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.

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.