This post is the final in a 7-part series called “Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted?” Each post covers a reason to use the words “gay” and “lesbian” as a Christian. Please share your thoughts in the comments or through my contact page. I look forward to hearing from you!
To check out other posts in the series:
- Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted? Navigating the LGBT Language Police
- Christianese Like Same-Sex-Attracted Pushes Away the LGBT Community
- Gay Doesn’t Mean ‘Sin’ And Neither Does Same-Sex-Attracted Mean ‘Holy’
- Why Gay and Lesbian Identities Don’t Undermine Identity in Christ
- Why Homosexual Christians Are Called To Identify With Gays And Lesbians
- LGBT Words Are More Precise than the ‘Same-Sex-Attracted’ Umbrella
- Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted? Answering Some Lingering Questions
Or to read the full article:
Also, I feel the need to clarify that I am a celibate lesbian and fully committed to a traditional sexual ethic as outlined by Scripture. If you haven’t read my About page or previous posts, this could get lost in the conversation. I want to avoid misunderstandings as much as possible, so hopefully this information is clear!
The “gay vs. same-sex-attracted” debate continues to sow discord in the church. For LGBT+ Christians, it causes unnecessary division, relegating many to the margins who nevertheless have valuable things to offer the church.
Having experienced the repercussions of this controversy, I wanted to provide both hetero and homosexual Christians with a resource for understanding the practical, philosophical, and biblical basis for calling yourself “gay.” The past series emerged not so much to criticize those who prefer “same-sex-attracted” but rather as a means of supporting those Christians, including myself, who call themselves “gay” and “lesbian.”
My hope is that Christians who prefer “same-sex-attracted” can respect and appreciate “gay Christians,” even if we disagree. We’re not dealing with an issue of core doctrinal significance. It may be important, but dividing the body of Christ over language is unnecessary. We’re on the same team. We can agree to disagree on a relatively minor debate and still work together in the end.
So hopefully this series can work towards unity and not division. Of course, despite my best efforts, I definitely did not answer every question related to the issue! If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Here are a few common questions that came up:
1. What about words like “bisexual,” “transgender,” “queer,” “asexual,” and all the others that fall under the LGBT+ umbrella?
In more ways than one, this debate could be reframed as the “LGBT+ vs. insert-churchy-word-here” debate. I acknowledge that I definitely focused on the “gay” and “lesbian” part of this discussion, largely because I’m a lesbian and more familiar with the experience of being a gay woman.
However, I did not intend to exclude anyone from the conversation! I want to respectfully avoid the pretense of being an “expert” on every identity, but much if not most of this discussion is applicable to other LGBT+ people. Many of the ideas I discussed in the series could be applied to a bisexual or asexual person as much as to any other letter in the LGBT+ rainbow.
So I hope the past series has been helpful to everyone!
2. What do gay people outside of the church think when they hear “same-sex-attracted”?
Honestly, for people unfamiliar with evangelicalism, they could think just about anything! They might wonder if you’re just a weird-sounding bisexual. Or maybe you’re a heteroromantic-homosexual who calls herself “same-sex-attracted” because it captures your desire for sex with women but romance with men. There’s really no limit to the misunderstandings!
On the other hand, for people familiar with evangelicalism, the phrase might be an automatic put-off, maybe even triggering. For many, it brings to mind negative experiences they’d rather forget. For others, they might assume that you’re just being oppressed by your church and, as a result, feel sorry for you.
There’s really no universal response. But I would generally categorize the reception as either neutral, confused, or negative. If you are reading this and happen to be an LGBT+ person who is not a Christian, please feel free to offer your thoughts!
3. When it comes to identity, you say that subjective experiences are just as important as objective reality. Are you saying that a Christian has other identities besides just being a Christian?
Yes and no.
There’s two ways that we commonly talk about identity these days. The first way refers to race, sexuality, gender, occupation, nationality, hobbies etc. I like to call them little ‘i’ identities. They’re all the hundreds of things, big and small, that shape who we are as a person.
But then there’s a second way. I like to call it Big ‘I’ Identity, and it refers to who we are at the core — the “me, myself, and I” of our existence. Big ‘I’ Identity is the ultimate answer to the question, “Who am I?” It defines all the little identities of our life while being completely above and beyond them.
There’s only one Big Identity but countless little identities. So in that sense, if we consider identity in Christ to be the Big Identity of human existence — the ultimate who of who we are — then no, there’s no other Identity (with a capital ‘I’) besides your Identity in Christ.
But on the other hand, if we compare Identity in Christ (with a capital ‘I’) to other things, like race, gender, and nationality, then yes — other identities (with a little ‘i’) not only exist but need to be understood. These things are little identities, and they’re not the same thing as our Big Identity.
4. Shouldn’t our identity in Christ be the only identity that matters or at least be the most important?
This question and the one above are so interrelated that it’s impossible to talk about one without the other!
Many Christians mistakenly say things like, “I’m a Christian, and that’s my most important identity.” But when we talk like this, we treat Christian identity as if it were one of our little identities. Sure, it might be the most important, but we’re still treating it as a little identity.
For example, one person says, “I’m gay, that’s most important.” Another person says, I’m a woman, that’s most important.” Another says, “I’m American, that’s most important.” And the Christian chimes in too: “I’m a Christian, that’s most important.”
But the Christian identity is not just one among the various little identities that we juggle , even if we think it’s the most important. The Christian identity exists outside of this hierarchy altogether.
To put it differently, if all of our little identities were the different pieces to a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, then our Big Identity, Identity in Christ, is the puzzle itself. The actual puzzle isn’t just one more piece among many, even if that puzzle piece were the most important. The puzzle itself is the actual Big Picture of what the puzzle is, when everything is complete. There is no competition between the Puzzle and it’s puzzle pieces.
In the same way, there’s no competition for Identity in Christ, though some people confuse it with little identity. Instead, Christian Identity exists outside of the hierarchy. It defines the hierarchy.
What’s more, this concept applies to both Christian and non-Christian alike. Every single person’s Big ‘I’ Identity is found in Christ alone. So if we refer to Identity (with a capital ‘I’) and say, “My Identity is found in Christ,” we shouldn’t stop there. We should also say, “and so is yours.”
Read my initial post on identity, from December: Liberal Agenda? Or Real Thing? 4 Ways for the Christian to Tackle Identity
5. Is it really okay for a Christian to label himself by a symptom of their sinful nature?
This is a very important question, and one that I plan to address at greater length in the future.
In short, I believe that Jesus was “tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus undoubtedly experienced sexual attraction towards people he never married. And even though sex with such people would be sinful, Jesus never had a sinful nature and never sinned. And it’s this very new nature that Jesus purchased for us at the cross.
This means that sexual attraction towards a person that God forbids, when experienced by a person who is “walking by the Spirit” and not the flesh (Gal. 5:16) creates the opportunity for something beautiful. It creates the opportunity to demonstrate the all-sufficiency of Christ to the watching world — to want something that you can’t have and to find satisfaction with our God instead.
And since the vast majority of attractive people in this world will never be your spouse, finding satisfaction in Him would seem to be the norm for Christian existence, whether gay or straight.
I expound upon this idea more in my post “A Celibate Lesbian’s Cold Hard Look At Sexual Immorality in the Church.”
Additionally, I don’t think it’s fair to reduce gayness to nothing more than a propensity to sin. There is far more to being gay than sexual desire! Check out the first post in my series that touches upon this idea, “Are Celibate Gay Christians Allowed to Have Pride?”
Some Final Thoughts
Like I said, my ultimate hope is to work towards unity and not division. If you’re an LGBT+ Christian, I hope you found the series helpful. If you’re a straight Christian, I also hope you found it helpful. Whether we agree or disagree, I hope to facilitate a level of appreciation and understanding for those who choose to call themselves “gay” in the church.
At the end of the day, we’re on the same team. We can agree to disagree and still work together in the end!
So I’m curious. Have any of your opinions changed regarding the “gay vs. same-sex-attracted” debate? If you’re an LGBT+ Christian, where do you find yourself leaning? If you’re a straight Christian, what do you think makes the most sense? Comment below or send me an e-mail through the contact page!
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Edited 6/27/2016 for clarity and to link to additional posts.