A Gay Christian Woman Struggles with Her Identity

I have an online friend named Anne. She’s a hardcore Christian (though anyone who works for a Church would fall under that umbrella for me). She’s a newly published author. From reading her website over the past year, it’s obvious her heart is always in the right place and that we’d be really good friends if she didn’t live in the middle of nowhere (Nashville) :)

Since much of her working life takes place in and among churches, she deals with social hot-button issues quite a bit.

A topic she brought up recently really bothered me.

It’s not Anne’s fault. All she did was pose a question to her (I assume mostly Christian) readers: Why is being gay a sin?

Some backstory: Anne’s friend is Christian and she’s struggling with her sexual identity:

… About a year ago, I decided the gay lifestyle is not what God wants for me. My only reason in believing this, honestly, is because the Bible says God made marriage between a man and a woman. I can’t wiggle or justify my way around that. Believe me, I’ve tried. I wanted so badly for God to accept me as who I was (am? thought I was? there are still a lot of unanswered questions…) and let me love who I loved. Was there really any harm in it?…

So Anne posed her question. I don’t doubt her sincerity in asking it.

What bothers me are the responses from commenters. They’re nothing new… pretty much what you’d expect to hear. A lot of people saying being gay is a “choice,” and that it’s a sin because you can’t procreate, and that being gay may not be a sin but “doing gay things” is a sin..

Basically, they say all the things that atheists have ready-made responses for. I want to start a debate with damn near every commenter and tear apart their arguments. And I want to tell many of the gay commenters that they don’t need to be struggling at all. But I can’t. So I just scream silently in my head.

Occasionally, there are voices of reason (albeit within a Christian context).

It’s overwhelming what the Church does to our gay friends. It makes me want to reach out to them more than ever and tell them things will be ok, and that they don’t need a church in their life, and that all these homosexuality-is-a-sin people are making absurd arguments, and that they’ll probably find more love from atheists than they will from other Christians.

It’s not a problem that can be fixed anytime soon.

But let me pose another question:

How can you convince gay Christians that it’s ok to be gay?

By the way, if you choose to comment on Anne’s site, please be respectful. Save any rants for here.

(via FlowerDust)

  • Shane

    I don’t know if I could. I know there are arguments that the passages in the Bible are meant to be interpreted such that “abomination” simply means “not done by our culture” like a hairstyle or clothing. I don’t really know a lot about that though and don’t plan to. I kind of suspect that the intentions of those who wrote the Bible probably was to demonize homosexual activity.

    I’d ultimately rather challenge the foundational assumption that the Bible is, in any way, a method of determining truth or gaining knowledge. I’m not really an “evangelical” atheist though. I don’t care what you’re doing, as long as you’re doing it waaaaay over there.

  • penn

    I think speaking out for gay rights is important, and eventually churches will become more accepting of gays as society does. Remember a lot of these churches used to be anti-integration, but none would dare say so now. I think in a few decades the same thing will happen with gay rights. It will seem far too backward to be anti-gay, just like being anti-miscegenation does now. I think there will still be pockets of anti-gay bigotry in more fringe churches, but it won’t be anything like it is today. The young generation has far less stomach for such things.

    So, keep doing what you are doing. Show Christians there are ways to be moral without religion, and promote gay rights in general. We are going to win. It’s just going to take longer than it should.

  • Beowulff

    Shane said:

    I don’t care what you’re doing, as long as you’re doing it waaaaay over there.

    I have to disagree. While I generally don’t mind what other people are doing in their private life, I certainly care when people are doing bad things to other people, even if it’s way over there. So while I don’t care if people are religious, gay, or both, I do have problems with people who use their religious beliefs to make other people’s lives miserable just because they happen to be gay.

    As to arguments to persuade religious people that being gay isn’t all that bad, I can only remind them that Jesus taught to love your neighbor. Even if the neighbor happens to be a Samaritan. Why would that be different if the neighbor happens to be gay?

    Unfortunately, I already know that their likely comeback will be something along the lines of “hate the sin, love the sinner.” I still have no idea how they think that lading someone with guilt, or arguing against gays staying with the ones they love and getting married is a sign of love, though. Throwing someone into hell to burn for eternity for their sins isn’t exactly my idea of an act of love either, by the way.

  • grazatt

    I don’t think this is something that can be done, Christianity has been making homosexuals miserable for a long time, it will continue to do so for as long as people continue to follow that religion.

  • Rob

    I’d point out that the evidence says homosexuality has a genetic cause. Since god “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13) god obviously made them gay. A loving god would not punish someone for how he made them, would he? Therefore they should enjoy their bodies the way they were made and stop punishing themselves for how god made them.

    As for the people who say that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, I’d quote John Stewart and ask them when they chose to not be gay.

  • JT

    if she didn’t live in the middle of nowhere (Nashville)

    Dude that’s cold. We really aren’t in the middle of nowhere, readers. Hemant, do yourself a favor and hop on southwest air (7 round trip flights a day $60 each way) and come see for yourself. I’ll personally give you a tour.

    I drove to Chicago last month, you are just as in the middle of nowhere as we are. Now Austin, TX, that IS in the middle of nowhere. jk Austin.

    But to address your question – How can you convince gay Christians that it’s ok to be gay?: What’s the point in cherry-picking a bronze-age text when most of it is BS? Why live that way? Lose the Xian baggage and enjoy life – if she HAS to believe in some higher power, she can become a Deist – then she’ll be one step closer to the truth (no god).

    JT

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    How can you convince gay Christians that it’s OK to be gay?

    I don’t want this to sound stupid but can’t you just tell them that it’s OK to be gay? If there is God and he made them gay then he must have a reason for doing that. Maybe that reason is to challenge others to be more accepting and compassionate.

    Unless someone is claiming to know God’s mind then they cannot know that this is not the case. As you know if you can’t disprove it them it MUST be true. Anyone claiming to know God’s mind should definitely produce supporting evidence of their claims just like the prophets of the bible did.

    Anyway, gay people are people just like straight people except with regards to sexual attraction. It’s a shame that some Christians think that God is so petty and small minded as to condemn people over one part of their natures.

    I’m probably trampling over subtly nuanced theodicy but I don’t care. The palaver over gay people being somehow evil or condemned to hell is just stupid. It’s like condemning people to hell for being tall or Canadian or for preferring denim over tweed.

  • weaves

    You can’t change the mind of someone who will willingly continue to cling to any vague excuse to argue against homosexuality :/

    How can you convince gay Christians that it’s OK to be gay?

    I’d let them know it’s okay, and reassure them through my actions.
    It’s such a sensitive personal issue, it will probably take a bit of time. I’d listen to their fears and seek to comfort them and each time they may struggle with gay being “not okay” i’ll reassure them that it is okay.

    However, I would do my best to let those struggling know that there are people and communities, both Christian and not, who will happily accept them with open arms.

  • http://newref.blogspot.com/ James

    http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.com is a great website that shows (what some theologians claim) is Biblical support for the LGBT community and a general acceptance and love of all people. Also, I’d recommend the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So” about being gay in the church.

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    Forget the icky scary sex for a minute and consider: if all love comes from God, then how can the love between two adults be evil?

  • http://personman.com danny

    I think the best thing is to try to show the implications of that belief. I’ll second James’ recommendation of “For the Bible Tells Me So.” It shows how this belief that it’s wrong to be gay hurts people. Christians try to hide from the implications of their unpleasant beliefs, but we can bring those to the surface by asking questions.

    Maybe it’s just because I live in a small town with very few nonbelievers, but lately I’m more drawn to debates that put me on the same side as liberal or moderate Christians. The fundamentalists are the ones causing the most harm, so I’m rooting for the liberal Christians to win these battles. I still don’t buy their supernatural claims, but at least they’re not hurting anyone.

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com arkonbey

    @james: interesting link. Nice to see as WWJD doesn’t seem to mean much anymore.

    What I would say to a gay Xtian is: if being gay were such a sin why was it not made a commandment? As it is there are more instructions in the Bible on how to handle food than there are injunctions on same sex coupling.

  • Vincent

    I don’t know, but my sister has come to accept it through her own efforts and has found a church that accepts her. Even performed her wedding to her partner, though my still practicing Catholic family refused to go.

  • Skeptimal

    Unfortunately, nothing a non-Christian says is going to make a difference to a gay Christian. Bible-believing Christianity holds its converts by making them feel bad about themselves, and gays generally are probably an easy target given how they’re treated by society.

    This is especially true when the churches are successful in teaching them that being gay is all about lust. Maybe eventually there will be enough happy, out, loving gay couples that Christian gays will see that it’s nothing demonic.

  • http://frodology.blogspot.com FrodoSaves

    Thanks for the link Hemant. I think it’s much more valuable talking to theists, especially on serious issues such as homosexuality, than debating with ourselves ad infinitum. Looks like a fairly civilized crowd at least. Maybe I’ll make myself comfortable.

  • Miko

    There’s always the Gnostic argument: God wrote the New Testament, and the Devil wrote the Old one.

    Or, you could argue by comparison: God hates the ‘sin’ of homosexuality exactly as much as, say, wearing polyester. Even if they still have deluded views about its being a sin, it’s pretty hard to take it seriously in comparison to all of the other dumb sins listed.

    But honestly I have to think it’d be easier to just go after the ‘Christian’ part of the label, since that’s pretty clearly the root of the problem.

  • Lynn

    How can you convince gay Christians that it’s ok to be gay?

    This is so hard — you’re working against so many psychological forces, it’s almost impossible.

    All you can do is stress that it’s completely irrational and illogical to assert that God knowingly (and supposedly “lovingly”) created gay people and then expected them to completely shut down a very important aspect of their humanity in order to be “saved”.

    When so-called Christians attack gay sexuality, they always, without fail, tie it to all kinds of negative sexual behaviors — behaviors that are bad for everyone, straight, gay or somewhere in between. They claim the bad “fruit” of gay intimacy is disease, broken relationships, and so on, but they ignore the fact that any bad relationship will end up wounding the people invovled.

    It’s possible to live as an openly gay person while still living within the boundaries of Christian sexual morality as it applies to straight people.

    Other than that, you can just love them, support them, etc.

  • Krista

    It really makes me literally sick to my stomach to hear of people struggling like this and actually denying their nature because they think some effing god wants it that way. Not only will she suffer if she tries to go through life like that but if she marries a man and has children eventually the shit will hit the fan and they will suffer as well. I know this from personal family experience (and also I am gay).
    I really don’t think the best approach is the deconvert the woman. There are web sites for gay christians. I would get advice from there and help her to know there are others who are gay and religious.
    Also, Nashville is a festering cesspool of bigotry. She needs to get out of there. (I used to live there)

  • http://www.CoreyMondello.com Corey Mondello

    Religious folk need to look at the detrimental aspects of denial.

    This Saturday:

    Prayers for Bobby

    ‘Lifetime’ Channel
    January 24, 2009
    Prayers for Bobby (2009) (TV)
    http://www.prayersforbobby.com/

    Plot Summary:

    In “Prayers for Bobby,” Mary Griffith is a devout Christian who raises her children with the conservative teachings of the Presbyterian Church. However, when her son Bobby confides to his older brother he may be gay, life changes for the entire family after Mary learns about his secret. While Bobby’s father and siblings slowly come to terms with his homosexuality, Mary believes God can cure him of what she considers his ‘sin’ and persuades Bobby to pray harder and seek solace in church activities in hopes of changing him. Desperate for his mother’s approval, Bobby does what is asked of him, but through it all, the church’s apparent disapproval of homosexuality causes him to grow increasingly withdrawn and depressed. Guilty over the pain he is causing Mary, Bobby moves away, yet hopes that some day his mother will accept him. His subsequent depression and self-loathing intensifies as he blames himself for not being the ‘perfect’ son and is driven to suicide. Faced with their tragedy, Mary begins to question her faith when she receives no answers from her pastor concerning her devastating loss. Through her long and emotional journey, Mary slowly reaches out to the gay community and discovers unexpected support from a very unlikely source. The film is based on the 1995 Leroy Aarons book of the same name. Written by Louie Neira

  • llewelly

    If there is God and he made them gay then he must have a reason for doing that.

    There’s a favorite Christian response to that: god makes people have gay feelings in order to test them. If they resist, they pass the test. It’s a like all the fake dinosaur fossils god created to test people with paleontological feelings.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    the Bible says God made marriage between a man and a woman

    Chapter and verse, please.

    Since I stopped believing in God, I’ve discovered that many things I always “knew” were in the Bible just are not there.

    However, there are plenty of liberal churches that do accept gays. Your friend should try some of those. Of course, she probably won’t if she’s working at the church that is making her miserable about who she is. That’s just so sad.

  • SarahH

    Yet another positive endorsement for the documentary, “For the Bible Tells Me So” from me. I think the absolute strongest source of support and defense of gay Christians comes from the Christian parents and family members of gay Christians (or of children who aren’t Christians anymore because of the way they’ve been treated by the church for their sexuality).

    Does this support come because they suddenly found something in the Bible to refute literalist arguments that homosexuality is a sin? No. It comes because the love between parents and their children can break down some huge barriers.

    The rationalization comes after the reconciliation, IMO, but that’s not important. The important thing is that these people are now staunch defenders of gay rights within the church, and they’ve found a new way to read the Bible – cherry-picking the parts about love, compassion and God having a plan for everyone instead of cherry-picking the legalistic OT laws and bigoted writings of Paul.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Religious folk need to look at the detrimental aspects of denial.

    This Saturday:

    Prayers for Bobby

    I don’t know if this show is based on a true story, but I had a friend who was a lesbian when I was a Christian who ended up shooting herself in the head. There is nothing more tragic than someone committing suicide because their church “family” won’t accept them for who they are without condemnation.

  • Stephen P

    I’d point out that the evidence says homosexuality has a genetic cause. Since god “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13) god obviously made them gay.

    Although some researchers have claimed a genetic cause, I understand that the balance of opinion at the moment is that homosexuality originates during the prenatal development process, and is not genetically determined. However, that doesn’t detract from your argument.

  • http://zackfordblogs.wordpress.com ZackFord

    I try to tell my Christian friends that being gay is not something you can have a belief about. You can believe the earth is flat, but it isn’t. You can believe being gay is a choice, but it isn’t.

    I wish that worked… damn religious privilege and its undeserved respect for “beliefs.”

    Everybody should watch Prayers for Bobby this weekend!

  • J Myers

    How can you convince gay Christians that it’s ok to be gay?

    By convincing them to stop being Christians.

  • Siamang

    I’d say “If God made you gay, then to be ungay would be to curse His decision.”

    I’d ask them which of these statements is more likely to be false. I know that they both may be false, and that they both may be true..

    God made you.
    God wrote a book that is always interpreted correctly by men.

    Now, I don’t believe that either of those is true… but I know which one is more likely to be chosen by a believer.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    I’d say that if a Christian insists on Biblical inerrancy, then it’s pretty much impossible for such a one to argue that being gay is O.K. There’s a very dicey case that when Paul wrote Romans 1:24ff, he was talking about loveless homosexual encounters rather than loving gay relationships, but that’s a stretch.

    If one is a more liberal Christian who can accept that the Bible is fallible and reflects many ancient prejudices, then one has far more leeway.

  • http://frodology.blogspot.com FrodoSaves

    Ok I changed my mind. That website is full of a bunch of myopic idiots. Maybe i’m being judgmental, maybe it’s because I just finished watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and it pissed me off for wasting 2.5 hrs of my time, or maybe it’s just because they are a bunch of myopic idiots, but WOW – the world would be a better place if we all just said “OK!” to god’s commands rather than “Why?”.

    Jesus fucking Christ!

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    WriterDD wrote

    Chapter and verse, please

    I think you’re right that the bible does not define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The culture reported in the bible seems to be one man and one or more wife but then women in the bible are little more than property. The only reference I could think of is in 1 Corinthians 7:2

    Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

    which I was talking about the other day in relation to same sex marriage because later it says in 1 Corinthians 7:9

    But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

    I take this as a reason to allow same sex marriage from a Christian perspective although I fear I am grasping at straws more than a little. ;)

    The anti gay stuff in the bible is all OT and it’s all cultural rather than a moral lesson in parable or poetry. It is literally thousands of years out of date. What I can’t understand is how some Christians don’t see their condemnation of homosexuality as pushing homosexuals and gay friendlies away from religion where they should be reaching out and offering kindness and compassion as their book teaches.

  • http://blog.dc-agape.com dc-agape

    I would start the conversation with a gay Christian in the following manner:
    Having come from the southern baptist church as a gay man, I have an intimate knowledge of this problem (I am now a happy gay Atheist). In my blog I hope to soon reach the critical area of sin, I am studying the bible from an Atheist point of view. From the stand point of the bible all sin is equal. Christians live in sinful lives everyday. Greed, lust, adultery, theft, lying…homosexuality is no different! Many verses lump sex outside of marriage together. Christians just pick the sins they don’t do as the “big bad” ones.
    The one thing that a gay Christian should always hold in their mind is that the sin of judging others is equal “in the eyes of YHWH” as homosexuality!

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Point her to the Metropolitan Community Church, stat.

    Point out that there is more than one way of being a Christian and interpreting Christianity: that there are churches (the MCC is only one, although they’re the most obvious one) who see no conflict between being LGBT and being Christian, and who believe God loves all his children exactly the way he made them. Encourage her to talk to the minister at one or more of these churches.

    And also, if you feel like going there: Point out all the other ways that this person does not practice a literal interpretation of the Bible. Point out that she probably wears blended fabrics, eats cheeseburgers, etc. Point out internal contradictions in the Bible, and point out that living entirely according to the teachings of the Bible is literally impossible. (Perhaps point her to that book, “The Year of Living Biblically.”)

  • Aj

    I wouldn’t want to be completely disingenuous and claim that the Bible doesn’t on multiple occasions disparage homosexuality.

    It would also trouble me to suggest its OK because someone was born or developed, and thus “made” that way. For one, what if someone did choose? The implication of that argument would be that it was not OK.

    I agree with others that the problem is viewing the Bible as inerrant or the word of God at all, and we have many arguments attacking both those views.

  • 5ive

    As I see it. It really comes down to 2 choices, either the bible is the true word of god (foe he can guide humans to write what he desires) or it was written impressionable humans. You cannot have it both ways. You can’t say, well, god guided the humans here, but not here. How can you even think that is a possibility, either god knows everything and everyone, or he is more hands off and lets humans figure it out for themselves.
    I f you are the type that thinks it the true word of god, then you really should hate homosexuality and all that goes with it. You should strive to eradicate it, since it does NOT please god. At all. Not even a bit. However, you should also follow all 613 commandments in the bible, old and new. WOmen should not be in any position of authority over a men. Women should not speak directly to god, but should go through their husbands. You should eat birds that crawl on all 4s.. etc etc, you get the picture.
    If you think the bible was written by humans, perhaps nudged in a general direction by a god, then what the heck is the point of the thing? Any single part of it could be wrong and how can you tell which part that is? The bible becomes totally useless.
    But alas, this is applying logic to it, and the bible and its followers are anything but logical. I say she is screwed as long as she follows the bible. SUcks, but not much you can do if you want to be logical about it.

  • http://sanguinity.livejournal.com Sanguinity

    Seriously? Point her toward a gay-friendly ministry, like the MCC, and encourage her to talk with someone there. As an atheist, you probably won’t be able to convince her that it’s okay with her god for her to be gay. Someone who shares that god with her, and who has struggled over the same issues of what that god wants of people who are struggling with their sexual identity, will be far, far more useful to her.

    Also, frankly, there’s likely a lot more going on for her than just trying to discover what her god wants of her. There’s also her family, her community, how she makes a new space for herself in the world, how she unlearns and makes peace with things she has said and done in the past. You’re straight, Hemant, and you don’t know the half of what it means to “be okay” with being gay. Be a good friend by pointing her toward someone who does.

  • Erp

    Some good suggestions above. A lot of liberal Christians have reinterpreted the Bible to accept same-sex relationships and they are the best ones for helping her.

    http://www.gaychurch.org/Find_a_Church/united_states/us_tennessee.htm

    has a list of friendly churches in Tennessee. Quite a few are in Nashville area ranging from Baptist to Episcopalian to Presbyterian. It does not include Unitarian Universalist churches

  • Emily

    I had a similar experience when i was younger, identifying as bisexual and wanting to fit into the Bahai community. While they are much more accepting (i.e., they do not believe in the concept of “sin” so being gay is not “wrong” per se), you still cannot be a “practising” gay person and be a Bahai. When i asked around in communities how people deal with it i was saddened to hear that the most common response was “you just have to try not to think about it.”

  • http://paravane.wordpress.com jimmy paravane

    OK, I’m sorry but you left yourself wide open for this one: If you got the chance to convince gay Christians that it’s OK to be gay, would they get the chance to convince you that being Christian was OK? (grin)

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    hoverFrog: “The anti gay stuff in the bible is all OT”

    I’m afraid it’s not. :( Romans 1:24-27:

    Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

    Paul pretty clearly thinks gays are disgusting and unnatural. As I said before, this isn’t as much of a problem for liberal Christians, since they can just say that Paul was full of it, but for those who think that the Bible is infallible, this is a serious obstacle to acceptance of gays.

  • SarahH

    OK, I’m sorry but you left yourself wide open for this one: If you got the chance to convince gay Christians that it’s OK to be gay, would they get the chance to convince you that being Christian was OK? (grin)

    Of course being a Christian is OK! You’re not going to convince me to *be* a Christian, because I can’t make myself believe something I don’t see evidence for. (We’re not talking about how to convince someone to *be* gay – that would be silly!) But I don’t think it’s ethically wrong to be a Christian or that anything bad is going to happen to them as some kind of punishment. I know plenty of Christians I consider to be role models and mentors – I certainly think it’s OK :-)

  • Siamang

    Jimmy, they all get the chance every single day around here. There’s no shortage of people here trying to convert us.

    You know that one of the contributers to this blog is a Christian, right?

    Just show us the money. And by money, I mean evidence.

    There are a billion people on this planet who all want me to join their religion. What clear and substantial evidence have you that proves that all of them are wrong, and you are right?

    Give me one proof that your God exists. Here, I’m thinking of a number. I’m serious. I just wrote a number on a post-it note on my desk.

    Have your God tell you what it is, and I’ll listen to you. This should be an insignificant task for the most powerful being in the universe.

    Honestly, there IS a paper that I just wrote down. Really. I’m giving you a totally fair shot. Piece of cake for anyone who puts themselves in the position of supposedly knowing the thoughts of God.

  • Siamang

    And I’ll chime in to say: What Sarah said. It’s totally okay to be a Christian.

  • http://users.livejournal.com/_53/ Marcus

    You don’t need to. Gay rights is basically the abolition of slavery, part two. Just wait it out a few more years, a generation at the most, and churches everywhere will be happily marrying off gays like gays always had these rights since the dawn of time.

    The church will change its mind and embrace homosexuality and gay marriage, just like it did so in the past with slavery / de-segregation / interracial marriage / women’s rights / the Earth being round and not flat / etc. etc. At which point it will probably pretend it was always fighting for peoples’ rights when it did the opposite.

    Christianity (and other religions to varying degrees I’m sure) survives by constantly evolving faster than a virus, ever updating and changing to appear fresh, inviting and relevant, and not the pile of superstitious, ancient nonsense it really is. It wouldn’t survive for long if it didn’t.

  • http://paravane.wordpress.com jimmy paravane

    42. What? I thought I’d take a shot. (grin)
    Just to clear up one misconception; I’m not a Christian.

  • Siamang

    WOAH!!!!

    (Just kidding!)

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    JJ, homosexuality is certainly mentioned in the NT and that bit in Romans even mentions lesbians. I’d forgotten all about it. What was Paul doing at a gay orgy anyway?

  • Pseudonym

    I’m going to address this over at her blog, however… just as a suggestion for future reference, if someone asks this question in future, pointing them to Candace’s book is probably a good idea.

    JJ:

    Paul pretty clearly thinks gays are disgusting and unnatural. As I said before, this isn’t as much of a problem for liberal Christians, since they can just say that Paul was full of it [...]

    Some do; pastors, for example. Scholars would at least try to find out why Paul thought the way he did.

    If you read the whole chapter, it’s actually about idolatry, and it seems to deliberately parallel a passage in the Wisdom of Sirach, an ancient text that the Roman Catholics think of as deuterocanonical. In Paul’s worldview, this is the result of God’s anger, not the cause of it. Kinda interesting, actually.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    OK, I’m sorry but you left yourself wide open for this one: If you got the chance to convince gay Christians that it’s OK to be gay, would they get the chance to convince you that being Christian was OK?

    While I like SarahH’s answer, I also have to point out that this is an incredibly poor analogy. Hemant is a straight person who wants to convince gay people not to hate themselves for being gay. The analogous question is whehter it’s OK to convince atheists not to hate themselves for being atheists. To which I say, sure, if you ever find a self-loathing atheist, and want to convince them that it’s OK to be an atheist, sure, knock yourself out. It would be a nice thing to do.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Aj:

    I agree with others that the problem is viewing the Bible as inerrant or the word of God at all, and we have many arguments attacking both those views.

    5ive:

    As I see it. It really comes down to 2 choices, either the bible is the true word of god (foe he can guide humans to write what he desires) or it was written impressionable humans. You cannot have it both ways.

    One of the things I find weird about this blog is the eagerness of some atheists to agree with fundamentalist Christians that fundamentalism is the only “true” form of Christianity, and that literal inerrancy is the only religious reading that makes any sense. If you meet a conflicted gay Christian, I would suggest it’s pretty unhelpful to try to convince them that the only way they can accept their homo/bisexuality is to become an atheist. Sure, try to convince them that religion is bunk, if you want, but don’t try to convince them that their anti-homosexual beliefs are inextricably tied to their religious beliefs. Lots of Christians are perfectly happy to view the Bible as coming from God without viewing it as completely inerrant, and perhaps more importantly, without thinking that the verses can be read in a modern society completely decoupled from their historical context. If that lets a gay Christian live a happy life, that’s all for the best.

  • Aj

    Autumnal Harvest,

    There’s a missing comma there, I meant that if the person stopped believing that the Bible is the word of God then problem solved, not a dichotomy between the two. Even though I would argue against Biblical inerrancy I’m not arrogant enough to believe others needs religion, or think it’s a good idea for anyone to be engineering religion (not even atheists), so I’m not going to start arguing for one load of nonsense over another.

    This has nothing to do with literalism or fundamentalism. It’s ironic because it is clearly doing something you’re accusing other people of doing in the same sentence. It hasn’t escaped you that Christianity has a problem with homosexuality beyond literalism and fundamentalism, despite “lots” being fine with it.

    As far as interpretations of the Bible “making sense”, I’ll agree that you can interpret it to mean anything you want that is consistent with itself. If people admitted what the historical context implies this would be fine, at least they acknowledge there’s something that has to be decoupled. Interpreting things you don’t like in ever increasing improbable and creative ways isn’t honest, it’s wish-thinking.

  • Richard Wade

    How can you convince gay Christians that it’s ok to be gay?

    As a counselor I encountered this conflict a number of times. The pain they were in was often appalling. They had all been deeply injured by growing up gay in so bigoted a culture as ours. They were the victims of unspeakable crimes, even though few had ever been physically harmed. Counseling them was a delicate process because my professional ethics required me to be neutral about their religious issues, keeping my personal opinion out of it. My basic purpose was to reduce suffering, but the client was the one who had to define what their suffering was and the outcome was their responsibility.

    So instead of telling them things I would ask them things. I’d ask about their history of their sexual preference, and of any efforts they had tried to counteract it, to “be straight.” Of the few who had tried, all had failed. I’d ask them about where they had gotten the idea that being gay was bad, who had told them such things, and what were the arguments. I’d ask them about their religion, about which aspects appealed to them and which troubled them. I asked many questions and they told me stories. I never said “Look, just do this and this.” That would have been about my solution instead of their solution. It was their conflict, so it had to be their solution. Otherwise it would not be deep and lasting.

    It was slow, but things began to change. Just by having someone sit with them listening to their stories, caring and not judging, merely curious, interested, and wanting nothing but for them to somehow find a way out of their own suffering, they began to relax, to see options, to think in more creative terms, to consider alternative viewpoints that before they had disregarded. They began to accept themselves, to cease self loathing, and to disarm the hurtful attitudes they had been taught. For some their solutions were simple and straight forward, for others their solutions were subtle, complex and long-term. Often their biggest sticking points were more about the love and approval of their families rather than their church or their image of themselves as Christians.

    It was a privilege to work with each of them. I respected their courage, their patience and their earnestness. Some made dramatic reductions to their suffering, others smaller improvements, but they all owned their solutions and gave credit where it was due, to themselves.

  • SarahH

    Richard:

    Those clients were fortunate to get someone like you as their counselor. Many parents and churches will arrange for specific Christian counselors in situations like this, and they certainly don’t take the same approach.

    When I was diagnosed with an eating disorder as a teenager, my parents immediately found a Christian counselor who was supremely unhelpful, telling me that essentially my problems boiled down to “moving away from God” and that a closer relationship with Jesus could fix them. In the end, he got frustrated with me and I later ended up hospitalized several times. I was also approached by people from our church who basically expressed the opinion that anorexia and bulimia were sinful and that they were praying for me to not give in to temptation.

    I’m sure there are good Christian counselors out there, but I’d argue that almost all the effective ones are those who keep their religion and their professional ethics separate.

  • http://vaneramos.livejournal.com Van

    As a gay former Christian who participated in the ex-gay movement for years, I don’t know if there is an answer to your question. Gay people in conservative churches not only have to deal with their religious beliefs but also deep-seated homophobia, both internalized and within their churches. They may have had unpleasant experiences in gay relationships or communities, which reinforce the feeling that they must obey God (and reject their homosexuality) in order to lead fulfilling lives. For years I lived under the illusion that gay men were sexual predators, and that if I gave in to my sexual inclinations I would lead an isolated, miserable existence. I avoided gay people, so I had no positive role models. I recall two people (my doctor and one friend) trying to persuade me that I was making a mistake, but I was too invested in my straight church lifestyle to pay attention. The ex-gay movement reinforced my prejudice.

    People who get involved in the ex-gay movement initially experience euphoria about meeting others who share their experience. They experience hope from the teaching that they can overcome their sexual orientation.

    But it is a false hope. I never met anyone who had eradicated same-sex attraction from his or her life. It will be a life-long struggle, and people who continue to repress their sexuality will be subject to chronic depression.

    Depression finally broke through to me. I became unable to work and wanted to kill myself, not because I hated myself, but because I was in too much misery to contiue. But I preferred to live and be happy. My doctor suggested I needed to accept that I was gay in order to recover. I followed his advice, but it required costly changes. I had to go through the isolation I had feared, but eventually emerged with good friends and a happier life. I also became an atheist, though I must say my faith helped me through the first few lonely years.

    So in the end I had to hit bottom, the same way addicts have to do in order to get turned around. You either start doing what is right for yourself, or you die.

    The only other thing that might have helped was to know some gay people who led enjoyable, meaningful lives. But conservative Christians, at least many of the ones I knew, generally avoid people who think and act differently.

    Incidentally, I am in the process of writing a novel about the ex-gay Christian experience. It is not meant to vilify anyone; it is simply a story.

  • Fredi

    For one I’m saddened that your “Christian” experience led to nothing but guilt and depression. Most (so called) Christians are not very good in following the example of Christ and in loving people that are “different”. I believe if you had met Jesus, you would have liked him – and he would have loved you.
    Here is a question I have: You mention to “repress their sexuality” as a bad thing. are there any qualifications with that? Is there “good” and “bad” sexuality – or is all sexuality “good” and should never be repressed?

  • SarahH

    People who get involved in the ex-gay movement initially experience euphoria about meeting others who share their experience. They experience hope from the teaching that they can overcome their sexual orientation.

    But it is a false hope. I never met anyone who had eradicated same-sex attraction from his or her life. It will be a life-long struggle, and people who continue to repress their sexuality will be subject to chronic depression.

    And on both sites linked, there are tons and tons of comments from people who seem to a) have at least a vague idea of what a hard struggle it is to repress homosexual urges, b) don’t expect them to ever go away, yet c) glorify the practice of repressing the urges forever, in the service of God. They talk about how God gives everyone a ‘cross to bear’ and different temptations, as if sexual orientation is similar to a penchant for cheating on a spouse or telling lies or coveting property!

    It’s one thing to simply “not act” on an urge to lie, or steal, or smack somebody in the face – it’s another to spend your entire life avoiding enjoyable sexual experiences. It’s basically likening homosexuality to pedophilia: pedophiles don’t choose their fetish (many were abused themselves as children), and if they’re determined to live ethically and lawfully, they have to go through life constantly fighting the temptation to engage in their sexual fantasies. I can’t imagine how awful that might be, but at least there’s the motivating factor of knowing that you’re resisting an urge that would genuinely hurt others. Consenting homosexual relationships have no victims. They hurt no one. By making gay Christians feel as if their urges are dangerous and sinful, churches condemn those poor people to lives of shame, repression and denial.

    There’s peripheral damage that can occur as well, when “ex-gays” convince themselves that they’re ‘cured’ or attempt to convince others, and they get married and have kids. Eventually, there’s an extremely good chance that the spouse and kids will suffer because of the situation, and I think the blame falls squarely on Christian teachings for that.

  • Fredi

    SarahH: ... the blame falls squarely on Christian teachings
    One problem is that so-called “Christian teaching” and “the teachings of Christ” are often not the same – not even close.
    Jesus calls his followers – that would be all Christians – to
    1. love God
    2. love other people (including our enemies and those who hate us)
    3. proclaim the Good News of the Love of God to the world.
    It is not a Christian’s job to condemn, judge or “fix” people. According to my understanding of Scripture it is a deep understanding of the Love of God the “goodness of God that leads to repentance”, i.e. behavior change.
    Unfortunately the wrath and condemnation approach is so much closer to our sinful (=self-centered) human nature …

  • http://vaneramos.livejournal.com Van

    S, your comment is right on. And in my case there was collateral damage, too. I had been married for five years and had two small children when I had my breakdown. I had never hidden “my struggle” from people close to me, nevertheless the end was still devastating for everyone involved. I gather that even after we separated and I left the church, the pastors continued to pressure my wife to get back together with me. Our marriage had been a mistake, they had encouraged that mistake, and couldn’t admit they were wrong.

    As long as it lasted, I bought deeply into the idea of “a cross to bear.” It provided a point for identification with Jesus, in other words it was good to suffer. I felt closest to Jesus when I was in tears. Not all Christians glorify misery the way I did, but it is common. This is one of the dangerous aspects about religion: if I believe that suffering is good, I tend to dismiss examples of people whose lives are more functional.

  • Fredi

    The teachings of Jesus are liberating and empowering – how did people turn this message of forgiveness and grace into a guilt-ridden, judging religion.
    Remember: it was the self-righteous religious people who killed Jesus.
    Please do not judge the heart of what it means to be Christian by your painful experience with inadequate and ignorant representatives.

  • http://flowerdust.net anne jackson

    lots of great dialogue here. and funny that on both your and my sites, somehow i am now the gay girl :)

    the church i work at is accepting of EVERYONE. just to clarify :) it is also the church where the girl who posed the question goes.

    and really, dude, SWA is only like 60 bucks. :)

  • http://www.hopefulspirit.com Hopeful Spirit

    The only way to “convince” anyone of anything is to speak to them with love, compassion, caring, and empathy while demonstrating unconditional love and support. Sadly, few churches are actively seeking a dialogue with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) community — to their detriment. Those churches that do reach out to the GLBT community are few and far between, and many, many gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians have been harmed — some irreparably — by the nonsense perpetuated by cretins like Rick Warren who actually teach that prayer will change an individual’s immutable, inherent characteristics, sexual orientation being among them. Anyone who takes the time and trouble to read and UNDERSTAND the Bible will soon realize that it says little if anything about sexual orientation and what it does say must be interpreted with an understanding of 1) historical context; and 2) socioeconomic context. Remember that the Bible is frequently cited in order to deny rights to women — how many churches still aren’t even discussing the possibility of ordaining women, much less ordaining them? — because it was written by a bunch of men in a day and age when women and children were fairly worthless chattel (property). So long as Christians insist upon a strict interpretation of the Bible, there will be no point of compromise which saddens me greatly.

  • Fredi

    The problem is not a “strict interpretation of the Bible” the problem is a lack of understanding of what the Bible really teaches and above all what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian means being – as much as humanly possible – like Jesus. If “sinners” don’t like to be around you, you are not really like Jesus …

  • Truth

    I’m a chirstian and we’re not trying to make it miserable for gays or anyone else for that matter. We know that living for God is the greatest thing in the world, without him you always have this hole that you try to fill with all the wrong things. I don’t know what your going through you say. Well, actually Ive been struggling with being a homosexual but ultimately it hasnt made me miserable. In all truth trusting in God and knowing that everybody has a cross to bear and that this is mine well, the experience has drawn me closer to the Lord. Everyone struggles with something, The Lord will help if you let him.

  • Truth

    Van- when the term of our cross to bear is used it dosnt mean that suffering is good. It means that its our difficulties and when we trust in God during those hard times He will help bring us inner peace, not suffering. Not that everythings just gonna be peachy when your a chirstian because thats soo not the case but even when things arn’t great you can still find that peace by trusting God. -maybee by trusting in the Lord He can help you find the church you belong at

  • http://vaneramos.livejournal.com Van

    Truth,
    There ought not to be any struggle associated with being homosexual. The shame and conflict I formerly experienced did not come from nature or any higher power, but were imposed by human ignorance (my own as well as other people’s). I do not need a church to teach me that my role in society and the love I express as a gay man are just as valuable as anyone else’s. I experience belonging with my family, friends and the natural world.

  • Ashleigh

    It is supposed to be a man and a woman. Period! If a man and another man where the only two left in this world, that would be the end of human kind and same for a woman with a woman. That is NOT natural. Being said, it is not natural, why would God condone it?

    • Suzy

      Although no one has tried yet I bet science could fix that. And if it was from a man and a man you would still be able to get female offspring. However if it got down to there only being two people left we clearly screwed something up along the way.

  • Lorraine

    Hi..I have been a follower of Jesus for over 30 years. What I would like to say is, I do not feel that beimg gay is a sin. however, I feel its the same with any sin. You might be tempted to do things you know God doesn’t want us doing no matter what”sin” it might be. The bible says we will be tempted but not to fall into the temptation. That becomes the sin. So living the gay lifestyle is a sin but if you go towards same sex but you don’t act on it I believe its not a sin. I hope this is clear and of some help. Remember no matter what your struggling with God will take you through.He is your Hiding Place and He will protect you from the storms of life. You need to look to Him. He knows your heart…Be encouraged:)

  • T

    Is wearing clothes natural when you think about? Look at the way God designed us in the beginning, naked, walking around, free, exposed. Now we cover it up, is that natural?

    I am a Christian, I love the Lord, I am also gay. I think you have to be careful when saying you’re gay. People automatically assume that as sexualy active and out all the time, etc. etc. I treat it like a heterosexual thing. I date if I meet someone. I pray about, etc. etc. I prayed for YEARS when I was younger and it didn’t go away. So what am I supposed to do, be miserable? I don’t think so. I have just as much right to be happy as someone struggling with lying, cheating, smoking, whatever you name it. Its a shame we have to always “identify” everything, it causes so much grief.

  • Ken

    I see homosexuality differently than most do. I see it as the same thing as a man who likes blonds or women with large… you know. Or women who like hairy men or muscular men. Or people who like fat people or skinny people. I also see it as the same as some liking bondage, certain fetishes and pedophilia.
    Now I know that last one will make many upset, but what I am pointing out is, it is just some wiring in our system that sets us up to be turned on by one thing and not others. Some are accepted and some are bad.

    With that in mind… as every one of us would agree… I hope, pedophilia is absolutely wrong. If that is what makes one happy, it does not mean they should do it. Being a Christian is not about what makes us happy. It is about serving God! I am a Christian male. I will admit that two women together turns me on. But I know that is wrong in Gods eyes, so I will not ever say it is okay!

    Being gay is not a sin. Being turned on by anything is not a sin. Being aroused by pedophilia is not a sin. Acting on them is what is a sin. You can be a gay and be a christian, but you cannot tell others homosexual activity is okay and be a christian. That is no diferent than saying you are a Christian and tell others lying is okay. If God says it is wrong, it is a sin. It is up to us to turn from sin or face hell. Our choice! Our choice to make ourselves happy or make God happy.

    I am poor. Out of work and facing some bad times. I could steal the money if I wanted and I know how to do it easily. In fact it is right in front of me if I wanted to. But it is not for me as a Christian to sin to make me happy. As a Christian I am to live with the struggles and shame of failure in my career for it is more important to make God happy than to make myself happy.

  • Ken

    After I clicked away from this, I read another site that made me realize I had something more, very important to say.

    Though I have stated it is more important to make God happy than ourselves, I realize that even Christians are not perfect. We all sin. Often Christians sin far more than non-christians do. The diference is a “True” Christian knows they have failed God and will ask him to forgive them from their hearts. If they really mean it, God will forgive them. You can be a gay christian and fail sometimes just as straight Christians do when they have sex outside of marriage. Whether you are a Christian or not depends on if you are sorry that you failed God or not. Was it a failure or a choice to do it and say its okay. We are all weak sometimes and will sin. We cant be a Christian and believe it is okay to sin though. If you recognize it as a sin and ask God to forgive you. He will.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Ken,
    Your comments are thoughtful and candid. I would only ask you to think more deeply about one thing:

    You say that being gay is not a sin, but acting on that drive, hard-wired into us from birth as you seem to acknowledge, that is a sin.

    Imagine having exactly the sexual drives wired into you as you do now, and having me, and millions of others like me who believe differently than you do, telling you that it’s okay for you to have those feelings, but it is not acceptable for you to act upon those feelings, not okay for you to ever, ever fulfill those desires.

    “Love the sinner, hate the sin” applied in this regard, is not a loving stance at all. It is hateful, bigoted, ignorant repression, and the pretense of love is disgusting hypocrisy.

  • http://vaneramos.livejournal.com Van

    And it is about more than just sex drive. Ken, sexual orientation is not just a fetish or a fantasy like you described; it is about who we are attracted to. To say that it is okay for me to feel but not act means I may fall in love, but never, ever enter into a truly intimate relationship with anyone I am attracted to. Consider how depressing that would be for millions of people.

  • Doug

    It is too bad that you missed the whole point of the Bible. That Not so great a book of lies and half truths. Ex. God says I am a changeless God. Oh! Yea! Adam and Eve’s children married each other, if you want to call sexual coupling marriage. Then He, “God” says, “Do not have sex with a close relative”,changeless, Ho-hum The Bible is a bunch of human BS, that doesn’t even address Homosexuality at all, and anything that those Bible fools want to call sin,is sin. I wish that I had discovered that I was Bi-Sexual early on and then I could of live that sexual preference to the fullest, but then it’s hell to wake up and discover that at 80,years young that you cannot change your sexual preference any more than a leopard can change it’s spots, if you think that being downed by these religious cooks because of your sexual preference is hell just wait until you mind,body and soul cries out for same sex love that no man can fill. It’s your body, mind and soul to do with as you see fit, so chose wisely.

    Love from the Philippines
    Doug.

    • Suzy

      Even worse I’m pretty sure (although I haven’t read the bible for a while) that Adam and Eve had only sons so sibling incest was the least of the worries there.

  • Doug

    I don’t really see that Homosexuality should be a human, unacceptable problem, It doesn’t seem to be much of a problem within the animal kingdom. And you don’t hear the Bible’s God condemning such animal behavior. Just sick minded bible interpreters who wouldn’t know a hill of beans from a cornfield. Sexual Controllers who are just hung up in their own selfcentered Thou shall not do this,Thou shall not do that stupidity. The Mosaic Laws became null and void when God’s “Gospel Of Love”, And “LOVE” has became the last and final Commandment of His through Jesus Christ. So who you love opposite sex or same sex really is a moot point. If I am a mother or a father, you mean to tell me that I cannot love my children regardless of their gender. And you cannot take love out of an emotional relationship without sex, a family member. And neither can you take sex out of a totally committed togetherness regardless of which gender you choose to love.


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