A Christian Defense of Homosexuality

I write this in contrast to a letter which argues that accepting homosexuality denies God’s hope for homosexuals.

In discussing homosexuality with Christians, you will generally find that most of them agree that the Church has treated the LGBT community wrongly, and I would agree. I have had multiple conversations of the sort in very recent memory. But unless you’re in a church community which actually accepts homosexuality, you will find that everyone has their own pet caveats for why it’s not okay, even though the Church is not treating homosexuals as it should. You will hear comparisons of homosexuality to addiction to pornography or alcohol. You will hear slippery slope arguments, like how will we say no to one night stands or even bestiality if we can’t say no to homosexuality.

I know that I personally used to offer these sorts of arguments, and I may have even devised a few of my own. As a church, it seems we come up with every other method of rectifying our relationships with people of different sexual orientation other than to realize that maybe calling their sexuality “sinful” is damaging in and of itself.

Many Christians to whom I have spoken, however, will readily accept that homosexual desires do in fact develop on their own through no fault or moral failing, which is at least an improvement on calling it a choice. In fact, the Catholic church acknowledges this much, but it requires that homosexuals not act on their desires and live lives of celibacy. The argument here is that there are many natural desires which are not conducive to Godly living, and we must train our emotions such that we do not act unethically. I agree this far. I do not agree that training people to live Godly lives includes completely disallowing homosexual desires to manifest in any sort of homosexual action.

We don’t do this with other sorts of desires. There is a right time, place, and manner for anger, sadness, erotic affection, and for every other sort of natural affection which we have — unless, one might say, that erotic affection is homosexual in nature. Yet there is no evidence that anyone can reappropriate homosexual desires into heterosexual desires. This is the unanimous opinion of every major health organization in the United States as well as the World Health Organization and others. There is no solution for someone of homosexual orientation trying to live up to conservative Christian expectations of complete abstinence except for a life marred by unfulfilled sexual desires.

Whereas Christianity would help the man with anger problems to find the right way of being angry, there is apparently no right way of having homosexual desires. Any way of expressing them is sin to the conservative position. This is a hopeless position to maintain. We would say to the homosexual, “You will live a life of frustration with no chance of God restoring right order to your emotions.” But this is not the message we offer to anyone else. The alcoholic, the adulterer, the liar, the thief — all of these have hopes of moving in the direction of righteousness by training their emotions to align with God’s, but not the gay man.

Because we have learned that some men and women are homosexual through no fault or sin, we are in a better place to understand them than we would have been in the first century AD or any time prior. It’s not that we are functionally any smarter, but we have in fact built up knowledge over time. The ancient people were not stupid, but they did not have the knowledge we have and would have written the Bible in accordance with the way they understood things to be.

If, in fact, homosexuality was a disordered desire which one could rectify with the right sort of heterosexual desire, then I would have no problem saying that homosexuality was a sin. This is the assumption of the Biblical writers, but there is no evidence supporting this position.

I argue that homosexual Christians should learn to order their desires in the same manner as all other Christians, that they express love and commitment alongside any sort of eroticism. That is the Christian ideal for all sexual desire. That is my hope for homosexual Christians, that they are able to live lives where they can express their homosexuality in a healthy manner and in a way which glorifies God.

For us to put forward anything less is to deny the hope of Christ, and no creative reasoning will allow us to escape this conclusion. If there is no right expression of homosexual desire, then there is no hope of restoration.

About Chris Attaway

Chris Attaway is a Christian philosopher seeking to refine the way we live through reasoning and reflection. Be sure to follow his blog, The Discerning Christian, for challenging articles which offer new perspectives on old problems.
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30 Responses to A Christian Defense of Homosexuality

  1. Russell Hemati says:

    Hey, Chris.

    Interesting post, very moderate in tone. I wonder if you would allow me to push your reasoning a little. You say that giving a person no chance of expressing their desires is “hopeless” or in some way unrealistic or (and I gather this from the tone of the post) uncaring. It might be best, you argue, to make room for expressing these desires without calling it sinful. I wonder, though, if there aren’t many counter-examples to this type of argument. Several come to mind:

    1. A spinal injury victim wishes to dance.
    2. A man falls in love with a married woman who reciprocates his ardor.
    3. Someone can only feel happiness while high.

    And so on. All of these cases are tragic. In the first case their desires are IMPOSSIBLE to fulfill. In the third, their desires can only be fulfilled in a way that invokes self-harm. In the second, the man finds himself with no _moral_ way to fulfill his desires.

    Ok, moving on….

    You’ve written elsewhere that you have some doubts about whether the Bible specifically declares homosexual relations sinful, and further whether, even if it did, such moral imperatives are binding on Christians in the 21st century. But what if one were convinced that the Bible does, in fact, claim that homosexual relations are sinful and that the moral imperatives it issues remain binding – in that case, how is this issue different from scenario 2 above? It is very sad. One of life’s true tragedies. It should inspire us all to have great compassion and love toward a person with such desires (like the man in love with a married woman). Their road is hard. But must the morality of the situation depend on whether long-standing deeply-held desires are suppressed or expressed?

    It seems to me that suppression of desire is a useful index for measuring tragic degrees, but not useful for measuring morality.

    That might be the most powerful way of dealing with, as you put it, ordered and disordered loves.

    • Hey Russ, good reply, and I did have such counterexamples in mind (though not those specifically). I could answer each counterexample directly, but perhaps a more general answer is appropriate.

      The problem with your objections is that they deal with what I’ll call higher-order desires. There are many potential sources of happiness and love, and just because someone has fixated for the moment upon a single source of happiness does not mean that they could not eventually reappropriate their desires into something fitting.

      Now of course in cases like point 3, one could draw a comparison to same-sex attraction and say that it’s a result of a particular combination of chemicals in both cases; however, other potential differences aside, cases like #3 involve moral agency. But even then, I am fairly certain that any drug user can eventually come back to a state in which they are no longer dependent on drugs for happiness.

      The Biblical issue is very strange. I find myself wondering about the Bible’s specific moral content more and more while remaining 100% behind what seems to be the driving spirit behind it all. By this I mean that it seems that the authors were writing from behind the veil of all of their culture’s specific prejudices, yet their work is pointing a particular direction, namely toward Christ. I don’t know entirely what to make of this, but I do have another post forthcoming to try to venture into the topic.

  2. Russell Hemati says:

    I like the way you distinguished between a desire for happiness and the component desires that contribute to that happiness. I desire to be happy. Right now that includes sleep and not coffee because I believe (and have good reasons for this belief) that sleep will make me a happier person. A person can say the same thing about sexuality, so I grant that point entirely. You then you mention re-calibration or altering the beliefs about happiness such that they become compatible with present circumstances. This also seems to me to be reasonable and healthy. Spoken like a true virtue ethicist! :-)

    But if one can do so with regard to 3, then why not apply the same theses to homosexual desires?

    Let me see if I can illustrate the issue. Perhaps you are Rhett Butler and have married (due to inappropriate desires for conquest) the tempestuous and irrational Scarlett O’Hara. You have a child together. Due to her near-limitless vanity, she then informs you that she will systematically deny you conjugal rights because she wants to preserve what’s left of her stylish figure. Now let’s set aside what the rakish Mr. Butler actually does and instead let’s pretend that Rhett is now acquiring the virtues (perhaps due to the experience of watching Atlanta burn to the ground). He has a normal desire for sexual intercourse. Furthermore, his desire is (laudably) focused on his wife, who he finds attractive despite her neuroses. Yet all moral opportunity for a healthy sex life is denied him. His options are either become an adulterer (or his several solutions, and their associated controversy), or redirect/recalibrate his desires such that his happiness no longer depends on the whims of an emotionally unfaithful partner.

    We would all celebrate him as a moral icon if he, or anyone, successfully recalibrated in such a way. So then if, and I realize that “if” is one that you are not currently entertaining, believing homosexuals are in the same moral position as Rhett Butler, shouldn’t we offer them the same advice and comfort we would give to Mr. Butler? We wouldn’t tell Butler that in his circumstances, given how unreasonable the demand on him is, he should be free to keep a mistress. Telling him that he shouldn’t keep a mistress isn’t uncaring or judgmental, right? It’s just recognizing the tragedy of the situation.

    Now compare the number of homosexuals with the number of people in sexless marriages. I think you will find that the GLBT community isn’t being singled out for harsh moral teaching. They are actually the minority of people who are told that their desires have no moral outlet.

    • Russell Hemati says:

      And then one day I will be able to write whom instead of who. Sorry!

    • Very interesting scenario which you have posed, here, but once again I think it is more specific than the original argument. As you suggest, there are a number of controversial solutions to Mr. Butler’s predicament, but solving his problem would not solve the issue at stake.

      In yet another strange turn for me toward Thomism, perhaps the fitting distinction to make here is between what is essentially true about desires and what is accidental. In Mr. Butler’s case, it just so happens that he cannot satisfy his marital desires, but it is not necessarily the case. Moreover, his wife is not incapable of changing her mind. In this case, it is accidental, not essential, that Mr. Butler should have no way of reordering his desires.

      By contrast, if the fulfillment of same-sex attraction is sin, then it is now essential rather than accidental that there be no hope of restoring such desires to a right state. Mr. Butler’s situation depends on things which may or may not happen. The fate of someone with same-sex attraction is essentially bound.

      • Russell Hemati says:

        Well, you can imagine what my response would be. If we were to go with Thomism, we would talk about human beings having sexual desires by essence, but to whom they are directed is the accidental part. So it is not essential that they have no hope for a fulfilling sexual relationship, but accidental (since they don’t find people of the opposite sex attractive in that way). I see no reason to make same-sex attraction essential rather than accidental. Keep in mind, many deep-seated abiding characteristics are accidental rather than essential – things like introversion or left-handedness. These things _feel_ essential, but in the Thomistic/Aristotelian scheme they are accidental. Sexual orientation definitely falls on that list. Otherwise homosexuals are different species from heterosexuals. That would be taking xenophobia to a whole new level. :-)

        Keep in mind that the total number of people is statistically small. Depending on the survey, you’ll see between 1-5% of people fall on the homosexual side of the spectrum. Compare – out of the half of marriages that remain intact, nearly 20% are sexless. People upholding traditional morality have to give this advice to A LOT of people. And for everyone who hears it, they have no idea whether their situation is temporary or permanent. The advice is the same. Mr. Butler, to be virtuous, must re-order his desires such that his happiness doesn’t depend on the sexual availability of his wife since a sexual relationship with any other person is forbidden.

      • When I’m talking about what is essential vs. accidental, I am actually referring to the accidental vs. essential nature of the desire. And, of course, I’m using accident/essence loosely to describe the point.

        I mean here that it is essential to same-sex attraction that there be no right/virtuous way of reappropriating the desire under the opposing viewpoint. The plight of a straight man/woman in a sexless marriage is accidental in that we could conceive of a different arrangement of the current world wherein the problem goes away. But there is no such arrangement to deal with same-sex attraction.

        Mr. Butler can cling to hope that his wife one day changes. A gay man abiding by the opposing viewpoint cannot hope for anything in this world with regard to his sexual attraction. It is an essentially hopeless position.

  3. Dave says:

    Chris,

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of a difficult subject. I agree that we as the church have not handled this very well, though that in itself has nothing to do with the issue at hand, whether homosexuality has the possibility of an expression which is legitimate and not sinful.

    There have been some good responses and you have some good conversation with Russell regarding this, so I won’t go into any of that.

    Here are my two problems:

    1) A lot is riding on the assumption that the 1st-century Biblical writers were simply ignorant of what we “enlightened” people now know to be true. That is a big assumption that we cannot at all base our assertions on. Am I to assume that if the World Health Organization declares something, then any Biblical statement is made null and void because we assume that WHO knows more than well-intentioned but ignorant people like the apostle Paul and Moses? That is a dangerous road to travel.

    What if God really does consider it to be sinful, simply based on the fact that it is not the way that HE (not His servants who don’t understand modern science) doesn’t want it to be that way? He obviously designed our bodies in such a way that there IS a “normal.” Nowhere in the Scriptures is it even hinted that anything other than a male-female relationship is the way He intended it to be. And regardless of whether WHO or me or you or anyone else agrees with them, the Scriptures do plainly say that this is sinful in the sight of God (I have heard all the arguments as to why those Scriptures do not say that, and I am not at all convinced).

    What about Jerry Sandusky? He just happens to be unalterably attracted to young boys, which to my knowledge, nobody is defending. But why not? Is he to be denied an appropriate expression of his natural desire for young boys? Sure it is illegal, but the current law is irrelevant, because for that matter, same sex marriage is still not legal in most places, but we are talking about it. So on what grounds do we deny Mr. Sandusky what his nature cannot help but do?

    2) There seems to be another assumption here, that if I have a desire, it should be fulfilled here and now, and in the way that I desire. I don’t find it Biblically unlikely or morally offensive that God would expect us to simply not act on certain desires. The hope of Christ does not hinge on my natural desires being fulfilled. The hope of Christ supercedes my natural desires and fulfills them in a way that I could not imagine on my own. I fully grant that some people have same sex attraction. From my understanding of Scripture and of God’s design, there is no appropriate way to act on that desire. Is it easy? Not at all. Is it unfair or unloving? I don’t think so, not any more than anything else which I put aside in order to find the greater fulfillment in Christ.

    • Several things at place, here. First, I want to distinguish that I do not in any way believe that we here in the modern era are “enlightened,” as you put it. We do know *more*, but we owe that as much to the efforts of the 1st century people as we do to our modern scientists. Knowledge builds and passes down.

      Second, my argument has nothing to do with fulfilling all desires. It is about the ability of God to renew our sinful desires into righteous desires. Sandusky would ostensibly be able to go about reorienting himself toward healthy desire. Furthermore, it is also the case that people with such disordered desires oftentimes possess irregularities in the brain, such as tumors pressing against certain areas. Dealing with such things from an ethical standpoint is far more complicated than I could possibly cover in a comment.

      Lastly, much of your argument depends on the Bible being God’s direct revelation, which, if you will click to the next post, is an idea with many problems. (Russ, if you’re reading this, notice I didn’t say “problematic”)…

    • I recognize the appearance of arbitrariness in distinguishing the unchosen, unchangeable natures of gay men and pedophiles, but there are many enormous and fundamental differences between the two — differences which we may forget when discussing this at a high level.

      The common sense intuition that will almost invariably arise in a gay man when he hears such a comparison is one of utter disgust. He may not have words for his feelings, but I believe he is absolutely right in feeling disgusted that someone like him is being compared to a pedophile. Allow me to give words to those intuitions.

      A pedophile is someone who takes advantage of children. They are too ignorant or weak to resist him/her. A gay man, especially one living the ideal portrayed here, is one who loves just like anyone else, but his love happens to go to other men.

      The difference here is that homosexual orientation does not violate any axioms of being, like personal autonomy, consent, etc. Pedophilia absolutely does. Now of course, such a distinction readily gives rise to polyamory (but not to bestiality as the slippery slope naysayers would have it), but, if we discount the “ick” factor, polyamory has been the standard for most of history. It’s quite a modern bias to say that it’s bad, and I honestly have few tools with which to decry it other than that most of the time that it takes place is within an abusive patriarchy.

      All this to say that there is nothing in homosexuality which inherently denies some fundamental part of being.

      • Ken Nichols says:

        Well, as is the usual case when the subject of pedophilia comes up, the condition is being equated with child molester or abuser. A pedophile is someone who has feelings for children of love and that love contains an element of sexual attraction and desire. They have not taken advantage of anyone because they have not acted upon that desire. Having a desire does not take advantage or hurt anyone. Now, obviously, regardless of consent (more on that below) they cannot fulfill that desire due to societal and legal reasons, and they KNOW this. A MOLESTER is someone who desires to take advantage of a child for their own sexual fulfillment. They don’t LOVE the child, they are USING them. It’s completely different. A molester feeds their desire and wants more, a pedophile usually doesn’t want their desire. It happens unbidden, and they struggle to enjoy interaction with children (which is very fulfilling for them) without doing anything untoward or questionable.

        As to consent, I won’t go into great detail, but let’s say age of consent is a difficult thing to put a finger on accurately. However, here in the US, it’s amazing that we claim that 15-17 year olds are unable to consent went the normal age of marriage was this age until the past couple hundred years.

        Anyway, age of consent aside, pedophiles (not molesters) live a life of frustration. The point of my original argument was that God can manage or change those desires. If he can do that, he can change ANY desire. The argument that it’s “natural” so it should be allowed means nothing to God. IF it’s wrong, then He will provide a way to escape it.

        But again, let me be clear and say I’m not suggesting that LGBT people all DO this. I don’t know that it is “sin”, but beyond the fact that there can be real love involved, it doesn’t seem “profitable”. I guess I would say that it feels to me like the possible negatives outweigh the positives. But that’s MY view. Again, I defer to the Spirit on these matters. If it’s wrong for someone, the Spirit will make that clear AND provide a way of “escape”. I won’t praise OR condemn the practice, but I will love and support the PERSON, no matter what they do.

      • My argument still holds, though, because to enact their desires, they would have to manipulate and abuse another human being. Not so with gays or lesbians. And I have never heard of a life-long pedophile who was not also attracted to people his/her own age, and even then, perhaps hanging out with people one’s own age would engender the right sorts of feelings.

        I don’t know enough about the subject to say too much, but the fact is that no enactment of pedophilia is ordered because they all manipulate children.

      • Ken Nichols says:

        “…because to enact their desires, they would have to manipulate and abuse another human being.”

        So your saying that girls age 14-17 have for thousands of years been manipulated into marriage and having children?

        The problem with pedophilia is it covers a wide range of circumstances, but it’s all lumped together by the law and the public into the equivalent of a bunch of molesters hiding in the bushes at the park.

        It is possible that people who we would give the label of pedophile (well, more likely child molester) could, in fact, be morally in the right in God’s eyes in having a relationship with a young teen if the law and society’s view were different. That’s all I’m saying. The culture says as much about what is “moral” (though their laws and attitudes), maybe even MORE so, than God does. Culture is becoming more lax in regards to homosexuality while the opposite is true in regards to pedophilia and other “unusual” relationships. These things are getting blasted (maybe due to a backlash of collective “guilt” over allowing other morally questionable activities to grow) like never before.

      • I’m not talking about love of teens. In Switzerland, the age of consent is still 16, I believe. In all honesty, teens should be able to get married more easily. We’ve set these artificial boundaries on them and suddenly BAM we have a problem with pregnancy out of wedlock. But that’s a different issue altogether.

      • stasisonline says:

        My comments here are not intended to sanction pedophilia. But I do want to challenge the notion that to enact their desires, a pedophile must manipulate another human being. This notion is widely assumed, and probably often true. But it is not always true. There are teenagers, (some of them young teenagers), who seek out adults (some of whom may be a generation older or more) for sexual interaction. Not all cases of pedophilia are initiated by the adult.

      • Very true. What I am calling “pedophilia” is more akin to sex with pre-pubescent children. For much of human history, sex with teens was totally normal.

  4. Ken Nichols says:

    Just found your blog today, and found it interesting. I agree that mainstream Christianity has treated the LGBT community terribly, very much as the tax collectors of Jesus’ day were treated. I believe that Jesus would do with them just what he did with Zacheus and seek them out to commune with them because, due to the negative feedback from society, they NEED Him even more.

    So, while I feel for them and love them, I had a few problems with your arguments.

    First of all, I believe our desires come from two places. Our own hearts (developed through our experiences and personality) and from God. We know that God can change hearts and the desires of those hearts. IF homosexuality is indeed a sin (and keep in mind it would be a sin no more or less “vile” than any other — all sin is the same to God), wouldn’t it be up to the Holy Spirit to A. point that out to the believer (yes, I say believer because I feel it is the believer whom God works on in regards to sin — the unbeliever is accepted “as is” because of the grace and mercy of God. Now, certainly they should WANT to be sinless (ie. within God’s will), but they have not the means or power to accomplish that WITHOUT the Spirit). and B. to change their heart (as they allow Him control)?

    We hear of these kinds of changes of heart in testimonies all the time — the drug addict or alcholic that suddenly finds the strength to say “no” to their addiction. The man once filled with anger who suddenly finds himself feeling a sense of contentment and peace where strife and anger once reigned. God CHANGES hearts. That’s the business He is in. So, if He wants someone to NOT be homosexual (and they want what God wants), He will make that happen in His good time. However, I will agree that it MAY not be the homosexuality as much as it is the way that it is expressed that is the actual “sin” being commited. I’ll have to leave that up to God to decide.

    You talked about how homosexuality is a sexual desire that isn’t ASKED for and therefore it should be allowed to be expressed in some way to avoid lifelong frustration. I would have to say I disagree with that. There are many sexual desires that people will tell you they “didn’t ask for” and may not even WANT, but they are stuck with them. Pedophilia comes to mind. Many men are plagued with this desire and KNOW it is wrong, but cannot simply “put it out of their minds” any more than people with homosexual desires can. And by pedophila I dont mean just sexual desire, but a genuine LOVE of children that, for some unknown reason, contains a sexual or physical aspect to it. Should THEY be allowed to express these desires? Obviously not. So do they just live in terrible frustration all their lives. Well, many, probably nearly ALL, do. I think what they should do is turn these over to God and ask Him to manage or change them so they do not become a stumbling block to them and they can lead a happy, fulfilled life. This is something GOD can do, but MAN can’t. The same can be done with homosexual desires, and I have heard people who have said they have done this and have been “rescued” from those desires. I’m not saying that EVERY gay person should do that. I don’t pretend to know God’s will for each of His children. I’m just saying it IS possible because God is bigger than our desires.

  5. Tony Listi says:

    Chris, same-sex attraction is a disorder. There is no way to “live lives where one can act upon disordered urges in a healthy manner and in a way which glorifies God.” If someone had an appetite to eat glass or sand, wouldn’t you call that a disorder? There is no way to eat glass or sand in a healthy manner that glorifies God. Both homosexual behavior and eating glass or sand is offensive to the dignity and meaning of the human body-person as He created us, regardless of the urges toward such actions.

    All religion and theology aside, take a look at the medical consequences of homosexual behavior and tell me urges that lead to those consequences are not disordered: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0075.html#05

    • Tony, thanks for your input, but the information you cite here is cherry picked to support a predetermined view handed down by John Paul II. It is not medically accurate and is now outdated. Were homosexuality as bad as eating “glass or sand,” I think the World Health Organization or at least one major health organization would have picked up on it by now. There is no conspiracy to enforce unhealthy practices.

  6. Pingback: A Response: Discerning the Bible’s Stance on Homosexuality | The Discerning Christian

  7. Neil says:

    Just came upon this post but i feel compelled to give all of you my perspective.
    I am a 41-year-old man who was born into a Christian family with pretty conservative beliefs, and grew up deeply loving God and knowing that He loved me. I also grew up being taught that homosexuality was not just a sin, but an abomination. The vehemence with which this was taught to me probably has a lot to do with the fact that my dad was sexually abused on multiple occasions by an older male relative when he was a boy, and whatever he might say to the contrary in polite discourse, in private he has made it clear more than once that in his mind all gay men are sexual deviants who will rape children if they get the chance. He never spent a great deal of time talking about this horrific experience, or about gays in general, but whenever the topic came up his disgust and disapproval could not have been more evident, and he never failed to mention Leviticus 18:22.
    So imagine the pain and horror I felt as an adolescent who began to realize that I had absolutely no sexual attraction for girls. That, in fact, I was exclusively, and strongly, attracted to other boys. Given my upbringing, it is probably no surprise that I tried to deny it. I tried to suppress it. I begged and pleaded and prayed to God to change me, to heal me, to fix me, to just take the desires away. I didn’t understand how this could happen; how He could let this happen to me. I tried every way I could to rationalize it. I tried to hold on to 1 Cor 10:13. I even begged Him to make me feel no sexual desires at all if He couldn’t or wouldn’t make me attracted to girls instead.
    For years this continued. Suppression, repression, whatever you want to call it, and endless–and fruitless–pleading. When I was in college I even tried to fall in love with a female friend of mine and tried to make myself attracted to her, but I knew that I would be relying on her to “save” me, and that ultimately it would not work. I was incapable of being attracted to her no matter how much I loved her, and I did love her very much. Fortunately for both of us, I never even tried to move our relationship beyond friendship.
    But what also continued for years was a mounting frustration. Did God not hear my pleas, or was He simply saying no? And if He was saying no…why? Every attractive guy I saw stirred a reaction in me that I could not help. I could choose not to dwell on it or act on it, but I couldn’t stop the feeling from existing no matter how I tried. This led me to try to channel these feelings and temptations in directions I’m not proud of nor will I go into detail, but I’m pretty sure even heterosexual males will get the gist of what I’m saying.
    After college I tried to distract myself with my career to suppress these desires that would not go away. It was a new distraction and worked to a point for a time, but it didn’t stop my eyes from seeing all the men around me whom I found attractive and it didn’t stop my body from reacting in ways I didn’t want it to, and I just started going back through the same cycle: suppression, mounting frustration, attempts at release, shame, a vow that this time I’d stop, and thus right back to suppression. Except that as the years passed, and again without going into detail, the attempts at release became more self-destructive and therefore the shame more self-loathing, and the suppression more fruitless.
    To say that this led to despair would be an understatement. And to anyone who is inclined to argue that “I didn’t pray hard enough” or “I didn’t try hard enough” or “I failed because I didn’t really mean it” or “I just need to repent,” don’t think I didn’t beat myself up with those same arguments all the time.
    To be clear, the one line I never allowed myself to cross was to engage in sexual acts with another man. I didn’t pursue a relationship because I still had my family’s and church’s views hanging over me, and I was still dealing with the shame, the guilt, the depression, the despair…the utter hopelessness, which Chris alluded to in the original post.
    It’s that hopelessness that has finally pushed me in a new direction. After ten years, I thought I just needed to pray harder or try new things. After twenty years, I was starting to lose hope. Now, about a year ago, I arrived at total hopelessness.
    The only thing I could conclude was that God wanted me to be miserable. Otherwise He wouldn’t have let me be this way, or He would have answered my many pleas to heal me. My younger siblings are all married with children. That’s something I will never have. And if I have to stay true to my longtime commitment not to engage in a relationship with another man, I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life.
    This is not, as Chris points out in many of his responses above, analogous to a straight man who us unlucky in love, because there is at least some kind of hope there. But from everything I have been told all my life, the very kind of person I want to be with is forbidden to me. It’s not that I can’t have a specific person: I can’t have the only kind of person I want. I am only getting older and lonelier, and more hopeless. And for you people who would tell me that God should be enough for me, OK, fine, then why won’t He alleviate my misery in even the slightest? You have not lived this. You don’t have the right to tell me this is not more than I can bear. You’re probably all married, and even if you’re not, you’re at least allowed the kind of person you want to be with, and have some prospect of not being alone. And, Genesis 2:18. In the creation story, we have “it is good, it is good, it is good….” and then finally “it is NOT good for man to be alone.” I know–trust me, I know–that this is in reference to woman. But what am I supposed to do if I have no interest in women that way? In all sincerity, you could put the most beautiful, buxom woman who has ever lived in front of me naked and my only inclination would be to offer her some clothes. So is it good for me to be alone then? Am I just supposed to be alone, no matter how miserable I become? Is that what God wants?
    That’s such a painful, despairing conclusion to reach, and one that I did not want to arrive at. One that I fought for two decades to avoid arriving at. But it became inescapable.
    I’m not going to ask straight men to try to understand what it’s like to be gay, but I want you to try to understand this hopelessness. Imagine not that you were attracted to men, but that heterosexuality was what the church and (possibly) the Bible condemned. For the sake of argument, and to complete your picture of where I and people like me are coming from, let’s put the natural reproductive argument on the table too. Imagine you could only procreate with another man, and that sex with a woman had no reproductive capacity. Try to imagine what your life would be like if Leviticus 18:22 said “do not have sexual relations with a woman….” I realize it’s not the way things are and I’m not trying to pretend otherwise; but just imagine that you, exactly as you are with all your heterosexual desires, were born into such a world and raised in a family and a church in which sexual relations with women were viewed as unnatural and immoral. You have been raised since childhood to believe that men who are attracted to women are deviants. And then you hit puberty and you start developing interest and attraction in the very type of person you’ve been told is forbidden. Imagine becoming an adult and having to fight the allure of every woman around you not to avoid fornication or adultery but because if anyone in your family or church knew that you were attracted to women, they would at best view you as a sinner in need of repentance and at worst reject you out of hand as a perverted deviant who wants to rape children. Imagine that your best option, according to “compassionate” Christians, is to just live a life of celibacy, and that you have no prospect of being with the only kind of person you are capable of desiring.
    Imagine the pain and despair you would feel, especially those of you who have what I hope are wonderful, loving relationships with a woman, if this was your world. That has been my world for the last few decades. Can you blame me for despairing?
    I don’t pretend to have any answers. All I know is that this position has become untenable for me. I would love to believe that maybe there is some way that I can have a relationship with another man that could be honoring to God, but I don’t know if I can be convinced that it’s possible. I don’t know that I can’t be convinced, either. All I know is that I’m struggling hard, wrestling with my own faith, wrestling with what I believe, and very tentatively trying to consider the possibility that maybe God doesn’t want me to be miserable and alone and maybe there is a way for me to be with another man. Because the alternative is a crushing despair that I just cannot cope with any more.
    But even if I somehow come to peace with this and can become convinced that God maybe does have a man for me, the prospect of trying to tell my family and friends any of this is just about impossible. My dad would disown me and feel like he failed me as a father. My mom would be heartbroken–she’d still love me, but she’d never, ever be able to accept it and would constantly be praying for my healing and repentance. My siblings would be in the same boat as my mom; except that my brother’s wife, who shares my dad’s belief that all gays are deviants who want to rape children, would tearfully refuse to let me see my nieces and nephews. Without going into detail, I’d probably even lose my job, which I am very good at and is something that I genuinely believe God put me on this Earth to do–and no, it’s not a church-related job; but yes, my termination would be legal. Even if I wasn’t terminated, I might simply feel there was no viable option but to leave voluntarily.
    So Chris, thank you for a thoughtful and truly compassionate post, and one that I am going to have to ruminate on for a while. I want to be convinced by your arguments but I also don’t want to be falsely convinced. And for those Christians who think you’re being “compassionate” by telling people like me that you hate the sin but love the sinner, or even that you know the church has treated us wrong but no matter how sad it is, there’s just no way for us to have a righteous relationship with the only kind of person with whom we are capable of desiring, consider how much damage your “compassion” can do to people who, if they are struggling gay Christians like me, are already in more pain and torment than you probably know.

    • Matt says:

      My suggestion is that you should probably try to seek out a relationship with a man while you still can. No guarantee of success, of course, but you’ll probably regret it for the rest of your life if you leave it too long. I’m so sad to hear how depressing your family’s views have been… you need to understand that it is natural and denying your urges will make you even more upset, I think.

      Are you a teacher, by any chance? Sometimes they have ambiguous “morality” clauses in the contracts which can be twisted to fire anyone they don’t particularly like and still have it technically legal, up to a point.

      Hate the sin, love the sinner is nonsense and a complete lie. They hate the sinner too, believe me. How well do you know your brother’s wife? If you know her well enough that you’re on really good terms, you might be OK coming out to her, but I’d probably avoid it, at least for now. Good luck with whatever you decide to do, and remember that if you’re having serious struggles with your faith, it might be time to move on – no-one really knows whether a deity exists or not, so if it makes you feel better to renounce your faith, do it for your sanity!

    • Matt says:

      One other thing I forgot to add: people’s perception of homosexuals can change based on them knowing one well enough to see they’re perfectly normal people. A recent poll showed that the biggest factor in making people look more favourably upon gay people and be more inclined to support gay marriage when they didn’t before is having friends and family that are gay. I don’t suggest you come out if you fear for your job and family contact etc., but it might do some good to say you have a gay friend who is nothing like those nasty stereotypes; he’s actually a nice guy. The link between paedophilia and homosexuality was fabricated to push an agenda against adoption and teaching etc. by gays, and it was debunked; the “family” groups that continue to use this data even after it was debunked have thoroughly earnt their designation as hate groups.

  8. Neil says:

    I’m struggling but I’m not ready to renounce my faith. Even if no one *knows* God exists, faith is being certain of what you hope for, and I certainly hope God exists. But if He does, I wish He would either help me overcome these desires, which I have asked Him to do countless times, or make it clear to me that the reason He hasn’t done so is because there’s nothing wrong with them.

    As for my job, you’re near enough the mark, though I still prefer not to be specific. But again, even if my employer chose not to terminate me outright–which is more than possible, because I am very well-respected and I am very good at what I do–there’s a distinct possibility that customers would put pressure on them to do so, and my relationship with those I serve could be severely damaged. While it’s not fair to say that I have lied to them for many years, because it’s not like I’ve ever told my employers or customers I was straight, because I just don’t discuss such things at all with them, I could easily see them feeling like I’ve had false pretenses, and there could be a breach of trust that might prove irreparable, hence my statement that I might just end up leaving voluntarily. It’s more than just that the situation would be uncomfortable. My ability to do my job, which relies on trust, could be damaged.

    As for coming out to my family, until and unless I have a relationship with a man, there is far more risk than benefit to doing so. I hear what you’re saying about people’s perception of homosexuals. My other brother’s wife (not the one I alluded to above) and my sister both have a few friends who are gay, and while they’re perfectly civil to them and don’t beat them over the head with the Bible or anything like that, they’ve both talked to their friends about their views because in their minds those people are bound for hell and therefore not talking to them is far less loving than acting as if they think it’s ok. They’re still friends, but don’t see each other much, and I know from conversation with my sister and sister-in-law that they pray for their friends to see the light and repent. If it were me instead of these friends of theirs, on top of all that there would be massive heartbreak. I know, without doubt, that coming out to my family would break their hearts. So I’m also stuck with a choice of living with my own heartbreak or inducing it on my entire family.

    And that, by the way, includes my entire extended family, some of whom have even more extreme beliefs than my immediate family. I have a doting aunt who might literally die of a heart attack from the shock and pain of finding out that I’m gay. You might argue that if she dotes on me surely she wouldn’t react that way; but she’s one of the most extreme of all of them, and she’s actually said to me, obviously not knowing that I’m gay, that homosexuality is an unforgivable sin because it’s self-destructive (as if all sin isn’t) and goes against nature (ignoring the Biblical explicit that sin IS human nature), and people who commit it are irredeemable. To be clear, I’m still not convinced either way whether homosexuality is a sin; in the previous sentence, I’m expressing her views (and, parenthetically, my own understanding of real sin, which may or may not include homosexuality). I forget how she “reasoned” it out, but she equates homosexuality with blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It’s easy for Christians with less extreme (and even by the rest of my family’s standards, totally unbiblical) views to dismiss her views as lunacy; and easy for those advocating that homosexuality is perfectly acceptable to suggest I just cut her off or not worry about her reaction. But this is a person I grew up loving to death, and who loves me to death, and while I have no trouble dismissing her views as lunacy (she has many other unrelated views that I also dismiss as such), I can’t so easily dismiss her as a person.

    I’m struggling, and looking for the truth. Neither side has convinced me that it has it. I’ve obviously been raised on one side and would love for the other to be right. But I can’t simply go with what “feels right.” To be honest, nothing feels right anyway. One side feels less painful, but that doesn’t necessarily make it right. Neither does it make it wrong. I’m far less familiar with the arguments from that side, and I’m trying to understand them. But like I said in my original post, I don’t want to be falsely convinced. The side I come from will cling to the Bible and those verses which at least appear to condemn homosexuality. But the same book that says that a man lying with another man is an abomination also says that eating seafood other than fish with scales is an abomination. How many of you have committed that abomination? (And yes, I’m aware of Peter’s vision in Acts 10.) It also says that eating most insects and things that swarm on the ground is an abomination. Does that mean that in cultures and countries where such things are dietary staples, those people have all committed abominations just by doing what they need to do to survive? How many Christians fail to keep the fourth commandment? Or the fifth? Or the seventh–by Jesus’s standards, meaning that you have never lusted after another woman? I’m not saying all this as a way to justify myself or condemn other Christians. I’m saying this to point out that we all struggle, and that we all have parts of the Bible we don’t know exactly what to do with. The Bible has certainly been used to justify things in the past that we now all (hopefully) agree it never justified. Slavery in America. Banning of interracial marriage. Racism in general. People used the Bible to argue for all those things. You might argue–and I’d agree–that the Bible was abused, not used, to defend such things. The cultural context of the Bible has to be considered, and that’s one reason why I’m willing to consider the possibility that perhaps the apparent condemnations of all homosexuality are only apparent and not actual, and that it’s not all homosexuality but that which is coerced or is associated with pagan worship that is being condemned. I’m willing to consider, but I’m by no means convinced.

    One thing I think we can all agree on is that the church as a whole has done an absolutely terrible job with this issue. I think we can also agree that, given current cultural trends, the issue is not going away. It’s only getting larger and more visible. If the Truth is that homosexuality is not inherently sinful, the church had better figure that out quickly and start to try to reverse the centuries of damage it has done. If the Truth is that homosexuality is a sin, then the church still better figure out how to reach out and help people like me with more than Bible-bashing, meager platitudes, fruitless attempts to “heal” us, double-edged “compassion,” and the most damnable of all, the general attitude of “if I ignore your problems they will go away.” The church is rapidly losing relevance in western culture at large, and like it or not, this issue is one of the reasons. There’s an entire generation of secular (AND Christian, by the way) young people coming up who shrug and shake their heads, wondering why in the world anyone would make such a big deal out of it if two men love each other and want to be together. Whether they’re right or wrong I don’t claim to know, but either way, the church needs to get its act together with whichever is God’s will–truth and acceptance; or truth, real compassion and real support–or become even more marginalized in our culture than it already is.

    • Samuel says:

      Patience.

      • Neil says:

        Not sure what you’re saying about patience, and hoping you meant it as an attempt at solidarity and that you don’t mean what I’m afraid you mean.

        I’ve been advised in anonymous online discussions by “compassionate” Christians who disapprove of homosexuality that I just need to “be patient” and “let go and let God” and even “stop whining.” I’m sorry, but after 20 plus years of struggle and frustration and beseeching prayer with not even the slightest result, the idea that anyone could accuse me of being impatient or whining is just plain offensive; as if they understand and can easily dismiss the massive spiritual and psychological and emotional struggle every single day has been for me. I understand that every Christian struggles with sin, but this is just not the same thing.

        What straight Christians who disapprove of homosexuality never seem to understand, even those who don’t demonize it the way some do but instead dismiss it as “just another sin” comparable to heterosexual lust, is that if they are right, and any type of homosexual behavior is a sin, then people like me are made in a fundamentally broken way that we have no hope of fixing or changing. I understand that in Christ we are a new creation, but if that’s your argument to me, then you’re either telling me that i’m not really a Christian, which you have no business doing; or you’re forced to agree with my conclusion that God either can’t or won’t change me.

        The problem with dismissing it as “just another sin” is that if it’s a sin, it’s not “just another one.” I don’t mean it’s somehow a “worse” sin like some people seem to believe; I mean that if it’s a sin, it leaves gay people in a position in which the way they were born guarantees that they can never have sexual fulfillment (a natural and inevitably human desire) without sin. Obviously straight people experience lust too. But the difference is that there is a proper place and outlet for those heterosexual desires that can lead to lust, and in the view I was raised with, there is no such proper place or outlet for my desires. And telling me that yes there is–with a woman (something I’ve also been told in anonymous online discussions)–illustrates total misunderstanding at best and rank insensitivity at worst. Either way, it’s far from compassion. It’s akin to telling a person who is parched with thirst that they should be able to slake their thirst by eating a piece of dried toast.

        After the recent SCOTUS decisions about gay marriage, on my local news they had people from both sides of the debate, and this Christian woman who was very upset said, “In their hearts, they know they are engaging in shameful behavior.” No, I don’t think they do. That’s not to say that many gay people aren’t engaging in shameful behavior, but so are many straight people. In fact, many more straight people are, given the simple statistic that there are more straight people than gay people. The notion that heterosexual fornication is somehow “better” than homosexual behavior is absurd on the face of it, though many Christians in America seem to hold that very view in that they casually dismiss shameful behavior when committed by heterosexuals. How many Christians have written indignant letters to the producers of TV shows or movies that depict heterosexual sin? Let’s face it, almost every TV show that exists these days depicts it regularly. In my own family, my father continues to watch programs and movies that depict heterosexual sin (though he does not watch any in which that is the main thrust of the show) but on multiple occasions has stopped watching a show that had one episode with gay people in it, even when no sexual acts were depicted. How many fast food companies have Christians rallied behind because they took a moral stand against heterosexual sin? For that matter, how many companies with Christian CEO’s have even bothered to take any kind of stand against heterosexual sin? But would that same distraught Christian woman say that heterosexual fornicators, or even those who just watch depictions of them and shrug them off as the norm in entertainment, “know they are engaging in shameful behavior?” They surely are engaging in such behavior, by most Christian standards. But I don’t hear all the moral outrage about it. Or about anything else for that matter, except maybe abortion. Pretty hard to convince anyone that you “hate the sin but love the sinner,” or even that such is possible, when the thing you spend as much time railing against as homosexuality is the murder of unborn children, effectively equating the two in terms of how evil and vile you think they are.

        This is the kind of thinking that has to change, no matter what the truth is.

        If homosexuality is not a sin, then Christians are themselves committing a terrible and cruel sin by the way they have treated gay people. If homosexuality is not a sin, then the way Christians have argued against it is akin to the “biblical” argument that dark skin was the curse of Ham, and thus black people are inferior to the white race. Modern, genuine Christians would now recognize this argument as the repugnant fallacy that it is; but that doesn’t change the fact that this was a real argument made by real (and probably genuine) Christians in real history. If homosexuality is a sin, then by all means Christians should not condone it, but neither should they vilify it any more than they do any other sins; and they had better figure out a better approach than the ones they’ve been using to actually help people who struggle with it. Because advising “patience” to someone who has lived with nearly non-stop inner turmoil and constant frustration and been given nothing but silence from God about it (not about other things, to be clear; God has spoken to me about many other things) is of no help whatsoever. It’s only a crushing reminder of years spirit-wrenching pain so deep that it is almost physical; of torment and self-loathing and tearful, bottom-of-the-pit prayers that have been met with resounding silence. You try living with that for two decades and see how well you respond when someone tells you that you just need to be patient, or stop whining, or just give it up to God, as if I haven’t tried to do just that hundreds of times.

        Samuel, if you were not advising “patience” in the way it has been advised to me before I apologize for getting so worked up. Even if you were advising it in that way, I still apologize, because I know you meant well; but I also couldn’t let it slide because if I did you’d have no idea how much pain that type of advice causes.

        I’m still not sure where I stand. What I do know in my heart, to appropriate the woman on the news’s phrase, is that God loves me and that He does not want me to be the miserable wreck I have been for two decades. And I also know (in my heart) that I am physically and psychologically and in every imaginable way incapable of being attracted to women. And for the first time in my life, I am seriously considering the possibility that those two statements are not mutually exclusive. I also know that considering this as a possibility has quieted my mind and given me a peace I have rarely known. Yet I’m still not sure where I stand, because this is not something I want to be wrong about. Certainly, finding this post (and others I’ve found elsewhere) has helped me in my consideration of what, to me, are new ideas.

        At the very least, I am starting to think that maybe God wants to use me to help Christians understand gay people better. And I don’t know whether the purpose is to start showing Christians that homosexuality is not necessarily always a sin; or if it is a sin, to show them that their compassion for those who struggle with it is shamefully and inexcusably lacking. Either way, it’s a terrifying prospect for me outside of the anonymity of the internet. Either way, I will covet the prayers of anyone who has read any of my posts and felt even a measure of compassion for me, no matter which side of the issue you fall on.

    • Kerrie-Anne says:

      I’m so so sorry that you have been and are still going through this hell. Just want to give you a virtual hug right now :(

      Here are a couple of other great resources as you journey on in your view of how God loves, and how we should love.

      http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/five-verses-god-has-tattooed-on-my-heart-1-1-corinthians-128/ – Morgan Guyton writes not only about homosexuality here, but about 1 Cor. and “the despised ones”. It’s beautiful and personal.

      http://www.jmm.org.au/articles/30192.htm – this website has numerous interesting articles that discuss both sides of the argument.

      I don’t buy the idea that gays should just repress their natural desires, as if they are in the same position as anyone else with a culturally designated “evil” desire.

      Christianity is currently going through a massive reframing of doctrines of revelation and inspiration, and the sooner we embrace it, the better for all of us. The law in any shape does not lead to freedom, unless it is the higher “law” of love – and this is really a law in the sense of essence, of who God is. Our doctrines have become yokes and burdens on people that are impossible to bear. Jesus claims that his burden is light. It is freedom. The cross he calls us to bear is one of solidarity with those who are condemned and proclaimed outcast by society.. Jesus was a condemned criminal in the Roman empire. When he said “take up your cross” I’m sure that’s what his hearers understood, not just some spiritual, personalised idea. We are to gravitate towards people in his position, the scapegoats of society who are unjustly accused. I believe LGBTI people are such scapegoats; of our need for certainty, of our need for conformity, and our distrust and hatred of the other. [You may also like to look at some of the work by scholars applying the ideas of Rene Girard, his mimetic theory.. particularly James Alison, a gay Catholic theologian. So much freedom there.. here’s a good start: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/encounter/james-alison-sexuality-certainty-and-salvation/2961012#transcript%5D.

      I believe as Christians we should be standing by you in solidarity, not making your life a living hell. WE (the church) are the ones responsible for this suffering Neil. Not God. Not you. WE are the satan in this case. I am so sorry.

      • Neil says:

        Thank you, Kerrie-Anne, for your loving post. You made me tear up with your obviously very genuine compassion (and your virtual hug). Having a sister in Christ who seems to actually understand and appreciate how hard it is being a gay Christian–how hard other Christians make it–means a lot to me.

        Thank you also for some interesting and helpful links. It’s still hard, after a lifetime of being raised one way and surrounded by family and friends who think that way, for me to think in new ways; but as I have explored these ideas, I have been able to find more peace than I have had in 20 years. I still feel the need to proceed cautiously, but I am becoming more open to the idea that maybe God never “healed” me all those times I asked Him because there was nothing that needed healing.

        You don’t seem at all like someone who would have any personal part in the way the church has treated gay people, and I have never met you before so there is no way you could have ever done any wrong by me personally, but since you started and ended your post with “I am sorry,” I want you to know that I forgive you for whatever makes you inclined to include yourself in the “WE (the church)” for whom you are apologizing. I have never met you, sister, but I love you. Your love and compassion touch me deeply. Thank you again.

  9. Pingback: Homosexuality and Fornication: Bedfellows? | The Discerning Christian

  10. Sher says:

    I believe Jesus loves all–wasn’t he the one who spoke to the crowd prepared to stone a woman adulteress ans asked who could cast the first stone without sin? God is about love and two people who love each other in a committed relationship of fidelity, trust and care are the things that God expects of us all. Love is not wrong– and the love of two people regardless of sex is what the teaching of Christ is about. Homosexuals deny the church because it is a hypocrisy– I will pray for you but will never understand or accept your deviant behaviour– I will allow you to seek salvation in my church knowing you are damned if you do not convert! Until Christians truly become Christians who do not use moral compasses of their own to judge others–homosexuals will not ever feel welcomed in the organized religions that claim they have progressed. The celebration of Christ and his teachings will continue in shadows instead of the glass stained windows of a place of worship. It is sad for a segment of God’s children that this celebration cannot be with a congregation of the diverse world that was created by our King. It’s sad for all Christians really–since it pushes people into believes of atheist and agnostics and segregates the children of God into classes by virtue of sin. Not what I believe are the teachings of Christ at all.

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