So after the “Three False Gods” presentation I did another one, called “The Radical Challenge of Gay Celibacy.” There was a lot of overlapping material, but here I want to highlight a section that was only in the second one. I wanted to point out the ways in which both halves of the term “gay celibacy” are challenging to our churches and to American culture. So I decided to just give a list, of stuff that has happened to gay Christians I know who are/were at the time trying sincerely to follow The Historic Christian Teaching on Homosexuality ™.
- anti-gay violence and harassment
- workplace discrimination (with both Christian and secular employers)
- getting kicked out of their homes when they came out or cut off from their families
- being subjected to disciplinary procedures at Christian schools, not for sexual behavior but for stuff like coming out in class or hugging a friend (!)
- bullying in both Christian and public schools
- being asked to leave ministry
- being forced or pressured into orientation-change therapy
This list is not exhaustive, y’all.
Add to that the lack of pastoral care. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have found priests who see me as someone called by God to give and receive love–not as a sexual problem or a problem of church discipline. My spiritual directors have focused on my vocations and my prayer life. They’ve been willing to think creatively and push themselves to see God working in my queer life. But so many gay Christians basically try to go it alone because they can’t find anyone willing to guide them; or they do their best to sort gold from dross in pastoral care, sorting the helpful guidance from the hyper-suspicion.
I don’t want to make it sound like everything’s awful out there. My own experience has been super great, so that does happen, albeit very rarely. And lots of people have mixed experiences, with really good experiences to offset the bad ones. There are overlapping communities of celibate gay Christians; there are straight Christians who are willing to walk with you humbly as you try to figure out what the heck you’re supposed to be doing with your life. I could make an even longer list of unexpected, wonderful experiences I and my friends have had with pastors and Christian communities.
But it’s important, I think, to say that these things happen to us. Faith, orthodoxy, celibacy do not protect us. There’s something to be grateful for in that–would you really want to be in a community where you pay for your protection in the coin of celibacy?–but I won’t tell somebody who has just lost her family to be grateful.
Back in the day a guy named Thor said: “I think if there’s no homosexual couples going to your church that’s probably a bad sign. You’re probably not having a reputation for actually being Jesus.” If your church doesn’t love and welcome all gay people, regardless of belief or behavior, I do not trust it to protect and shepherd even its “best-behaved” gay members.
See also Julie Rodgers’s powerful piece, “How a Leading Christian College Turned Against Its Gay Leader.”