Love Is An Action: Chicago Pride

Fun Fact and Disclaimer:
The first draft of this post was written on an Amtrak train from Chicago to Grand Rapids. In some ways, the following post is a continuation of two posts that I wrote five years ago, which were also drafted on an Amtrak train departing out of Chicago. Read Part One and Part Two here.

I recognize that there are some things I wrote within those two posts that I would probably say differently if I were writing them today, but that’s because I, like I imagine most of you, have had several experiences since then which have challenged and informed my thinking.

This past weekend, I attended Chicago’s Pride Parade with my partner, Joe. On Sunday, hundreds of thousands gathered in Boystown, Chicago to celebrate. The atmosphere was full of excitement given the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that made marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states.

I have thought about and come this close to attending Chicago’s Pride Parade for each of the last 5 years. In 2010, The Marin Foundation launched their “I’m Sorry Campaign,” apologizing to the LGBT community for the ways Christians have dehumanized, disrespected, and hurt sexual and gender minorities.

My journey to reconcile what it means to follow Jesus as a man with a  gay sexual orientation has taken years of conversations, prayer, and study. The work of The Marin Foundation and the book Love Is an Orientation, by Andrew Marin, made a large impact on me. No other book besides Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill has made a greater impact in how I am able to process what it means for me to identify as a gay Christian within a traditional Christian context.

Just weeks after I finished reading Andrew Marin’s book, this blog post went viral and the “I’m Sorry Campaign” was born.

Over the years, I have had off-and-on contact with The Marin Foundation and even road-tripped to Chicago once to attend one of their “Living In The Tension” gatherings. I greatly appreciate the ways that they try to bridge the gap between conservative churches and the LGBT community so that relationships can be formed and healthy dialogue can occur. Christians and LGBT folks frequently speak past one another, making sweeping generalizations about each other which sends dialogue down the drain. The Marin Foundation has made it their mission to “elevate the conversation” so that these two groups of people can move from talking past one another to talking with one another.

The “I’m Sorry Campaign” is a way that The Marin Foundation has sought to publicly elevate the conversation by doing something that is sorely needed, apologizing to the LGBT community on behalf of the church.

As someone who personally sits at the intersection of the LGBT and conservative Christian communities, I have felt for a long time that I can help build bridges between the two. So this year, I finally made plans and followed through with participating in the “I’m Sorry Campaign” at Chicago’s Pride Parade.

In stark contrast to the electric mood at Pride, there was a very different atmosphere I started to sense from my celibate gay Christian friends: a sense of exhaustion.

Many of them shared with me how this past weekend was a muddled mess of emotions. They recognize that marriage equality is a significant step towards securing civil rights for a minority group with whom they identify, and they see their gay friends celebrating. But they also see their conservative Christian friends, family members, and clergy lamenting the state of our nation; saying particularly hurtful things about “the gays” in their false assumptions, ignorance, and fear of persecution. As a result, they are caught in a state of emotional whiplash, not sure who could truly understand what they are feeling. This culture war exhaustion comes along every couple of months, when the conversation about how the church engages with LGBT folks bubbles over and takes over social media. I simply have to say the words, “World Vision” or “Chick-Fil-A,” and I can watch how my friends cringe while they have flashbacks to past battles of the culture war. My friends still have scars from where they took shots from both sides.

When I saw news of the SCOTUS ruling on Facebook Friday morning, I knew that we were entering another solid week of social media being an emotional and exhausting place to be due to the reactions we would have to read from our Christian friends.

Plenty of virtual ink has already been spilled in talking about how Christians who hold a traditional sexual ethic should respond to the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. I’m not interested in “adding to the noise,” other than to say please read this post. Grant is a new friend of mine who captures the spirit of what I would say to conservative Christians.

So, what was it like to participate in the “I’m Sorry Campaign” along the parade route?

I did the following:

  • Shouted “I love you!” quite a lot to passersby who read our sign as they marched/danced/drove past us.
  • Gave out an infinite number of high-fives to people with looks of pure joy on their faces.
  • Offered hugs to anyone who wanted one.
  • Received hugs from people wanting to thank us for what we were doing.
  • Smiled, clapped, and cheered with my brothers and sisters who were celebrating marriage equality and the freedom they felt by being able to take off their masks and be themselves.

I'm Sorry Campaign 2015

How did it feel to attend Pride and participate in this unique way?

Emotionally, being at Pride was a joyous experience. Celebration and hugs and happiness are contagious, so it was definitely a boost just being down there. Physically, it was a long day of standing in one place, so I needed a nap afterwards. As an introvert, it took a lot of energy to cheer, hug, clap, and interact with people I did not know. I prefer having deep and meaningful interactions with those with whom I have already established relationships. Almost every interaction during the parade was the exact opposite of that, so for more than 24 hours after the parade finished, I needed quality time with people who mean a lot to me in order to replenish my relational energy.

Taking all of these things together, I can attest to having had a beautiful experience demonstrating love towards those attending Pride. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

It meant a lot to me to share this experience with Joe. We’ve been building our committed partnership with one another for almost a year now. It’s been quite a journey of learning to accept ourselves rather than live in constant shame because of our orientation. The two of us are both living openly and honestly within our faith communities and have experienced  how freeing it is to not have to live a double life or try to live up to the expectations placed on us by others. From this place of self-acceptance, I felt free to stand in the space between the two worlds of my Christian faith and my sexual orientation, professing God’s love for everyone who passed by and sharing more hugs than I could ever have imagined.

“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” – Billy Graham

Holding Hands

Pleasant Surprises

For about a year, I’ve wanted to add a little more texture to the story I started telling here. This post is my attempt at expressing the ways I have been surprised by God’s grace in my life as a celibate gay Christian.

I’ve been committed to celibacy now for coming up on 5 years. It was a decision I made for myself shortly after coming to terms with my sexuality and reconciling it with my faith tradition.

For me, celibacy has never meant denying myself of relationships. Reading the writings of Wesley Hill, Julie Rodgers, and other contributors of Spiritual Friendship, I started making intentional efforts to have a life full of meaningful and deep friendships.

I’ve been blessed to build honest, vulnerable, sometimes-messy, and often-beautiful friendships here in West Michigan. These have been the sorts of relationships that have kept me sane while I transitioned to being “out” in the public sense a year and a half ago. My friendships have taught me what hospitality actually looks like. You know, the kind of hospitality where it doesn’t matter if you’ve got laundry sitting out on the sofa or kids needing a time-out. It’s the sort of hospitality that says, “Don’t bother knocking. You’re family.”

Besides these great friends locally, another blessing from God came in the form of an online community. After I went to the Gay Christian Network Conference in 2014, I became a part of a truly unique Internet group for Christians who identify as gay or same-sex attracted and are seeking to live out their life through the lens of a tradition sexual ethic. Building friendships within this group has been truly life-giving. There’s something comforting about being among people who understand what it means to be the same kind of different as you. Within our online family, we have build actual friendships. We support each other, pray for one another, disagree with each other at times, celebrate with one another, and weep with one another. Over the last year, I’ve had a handful of friends from this community come stay at my home here in Michigan, and I’ve visited some of them, too. This community has truly been a wonderful thing.

We had a retreat last summer in the mountains of Virginia. It was a beautiful weekend where people from all over the US and Canada came together to get to know one another deeper and take off their “masks” for a few days. My friend Gabriel at Mudblood Catholic wrote about his experience at the retreat. He describes what it was like better than I ever could.

After I got home from the retreat last summer, I found myself on the receiving end of another unexpected gift. I was going about building deeper friendships within this community when I realized that I was being drawn into a different sort of relationship altogether with one of my friends. After a lot of prayer and talking with some close friends, I entered into a committed celibate partnership with Joe.

While I have friends who are in similar relationships with their partners, it was not something I was expecting, pursuing, or even asking God for when He surprised me with this gift. I have been surprised over and over again by how God is teaching me about intimacy and vulnerability within the context of this new relationship. Joe and I have been together now for 7 months, though we’re still separated by many miles. He lives down in Austin, Texas, and I’m finishing up grad school in the freshly thawed state of Michigan. We have every intention of closing the distance between us at some point so we can combine our lives together in a single home, as a family, serving together and showing hospitality in whatever ways we can. We’ve been praying to discern how God is leading us into our future together, and we ask that any of you who love and care for us would also pray that we would listen to God as he directs our next steps.

Jesus Loves Me Enough: Why I Call Myself a Gay Christian

I came across this post today by blogger Matt Moore. Matt and I have found ourselves in similar situations. We both are Christians. We both love Jesus and seek to follow him in the ways that we live our lives and love those around us. We both experience what many label “Same-Sex Attraction.”

In Matt’s recent post, he uses the title: “I Love Jesus Too Much to Call Myself a Gay Christian.”

Reading a title like this triggered a whole bunch of shame-based responses in me and made me forget all the things that Matt and I do share in common. The tapes in my head started saying, “Look, another Christian who doesn’t think you love Jesus enough because if you did, you wouldn’t call yourself ‘gay’.”

Then, it sunk in. We do have a lot in common. This message of shame is coming from a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction and is choosing to live celibately.  Someone who should understand better than most everyone what it has been like to walk this journey. I do not believe that Matt was intending to shame his fellow gay Christians when he wrote his post, yet this is how it was perceived by myself and some of those closest to me. I realized that I could either let this message of shame fester inside of me and make me feel bitter for a while, or I could channel it into writing out my own thoughts and hopefully engage graciously in this conversation.

So, why is there such a disconnect between myself and another Christian with same-sex attraction who is pursuing celibacy?

It comes down to the idea that gay is a word that stands for a sinful condition we find ourselves in, rather than an adjective that cues people in to someone else’s experience.  Matt doesn’t believe that there is such a thing as a fixed sexual orientation: lesbian, gay, bi, or straight. To him, gay is all about the experiencing of temptation to commit acts that the Church has historically found to be sinful. 

What this view of the word gay does is boil down every LGBT person’s experiences to simple horniness. As if the only thing on the mind of a gay person is who, where, when, and how they can fool around with someone of the same sex. In Matt’s world, identifying as gay means that are emphasizing your desire to sin.

Spend any length of time in conversation with a member of the LGBT community and it becomes abundantly clear that the word gay does not speak to anything more than simply stating that they experience life as a sexual minority. To them, this short word means that the ways they view the world around them and relate to the people they meet are fundamentally altered by some part of their personality that they have found sets them apart from 95% of their peers. For LGBT folks, using the word gay says nothing of their theology, political ideology, relationship with God, or their sexual activity.

I choose to identify as a gay Christian. Here are a few reasons why.

1. It’s truthful.

I identify as a gay Christian because it is the most honest way I can describe my experiences. Being in the closet is a lonely place. When I began coming out to my closest friends and family, I quickly learned the value of having spaces where I was both fully known and fully loved. My favorite quote on this matter is by Tim Keller. I have quoted it before, and I will most certainly quote it again in the future.  

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

The fact of the matter is, I reached a point where I could not live with this part of myself being a secret any longer. I had to be fully known so I could see that I was fully loved just as I was. And for myself, to say, “I struggle with same-sex attraction” is not being as truthful as saying, “I am a gay Christian.” This is simply because when I say that I am a gay Christian I am talking about far more than who I am tempted to lust after. I am talking about the ways I form friendships, the people I am most likely to fall in love with, and the lens through which I experience the world.

2. It acknowledges the sense of “otherness” I share with my gay friends.

As I was saying above, the word gay is most commonly used by LGBT folks to talk about their unique way of experiencing the world based upon how they relate to others. I have no problems using the word gay as an adjective to describe the ways I relate to the world around me. In no way would I ever say that the word gay has more meaning to me than my identity as a Christian, and everyone who knows me would agree that being a Christian influences how I see the world far more than being gay ever has. It’s just that most of the time I find myself around Christians who are straight and don’t understand my experience as a gay person, so I wear the gay label to have more honest and transparent relationships with others.

When I describe myself as a gay Christian, I am refusing to say that my experiences are exactly the same as everyone else’s. There’s a way in which gay folks experience the world that is different from their straight peers. There is a way that people of color experience the world that is different from the way that white people do. This is not to say that every person of color has the exact same experience, or that every gay person has the exact same experience, but there is solidarity in knowing that you’re not “the only one” who sees things differently. I call myself a gay Christian to cue to others that I see things differently. Maybe in some of the same ways they do.

3. It reminds me of how much Jesus loves me.

The message that “being gay is a sin” was imbedded in my formative years. As I grew up I was scared to death that being gay meant that I was going to hell. I was scared that if I told anyone at all, they would reject me. Yet, it was when I started to tell people that I experienced not only THEIR love of me, but also how much JESUS loves me. It was when I started being honest that I realized God was not going to reject me. It was after I was honest that I was able to sit in the presence of God and hear Him tell me that He loved me… unconditionally. Being set free from my fear of rejection and being shown that perfect love casts out fear have been the most beautiful expressions of Christ in my life. I can live without shame. I do need a Savior. Not because I am gay. But because I am human. And Jesus loves me enough that I can call myself a gay Christian. It’s His love that frees me to do so.

A Place at the Table

For gay Christians, there are a lot of forces that can keep us from feeling that we have a rightful place at the table of the Lord.  While I have always felt allowed to partake of the life of the community, there were times when I was certain it was only if I kept wearing my mask. My straight mask. The one that hid my story. And now that it’s been a few months since I’ve shared my story broadly, I wanted to reflect on what it is like to be in this position. To be a gay Christian who is choosing to live a celibate vocation.

It sometimes feels, in this conversation about what it means to be both gay and Christian, the space for stories like mine is being squeezed out from both sides.

And speaking of “sides” it may be helpful to define some terms as they are commonly used in this conversation. These terms have been around for quite a while, and have been brought into more widespread use through the Gay Christian Network and many bloggers and authors. If you’re already familiar, you can skip this aside. (rimshot!)

Side A
In this whole conversation typically people who hold a belief that says that God affirms committed gay sexual relationships are referred to as “Side A.” Side A is becoming much more apparent in American and European churches. Many more people will become familiar with this perspective from the book written by Matthew Vines, “God and the Gay Christian.” Side A Christians have been more commonly associated with mainline Protestantism or a more liberal view of Scripture. The trends lately are that more and more Evangelicals are re-examining their theology and becoming more affirming of gay marriage for Christians.

Side B
Those who believe gay Christians can reconcile their faith and sexuality through adhering to the more traditional sexual ethic are referred to as “Side B”. Side B gay Christians have typically accepted that their orientation is not likely to change, yet believe that sexual intimacy with someone of the same gender is outside of God’s will. Thus, they choose celibacy or maybe an opposite-sex marriage. For Side B gay Christians, openness and honesty are highly valued. Relational needs are to be met through healthy relationships and positive expressions of same-sex love. Community is another shared value among this group.

Side X
A view that LGB Christians should totally denounce their orientation and pray for/pursue a heterosexual marriage no matter what. Many in the conservative Christian world are familiar with the legacy of Exodus International and reparative therapy that spawned the phenomenon of “ex-gays”. That’s where the term “Side X” comes from. The danger in Side X comes when stories of “change” are held up by certain Christians as some sort of mold that we must follow in order to be “in line” with Jesus. They would question our walk if we happened to still identify with the adjective “gay” to describe our experience and orientation. Side X tends to commonly say that orientation is changeable and that we should not acknowledge our attractions or find any positive attributes from them.

In this conversation, Side B is positioned in a sort of middle ground or “no-mans-land” between the two polar opposites.  We’re not afraid to be honest about our orientation, and what it means for our lives. But we’re also holding to the historical and traditional teachings of the Church for the last 2000 years.

When the “Culture War” heats up because some guy in camouflage with a sweet beard made some ignorant statements in a rocknroll magazine… or a global relief organization lost childhood sponsorships because they were (briefly) willing to hire married gay people, that’s when we most acutely feel what it’s like to be squeezed from both sides.

These “battles” in the Culture War get a lot of press. A lot of blogs written about them. A lot of Tweets. A lot of impassioned Facebook posts.

But in everyday life as a celibate LGBT Christian, it feels like the fighting never really stops. It feels like we’re being squeezed out from all sides, even weeks after the dust has settled from the last kerfuffle.

Whenever a gay-affirming Christian pities the plight of the celibate, we are pushed from one side.

Pity takes several forms. Regularly, I’ve been told these things, and have watched my friends get told the same:

“By choosing celibacy, you’ve been brainwashed.”

“Stop repressing your sexuality.”

“You’re hurting the LGBT cause by telling your story.”

“Stop lying. You’re not happy. There’s no way you’re content in your choice.”

“You need to repent of your conservative beliefs. They’re harmful to you and others.”

And from the other side, I hear the following:

“Naming your orientation means you’ve internalized it.”

“You wouldn’t identify as a thieving Christian or an alcoholic Christian, so you really shouldn’t call yourself a gay Christian.”

“Once I let go, and surrendered it all to Jesus, the same-sex attractions really started to diminish.”

“You probably shouldn’t talk about this.”

“Stop being so negative all the time. We’re supposed to have joy in Jesus.”

“You are never going to be happy if you don’t get married.”

When these things are said, we are pushed from the other side. Our already tiny space is shrunk down even smaller. How are we to have a place at the table and fit into the church when even other gay Christians can say things like that?

And how does this impact the broader culture of the Church?

For straight bystanders and onlookers, it is not always easy to take a nuanced view of the whole conversation. Unless a straight Christian has direct experience with a close friend or family member who is gay, or they happen to have read many stories of gay Christians, it is not very likely that they understand the differences present here. For the average Christian, they see this is a two-sided conversation.

The pro-gay, affirming camp, and the ex-gay, pro-Jesus camp.

For most conservative Christians, they would love to buy into the Side X script that says gay folks turn “normal” when you just add Jesus. “Pray the gay away” is a widespread concept, and it is the simplest one for straight Christians to grasp onto when they have had limited real world experience with an LGBT person.

The flip side of this is that all of the gay folks that aren’t “ex-gay” can then be seen as the enemy. It’s “the gays” who are dismissing Scripture or destroying family values. When viewing the world through this lens, it becomes easy to view all gay people as “militantly pro-gay” or “gay rights advocates”.

It becomes clear then, how, all of a sudden, there is no room in their script for a Side B gay Christian. We have to fit the mold of either Side A or Side X. From straight Christians we can hear things like:

“Why would you identify as gay? Aren’t gay people the ones that are splitting ABC or XYZ denomination?”

“Every gay Christian I have read about is twisting Scripture to line up with their own desires.”

“If you’re not actively living the lifestyle, I don’t get why you would even call yourself gay.”

“You’re not gay gay.”

“My friend’s cousin used to be gay. There’s hope for you, too!”

“Hey, my natural orientation is to have sex with every beautiful women I see. We all have to deny ourselves. But I still don’t call myself a ‘lustful Christian.'”

“Homosexuality is a sin. It’s pretty cut and dry in the Bible.”

“You can’t be both a Christian and gay.”

“Sure, it’s not a sin to be tempted, but it seems like you’re proud of your temptations.”

“Are you still talking about this gay thing?”

As I’ve said earlier, it is difficult for us celibate gay Christians to thrive without healthy connections to the church community.

So, how do we create space for this middle ground to be widened and explored? How do we ever find the space to stop pushing back on the two sides that are squeezing us out? How could we ever possibly be able to take a rest and sit down when it feels like standing still is the same as losing ground?

We tell our stories.

We educate our friends. Our families. Our pastors. Our priests.

Not everyone is called to stand up on a stage and tell a few hundred people all at once, but I am a firm believer that our strongest tool is our stories. If our stories aren’t being told by us, then someone else is telling our stories for us.

Tell a friend. Lovingly correct the bad assumptions you hear people making. Define your terms for others. Don’t let them define them for you.  Seek community. Be vulnerable. Let the joys and sorrows of your life both be seen. This plight of ours is not a death sentence for intimacy.

So, tell your story. To someone. And then maybe someone else.

And all of a sudden, the Church will be better equipped to see the space for us where we fit into this diverse Body of Christ.

And the healthy church will protect this diversity. Maybe they’ll even scoot over to make us a little more space at the Lord’s table.

To give us some breathing room.

Isn’t that what we all want, anyways? A chance to breathe in the midst of the culture war?

Jesus Died for Bryan Fischer: How I Learned to Let Go of Anger

This past weekend, I attended the Gay Christian Network Conference. In its 10th Annual Conference, held in Chicago this year, roughly 700 folks attended the 4-day event. I have a suspicion I’ll be processing my experience at the GCN Conference for quite some time to come.

Rachel and I

On Saturday morning of the Conference, Rachel Held Evans spoke in the morning session. Her talk, titled “What’s So Annoying About Grace?” was certainly something I needed to hear. Rachel challenged us all with remembering that God’s table is open to all who trust in Him. This was a message that so many of my fellow attenders needed to hear, but it carried a flip-side. The annoying part about grace is that it covers all of us who don’t deserve it. Not just those of us sitting in the conference room, but also those who may have hurt us deeply. Rachel mentioned a few names that have been more controversial in recent times: Phil Robertson and Mark Driscoll. These are certainly folks that have made me cringe a few times. They’re on my list of “People Who Give Christians a Bad Name.”

But grace covers them, too. It covers their ignorance and careless words the same as it covers my pride and gossip and self-promotion.

We Christians like to put things in the way of God’s grace, according to Rachel. We don’t want it to be as inclusive as it is. We try to build up things to put in the path of God’s grace. We seek to exclude because we think some people don’t deserve God’s grace.

The annoying (and amazing) part of God’s grace, Rachel shared, was the way it is lavished upon people that don’t deserve it. Like me. Like you. Like Phil Robertson.

I used to work in foster care. I drove all over West Michigan to visit my foster kids and attend court hearings. And after I left that job, I took a job that had a 45 minute commute on the way home every day. During this time, I started listening to Christian Talk Radio.During this point in Rachel’s talk, my mind drifted to a horrible habit I carried off and on for a couple of years.

At first it was just out of curiosity. What are they saying? What are they telling thousands and thousands of Christians every afternoon? What concerns them? What do they see as the issues? Some things didn’t surprise me. They cared about ending abortion. They cared about people coming to know Christ. They even had fun trivia games that I would play along with every now and then. But, there were things that got under my skin. Things like talking derogatorily about undocumented persons, the poor, and the LGBT community. The messages about gay people weren’t just focused on “defending traditional marriage.” I heard their hosts bemoaning anything that protected the rights or safety of their gay neighbors.

While many different hosts of American Family Radio’s programs were deeply offensive, the hardest to listen to was Bryan Fischer. He hosts “Focal Point” every weekday afternoon. You can Google him if you really want to know the garbage he has said. It’s not the intention of this post to drag out countless examples of how he’s perpetuated a hatred of LGBT folks for years.

I was disgusted with the things I heard him saying. They wounded me deeply. They made me feel that as a person who happened to have a gay sexual orientation, that I was ‘less than’ or ‘unworthy.’ But, in my disgust, I kept listening. I listened to keep myself angry at the vile things that certain Christians were saying. I knew he was wrong. I knew he was misrepresenting Jesus. But I kept listening. I was so upset with what he was doing that I listened to keep reminding myself of how horrible he could be. And guess what?

It hurt me. It hurt my relationship with God. My building up these reserves of disdain for this man didn’t hurt him one bit. I was the one affected by it. Duh.

I ultimately stopped listening because I realized it was destroying my soul. It was hardening me and taking away my tender-heart. Staying away from American Family Radio helped my mood. It helped my disposition. It helped my relationship with God. It felt like I had dealt with it. All better, right?

That’s where Rachel’s Saturday morning talk intersects with this story. I was still trying to withhold God’s grace from Bryan Fischer and the other conservative talk show hosts from American Family Radio. I still wanted to them OUT of the Kingdom of Heaven. I didn’t want them representing me or my friends as examples of Christians.

But I was challenged to give up the anger I was holding towards Mr. Fischer. I can’t be angry at God for being generous towards someone else because I don’t think they deserve it. Because guess what? I DON’T DESERVE IT EITHER.

And that’s what’s so annoying (and amazing) about grace.

Thank you, Rachel, for reminding me of this.

My Top Movies of 2013

I love the experience of heading to the movie theater, filling up a bucket of popcorn, and settling into the dark room with friends, family, or even by myself. 

2013 was a great year for movies, and I was more intentional this year about getting to as many great movies as I had the opportunity to see in the theater. 

Here’s a list of my favorites from this year.

American Hustle:  Just saw this one today. Phenomenal movie. Director David O. Russell sets the perfect tone that’s off-beat and hilarious. Also good performances from all the main cast. Amy Adams sure has come a long way from the “purse girl” on The Office.

Dallas Buyers Club:  A man in the mid-1980’s unexpectedly contracts HIV and desperately begins seeking the medical treatment that was so limited during the early years of the AIDS crisis. This film is Matthew McConaughey’s best work that I’ve ever seen. Jared Leto also gave an emotional performance. 

Mud:  Great coming of age tale set in the deep south that explores life along the river for two young teenage boys and a fugitive they meet by chance. Second-best McConaughey performance I saw this year.


Fruitvale Station:  Michael B. Jordan is an actor to watch for the future. In this movie he plays a young Oscar Grant who was unjustly shot and killed by police in the bay area. Jordan does a wonderful job of crafting a complex man who who you learn to root for despite his flaws. This is a great movie to keep the conversation going about the way racism still plays a role in a post-Obama America. 

12 Years a Slave:  This movie tells the true and epic story of a free Northerner’s journey to get back to his family after being abducted and sold into slavery in the mid-1800’s. A lot of raw emotion in this one and great cinematography. 

Frozen:  Based on the marketing for this one prior to its release, I didn’t have high expectations for the latest Disney Animated Feature. However, a great soundtrack and unpredictable story saved this one from mediocrity. Not the most original or creative animation style (Tangled, anyone?). But it worked. And some of the songs are still stuck in my head

Prisoners:  This suspense thriller tells the disturbing story of how far a man may go to try and save his child. The villains in this movie are quite well done. The storyline kept me guessing and it haunted me after the fact. Good performances from Hugh Jackman, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano. 


The Way Way Back:  The second great coming-of-age story on my list. Written and directed by the very funny Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (Dean Pelton from Community), this movie struck a great chord as a laid back, summer story. For the first time, Steve Carell plays a truly unlikable character, and he pulls it off. Sam Rockwell and up-and-coming actor Liam James also are quite memorable in their roles.

Despicable Me 2:  I love animated movies. This sequel lived up to all my expectations I built up after the first. Hilariously funny, so much so that I saw it three times.  One of those times, I saw it with my friend Shawn… no kids. Don’t judge me. Plus, who doesn’t love the minions?

Gravity:  Most unique movie on this list. Sandra Bullock is a shoe-in to be nominated for Best Actress and she deserves it. Seeing this movie in Imax 3D was a movie-going experience that I’ll never forget. Alfonso Cuaron will also likely get the Best Director nomination on this one. 


The Place Beyond the Pines:  This movie is a look at the complex ways fathers and sons relate to one another. In three acts this film tells the stories of Ryan Gosling’s and Bradley Cooper’s two very different characters. The two leads make choices that deeply impact the course of their lives and the lives of their families and cause their stories to intertwine. This movie kept me thinking long after I left the theater.

Star Trek Into Darkness: As far as summer blockbusters go, this one was excellent. I love me some JJ Abrams story-telling. Hoping the high quality of these new Star Trek films will translate well into the new Star Wars movies. 

Catching Fire:  It would have been hard to see them screw this one up. The source material for this second Hunger Games story is the best of the trilogy. Thankfully, the director did a great job of capturing the story well and keeping a tight pacing. 


Of course, the movie-going year isn’t quite over yet. I’m still looking forward to seeing: 
The Wolf of Wall Street, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, and Saving Mr. Banks.

Answering a Few Questions

Over the last few weeks I’ve been wrapping up my first semester of Grad School and am finally on my Winter Break. The weather has taken note of this fact and decided to send a snowstorm.  This newly found free time and the horrible conditions of the roads means that tonight is the perfect opportunity to sit down and hammer out answers to some of the questions I’ve been fielding since November.

1) How do you feel about the exaggeration of sexuality in our culture? Do you think it’s overemphasis plays a role in homosexual issues?

Great question.  I think it’s unfortunate how much the physical expression of our sexuality has been emphasized above and beyond all other forms of relational intimacy. Many people it seems, don’t know how to build emotionally intimate friendships outside of the context of physical sexual relationships.  This tragically affects men even more than women as I think women are given a script in society for how to have deep friendships with other people outside of sexual partners.  We are all sold lies that sex is the pinnacle of human experience and, more specifically, of all intimacy.

There are dozens of ways this negatively impacts our relationships.  Sex is brought into the equation when it’s not appropriate.  One or both partners may not be ready for it, but could be diving in under a belief that it will create better intimacy or fulfill their needs. Sex does not equate to happiness.  It is certainly pleasurable, but it does not automatically lead to relational bliss.  Our desires for physical sexual intimacy have led to the explosion of the porn industry.  With sex portrayed as the end-all, be-all the use of pornography, especially by pre-teens and teenagers, seriously damages the ways we build intimacy with others.

I think the overemphasis of physical sexual activity does negatively impact the conversation about other sexual orientations. When sexuality and relationships are discussed, we have a difficult time of separating feelings, emotions, and attractions from physical sexual behavior. This is especially true when the Church is asked to consider the plight of ‘sexual minorities’, those whose desires are not heterosexual. Our sexuality and orientation is so much more than genital behavior or arousal. It affects the ways we build connections and relationships, especially in the arena of emotional intimacy. Limiting the conversation regarding LGBT issues to the realm of physical sexuality is unfortunate.

Of course, gay pride parades don’t make it any easier to have this nuanced conversation. In the LGBT community, we are just as susceptible as anyone in our society to make sexuality all about the physical. But think of orientation in terms of the way you are wired in all aspects of your relationships. And don’t boil anyone’s sexuality down to “what happens in the bedroom.”



2) How do you feel about those who have the same attractions as you do, but find that they are able to re-interpret the Biblical text so that they can reconcile with their faith? How do you see their point of view, and how they interpret the text?

If someone loves Jesus, follows Jesus, and puts their faith in Him for their salvation, then they are my brother or sister in Christ. It’s hard to find anyone who is a carbon-copy of ourselves in how they interpret the Biblical text. I have met many fellow gay Christians who have interpreted Scripture differently than myself and also follow after Christ with great faith. It is not my place to say that they are “unsaved” or “unrepentant.” If anyone is curious as to how someone could follow after Christ yet interpret Scripture differently when it comes to gay sexual relationships, read this link from Justin Lee.  Basically, it is not my job to judge anyone’s heart.

How do I see their view? When someone like Justin, who loves Christ and respects the Bible as much as he does, espouses this interpretation that differs from mine, I respect him for it. I love him as my brother.

Personally, I have looked at the centuries of church tradition and historical interpretation of the Scriptures to affirm a more traditional view that same-sex sexual activity is outside of God’s will. I see God’s design in human sexuality to be for a man and a woman to reflect the unity/diversity of God within the marriage relationship.  I believe that there are other ways for us to reflect the glory of God outside of a marriage (serving one another, living sacrificially, creating and celebrating beauty, being agents of redemption, etc). Therefore, I don’t believe marriage is a more holy calling than a life of celibacy.

I will be honest. There are nuances to this conversation that I am always in the middle of processing. Normally that happens in the context of close friendships and is spurred on by the things I read all over the Internet with regards to being gay and following Christ.



3) How do you feel about a married pastor, or any Christian really, exemplifying celibacy/sacrifice on the part of folks who have the same attractions as you, but yet are married themselves? Do you see it as insensitive? Or hypocritical?

This question really burrows into the emotions that come with the territory of navigating this whole “celibate gay Christian” thing.  I am not particularly comfortable being held up as a “poster child” for talking about this issue just because I’ve chosen a life of celibacy.  I don’t think any individual gay Christian should be held up as the example for how everyone should live their life.

When a married pastor (or really any married straight Christian) preaches a message of celibacy for all gay Christians without acknowledging the needs that such a gay Christian would still need to have met, that’s a problem. I am appreciative when a straight friend can recognize and address the fact that being asked to commit to celibacy is ridiculously difficult.  I think any pastor worthy of the title should also go to great lengths to ensure that the body of Christ is fulfilling its role to those in my position.  I am blessed with a great community of friends around me.  But I know that not everyone is so fortunate.  Too many celibate folks (straight or gay) are suffering from crippling loneliness while a church community sits by, ignores them, and focuses on having “family time” or forming more “couples groups” or “young marrieds studies.”  This leads to singles of all stripes being horribly excluded and left feeling like second-class citizens within the church. That is unacceptable.

A healthy dose of compassion and empathy make all the difference when talking about celibacy for gay Christians. When I hear someone talking about “gay issues” without compassion and empathy, it is really hard not to cling to bitterness.  I need to show grace as much as I need to receive it, and this is an area where my limits are always being stretched.



4) Are you happy?

Yes. I do feel like my needs are being met. I also feel that I have a positive calling within the church to service and to friendship. Am I ever lonely? Of course. I don’t know anyone who’s exempt from loneliness. Are there times when even my solid community of friends is not enough? Yes. And when that happens, it hurts. A lot. I seek God, and seek out honest conversations with my closest friends about what I need. I have to communicate my experiences and cannot expect everyone to be mind readers. I have found that when I truly NEED a friend, they’re there when I reach out. It’s when I withdraw or tell myself lies about how much I don’t matter that I wind up feeling the worst.



As with everything I write, I want to reiterate that I would rather be understood than have assumptions made. If you would like something clarified or if something I wrote in this post sparks a follow-up question, e-mail me or put it in the comments.

Let’s keep the conversation going!



noun \ˈkin-ˌship\

: the state of being related to the people in your family

: a feeling of being close or connected to other people

I have become drawn to this word since hearing Wesley Hill use it last month at Calvin College.

He was talking about the concept of “Spiritual Friendship” and the relationships that folks committed to celibacy can be pursuing.

These family-type bonds are built out of friendships to become something deeper, something that involves more of a commitment than we typically bring to the table in our relationships.

For me as a single gay Christian, I find these kinship relationships to be ideal to enter into the messy, beautiful, intimate, supportive parts of each other’s lives. I have experienced these sorts of relationships over the last few years. They take work to maintain, but they are so worth it. The beauty of these friendships is when I move from guest to family, from friend to brother, from “mister” to “uncle”.  It is in these transitions that the friendship becomes not about what fun we can have together, but how we can serve one another.

Here is an important distinction. I don’t crave these kinship relationships just because I may feel lonely from time to time. This is not just about getting MY needs met. In these family-style relationships with a strong commitment to one another, I can serve, too. I have more time, energy, and love to pour into these relationships. Wesley Hill frames his conversation about celibacy as a “positive call to love” rather than just a call away from sexual intimacy. In not having a spouse, I am freed up to dive in to committed friendships, be they with other single folks or with married people and their kids.

These friendships have given me space spaces to process what it has meant to wrestle with faith, doubt, and sexuality. They have also given me practice to love others better, to encourage, to listen, to serve. When done right, I feel my own relational longings met while also knowing I am giving back.

I hope that through this blog, and so many others that I have taken inspiration from, the Church as a whole can begin to see new and creative ways to care for one another. To form friendships far more committed than the kind we find on Facebook. To stick with one another through anything and everything. To support their mothers, fathers, children, divorced, unmarried, widowed, and celibate folks alike.

What would it take to encourage these deeper sorts of friendships? Do they require living in community? Should we do more to honor or recognize these relationships as part of our Church culture?

For more on these conversations, visit

The Importance of Language and Listening

Watch this video.  What do you think?  

The Gay Christian Network conducted this survey and it reveals some trends that are disturbing to me.  For instance, straight Christians who believe that gay sex is a sin answered the survey in the following ways:

Only 16% said that being gay was not a choice.

78% said that gays can become straight if they want to.

54% said that it’s a sin to be gay even if you never have sex.


When I first came across this video two weeks ago, I was both shocked and not shocked at once. Shocked because I was afraid this is what I’d encounter at Calvary Church (it wasn’t), and not shocked because I know there are a lot of people who haven’t had to examine their views on these questions critically, and their answers may reflect that.

Do you agree with the video’s conclusion that we need to define our terms better and listen to each other’s stories to bridge this gap?

Have any of you had to change the ways you would have answered these questions? What caused you to change your mind?

I know these conversations aren’t always done well, but please don’t feel afraid to put yourself out there in the Comment section. I promise to do what I can to keep this blog a safe place to dialogue, even if we disagree.

Questions, Anyone?

The response to my post from yesterday has been overwhelmingly positive, and I appreciate the great support that I’ve felt from everyone.

I wanted to take some time to solicit some questions from you all, as I know that many of you may have things you’re wondering.

In keeping with the spirit of my last post, I want to be clear that I’m open to dialoging about my experiences at any time. I often repeat this phrase, “I’d rather be understood than have assumptions made.”

So, if you have questions for me, leave them in a comment, message me on Facebook, or shoot me an email at

After a couple weeks, I’ll write up responses to the questions I receive. And I promise to keep your questions anonymous if you choose to submit them privately.