To be young, gay, Christian, and afraid


Dear John,

I am 21 years old. I am also a Christian very involved in my campus ministry.

I revealed to people about a month and half ago that I am gay.

I hid it for a long time due to growing up hearing Christians say that homosexuality is an abomination before God. I felt that no one would accept me due to my sexuality. I hid it and tried very hard to be straight and have relationships with Christian girls, because I felt that was the “Godly” thing to do.

I tried so hard to be like everyone else. I tried and tried. This fell me into a deep depression because I believed that God hated me because I was gay. I felt that God would send me to hell because of this. I decided to tell one of my close Christian friends about my homosexuality. I did and now I am out to my church.

There are many gay Christians like myself in my ministry. However, they all believe that acting on it is a sin that would deny us the entrance of the kingdom of God. Every time I tried talking to them about it, they always brought up 1 Corinthians 6:9. Confused, I searched the web looking for answers. I came across the NALT project. [Here.] The explanation you have provided [here] makes sense. However, I have my doubts, because all other Christians I know would disagree with this point of view. And if I ever entered a same sex relationship I know I would be kicked out of my ministry.

I am super confused but I still love God and want to serve him. I feel like it would be beneficial for me to speak to a gay affirming Christian. I however do not know of any. I was hoping you could put me in the right direction.

Dear friend,

Well, now you do know a gay-affirming Christian: me. And all my friends here on this blog. And all the Christians who made NALT videos. And the 33,739 people who’ve liked the Unfundamentalist Christians Facebook page.

And you can find one of the over 5,000 churches in this country that fully affirm LGBT people at GayChurch.org.

It’s so easy for any of us to feel that ours is the only situation that exists. But it rarely is. And in your case it most certainly is not. There are tons of LGBT-affirming Christians and churches out here. Unfortunately, the church you’re in is one that time is increasingly leaving behind, praise be to God.

The only advice I can give you is to, at whatever pace is comfortable and/or workable for you, transition away from where you are now into a life populated with people who understand that God would no sooner condemn a person for being gay than God would condemn a person for being blue-eyed or red-headed. I’m just now visiting the city of Palm Springs, CA, which is very gay-affirming place. In a place like this—or in any of the vast gay communities that exist in so many large American cities—Christians who think being gay is a sin are widely considered sad, backward, ignorant bigots who need to join the 21st century and stop mistaking their prejudice for God’s will.

In such places the overwhelming majority know the truth, which is that there’s nothing wrong with being gay. There’s nothing unnatural about being gay. There’s nothing in the Bible that says jack-squat about the morality of being gay. There’s absolutely nothing offensive to God about being gay.

That people want the Bible to say that being gay is a sin—that they so fervently desire it they’ve actually perverted the Bible in an effort to have it reflect the fear and hostility that’s in their own heart—tells you more than anyone should have to know about people, and nothing whatsoever about God.

People fashion the God they want. And your friends, and your pastor, and your parents, and your teachers, and a million other people can tell you that God condemns gay people, and that won’t make it any more true than if the same number of people told you that the world is flat or that birds live under water. The truth isn’t subject to the stresses of majority rule or peer pressure; the truth stubbornly remains the truth, no matter what. And the truth is that anyone who looks into the issue with any care at all readily understands that deciding the Bible condemns gay people to hell is like deciding the phone book is a hymnal.

So believe what your heart (and the Bible) is telling you; trust in the inviolate integrity of God’s love; teach your friends when you can and forgive them when you can’t; and look forward to the life you’ll soon enough be leading, where, I guarantee you, you’ll daily be grateful to be living a truth that is so much greater than the lie you were raised to believe.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Happy2BGay

    Hi there. One of the web sites that I stumbled on when I was struggling with coming out was The Gay Christian Network. It is geared a little toward the younger / college aged crowd, but even as a middle aged woman, I found much support and enlightenment there. Justin Lee is the Executive Director, and he is just fabulous. (I put him up there with our beloved John Shore, wink wink!!!) Anyway, Justin has a lot to say about gay Christians being in relationships. Good luck in your journey. I am glad that you found John’s blog and NALT. You will find that there are many of us who are gay AND Christian. Please reach out to us….our hands are stretched out to you! Blessings!

  • Frank2918

    Acting on your sinful attractions is sinful. Stay away from it. You can’t control how you feel but you have absolute control about what you do.

  • Matt

    This may help your confusion: any person who doesn’t listen is not worth listening to in turn. People can discuss interpretations of the clobber passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9, and that’s a worthwhile conversation to have. But there’s a time and a place for that. When someone who is hurting approaches a Christian, that is not the time. That’s the time to listen.

    It’s easy to be feel “less than” as an LGBT Christian. But you’re just not, okay? You’re just like everyone else already. No need to try to be; you’re already there. The only thing left to do is act on that knowledge. Take good care of yourself, be kind to yourself and others. Don’t worry. There’s lots of hope out there.

    • lymis

      Well said, Matt.
      I’ve always said that the question for straight Christians isn’t and can really never be, “Is it okay for someone else to be gay?” It is, and always has been, “Here is my neighbor, who is gay. How am I called to treat my neighbor?”

      And “how can I kick them when they are down?” is pretty much never the right answer.

  • CKPS63

    Good letter, John. Are you going to be speaking somewhere in Palm Springs? I’d love to come and hear.

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      That’s kind of you. But no, I’m just here … well, working in a hotel room while my wife goes to the big photo convention thing here.

      • CKPS63

        That’s too bad. Have a wonderful stay in the desert — and try to get out of that hotel room and into a swimming pool!

        • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

          done and done

          • anakinmcfly

            Pics or it didn’t happen!

          • Jill

            haha anakin

          • Bill Steffenhagen

            (Raised eyebrows!!!!)

  • David Pickett

    I’m new to this blog, but always on the lookout for good articles that encourage GLBT folks that God loves them just as they are. I also look for those articles to promote inclusivity and unity in the church, to advance the conversation, and to help the church grow in love. While I agree with many of your points, I have to disagree with your caricature of Christians who think that being gay is a sin. Somewhere, there may be some who “want the Bible to say that being gay is a sin,” and “so fervently desire it they’ve actually perverted the Bible in an effort to have it reflect the fear and hostility that’s in their own heart.” But I’m convinced that the majority of the hold-outs are those who believe what they have been taught, and they read their Bibles through the lenses of that teaching. Some do have fear and hostility in their hearts, but when they are attacked as “sad, backward, ignorant bigots,” their beliefs about you (and by extension, all of us who affirm full inclusion in the church) are only strengthened. By your definition, my own good-hearted Southern Baptist parents and all of their friends (who were really just products of early 20th century Southern evangelicalism) were sad, backward, ignorant bigots with fear and hostility-filled hearts. Actually, to follow your argument to its logical conclusion, you would have to include pretty much every Christian who ever lived until the last few decades in your “backward, ignorant and hostile” category.
    Additionally, your assessment of our large cities as havens of progressive, gay-embracing Christianity is short-sighted. It’s often easier to find an affirming congregation in the city, and the evangelical megachurch is mostly a suburban phenomenon, but majority African American churches vastly outnumber the affirming congregations in almost any city, and are less likely to be progressive in their views of sexuality. The same is true of many urban congregations of first and second-generation immigrants. Cities have their fair share of evangelicals as well. Palm Springs is great, but our large cities are far from being monolithic gayborhoods.
    I appreciate your passion to affirm the letter writer and others like him who have been hurt by the church, but demonizing the people in his campus ministry doesn’t help him at all. Let’s pray and work for change in the hearts, minds and practices of those churches and individuals who continue to hurt people like him, and let’s remember that God’s grace extends in both directions. We can disagree with people and even hate the harm they cause without being hateful toward the people themselves.

    • lymis

      I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you. As a gay man who was raised in a very religious home and struggled for decades to reconcile my experience of being gay with the barrage of hate that was flung at me in the name of religion, no.

      I certainly won’t condemn all Christians, not even those who struggle with coming to terms with the gay people around them. I’ve known too many. No, not all of them are backward, ignorant and hostile – but they tend to focus on “Love thy neighbor” over “throwing the first stone.”

      “I don’t understand you and what you are saying doesn’t match my understanding of the will of God” is one thing, but “You are perverted, God condemns you out of hand to an eternity in hell, and you and people like you are inherently attacking society as we know it, and the only valid Christian response is to criminalize and marginalize you, and write discrimination into the foundational documents of our civil society” isn’t an expression of Christian love in ANY form – and that’s the message constantly presented to gay Christians and gay people everywhere.

      Those people ARE backward, ignorant and bigoted, and pretending otherwise doesn’t serve gay people trying to maintain contact with their Creator, nor does it serve those misguided Christians.

      This is not something that’s up for debate. Gay people are people. Gay people are beloved of God. Gay people have an absolute right to be included in the discussions and debates about what constitutes moral behavior in our own lives – and all too often, we are systematically excluded from even being allowed into the discussion. All my life I’ve had to observe straight people arguing among themselves whether I even exist, whether there’s even a possibility that God might love me, and whether there is any possibility of moral behavior on my part.

      That’s not a valid alternate viewpoint, and it’s disingenuous to the point of evil to pretend that it is. Yes, we need to respond to their ignorance with compassion, but compassion isn’t “There, there, thinking gay people are Satanic agents corrupting children and out to destroy society is a valid viewpoint and you deserve to be heard.” Compassion is “I know it’s hard for you, and I’m here to support you through this, but welcome to the 21st century, it’s time to open your heart to your gay neighbor, even if you aren’t able to see them as your brother or sister.”

      Believing in hate simply because it’s what you’ve been taught, when there is over a half-century of very visible, very vocal opportunities to get past it is simply no longer an acceptable option, any more than believing that black people are property or that women are inferior is.

      • Bill Steffenhagen

        You always nail it, Lymis. Love to read you here. You are speaking of my evangelical type family which included three younger siblings and now deceased parents. They thought/think they are loving Christians toward me and my sexuality and would never think of harming me or anyone gay, but I think they do think of me as lost. They are the perfect example of ignorant, bigoted and hostile because no matter how much I have tried to lead them to resources that would help them understand, they outright refused to consider it. My sister once exposed it at an Easter family gathering many years ago. We got to discussing ME and they were all so perplexed about how I could be at peace with God. I told them about all I’ve learned about Christian and Biblical history, interpretations, exegesis….you know the litany and the many resources I have, which is a personal library longer than my arm span. When I offered to share that with them, my sister blurted out, near tears, “Well we don’t read those kind of books.” I responded by saying, “Well, that makes it easy for you to hold on to your prejudice.” You could have heard a pin drop in the carpeted room.
        So there it is, the FEAR of learning that their vaunted traditional beliefs are not necessarily all Truth. So now, except for my sons, I have no biological family. It is THEY who are “lost” to me.

        • Jill

          “the FEAR of learning that their vaunted traditional beliefs are not necessarily all Truth.”

          – nailed it.
          Fear is used as an excuse to avoid truth. Honestly, walking over that bridge– stepping beyond your deepest fear to find out what truth really looks and acts like– that’s the definition of walking through hell.

          Because you walk across that bridge alone. The god you once adored espoused such rhetoric, and so you leave that god behind. You say that there are fates worse than death, and you trudge forward in doubt as a self-styled traitor.

          Because you believe in something more.

          And no one you knew wants to know you anymore. Including family, or people that told you they were your family.

          Fear is the ultimate destroyer. It destroys people’s common decency and compassion. It locks down hearts and closes minds.

          • Bill Steffenhagen

            *****stepping beyond your deepest fear to find out what truth really looks and acts like– that’s the definition of walking through hell.*****

            And YOU nailed that. I hadn’t ever quite thot of it like that, but it was so true for me. There were times I was in such agony I literally feared a heart attack flat on my face on the floor. It was like looking thru a doorway into a black, blank space that I knew I had to step into, only to discover a new life with the first step. There were difficulties to be sure, but there really WAS a new life…..and such a relief in my Spirit.

          • Jill

            Exactly. Thankfully we’re all here to confirm that there IS life on the other side of fear. We’ve done that hard work, and we can help others who are crossing that same bridge of their own. We can build up each other.

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    Hi letter writer. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I’d like to offer two thoughts.

    1. When you’re asking these questions about the sinfulness of homosexuality, please look beyond the clobber passages. Trying to understand what it means to be a gay Christian by studying the clobber passages is like trying to understand what it means to be a Christian woman by studying passages about menstruation. You’re fully human – a realtional creation of God, made in his image – and worthy of the blessings that flow from loving and being loved in every way.

    2. You know the traditional arguements. John does an excellent job of stating the non-traditional view as you’ve seen. If you want to do a deeper dive into affirming theology, I would highly recommend these two books:

    A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics by William Stacy Johnson

    Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships by James V. Brownson

    Know that there are many, many people out in this big world who fully support you as you go about the hard work of discerning God’s will for your life.

    My sincere best to you,
    David

  • lymis

    Dear letter writer:

    Hang in there. You’re in a prophetic role now, and that’s never particularly fun for the people God calls to that position.

    I hate to have to warn you that you’re also going to face a lot of hostility in the gay community for being a believer. Partly because the community is full of exiles and refugees who have been badly hurt by religion, and partly because it’s currently trendy to put down all belief as Bronze Age mythology and anti-science. But there’s a lot of fear and ignorance about religion in the gay community and the modern atheist movement as well. You may find, as some of us have, that our call to what might be seen as ministry is reaching out in love to our fellow exiles rather than in working within organized religion.

    At the very least, expect to find yourself straddling some very uncomfortable divides. It may help to learn to accept that neither community to which you validly belong is going to universally embrace your experience – but that there are a LOT of people in both who will, if you allow yourself to see and approach them as individuals.

    Many of us have our 40 days in our own various deserts, and return very much changed by them.

    You cannot be kicked out of your ministry. Speaking about relationships, Marianne Williamson used to often say, “If the train doesn’t stop at your station, it wasn’t your train.” Your ministry is to the people God puts in front of you. If that isn’t the people or the setting you expected it to be, at least be open to allowing the Spirit to inspire you to minister to the people in the setting you find yourself in. Jesus didn’t just preach in the Temple. He was pretty famous for hanging out with the people “everybody knew” a holy man wouldn’t go near.

    Now, increasingly, gay people are being called to witness in what up until very recently have been more traditional ministry roles, as open and healthy, unashamedly LGBT people. But many of us aren’t.

    But also be prepared for gay and gay-affirming Christians to use some language and embrace some ideas that will seem very foreign if all your experience of Christianity has been gay-neutral or gay-negative.

    You have to allow your measure of whether something is authentically the working of the Spirit to be how connected it makes you to God and to your neighbor, not how well it is received by other people. If God calls you through something like NALT, at least listen. Certainly, weigh whether anything feels right, and be prepared to take time to grow and to allow yourself periods of being okay with being uncertain. But if you hold on too tightly to what is familiar, you can miss the call to your most genuine experience of yourself and of God.

  • nanbush

    Look for a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) — not only LGBT friendly but LGBT-centric. “Come just as you are!” Fully open Communion. Full of gay Christians.

  • reconstructorofworlds

    Dear Letter Writer:

    I had a college friend who was in a very similar situation to you, and I had the privilege of being one of the five or so people he came out to. Unlike you, we may have been the only ones he came out to, at least in college. He remained in the closet to everyone else but his “girlfriend”.

    Honestly, at the time, I didn’t know what to say to him, because I’d never really thought about what it meant to be gay and the only gay person I knew was an atheist. But it was that conversation that got me thinking on the subject, and eventually changed and informed a lot of my opinions on whether being gay was incompatible with being a Christian or not. I no longer think it is.

    I realized something that day: a life of fear and self-loathing like that was never how God intended anyone to live. Why would the God of hope, and love, and peace create someone with an unchangeable desire to be loved, if that desire was incompatible with knowing God? Why would there be one “sin” that God could never forgive? One type of person whom grace did not cover?

    Unfortunately, I lost contact with this friend, so I don’t know if he was ever able to reconcile his feelings with his faith. I truly hope and pray that he did. I wish I could tell him that conversation changed how I saw a lot of things. I just want to say, be strong. You will change the minds and hearts of others, even if you never see it. There are other gay Christians out there – I’ve met many of them since that day. And I know many Christians who fear gay people only because they have been misinformed and think it’s ok because they aren’t hurting anyone they know. You can help change them, just by existing.

    God loves you. God loves you just the way you are! And it isn’t fair (or Christian) for anyone to insist that you remain single, either. 1 Corinthians 7 talks about the fact that not everyone is given the gift of remaining single, and that it is better to marry than to burn with desire. No Christian should impose rules that do not apply to themselves on someone else.

    “I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.” – Isaiah 41:13

    • buschmiller

      Dear reconstructorofworlds – What a kind and thoughtful response.

  • John Moore

    Dear Letter Writer:
    Do not let ANYONE tell you that you are unworthy or separate you from your God. It is a struggle that I have faced and all LGBT Christians face on an almost daily basis. Stay the course and have faith! You are not alone…

  • Timothy L. Northrup Jr.

    Amen, John. I was soundly kicked out of my college ministry a few years back, not for being gay as such (that was oddly tolerable) but for writing a letter to the local and campus newspapers at the Student Government President’s request about National Coming Out Day (as the only openly gay member of our relatively small Student Senate at a small state school).

    The people I met as a result, the church home I found, and the more affirming life I’ve led, even living in this smaller town still, is remarkable. You can find those who will love you for who you are, even in Podunkville, USA

  • Guy Norred

    Sorry if this is off topic, but after reading this this morning, the image of the phone book hymnal keeps coming back into my head (complete with Motel of the Mysteries illustrations) and I find myself stifling a giggle when I am supposed to be dealing with other serious matters.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      Not sure what a phone book hymnal is. But I am pretty sure this is not what you mean.

      • Guy Norred

        No, that is not. :-) Sorry again for the off topic comment in what both above and below is a really good discussion, but John’s sentence “And the truth is that anyone who looks into the issue with any care at
        all readily understands that deciding the Bible condemns gay people to
        hell is like deciding the phone book is a hymnal.” just put this image of someone deciding the phone book was some ancient sacred text and finding some way to sing from it much like is done with very ordinary objects in David Macaulay’s book “Motel of the Mysteries”, which, now that I think about it, makes it perhaps a little less off topic than I thought at first. I mean if we translated a standard modern US phone book into another standard modern language, we would already have problems with ordering various alphabets, etc., much less we tried directly use an ancient directory to …

      • Andy

        Reminds me of The Shawshank Redemption. Remember, salvation lies within.

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    **** ….if I ever entered a same sex relationship I know I would be kicked out of my ministry.*****

    If you are part of a congregation that is ok with you being gay but would reject you as soon as you actually began to LOVE someone gay, you need to leave them and shake their dust off your feet on you way out. Easier said than done, I know, but there’s a whole world out there in which to make a new life your own and not what others think it should be, and once you’re there, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
    What happened to me was to finally look into myself after dropping all the religious trappings and saying, “OK Jesus, just you and me now.” It is literally a leap of FAITH. If you trust God (Love), you will find him/her/it on the other side which is not outside, but inside. Inside of you. Don’t worry about feeling like you are testing God. Think of it as TRUSTING God and take your leap of Faith. If you cannot do this then, frankly, you are NOT trusting God. You are clinging to Fear.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      Agreed. saying they are Ok with, you identifying as gay, but not ok with you being in a gay relationship, still means that they don’t accept you, except under rules of their making and that make them feel comfortable. Any church or group that cannot accept someone as they are, whole hog, just because they are a bit different, just isn’t worth belonging to.

  • FKCole

    This is the main reason I left the “church”. I have no dog in the LGBT fight but I couldn’t stand around and watch people be treated less than. I had enough and I left. I am not searching for a church that includes everyone so thank you for the search site. I affirm you as well friend and, I am sorry. You should never feel as you do.


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