I just saw this link show up on Facebook. It’s excellent, from a 25 year old Southern Baptist. It is refreshing to hear other voices beginning to emerge who take issue with labeling oneself “as gay.” Often times when I challenge people who call themselves “celibate gays,” they’ll say, (rather patronizingly I might add), that this is merely a “generational thing,” and that the distinction between “gay” or “same-sex attracted” is merely semantics. This is often said to me by people who are less than ten years younger than me, which makes me chuckle. I don’t think ten years’ difference marks generational differences.
All that to say is that I’m glad to read a 25 year old saying things like this:
There’s a new kind of Gay Christian. Most of us are aware of the Justin Lees and the Matthew Vines, but, unlike those guys and like myself, these new Gay Christians hold fast to the truth of Scripture regarding the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. They aren’t out there practicing homosexual behavior. They aren’t engaging in dating relationships with people of the same gender or seeking to do so. Celibacy is the path that they have chosen in light of their current sexual inclinations and their simultaneous, and stronger, desire to submit themselves to the Lordship of Christ.
These people are most definitely my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would hesitate to make such a claim about Matthew Vines or Justin Lee, but these folks– like Julie Rodgers or Matt Jones or Wesley Hill — I am confident I will stand with side by side in the age to come as we rejoice forever in the life Christ has purchased for us with His own life. But I strongly disagree with their chosen terminologies used to describe who they are.
I refuse to call myself a Gay Christian.
Then he gives reasons why, which I’ll link to next.
Now, since I’m Catholic, I don’t want to say with certainty who I’ll be standing “side by side” with “in the age to come,” since though the Catholic Church teaches that Hell exists, She wisely has never said definitively that anyone is actually there. (I’m not a universalist, but I beg the mercy of Christ for everyone.) Ok, with that caveat out there, here are his reasons why.
1) I hate sin. My brothers and sisters who call themselves Gay Christians emphasize quite a bit in their blogs and articles that they believe there is nothing inherently sinful about having a homosexual orientation or experiencing sexual attraction toward the same sex. I definitely get where they’re coming from, on some level. To experience the temptation to sin is not equivalent to actually sinning. Jesus was tempted in every way common to man, yet He was without sin. But where I think I differ is the fact that I view same sex attraction, or any other desire to sin, as being sinful in essence. No, we aren’t sinning by experiencing the temptation to engage beyond biblical limits with the same sex, but that doesn’t make the desire something good – or even something morally neutral. Homosexual desires exist within people because people possess sinful natures. Homosexual desires are a direct result, or a fruit, of sin. Homosexual desires are not good, God honoring, or morally neutral – despite our un-chosen experience of them. And because of this I find it impossible, with a good conscience, to use a term describing something sinful in essence (Gay) alongside a term describing my allegiance to the Sinless One (Christian).
I would use different language here–I wouldn’t call same sex attractions “sinful in essence.” Rather, I’d use the Catholic phrase: they are objectively disordered. But he’s spot on in saying that the desire isn’t good, in and of itself. I wonder, however, if he’s run across the argument that “what we call homosexuality is far more complex than merely the desire for sinful sexual actions.” The “gay celibate” folks are very fond of that sort of evasiveness, which stems from a sort of Gnostic sensibility: “we’re the initiated who actually know what homosexuality is. All the rest of you trying to understand it can’t possibly, because you don’t know what it’s about.” Ok, onto reason number two.
2) I don’t believe calling myself a Gay Christian would help in my endeavor to communicate a gospel that transforms identity. I believe that much of the reason some Christians who experience same sex attraction, yet hold to a sexual ethic, decide to label themselves as Gay Christians is due to a desire to alleviate themselves of barriers in their attempts to relate to the gay community. And I get that. I really do. I wrote a blog not too long ago describing why I still use the word gay, even though I don’t like it. I believe that in our conversations with unrepentant gay people, it’s okay to use the word “gay” rather than “being tempted to engage in homosexual behavior” or “same sex attraction” in describing the experience. But if those people were to convert to Christ, I would not affirm them continuing to identify themselves as “gay”, both for the reasons I listed in Number 1 (above) and for the purpose of their need to communicate to the world that they are someone, and something, entirely different now. If I were to continue to call myself gay, whether I’d want to admit it or not I would be uniting myself to a worldly, godless identity. And that wouldn’t help in the slightest in reaching the gay community with the gospel. Rather, it would communicate a cheap gospel that really doesn’t do all that much in changing one’s identity. It is entirely possible to be transparent and communicative about one’s continual struggle with same sex attraction without identifying as gay. I know, because I’ve been doing it every day for the past four years.
Can I get an, “Amen?” This is exactly right: it’s not the language that keeps people from the Church. It’s the teaching on sexual chastity. I would add too that there is something about the desire to cling to calling oneself gay on the part of those who are “gay but chaste” that seems very akin to “gay pride,” and with him, I would argue that this is a “worldly and godless identity.”
On to reason number three:
3) I love Jesus too much. And because I love Him, I don’t want to identify myself with anything that communicates something entirely contrary to who He is. The desire to have sexual relations, or even romantic relations, with someone of the same gender is contrary to God’s design for sexuality and human flourishing. It is contrary to what He planned, what He wills, and who He is. How could I proudly label myself with a word describing a reality that He hates? I can’t. I just can’t. Jesus became a man and undoubtedly endured a life and death of suffering more intense than I will ever be able to wrap my mind around. He died not only for my corrupt actions, but for my natural, corrupted heart. I refuse, because of my love and thankfulness for who He is and what He’s done for me, to hold onto and describe myself with a term that so describes the very corruption that Christ died for.
I would add a bit to this: I don’t want to identify with myself as something entirely contrary to who I am. But of course, that has everything to do with who God is, since we are made in His image.
Anyway, it is great refreshment to my soul to see someone challenging the thinking of the “gay but chaste” collection of writers. We need more challenge to our brothers and sisters on this front, so I am very grateful for his witness. I’ll be checking him out some more.