Disclaimer: I’m sorry this is abnormally long. The opinions here, as always, are mine alone. Please don’t blame anyone else associated with me. Blame me, but know I’m still growing up, too.
You should know, though, that I’m not the only one thinking this way. Maybe God is teaching us all something, starting with humility.
I showed this very long blog post to a friend last night. I wanted him to critique it, because he’s one of the most thoughtful people I know on issues of sexuality. He’s what other people would call a “gay Christian”, though he would never use that phrase, and I won’t, either.
After reading, he said: “I love this!!” and “Hold on, because you’re going to get blasted from both sides.”
I know. Such is the danger of saying anything. Some will pore over this, reading only enough to see if I’m on their “team”. I know how this goes. If I don’t keep to an accepted line of thinking, I’m immediately a bigot, or a liberal, or just a weirdo.
Personally, I’m going with “weirdo”, but I’m sure I’ll get plenty of the other two.
Because – get this: I don’t believe in “heterosexuals” or “homosexuals”.
The identities haven’t helped us, they’ve hurt. They don’t reflect sociological or theological reality. They lead to further confusion, not clarity. I don’t see people that way anymore. I suggest you don’t, either.
I believe in human beings, made in the image of God. Our identities ultimately rest in Him. There is nothing higher, and anything less is… less. Because I believe in Him, and because I believe He made you in His image, that is how I must see you.
I often converse about these things with friends, but haven’t previously written about it. This is primarily due to fear. Not fear that I’ll be attacked (that’s a given in my field) but fear that I won’t be fair – that I can’t be fair – to everyone in a mere blog post. The church simply has a horrific history of its treatment of people when it comes to sex.
(Lord, please help me lighten burdens, not add them. I don’t want to use my platform to cause harm. I want people to look past my flailing attempts and somehow see you.)
While you may identify as gay or homosexual, I respectfully don’t think Jesus sees this as your identity. And I don’t think Jesus sees me as a heterosexual. You’re more than this, and I am, too. In fact, my own sexual orientation is sinful. I certainly don’t want to be defined by it.
Since God does not define us by our sexual desires, I won’t either. I wish my Christian brothers and sisters would resist doing so, too, both the ones on the right and the left.
I’ll now start the usual questions that come up in discussions with my friends (many of whom identify or have identified as “gay”.)
Q: So are you saying there are no homosexuals? How is that possible?
Clearly, there are men who are attracted exclusively to men, and women to women.
I just don’t think our sexual desires define us. It’s a relatively new idea that they can, as a matter of fact. The labels “homosexual” and “heterosexual”, as identities, reach back only to the late 1800s.
Doesn’t the Bible talk about “homosexuals”, though?
No, not in the original language. The term didn’t exist.
The Bible does not affirm sex between men or between women. It forbids it. But it actually makes no mention of homosexual as an identity, or heterosexual, for that matter.
In general, though, don’t you think that homosexuality as an orientation is sinful, whereas your orientation isn’t?
No, I don’t.
And this is one of the problems with the homo/hetero business. While people like me can use orientation-as-identity as a point of self-righteous pride (after all, I’m a “heterosexual”) it really obscures the brokenness of my own orientation.
You see, my orientation is sinful. It turns out that, by my very nature, I’m not just attracted to one woman. My orientation, my “direction”, like every other man I know, disposes me to desire humans who are off-limits.
I have a polygamous orientation. Polygamy is not God’s plan for sexuality. The Bible never condones it or affirms it, and only pictures it in horribly negative terms.
But weren’t “heroes” of the Bible polygamous?
Sure. And when they gave in to the desires of their polygamous orientation, it was invariably a disaster.
Like Abraham, who took a servant for a wife and fathered a child with her. Remarkably, the modern world is still reverberating.
But desiring more than one woman in your lifetime is only natural!
Sure, if you want to call it that. And sinful, too, since we live in a fallen world. But sure enough, that’s my very orientation, my direction.
Point is, the idea that my particular orientation is God’s Perfect Design for Man isn’t true. I have to deny my own very natural impulses and desires, and subjugate them to what God wants for my sexuality.
And you know what? I’d rather not let that polygamous orientation be my very identity, because it’s not my identity.
God formed me; He gets to form my identity.
Not you, not me, not a pollster or a political cause or a religious big shot or even Sigmund Freud.
Do you think people are “born this way”?
My friends who have identified as homosexual did not choose it. They found themselves attracted to the people of the same sex at an early age. I’m with the APA on this one:
Currently there is a renewed interest in searching for biological etiologies for homosexuality. However, to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse.
I don’t know what causes it. Again, we humans are marvelously complex.
I’ve actually seen, though, through many of my friends who’ve had to deal with this, that God has been glorified in their lives precisely because their response to the challenges they’ve faced that I’ve never had to face.
But you’re saying people will have sexual desires that should go unfulfilled. That seems cruel.
I humbly disagree. Living with unfulfilled desires is utterly and universally human. Not just sex; all sorts of deep drives and desires. All of us, in all eras.
But we are the ones, not God, who have decided that life without sex simply isn’t worth living.
We are the ones, not God, who have elevated romance to the level of ultimate relationship.
We are the ones, not God, who have made sex into The Thing Without Which Life Has No Meaning.
We did that. Not God.
We did that …because we worship sex. Or, perhaps more accurately, we worship erotic freedom. And if we worship something, we simply can’t imagine life having meaning without it. That’s the very nature of worship. False gods, like the real one, are jealous.
But that’s our view, not God’s. What’s more, for the Christian, sex is only a foretaste of the union we’ll experience in the Kingdom. It’s a shadow of something indescribably better.
Doesn’t the conservative church buy into this lie, that sex or romance or marriage is the Ultimate?
Yes. And I love these fake interviews of myself because I always ask the right question for the next thing I wanted to say.
The churches I’ve experienced have treated singlehood like an aberration. We have led the way for a major error in our culture’s thinking, that being single means pure loneliness. In fact, this very lie was repeated by Justice Kennedy in the majority opinion in Obergefell: Without marriage, singles are “condemned to live in loneliness.”
This is false, but in this Kennedy seems to agree with something the American church has largely taught, contrary to the Bible. Singlehood in the Bible isn’t just “allowed”, it’s a preferential option.
I love what Christopher Yuan and Rosario Butterfield (both have identified in their lives as gay) wrote in response to the court’s decision, and the church’s longstanding denigration of single-hood: “Singles can have intimate and fulfilling relationships full of love. This is not a consolation prize. It can be just as rewarding and fulfilling as marriage.”
Our culture deems this a lie. Our culture is wrong.
That’s easy for you to say, you’re happily married.
Sure. I’m also the child of multiple divorces. I’m the friend of many divorced people, and others in desperately lonely marriages. Like anyone reading this, I know single people who’d love to be married, and married people who’d love to be single.
Here’s a little secret: Romance doesn’t solve much of anything. It’s oversold.
The same thing goes for sex. It’s another little secret: If you worship sex, you can have the “best” sex life in the world, in or out of marriage, and you will be simultaneously drowning in despair.
Sex is a gift, but it’s not to be made ultimate, either. If it is made ultimate, it’ll always be a rope-a-dope, a punch to the gut. It’ll always be a promise, and never fully deliver. Because we weren’t made for it, it was made for us, and we can live – even thrive – without it.
But that’s cultural heresy.
Yeah, but people started running for their torches WAY earlier in this blog post.
Okay, how would you handle this: You know a guy who’s spiritual mature, but is attracted to men. So would you be friends with him, as peers?
I do. Not only that, I’d let him disciple me. In a heartbeat.
The question is, as always, “Is Jesus Lord?” And that means Lord over all, including our sexuality.
Some will say, “Jesus is Lord”, but they will reserve that area, their sex life, from God’s authority. Some will do it with other things, like money. There was a rich young man for whom THE issue was money, and Jesus called him on it. The scripture says he “walked away sad.”
He wouldn’t make Jesus the Lord of that area. The scripture also says Jesus loved him, anyway.
Why do you think the hetero-homo identities have stuck and been so powerful?
I think the identities have served the purposes of both self-righteous religious and secular folk on the political right and the political left (which also includes self-righteous religious and secular folk.)
The construct has historically allowed both religious and secular “heterosexuals” to feel morally superior.(Example: “I may cheat on my wife, but at least I’m not a homosexual.”) It’s a way to bash other people, make them feel like their brokenness is particularly disgusting.
The left, by its very nature, is primarily concerned with politics, and encouraging people to identify based on sexual desires serves political ends.
This is clearly summarized all too quickly, but my point is this: The reigning homo/hetero construct has fans in both camps. It serves their purposes. For that reason, I expect many to resist what I’m advocating here.
I hurt for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are attracted to the same sex and have been mocked and abused and marginalized and condemned. I can’t think about it without crying. Right now, I’m thinking about a friend of mine who found himself, as a boy, attracted to other boys. He was distraught, and sought a priest in his church, who had advertised his services as a counselor for young people struggling with homosexuality.
Within ten minutes, my friend says, he was being molested by that priest.
My friend is a follower of Jesus, and he is my brother. I have other friends like him, and they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. The issue isn’t sexual desire; the issue is, as always: Is Jesus Lord? Lord of everything, even our sex lives? Is God allowed to put limits on our own erotic freedom?
I believe people are not the sum of their sexual desires (at least I hope they’re not, for all of our sakes.) To do so is simply too reductive. We are more.
You say the false gay/straight identity construct hurts us in other ways. Like what?
Among other things, we don’t even know how to have deep, abiding, same-sex friendships anymore. Our culture has lost the concept, entirely.
I know men who deeply yearn for these connections, but we don’t have a way of meeting that yearning that doesn’t fairly scream “That’s gay.”
This is a tragedy, and books could be – and have been – written about this.
Here’s another strange result of this culturally lie we’re operating under: We’re actually forcing children to decide if they’re homosexual or heterosexual. Why are we doing this?
Why are we so simplistic? Sexuality is too weird, too wonderful, and too complex for this. An eight year-old declares that he’s gay? Really? Why can’t he just be an eight year-old?
So you’re a girl who finds another girl attractive? Okay. But you shouldn’t have to figure out what sort of creature you are, what identity box you should be placed in. It’s all very, very odd.
Do you see why it could be so hurtful when someone suggests that a same-sex relationship, wherein two people love each other, is somehow completely invalid?
Absolutely, I do. I don’t think it’s fair. All of our relationships are a mix of things.
Again, as someone who sees the Bible never affirming sex between two men or two women, I’m obviously hoping we can create space for deep, abiding love relationships among men, and among women, that aren’t genital relationships.
As it is now, we can’t even seem to handle deep friendships, or having two guys or two women live together, without applying a ridiculous stigma.
Does it bother you when people around you in our culture are in same-sex sexual relationships?
It’s actually none of my business. My view of sexuality, based on my understanding of the purpose of sex, God’s very nature, and the authority of the Bible, is not widely held in our culture. It’s a peculiar view.
In our culture, the idea that someone would forego erotic freedom as an act of worship and obedience to God is very strange, indeed. It’s alien.
That the prevailing cultural attitude of the West regarding sex, and what it is for, is not a Biblical one should not be shocking.
Like I say: We’re a peculiar people. But you know what? We’re supposed to be. Christianity thrives when it is out of power, I’ve noticed. It suffers when it attempts to forcibly dictate morality on others.
We’re called to serve a Kingdom that is greater, and believe that in the end God will reward faithfulness. This makes no sense to people who cannot see the Kingdom, because they have not been born again. I don’t expect them to understand.
I don’t begrudge people because of their sex lives. Just the opposite. I’m rooting for them. I’m rooting for me, too. I’m a mess. God help us all.
I would hope that people who disagree with me (those who reject the Bible outright or who think that the Bible does affirm sex between men or between women) could still at least respect my convictions. I believe sex is reflection of God’s image, both male and female.
This view does not constitute hatred, or a phobia. I realize, though, I will stand accused anyway.
And you know what? I don’t think it’s fair, but I can understand where the emotion is coming from. For so long, people have faced such complete rejection, and they’ve been rejected by people who would agree with me in my last paragraph. Again, it’s not fair, but I understand what I think is driving the emotion.
Sounds like you’re saying church should operate as an outpost of the Kingdom, embedded within the borders of a culture that considers it alien, living as an example.
You say God will reward faithfulness. What do you mean?
I mean we’re all given varying challenges in life. We’ve all got our stuff. And God promises a reward for faithfulness. We don’t know exactly what it looks like.
I just have a personal hunch that people who have endeavored to live celibate lives, and still have faced hatefulness and rejection at the hands of the church, are in line for a bigger reward than me.
I’ve had to deny my sexual desires in life, but I’ve never faced anything like that. I tend to pull for underdogs and outliers, and I think Jesus-following people who choose celibacy, in this culture, are fascinating.
What would you say to someone, right now, who’s offended by this idea you’re advocating, that the “hetero” and “homo” identities are false and destructive, and that the Bible prohibits sex outside of male/female marriage?
I’d ask someone to think it over. Sometimes, what seems absurd at first can start to make sense, later.
But I’d also ask people to be patient with me. I know I don’t have all the answers. Humility is something, I’m afraid, that’s sadly missing on all sides of the debate.
As I’ve said, I do think it would make life easier to simply dismiss anyone who disagrees with me of having a phobia, being a bigot, or of being a liberal. It shortcuts actual thinking, and certainly shortcuts grace.
We can avoid cognitive dissonance this way, but we sure won’t ever be much of a community.
Ultimately, I hope our prayer is for God to grow us all into His truth. We should at least be able to pray that together. I’m praying it. I’d ask that you please join me.
Last question: Are homosexuals going to be in Heaven?
And neither are heterosexuals.
In Heaven, there will be humans, stripped of our fake selves and our false identities… washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.
And if this is how God wants to see us, it’s how I want to see us, too.