Should You Call Yourself a ‘Gay Christian’?
Dr. Craig comments on an article that shows the pitfalls of “identity politics” and certain aspects of sexual identity.
KEVIN HARRIS: Heaven help us! We are getting into some deep waters here. Welcome to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Today, we are checking out an article by a woman who mentions the Nashville Statement and recounts her story of being in a mixed-orientation marriage. She offers, as we will read in a moment, lots of caution in this article. This whole issue continues to be front and center in the culture, doesn’t it?
DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: Yes, it really is. And it does have relevance to Christian worldview. This is not just a political issue. This is a moral and theological issue.
KEVIN HARRIS: I know that a lot of people ask you to comment on things outside of your expertise because you are a Christian leader nonetheless.
DR. CRAIG: But if I might say, I typically refrain from expressing myself politically on these various issues because I don’t want evangelical Christianity or the Gospel to be thought to be in lock step with right wing conservative politics. But an issue like transgenderism or homosexual behavior is not for me a political issue. These are ethical issues that are addressed explicitly by Holy Scripture and on which the Christian therefore needs to take a stand however politically unpopular it might be.
KEVIN HARRIS: This article came to my attention. There is a minister named Matt Moore who puts out a newsletter and some writings. He is a man who has same-sex attraction and yet lives in purity and is celibate as a minister and as a single person. He writes on how we should respond to those who have same-sex attraction inside and outside the church and how we can present a Christian witness. He says we must read this article. So I said, OK, I’ll read it. It is from Monica who has the “Deliberately Domestic” blog. She was married to a man who was homosexual. They have three children together. They call it a mixed-orientation marriage. I think that is relatively rare, but apparently there are some of these. It brings up an issue of whether someone who has just an almost dominating same-sex attraction and who is a Christian – should they marry a woman (say if they are a man, someone of the opposite sex) or should they remain single? You’d have to look at each individual case I guess.
DR. CRAIG: I think so. That would be a question for a psychological counselor, certainly not for a philosopher or ethicist.
KEVIN HARRIS: I’ve heard of at least two successful marriages like this where they thought it would be the right thing to do. They loved each other as individuals even though the man continued to struggle or had to walk in God’s grace with same-sex attraction. They’ve been successful. This one wasn’t. They ended in divorce. Monica says:
OK, Bill, there is a lot to this. Apparently in their attempt to build a bridge and to be loving toward the homosexual community nevertheless they fell prey to the false teaching and false concepts that can exist. You should not identify as a “gay Christian” – it sends the wrong message.
I have attempted to be private about the details of my divorce and what led to it. I hope I have done right by protecting my former husband and by not airing laundry the world did not need to know. And yet, our marriage was very public in many ways. For those of you who have known me for years, you remember when we were writing publicly about Brian and I’s mixed orientation marriage. You remember seeing me post pictures at Pride Parades, having countless LGBT-friendly gatherings in my home, and may even know we were on track to writing a book on the subject. In my mind, I was trying to create a bridge between the two worlds I found myself in: the gay world filled with many people who were dear to me and the conservative Christian world I was raised in and continue to choose to align myself with.
And since all of that was very public, I’m sure many of you have wondered where I stand now. How do I look back on it all? Would I endorse the positions I held and wrote about back then? Do I agree with the ways we conducted ourselves? How do I feel about controversial events happening on a national level, with the Nashville Statement coming out this past week and LGBT issues in the news constantly? How do I feel when I see the kinds of views my ex-husband is posting publicly and everything he now stands for?
Well, I’m going to answer those questions to the best of my ability while continuing to preserve discretion where I can. I think we were wrong. Not for getting married, not for attempting to stay married, not for pursuing Christ and forsaking all others. Those things were right and I wholeheartedly believe our marriage could have survived based on that foundation. But we were wrong to embrace “being gay” as an identity. We were wrong to move away from the gospel and to move towards figuring out some new way to exist. When I look back on what we wrote, I think, “dear Monica, run to Jesus. He is ever and only the answer. There is no other way. Don’t succumb to pressure, don’t give in to what feels comfortable and more palatable. Cling to God and truth.” Brian slowly, inch by inch walked away from faithfulness to the Scripture. Our hearts can only serve one god, and he chose identity in his sexuality above all else. He eventually sacrificed everything on that altar: his relationship with God, our marriage, and our family.
When I read the Nashville statement, all I can think is “YES. Thank you.” I wish this was written twenty years ago and that I had never begun to depart from it. I obviously bear responsibility for allowing myself to be moved on a variety of topics, but I felt helpless to do otherwise. Like many, if not all of you, I had heard that because I did not personally experience these issues that I could not have a voice in the discussion. I trusted Brian. I trusted him to lead me and our family, and so I often deferred to his judgment. When he said “we don’t like what so-and-so is saying” I agreed. I didn’t bother to read for myself or figure out how things were lining up with Scripture. I planted my flag in the ground, defending him at all costs whether I fully understood why or not. That is my fault. I should not have done that. . . . Because you cannot get away with calling sin “good”, just because it feels more loving. Because I know where attempting to find a middle ground leads. I know because I watched it happen first hand in the person I loved more dearly than any other in this world. I watched this man who loved Jesus turn into someone who I do not recognize. There is no middle ground. There are only two ways to live — towards and for Christ or away and against Him. I choose the former.
DR. CRAIG: That does seem to be the lesson that she is drawing from this. It is an enormous mistake to attach your identity as a person with your sexual orientation. So long as her husband continued to think of his personal identity in terms of his sexual orientation he could not finally be free of that. It was just too powerful. So she seems to be advising us to think of our identity as who we are in Christ rather than as wrapped up in our sexual orientation. We can think of analogies to this, I think. For example, do I think of my personal identity in terms of being an American? Or being a caucasian man? Or being even a philosopher? Is that who I am as my personal identity? If you think of who you are in terms of your sexual orientation then you are never going to be free of that, she is suggesting. It is going to overwhelm you in the end. So it seems that she is saying that in this mixed-orientation marriage he needed to find a new identity. He needed to think of himself as a person in Christ, a sinner redeemed by the grace of God, and not to think of himself as, as you put it, a “gay Christian.” That is a fundamental mistake.
KEVIN HARRIS: It sends the wrong message. Just what you said. That is why Matt Moore doesn’t call himself a gay Christian. He says he is a Christian, and he has, for whatever reason, struggles with same-sex attraction.
DR. CRAIG: Yeah. You think of yourself as a Christian. That is the way you identify. My personal identity is in Christ. Then I have all of these hangups and sinful proclivities that I am dealing with and fighting against but they don’t touch the core of my being because my essence is that I am a Christian. A new creation as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 – if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; all things have become new. Perhaps here there wasn’t that sense of the new creation – of a new identity. It was still clinging to the old identity. That just then proved insuperable for this fellow.
KEVIN HARRIS: She makes reference in this article – we’ll touch on it quickly – a counter-statement to the Nashville Statement. A group called Christians United put their own statement out. It is practically the opposite of everything in the Nashville Statement. We won’t go over the whole thing. Maybe it is another podcast. But something I did want to ask you about did kind of jump out to me. Whereas Christians United had this article that says that it is OK to have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex, that God ordained that and that is OK with God. God created it. Yet when I look at the entire Christians United statement, I didn’t see anything that would indicate that they say, “Yes, it is OK for people of the same sex to engage in sexual behavior.” They wouldn’t go that far. Why not? It is almost like: We still can’t get there. Our intuitions are screaming at us! They use the word “romantic” which you can be a romantic but . . .
DR. CRAIG: That’s playing with fire. It really is playing with fire. I think that is the lesson of this blog. If you play with fire in that way it is going to ultimately incinerate you. You need to make a decisive and clean break with that former lifestyle. Not just the lifestyle but even the identity she is saying. You must not self-identify anymore in this way, otherwise it will eventually overcome you. For people to say, Be involved in romantic dating relationship or something of that sort with the same sex – that is just folly if you think that it cannot lead anywhere legitimate.
KEVIN HARRIS: I don’t want people to misunderstand her either because she said, We had gay-friendly people, homosexual people, over to our home. That is a good thing. Paul told the Corinthians if a non-believer invites you over for dinner and you want to go, go and eat whatever is put before you. It is not like you can’t have a person in your home. But she just said that the sum total of attending these Pride Parades and having these gay-friendly parties in their home led to their demise.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, because he still identified with that community though a Christian. I wonder, in a case like this (and I am just speculating here), whether or not for a person trying to make a mixed-orientation marriage work if it wouldn’t be better to sequester yourself from these kinds of relationships and ministries. Let other people reach out to those communities to try to help them and win them. But for you, you’ve got to make this mixed-orientation marriage work, and therefore you ought to perhaps sever any sorts of relationships that would be tempting or conducive to immorality. It would be, for example, like an alcoholic who’s trying to recover from alcoholism. He doesn’t go to the bars to try to minister to other alcoholics there and try to win them over. That would be silly for him to put himself in those sorts of environments and positions. He needs to sever himself from anything that might lead him to indulge in alcoholism, at least until years have gone by and he is safely delivered from that sort of proclivity and temptation. Similarly here, I just wonder if it wasn’t imprudent for them to try to continue to immerse themselves in this other community while trying to make a mixed-orientation marriage work. Different people are at different places in their lives. What might be prudent and profitable activity for one person might not be prudent and profitable for another person. Indeed, for that other person it might be destructive and dangerous to be involved in that kind of activity. Maybe the bottom line is this: if there are any of our listeners who are thinking about going into a mixed-orientation marriage, they need to do so with their eyes wide open to the dangers and pitfalls that this can involve and to try to find their identity in Christ alone.
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