This post will conclude what is, in my mind, a three part series on what I believe about and what God has been teaching me about celibacy and relationships in regards to LGBT Christians. Of course, that doesn't mean that I'm done talking about those things. I just feel like all three of these posts are intricately tied together, which is why I'll link to them here as well in case you haven't read them.
Part One: when the church talks about celibacy
Part Two: what celibacy really means (for same-sex relationships)
So take a look at those two posts if you haven't read them yet. Hopefully you'll see that they all sort of flow together.
Finally, one last thing before I get started on this post. Don't forget that at the bottom of every page on this blog there's a button you can press to subscribe via email. That way, you'll get an email every time I post something new. So go and do that if you care to follow along with what I'm writing. I always love to connect with new people, share thoughts, and see what they have to say.
Recap: Alright, so in my last post, I talked about what my definition of celibacy is and how the current definition of celibacy or the assumptions made about it are hurtful to LGBT Christians in the church. I also discussed what I believe about same-sex relationships and how being celibate and being in a relationship are not mutually exclusive, which I believe can be very freeing and eye-opening to many people who struggle with wanting to follow what the Bible says about homosexuality while also having a difficult time reconciling that with how to live life practically. In this post, I want to talk about how Biblical, same-sex relationships might work, and I know that sounds crazy, considering that I've never been in one but trust that I've thought about this a lot. For one perspective on how this might work, you can take a look at Lindsey and Sarah's blog.
In order to talk about how I believe that same-sex relationships can work, I'm going to address a couple key questions or comments that I've gotten a lot when discussing this topic with various people. Their questions are completely valid and very practical, but they also come from a very "straight" mindset, if you will, neglecting the fact that these relationships are going to look and operate a little differently from straight relationships.
One of the first things that people always say is: I feel like that would just be so much harder and less fulfilling than being single, don't you think?
When they say that, what they're really referring to, in a super Christian, roundabout way, is sex. Again. As if that's the only thing that gay people (or straight people for that matter) think about at any given point in life. But I really can't blame people for asking this question, because it's anchored in what I talked about in my last post, the fact that western culture is so grotesquely oversexualized and obsessed with sex.
The problem with this comment isn't the fact that they're saying that it's going to be harder. Relationships are hard to begin with. Ask your parents or any married couple. They'll tell you it's not easy by a long shot, and I do believe that this type of relationship is going to be harder in a sense. But again, that's not the problem. The problem is the reasoning behind that question which is this: Your relationship is going to be harder and less fulfilling (or not fulfilling) because you can't have sex.
Okay, hold the phone. Do you mean to tell me that the sole factor that provides fulfillment in a relationship is sex? Because that's a blatant lie. Pardon the cliche, but this also goes back to the classic American saying that a guy and a girl can't be friends without one falling in love with the other. I hate that saying too. Besides, what about friends? What about family? What about all the other kinds of relationships that exist in the world? Somehow, those are still functioning and fulfilling people.
Yes, I totally believe that sex does bind people together in straight, monogamous marriages, but I definitely don't think that it's necessary for fulfillment, and I'm sorry if that's coming from someone who's never been in a relationship, but I also believe it's Biblical. This mindset is something that comes from western culture, not from the Bible. Sex shouldn't be what fulfills you in a relationship. Otherwise I think that maybe your relationship has some other problems.
The second thing that people will inevitably ask or say is this: Don't you think that just causes unnecessary temptation?
Sorry to sound like a broken record, but this is a question that is also rooted in our hypersexualized western culture. It revisits the idea that any serious, loving relationship automatically includes sex. And in my opinion, I think that it also implies that two people in a serious relationship won't be able to control themselves if presented with that opportunity, which reduces people to just sex machines again (ah, don't let me get started on this here).
Yes, I will admit that there will obviously be temptation there, but I think that this question also comes from a very "straight" mindset. For straight couples, regardless of whether they are Christian or not, it is an assumption that that they will get to have sex at some point in their relationship. For Christians, that happens to be after marriage. Until then, they are bound to celibacy as well. Many of my friends will attest to the fact that the temptation becomes even greater once you realize that you are committed to a person and know where the relationship is going. Personally, I believe that comes from the expectation and anticipation they have of what is to come when they're married, something that doesn't exist for gay people. Let me explain.
Temptation, in my opinion, comes from the expectation and anticipation of what is to come in that relationship when they're married.
In straight relationships, there are a lot of things that people take for granted (we could call it straight privilege, but that's a topic for a completely different post). One of those things is the assumption that at some point in their relationship they will get to have sex. That's the mentality which they have in serious, committed relationships. But like I said, that's a very "straight" mentality.
The assumption for straight people is that at some point in their relationship they will get to have sex.
In my opinion, I think that a lot of temptation can be avoided by adopting a different mentality altogether. For LGBT Christians wanting to remain celibate and honor what they believe the Bible says (and as a disclaimer, I have absolutely no judgment for LGBT Christians who believe that same-sex relationships, everything included, are okay under the Bible. For me personally, that's not ideal, but I also don't really have a problem with it, as there are very compelling arguments for Biblical, monogamous, non-celibate same-sex relationships. I can address this in another post if there's enough interest.), I think that entering relationships with a celibate mindset will prevent a lot of those issues with temptations. I know that for myself, I've already completely taken the possibility of having sex off the table in regards to my mentality for when I enter a relationship. It's just not even an option in my mind at all, completely off limits.
A lot of temptation can be avoided by adopting a different mentality all together.
And here, people will say: Oh, but you will consider it if it comes up.
That may be true, but again, the saying goes that 80% of any battle is in the mind.
Thus, I think that a crucial component to having a same-sex relationship that works is also finding someone who's on the same page as you mentally. They have to enter into that relationship with the same mindset, and there has to be a lot of communication about boundaries and what you're expecting. Without that, then yes, all of the above questions/comments/arguments are totally valid. You need to find someone who is going to be as committed to celibacy as you are. They have to have eliminated the possibility of having sex from their minds as well.
You need to find someone who is going to be as committed to celibacy as you are.
Finally, I think that one of the biggest misconceptions that people might have about this kind of same-sex relationship is that it's just like marriage but without sex. I don't think that's true, and I think that having that mentality will lead to hurt and dissatisfaction later in life. Lindsey and Sarah talk about this on their blog, which I've linked to further up in this post.
Personally, I would categorize this kind of relationship as a companionship or something along those lines, because marriage is definitely its own category. So pardon the Hallmark sounding name (and please, please let me know if you think of something better), but a companionship is going to look a lot different than marriage simply by virtue of not being marriage (Lindsey and Sarah talk about some practical, legal aspects of this, which I hope to write a post on in the future as well).
In my eyes, a companionship is (I'm sorry, bullet points are just going to make this so much easier to digest):
- in some respects, more similar to the relationship between two best friends than the relationship between a married couple (but I don't even really think that expresses it enough)
- a relationship where you still have a person, that one person who you are committed to for the rest of your life and you love a little more than everyone else (because that's sort of what differentiates a romantic relationship from, like, best friendships, right?)
- a relationship with a person with whom you can go through life with and support and be supported emotionally, spiritually, etc.
- a relationship with a person who will constantly be encouraging you and pointing you back to Jesus and for whom you can do the same
- a relationship that can potentially be deeper than marriage because you don't have sex to bind you together physically
- a relationship with a person you love selflessly and who loves you selflessly
- a relationship with your actual best friend
I'm not even sure if all of that adequately describes the kind of relationship that I have floating around in my mind, just because I haven't experienced it yet, and it can be so hard to understand for anyone who hasn't thought about it. It's such a different, but beautiful kind of relationship that I'm not sure I can succinctly describe right now. But if you have more questions about this, please either comment below or email me/message me and I'd love to talk to you about it more.
Since all of that was probably really confusing, let me tell you a story to try and give you a glimpse of what this might look like practically. It's not exactly what I'm trying to describe, but it's pretty close in my opinion.
So I have this best friend, and she's actually on Wordpress too, so check out her blog if that piques your interest at all (and I know, gay guy with his female best friend, stereotypical). She's currently in the middle of doing a year of discipleship school, and she's written some pretty cool things over there.
Anyway, she's my best friend and she's really great. I'm also convinced (and she'll probably hate me for saying this, but almost everyone else who knows us would agree) that, in my opinion, we would probably be getting married in another life. That's basically how close we are and is a good one line summary (albeit a confusing one) of our relationship.
For the one year that we actually went to the same school, we were basically joined at the hip. We were together all the time and did a lot of couple-type things. Our usual hang outs were very date-like, and even after we started going to separate schools we had a couple months when we made it a priority to see each other at the same time, same place, same day of the week, every week.
Basically, everyone started asking whether or not we were actually a thing, and people wouldn't believe us when we said we weren't. This is also obviously before I was out, so the unbelief was very real. It was to the point where my friends and family didn't need to ask me where I would be on Wednesday nights, because they already knew that I was going to be with her. They would actually ask me why I wasn't with her if I happened to be around during that time slot. My family also just started assuming that we were actually together even after it was repeatedly said that we weren't, so that happened. Oh well. It probably didn't help the whole image situation that we tended to do things like have impromptu picnics, go to concerts and plays together, take Saturday day trips, and have dressed up dinners in downtown Stillwater. Yeah, wow. They sound like dates to me right now even as I'm writing about them, and I know firsthand that they weren't.
But honestly, that's part of the beauty of it, and I think some of that reflects the kind of relationship that I'm trying to describe. People (and they say so) didn't understand our relationship and they assumed that there were things there that weren't. To this day, people still don't really understand how our relationship works, but I think some light has been shed on it by my being out now, but that's beside the point. We aren't and never were romantically interested in each other, but there was something else there that bonded us together as friends and in life that I have yet to encounter again. Part of it is our shared interests, our similar-ish family backgrounds, our similar perspectives, and our love for Jesus, but there's something else that I can't quite describe. And like I said, even right now, I almost feel like, and I'm sure it maybe sounds like I'm writing about a romantic relationship, but I'm not. That's how different it is.
And that's the kind of relationship that I believe this companionship (seriously, God needs to change my heart about this name or someone needs to come up with something better, haha) is supposed to be. People might not understand it; people might have misconceptions about it; people might assume things about it that aren't true, and that's all okay. Because when it comes down to it, all that matters is that you and your relationship are right with God.
Those are my jumbled thoughts on this topic. But I want to hear what you guys have to say. Have you ever considered this as an option? What do you think about it? Do you have any other questions that you'd like me to try and address?
Let me know what you think.