As David announced in his last post, we’ve decided to formalize the questions we’ve been receiving into a series of published Q&As. We’re calling it the Mailbag. Keep in mind that we’re walking the same path of relationship, faith, and sexuality as the rest of you—we may not always have particularly sagely advice, but we hope at least that your questions will spark some conversation.
Don’t expect us to be Miss Manners, and don’t be disappointed that we’re not Savage Love. But if you have questions for us, please submit them through the Mailbag tab you see above. We’ll do a post like this one every couple weeks, or as necessary, and we’ll of course publish the questions anonymously (or using the pseudonym of your choice). Now without further ado, here’s a couple of this week’s questions.
I grew up in the kind of place where gay Christian is an oxymoron. I still live in this type of area. It's one where the thought of being Christian and openly, proudly gay means you're confused about God's Word. Honestly, I'm just not sure how I feel or what I believe about this subject. What books have you read, sermons have you listened to, scripture do you claim, about being gay AND a Christ follower?
Dear Sweet Melissa,
I love this question because it is shared by many. One of the best books I can recommend on this topic is James Brownson's Bible, Gender, Sexuality. Dr. Brownson is a professor at Western Theological Seminary, so this book is a scholarly work that takes time to digest, but the faithfulness with which he approaches scripture is unparalleled. Other books worth checking out are Justin Lee's Torn, Ken Wilson's A Letter To My Congregation, David Gushee's Changing Our Mind, and Matthew Vines’s God and the Gay Christian.
Dr. Brownson has a couple of lectures online that are worth listening to: a discussion of Romans 1:24-27 (Part 1 and Part 2), and a talk on Gender Complementarity. The Gay Christian Network offers a variety of short Q&A videos on its YouTube page, and if you want some more in-depth personal stories, be sure to check out the keynote speeches from recent GCN Conferences (we especially recommend Vicky Beeching’s and Rev. Danny Cortez's).
If you're looking for a specific Bible verse that states literally "It's OK to be gay," you won't find it. The Bible is more than a series of loosely related soundbites. God doesn't speak in disconnected verses. He has spoken with His life—becoming human, and teaching by example. "The Word" is Jesus Himself, for “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." To understand the Word of God, we must seek Him—Jesus. If we hold the Bible to contain the inalterable teachings of God, we must read it as a whole and in context; carefully discerning the Spirit’s movement towards the new Kingdom. This takes years, and it's a lot harder than just pointing at a random verse.
When you look carefully at the passages that have been used to condemn gay people, reading them as just part of the broader witness of Scripture, you find that they refer to sins like lust and the abuse of others. The Bible doesn't speak of sexual orientation as we understand it. It doesn't explicitly say that same-sex attraction is part of God's design, just like it doesn't say that the earth moves around the sun. But we now have a better understanding of both sexual orientation and of the solar system. Reading the Bible as a cohesive unit, and its references as a product of the time when they were written, we discover that it doesn't contradict what science has taught us. So let us remember that God promised to reveal His plan throughout time (John 16:12-13), and let us walk in faith, judging each tree by its fruit.
What is the best way to cultivate friendships and possibly a relationship with other gay Christians when it seems like there are not many, if any, in your area?
-Searching for a Myth
I feel your pain. The elusive “gay Christian” can sometimes feel about as real as Sasquatch. You know yourself to be one. You hear there’s more out there. You read about them on Facebook. But by golly, you’ve never met one!
I think becoming involved in online gay Christian groups (whether through Facebook or the GCN message boards) is a good first step toward making connections. If you can afford it, I highly recommend attending the GCN conference and other regional meetups organized throughout the year. The conferences are frenetic and sometimes overwhelming, but they’re a great place to meet a lot of people from all over the world. Regional get-togethers are more informal, and serve as a great way to make local friendships that you can upkeep face-to-face.
Unless you’re attending a gay-affirming church, it may be nearly impossible to bump into a gay Christian “in the wild.” If you're trying online dating, be very forthcoming about your faith from the start. Don't shy away from saying front and center on your profile that you're a Christian and that you take your faith seriously. It may turn off 90% of the guys there, but don't let that discourage you. It’s actually a benefit—it keeps you from wasting time and heartache on people who would ultimately not be a good match. The 10% who won't be put off will appreciate your forthrightness and will be drawn to you because of it. A caveat, though: If you go the online dating route, be thoughtful about what websites or apps you choose to use; different ones draw very different crowds.
I trust that as more churches begin to sense the Holy Spirit’s push toward inclusion, more gay Christians will come out or return to the faith. In time, we’ll begin to seem less and less like mythical creatures. Soon, dating for gay Christians will be no harder than it is for straight Christians. Or straight non-Christians. Or gay non-Christians. You'll get to be as annoyed by the whole thing as everyone else! Yay! But hey... At least you’ll have your own dating catastrophe stories to share with friends… And as David said in his post about dating, it’s worth it in the end.