Most writers have signposts—articles or stories which reveal or define different stages of their lives. I’m pleased to present one of mine…
Imagine any bedroom in America on a quiet night that’s otherwise uneventful. In this fictional tale, a young man named Shane Christopher wrestles with an all-too terrifying reality…
“Lord, where are you?” he cried. “I can’t go on like this!” Shane sat on the floor in the corner of his bedroom nearest the window looking at the ceiling through tear-filled eyes. His whole life came crashing down around him, and he felt as though his life was a prison out of which he could not escape. He buried his reddened face into his hands and his shoulders convulsed as he wept bitterly.
Shane knew he was a Christian; he was passionate in his faith and was an active member in his church. His life was one of dedication to his Lord, and he knew without a doubt that his destiny was the fullness of the kingdom of heaven. But lately, the sermons at his church seemed to be reaching everyone but him.
He loved his church, but he also loved his best friend Collin. He even told Collin friend that he loved him. Collin’s response was a cold, “I don’t love you. Don’t talk about this again.” He was devastated. Collin’s angry face came to his mind. He cried even more.
Shane looked at the drawer in his bedside table that contained his .357 Magnum pistol for just a moment. He shook off the thoughts of suicide that were racing in his mind. He then threw his head back at the ceiling and stared at it for the next half hour as tears streamed down his face.
His mind raced over and over. He was Christian. He was gay. He couldn’t be both, he thought. But he was. He knew he couldn’t talk to anyone about it. He couldn’t cry on anyone’s shoulder about his shattered heart. In short, he was alone. He was broken, scared and alone…
Sadly, scenes like this happen in bedrooms and other private places all across the face of the earth. Tear-stained pillows, sleeves, handkerchiefs and empty tissue boxes tell the story of countless thousands of people who are each walking in their own living hells. They tell the tale of gay men and women who sit in pews across America and are forced into silence by the often denigrating sermons from their own pastors. They are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and cousins. In many cases, they…have become us.
We’re forced into silence by our own self-doubt and by the religious bashing that we endure from clergy and laity alike. Words like “abomination” and “deviant” are tossed around like lettuce in a disgusting salad mix of hatred, bigotry, and ignorance. The theologians have debated this issue for decades, if not centuries. But the questions remain. Does the Bible condemn homosexuals? Can a Christian be gay? Can we hope for true love? And most of all, how do we live?
We may never have a solid consensus throughout the Church at large on whether or not the Bible condemns homosexuals. I have neither the knowledge nor the expertise to tackle the theological debate. Theology has little to do with reality. I say let the debates continue so we can move on with our lives.
Out of all the fuss, a single question emerges. Is it possible that we can truly live as Christians that are gay? I believe it is. But there’s been plenty to stand in the way of that kind of freedom. One major obstacle to most of us is the polarizing difference between the gay community and the Christian community.
After generations of prejudice, bigotry and persecution, the gay community has attempted to separate itself from the society that hates it. We’ve congregated into a complete gay subculture, with gay music, gay art, and gay stores. We gays have our own magazines, rallies, and movies. The list goes on and on. This “gay ghetto” offers all the benefits of community without the responsibility of bringing real change to the society at large.
Why should we settle for living in a sequestered gay community when we can strive for the far greater goal of Dr. King’s beloved community? We have been satisfied with the subculture while the rest of society looks at us from the outside with disdain. The natural end of our quest, both gay and Christian is the same. As King put it, “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community.”
The “Gay Christian” debate is not without irony. The irony of the preceding two paragraphs is that they can easily be rewritten to replace the word “gay” with “Christian.” Our two separate worlds are really very much alike in their lack of impact on the world around them. And we who are gay and Christian are often torn between both ‘ghettos.’
We as gay Christians have long believed that there are only three options in how we live our lives:
- We can choose to deny our sexuality.
- We can choose to live a double life.
- We can choose to reject our faith.
Most gay Christians have believed that these three lifestyle choices are all that is available for them. I am convinced that there is a fourth and far more superior option, to live our lives as Christians who happen to be gay.
Denying the Monster Within
Many gays are convinced that their sexuality condemns them. They believed the lie about how awful homosexuality is, and they’re just not interested in the “gay lifestyle.” So, they take up what they believe to be the call of Christ in their lives, to deny their sexuality. In some cases, they choose to be celibate. Others choose to live their lives as heterosexuals as a duty to God and family. While “denying oneself, taking up the cross” and following Christ seems noble from a religious perspective, in reality it’s nothing more than denial.
This kind of denial is, in my opinion, the worst around. It leads to incredible frustration and agony. It’s the kind of denial that leads men to Internet gay porn or secret encounters, with the added burden of extreme and excruciating guilt. Too often, what seems noble at first becomes a dark shadow on a gay man’s life.
Even more troubling is the total rejection of sexuality itself. The man who tries to “not be gay” will end up stumbling across something that turns his eye: a website, a magazine, a book, or a beautiful man. He’ll try to ignore the impulse or just brush it aside. But the attraction remains.
“But Christians aren’t supposed to be gay!” This has been the battle cry of the religious right for years. But we are gay. We’re sometimes told that we should just deny the beast any ‘food.’ Don’t feed the “monster” (as if being gay is monstrously evil), and it will eventually die. To ignore the impulse. To treat them as rubbish. To never give in. No matter how hard it is.
This never works. Our sexuality is a major element of our lives. When we deny our sexuality any hope of expression, we might as well amputate a part of our body with a rusty steak knife. Yeah, that part. And it will only grow stronger until something has to give, often with disaster.
Living a Double Life or a life of misery?
While many Christians struggle to tame their sexuality, others have embraced it. However, they are still torn between their sexuality and a society that often rejects them. They must also wrestle with their faith, which has all too frequently been filled with brutal condemnation toward them. So, they choose to pursue their gay life—in secret.
Mel White tells of an anonymous high-profile preacher who led a double life in his book, Stranger at the Gate. That preacher died without his family ever knowing of his dark secret. The tragedy of this kind of living becomes clear. Fear drives most people into the closet; fear of what people think and what might happen to them. As tragic as it is, this double life is all too common among gay Christians. They’ll take the risks that come along with the closet over the rejection of being open.
Every moment we gay Christians stay in the closet is another moment that we give silent approval to the bigotry and hatred that runs rampant within the walls of the Christian community. Most people who have such cold hatred toward gays do not know anyone close to them that is gay. Or more to the point, they don’t know anyone yet.
They’ll never have to learn to deal with us if they don’t know who we are. The beauty of life is that when a hateful man comes face-to-face with the object of his hate, he will often see the folly of his hatred. I’ve heard of theologians and preachers who once preached that AIDS was God’s judgment on gays. And when people they knew started coming out to them after contracting the deadly disease, their hearts melted. What was once “God’s judgment” became a revelation of His grace on those who endured such suffering.
My own path would have been a much longer one of self-torture and suffering if I had never encountered godly gay men and women. I would never have known that it was possible to live as a gay Christian. When a gay man can say, “Jesus loves me,” it is a powerful testimony in grace and love that melts even the hardest of hearts.
Is rejecting our Christian faith an option?
Many gay Christians have decided to shake off their guilt and come out of the closet. Unfortunately, they have become convinced that the church at large is right about them; that can’t be both Christian and gay. Rather than deny their sexuality, they leave their church and their faith.
This path is the flip side of the path of denial. They often shake off all of their perceived moral shackles. They pursue their relationships with a vigor and don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. “Living in the closet” is highly offensive to this group. Further, denying one’s sexuality is downright repulsive.
They have been told that God has turned their back on them. They have accepted their “damnation,” and live accordingly. They had fingers pointed at them, had various scriptures quoted, and were told that they are abominations to God. They were told that they were damned to hell and that they must leave their “sinful lifestyle” or get kicked out of their church.
To hell with the church and its laws, so live freely. Yet, that still small voice speaks to their hearts, “come home.” They ignore it, thinking they must reject their sexuality if they return to their old Christian roots. But deep within, they still hunger for fellowship. Their torment continues.
Time to Rise Up!
All three of these life choices are difficult, and have obvious shortcomings. Men have chosen them for whatever reason, never believing they can indeed reconcile faith with sexuality. They have accepted the lie that they can never be openly gay and openly Christian.
The time has come for us to say that we can!
It’s time for us to end our denial, come out of the closet, and to embrace our faith. We can reconcile. We can hope. We can live. Dream. And love. We can worship. Sing. Pray. And yes, even have faith.
We can be gay. We MUST be gay. And we must be Christian. And most importantly, we must be OUT. In doing so, we can begin to show the world around us that we are not a contradiction at all. Instead, we’ll show that we are men and women of God who happen to be gay. We need to reclaim the promises of Christ. As we leave the closet and re-enter the Church, we do so with our heads held high and our hearts turned toward God. We should live as examples of stability, integrity and honor.
It’s out of the love of Christ and knowing who we are in Him that we can say to others and ourselves… Jesus loves you. Yes, even if you’re gay.