to be healed, people with SSA should also desire but not expect to be healed?
I wouldn’t find that unreasonable, except to the degree that SSA refers to something that is actually good. Wesley Hill wrote a good post that articulates the sort of thing I mean by that: http://spiritualfriendship.org/2014/02/26/is-being-gay-sanctifiable/
My other concern is that we are also called to be content and grateful to God, whatever our circumstances. I’m sure that’s particularly hard in the face of cancer. I think what Peter wrote in this post had a lot to do with learning to be content within circumstances of same-sex attraction. I guess there’s a tension between being content and grateful to God in our circumstances, and desiring ultimate redemption. That’s a tension that all believers face.
Well, I would say that having â€œSSAâ€ is not like that, any more than having â€œOSAâ€ (other-sex attraction) is, and that therefore the question of it being â€œhealedâ€ does not apply.
Come out, be proud, and then live alone for the rest of your life. Take a good look at the ancient spinsters and bachelors in your congregation and think how preferable it is to live alone, smell of mothballs and be surrounded by cats rather than leading a life of love and companionship. And if the stench of camphor and loneliness finally catches in your throat, marry a woman you neither desire nor love beyond feelings of friendship. Sire children on her if you can and then all your problems will be solved forever.
Or maybe not.
So many straw men.
I must say I agree with Rhibeor’s post. I’m an aging factory worker with a only a high school diploma so I’m not going to win any debates with our host. I have no stats or studies. All I can offer is my own experience. I come from an RC, working class background. Very conservative, religiously and morally. I’m now 58 and I’ve literally struggled with being gay for decades. That includes being married for 15 years. I liked her, I never really loved her. I remember thinking that this would solve my sexuality problem, it didn’t. We had a child together. We stayed married until her death 11 years ago. I think part of the reason we got married was because we were both a couple of lonely misfits and a mis-match was better than being alone. But it wasn’t. We were two unhappy people trying to make a go of it.
I’ve been through the wringer, mentally, spiritually and physically. Alcoholism before marriage, depression after and a 3 pack a day cigarette habit that lead to a heart attack at 46. And I lay most of the blame on my my not accepting who I am, a Gay man. I have seen so much misery, so much hypocrisy and so much pain in so many people because of a few lines in an old book. Sorry, but I think it’s all crazy. I would tell anyone struggling with this to live the life they were meant to live. To find someone they truly and completely love and if need be to tell all the preachers and churches to take a hike. More and more I think religion is rubbish. and I’m sorry I wasted so much of my life on it.
That powerful testimony alone wins, since the conservative position, at heart, rests on “because the Bible says so.” Thanks for sharing it.
” I have seen so much misery, so much hypocrisy and so much pain in so many people because of a few lines in an old book.”
No, you have seen it because other Christians have told people that unless they become something they are not they are inferior. THAT is what causes the pain.
Thank you for telling your story, Kevin. It illustrates far better than any comment I can make just how destructive the kind of religion peddled on this site can be. I wish you every happiness for the future and join in your hope that leaving behind the myths and prejudices taught to you by a Church full of vicious and Pharisaical dogmatists will help you find it.
And as for Mr Ould’s comment that the only thing that causes pain is being told you’re inferior, need I point out to him the suffering of many heterosexuals who were never able to marry? You’d think he would have come across at least some examples of this in his parish work. Perhaps he’s just not interested in what real human beings feel, especially when their experience contradicts his dogmatic certainties.
” just how destructive the kind of religion peddled on this site can be”
Then why are you still here? Trust me, you’re going to need to make the answer REALLY good.
My own sense of offense belongs to me to use as I see fit. Get over YOURSELF and stop telling other people what they should feel and believe.
What joy! It’s my website and I get to decide who comments!
That’s a really sad story. I don’t know you, so sorry if this sounds really banal and besides the point, but has nobody ever told you that God loves misfits? Sometimes I look at people who seem so much more confident and successful, but then I reflect that they don’t know God because they’ve never thought that they need Him, and I don’t envy them.
Or come out and share your life with someone. It doesn’t have to be sexual to be “healthy”.
Also Rhibeor, your attitude to older spinsters and bachelors is unbelievably callous. I accept it’s sarcasm to emphasis your point but please… “stench of camphor and loneliness”. Elderly spinsters and bachelors are people too.
I agree. I think some people need to reflect why, in order to defend their position, they have to insult others and produce straw men.
Feeling rather insulted on behalf of my spinster friends. I know lots of elderly single people who are a joy to be with and don’t smell of anything. I also know a lot of very bitter, lonely married people who resent that marriage didn’t live up to their expectations and got in the way of doing what they wanted to with their lives.
In a conservative Christian setting, gay singles and straight singles aren’t comparable, as the latter situation is often temporary. Straight singles always have the possibility of forming a relationship. Young straight singles do not expect to suppress their sexuality for 80-odd years: they look forward to meeting someone and starting a family. In the meantime, they feel no shame over their sexual drives.
This attempt to separate orientation and its expression might work for some, but given its artificiality, for many it does nothing. Especially in a Christian context, where thought-crimes sit at the center of the Beatitudes (adultery in the heart, etc). Just how reassuring is it to tell a lesbian teen “There’s nothing wrong with being gay, hon, but if you ever act on your feelings for another woman, God will burn you in hell forever. Now be happy as a single gal!”
“Young straight singles do not expect to suppress their sexuality for 80-odd years”
It’s like you’ve not read a word I wrote. You’re utterly fixated on sex. Die to it.
OK, rephrase it: “Young straight singles do not expect to have no chance at forming a loving, intimate relationship for 80-odd years.” Is that fair?
No. Not even close. Think about it…
By “intimate” I meant “sexual,” and by loving, the type of love found in a sexual relationship.
You can of course argue that sexual relationships aren’t different in kind to friendships. Is that your argument? If not, then you’ll accept that gay Christians are being asked to make a substantial sacrifice not asked of their straight brethren.
So you’ve fallen into the same trap of saying people in relationships are better than people who are single. You just prove my point for me.
No, I haven’t, as I never said they were “better,” we’re all of equal worth. I do say that intimate relationships are enriching, and our experience is poorer for their absence.
Put it this way. An illiterate who lives in a slum on subsistence wages is worth just as much as a jet setter who lives in a penthouse. Saying that does nothing to recommend ignorance and poverty.
“I do say that intimate relationships are enriching, and our experience is poorer for their absence.”
Make your mind up. Are single people poorer emotionally or not?
Depends on what you mean by “poorer emotionally.” Their pool of experiences is certainly more limited. In the conservative framework, gay singles are being asked to keep it limited, whereas straight singles have the hope of a relationship and the social affirmation of marriage.
Straight singles also feel no shame about who they’re attracted to. If you’re told that acting on your attractions in any circumstances is a sin, it’s easy to feel that *you’re* inherently bad. It’s not easy to compartmentalize in the way you want, which is why the “actions, not orientations” line breaks down for so many.
The situations for gay and straight singles aren’t equivalent. That’s my point.
“Straight singles also feel no shame about who they’re attracted to. If you’re told that acting on your attractions in any circumstances is a sin, it’s easy to feel that *you’re* inherently bad.”
I’m not sure why you think these two things are linked. It is perfectly possible to be at ease with the idea that you have fallen human desires and yet at the same time not seek to act on them AND not be ashamed about them. I’m not ashamed of my sexual desires in any sense – they are a normal part of living in a fallen world.
Let’s get back to the core point – are single people inferior in any spiritual or emotional way to married people. Yes or no?
Personally I believe the core point is whether all singleness is equivalent in a conservative framework. I don’t believe it is, for the reasons given.
As for “inferior,” that’s obviously a loaded word, and I think I’ve explained my position already: we’re all of equal worth, but relationships enrich our lives, and should not be denied on the basis of sexual orientation.
It might be easy to separate orientation and action in theory, less so in practice.
“Personally I believe the core point is whether all singleness is equivalent in a conservative framework. I don’t believe it is, for the reasons given.”
They are equivalent. That’s the whole point.
â€œ…relationships enrich our lives, and should not be denied on the basis of sexual orientation.â€
That is indeed the crux of the matter. I couldnâ€™t have put it better, and I couldnâ€™t agree with you more. If some people want to deny themselves sexual relationships, thatâ€™s entirely up to them, but no-one should be told that they have a moral obligation to do it just because theyâ€™re gay. They have no such obligation.
I agree with Peter’s basic premise
God thinks no less of people for being gay and I know gay (and straight) people who live perfectly “enriched” lives as singles. Though over the past twenty odd years we have persuaded several of them to have a family and all of them would say that their lives blossomed when the kids came along.
As to having a partner ……. Those of who love opera look back and see our first performance as a life changing experience ….. You know what I mean, “Pretty Woman” sort of thing …… Does living without seeing an opera or rejecting it once seen (perish the thought!) mean we are deficient or need to be repaired ….. hmmmmm, I don’t think so. But it has enhanced our lives, no doubt.
I’m not so sure about not having kids though ………
Based on my own experience in the last few years, I don’t think evangelical churches are ready yet for “come out – if you stay single”. They still react awkwardly to openly gay people and all of the advise/help they do provide for same-sex attracted people in the church is set within a “this is a very sensitive issue” structure that assumes that being gay will be a personal struggle to be agonised over in private.
All of the jokes, banter and positive comments about Christian life spoken from the pulpit or lectern are about marriage.
To be fair, given their worldview, it’s hard to blame ’em. They believe that homosexuality is a sin, committed by the Other, and suddenly a gay person’s sitting amongst them. What d’you say? “Paul condemns it … er, not you, just, y’know, what you do … or not. Are you active? Shit, sorry, sorry!” Awkwardness in perfection.
It challenges all the in-group/out-group thinking behind the church’s disproportionate focus on gay people (is it any coincidence that preachers went tight-lipped on divorce as soon as they had a risk of being confronted by divorcees?). As soon as they’re not Other, but us, it’s a game changer.
‘Awkward’ isn’t the end of the world but a more positive approach would be welcome. I wouldn’t mind if the subject was joked about in a friendly way – anything but the more wary ‘don’t want to appear affirming’ approach.
For me the answer was not only to like being me and not want to change but to recognise that staying allied to Christianity – even a relatively accepting version – just wasn’t helpful. It was surprisingly easy to walk away. Now I find it difficult to understand why I stayed with it for so long