A Celibate Lesbian’s Cold Hard Look at Sexual Immorality in the Church

A Celibate Lesbian’s Cold Hard Look at Sexual Immorality in the Church

What I’m saying in this post regarding sexual desire is pretty simple, but it’s difficult for people to swallow. I’m saying that sexual fulfillment does not come through a sexual relationship but instead through sublimation to Christ. It’s astonishing to me that this needs to be said, but it does. Christians will accept the fulfillment of virtually every single other desire through satisfaction in Christ and Christ alone, but when it comes to sexual desire, they stop short. Suddenly, we’ve got to find satisfaction through something else. Sure, they say, fulfillment comes through Christ. But sexual fulfillment? That comes through a committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriage. If we ever hope to create an effective response to our culture’s rampant sexual indulgement, this absolutely needs to change.

Sexual immorality runs rampant in the church because it forces its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer members to follow the traditional sexual ethic but no one else. A celibate lesbian's take.

LGBT+ people aren’t the only ones who need convincing about celibacy. And yet the conversational burden largely falls upon gay people in the church. Let’s face it. It’s easier to talk about what “they” need to do instead of what “I” need to do.

So let’s shift the conversation and talk about the collective Christian us. The church.

About 80 percent of evangelicals have premarital sex, and 1 out of every 3 born-again adults get divorced (which is the same statistical rate as unbelievers). Christian men of all stripes view pornography to the same degree as the outside world (in some cases even more), and roughly 60 percent of pastors use or have used pornography. We’ve become so calloused to the repercussions of sexual immorality, that even when a major evangelical leader admits to sexually assaulting a minor, his entire congregation gives him a thunderous round of applause.

The latent hypocrisy behind these statistics destroys the believability of Christianity. It burns a hole through the heart of whatever relationship the church pretends to pursue with the queer community. And it reinforces the idea that celibacy does nothing more than cover up a deep-seated homophobia in the church.

Like a foul-mouthed parent who expects their child to quit cussing, the church overlooks its own promiscuity while condemning its homosexual members for theirs. But it’s time for this to change.

God’s Purpose in Sexual Desire

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor; not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…” – 1 Thess. 4:3-5

There’s an unpopular reality when it comes the traditional sexual ethic. It’s that 99 percent of the time that you want to have sex, you don’t get to have it. Period. Out on a date and feeling horny? Nope. Got a cute girl at the office who’s married to another man? Nope. In love with your wife’s best friend? Nope.

Out of the countless people that you might be sexually attracted to over the span of a lifetime, you only get to have sex with one of them. If that many at all and with very few exceptions. Just one!  

When we consider the shockingly extensive limitations upon sex and the overwhelmingly narrow conditions upon which sex is even permissible according to scripture, one thing becomes increasingly clear. God’s design for sexual attraction is not just for sex.

Sexual attraction stands unique among our God-given longings because it’s a good desire that is nevertheless wrong to fulfill for almost every person who attracts us. Almost every single person that you will ever be sexually attracted to over the span of your entire lifetime, you simply can’t have. The answer is, “No.” The traditional sexual ethic demands a life of radical sexual mortification. For everyone.

Ultimately, when people encounter sexual attraction, it reveals the orientation of their soul. It tests their willingness to submit to the God of the universe. When put face-to-face with forbidden desire, the Christian must answer a simple set of questions. Will you take what you want like a beast controlled by its appetite? Or will you turn to the Lord?

Marriage and Sex Don’t Satisfy

“Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.” – Prov. 27:20

There is something insatiable about sexual desire. People always want more. And herein lies the failure of the church. We’ve taught a generation of believers to satisfy their sexual cravings through marriage. We’ve taught them to fulfill their sexuality by waiting for that singular moment. That special day when they can finally say yes to their passions.

But we should have taught them to do the opposite. To accept the no. To fulfill their sexuality apart from sex.

Because the truth is, there is no satisfaction of the sexual by the sexual. Marriage can’t fulfill our sexual passions anymore than a birthday could satisfy a child’s desire for toys. If it could, we wouldn’t be talking about lust, adultery, no-fault divorce, and porn addiction in the church. Teaching people to fulfill their sexuality through a monogamous, heterosexual marriage is asking them to discover disappointment. There is no happiness later if you aren’t happy now.

Marriage doesn’t cut it. Sex doesn’t cut it. The more sex you have, the more you want it, the more you realize that what you have is not enough. 

The Traditional Sexual Ethic

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” – Gal. 5:15

While the sexual revolution taught us that the natural response to sexual desire is yes, the traditional sexual ethic says no. The more you gratify your sexual desire the more you become its slave. And in the current sexual environment of America, where self-control seems to be a more and more precious commodity, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

The ramifications of unbridled sexual gratification are clear for anyone to see. Each new scandal and each new victim of sexual assault underscores a terrible schism in the American conscience. We sense that something is terribly wrong with it all. But we lack the moral framework to articulate why. There’s nothing sacred about sexual activity, or so we learned from the sexual revolution. So why would grabbing someone “by the pussy” feel so categorically awful compared to grabbing someone by, say, the hand?

The truth is, it “feels” more awful because it is more awful. Though we’ve torn down all the old institutions that once prevented our sexual appetites from devouring each other, we can’t get away from it. There’s something precious here that’s worth protecting. Something that the sexual revolution exposed in all its vulnerabilities to a ravenous world.

It’s to this ravenous world that the traditional sexual ethic speaks. At its heart is the unyielding conviction that you can’t have whoever you want. That learning to accept a life with unmet desire is good. 

It’s a simple idea. That sublimation is intrinsic to God’s design for sexual passion.

Preaching Sexual Sublimation in the Church

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” – 1 Peter 2:11

There is no protection of marriage without protection of human sexuality. But when the church elevates marriage as the key to sexual fulfillment, it creates a sanctimonious version of sexual liberation. It affirms the notion that sex is what we need to be sexually fulfilled. But the guidance of scripture and the bleak conditions of our sexually-saturated culture teach us otherwise.

Scripture teaches that we find satisfaction through Christ and Christ alone, and this includes satisfaction of the sexual variety. For example, David says of God in Psalm 145:16, “You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Elsewhere, he says, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with your likeness when I awake” (Ps. 17:15). In the book of Jeremiah, God himself declares, “My people will be satisfied with my goodness” (Jeremiah 31:14). I could keep going, but the list would be endless.

Jesus Christ was himself a sexual being who never had sex. And yet he was perfect. But this version of Jesus is hard to accept if you believe that the fulfillment of human sexuality requires a sexual relationship. Given our current reality, it’s no wonder that people are believing fictionalized accounts of his marriage. A perfect man who never had sex is a contradiction to the modern mind.

Now don’t misunderstand me. As I’ve said before and will say again, marriage is a beautiful relationship. There’s something precious and mysterious about the one-flesh relationship that defies explanation. However, we do marriage no favors by assigning it a role it cannot fulfill. The idea that a sexual relationship will somehow satisfy our sexual nature is nowhere found in scripture. Such thinking is the pure, unadulterated logic of sexual liberation.

Satisfaction Through Christ Alone

“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” – Ps. 107:9

Understanding God’s design for sexual desire is essential to understanding just how normal the celibate vocation ought to be. Celibacy makes perfect sense in a world where the majority of sexual attractions ought to be sublimated in the first place. Why else would the disciples declare that it was “better not to marry” in Matthew 19:10? They recognized the glaringly obvious implication of the traditional sexual ethic.

Christians may find themselves called to celibacy for numerous reasons, and I’m not primarily talking about sexual minorities. What of the man whose wife becomes tragically disabled, destroying the possibility of sexual intimacy? Or the believer whose spouse is permanently incarcerated? What about the woman who doesn’t know it yet but who will never get married, despite all of her efforts? Or the person who knows they should forego the distractions of marriage to pursue the ministry?

The celibate vocation is a much more common calling upon the lives of believers than many are willing to acknowledge, especially when you consider the teachings of Jesus about divorce. Sexual liberation would call this oppressive. Even Christians think it oppressive, thanks in large part to the church’s “wait-until-marriage” prescription for sexual fulfillment. But there is nothing oppressive about taking the whip of the taskmaster into your hands and emancipating yourself.

Sexual liberation would enslave us to desire. Scripture would have us walk in the freedom of self-control. The church struggles to maintain even the pretense of sexual morality because it fails to preach this message. It fails to teach satisfaction through Christ alone.


Edited 1/31/2018 to take out a reference that may have mistakenly communicated a conflation between sexual assault and pre-marital sex. While both are sinful according to scripture and neither brings sexual satisfaction, pre-marital sex does not even remotely exist in the same category as sexual assault. Both are sinful according to the traditional sexual ethic, but they hardly exist on equal footing. One is a horrific crime and the other is not. And they are certainly not the same in the eyes of God.

Edited 5/25/2018 to clarify that Andy Savage’s entire congregation gave him a round of applause when he confessed to the so-called “sexual incident.” Some members of the congregation gave him a standing ovation.

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4 years ago

I’ve enjoyed your prior blog installments because you were seeing and articulating the same things I see. This time, you helped me see something I hadn’t noticed. Thank you.

4 years ago

Incredible! A thousand “Amens” to every word of this. Thank you so much for your ministry through writing, Bridget!

4 years ago

I understand calling out Christians for being hypocritical in this area, it’s pretty well-deserved. I’m somewhat reluctant to criticize you too much here, and I think your posts are generally quite thoughtful. But in this case, you’re building off of a narrative that is untrue, despite being almost the only narrative heard in conservative evangelical churches.

Where is the evidence that before the sexual revolution, people weren’t assaulted? Or that people didn’t have premarital sex? Both of these things happened regularly. And, available evidence shows that holding beliefs about gender similar to those of conservative Christianity are correlated with higher levels of violence against women.

Your post conflates premarital sex and sexual assault (but so does every article on this from a conservative Christian). You said that the more people have sex, the more they want it, resulting in sexual abuse/assault/rape. “There’s nothing sacred about sexual activity, or so we learned from the sexual revolution. So why would grabbing someone “by the pussy” feel so categorically awful compared to grabbing someone by, say, the hand?”

Consent is a real thing. I don’t expect conservative evangelicals to change their minds on whether consent is enough to make sex ok. But I’m concerned by the amount of Christians who can’t see a moral difference between two people choosing to engage in sex outside marriage and one person who forces themselves on another person (even if you think both are wrong, one is violent and the other is not).

Both empirically and conceptually, consensual sex and sex abuse are not linked in a causal relationship. Both involve sex but they are categorically different in nature.

Andy Savage got away with assault (and was applauded for confessing) because the *church* treated it as no more than the average “I had sex before marriage” case. Not because people out in the world like having sex before marriage. The disciplinary measures he faced are exactly those used in cases of premarital sex. Society in general recognizes that there’s a significant difference in consensual and non-consensual sex, which is reflected by the law (wasn’t always the case). Until the church can be ok saying that premarital sex is different from assault (and definitely not equivalent in terms of how morally bad it is), the Andy Savages of the world will keep doing what they’re doing and getting away with it because they repented to Jesus.

I hope conservative churches will think about these issues in more nuanced terms, rather than using cases of sexual assault as political talking points for why sex before marriage is wrong, when these aren’t the same thing and it’s extremely harmful to people in the church who are victimized to act like they are.


[…] Traveling Nun: A Celibate Lesbian’s Cold Hard Look at Sexual Immorality in the Church […]

Seth Kerlin
4 years ago

Hello- a parishioner of mine posted a link to this article on my Facebook feed. It’s a great article. It is well written but even more than that it goes beneath the surface of the ongoing and increasingly dull debate regarding homosexuality in the contemporary church. I am so tired of the homophobia and intolerance I see on one hand, and the postmodern sexual libertarianism I see on the other hand. I am looking for voices that attempt to get deeper into our psyche and deeper into the meaning of what it means to be human overall here in God’s creation. So this article really spoke to me. Thank you for eschewing easy answers and for thinking deeply on matters that others simply gloss over with sound bites. I tip my hat. May many others come across this blog and be moved by it.

Tim Haslam (@timhas30)

Bridget this a clearly articulated expose of a glaring unconscious error in the church I hadn’t fully seen. The answer to sexual desire is neither unbridled expression nor marriage but sublimation, and that is still required in marriage. Thanks for all your articles.

Rachel Greer
Rachel Greer
4 years ago

I would disagree that there is nothing sacred about sex. That’s the logic a lot of people sleeping around use. It’s just a recreational activity. Do to my body whatever you want.

You say you’re not degrading marriage, but for people like me who want it, it feels like you are. I’m sure that’s not your intent. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I’m just saying this is how it makes me feel.

The fact is, single heterosexual Christians are receiving mixed messages. I totally agree that marriage should not be elevated above celibacy, but celibacy should also not be elevated above marriage. At the end of the day, people like myself are wondering whether it’s okay to want marriage at all. I want to keep my expectations of marriage where they should be. I want to have friends like any other person.

I just believe that people should be allowed to have choices. And whatever that choice is, there will be full support behind it. What’s great for one person may not be great for another.

Again, just expressing what I felt. If I came across as ill-motivated in any way, I apologize, that wasn’t my intent.

3 years ago

Monogamy is hard. It requires discipline just like celibacy does. It’s called chastity. You are correct. Marriage does not solve the issue of all the people you will meet in life that you will fall in love with. That does not mean that you are don’t love your spouse or that those feeling are sinful or lustful, or a sign of an unfulfilling marriage. It means you are human capable of expansive love and it is good. First step is admitting those feelings to one’s self. Second, the discipline is staying true to our commitments. That’s were Christ comes in who fills the gulf between vows we want to hold on to and desire that must find other forms of expression. Marriage is no easy out.

3 years ago

What does this “sublimation to Christ.” even mean?

3 years ago

Amen! Preach it sister! The church needs the message terribly, and so few are sharing it. Even fewer with the clarity and skill with which you demonstrated in this article. Thank you!

3 years ago

Yes. Thank you. I used to work at a Christian evangelical politically and spiritually conservative university as a professor and one item they were never able to understand was the one could be a Christian celibate homosexual. Just as there are Christian celibate heterosexuals. Blessings to you and all that read.

Travis Knoll
Travis Knoll
3 years ago

Hi Bridget

Thank you for this post. As a married pastor, I am not certain that I can agree with everything said, but I certainly agree with the tenor, tone, and intention behind this post and the reflections contained therein.

In particular, I am not certain that sublimation of sexuality within marriage is God’s intention – in scripture, I find little evidence for this proposition. The scriptures you read to indicate that “ultimate” satisfaction are to be found in relationship with Christ – are not intended to overthrow “be fruitful and multiply” or “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” injunctions. I do not think that scripture can be read fairly in the way you indicate – even Paul says “it is better to marry than burn”. One of my strongest complaints against the RC church is that it conflates a call to ministry with a call to celibacy with routinely catastrophic effects.

Certainly pornography, sexual licentiousness, and our sex-saturated marketing world here in the west press hard upon the boundaries – but to take from that the notion that sexual expression is ALWAYS intended to be sublimated to a strong and vital relationship with Christ is, to my way of thinking, deeply unscriptural, misleading, and potentially dangerous.

3 years ago

My personal life has been devastated by premise that marriage was to have satisfied my sexual “needs.” Unfit for that purpose I betrayed my Christ & my spouse. Now in adultery & porn recovery and caring for my spouse, I wish I knew this truth earlier. I’ve never been satisfied with the generic (and ancient) interpretation of I Cor 7 “better to marry than burn.” Your blog is putting a finger on “why.”

Thank you.

3 years ago

The New Testament says almost nothing about homosexuality–half a dozen verses out of 8,000–in spite of the fact that it was accepted and widely practiced in the first century. That’s really quite striking. And Jesus teaches (John 6) that the flesh doesn’t matter, that it’s the Spirit that’s important. Why do you think that a person who said that would think that the most important thing about marriage is the plumbing of your *flesh*? Lovelessness doesn’t invalidate a marriage; even rape doesn’t invalidate a marriage. But identical plumbing does? Does that square with the flesh doesn’t matter, it’s the Spirit that’s important? Or with people look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart?

I’m not trying to pick a fight. I’m truly just trying to pick your brain. Would you mind backing up one step and explaining why you think you can’t get married?

Scott Downey
Scott Downey
3 years ago

There is no scriptural support for a gay marriage, none at all. It is condemned. Jesus also said in the beginning God made them male and female, and that is how He says it will be, marriage is between a man and a woman, and is symbolic of the relationship between Christ and His church, anything else is idolatrous or demonically inspired. Satan can get in your head and speak thoughts into your mind and he is all about the flesh and not the Spirit. The body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness, you must be born again or you will never believe in and follow Christ as a child of God, that means to walk as He walked and NOT to be conformed to this world’s ways, such world is under the sway of the devil and is passing on to destruction in hell and the Lake of Fire at the end. If you are born of God, then you overcome the world by your faith. If you fall away in unbelief from Christ and indulge the passions of the flesh, that shows you are not of God. However God may have mercy on you, and save you, but then you will no longer be conforming to that old way of life as you will have become a new creation in Christ and the old things in your life have passed away, meaning you are no longer accountable for your past sins against God.

1 Corinthians 6:8-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Glorify God in Body and Spirit
12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.

2 years ago


Could you please clarify how exactly we should expect sexual desire to be fulfilled by Jesus…especially if “Learning to accept a life with unmet desire is good”? Is the desire unmet or is it fulfilled by Jesus? I’m just confused…Thanks.

1 year ago

Yet we criticise Catholic priests for remaining celibate…

Last edited 1 year ago by Tom
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