Celibacy and Singleness

when christian superstars come out

Perhaps you’ve heard and perhaps you haven’t yet, but Trey Pearson of Everyday Sunday just came out as gay about a day or two ago. This follows similar coming out stories by the likes of Vicky Beeching and Jennifer Knapp who have gone on to lose much of their music careers, with Beeching instead moving on to religious commentary and other projects in the UK, including a book that she’s currently working on. But at any rate, just like those other coming out stories, this one has already generated its own fair share of controversy and reactions from the general Christian populace, both positive and negative, as larger outlets such as Yahoo and Religion News Service have picked up the story. Unsurprisingly, there have been quite a few opinionated responses coming from a handful of Christians, with many lamenting the fact that he has chosen to come out after having married a woman and having children among other things, and this is specifically what I want to address in this post. With more and more people finally acknowledging the basic fact that being gay or lesbian or bisexual is not a choice any more than being straight is a choice, what I’ve seen is that many Christians have instead chosen to go the route of lambasting Pearson for his decision to come out now after having been married to his wife for over 7 years and having had children with her, and I think that perhaps I understand a little bit of where that’s coming from, as misdirected as it might be.

Here’s the thing: I agree that there’s no way for most people to even grasp what kind of difficulties he and his family must be going through right now, and that is something lamentable, just like the fact that his general situation tragically isn’t too uncommon in Christian circles, but I disagree that his decision was the wrong one. I’ve read quite a few stories similar to his over the years, of LGBTQ Christians who have married someone of the opposite gender because the church refused to accept them as they were and essentially gave them no other options if they wanted to be a part of the larger Christian community. The church told them to find a way to be straight, or at least pretend to be straight for a while, or face what basically amounts to excommunication. I even personally know of at least one friend who has experienced this series of events in their own family, whether it was in their immediate family or extended, and it seems to be just as messy as many people on the internet are assuming that it’s going to be for Pearson, because I think that’s true. Whenever this happens, it’s always quite the sticky situation to sort through, and the unfortunate thing is that these kinds of situations can always be prevented, though perhaps not necessarily in the way that you might think.

It’s true that he chose to marry a woman with hopes that perhaps he might actually be able to fulfill his fantasy of becoming straight and fitting into Christian church culture, but I would argue that it’s also true that the entire set of circumstances that led him to that decision were put in place by the church and that we can learn from that.

Think about this. The church is obsessed with marriage, particularly straight marriage. It seems to be one of the unwritten rules of being a good Christian that you will get married someday and that it will be a straight marriage. This is the subliminal message that gets preached in probably every single church in the United States, that if you aren’t married, or perhaps don’t want to be married, that there’s something wrong with you, that you haven’t pleased God enough, that God just hasn’t sent the right person to you yet, or some other kind of old Christian cliché like that. It’s an addiction and an idol, and it’s one that I think maybe the church isn’t aware of yet or doesn’t want to address because it would be too uncomfortable, since marriage is such a good thing, which is what they keep telling everyone.

But this is a problem. This obsession with marriage creates harmful and toxic dynamics and assumptions that blind us from being able to recognize any other kind of close relationships or even singleness for that matter, which I think is something that the church likes to say is good, but also something that the church hasn’t modeled for us. If you think about it, a good number of key Biblical figures were never married that we know of like Elijah, John the Baptist, Paul, and Jesus Himself. And that’s part of the reason why I’m still at a loss as to why the church doesn’t know how to talk about singleness or why the church has such an odd inclination toward marriage when it’s definitely not the most important or central thing that’s talked about in Bible, even though that’s what any outside observer of American Christianity might tell you.

All of that being said, while people keep decrying Pearson for his decision to come out because of the impact that it will have on his marriage, I have to say that while he definitely did make the decision to get married to a woman and to come out, I also strongly believe that perhaps the church environment that he grew up in and that many of us have grown up in has set us up for failure, especially, ESPECIALLY if you happen to identify as LGBTQ. Again, think about it. At the time what else was he supposed to do? It's circa 2007 or 2008 and everything he’s ever heard about being gay is negative, and maybe not even negative but downright toxic and poisonous to his spiritual life and spiritual health. You hear over and over that being gay is an abomination and that God hates you, especially during that time period, or really any of the last few decades and beyond. Reparative and conversion therapy are in vogue and you hear that you can become straight if you just pray enough, if you just believe hard enough, if you just repent hard enough. So, naturally, you think that maybe if you marry a woman that might just do the trick, that it might make you straight, and maybe you even believe it (again, this is just some speculation coming from my own experiences and experiences of others who have gone the same thing since his full story hasn’t been published yet), but after a few years you come to the crushing conclusion that it didn’t work, that you’re not straight. And so what are you supposed to do?

To all of the critics, does that sound like a real, free choice now? I don’t think so. I think it sounds like spiritual bullying and a demand for conformity dressed up with lots of spiritual fanfare.

Beyond that, it might seem that a lot of the same critics are truly concerned about his wife and his children and his marriage, but are they? I’m not sure. I’m not going to be the judge of others’ intentions, but I think that something they’re missing is that perhaps staying in that marriage wouldn’t really be fair to his wife either. If you think about it, she deserves someone who’s going to be able to love her the same way that she loves him, and with the most respect for Pearson possible, that’s not going to be him, because I think that it’s just a fact that his current marriage relationship with her is never going to be the same as a marriage relationship with a straight man who loves her. Now, I’m not a parent, so I can’t speak for the situation with the children, and I truly hope that all goes for the best – God’s grace to them – but I think that if they’re going to separate, I do think that’s the most fair thing not only for him, but also for his wife, because with all the grace that he has attributed to her throughout all of this, I think that without even knowing her, she deserves someone who can love her the same way that she’s going to love him, and I think that’s something that people are missing when they talk about him throwing away his marriage or tearing his family apart. It’s true that his family situation is going to be quite different moving forward from here, but for lack of a better word, it was broken to begin with in my opinion, again, with no ill intent towards him or his wife. I just don't think that mixed orientation marriages can realistically work, and perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s what I also see as being the case here.

In light of all of these reflections, I fully support Trey in his coming out and pray for peace and strength as he begins navigating this new journey, especially with regards to how his family dynamic will likely be changing. It’s not going to be easy or smooth; that’s almost a guarantee, but I do think that he’s demonstrating quite a bit of bravery in coming out now, especially considering all of the different factors at play in his specific coming out story. People might disagree with that, but what he’s done and what he’s doing takes an incredible amount of guts and courage to do, particularly in 2016 when it seems like LGBTQ people, but almost even more so LGBTQ Christians, are a favorite target of the mainstream evangelical church and Christian community, a large segment of people who might never experience the fear, anxiety, and mental stress that come with trying to live a lie and put up a façade day in and day out, all the while praying that you’re doing the right thing and perhaps constantly fearing God’s wrath or what will happen to you if you do accept your own identity, depending on what kind of church tradition you were brought up in.

Something that I’ve thankful for is that Pearson’s story didn’t end in suicide or some other darker alternative that is all too common for LGBTQ people in Christian circles, or perhaps was more common, since that appears to be changing at least a little bit as the years pass. And contrary to what many fundamentalists or critics might be saying, I think that the recent string of high profile Christians coming out is not a sign of moral decay or backsliding within Christianity, but rather, I think that it’s an indicator that God is not confined to the little boxes that we might put Him in or the stereotypes that we might draw around Him. I think that it’s a positive step towards a more inclusive church for both affirming Christians and also maybe for non-affirming Christians who still know how to show grace and respect the convictions of others, which I also believe is an incredibly crucial piece that the church will continue to struggle with in the coming weeks, months, and years.

So, congratulations to Trey Pearson on coming out and being able to accept who you are and perhaps feeling a little freer and maybe even a little closer to Jesus as a result. It’s a scary and nerve wracking thing to do, especially in the spotlight, but I think that this will just help make coming out even more normal, so that people don’t have to feel afraid of it. I hope that moving forward people will see the negative reactions and learn how to be more graceful and loving, and I also hope that people will see the positive responses and know that their faith and their identity are compatible, that they aren’t dirtier or more sinful just because of who they are, that they are still image bearers of the Father of Lights and that they are so incredibly loved.

Grey Area

So I've already written a lot about this topic on here, but I recently had the opportunity to have an article published on Bedlam Magazine, so I'm just going to leave that right here. In it, I talk briefly about same-sex relationships, the conclusions I've come to regarding them, and how Christians can view them differently. http://www.bedlammag.com/grey-area-an-alternate-perspective-on-same-sex-relationships-from-a-gay-christian/

friendship is a tricky thing for gay Christians

That title isn’t even totally accurate. I could remove the “for gay Christians” part and that title would still be as true as ever, but I also just want to talk about how friendship can be even more inherently complicated for gay Christians. Sometimes it just adds so many more layers of awkward that you wouldn’t think would ever come up or be a problem. Also, contrary to popular belief, I’ve been feeling lately that for the majority of people “being satisfied by friends and family” isn’t a suitable way of coping with a call to singleness (post on what I think about singleness coming in the future, I promise!). Since most of my posts tend to come with some sort of random disclaimer, the disclaimer for this post is that these are simply reflections on my own emotions as well as the emotions of some of my friends who have discussed this topic with me. If any of these things make sense to you or you’ve felt the same way, awesome! If they don’t, feel free to comment and let me know why, but I mostly want to present a perspective from this side of things, because I think that it’s something that gets talked about a lot, but also doesn’t get talked about a lot at the same time. I’ll explain as we get further.

As I talked about briefly in the first part of my story, which you can find here, I didn’t really come from a gay-aware background. Not that there was any serious gay bashing or anything like that, but you just assumed that everyone you met was straight and going to get married someday unless someone told you otherwise. I think that most people reading can relate to that kind of mindset. Thus, in my experience anyway, romantic relationships got talked about a fair amount in relation to homosexuality in church and in school, mostly to the extent that you weren’t supposed to have a relationship, pointing toward lifelong celibacy as the only acceptable path for gay Christians to take, if they even existed. In that way, celibacy and abstinence were the two main things thrown at us in regards to homosexuality and relationships early on, but what they didn’t really talk about, even though it was intrinsically connected to that issue as well, was the topic of friendships for gay Christians and how those were supposed to work, especially if the church was telling us that we were supposed to be emotionally fulfilled and supported by friends and family? What was the difference between a romantic and platonic relationship anyway and how were those friendships supposed to factor into your mandated celibate lifestyle?

Coming from a heteronormative background, those were all things that I had never really thought about before and things that I didn’t realize would bring me a great deal of heartache in the future. As I mentioned in the first part of my story, I was emotionally unable to tell the difference between romantic and platonic feelings at the ripe, mature age of 15 and almost tore apart a perfectly good friendship as a result, something that I also didn’t know would come to repeat itself in the next few years on a much grander scale (ooh, foreshadowing). But in all seriousness, especially with all my close friends being primarily girls, sounding out the differences between those two types of relationships was something that I was vastly underprepared for.

After all, for a typical straight guy who has primarily guys as friends, it’s pretty easy to compartmentalize and say that you are supposed to have platonic relationships with other guys and romantic relationships with girls. However, for my confused, gay 15 year old self who had primarily girls as friends in a heteronormative conservative Christian bubble, my compartmentalization process was completely out of whack. Everything I knew told me that I was supposed to have platonic relationships with other guys and romantic relationships with girls, but the fact of the matter was that I just got along so much better with girls most of the time, and I still wasn’t fully aware of the fact that my attractions fell primarily on guys. Thus, there I was, having been raised in an environment where all the guys were supposed to like girls and being in a place where I couldn’t really picture dating any of my friends, but at the same time, my strong platonic feelings for them must have meant that I was attracted to them, right? What a mess. Looking back, it’s no wonder that I fell out of like with the girl that I was supposedly dating. I had never really “liked” her to begin with.

Fast forward to just about a year ago. The vast majority of my friends are all still girls, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m gay, so I’ve got slightly more going for me in the emotional sorting department. Or so I thought. I’ll talk about this in more detail when I post the second part of my story, but basically history came to repeat itself, and I almost gave up one of my closest friends because of the fact that I couldn’t figure out my emotions and the difference between platonic and romantic attractions again. Way to go, self.

The point is that relationships are hard no matter what, but sometimes being gay adds another dimension that causes even basic friendships to be awkward and difficult to navigate, especially in Christian church culture where the pressure to find a spouse and get married can often be stronger than in the secular world. There are countless stories of older, celibate gay Christians who find their support networks thinning as all of their friends and loved ones get married. For many gay Christians, especially younger ones, I think any easy trap to fall into is that of fooling yourself into thinking that you’ve fallen in love with someone of the opposite gender. Obviously, it goes without saying that if you’ve prayed over a situation, had those hard conversations with that person, and feel like God is calling you to be married to someone of the opposite gender, then go for it. However, I think that loneliness and societal pressures can cause us to leap at any opportunity to try and fill that void, feeling like friendships alone just won’t cut it (a post on mixed-orientation marriages will come later).

I get that. It’s hard. As much as people will try to argue the other way, your sexuality does in fact profoundly affect your life. You can’t just say that you’ll “base your identity more strongly in Christ” and expect those problems to go away. Yes, you should definitely find your identity in Christ, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be practical obstacles that you’ll have to overcome. After all, there have been a multitude of different stances over the years. For a while, it was that gay Christians were supposed to pretend they were straight and just get married to women. For a lot of people, that doesn’t work out and they end up coming out later in life and dragging a lot of other people into that mess with them. Then, it was the ex-gay ministries that promised to make you straight if you just believed and prayed hard enough. Today, the most popular option in conservative churches is celibacy and fulfilling your emotional needs through friends, while at the same time cautioning you not to get too close to friends of the same-sex lest you be tempted to lust or people think that there’s something more going on. So, you really can’t win. How are you supposed to live if conservative Christianity says that you aren’t allowed to get married, that you’re supposed to look to friends for emotional support, but at the same time you have to be wary of “abstaining from the appearance of evil?” It’s hard. It’s crazy hard, especially when people start to feel lonely and like they’re just giving away all of their emotions for nothing, like they’re always the ones who care more because they’re not allowed to have someone who cares about them the same way. This article by Wesley Hill talks a little more about this complicated view of friendships if you care to check that out.

I resonate with those people, and in fact, you will find that many straight people will resonate with that sentiment as well. In my mind and my opinion, there’s such a stark, yet also subtle difference between any sort of friendship or familial relationship and an exclusive, committed relationship, a difference that even straight single people are aware of. It’s not a feeling limited to celibate gay Christians who feel like they’re stuck.

A few days ago while I was complaining to one of my straight female friends about my lack of a relationship and how sometimes I just feel lonely, even though I know I have a lot of friends and people who care about me, she expressed that she was feeling the same way in her group of friends because many of them had significant others. While they obviously were not neglecting her or spending time with her, she noted that it still wasn’t the same as having someone for herself, something that I totally agreed with.

And yes, we made sure to address the asterisk of the fact that Jesus loves us more than any human being possibly could, but we also both agreed that it still isn’t the same thing as having a human companion, a person. Obviously, it is so true that Jesus loves each of us more than we could ever imagine. He is Love Himself after all, but that doesn’t take away the fact that humans were created to be relationship with each other.

What we discussed specifically was this: yes, friendships are inherently filling and wonderful in and of themselves. However, there are multiple aspects of an exclusive, committed relationship that aren’t present in friendships that I think all people crave, and I think that is the exclusivity itself. Yes, you can have the best friends in the entire world, but even given that, I doubt that there is one single person who wants to be in a relationship who doesn’t feel lonely and alone at some point, simply because none of those friends are their person. For every person who is in a committed relationship, there is an implicit assumption that those two people love and care about each other more than anyone else in their lives, even it’s just by a little bit. They are each other’s person, and no matter how you try to justify friendships being just as fulfilling as those kinds of relationships, the fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, you might be pouring all of your emotions into that one friend, or perhaps several friends, as your person or your people, but they won’t (and can’t) be giving you the complete same thing, because you aren’t their person. Their significant other/spouse/partner/whatever is their person, and that’s who they’re pouring all that emotion into.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that those people are bad friends. That’s the farthest thing from the truth. That’s just how relationships work, whether we want to admit it or not, and I think that can be part of the reason that gay Christians get so fed up with celibacy and get depressed and lonely, because they don’t have a person. Obviously for people who are called to be and embrace celibacy as their God-given calling, they might laugh at that and brush it aside saying that having another person would only complicate their lives, but for the people who want to be in relationship, it can be the most devastating and weighty realization that they care about people more than people will or can care about them. And I’m going to say this again because I think that people will forget it or try to argue their way out of it: those people are not being bad friends. It’s just natural (and rightly so) that someone would give emotional priority to their significant other/spouse/partner/etc. That’s what they’re supposed to do.

And this is the reason that I advocate for companionships or celibate same-sex relationships as an alternative option for gay Christians who are feeling stuck in a life of singleness that God is not calling them to. I fully support celibacy and singleness as a completely legitimate calling from the Lord, and I cannot say how much respect I have for people who embrace that life and how much I admire those people, but the thing is that I do not believe every single gay Christian is called to that kind of life. I, personally, think that I am much too social of a person to live my life alone. I think that I would be at my best with another person by my side, and I think that God knows that too. So, yes! For those people who are able to embrace celibacy and own it, I support that 200%. For people who feel like God is calling them to a same-sex marriage, I can honestly say that I support that as well. As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are such strong arguments and Biblical exegeses in support of same-sex relationships that I really can’t say that I’m against it. But for people who cannot accept that and also don’t think they can live a life of singleness, I definitely think that a celibate same-sex relationship is a good option that should be prayed over.

Anyway, this post got pretty long and took a couple different turns, including some that probably just sounded like me complaining about my life or that didn’t make sense. But like I said, many of these things are things that straight people can also relate to, especially if they’re in a position of wanting to be in a relationship and not finding one. That’s sort of where I am right now, anyway. Honestly, I’m looking, not super actively looking, but I’m looking and just not finding anyone that I even remotely like at the moment. And that’s okay. That’s not a bad thing, but I think it’s something that straight people can resonate with as well.

Again, these are my personal experiences, opinions, and reflections of what I’ve been feeling and going through, written down to hopefully provide a glimpse of what the other side looks like. Let me know what you guys think about these things. Have you felt this way before? Do you agree/disagree? Why or why not?

what celibacy really means (for same-sex relationships)

I just want to start off this post by saying that I've been wanting to write this specific post for a long time. What I'm about to write here is something that I truly believe God has personally taught me, and the reason that I waited to write it is because I wanted to make sure that I was right with Him and knew exactly what I wanted to say, because this is something that's (possibly) so simple and yet shook my whole world and turned it upside down. It's that important to me (and most likely for many of you). Basically what I want to do in this post is articulate what exactly I believe celibacy means for gay Christians. I've already expressed my frustration with the way that the church chooses to handle and talk about celibacy in another article which I'll link to here, but in this post I want to talk about what celibacy actually looks like, in a realistic and practical way, because I believe that the church and most Christians do not have a correct understanding of what celibacy is and what it requires, something that profoundly affects daily life for gay Christians and the way that they interact with the church. Finally, I also think that having a correct definition of celibacy can be very freeing for gay Christians who feel "stuck." This should be just radical enough to shake things up a bit.

To start off, I want to address the fact that many churches and pastors across the country will appeal to the fact that Christians have been "eroded by culture" in their acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage in this country. However, (and I touched on this a little bit in the post linked to above), I think that what they don't see is that they have been swayed and influenced by western culture too, a culture in which everything is hyper and oversexualized. For most Americans, it is impossible to conceive of a serious relationship without any sexual activity, and this mindset has crept into the church and Christian culture as well. Why else did the church go through an entire purity-centric phase? Why else would courting be a thing in conservative Christian circles? It's because whether the church is willing to admit it or not, it too has been immersed in the oversexualized culture of the west, and that is part of the problem. Sex has become such a central part of our culture that it is simply assumed that it is going to be a part of serious relationships at some point or another. And that's where the problems start.

It has become impossible to imagine a serious relationship with the absence of sex, a mindset that has also crept into Christian culture.

Gay people are attracted to people of the same sex. Gay people enter into relationships with people of the same sex. Christians and the church assume that these people are having sex (rightly so sometimes). Said Christians and the church start whipping out clobber passages condemning homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9, etc...). Gay people get horribly offended at their intolerance. Radically conservative Christians call gay people horrible names and tell them they're going to burn in hell. The general consensus is seen as Christians hating gay people. Lack of love. Lack of grace. Lack of Christ-likeness. Culture war.

The only slightly more Christ-like response has pastors and churches demanding that gay people remain celibate for the rest of their lives without really supporting them or helping them figure out how to do that. It's not a pretty picture either way. The point is that we're not loving people and those same people are getting turned away from the church and from Jesus and that's not what what we're trying to do.

So how do we fix it?

I think the first step in even starting to address this problem is understanding what exactly gay people are hearing when pastors and churches demand that they be celibate for the rest of their lives (and let me tell you, it's not the most encouraging thing in the world when you're already struggling with something that a lot of society doesn't accept and you barely understand yourself).

I think that I speak for most gay Christians (and if I don't, someone please correct me) when I say that "celibate" is not one of our favorite words, or at least it's not something that we're about to jump into with 100% enthusiasm. After all, its connotations include deprivation, asceticism, and "the lesser of two evils." I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like the most attractive combination of things.

The reason for that is that what gay Christians are really hearing is this:

You aren't allowed to have a special relationship with anyone.

You're going to be alone forever, and you have to accept it because that's what the Bible says.

You aren't allowed to have sex.

This is the choice that you are left with because of who you are.

You don't get to have what everyone else gets to have; too bad that you didn't choose to be this way.

Singleness sucks, but you gotta do what you gotta do to be a good Christian.

This is your punishment for being the way that you are.

The list could go on and on. Those are just some of the things that I've personally thought when I've heard the word "celibate," and I'm sure I'm not alone there. How many of those things sound like things that you would voluntarily sign up for? How many of those things would sound loving being preached from a pulpit in that form? How many of those things would you like to be told or feel?

That's what I thought. It sounds terrible, doesn't it? Depressing. Soul crushing.

In reality, only one of the statements above is true. To find out which one, let's take a look at the dictionary definition of celibacy: abstention from sexual relations. That's it. That's all it says. And you know what, sex is also the only thing that all those clobber passages talk about too, and that is so freeing. Why?

Because we can live without sex, but we can't live without intimacy, as explained in this video if you care to watch it. Now, Julie Rodgers in that video would probably disagree with me, but in my opinion, the Bible only speaks out about homosexual sex while it says nothing at all about same-sex relationships. That's good news!

The Bible only speaks out about homosexual sex, while it says nothing at all about same-sex relationships.

Thus, for me, all that celibacy means is refraining from sex, not all of the other baggage that comes with the term that many Christians use in churches right now. Who says that you can't have a close, loving relationship without sex? In my opinion, that is a much more manageable call than to simply refrain from having a close, unique relationship at all, and I think that it's a lot more comforting too. It gives us the possibility of something!

And it says this:

Yes, you can have a relationship.

Yes, you'll have someone to love you a little more than everyone else.

Yes, you'll have someone to go through life with.

This is the gift that God has given us.

You won't get exactly what everyone else gets to have, but you'll get the next best thing.

Singleness sucks, and God isn't going to force you into it.

This is the way that you are; own it in your own way.

Yes, it's not going to be exactly the same as what straight people have, and it's going to look a great deal different, but I think that's the compromise and the taking up of our crosses that we'll have to do, and that's okay with me. I would much rather have a person and give up sex than not have a person at all. (I'll talk more about some logistical/practical things related to this type of same-sex relationship in my next post.) And I think that a close, committed, loving same-sex relationship without sex can be just as emotionally and spiritually fulfilling as a straight relationship with sex. Yes, it'll take some adjustment to get out of that western culture mindset, but it's honestly so freeing and it opens up a whole new world of possibilities, and for me, it helped me see God's goodness again, especially in a situation where most of us would see anything but that.

So let me give you some encouragement from the lives of Jonathan and David. A lot of people will claim that there are some homosexual undertones or whatever in their relationship, but I believe that it is just an example of how fulfilling a close, loving, celibate, same-sex relationship can be and this was life changing for me.

In 1 Samuel 18:1-3 it says this:

And after David had finished talking with Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, becoming one in spirit, and he loved David as himself...and Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.

And in 2 Samuel 1:26 David laments the death of Jonathan with these words:

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, surpassing that of all women.

Right there, David says straight up what I believe to be true (and he had like a bajillion wives so...), that his relationship with Jonathan was more fulfilling to him than a straight relationship, and I think that's because the love becomes even more pure when you take away the physical aspect of it. You can't get "caught up in the moment" when there's no physicality. You can't "love" someone just because the sex is good. When that's gone, all that's left is the pure, selfless love that is supposed to be at the heart of every relationship, gay or straight, which reminds of this article. Also, I really like the way that some translations say that David and Jonathan "became of one spirit," because it creates such an amazing parallel between how God said that Adam and Eve "became of one flesh." Seriously, how beautiful is that picture? Because I think it's amazing.

It's really a beautiful parallel when it says that David and Jonathan "became of one spirit," in contrast with how Adam and Eve "became of one flesh.

That is the kind of same-sex relationship that I believe in, a celibate one and one that can be just as emotionally and spiritually satisfying while also standing within the guidelines that the Bible has established. It's the kind of relationship that I'm longing and hoping for myself. And I know it sounds like a shortchanged version of what everyone else gets to have, but just think about it a little bit. Yeah, it'll be different. But I also think that it'll be so worth it.

That's my take on celibacy. How's that for a revamped definition?

What about you guys? What do you have to say about this? What sounds good and what sounds troublesome for you guys?

Oh! Oh! I almost forgot. There's a brand new button at the bottom of every page where you can subscribe to follow this blog via email, so you'll get an email every time I put up a new post. I'd love to be able to interact with more of you, especially for those of you who are reading my stuff through other sources. I just wanted to put that out there as well! Thanks guys!

when the church talks about celibacy

I'm going to be really honest. It's gotten increasingly difficult for me to listen to almost any pastor on the issue of homosexuality in regards to faith, which is just another reason that I'm so thankful for people like John Pavlovitz who are willing to go out on a limb on things like this and say things that are encouraging for people like us (see previous post). That's just my shameless plug for this post. But anyway, I say all of that, because I was at church just this past weekend and at the end of a sermon that seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality or gay issues at all (it was focused on the interaction between Paul and one of the churches he planted), the pastor decided to start talking about it.

Now, obviously everyone has the right to free speech, but I do think that people should refrain from speaking out about things that they aren't educated about. It always only results in people getting offended and upset. Granted, it's difficult for me to listen to a lot of pastors talk about this without getting a sour taste in my mouth, but that is also due to the fact that I have heard a lot of people say a lot of things about gay people, without realizing what they're saying and what they're implicating.

Basically, my pastor reiterated some things about that story that's been going around about a Navy chaplain who was dismissed from his unit because he was teaching the Biblical definitions of marriage and such (which I think is wrong). He went on to say how perverse the world has become in that it is more frowned upon to call out sexual immorality than it is to actually commit sexual immorality. The first thing that I want to say is that: I totally agree with that. Don't get me wrong. The thing that irks me is that, obviously, the first example he chose to whip out was that of gay people, and he even went on to talk about the issue of celibacy and how a handful of churches around the country have changed their stances on gay marriage, citing that they "finally caved" and that honestly made me very uncomfortable and a little upset for two main reasons.

The first reason is one of the main points that John Pavlovitz brought up in his great article on marriage and LGBT people in general, which I'll put right here, even though I also just reblogged it. Please read it. I couldn't have said a lot of those things better myself. But basically, he talks about how the issue of homosexuality is always the first thing that pastors jump to whenever they start talking about sexual immorality in a modern setting, always, even though divorce among Christians is a much bigger, more widespread problem. The stats he presents are that something like 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce, while gay people who solely want to get married only account for maybe 5-10% of the population. The reason that he gives for this is that pastors subconsciously (or consciously) know that talking about divorce and remarriage is going to be a lot more polarizing and alienating to a greater percentage of their congregations that talking about homosexuality and gay marriage.

For me, it's just so frustrating that the church has been so inconsistent with things like divorce and remarriage, which Jesus explicitly discussed, while they continue to condemn gay people for simply wanting to get married, because the Bible is so clear on its stance. If no sin is greater than another, then why aren't people getting more worked up about divorce, especially if it's a problem that affects so many more people in the grand scheme of things? Honestly, I just get so frustrated with the fact that this is how the church is handling things, because it's inconsistent with Scripture, it's an issue of pastors fearing backlash, and it seems to me to be an instance of picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to believe in (something that they claim that we do!).

Now hear me say this: I don't want the church to start cracking down on divorced people. That's not what I want at all. I just want people to be able to gain some perspective. That's all I'm desperately begging the church for. I just want them to see that the way that they're treating LGBT people isn't fair, and it's not loving. I also want them to see that it's not doing them any favors to avoid talking about divorce. That's also an important issue that the church needs to talk about, and it isn't doing it because people are afraid of what others will say. THIS is what I mean when I say I want equality. At the very, absolute least, I want LGBT people to not be considered less or below the rest of the church just because their struggle is different. I don't want to be looked down upon. I don't want to be thought of as needing to change. I want to be accepted for who I am, everything included.

The second reason that it made me upset was the repetition of the same general way that the church continues to talk about celibacy for gay Christians, a manner that just frustrates the living daylights out of me. Most churches would command gay Christians to live celibately for the rest of their lives as a way to reconcile their sexuality with what the Bible says and what God has commanded us in His word. Period.

Most churches command gay Christians to live celibately for the rest of their lives. Period.

That's it.

That is where that conversation stops about 97% of the time, leaving people with a pretty sad "sorry to break it to ya, but you're gonna be alone until you die." At least, that's what I hear when they talk about it like that, and I'm sure other gay people can attest to that as well. But anyway, for the other 2%, they might reiterate that you aren't supposed to have sex (well, duh, that's the definition of celibacy) or they might remind you to be careful of "acting on it," even if you're not sexually active (*shaking my head* that'll be a topic for another post...). Somewhere within that 2%, they'll probably also tell you that it's possible that God might change you so that you'd be able to get married to someone of the opposite sex (hmm...I don't know about you, but that honestly doesn't sound that appealing to me; I like the way that I am to be completely frank and I don't think I would change it if I could, but again, a topic for another post).

The last remaining 1% is something that I've read about, but never actually heard in a sermon. This 1% (or possibly less than 1%, let's be honest) talks about how to live celibately for the rest of your life. Where does your emotional support come from? How do you not feel lonely? Where does the church factor into that? What do you do when all of your friends get married and you're the last one left? All of those "what ifs" they leave unanswered.

That's my problem. The church tells you what to do in order to be a "good Christian," 'despite' your 'condition' of homosexuality (or at least that how it feels a lot of the time), but they don't tell you anything about how you're supposed to go about doing that. And most of the time there isn't a support system there either, save for "accountability groups" or what have you, which basically amount to groups of people who are supposed to call you out if they see you doing anything that might be morally questionable.

Church culture has placed such a high value on straight marriage that it has become an idol for many Christians.

And honestly, I think that this goes back to a problem with the structure of the church itself. The church claims that we have become so immersed in culture that it has begun to change the way that we think about things that the Bible is very clear on, but I want to argue that the same thing has happened to the church whether they want to admit it or not. Our sex-obsessed culture has gotten to the church too, in such a way that it's impossible for them to even consider the idea of a strong, loving, same-sex relationship without sex (a post on this coming later this week), because every relationship must involve sex. Church culture has also placed such a high value on straight marriage that, I daresay, it has become an idol for many Christians (post on this also coming). The church claims that being single is a gift, but it's practice doesn't match its preaching. In all practicality, the church is unable to see the value in singleness, and thus automatically marginalizes and devalues all LGBT people because of the fact that a Biblically based marriage isn't a possibility in their eyes. And that breaks my heart.

The church is unable to see the value in singleness.

If the church is going to be calling LGBT people to celibacy (still a very legitimate calling in my opinion, just one that isn't realistically feasible for a lot of people right now, given the current atmosphere of church/Christian culture), it also needs to provide real support systems for those people and it needs to start changing its attitudes on LGBT people and singleness. People are never going to thrive in celibacy unless Christians start seeing it as a gift again, rather than looking down on people for not having a spouse or significant other. Only once people stop feeling like they're missing something will they be able to fully embrace celibacy, if that's what they have been called to.

This is the great battle that the church has ahead of it, and, honestly, right now, I think that it's losing.

What about you guys? What are your thoughts on celibacy and the church's response?