This is the first post in a month-long series on “celibate gay pride,” exploring the glory of God as revealed in the lives of celibate gay Christians. I’d like to publish about 1-2 posts every week over the month of June. But I need your help! The more feedback I get, the more I can make things relevant. As the series progresses, please comment below or share your thoughts via private message. Any interaction will be a HUGE help as I tailor the content. Suggestions and requests are 100 percent welcome.
Also, I’m specifically talking about and for celibate gay Christians in this series. To be clear: this is not an argument for why gay Christians ought to be celibate. I want to clarify this at the outset, because I often receive various criticisms from non-celibate gay people who tell me that my arguments aren’t convincing. But there’s a reason for that. I’m not trying to make arguments for or against any particular sexual ethic in my blog. This blog is simply for LGBT+ Christians who believe in the traditional sexual ethic. It’s not a blog for convincing LGBT+ Christians to accept a sexual ethic they don’t believe in, and I do not believe that all LGBT+ Christians must accept this ethic. However, many LGBT+ Christians nevertheless do live by the traditional sexual ethic. So if you’re interested in learning about celibate gay believers (and/or the larger LGBT+ community that believes in the traditional sexual ethic), then by all means read on.
For more posts in this series:
- Are Celibate Gay Christians Allowed to Have Pride?
- Take It From an Expert: Same-Sex Attraction Is More Than Just Sexual
- Gay Attractions Create the Context for More Than Just Sin
- Gay People Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
- Same-Sex Love is Good and Beautiful
- God’s Unique Blessings in the LGBT+ Experience of Christians
- LGBT+ Christians: When Unlikely People Are God’s Greatest Champions
Are Celibate Gay Christians Allowed to Have Pride?
June is gay pride month, a time for celebrating LGBT+ people as full human beings. But for a time of year that supposedly celebrates our humanity, it often feels like celibate gay Christians need to duck down, stay quiet, and avoid attention.
Quite frankly, it’s for good reason. Christians on the right often react with such offense at our existence that even suggesting we could possibly be Christian too is “heretical.” One writer called the upcoming Revoice Conference an “acquiescence to the homosexual agenda” and said that gay Christians like me should be “thrown out to Satan.” Others have compared us to pedophiles, porn addicts, and rapists.
In such a hostile environment, you might think that gay people like myself could run for safety to our local LGBT Center. But Christians on the left often respond with just as much vitriol. One person reacted to celibate gay Christian David Bennett’s interview with Preston Sprinkle by calling him “a self-hating gay man” who makes “other gay people self-hating.” Others deny our personhood by claiming that we are nothing more than a brainwashed bludgeon of the Christian right.
Granted, not everyone is like this. And I remain tremendously grateful for the people I know who support God’s calling in my life. However, it can sometimes feel like these people are few and far between. More often than not, no matter where we turn, Christians like me face open hostility.
So when a month like June rolls around, it can be hard to know where to fit. On the one side, we’re shamed for being gay. On the other side, we’re shamed for abstaining from sex. It can sometimes feel like we’re nothing but a disgrace to our communities.
But the Bible says differently.
The Bible Has a Lot to Say About Shame
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” – 1 Peter 2:6
In his book on missions, Honor and Shame: Unlocking the Door, Roland Muller describes the important role that honor and shame plays in the Gospel narrative of the Bible. “From the Scriptures,” he says, “we can see that God is not in the business of shaming his followers. Rather, he is in the business of lifting us up from shame.”
Muller begins in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed” (Gen. 2:25), and paints a devastating picture of mankind’s plunge into disgrace. As he puts it, Adam and Eve’s shame at the realization of their nakedness forms the backdrop of mankind’s ultimate glory at the cross:
“The ultimate picture of God bearing our shame is found in Christ who was stripped of His clothing when He was hung on the cross. Roman prisoners were often hung naked on a cross, exposed for the scoffers to see and ridicule. Consequently, even in this, Christ bore, not only our sin on the cross, but also our shame. Once for all, Christ died on the cross, bearing our shame, so that we might be freed from shame as well as guilt.”
God bestowing honor upon shameful people is one of the most profound and world-changing realities of the Gospel! That the God of the universe would exchange his glory with us. Jesus Christ delivers us not only from sin but also from the shame associated with it. “Fear not,” Isaiah prophesied, “for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced” (Isa. 54:4). Elsewhere, he said, “Instead of your shame, there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot” (Isa. 61:7).
In fact, because of Christ, our very weaknesses — the same things that would have brought us shame in the past — become something to actually boast about! “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Scripture even commends those believers who “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality” (Rom. 2:7). This doesn’t refer to the kind of worldly glory that we associate with selfish ambition — something Paul actually condemns in the next verse. Rather, it’s the kind of glory that comes from the cross. As Jesus prayed, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22, emphasis mine).
Celebrating the Glory of God in the Lives of Celibate Gay Christians
“He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.” – 1 Sam. 2:8
Celibate gay Christians often experience tremendous shaming — from inside and outside the church — for no other reason than because they are gay and celibate. When it comes to the church, such treatment is out of step with the Gospel of Christ. Jesus bore the shame of straight people as well as gay. And he bestows glory and honor upon both. To say anything less denies the power of the Gospel.
So in the coming weeks, I’d like to explore the idea of “celibate gay pride” by examining the various ways that celibate gay Christians uniquely reflect the glory of God. Granted, Scripture says that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). So in some ways I could understand the hesitance of some believers to talk about “gay pride.” But there is nevertheless a form of pride allotted to Christians that has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God. Paul himself “boasted” in the cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14), and he reminded the Corinthians, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).
It’s this kind of pride that I want to talk about. If deliverance from shame is at the heart of the Gospel message, then what does that look like for a celibate gay Christian? If God is in the business of bestowing “glory and honor,” then what does it look like for celibate gay Christians to walk in that glory? In short, I want to explore what it’s like for celibate gay Christians to “boast in the Lord.”
What This Series Is and Isn’t
“Endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…” – Romans 5:4-5
An overwhelming number of people in the church continue making troubling statements like, “There’s no such thing as a gay Christian,” or “Being a ‘gay Christian’ is an oxymoron.” Such statements relegate an entire class of people as beyond the reach of God’s grace. But God’s grace extends to all people, including gay people. To say anything less, for whatever linguistic or philosophical or ontological reasons, denies the Gospel of Christ.
Nevertheless, many believers still object to using the word “gay.” Please understand: the following series is not designed to address that debate. My reasons for using the word “gay” (and other “LGBT” vernacular) are numerous and varied. If you’re interested, then I would definitely encourage you to read my series called “Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted?” I would also highly recommend any of these articles on the topic:
- Why I Call Myself a Gay Christian
- The Problem with Same-Sex-Attraction
- Why I Call Myself a Gay (or SSA) Celibate Christian
But I don’t want this series to get bogged down by a debate over words. As the Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:14, “Charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” At a certain point, Bible-believing Christians must recognize that the debate over using the word “gay” is grieving to the Holy Spirit and destroys our testimony to the world.
Instead, I want to set this debate aside and focus on something vastly more important: the fact that countless celibate gay Christians live in perpetual shame simply because they are gay (or same-sex-attracted or whatever you want to call it). The shame they experience is often the direct result of their treatment by the church. And when Christians perpetuate shame, for whatever reason, they undermine the message of the Gospel.
In a Nutshell
Many believers see nothing but the potential for sin in a gay person’s orientation. And as a result, they only ever talk about “gay people” in the context of sin. But what if being gay — or same-sex-attracted or whatever — means more than just the inclination to a particular set of sins? What if it also means the inclination to a particular sort of God-glorifying life? What if a gay person can reflect the glory of God in unique and beautiful ways not “in spite of” being gay but actually because they are gay?
The faithful testimony of countless celibate gay believers shows that we can.
In the coming month, I plan to publish about 1-2 posts every week, and I invite your feedback! In my first post next week, I will be doing an interview with a good friend to discuss the various forms of attraction and how most human attractions are not actually sexual. This conversation will lay an important foundation, as the sexualization of attraction is one of the biggest reasons why Christians see nothing but the potential for sin in gay orientations.
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