Well, it has been an interesting few Fridays discussing this topic. After much deliberation I have decided to wrap it up with this post.
Thank you for all the feedback and all the comments. Thank you also to my Pastoral friends who took the time to give me their thoughts. I apologize that I have not been able to adequately summarize the reams of material you sent me.
There were a few interesting submissions that I will use as a launching pad today.
The vast majority of those responding offered celibacy and singleness as an option for the single gay person. To their credit most of them knew individuals in that position and were actively supporting those individuals. Also to their credit, almost no one suggested that the gay individual could be “healed” of their same sex attraction, an idea that has been thoroughly discredited, and is fact now banned in many jurisdictions.
However, one friend wrote:
I did have a student… who was gay and from a conservative Christian family. He was also a sharp Bible student. The question of what we are asking him to do from his perspective was simple: follow Christ and never have genuine romantic intimacy with another human being. The alternative was to walk away from God and have that human intimacy. When he put things in those terms I understood just how personal his dilemma was and all the feelings that went with it. He sincerely did want to follow Jesus but could not bear the prospect of a life without human intimacy. He knew the Bible well enough to see that it really was a binary choice. The prospect of God reforming his sexual attractions to heterosexual was unimaginable to him, I think. So far as I know he has still chosen the latter [option, to walk away].
Almost all of my Pastoral friends also saw this as a binary choice, that following Jesus involves rejecting any intimate same sex relationship. In a nod to those friends, my post last week detailed how we could support those who choose to live celibate single lives.
There are those, like the student above, who in their heart of hearts don’t feel like they have a choice, that they have been created in a certain way, and to deny that is to deny who they are. Many, believing it is a binary choice, and because of the rejection that they receive: from the church, from family, and from friends, are driven to suicide. My heart goes out to them.
Much of what drives me in this topic is the church saying that because you are same sex attracted, and feel that you cannot be celibate, then you cannot be a follower of Jesus. I have seen too many who are no longer followers of Jesus as a result of this thinking who would otherwise still be. I am also seeing a generation of young people who are rejecting the church because while they have come to accept same sex attracted people for who they are, the church has not.
I asked one Pastor who holds a more traditional view, “What if you are wrong? What if you are preventing all these people from being followers of Jesus because of your understanding of same sex attraction?” His response was that if he accepts same sex attraction (and acting upon it) as acceptable, and he is wrong about that, then he is condoning a sinful lifestyle and might be condemning people to hell. I did not respond to him at the time (as I was interested in hearing him out), but I have had a chance to reflect on it further. In both cases he is condemning people to hell. I would want to err on the side of grace, and believe that those who try to follow Jesus will be accepted by him.
What no one realizes up until this point, is that this series, had its genesis, not in Geoff wishing me Happy Birthday, but in me wishing Geoff and his partner “Happy Anniversary” in response to a Facebook post. I pondered my response for several minutes before posting that reply several years ago. What it came down to was this: At that point of time I was unsure of my thoughts on this topic. What I did know is that I was interested in building the friendship, and that while silence might not do any harm, it wouldn’t have built up the friendship either.
Years later, when I look at Geoff and his Partner, I see love, I see caring, I see fidelity. What I do not see is sin. A couple of Pastors mentioned that they would counsel divorce between Geoff and his partner. I do not accept this. Instead I think their marriage is one to be looked up to and admired.
So how do I handle those Bible verses that indicate that same sex relationships are verboten? For me there are two possibilities.
1. There exists the likelihood that neither the author of Leviticus, nor Paul knew of same sex relationships similar to the one that Geoff has with his partner. While these commands might have had relevance and meaning in their time and place (like Paul’s command for women to be silent), they lack insight and knowledge of situations like we have today.
2. I believe in the inerrant Word of God. His name is Jesus. The Bible is not inerrant in and of itself, but points up to the inerrant Jesus. I believe that the Bible gets it wrong when it comes to idea that the sun revolves around the earth. Having that belief would have labelled me heterodox (if not a heretic) for most of the history of the church. I also believe that Bible gets it wrong when it comes to same sex relationships.
If that makes me a heretic, so be it. But I would rather my same sex friends know that they have the option of following Jesus while staying in their committed relationships, than chase them away from Jesus forever.
I have many more thoughts on this topic, many more than I have been able to encapsulate here. I hope that we can have a vigorous, yet respectful discussion in the comments, where we can have a further exchange of ideas. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.