• “Previously, on ‘The Gay’…”

    January 18, 2012

    I’ll probably start every post with a reminder to revisit the rules for “The Gay Posts” by reading “I’ll Probably Regret This.” If you wish to post a comment, do it here on the website, NOT my facebook page. And thank ye.

    About six months after I spilled the beans to my church in Blacksburg that I was not, shall we say, of the hetero demo, I began to seriously question whether I might be wrong on the issue of homosexuality. Up till then I had held that while homosexual orientation was not a sin, acting on it—i.e., having gay sex—would be sinful. This view was, of course, firmly rooted in my understanding of Scripture. In my mind, homosexuality was either a developmental malformation or a biological “oops.” Something had gone wrong in the making of me, and in the making of every other gay person on the planet, so that whatever the cause of homosexuality, acting on the orientation would be living counter to God\’s intent for human sexuality. It would be, simply, sinful. No worse than any other sinful behavior, but certainly no better, either, and if gay sex was an absolute no-no, then what was the point of entering a gay relationship? What would be the outcome? The relationship would be merely a glorified friendship with a heaping dose of sexual frustration thrown in. (Not that sex is everything in a marriage–I can already hear the objections!–but it isn’t ancillary either.) The only option was the arduous road of forced singleness and celibacy. Unwanted. Undesirable. Necessary.

    Then, a series of events came together at just the right (or, some will feel, wrong) moment to make me question my ideology. I wouldn\’t say any one circumstance was more important than another, so I\’ll list them in no particular order.

    I had just spent two years and thousands of dollars on reparative therapy which I had hoped would diminish my attractions to men and resurrect (what this therapeutic model teaches are) latent heterosexual desires. Therapy helped me immensely. It taught me to stand up for myself, helped me process childhood traumas, and, in conjunction with medication, lifted me out of depression. It did not, however, do a thing to change my attractions, a fact I finally accepted.

    This was right around the time a string of gay teen suicides were making headlines. It\’s always tough to say this is the reason for a person\’s self-destruction—there are often many factors that lead a person to such a desperate decision—but it seemed clear that sexuality, and the reaction of others to it, was a leading cause in these young gay persons\’ deaths.

    I began to look around me at the gay and often closeted friends in my life. Most were in the church, which usually teaches homosexual behavior is a sin and that homosexual desires are a temptation toward such behavior. Most felt this made them something of a monster. Most obsessed about their attractions, which were unyielding. Some were depressed. Others were angry. Most were both. None of my gay friends were a pillar of mental health. Shouldn\’t their hard perseverance in obeying God have brought some sort of joy or sense of fulfillment? The fruit seemed all wrong.

    Outside the church things were even worse. I began making gay friends who would never consider going to church, not because they were a bunch of depraved, dirty idol worshippers, but because they\’d once been members of some church and had experienced the negativity and nastiness of their leaders and fellow congregants. Church was very much a thing of the past for these folks. At best, it was irrelevant to them. At worst, it was evil. Could this be the reaction Jesus himself would inspire? I looked at his life in the Gospels, and it seemed the people who most would have been interested in Jesus would have been the religious outcasts, not the least of which today would be gays and lesbians. But they wanted nothing to do with Jesus or his church.

    If our message is right, I thought, why is the fruit all wrong? The church doesn\’t seem to be offering any Good News to gay people? What would that even look like?

    Then I heard the first truly intelligent, reasonable, Scripturally sound pro-gay argument I\’d ever encountered. I didn\’t think it was possible. The Bible had always seemed pretty clearly opposed to gay sex, period, and all I\’d ever heard to the contrary was a bunch of hooey about David and Jonathan being gay, and maybe Ruth and Naomi, the kind of speculative silliness that makes former pastors like me roll our eyes.

    And then there was Romans 1, itself. Publicly, I would have said I agreed with the traditional interpretation, the seemingly obvious interpretation, that Paul was very much slamming homosexuality as a turning away from what is natural to what is unnatural. But always in the back of my mind was this nagging doubt that something just didn\’t seem right about the passage, or at least my understanding of it. Paul says people “exchanged” or “abandoned” the natural for the unnatural. That is a willful action, a choice, and no gay person I knew would have said they had any choice in being homosexual. The passage also suggested that they turned from the natural to the unnatural as a result of idol worship, and that God had thus given them over to their evil desires. I know very few Christians who would say they think this is how people end up gay, even though in the same breath they would say they believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. Can\’t have it both ways, folks. The way I saw it, there were a couple of possibilities: either Paul was just plain wrong, in which case we had a colossally bigger problem than where gays were sticking their penises, or I and nearly every other Christian with whom I was associated at the time, were misunderstanding Paul. But what else could he possibly have meant?

    We\’ll get to that in good time, but first we\’ll look at just how reactionary people can be when you start playing with dearly and deeply held convictions.

    Posted in: The Gay Posts

Recent Comments

  • Keitha said...

    1

    It is certainly difficult when the things you were raised to believe and often chosen to believe are challenged. I believe the bible but am aware that interpretation is the core to belief of it. I also have ALWAYS struggled with the “God made me this way” vs the idea that Christians in general believe it is a chosen behavior. After meeting wonderful people who love God, have such love and cOmpassion for others, and who only want the same in return; I’ve always felt “who chooses to be gay?” With Society and God against them why would anyone choose that for themselves? For someone who has a heart for God to purposely choose to act against HIM? You’re right; the fruit is all wrong and I’m looking forward to hearing what your revelations are. I expect not everyone will have an open mind. Do not worry. There are plenty that will. God bless you for what you’re doing

    01/18/12 12:21 PM | Comment Link

  • Kevin said...

    2

    Matt, this is great writing. Aside from the fact that mainstream Christian publishers probably don’t want to touch this issue with a 10-foot pole, I would love to read a book on this topic from you someday.

    01/18/12 12:24 PM | Comment Link

  • Rachel said...

    3

    I really enjoyed this post. I’m not quite sure how I feel about the pro gay Romans 1 argument. One minute, I agree with you, the next I’m conflicted again.

    can definitely see the argument that by turning away from the natural to the unnatural, you must first be naturally predisposed to heterosexuality. Certainly there is nothing to abandon if you don’t possess the “natural” attraction for the opposite sex.

    But, at the same time, one might create the (absurd?) argument that man was born sinful by nature. Everyone can name a sinful quality in themselves that they naturally struggle with more than others. Each sinful quality affects certain aspects of your life, some areas more than others. For example, my negative characteristics seem to hinder my ability to have any sort of meaningful, close relationship with members of the same sex. I simply don’t get along with other women. Homosexuality could be viewed as just another sinful quality that has an unfortunately detrimental effect on your personal, intimate life. All sins are equal, but how we perceive their consequences in our life may not be equal. Some consequences are more tangible than others.

    All of this said, I’ve been seriously questioning my beliefs recently. I don’t question the existence of a god, rather the existence of a god that desires and maintains a personal relationship with us. So, the second argument I’ve made above is merely consistent with how I think one could argue if one were to believe the teachings of the Bible are true.

    My belief that homosexuality can be innate is just one of many that seems to conflict with the existence of a god that actually loves us. A god that isn’t merely a creator or facilitator. So many ask: “Why would God who loves us create a person with homosexual desires if He teaches that they are wrong?” I can rationalize it to myself by saying…”Well, that’s Adam and Eve’s fault. They sinned, and made shit like this possible.” But, as time goes on, I feel more and more dissatisfied with this response. It’s hard to fight the feeling that the Bible was created as a mechanism to rationalize things away.

    Well, I’m all over the place. That’s my reaction. I think it’s cool you’re taking the time to articulate your thoughts openly on this subject.

    01/18/12 12:26 PM | Comment Link

  • Matt said...

    4

    Kevin, there is such a book coming out (pardon the pun) later this year, though not written by me. Justin Lee of The Gay Christian Network has written a book called “Torn.” I’ve read the manuscript, and it’s phenomenal. Be on the look out.

    01/18/12 12:31 PM | Comment Link

  • Matt said...

    5

    Thanks for your honesty, Rachel. I’ll be delving into a lot of this as we go along. I would just say, regarding Romans 1, that Paul doesn’t just say homosexuality is a struggle. He says it is what God gave people over to as a direct result of worshipping idols, and it does seem in the context that he is not speaking metaphorically, but literally. Literal idol worship led to men doing the nasty with men, and so forth, which led God to give said men over to said nastiness. 🙂 I would just ask the average Christian, is that what you think made little boys and girls grow up gay? Were they playing with little idols in bed at night when Mom and Dad thought they were sleeping? I’m not criticizing the Apostle Paul. I’m saying we’ve misunderstood him. All in good time …

    01/18/12 12:33 PM | Comment Link

  • Joanna said...

    6

    First, let me just say that I really enjoy reading your blog.

    Secondly, I can’t WAIT until you finish this series because I have my own tenative/unsubstantiated theory about the Romans 1 verse, but I don’t want to preempt your future posts in case it’s similar. However, I’m very interested in what you would think of it…

    I’ve always respected your opinions, and your point about examining the fruits of these church ‘policies’ is fascinating. Thanks!

    01/18/12 5:02 PM | Comment Link

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