homosexuality

LGBTQ

I'm spent. I haven't been this tired in a long time. There's no doubt that I'm doing too much these days, and that it isn't sustainable. I work full time in advertising, host six podcasts a month, write four blog posts a month, I'm writing a book, and I travel a lot to speak at events. Something's got to give at some point, but I've just been accepting that this is a season where I have to work a lot.

Yesterday, I saw why the work is worth it when we released Episode 20 - LGBTQ of The Liturgists Podcast. It's the best work I've ever been a part of.

It's the first time we've done multiple conversations in a single episode. It's the first time we've had more than 100,000 listeners in a day. It's a high-water mark for production values. But, most important is the way we handled a charged, difficult topic.

And most remarkable is the response. We've seen genuinely civil, productive dialog between people who disagree about a vital issue facing the church. That really gives me hope.

If you have't heard it yet (and it's two hours long), I encourage you to set aside some time and hear a variety of stories and perspectives on LGBTQ people in the church.

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.

On Bigotry and Bullying

How do we handle people we disagree with? I'm not talking about what baseball team is the best, or what type of music is most enjoyable. Those topics can be fun to talk about and have no lasting consequences. I'm talking about disagreements that have real consequences in people's lives.

Is government regulation generally beneficial or harmful?
When does life begin?
Should abortion be legal?
Are same sex relationships moral?
Should same sex couples be given equal rights under the law?
Should gay marriage be legally recognized?

Although I am unapologetically for marriage equality, and believe that there is nothing immoral about same sex relationships, I'm writing in defense of someone who does not share that view: my friend and local pastor, Dean Inserra.

I've know Dean for years. I was a Southern Baptist prior to my journey through atheism to a different way of understanding God and relating to Christ. I played in a band called Beneath His Feet, and we were hardcore Evangelicals. We played at youth camps, Christian music festivals, and other staples of Evangelical subculture–including the obligatory alter calls.

Those were some of the best years of my life. I met Dean through the guys in Beneath His Feet. Dean grew up with them. After Dean graduated from Seminary, he asked my friend Scott to lead worship at the FCA events he lead on FSU's campus. Scott asked me to play bass. That FCA group grew quickly, and set the stage for the next act: planting a church.

Dean pastors a large church called City Church. Before City Church was City Church, it was The Well, and I helped start it. I thought Dean had a lot of good ideas about how churches should operate and be involved in the community. Although I ended up staying at my church, I loved watching City Church grow and work.

Dean and I aren't on the same page when it comes to Christianity. Dean is a Conservative Evangelical. I'm a fluffy, liberal Christian–and a few members of Dean's flock have taken the time to tell me that I'm not really a Christian at all. My pastor is a woman, Dean thinks women should not be pastors. I am open and affirming of LGBT people, Dean is not. I think the Bible is a beautiful catalog of people's experiences with God, Dean thinks it is the inerrant, perfect Word of God. These dramatic differences in doctrine have sparked an occasionally fiery Twitter debate between Dean and I–but I've always held a high view of Dean. He does far more good than harm in the world.

I followed the advice of a few wise friends and stopped following Dean on Twitter. I became convinced that our back and forth didn't help anything. I knew what I thought of Dean, but I realized others did not. No random person on Twitter could know that while I deeply disagree with Dean on some fundamental issues, I still respect him and like him.

I still run in a lot of secularist and atheist circles. So, imagine my surprise when I saw Dean featured in one of the blogs I follow, called The Friendly Atheist.

As I read, I experienced a torrent of conflicting emotions. I agree with Hermant Mehta that the conservative Christian stance on marriage equality and same-sex relationship morality is harmful to society. I agreed with Mr. Mehta's points, and understood his frustrated and angry tone.

But.

His comments were directed at a person I know in flesh and blood. I know Dean, his wife, and his family. I understand that Dean's perspective on marriage equality is based on an understanding of scripture that is at the very core of who he is. I also understand that Dean's understanding of scripture lead him to live a life of grace and forgiveness to others. I know that Dean is active in our community, and that he does considerable work with organizations that help the poor and disempowered.

There is no question that atheists have been persecuted and oppressed by religious people–conservatives in particular. The same is true of LGBT persons. I've heard the first hand accounts of brutal bullying, marginalization, and social rejection of gay friends from people who profess to be Christians. I've felt a small dose of that same phenomenon when I finally talked about my doubts about God publicly.

But times are changing. LGBT people enjoy majority support from Americans for the first time, and secularists and freethinkers find themselves among an ever increasing slice of the populace. The Internet has (beautifully) enabled skeptics to find each other, to organize, and to push back against social prohibitions against atheism. This is a good thing.

I don't want to hear about any more gay teenagers committing suicide. I don't want to hear about former Christians killing themselves after being ejected from the communities either. As someone who endured truly awful bullying growing up, I understand the temptation to escape the pain via suicide. I tried to take my own life years ago.

And that's why I am writing about Dean. Dean's a grown man, and a balanced one at that. I think he probably shrugs off the vitriol currently thrown at him by strangers on the Internet, because I think Dean is tougher than I am.

But what if he's not?

What if, on some level, these words sink in?
What if, like me, every harsh word from a stranger leaves a tiny slice across his heart?
What if people responding to ideas that have hurt them personally in anger, only make new wounds, more hurt, and more distance?

I know what that feels like. It's how I feel every time someone tells me that I'm a heretic, or a false teacher. It's how I feel when a skeptic tells me I'm a fool for participating in and defending faith in God.

Could it be that someone commenting on a YouTube video has been horribly hurt and traumatized by some Christian? Could it be that they've found community that helped them cope, but that at some moment that community turned into a mob?

Here's what I'm asking: are pitchforks and torches the best way to make the world a better place?

What happens when the bullied becomes the bully?

It is perfectly reasonable that we should endure criticisms of any words released to the public–that's part of it. That's Free Speech. Issues related to religion and sexuality touch on our most deeply held ideas, impulses, and psychological makeup. For this reason, discussions related to these issues will always have a tendency to escalate in intensity. But, as I read the comments relating to Dean, they weren't critiques of an idea. They were attacks on a real person by an angry mob.

I disagree with Dean's thoughts about homosexual behavior as much as anyone possibly could. I'm going to continue to fight for equality in every venue, and in every state in America. I'll write my elected leaders, I'll vote for candidates that support it, and I'll even continue to champion the cause in what I write.

What I won't do is demonize my opposition. I won't become a new oppressor. I will not attack any person based on what they believe. America is changing. The day is coming where opposition to same sex relationships is as socially abhorrent as racism is today.

When that day comes, I don't want to see a decline in suicide rates among gay teenagers replaced by a rise in suicide rates among Evangelicals.

There is no justified version of bullying, and the ends do not justify the means. As we discuss issues of vital importance in life, let's all take the high road together. Life is hard enough without bullying.

I'm turning in my pitchfork.

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.

The Fuss About Arizona

I'm not generally a person who blogs in response to other people's blogs. But two blogs have really jumped out to me in response to the uproar in Arizona over discrimination against gay Americans.

The first piece is by Rachel Held Evans, who lately seems to spend all her time saying what I think better than I can say it. Her piece called Walking the Second Mile: Jesus, Discrimination, and ‘Religious Freedom’ is powerful and empathetic to people on both sides of the issue. It's a must read.

On the other side is Matt Walsh and his piece, Yes, of course a business owner should have the right to refuse service to gay people. One of my smartest friends shared a link to this on Facebook, so I read it. This friend often holds the opposite position I do on a given issue, but he's always incredibly thoughtful about it–his positions are the result of careful thought and consideration. He never fails to help me see an issue in a new light.

Speaking of the potential that gay Americans will be protected against discrimination, Matt says the following: 

No other group is afforded such privileges. I can’t force a Jewish deli to provide me with non kosher meat. I can’t force a gay sign company to print me “Homosexual sex is a sin” banners (I’d probably be sued just for making the request). I can’t force a Muslim caterer to serve pork. I can’t force a pro-choice business to buy ad space on my website. I can’t force a Baptist sculptor to carve me a statue of the Virgin Mary.

This is a line of thinking I haven't encountered, and I actually see the argument here. For some people, homosexuality is an abomination–a real evil in the world. They don't want to do anything to support what they see as a moral decline. They're missing something big, and in doing so potentially set themselves up to lose their own rights.

It's remarkably simple. We have protected classes in this country. You can't refuse service to a protected class. The current protected classes are:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Citizenship
  • Disability
  • Veteran Status
  • Genetic Information

That means any service offered to the public can't be denied to any person based on these attributes. It doesn't matter if you believe women should't work out of the home: you have to sell them a briefcase if you sell briefcases. That doesn't mean you have to start selling bras–it just means you have to sell briefcases to everyone.

Of course you don't have to change your business for anyone. But, you have to offer whatever your business offers to anyone who requests it.

The issue for people who oppose equal marriage is that sexual orientation is on the fast track to being a protected class. That means, yes, if you take pictures of weddings, you could not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation. And this is a good thing!

Religion is on the decline in this country, and secularism is on the rise. Imagine a possibility in the future, where atheists are more common that Christians. Now, imagine that most atheists agree with the New Atheists–that religion is a danger to society. What would happen if your grocer won't sell you food because that supports religion? Or builders won't work on churches because they don't want to support the indoctrination of children?

That protected class for religion is starting to look pretty good, isn't it? Can you imagine being refused service or a sale because you believe in God? How would you feel?

You'd probably feel dehumanized. You'd probably lobby to be protected from such a thing.

Matt's wrong. It is dehumanizing to for baker to refuse to make a cake because he calls your relationship an evil.

In these difficult conversations, I find it very helpful to stand in the shoes of people on all sides; to view the issue with my best understanding as others see it. And regardless of what I believe about the morality of homosexuality, the only way to protect my rights is to protect the rights to gay Americans as well.

Of course, I don't think there's anything wrong with being gay, but I've already covered that at length.

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.

Equal

This is hard for me to write. I have a lot of gay friends, and I have even more conservative Christian friends. No matter what I say on this issue, I will confront the most basic identity of some of my friends. My most powerful instinct is to remain quiet.

You may ask, "Why say anything?" I speak out because I see suffering, and that suffering is unwarranted. I'm convicted that to remain silent would be a moral failure.

Equaljpg

If you want to see why I don't think it's sinful to be gay, read this post. Even if you believe homosexual behavior is sin, I believe your argument is still poorly supported.

First, I'll talk about liberty. Next, I'll move onto purpose. Finally, I'll talk about consistency.

LIBERTY

Although we are One Nation Under God, there can be no doubt that America represents an incredible diversity of religious beliefs. America may be more diverse than ever, and the unreligious now represent a full 20% of our population. Many of these various religions incorporate values and beliefs that directly contradict each other.

My conservative Christian friends believe that God has defined marriage as one man, and one woman based on their understanding of the Bible. On the other hand, some of my progressive Christian friends believe that interpretation isn't correct. Meanwhile, my secular friends don't believe the Bible has any inherent authority whatsoever.

Who's right? How do we prove it? Can we get all the groups I've listed, and many other unlisted ones to agree to a standard upon which a decision can be made?

I doubt it.

If we can't even decide on a standard to decide this issue, what hope do we have of coming to an agreement?

I'd say basically none.

Luckily, the people who had this whole American Experiment idea thought of this. America is a country who's framing documents are designed to restrict the powers of the government. Our Constitution is all about guaranteeing individual liberty. I once heard an American History professor say, "the right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins," to sum up the American idea of liberty.

In that context, we have to ask the question: In what way does the marriage of same sex persons affect anyone else's liberty? If gay marriage is legalized, straight marriage will not be outlawed. You can still hold the religious belief that gay marriage is immoral. You will not be forced to attend a gay wedding ceremony.

But, the liberty of gay Americans are affected by this lack of marriage rights. There are extraordinary legal benefits to marriage that extend beyond the tax code. Think about hospital visitation rights, or the transfer of estate assets following death. These are complex, liberty limiting issues for gay Americans today.

I've yet to see a solid secular argument against gay marriage based on the loss of anyone else's liberty. I love learning, and I would be happy to listen to any argument that extending marriage rights to same sex couples restricts the marriage liberty of heterosexual couples.

PURPOSE

I've been told that the point of marriage is procreation, and that because same sex couples can't procreate, allowing them to marry undermines the institution of marriage. It's not a very strong argument for two reasons.

1. There are sterile heterosexual couples, and I'm not aware of any movement to restrict their marriage rights.

2. Homosexual couples can reproduce using the same strategies we offer infertile couples: surrogacy, donor sperm, adoption, and similar methods.

If procreation is the point, we have to concede that homosexual couples can reproduce as well as sterile heterosexual couples. Sterile couples have marriage rights today, and on that ground gay couples deserve the same right.

If we examine the issues that are a threat to the institution of marriage, the data is clear. Declining marriage rates among heterosexual couples has lead to a historic level of children born outside of marriages. Less heterosexual couples are getting married, and the ones that do are waiting later in life to do so. Marriages also end frequently as heterosexual marriages often suffer from infidelity and divorce. None of these issues shows any meaningful link to the right of gay Americans to marry. In fact, it seems that straight people are a significant threat to marriage today!

CONSISTENCY

Some Americans hold that the Bible is the perfect, infallible Word of God. The right to the belief is legally protected, and should be. Religious liberty is essential to a healthy society.

In terms of imposing law, there's a problem if you claim Biblical authority. You don't apply scriptures consistently, and you don't even lobby for all scripture to be applied to secular society. Let's look at some examples, and the first one is specific to marriage.

Right after Jesus delivers his line about one woman and one man in the Gospel of Matthew, he's asked about divorce. He responds "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

These words are reported as coming from Jesus himself. The language is far less ambiguous than New Testament mentions of homosexuality. Also, while ancient conceptions of sexual orientation were much different, marriage had similar themes in that day (admittedly romance didn't play much of a role).

I have to ask the question: if you oppose gay marriage, do you also oppose the rights of divorced people to remarry? This is the Word of God we're talking about, and adultery is listed with the same dire consequences as same sex activity in the Old Testament, and is listed right along side homosexuality in the New Testament.

If not, your position is inconsistent, and I have to ask you why you are letting one part of the Bible slip by while following another.

If you oppose remarraige, do the women in your church wear head coverings? If not, how do you get by those scriptures? Context? Audience? If context and audience liberate you from head coverings on women and/or permit remarriage, why can't those same tools be used to justify gay marriage?

Now, let's suppose you oppose gay marriage and you believe women should always wear a head covering in church. I bet you and I could talk and within 10 minutes I can show you a part of scripture you don't live up to, and that you will try to explain away with context. Also, why aren't you lobbying to have laws enacted that require all women to wear head coverings?

That would be silly. Of course.

Now let's switch things around. Let's say I start a religion because I believe God spoke to me. God told me that there are too many people, more than he intended, and he's calling on mankind to stop having children. Let's say I convince 200 million Americans to join my religion, and we vote in leaders who produce legislation that makes it a crime to have children in America. This religion is larger than all the sects of Christianity in America combined.

Would you be ok with that law?

Let's switch gears. I've heard some people say gay marriage can't be permitted because it would anger God, and he would destroy us in the same manner he destroyed Sodom in Genesis. Ezekiel 16 reads, "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen."

Did you see that first part? Sodom was too rich and did too little for the poor. It's only after this point that the Bible mentions haughty attitudes and detestable behavior. Now, I have to ask, do you devote as much energy to the needs of poor Americans as you do lobbying against gay marriage rights? Again, this language is less ambiguous that the passages regarding homosexuality in the new testament.

IN SUMMARY

If you oppose gay marriage rights, I can't see how your points hold up. If you reject it for religious reasons, how can you impose Biblical values on secular people? And why this issue, when so many other clear violations of Biblical standards are legal and accepted in modern societies?

If you oppose gay marriage based on procreation, what allowance do you make for sterile couples, and why?

If you oppose gay marriage because you fear God's wrath, why do you believe that this is the issue that will enrage God, when the treatment of the poor is a more discussed theme throughout the Bible?

For all these reasons, it's time to move forward and grant all persons the right to marry the individual of their choosing.

NOTE: I don't know why comments are posting. I don't have moderation enabled, and I can see your feedback in my admin panel. :(

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.

It's not about chicken.

I hate controversy.  Abraham Lincoln was quoted, "You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time."  I hate that quote.  I want to please all of the people all of the time.

So imagine my stress over Chick-Fil-A Day.  I go to a Southern Baptist Church.  I have relatives who work for FCA. I have many friends who work for Chick-Fil-A. Oh, and I also have dozens of gay friends. The battle lines have been drawn, and I find myself in No Man's Land between the two warring camps. I can only imagine what my Facebook will look like after I post this.

After all, posting tiny snippets of thought have garnered a lot of discussion and controversy already.  So rather than leave my thoughts incomplete and out of context,  I'm putting it all out there–my research on this topic of what it means to be Gay and how the Church should respond. I'm sure people on both sides of the issue will find a lot to disagree with below. I don't claim to be infallible, or to have some special revelation. I just want to answer a question that has been posed to me a lot in the last couple of weeks:

"How can you support gay marriage rights as a Christian?"

As a friend pointed out to me, I don't actually support gay rights at all. I support equal marriage rights for all people: I think any two consenting adults should be able to enter into a marriage, regardless of the genders involved.  What I want is to apply rights equally to all people, an idea I think is consistent with the founding principles of this nation.

For the last month I have gone through my Facebook friends and Twitter followers one-by-one and prayed for them. I have asked God to make me a blessing to you. I have prayerfully considered how what I am about to write will affect you specifically and by name. Believe me when I say I didn't come to the decision to write this lightly.

I also apologize in advance for the length of this post.  If I'm going to open myself up like this in defense of what I believe, the least I can do is give you ample detail into where my reasoning comes from so you have more information to break apart my argument. I'm not writing this for the Internet at large. I'm writing this for my friends, family, coworkers and church family.

Let's do this.

Framing The Debate

The intensity of this debate has surprised me.  Where does all the anger come from? What is really at stake? Frankly, the rhetoric on both sides of the table gets muddled and the battlefield is ill-defined. Interestingly enough, the debate seems to have left the political arena in order to claim corporate marketing and communications as the primary venue. Oreo, JCPenny, Target and other companies have publicly affirmed gay rights in one way or another while Chick-Fil-A stands in support of traditional, Biblical marriage. As a result, many Americans are voting with their wallets and choosing not to do business with companies that take a view different than their own.

This is a good thing. It's a healthy expression of Free Speech for all parties involved, and this is how America works. That also means that this is not a free speech issue. No one is arguing these companies don't have a right to take a stance. No one is saying that people lack the right to respond in the public forum, or by boycotting.

If this is not an issue of free speech, then what are we debating? I think it's this simple.

  • Gay people want the right to enter a consensual marriage with a person of their choosing, regardless of the genders involved.
  • Defenders of Biblical marriage want the legal definition of marriage to be one man and one woman in alignment with their interpretation of scripture.

I hope most of us can agree at least that this is what the debate is about. In this context, the political solution seems simple: let marriage be a religious institution.  Give churches the ability to grant marriages to whomever they please, and let government issue civil unions.  It's a perfect compromise.  It is fair, reasonable and makes everyone involved furious. :)

In Defense of Chick-Fil-A

I love Chick-Fil-A. The food is tasty, and they have healthier options than most restaurants that will hand you a bag of food via a window. I've never gotten poor service from a Chick-Fil-A. My kids love going somewhere with a playground. They're also closed on Sundays–and this means that all their employees have at least one day to spend as they please. I wish more companies did this. I don't think that the 24/7 obsession in America is healthy. Chick-Fil-A also gives a lot of food to the needy–an issue which is near to my heart.

Interestingly enough, a gay Chick-Fil-A employee contacted me after some of my comments on Facebook last week. He thanked me for supporting gay rights. I asked him what it was like to be a gay person working for Chick-FIl-A at this point, with August 1 coming like a freight train. He told me that he is treated with respect and compassion, and he always has been.  He is openly gay. It seems that Chick-Fil-A was being sincere when they said, "The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender."

To me, that means we misrepresent this company if we say they operate on a platform of hate or intolerance.  I believe that Chick-Fil-A tries to contribute positively to society–they're just off the mark when it comes to equal marriage rights for all people.

Also, FCA

One of the groups that raised the ire of gay rights advocates was the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Anyone who knows me also knows I am not an athlete.  There may not be a person in America less interested in sports than I am.  FCA, however, I know.  My friends and family have been involved with FCA as long as I can remember, and a beloved uncle of mine works for the organization today.

FCA teaches athletes to live out their faith on a daily basis.  FCA gets some of the biggest names in athletics to spend time with high school and college students.  They talk about integrity.  They talk about forgiveness and generosity.  FCA even addresses the topic of bullying, which is a dire need today.  In all the FCA events I have attended over the years, I've never heard a message about gay marriage–for or against.

FCA is another organization who stands for Biblical marriage, a topic we'll explore in depth in the next section.  Part of that stance inevitably excludes gay people from marriage rights.  If you are gay, or if you support gay rights, of course these reeks of oppression.  I'm not defending that belief, but I do want to create a sense of empathy in you.  FCA and organizations like it want to make the world a more loving, generous, charitable and kind place.  Again, it is a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture that causes good people to veer away from standing for equal rights for all people.

The Gay Thing

Now we come to the meat of this discussion.  How can I, a Christian raised in the Southern Baptist Church stand in full support of gay rights?  How can I support gay marriage?  How can I say that gay people stand equal in the eyes of God?  My stand comes from research into a few areas: my personal experience talking with gay friends, the biology of gender and sexual attraction, an examination of scripture, and church tradition.

Personal Experience

I have a lot of gay friends.  As a high-schooler I loved it whenever I found out a male friend was gay.  After all, a gay man is very unlikely to ask a girl out, leaving one more girl who may be desperate enough to accept my advances.  My approval of gay men was purely practical.  As a Christian, I fully believed that their lifestyle was sinful.  Of course, I also believed my lifestyle was sinful.  I was sexually active in high school–something that left me in a never ending cycle of guilt, repentance and abandonment of my moral code.

For as long as my body told me there was something called attraction, the female form amazed me.  The way girls walked, moved, smelled, talked, laughed, ate, and did pretty much everything fascinated me.  They were so graceful, so elegant.  They were everything we boys were not.  And if a girl touched you, woah!  A friendly touch on your arm was like being electrocuted with the most wonderful energy imaginable.

This attraction was inextricable from romantic interest for me.  One could not exist without the other.  My life has been so blessed that eventually I found one woman who was more interesting than all the rest.  Her form was better, her laugh more enchanting. I married her before she could realize the mistake of loving me back.  It is through this relationship I have learned the most about God's love. I've learned what it means to love someone more than myself.  I've learned what it's like to be part of creating life by having children.  I've learned what it means to be a provider and a protector.  I saw that it was good.  My marriage lasts because I married the greatest woman on Earth.  No other comes close.  Genesis nailed it.

So imagine how I felt one day when a gay friend asked me when I chose to be straight.

What?  Never!  I've always known girls were what I was into.  I've never felt any sexual attraction to another man.  Guys never had the cooties, and they never became really interesting when they lost them.  My relationship to other men has been consistent.  We are friends and nothing more.

And then he told me that he'd never been attracted to girls.  He told me he was raised Baptist and as soon as he realized what was happening he panicked.  He fought to suppress his attraction to men.  He did not want to be an abomination.  He wanted to get married, have kids and be like everyone else in his community.  He dated girls.  He got married and he couldn't get an erection with his wife.  He prayed to God asking for help.  He read the Bible.  After 18 months of misery he divorced his wife, and he talked to his pastor.  He was told he was an abomination in the eyes of God.  His parents told him that if he couldn't "get right" they would disown him.  They did.

He became a practicing homosexual and left the church.  He told me that if being gay was a choice, it is never something he would have chosen. Who would choose to be ostracized by their family and community? Who would choose a life of spiritual exile?

Here is a man who tried to do it the Biblical way.  Here is a man who made a profession of faith when he was 11.  Here is a man who prayed and studied the Bible.  What would you say to him?  Would you tell him that he just needs to get right?  Would you tell him some passage of scripture he's already read?  Would you tell him it's not a sin to be gay and it's only a sin if you practice?  Would you tell him he's called to be celibate?

I can't.  Not when so much of God's teaching in my life has involved romantic love.  Not when the reason I am in church today is because a sweet little Baptist girl told me the only way we could date is if I was in church.

There are countless testimonies like the one above.  I have personally heard dozens.  So often we equate homosexuality with promiscuity, and we miss the mark.  There are a lot of gay people that just want to be a part of a church and have a life-long monogamous relationship.  We tell them they can't.

Our argument comes down to how people are made by God and our interpretation of scripture.  So let's look at those.

The Biology of Gender and Attraction

Are gay people born that way?  Is it nature?  Or are these people choosing to deny God and live in sin willfully?  Let's consider some scientific data.

Gender is an interesting construct.  We think of two genders, male and female.  In the animal kingdom it isn't so simple.  There are asexual animals.  There are animals which are both genders simultaneously.  There are even animals that spontaneously change gender.  As Christians, we believe that all these animals were made by God, and already we see that our conception of gender is oversimplified.

You may rightly point out that a lot of this gender ambiguity is the more primitive classes.  You'd be right.  But even among vertebrates gender can change.  Many species of frog can change their gender if no mates can be found.  All clownfish are born male, and it is the most dominant male who turns into a female to allow breeding.

It's also cited that homosexuality is unnatural, and therefore an abomination against God.  Unfortunately, homosexual behavior is readily observed in the animal kingdom.  Even mammals engage in homosexual behavior as part of dominance rituals, conflict resolution and group bonding.  An especially ironic case is roosters–if Chick-Fil-A is really against gay behavior they have picked the wrong entree!

Humans are a special animal.  We alone build cities with art and culture.  We're the only animal on Earth advanced enough to have written language, and with that holy scriptures.  So what of gender in humans?

Humans are without gender for the first 6 to 7 weeks after conception.  We have the genetic potential for gender in the form of our chromosomes.  Potential males start out with an XY combination and potential females start out with an XX combination.  Around 7 weeks sexual dimorphism begins.  Human fetuses develop into females unless critical interactions between DNA, hormones and base tissues happen at the right times.  If these interactions occur, the tissues that would have been ovaries form instead into testicles.  Labia now form as a scrotum. What would have been a clitoris grows instead into a penis.  And a baby boy is born!  Most of the time.  Sometimes though, this genetic potential doesn't make it to a clear gender.  Sometimes the penis didn't get enough male influence and it stays near the size of a clitoris.  Now you have a male with micropenis.  Other times, the female clitoris is very large and penis-like.  Sometimes you have micropenis and internal testicles.  In earlier decades this meant doctors and parents had to guess a child's gender.  They often chose wrong, and raised a child with the opposite gender of what the child eventually came to identify with.  You can imagine the trauma and hurt when these children reached puberty and they were attracted to their "own" gender.  Likewise, sometimes there are boys who have XX chromosomes and girls who have XY, and once their secondary sex traits begin to form (or not form) in puberty and adolescence confusion and frustration abound.  And don't forget about XXY females, who make up a disproportionate part of the female prison population.

So tell me: is a male with XX chromosomes and who is attracted to XX females a lesbian?  Or a straight man?

Is a male with two XX chromosomes and who is attracted to XY males gay?  Or is he a straight female?

What about someone whose external genitals are ambiguous?  What about someone who has testicles and a vagina?  Who exactly should they be attracted to?

What about boys who have normal penises, but never grow male secondary sex characteristics?  What about boys who naturally grow breasts?

What about the fact that when you study the brain reaction of gay men, straight men, gay women and straight women to sweat you find that straight women and gay men respond the same way to male sweat without knowing the gender of the persons sweat they are smelling?  Is that choice?  What about the fact that many structures in the brains of gay men are shaped and proportioned like those of straight females?  Is that choice?

I don't know about you, but the fact that all these things exist in America today leads me to a lot of questions about how we relate to sexuality.  It also gives me a lot of questions about God, who I believe to be the author of biology, gender and sexual attraction.

If like me these issues can confuse you, and you are a Christian you will turn to once place for answers.  The Bible.

The Bible and Sex

Have you seen the video where a young, gay Christian named Matthew Vines makes a Biblical case for homosexuality?  Following the link in the previous sentence has the video and a transcript and I highly recommend watching or reading his argument completely.  Here is a young man who is gay, but also a virgin.  By his own actions he remains within the realm of orthodox behavior-he has never had gay sex, or premarital sex.  By that standard, his behavior is better than the average Christian!  Mr. Vines uses scripture to examine scripture and comes up with the conclusion that the Bible does not condemn committed, monogamous homosexuality.

You may disagree, but you can't deny that he hasn't shown his work.  The basis of his argument is primarilt Biblical, with some support from historical context and word study.  In other words, he uses the same tools to reach his position as orthodox Christians use to reach theirs.  Here is a young man who knows the Bible, and cares deeply that he follows its teachings.

What do you do with that?

Some people say that we just need to trust the whole Bible and not pick parts of it.  Yet the Bible does tell us that scripture sharpens scripture.  We also have to ask which Bible?  There is considerable spread amongst the translations available in English-after all it is not possible to translate one language to another perfectly.  So do we stick to just one translation?  Well, then which version?  Until 1946, even the King James Bible didn't use the term homosexuality so frequently.  Bible translations change as orthodox Biblical scholars do their best to wrestle Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic into modern languages and vastly different cultural contexts.

The fact of the matter is that two people can prayerfully read scripture and draw opposite conclusions from its teachings.  That's why we have so many denominations, and rifts within those denominations.

Others will say that Mr. Vines uses the wrong exegesis when exploring Biblical terms.  But how do they know which exegesis is correct?  All these writings are human interpretations right?  That means any of them can be fallible.  In fact, by even picking an exegesis you add your own interpretation to scripture!

Many of my friends say we must rely on scripture alone, and that our thoughts, feelings and other factors must be eliminated.  But what does that even mean?  In the very act of reading scripture you interpret it with your own thoughts, otherwise how do the words have any meaning?  Aren't you recalling the definitions of the word in a passage of scripture as you learned them? Also, we are told that the scripture makes sense to us because the Spirit of God is within us.  Doesn't the Spirit become active in our hearts and minds?  Isn't that how we understand scripture?  We may say that the Holy Word represents objectivity from God, but we can only experience it subjectively.  We aren't objective beings.

The fact remains that Godly, devout and learned people end up with opposite takes on this issue.  The Bible directly addresses homosexuality 6 times.  As people of Christ it seems to me that our passions should be directed by His teachings.  The New Testament is thematically about following God by loving others selflessly.  It speaks frequently about the oppression of the poor, and our role to help them.  It talks about the evils of materialism.  Where is our outrage over poverty?  Why isn't my news feed full of brokenheartedness about those in need?  If we are really seeking to follow all of Scripture, why aren't we?

If the argument of Matthew Vines is not conclusive to you, can you at least understand that some Christians use scripture to arrive at their viewpoint?  Can you see that this view will become more common in the Church, and we may need to find a way to work together to the common goal of making Christ known?

If not, I need to ask you about some other beliefs based on scripture.

The Church and Marriage

Mainline churches today accept a marriage lifestyle that was condemned by Christ.  Let's look at Matthew 5:32, "But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."  Wow, ok.  What about Matthew 19:9? It reads "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

There we have it in Biblical black and white that anyone who remarries commits adultery.  They choose to live in an ongoing state of sin.  Some of the same verses that condemn homosexuality in the new testament also speak of adulterers.  So what of all the Evangelical Christians who have gotten a divorce and married someone else?  Those people are Sunday School teachers, choir members, Deacons, Elders and leaders in churches across America today.  On what grounds do we accept them and condemn homosexuals?  Any Biblical argument that argues for grace and their inclusion would apply equally to gay people.

So what do we do?  Do we condemn remarried people as living in sin?  I mean let's be clear by what we say when we talk about Biblical marriage.  The Bible has countless examples of Godly men who were polygamists.  In the Old Testament, Biblical marriage was one man, some wives and as many concubines and slaves as he could afford.  Marriages were arranged, and men had a scriptural obligation to take on the wife or wives of his brother should that brother pass away.  That's not one man, one woman.  Today we (rightly) find polygamy and human ownership to be morally repulsive.  Our scriptural morality has matured.

Less than a generation ago, interracial marriage was likewise taboo in the American church, and Old Testament verses were used to defend it.  Today, we don't support that teaching, and we accept couples of mixed races.

For that matter, the New Testament allows slavery and we view slavery as one of the Great Evils.  If we say our morality is driven by scripture alone, we are either lying or we don't read all of scripture very often.

Let us also realize that someone fighting for gay marriage rights does not threaten traditional marriage.  No one is trying to ban heterosexual marriage.  If you are really passionate about traditional marriage and that which threatens it, consider that conservative Christians in the southeastern USA divorce at twice the rate of atheists in the northeast.  The threat to marriage and the family today is not gay marriage.  It is heterosexual affairs and divorce.  We preach about the sanctity of marriage, but our actions reveal our true inclinations.  As a straight person, how much easier is it to shout about another sin than it is to do the real work of being a devoted spouse?

Moving Forward

Ive edited this piece down as much as I can.  I've covered less than half the points in my outline, but I'm afraid I have already exceeded what most people will read.  So what would I have you take from these ramblings?

  • If you are gay, there are Christians who love you and accept you exactly as you are.  I am one of them.
  • This is not a free speech issue. Both sides of this debate are properly executing their first amendment rights.
  • Support for homosexual relationships and equality is not leaving our churches.  It's growing.
  • Gender and attraction are more complex than we usually consider.
  • The Biblical position is less cut-and-dry than either side will admit.
  • If you are a Christian who supports gay rights, now is the time for you to step out and stand up for what you believe too.  Not to condemn your fellow church people, but to affirm gay children of God.
  • Allowing gay people to marry does not hamper marriage. Heterosexual Christians can still get married.
  • The real danger facing marriage is high rates of marital affairs and divorce. If we really stand for marriage these issues should be more more pressing to us.

I may not be able to convince you to believe as I believe.  I hope I can convince you to respond to your fellow man, and indeed your fellow Christians in a way that is full of the grace and mercy that you have received from Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

If you are a Christian who stands against gay marriage, there are hundreds of people you know personally who will support you, love you and affirm you.  Gay Christians, and indeed gay non-Christians have no such community.

I, for one, stand with them.

My website is a safe place for people whose beliefs about God are changing. Many are recovering from spiritual abuse or trauma. Please remain civil and kind in the comments section at all times.