New Beginnings: Embracing the Tension of Living In-Between

Maybe there is a better way than taking sides.

I’ll be embarking on a new chapter in life this week, and I find myself thinking back over the past couple of years and reflecting on my path ahead. Life transitions always make me reflective. So I’ve found myself especially reflective this summer.

About ten years ago, a college acquaintance told me that God had given her a vision about me. She said that a balance appeared above my head with burdens on either side and that I held up the weight of both like a fulcrum in the center. She said that the Lord had called me to live in the in-between.

It honestly didn’t mean much to me at the time. I didn’t know her very well, and she didn’t know me, and the image of a “balance” didn’t ring true to me at all. I politely thanked her for sharing and then quickly forgot about the whole encounter. I never thought about it again until recently.

more “New Beginnings: Embracing the Tension of Living In-Between”

Why Celibate Gay Christians Don’t Need to Fear Hell

Revoice is just a week away! One of my biggest hopes is that this conference will carve out a space for LGBTQ+ Christians to adhere to historic teachings apart from threats of hell. If we ever hope to make conservative churches a safe environment for LGBTQ+ people, this absolutely must become the norm. Also, if you plan to be at the conference, please don’t hesitate to say hi! I can’t wait to talk!

One of the single most common reasons for gay celibacy amongst celibate gay Christians is fear of hell.

Letting go of my white-knuckle grip of celibacy was the best thing I ever did.

Now wait a minute.

Letting go of celibacy?

But isn’t celibacy the very thing that gay Christians must desperately maintain apart from getting married to the opposite sex? Isn’t celibacy, like, the point?

In many conservative churches, it is. The focus upon “no gay sex” in Christian communities often amounts to a type of spiritual suffocation, whereby celibate gay Christians slowly strangle themselves under the mounting pressure to avoid gay sex. Okay, maybe they’re dying, but at least they’re celibate. So, like, it’s fine. Right?

Unfortunately, it’s not.

It’s impossible to cling to Jesus and receive his gift of grace when we’re desperately clinging to something else. God calls us to be desperate for Jesus, not works of the law, and to cling to his righteousness, not our own. But unfortunately, the counsel given to far too many celibate gay Christians amounts to a call to cling to their celibacy and not their Savior. more “Why Celibate Gay Christians Don’t Need to Fear Hell”

Check Out These Resources on Faith and Sexuality

Preston Sprinkle’s Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Ethics recently released a brand-new online resource called The Digital Leaders Forum, a comprehensive course equipping ministry leaders with teaching on faith, sexuality, and gender from a traditional perspective on sexual ethics. I participated as a panelist and found the entire experience to be filled with grace, sincerity, and a true desire to build bridges between LGBT+ people and the conservative church. Check it out to learn more!

The Digital Leaders Forum provides comprehensive training on faith, sexuality, and gender from a traditional perspective on sexual ethics.

 

Also, if you’ve been following my blog for the past few months, you might remember me referencing Kutter Callaway’s book Breaking the Marriage Idol. I recently completed a review of his book that was published over at Evangelicals for Social Action. Check out a snippet below:

“The necessity of marriage is seldom, if ever, questioned in our culture, whether secular or Christian. The centrality of marriage to our anthropology feels ubiquitous. More than once, I’ve heard pastors describe marriage from the pulpit as the “ultimate” human relationship, and rarely in church have I ever seen singleness treated as anything other than a “season of life” before you get married.

But Kutter Callaway dares to challenge such thinking in Breaking the Marriage Idol: Reconstructing Our Cultural and Spiritual Norms, shining a much-needed light on the church’s complicity in worshiping romantic love. His book stands out for the cultural commentary in the first section alone, where he provides a devastating analysis of the church’s idolatry of marriage. I would even go so far as to say these chapters ought to be required reading for anyone engaged in the ongoing conversation of Christian sexuality.

However, the remaining two sections of Callaway’s book lack the insight of his earlier chapters. Many of his ideas come across as underdeveloped, and many of his more controversial claims lack an adequate defense. As a result, the book succeeds in exposing much of the problematic thinking behind evangelical assumptions about sex and marriage, but it ultimately fails to provide adequate answers to the questions it raises.” Read more…

Check out the full review: “Bedfellows: A Review of ‘Breaking the Marriage Idol'”

Male Effeminacy, Misogyny, and Homophobia: A Response to Desiring God

If you’d like to read the original articles on effeminacy by Desiring God, to which I am responding, check out the following links:

 

Male effeminacy, malakos, or malakoi has nothing to do with being gay or homosexuality and everything to do with toxic masculinity.

 

The English word “effeminate” harkens back to a time in history when “femininity” occupied the lowest rung of the social ladder. We get the word “virtue” from the Latin word “virtus,” which itself came from “vir,” meaning man. Think about that. Historically, virtue was inherently masculine. The implication for the feminine isn’t that difficult to figure out.

Even today, we stumble under the weight of our misogynistic history, commonly associating the feminine with what is “less.” People still say things like, “You throw like a girl,” and hardly think twice about the implications. What’s more, people still write articles condemning men who don’t fit a very narrow construction of masculinity by accusing them of being womanly, or “effeminate.”

Most recently, Desiring God published two articles touching upon the topic of effeminacy (linked above), where gay men are condemned for their “effeminate habits,” first implicitly and then explicitly. But the most common passages of Scripture used to justify this sort of thinking paint a very different picture of what effeminacy actually entails. more “Male Effeminacy, Misogyny, and Homophobia: A Response to Desiring God”

Spiritual Family: A Bond More Enduring Than Marriage

I recently published a follow up to the article I wrote in the spring for Equip, an organization run by Pieter Valk and dedicated to supporting sexual minorities in the church. My article in the spring challenged evangelical notions of the relational primacy of the nuclear family, and this article follows up to expand upon these thoughts. Check out the excerpt below or read the whole article on Equip’s blog.

Spiritual Family a Bond More Enduring Than Marriage

 

“I wrote a guest post for Equip last spring which addressed the priority of spiritual family in the Christian life. I’d like to follow up on that post by engaging in some more reflection on the ideas I presented. In an age where more and more people feel ostracized by the church, this discussion may be more important now than ever before, at least in American culture. Getting the family of God wrong means getting the church wrong! And that’s something we just can’t afford.

For single and celibate people, the stakes are particularly high, especially for celibate gay Christians. Lifelong celibacy means surrendering the possibility of biological family in pursuit of the Kingdom of God. In exchange, the Bible promises a family that is ‘many times more’ in this life (Luke 18:28-30), a spiritual family that is more meaningful than anything a traditional family could offer. Unfortunately, celibate gay Christians struggle to find such a family.

Notably, Rosaria Butterfield, who is well-known for her contribution to discussions on same-sex attraction in the church touches on a number of ideas relevant to this discussion in her book The Gospel Comes with a House Key. In a recent article, she had some strong words to say about the state of Christian community:

‘[Christians] have swapped out the biblical priority that the church is the family of God for a counterfeit that says the blood of biology ranks higher than the blood of Christ. And when we do this, we toss the most vulnerable brothers and sisters under the bus. The Christian life comes in exchange for the life (and sometimes the family) we once had, not in addition to it.’

It’s no coincidence that Butterfield’s book comes out during a cultural moment when more and more people see the church as a place of hatred (especially towards gay people) rather than a profound embodiment of supernatural love. When we consider that Scripture ties our very identity as a people of God to our larger reputation for love (see John 13:24), there may be no greater indictment against the church today.” read more

 

Divorced and Celibate: Reflections from the Other Side of Marriage (Guest Post)

Christian attitudes toward divorce and remarriage have been largely redefined in the past century. Historically, Christians were never permitted to remarry with the church, even in the case of a lawful divorce, even if you were the innocent party. Divorced people were expected to remain celibate. More recently, however, many Protestant denominations have abandoned this position. Guest writer Darla Meeks is one person who swims against this current, having chosen celibacy following her divorce rather than getting remarried. 

I encourage you to read her reflections below with an open mind, regardless of where you stand on the topic of divorce and remarriage. There is much to learn from individuals like Darla who choose the path less traveled today.

Jesus' commands regarding divorce, marriage, remarriage, and celibacy are clear.

 

I am a divorced Christian woman. I’ve been divorced for 10 years now, after a 17-year marriage to an unbelieving, chronically unfaithful spouse. Now in my fifties, I have a life that doesn’t include a mate, and I have no children. My parents have passed on. My brothers live in other states. The same is true of my extended family. I don’t see any of them much, except during brief out-of-town visits. I keep in touch by phone, text and social media, but that’s about it.

I’ve had two relationships since my divorce. One of those men rejected me; the other, I rejected. I didn’t have sex with either of them while I was seeing them. In fact, I haven’t had sex in a very long time.

So, my life has little or nothing to do with the traditional, nuclear family.

What say you, Christian family? Am I a sad woman? Am I alone and lonely? Is my life over? Am I depressed and on the verge of suicide?

Even worse, am I a degenerate, profligate, back-sliding individual who has lost God’s greatest blessing (marriage & family) forever?

I say to you, no to all. In fact, by the very grace of God, I am happier than I have ever been as a celibate, single person. more “Divorced and Celibate: Reflections from the Other Side of Marriage (Guest Post)”

Boy Erased: An Open Letter to the Gospel Coalition (Guest Post)

Last week, the Gospel Coalition published a review of Boy Erased, a movie depicting the true story of Garrard (Jared) Conley’s experiences at a conversion therapy facility called Love in Action. I’d encourage you to read the review by Brett McCracken before reading the response below. I have much respect for the Gospel Coalition and frequently link to their articles in my blog. However, even respected Christian outlets have blindspots. My prayer is that Brett McCracken and others at the Gospel Coalition would be willing to exercise humility in recognizing their need for growth when it comes to responding to LGBT+ topics and issues. We are all on the same team, and we can all learn from each other. I pray the Gospel Coalition is willing to learn from my friend Henry in his letter below. 

Check out these links for additional resources on Boy Erased put out by organizations run by LGBT+ people dedicated to supporting LGBT+ people in life-giving ways:

The Gospel Coalition's review of Boy Erased missed an opportunity to weep with those who weep in the LGBT+ community.

 

Dear Brett McCracken/The Gospel Coalition,

I am writing this in response to the article you wrote last week about the film “Boy Erased.” My name is Henry, and I am a gay/SSA celibate man who believes in and adheres to the traditional teachings of the church as it relates to sexuality based on scripture. I don’t know you, but I am familiar with TGC and some of your work. I read your review the day it was published, and while it had several strong points, there were key parts that felt very off to me. A discussion was started on a forum I’m involved with, and I quickly realized that I was not alone in my assessment of the article. I would like to share those thoughts with you now, not as an attack, but as a means for dialogue and deeper engagement on a topic that I think TGC (and the church) could do more work on. I aim to be charitable and graceful with my words, and I pray that this is beneficial to you and anyone else reading it. more “Boy Erased: An Open Letter to the Gospel Coalition (Guest Post)”

Coming Out: Why Jesus Delights in LGBT+ Stories

 

Coming Out: Why Jesus Delights in Your LGBT+ Story

We are the people who hide. The ones who slouch our way through Bible studies and small groups. The ones who cling to Christian respectability and mask our stories beneath a facade of normalcy.

We are the people who, rejected by the church, hide again in the queer community, deflecting questions about our personal lives, evading talk about our faith, lest we be rejected here too. Alone once again.

We are the stories that challenge the status quo in every battle of the culture wars. The POWS of every camp. We are the ones with nowhere to stay and nowhere to go. So we hide. We make peace with our prisons to survive.

But it’s in that place that the voice of the Father calls to us, “saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out.’” (Isa. 49:9). Come out, he cries. Step into my light. more “Coming Out: Why Jesus Delights in LGBT+ Stories”

Marriage Idolatry: Exposing The Christian Version of Consent Culture

Marriage idolatry may be one of the most concerning spiritual conditions of the church today. But this can be incredibly difficult for people to wrap their minds around because people see the elevation of marriage as a defense against the “attack on family values.” It’s important to realize that I’m not attacking marriage in this post. Instead, I’m attacking the throne upon which we’ve placed it. It’s time we return marriage to its rightful place as a good thing, yes, but not ultimate.

As a side note, I’ve scattered a variety of different images throughout this post because I felt the need to better display the type of mindset that I’m talking about which currently proliferates in the church (all of these images are put out by Christians). This type of stuff isn’t just a fringe ideology. It’s the norm, and it’s everywhere. 

Also, marriage idolatry is closely connected to idolatry of the nuclear family in the church. If you’re interested, check out this related article I wrote a few months ago:

 

Marriage idolatry is ubiquitous in evangelical culture. It represents a version of sexual liberation theology preached from the pulpit.

Marriage idolatry is ubiquitous in evangelical culture. It represents a version of sexual liberation theology preached from the pulpit.

Marriage idolatry is ubiquitous in evangelical culture. It represents a version of sexual liberation theology preached from the pulpit.

The Scandal of Celibacy

Not surprisingly, the concept of lifelong celibacy scandalizes a world gripped by the aftermath of the sexual revolution. Celibate? For life? You’re kidding, right? So improbable does it seem to the modern ear, that celibacy gets blamed for everything from psychological disorders to the sex abuse scandal in Catholicism, as if sexual abuse were uncommon in contexts where men are sexually active.

Such reactions are expected in a world of non-negotiable sexual activity. Sex is a non-option. We enjoy the perception of self-determination the way a child enjoys the choice to do his homework in crayon or in marker. The freedom to determine how he does it distracts the child from realizing that he actually has no choice but to do it.

Such is the world that we live in. We have no choice but to do it. Our freedom exists in the how but nothing else. Choosing a sexless life breaks the most important and all-encompassing but unspoken rule of sexual liberation. Sex is a must.

And lest you think I’m talking about the secular world, let me be clear. I’m talking about the church. more “Marriage Idolatry: Exposing The Christian Version of Consent Culture”

Revoice: The Conference We Need

This post is a review of Revoice, not a defense. I really have no interest in the debate currently raging online over the merits of this conference (and I think people far more qualified than me have already responded). While I obviously support the conference, my goal in this review is not to defend all my reasons for supporting it. Instead, my goal is to hopefully give you a picture of why the conference is so important. And what the conference is changing. Whether you support it or not, there’s no denying that Revoice made a splash. And there’s significant reasons for why. Hopefully, I can get at a few of those reasons here.

Revoice provided support, encouragement, and empowerment to LGBT+ people within the traditional sexual ethic
Photo Credit: Gregg Webb

I remember a time when the grace of God seemed eternally distant. A gift he designed for everyone but me. I remember the fear of being unsavable. A “vessel of wrath fitted for destruction.” My feelings a sign that I was “given over” into sin. I remember sleepless nights where I couldn’t bear to close my eyes lest I wake up in hell

I remember listening to the voice of the church toward LGBT+ people, and it wasn’t the voice of life. And when I think about the countless sexual and gender minorities who share experiences similar to mine, I recall the words of Jesus when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). But the voice of the church was death to us. It wasn’t the voice of Jesus more “Revoice: The Conference We Need”