First Things: “Can One Be Gay and Christian?”

Aaron Taylor writes at First Things:

Is it possible to embrace a gay identity and be a faithful Christian? . . .

The inability to appreciate that “gay” has different levels of meaning within our culture, and that not all of these levels are in total opposition to Christian truth, is frustrating. . . . Christians did not convert the ancient world by insisting that pagans must agree to our definition of terms before a conversation could begin, and the New Evangelization will fail if we insist that people have a mastery of in-house Christian jargon before we are willing to tell them the good news. . . .

If we are going to have a discussion about whether there can possibly be anything good about being gay from a Christian perspective, we have to first talk about what it means to be gay in non-reductive terms. To begin to do this, let us take a brief look at three aspects of the experience of same-sex attraction: homosexuality, same-sex desire, and same-sex friendship.

Same-Sex Friendship

Later in his essay, when discussing same-sex friendship, he writes,

The superiority of [David’s] love for Jonathan is not a statement of his sexual preference for men over women. It is a statement of the superiority of friendship-love over erotic desire.

He continues to describe the “intense passion” of same-sex friendships in the ancient world, the intensity and passion of which make modern men—ever-striving to strike just the right heteronormative tones—immensely uncomfortable. We Christians—all Christians, no matter their sexual orientation—have much to learn from the LGBTQ+ community about what intimate, committed friendship can be.

It’s a stunning indictment that non-Christian gay men are better at chaste friendship with one another than straight Christian men are.

I’ve heard it said this way before: We mustn’t throw the homosocial baby out with the homosexual bathwater! As Taylor puts it,

Gay people have wheat and tares growing in the field of their sexuality, and must take care lest the tares suffocate the wheat. Yet that should not blind them to the fact that wheat is wheat, not tares. The result of fallen human nature is not that everything about being gay is evil, but that what is good is difficult to separate from what is evil. But this does not stop gay Christians from naming as good what is good and embracing it as part of who they happen to be.

So can one be gay and Christian or not?

We should identify which aspects of being gay contribute to the flourishing of gay people as individuals and to the flourishing of their communities. We should also identify without fear those aspects of contemporary gay identity and culture that are incompatible with the Christian moral life.

Read the rest here.

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  1. My first large piece of writing was on the bio-psychiatry of sexuality and scripture for the modern Christian. The short version is from mistranslated sections, to entire books that do not belong, to books that were cut out “mistakenly” (but we have them) – there is close to nothing that indicates same sex relationships are frowned upon. As long as you are still willing to have children and always have no one before God. It was never the word of any God to decry same sex relationships. And most that did, can not even read the scripture languages, let alone read their Bible prayerfully. A fine topic. =)

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  2. I like this post. Thank you.

    I remember as a child, my maternal grandmother had a best friend named Nelly. From what I remember, it’s what we would have called a ‘platonic’ relationship of two widows. They walked through the rest of their lives together trying to make sense of this world and encourage each other in the process. They were great friends, and no one would have ever considered that they were gay. (Maybe that’s too easy, because we knew that they were not.)

    My point is, I don’t think anybody has an issue with two people of the same gender being in any level of true friendship, whether it’s fleeting and superficial or lifelong and deeply intimate. Of course God would have no objection to this.

    I think there is just an incompatibility in the way many of us interpret the very words of the phrase “Gay Christian.” First glance is, it’s an oxymoron.

    I think we’re fighting over words.

    My perspective is this… I’ve been calling myself Christian since I began the process of asking God to make me more Christ like for the past 14 years or so. I’m nowhere near being like Jesus yet, but I acknowledge that my life is in the hands of God himself, and I  willingly embrace whatever God wills in this journey. The one thing I know so far is that in this process, I am learning how to shed my selfishness and worldliness, as I am more and more filled with Christ’s own self-LESS-ness and righteousness, his Other-worldliness.

    It’s a moving forward, not a static position at all. Literally, to his students, Christ said, “Follow me.” And they literally stopped what they were doing, dropped everything and went where he went, and listened to what he taught, and experienced life in his footsteps.

    35 years ago I ended a 5 year homosexual relationship that started when I was fresh out of high school. I acknowledge that I always had a same sex attraction, which persisted  viciously through the beginning of my (heterosexual) marriage, and even now as a follower of Jesus, it still haunts me. It is the ‘thorn in my side’ that reminds me that it is God who is gracefully sufficient, not myself.

    So, if the term ‘Christian’ doesn’t mean you have the willingness to allow God to change your life, then it’s not a definition of the word Christian to which I can relate.

    Then there’s the word ‘Gay,’ what does that really mean anyway? For my perspective, it sounds like if we want to hang on to the identity of a Gay person, we may not be willing to allow God to take our heart anywhere he sees fit. Anywhere.

    It seems to me that if we are willing to be changed to the very core of our existence, and are willing to be filled with the very desires of God’s heart, then we would identify solely as a Christian.

    True I never identified as ‘Gay,’ and it’s a label that many Gay’s themselves don’t like. I prefer the term Christian as my primary identity, although “sinner-saved” is more accurate.

    I think if those of us who like to call ourselves “Gay Christians” were willing to consider a label that more implied the idea of, “Follower of Christ coming from a gay past,” we might not find ourselves fighting over the words we use quite so much.

    Any Christians, any church, should be more than willing to include someone from any past who is seeking a new future in Christ. It’s the work of the spirit which will change the heart of any Seeker.

    Grace, Michael.

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