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.