Category Archives: Questions

What if the Bible isn’t our biggest problem?

In research circles, a presupposition is an idea that a researcher believes is true and which colors her every interview, finding, and report.

In this quest to 1)  help LGBT folks understand that they can have a vibrant, liberating relationship with a God who doesn’t condemn them and to 2) help the church understand that gay folks should not only be welcomed, but fully affirmed, appreciated, and used in their churches – I admit I have some presuppostions.

My chief presupposition is that if people would open their minds to what the Bible actually says – and doesn’t say – about homosexuality, this whole struggle would be over.

If gay folks could see that scripture (and therefore, God) neither condemns nor judges their sexuality, then they would stop feeling condemned and judged.  Likewise, if the church and its leaders would seriously study the “gay scriptures” and find what they actually said to the people they were written to a few thousand years ago, wouldn’t they reailize that there’s no reason not to open their doors to our community?

It all seems so clear to me.

Or rather, it all seemed so clear to me until a few minutes ago.  I’m currently reading “In the Eye of the Storm: Pushed to the Center by God” by Bishop Gene Robinson – the first gay man to be ordained Bishop in the Episcopal church.  A few minutes ago, sitting on a bench in Prospect Park, Gene opened my eyes to a whole new reason many Christians, church leaders, and churches prickle at the idea of LGBT people worshiping in their pews, proud and unrepentant of their sexual orientation.   Perhaps the problem goes deeper than simply a misunderstanding about scripture…

When you dig down a little more, you’ll find that what we’re seeing is the beginning of the end of patriarchy.  For a very long time, men – mostly white, educated Western, heterosexual men from the Global North – have been making all the decisions for the world.  People of color have demanded a place at that decision making table, and so have women.  Now that we lgbt people are claiming a place too, the system of patriarchy, out of which [Christianity, Judaism, and Islam] developed, seems to be starting to unravel…  It’s not because gay and lesbian people are any different than others who have demanded equality, but because for religious bodies and for the culture, the full equality of gays and lesbians strikes at the very heart of the patriarchy and misogyny that’s been the way of the world for so long. (p. 98-99)

Thanks, Gene.  I’m gonna chew on that for a while…

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First Gay Memories: I Am Different

“People are not provoked by those who are different. What is more provoking is our insecurity: When you say, ‘I am so sorry but I am different.’ That’s much more provoking than saying ‘I am different,’ or ‘I have something to tell you, I can see something that you cannot see!’”   (Norwegian Trans activist Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad)

Early in 2000, Paul Flowers and Katie Buston (both very capable researchers) interviewed twenty young gay men in South Yorkshire, England.  Paul and Katie were attempting to get to the heart of the gay experience by asking the following simple (and yet somehow profound) questions:

  • How did you know you were gay?
  • When did you realize you were attracted to the same sex?
  • How did you feel about realizing you were sexually attracted to men?
Instead of saying that they knew they were gay the first time they were turned on by another man (or some other sexually-predicatable answer), every guy questioned said his first understanding of being gay was tied up with feeling “different.”  Does that ring a bell with you?  It did with me.  They guys in the study said:
“I knew there was something wrong, something different in my life…”
“I remember going home at night and crying myself to sleep because I knew that I was different, and I was terrified of being different…”
“I felt different and yeah I suppose I knew I was gay, but I fought it, I really did fight it…”

Sounds about right, doesn’t it?   Looking back, don’t most of us remember feeling different before we understood what that difference was?

Like many of us, I spent a long time trying to hide my difference.  I didn’t want people to know I was gay.  In my insecurity and shame, I didn’t want to explain myself.   I didn’t want to provoke questions, so I stayed quiet.

When I finally came out, I felt the need to insert some version of “I still love Jesus” into every coming-out conversation.  I was insecure – afraid that people would associate being gay with being anti-god – so I re-affirmed my Christianity as a way of apologizing for my sexuality.

As Benested said in the quote above, these were my ways of saying “I am so sorry, but I am different.

For some LGBT folks, “gay pride” means being “proud” that they are gay… or lesbian… or bisexual… or whatever.  For many, having “gay pride” is like having a winning football team, a 4.0 average, or a kick-a$$ chocolate cake recipe.  It’s a badge of honor.

Honestly, I don’t feel that kind of pride.  I don’t really even understand it.  I’m not particularly proud of being gay.   I didn’t do anything extraordinary to earn the right to like boys.  I was just born with it.   Like having brown hair or big ears or small hands, it’s just part of my package.  Ta da.

For me, being proud is simply the opposite of being ashamed.  It isn’t bragging about being different… but it’s also not apologizing for it.

While I agree with Benstad that people are provoked by our  insecurity, I think they’re also provoked by our ego.  Maybe our voices would be better understood if our pride reflected our confidence (“I not ashamed of being different”) rather than our conceit (“pay attention to me because I am different”).

Flowers, P., & Buston, K. (2001). “I was terrified of being different”: Exploring gay men’s accounts of growing-up in a heterosexist society. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 51-65.

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First Gay Breakup: Are We Still For Each Other?

My friend Aaron, a faithful Christian and devoutly gay man, recently broke up with his first boyfriend.  I asked if he would like to share his story on this blog.  He said yes, and then promptly wrote the following sarcastic, witty, and beautifully sad essay.

If you read what follows as carefully as you should, you’ll find a myriad of lovely and provocative ideas.

When reading this story, however, I think I was most struck by the realization that a gay man talking about a difficult break-up sounds just like a straight man talking a difficult break up.

Hmmmm…

Too often, when people talk about “gays” and “Christians,” the assumption is that they’re taking about two separate groups of people.  The conversation too easily becomes one that’s about “them” and “us,” as if the Christian community and the LGBT community are egg throwing, cross-town rivals.

Stories like Aaron’s remind me that in the midst of us and them, so much of our common experience still binds us all together as we

“Eating crow… a full-on murder of them.”

-Aaron

To borrow from one of my favorite bands, “Humility is so proud.” Nothing is Innocent by Over the Rhine.

What does it mean to be for something? Are you a fan? A fanatic waving your foam finger? Are you an admirer? A devotee? A follower? A supporter? A lover?

What are you for?

About 3 weeks ago my then boyfriend came to the conclusion that we weren’t a right fit for each other. While I felt differently I can’t be in a relationship by myself (at least not a healthy one) so I have had to attempt to close that chapter, as well. He was my first boyfriend. And it was my first breakup. A process that, at 31, has made me feel much more like I am 13 from time to time.

We didn’t even make it past our first fight.

It turns out I’m really good at fighting. I’m articulate and logical. And very even sided – finding every possible ugly side of the situation and using them all evenly in my attack until the other is silenced with an inability to respond. Think Bush era “Shock and Awe”. It’s very effective (as noted by the conclusion of “us”).

And of course I could see all of these ugly sides because I am so humble. I spend hours thinking about “how best to love my neighbor” and “how to give dignity to those around me”, so it’s clear that I am justified in my use of “Shock and Awe” to help others see that they are failing at those two ideals. I mean, clearly.

Ok so 1) I really hope my sarcasm is coming through in this post…

and 2) I don’t recommend the use of “Shock and Awe”. I really, really don’t.

Really.

Really.

The ugly context: A lot of BIG issues came up very early on in our young relationship that seemed to bring out things that neither of us wanted to admit. I felt like he was (situationally) asking me to be deceitful to his friends by corroborating something that was untrue. Spending as much time as I do thinking about what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself” and how to “give dignity to those around me”, alongside my belief that we can’t even begin to approach things until we know what’s true about them, this situational request made me very uncomfortable.

This is where the story gets a little unfortunate. And unfortunately ironic. After our guests left I proceeded to tell him of my discomfort with the situation. He came up with some plan to “fix the problem” that I didn’t really think would fix anything and, on his asking how to fix it, I simply replied with “STOP LYING TO YOUR FRIENDS!!! IS THIS WHAT OUR RELATIONSHIP IS GOING TO BE BASED ON?!?!”

Conversation done. There was nothing left to say. He had no legs to stand on in the dialog.

I win.

(Dramatic pause to absorb the sarcasm of those last 2 words).

Though my concerns were valid and needed to be discussed, my failure to continue to Love my ex in this context (capital “L”) seems to be as big of a failure as his.

“How?”, you ask? “Where you not justified?”

Maybe.

But it’s the existence behind the scenes that truly dictates that, I think. Knowing the heart of the matter. It’s a if-a-man-lusts-he-might-as-well-just-sleep-with-him type of thing.

Why?

While I believe that my desire for these things (loving, dignifying and knowing) is good, my intense obsession with achieving these things is actually the very reason that I failed to do them. Deceit and moral arrogance were only the symptoms of deeper issues of self image and insecurity but, with my gaze so firmly fixed on the “how to achieve”, I lost sight of the “who to Love” that was standing right in front of me at the time. And in that blindness I used the true object of my desire (achieving) to humiliate and shame the one that I should have been loving and dignifying and knowing. The pride of my humility caused me to humiliate the one I cared about and ended something that I was excited about.

Ironic, no?

And really, really unfortunate.

So back to my original question…are we still for each other? It’s tough to know how. We screw up, make mistakes, ask people to enter into things that they aren’t comfortable with, ridicule, deride, and humiliate. Situations are complex and it’s hard to know how to navigate them well. We have our goals and aspirations, our code of ethics, our experiences that shape our understanding of the world. So how can we be for someone else at the same time when it often competes with all that?

Well…I don’t know the answer. It’s clearly difficult. I’ve seen that it doesn’t take winning. In this case I may have won the argument but I lost the one that I was hoping for. I think it goes back to that whole losing-your-life-to-gain-it thing. Perhaps If I had carried the genuinely humble capacity to approach this man with a gentle and loving spirit, rather than a brutal focus on achieving my own “humility” at any cost, we could have both grown in our humility and healed from our engrained insecurities and fears that rooted the situation so deeply. We may have even had a bit more life left in “us”.

Perhaps if we all could do that a little more we would soon find ourselves in a world where we were genuinely for everybody. And everybody was for us.

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Gay Christian: Fact or Fiction?

I love fiction.

While many of my smart and sophisticated friends keep their noses stuck in the latest biographies and watch the trendiest documentaries, I’m a sucker for novels, dark comedies, and superhero movies.

My boyfriend and I had a great conversation about the value of fiction this weekend.  He’s reading a book about the importance of being a good listener.  I proposed that one of the best ways to learn how to be a good listener is to read a great novel.  After all, listening is simply learning how to hear a story… how to engage yourself with a  narrator… how to read between lines and ask questions when the story stops.  What better teacher for this art than Steinbeck, Tolkein, and Stephen King?

What’s my point, you ask?  Why waste valuable internet space on a blog about gay spirituality to promote getting a library card?  Well…

As LGBT people, I think it’s desperately important for us to do the theological, ethical, and exegetical (Bible study) work necessary to find peace with both our sexuality and our spirituality.  I think it’s invaluable for us to examine our gay, popular, and Christian cultures to find how each of these worlds affect the others.  In the midst of all this “smart talk,” however, we can’t underestimate the value of both telling and hearing a story.

Our stories connect us to each other… they allow us to learn from each other… they help us encourage each other…. they remind us that we are not as weird or alone as we sometimes feel.  (sound familiar?)

Plus, they’re just plain entertaining.

The writer of the Biblical book of Hebrews seems to agree.  After rolling through a long list of the Old Testament’s most faithful folks, s/he says….

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  (Hebrews 12:1)

My friends, as gay Christians, we are also surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who remind us that we’re not alone.  So, in the midst of all our arguments and activism, let’s take a minute to sit around an online campfire and listen to one of our gay brothers tell his tale.

It starts with “I was once a proud Evangelical, African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) Christian, the son of an AME Zion preacher, and ready to answer the call on my life to ministry…”

Read the rest – including this brave Christian’s revelation that “after struggling with a four-year addiction to gay porn, in my senior year of college I was forced to acknowledge that this must be more than a mere phase” – here.

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A Gay Vacation from Religion

Last week my brain was sent spinning with some research that suggests 51% of gay men walk away from Christianity when they come out of the closet.  Into the internet I flung the question “why do we change our minds?

Some interesting ideas have been presented in the comments, including the insight from “Sister Lacey UnderWhere” (whose name makes me giggle every time I think about it) that “44% of ALL males change their religious affiliations by the time they turn 24.”  I’m not sure of this stat’s original source, but I think most of us who grew up in the church would affirm that we watched many (44%?) of our fellow youth groupers walk away from church during early adulthood.  Other research suggests, however, that many of these young men and women who give up on God during college may return later in life.

Does the same hold true for LGBT men and women?  Do you think it’s common for LGBT folks who become disillusioned with God and/or the church during their coming out period to reconcile their sexuality with former spiritual beliefs later in life?

Obviously, the answers to these questions are as numerous and unique as the gay men and women to whom they apply.  Every LGBT man and woman has a unique story.  Each has their own reason for walking away from their faith.  But just as snowflakes are all different yet made of the same stuff, is there a theme each of these stories might share in common?

I’ve recently begun reading an insightful book by John McNeill, a very wise psychotherapist, priest, and gay man.  In “Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families, and Friends,” McNeill says:

“For most of my clients the idea of God became so indentified with homophobic self-hatred that the only way they could deal with God was to take a vacation from religion while they dealt with the processes of coming out and accepting themselves.  Only after they had a secure, positive self-image were they able to make a critical return to the question of religious belief”  (McNeill, 1996, p.14).

According to McNeill, the common theme in these stories is that people believe both God and the church are homophobic.   It’s only after we step away and take a “vacation from religion” that we gain a bit of perspective and realize that God isn’t against us, and neither are all churches.

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Can Gay People Have God?

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.

Reference

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.

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True Love Hesitates

Contrary to popular belief, being gay isn’t all about sex.  Homosexuality is about emotional and spiritual attraction as much as it’s about physical attraction.  But let’s be honest… it’s also sometimes about sex.

When straight Christians speak against homosexuality, I think their problem isn’t just with the mechanics of our sex life (what we like to do with our genitals), but also with the volume of our sex life (how many people we do these things with).

Many straight Christians feel that being gay is immoral not just because LGBT people might want to have sex with someone of our own gender… but because they assume we want to have sex with anyone (and possibly everyone) of our own gender.  They think we’re “loose.”  They think we’re “promiscuous.”  They think we’ll have sex with anything that wiggles.

In his article “Christians and the Sin of Hating Homosexuals,” Randal Rauser (professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminary), says:

This seems to be the reasoning [of many straight Christians]: an additional reason to reject homosexuality is because homosexuals are generally more promiscuous than heterosexuals.

Here’s the problem. The degree to which there is promiscuity in the homosexual community has absolutely NOTHING to do with homosexuality per se. And how do I know this? Because it is a male problem, not a “homosexual” one. Males have a very different libido than females. So it is hardly surprising that when males are attracted to males, promiscuity rates rise. Consider this experiment: do you suppose that the average number of sexual partners for your typical male sports hero or rock star is closer to the number of the average heterosexual male or homosexual male? Clearly the latter. And the reason is opportunity: they have women willing to meet their sexual desires on a regular basis. We definitely can’t blame Tiger Woods’ fall from grace on homosexual tendencies. So we shouldn’t be blaming homosexuality per se for male homosexual promiscuity rates. Rather we should blame the male gender.

(Need it be said that Jesus doesn’t see much difference between the male who sleeps with six hundred partners and the male who would have slept with six hundred partners if only he had the opportunity? I would have thought the Sermon on the Mount made that point clear enough.)

Promiscuity isn’t a gay problem… it’s a human problem. Pretty wise, eh?

Those of us raised in churches that preached “no sex before marriage” undoubtedly feel the tension between sexual desire, sexual opportunity, and sexual purity.

As teenagers, our youth pastors taught us that “True Love Waits.”  Of course, if our teenage self was “playing straight,” it wasn’t hard to wait.  In fact, waiting was easier than the alternative.  “Purity” was our excuse to not do the things we really didn’t want to do anyway.

After we give ourselves permission to be gay, however, the game changes. As gay people with lots of gay opportunities, the ideal of sexual purity starts to sound, well… idealistic.  Especially for guys in relationships with other guys, the combined demands of two testosterone driven sex drives can be overwhelming.  “Wait” feels practically impossible.  We begin to wonder if “True Love Hesitates” might be a little more realistic.

Many of us also begin to wonder whether the church is more concerned with sex than it should be.  And to prove how open minded, free spirited, and sexually uninhibited we are, we give in to the gay stereotype (and our newly liberated sex drives) and have sex at every opportunity.

In essence, we rebel against purity.

But what if the idea of sexual purity is more about why we have sex with someone than it is about whether we have sex with someone?

If Jesus is as concerned with our motivations as he is about our actions (as the Sermon on the Mount suggests), does this new perspective take away a few of the hang-ups our sexually obsessed churches have given us, while still maintaining a standard that would make Jesus proud?

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Lady Gaga Goes To Church

I might be the only gay guy on the planet who doesn’t have a straight crush on Lady Gaga.

However, when this gay icon puts out a video featuring thirteen of history’s most famous Christian icons (Jesus and his 12 disciples), she piques my interest.  I don’t smear glitter on my face and break open a box of glo sticks…. but I do pay attention.

Gaga recently released a song called “Judas.”  The video features Gaga riding in a motorcycle gang with the 12 disciples, perched on the back of Jesus’s Harley.  Even though her arms are wrapped around Jesus, she’s obviously longing for Judas – the bad boy who, according to the Bible, ultimately betrayed Jesus to the Romans.

“I’m just a holy fool, oh baby it’s so cruel, but I’m still in love with Judas, baby.”

Intriguing, right?

Patrick Cheng, a religion writer for the Huffington Post, has an interesting perspective on the video that involves viewing the historical Judas as one of the heroes of Jesus’s story. You’ll need to read the article to completely understand his logic, but it involves the question:

Could it be that those of us who are often reviled as the Judases (that is, the “betrayers” of the faith) of today — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people — are in fact the most loyal to Jesus’ message and to the “scandal of the cross”? Could it be that LGBT people understand quite intimately what it means to be crucified over Jesus’ gospel values of unconditional love and the Word made flesh?

That’s an interesting idea, but I wonder if something else is going on in the Gaga video.

We’re all aware that when LGBT people walk out of the closet, many of them also walk away from their faith.  They feel the church and its gospel have been too hurtful for too long… so they kiss Jesus goodbye.

Gaga is – obviously – a gay icon.  I didn’t elect her as queen, but she’s risen to the throne, nonetheless.  A marketing genius, her songs are often written for/to the gay community.  She knows our culture and is well aware that many of us struggle with our faith.  And so, when Gaga sings “Jesus is my virtue, Judas is the demon I cling to,” she’s obviously making a statement… but what is she saying?  Is she making Judas a symbol of our sexuality?

Is she playing to the fact that many of us feel that by giving into our gayness we’re betraying Christ?  Is she saying that we are Judas (and she loves us)?

Is she celebrating the one who betrayed Jesus as a way of telling us “you were once a disciple, but now it’s time to give up that nonsense?”  Is she encouraging LGBT people to walk away from what they once believed?  Is she saying we should be Judas (and she loves us)?

Is she acknowledging the struggle we feel between our faith (Jesus is my virtue) and our sexuality (Judas is the demon I cling to), suggesting that they’re two sides of the same coin?  Is she saying that we should dance within the tension between our Judas and our Jesus (and she loves us)?

Or is she  just saying that given the choice between sinner and saint, she always falls for the bad boy.  *sigh* Wouldn’t that be disappointing?  I would hate to see Gaga fall into yet another bad romance.

Of course, those questions probably won’t make sense until you see the video (which, I must admit, is kinda’ fantastic)…

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How Many Of Us Are There?

Earlier this week, I stumbled across a pretty intriguing conversation thread on a social networking site for gay folks.  A guy asked “why are so many people surprised by Christian gays? Just ‘cause we are gay, does that mean we can’t share the same beliefs in God as others?

One of the more insightful responses came from a student who said:

In my opinion, Christianity and being gay aren’t exactly the most compatible, one is always compromised and the two together cause internal conflict.  Unless you make up your own rules or belief system (such as claiming that god loves you even though you’re gay while the rest of the community says otherwise); in which case, you’re not really following the religion’s precepts and you’re not being fully Christian, you’re being something else… but I just think it’s funny to hear people still calling themselves by the name of a denomination that hates them.

Does identifying as both gay and Christian cause “internal conflict”?  Certainly.  Is it difficult to fully invest in our faith when many churches can’t find a way to “tolerate” this fundamental part of who we are?  Definitely.  Are gay and Christian compatible?

I would answer yes.

If there is a conflict, it’s between us and the church… not us and God.  God, after all, is still for us.  Despite what his followers might sometimes say, he never stopped.

George Barna, an evangelical Christian pollster, recently interviewed almost 300 LGBT men and women (selected at random) about their religious beliefs.  According to the results of Barna’s survey, lots of “us” still believe gay and God can go together.  According to George Barna’s “Spiritual Profile of Homosexual Adults:”

  • 70% of LGBT people self-identify as Christian
  • 60% of LGBT people describe their faith as “very important” in their life
  • 4 out of 10 LGBT people say that they are “absolutely committed to the Christian faith”
  • 58% of LGBT people say that they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in [their] life today”
  • 50% of LGBT people say that “the most important thing in life is to love God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul”
  • 1/3 of LGBT people contend that their life has been greatly transformed by their faith

(When you read the report, you’ll notice that Barna’s findings highlight some significant differences between the spiritual devotion, practice, and beliefs of gay and straight people.  Read the report.  You’ll see what I mean.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about why this might be.  Post your thoughts in the comments or send an email to stillforus@hotmail.com.  We’ll deal with this dilemma in a different post)

Although I don’t know Barna’s personal thoughts about homosexuality, his interpretation of this data is pretty insightful.  He says:

People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts. A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today.

The data indicate that millions of gay people are interested in faith but not in the local church and do not appear to be focused on the traditional tools and traditions that represent the comfort zone of most churched Christians. Gay adults clearly have a different way of interpreting the Bible on a number of central theological matters, such as perspectives about God. Homosexuals appreciate their faith but they do not prioritize it, and they tend to consider faith to be individual and private rather than communal.

It is interesting to see that most homosexuals, who have some history within the Christian Church, have rejected orthodox biblical teachings and principles – but, in many cases, to nearly the same degree that the heterosexual Christian population has rejected those same teachings and principles. Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.

If these numbers are correct, Barna seems to be answering my new friend’s question by saying being gay and Christian may be difficult, but it’s certainly possible. 

After all, lots of us are doing it.

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A Gift from God?

In Toledo, OH, Central United Methodist church’s new billboard is causing quite a stir. The billboard says “Being Gay is a Gift from God.”

According to this ABC News report:

The message is connected to a month-long sermon by Pastor Bill Barnard. “We really believe that being gay is a gift from God, and it’s not anything that anyone has to apologize for or be ashamed about,” he says. “So that’s how it came to be.”

The entire story – including how other churches in the community have responded – is fairly intriguing, but the billboard’s message itself raises an interesting question:

Is being gay a gift from God?  If you’re able to accept that homosexuality isn’t sinful (a high hurdle that many people cannot clear), is it appropriate to consider it a “gift”?

Saying that being gay is a “gift” seems to imply that homosexuality is something extraordinary that is given by God for a purpose.   Interesting, right?  Is our sexuality ordinary (as is often argued in debates about marriage equality and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), or is it remarkable?  Is our sexual orientation a gift, or is it more like brown hair, big feet, or a fondness for fondue — spiritually neutral traits that seem more like biological placeholders than “gifts”?

So, if you’ve been given the “gift of gay,” riddle me this…

Is gay a gift?  Or perhaps the better question is, if gay is a gift, why did we get it?  What is it meant to teach us, the church, or the world?  And, if homosexuality is a gift, is it a gift you want, or one you’d rather send back?

Other than being our chosen route toward intimacy and orgasm, does homosexuality serve a purpose?

Is being gay a gift from God?

Watch video of the ABC news story “Church’s Pro Gay Billboard Causes Controversy” here.

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