Sexuality

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.

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.

  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.

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.

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. [caption id="attachment_2899" align="alignleft" width="4096"]Revoice provided support, encouragement, and empowerment to LGBT+ people within the traditional sexual ethic Photo Credit: Gregg Webb[/caption] 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

This is the final post in a month-long series on “celibate gay pride,” exploring the glory of God as revealed in the lives of celibate gay Christians. If you'd like to read the full series, check out the links below! 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:
  1. Are Celibate Gay Christians Allowed to Have Pride?
  2. Take It From an Expert: Same-Sex Attraction Is More Than Just Sexual
  3. Gay Attractions Create the Context for More Than Just Sin
  4. Gay People Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
  5. Same-Sex Love is Good and Beautiful
  6. God’s Unique Blessings in the LGBT+ Experience of Christians
  7. LGBT+ Christians: When Unlikely People Are God's Greatest Champions
God is glorified in the lives of gays, lesbians, SSA, and other LGBT+ people One of the most beautiful things about the Christian faith is that God uses the most unlikely people to champion his cause. Consider Rahab. A woman forever known in the annals of church history as “Rahab the Harlot.” A woman whose inclusion in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith” would be significantly less powerful if she had not been a prostitute. Or how about “Zacchaeus the Tax Collector”? A man whose story of radical generosity would mean very little apart from the well-established greed of ancient tax collectors. Consider “Naaman the Leper,” the “Samaritan Woman,” “Doubting Thomas,” “Ruth the Moabite,” the “Prodigal Son,” the “Woman Caught in Adultery,” or the “Thief on the Cross,” among a great many people in Scripture named by their sin, imperfections, and shortcomings. The story of David and Goliath may be the most famous among them. God's champion against a ten-foot giant was a young shepherd boy with no training, no experience, and no weapons for battle! But that's what God does. He uses the lowly and despised of this world to shame the strong and the mighty. What made these people “weak” in Scripture made them perfect conduits for a grand display of the power of God.

This is the sixth 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:
  1. Are Celibate Gay Christians Allowed to Have Pride?
  2. Take It From an Expert: Same-Sex Attraction Is More Than Just Sexual
  3. Gay Attractions Create the Context for More Than Just Sin
  4. Gay People Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
  5. Same-Sex Love is Good and Beautiful
  6. God’s Unique Blessings in the LGBT+ Experience of Christians
  7. LGBT+ Christians: When Unlikely People Are God's Greatest Champions
The LGBT+ experience has been a unique source of blessing to Christians who are sexual minorities and/or gender minorities. Far too often within conservative Christianity, the dominant narrative about LGBT+ people centers upon sin and shame. For many of us in the church, it can feel suffocating. As though the only way we can talk about our sexuality and orientation is in the context of repentance and anguish over being “broken.” As though queerness can only be understood through the lens of suffering. But there is far more to the LGBT+ experience of Christians than struggle. Sure we struggle. All people struggle. But all people experience joy and happiness too. I affirm the historic understanding of Biblical sexuality, and I affirm that sinful desire tempts us to forsake God's created design for humanity. But I also affirm that LGBT+ people are not defined by sinful desire, and I affirm that God works through the LGBT+ experience for his glory and for the good of his church. For me, as a celibate lesbian, my sexuality and orientation has brought about so many tremendous blessings (to me as well as to others) that I wouldn’t trade being gay for the world. So with this in mind, I reached out to some fellow LGBT+ Christians to get their perspective. My main question was pretty simple: “How has your experience as an LGBT+ person been a unique source of blessing in your life?” The responses were pretty incredible. All of these people affirm the Bible’s historic teaching on gender and sexuality. Some use their names; some remain anonymous. And all describe specific ways in which their non-straight and/or non-cisgender experience brought about profound blessing to their existence. If you're a sexual and/or gender minority who affirms the Bible’s historic teachings, I hope that you will find their perspective as encouraging as I did. And if you have stories of blessing yourself, please share in the comments or send me a message! I would love to hear your story! On the flipside, if you're a straight Christian struggling to understand the LGBT+ experience, I pray that you would find the following perspectives eye-opening. And ultimately, I hope that you can see LGBT+ people as a source of blessing to you and to the church as a whole.

This is the fifth 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:
  1. Are Celibate Gay Christians Allowed to Have Pride?
  2. Take It From an Expert: Same-Sex Attraction Is More Than Just Sexual
  3. Gay Attractions Create the Context for More Than Just Sin
  4. Gay People Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
  5. Same-Sex Love is Good and Beautiful
  6. God’s Unique Blessings in the LGBT+ Experience of Christians
  7. LGBT+ Christians: When Unlikely People Are God's Greatest Champions
Same-sex love is a good thing, and celibate gay Christians can pursue it Unfortunately, far too many gay and lesbian Christians hear from the church that same-sex attractions have no purpose in the Christian life. Denial is their only end. But such thinking obscures the reality that gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians actually desire a good worth pursuing. If you accept the historic understanding of Biblical sexuality, then same-sex love is not sexual. Even more, same-sex love is good. Sadly, too many Christians accept the Freudian conflation of love and sex. The idea of men loving men and women loving women so offends the sexualized ears of many believers that merely suggesting such a thing could be good creates outrage. But as Wesley Hill observed in a recent blog post, “It’s not a sin for men to love men, or women to love women. On the contrary.” On the contrary indeed. God commands it: “[F]or he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen… whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21). God brings people into relationship for the purpose of loving each other, and gay people are included in that purpose.

This is the fourth 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:
  1. Are Celibate Gay Christians Allowed to Have Pride?
  2. Take It From an Expert: Same-Sex Attraction Is More Than Just Sexual
  3. Gay Attractions Create the Context for More Than Just Sin
  4. Gay People Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
  5. Same-Sex Love is Good and Beautiful
  6. God’s Unique Blessings in the LGBT+ Experience of Christians
  7. LGBT+ Christians: When Unlikely People Are God's Greatest Champions
Gay people are fearfully and wonderfully made Some important notes: I say this in the body of my post, but I want to say it here too. When I say that "nothing about me is a mistake," I'm not referring to sin. Sin has nothing to do with the way God made me. So in discussing my queerness as a gift, I’m not talking about sin as a gift. I’m not even talking about temptation as a gift. One of the major themes of this series has been that “gay” and “sin” and “temptation” are not the same thing. All things can be distorted and become excuses for sin. But I am not talking about the distortion of my queerness. My experience of being gay has been primarily a vehicle of grace and goodness in my life, not sin and not even temptation. And so it’s within that context that I speak.  Also, I intentionally limited my observations in this post to my story and only my story. Gay people are as varied and diverse in their experiences as straight people, and I don’t want anyone to think that I’m making generalizations about the “gay experience” with this post. My experience has been just that, my experience. But in sharing my thoughts and reflections, I know that many gay people will at the very least see overlap in their stories and mine. I hope that in sharing the ways that knowing God as maker has transformed my thinking, it will encourage other LGBT+ individuals to see themselves as created and, therefore, beautiful.

God as Maker Transformed My Relationship to Myself

As a girl of mixed racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage, I found a special sort of solace growing up in the knowledge that God made me. Every last inch of me. Down to the things that I disliked and the things that were mocked. My skin tone that never felt tan enough nor white enough. My Indian eyes that earned me the nickname “China girl” and “chinky” on more than one occasion. Learning to see God as my maker changed my relationship to myself because it changed my relationship to God. I began to take pride in my differences. Not out of an imagined sense of self-worth, but out of an actual sense that God was a master craftsman. That God made every part of me, including those parts that were “different.” “I praise you,” the Psalmist declares, “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Ps. 139:14). In a world of conformity, where being “different” often feels like being “wrong,” the words of the Bible offer hope to every misfit and outcast in the world.