I just read some numbers that really bothered me. They might even keep me up tonight, wondering.
In a study of more than 500 gay men, a group of researchers in California found that 76% of they guys they interviewed claimed they grew up in Christian families, studying the Christian faith… as Christians. Now adults, only 49% of these men say they stayed with it. In other words, 142 guys decided they didn’t want to be Christians anymore.
Why did 51% of them change their minds?
Did they give up because every 30 seconds the average teenage boy thinks about sex… and every time the average closeted gay Christian teenage boy gets a closeted gay erection he wonders if God is going to send him to hell? That’s a lot to worry about every 30 seconds.
Did 51% of them turn away because they were tired of worrying?
Did they give up because every time they went to church – or every time their mother talked about religious things at the dinner table – a small voice inside their head neurotically whispered “I’m gay, I’m gay, I’m gay, I’m gay…. oh $hi+ what if I’m gay?!” Even when the sermon or the conversation had nothing to do with homosexuality, did it make them whisper silent promises and beg to be forgiven for feelings they couldn’t control?
Did 51% of them get tired of the voices and give up?
- Did they give up because they wanted to, or because they felt they had to?
- Did the church hurt them so badly that they saw no option but to walk away?
- Did they feel forced to choose between who they are and what they believe?
- Was it easier for them to convince themselves that they didn’t love God than it was for them to convince themselves that they didn’t love other men?
These are hard questions with huge consequences. Apparently, these men felt forced to choose to choose between two fundamental parts of who they are – their sexuality and their spirituality. Of course, walking away from Christianity isn’t necessarily the same thing as walking away from God. Deciding to abandon an organized religion isn’t the same thing as deciding to no longer live life as a spiritual person.
Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist (1875 – 1961), observed that gay men seem to be uniquely spiritual — a quality I see daily, even in men and women who don’t label themselves as Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. Although many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people choose to nourish their spirits outside of organized religion, it still makes me sad that so many of us feel the need to walk away from our churches, mosques, and synagogues.
It makes me sad because I’m relatively certain God asks us to choose between sin and holiness, but I don’t think he asks us to choose between sex and spirit. And I definitely don’t think he wants us to run away from home.
Kubicek, K., McDavitt, B., Carpineto, J., Weiss, G., Iverson, E. & Kipke, M. (2009). “God made me gay for a reason” Young men who have sex with men’s resilience in resolving internalized homophobia from religious sources. Journal of Adolescent Research, 24(5), 601-633.