August 4, 2010

Orthodox rabbi statement on acceptance of gay Jews - could Conservative Christianity do the same?

Read the full document here:

Among the points made:
• "Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism."
• "We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject 
therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous."
• "Jews struggling to live their lives in accordance with halakhic values need and deserve our support. Accordingly, we believe that the decision as to whether to be open about one's sexual orientation should be left to such individuals, who should consider their own needs and those of the community. We are opposed on ethical and moral grounds to both the “outing” of individuals who want to remain private and to coercing those who desire to be open about their orientation to keep it hidden."
• "Accordingly, Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community."
• "Jews who have an exclusively homosexual orientation should, under most circumstances, not be encouraged to marry someone of the other gender, as this can lead to great tragedy, unrequited love, shame, dishonesty and ruined

All this, while they hold a Side B position on homosexuality - just goes to show how one can believe that homosexual sexual behavior is a sin, but uphold that GLBT people are equally children of God worthy of the same love and respect that straight people are (plus, they recognize that if they want to encourage gays and lesbians to remain celibate, they're going to need support). Now, if only conservative Christianity could get together and say the same thing . . .

August 1, 2010

Comparisons and celibate (Side B) gay Christians

One thing that gay Christians are often told by some straight Christians is that being gay is similar to their own struggles. They say that everyone has sexual struggles, and that being gay is this gay Christians's struggle. They'll have to bear it just like they, as straight Christians, have borne own sexual struggles.

While I can see the empathetic motivation in this - mentioning your own struggles to let your gay Christian friend know their not alone in theirs - I do think there's a problem in this approach that might leave some gay Christians feeling a bit stranded, in a way. 

See, for gay Christians, they face a huge decision. They are two main options available to them. Either, they can choose to be celibate for the rest of their lives (Side B), or they can choose Side A and enter into a relationship with a member of the same-sex. Chances are, if you are a Side B straight Christian, you think that Side B is the correct path for your gay Christian friend. So, you'd encourage them to live a life of celibacy, right?. (There's also Side X, which many straight Christians endorse - however, there are major problems with this approach that I'll talk about later).

The problem is that the main sexual issues straight Christians face - lust and staying abstinent until marriage - don't really compare to life-long celibacy. 

For example, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:9 says (NIV), "But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." See, abstinent straight Christians who lack the self-control for life-long celibacy have the opportunity to get married. But for Side B Christians who don't have the gift of celibacy, they don't have this option. Even if they lack self-control and are 'burning with passion', they can't get married according to their Side B beliefs about homosexuality (some may argue they could get married to someone of the opposite sex - but I think there's some major moral issues with that). They have to stay abstinent their whole lives, while a straight Christian only has to remain abstinent until marriage. While everyone they know in the Church may be starting families, having kids, they have to remain single. If they want to stay true to their beliefs, they can't do any of those things. They will be single for the rest of their lives.

Can you even begin to imagine what that would feel like? 

It takes a huge amount of strength and faith to do that, and it's one of the reasons I'm supportive of Side B gay Christians, even though I'm Side A myself. 

The truth is, it doesn't compare. Besides the sheer scope of the struggle, being gay is not simply about sexual attraction. There's all sorts of other issues tied into it - how you're viewed by others, how you'll fit in at Church (some more conservative Churches don't even support Side B gay Christians - it's 'change' or get out), your own identity, etc.

While such a comparison is often made out of the best compassionate intentions, I think it's good to look more closely and think of how these statements will be heard and understood by gay Christians. Likewise, I think it's good to look at things from the perspective of the Side B gay Christian. They're bravely embarking on living a life in tune with how they believe God wants them to live, one that will be very challenging and that I think is very admirable. I think the question the Church needs to ask itself, is how can we, as Christians, bear their burdens, as Paul talks about in Galatians 6:2: "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."? 

How can the Church be more welcoming of them as gay Christians and help bear the burdens and challenges they face? 

Are there places where they can openly talk about their struggles? Is there a safe space where they can talk to other Side B gay Christians? When there are Church events for families and couples, are there events for Side B gay Christians?  

July 30, 2010

A quick update

I plan on writing more on here soon - I've been pretty busy lately, but plan on making some time to write some new blog posts. 

Meanwhile, I thought I'd post a link to a really great article by a gay student at Wheaton college, an Evangelical college, where he talks about his experiences there. If you're not a gay Christian, I'd definitely recommend reading it as it gives you a glimpse into the lives of gay Christians, especially those of an Evangelical background:  (I found the link on Misty Iron's blog, which I have a link to in the sidebar - I'd definitely recommend checking it out!)

Things Christians Can Do To Help Gay People, While Respecting Their Own Beliefs About Homosexuality

While the prevailing model of how Christians relate to the gay community has been primarily one of conflict, I think there’s a great deal that Christians who take the traditional stance on homosexuality can do to be allies to the gay community, while also honoring their own beliefs about same-sex sexual behavior. Some Christians might be surprised to hear that and maybe a little skeptical, but hear me out. I think this paradigm can be flipped around, and I think it’s what Jesus would want.
Fighting Homophobic Taunting and Bullying
Homophobia is rampant in American society, especially in more conservative areas of the country. Go to any high school, and you’ll hear kids saying, “That’s so gay!” or “You’re a fag!”. Many gay people, especially gay youth, often face constant mocking and bullying. Last year, an eleven year old, Carl Walker-Hoover, committed suicide because of the constant bullying he received because his classmates thought he was gay. Sadly, his case is not the only one. Clearly, this is something that Christians should speak out against. Taunting and bullying are morally wrong any way you look at it and should be considered a sin just as you might consider same-sex sexual behavior a sin. In fact, Jesus spoke against people insulting others (Matthew 5:22). Imagine the impact if Christians in this country all spoke out against homophobia. Imagine the impact if Christian youth in schools stood up for their gay peers when they were being taunted or mocked or beaten up by others. Actual lives could be saved. What better way to put the love of Jesus into action?
Outreach to Homeless Gay Youth
While this fact is not very well known, about a third of all homeless youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.* The sad fact is that upon coming out to their parents, some kids are kicked out of their homes by their parents or runaway when things get tense and find themselves on the streets with nowhere else to go. Needless to say, there’s a great deal of emotional pain and scarring that these kids have. Christians already have a call to help the homeless and comfort and help those who are suffering - imagine what the Church could do to help these kids and to given them the love and support that their parents failed to show them when they most needed it.
(I'd definitely recommend watching this video on GLBT homeless youth. I found it online today, and it's pretty powerful (Note: It's a series of 5, this is the first one):
Basic Legal Protections
This title of this one may drum up some feelings of disagreement, but hear me out. In a majority of states in the U.S., gay people can be fired simply for being attracted to the same sex. While you may not think that even sexually active gay people deserve discrimination protection, think about celibate gay Christians who choose not to be sexually active. They can just as easily be fired if their employers found out they were attracted to the same sex. That can’t be right, can it? Fired for experiencing what those celibate gay Christians would describe as temptations, which they don’t act upon? Then there’s other rights that married couples get that gay couples can’t in states where there aren’t civil unions or same-sex marriage. While you might not agree with the idea of civil unions, what about things like hospital visitation rights? While you might not agree with the sexual relationship between a couple, would you really rather separate someone from visiting their partner in the hospital, even if their partner was dying? What do you think Jesus would do in that situation?
Suicide Prevention
Depression is all too common in gay youth (and for gay people trying to reconcile their faith and sexuality). Dealing with homophobia and rejection, being in the closet, issues with figuring out their faith and sexuality, and coming to accept themselves in light of all of this - it can easily become overwhelming. Because of this, the rate of suicide attempts of gay youth is about three times that of straight youth, ranging from 30-40%* (measuring suicides by gay youth is hard, as many are not out to anyone, so there's uncertainty in the figure). That’s about one in three gay teens. Suicides by gay teens make up about a third of all teen suicides. I think the Church could play a huge role in reducing this number, by fighting homophobia both in and outside the Church, by being a safe place for gay Christians, and helping gay people to realize their worth as children of God.
I think an important distinction that needs to be made in the debate over homosexuality, and that often gets overlooked by certain people in Church is that gay people, are, well, people. Unfortunately, I think some of those who think homosexuality is a sin confuse the behavior with the person, and therefore attacking the person gets blurred in with fighting against what they see as a sin. Any attack against the ‘homosexuals’ is seen as an attack against sinful behavior. And this becomes a dangerous situation, because the worth of the individual gets pushed aside. Taunting and bullying then become seen as justified. The person ceases to be seen as a child of God, and suffers for it, and they can often sink into depression or worse as a result. (Note, thankfully many in the Church have stood up against his way of thought, and I haven't personally experienced any mistreatment because of this - all of my Christian friends have been absolutely amazing in regards to me being gay. I hope I'm not coming across as exaggerating how prevalent this line of thinking is in the Church, as I think that kind of thinking is a shrinking minority, but I felt like it's worth mentioning, as it's certainly out there and the negative effects of suck thinking are serious.)
I’m an optimist on this issue - I think a great opportunity exists for the church in this area, and I think it’s already started to make some significant progress, especially among the younger generation. Christians make up around 76% of the US population. Imagine if all Christians stood up for their gay neighbors, co-workers, and classmates - stood up against the homophobia they regularly experience. Christians could go from being seen as the ‘anti-gay’ group, to being the ones who eliminated homophobia in American society, the ones who took in homeless GLBT youth from the streets, who lowered the suicide rate for gay youth by being there and standing up for their gay friends, and who stood up for (at least) the most basic rights for gays and lesbians. You may think that’s a stretch, but I think it’s possible. 
The figures I listed are from “”, which has an in-depth article on the risks gay teens face, with plenty of references and data. Also, I hope this post doesn’t make it seem that every gay teen is on the verge of committing suicide or becoming homeless - that’s obviously not the case. But a shockingly higher percentage of gay youth are at risk for suicide and becoming homeless, and I think it needs to be recognized and addressed by our society and the Church. 
(If you are reading this, and are gay and contemplating suicide or are severely depressed, please call the Trevor Project hotline (1-866-488-7386) and talk to someone there. Even though you may not feel it, there is hope, and talking to someone can help a lot.)

July 17, 2010

The Wall

Luckily, I haven’t had any bad experiences with other people over me being gay (maybe some awkward ones, but nothing overtly negative). I realize this is pretty rare, but I think it can be explained by a couple factors. First, western Washington is relatively gay-friendly compared to other parts of the U.S. (Lewis county excluded . . .). Second, I don’t fit the typical image/stereotype/conceptions people have of gay people and so I easily slip underneath their gaydar. And third, I have what I call my defensive ‘wall’. 
I think many other gay people have this wall, or something similar to it, so I thought it would be a good topic to write about. Of course, I can only write from my own experiences and perspective, and I guess it’s probably different for other people, but hopefully I can shed some light on this topic (any other gay people reading this and who want to share own experiences about this, please comment - I'd love to hear what you have to say).
The thing about coming out is that it’s a continual process - even if you’re ‘out’, you’re still meeting new people who have no clue that you’re gay, and you have no idea how they’re going to react once they find out or you tell them. As a result of this, and considering that I rather not find myself on the receiving end of a bad reaction, I’ve constructed my ‘wall’ and it’s served remarkably well to protect so far.
When I first meet someone and don’t know how they feel about gay people, they’re officially outside of my ‘safe zone’. They’re on the other side of my wall, so to speak (also note, I mean safe in the sense of 'safe to let them know I'm gay and they won't react badly', not in the 'will they beat me up', though that's not to say that's totally off the radar with some more extreme characters). That is, while I may be up for hanging out with said person, I’m not ready to mention that I’m gay to them, and will avoid discussions centered around the topic. This is because I don’t want to: 1) have to deal with a bad, negative reaction in person and be put in a vulnerable position, 2) have them write me off based on possible negative preconceptions they may have of gay people, before they even get to know me, and 3) have my being gay the first thing they associate with me. Another part of my defense has been to avoid situations that have the potential to go badly. In my past, I was borderline paranoid about putting myself in these situations. For example, a couple years ago, I finally went to church for the first time since I was seven, but only after e-mailing them anonymously from a specially created e-mail account to ask them if their position on gay people. I guess I had this fear that as soon I’d walk in the door, everyone would point at me and scream “GAY!”. I’ve since become less paranoid, thanks to a wonderful Christian group at college that’s been absolutely amazing (and is within my safe zone) and that I’m a part of. I’m still a bit nervous about finding a church though and participating in Christian groups outside of my safe zone (with the exception of explicitly gay-friendly churches, like the Episcopalian, UCC, and Quaker churches in town - let it be known though that I’d go to a church or group that holds a Side B position as well, and have).
So, how do I determine who’s in my safe zone and who isn’t? Unless I know already that the person will be okay with me being gay, often times I have little to go off of. In that case, even the smallest comments are taken into consideration. If someone mentions they have a gay friend, they say something supportive of gay people, or how they disapprove of homophobia, that’s usually a good sign. If someone says, “That’s so gay!” repeatedly, then it’s going to take a lot to get them into my safe zone. Even more outright homophobic comments, statements that they think gay people are conspiratorially trying to destroy Western civilization, and use the six-lettered f-word will put them straight into my un-safe zone and I’ll just avoid that person from then on. Of course, I’ve found that while the wall has protected me, it’s also not exactly conducive to dialogue and if I don’t take risks on my part, not much dialogue is going to happen, which has been something I've had to work on.
Also, my wall doesn't mean I'm in the closet or exactly hiding the fact that I'm gay from people. I figure they find out on facebook, someone else tells them, it gets casually mentioned in a group situation, or I tell them once I've gotten to know them and they're in my safe zone.
For straight Christians who want to break past this wall that gay people, Christian and non-Christian, may have, I’d offer the following advice. First, find some way to get across that you’re a safe person to be around and open up to. For me, it was when the Christian group I was in played a documentary called “Lord Save Us From Your Followers”, which urged a more compassionate approach towards gay people. Also, if you want to invite a gay person to a youth group or a church, realize that they might not feel comfortable with that. It might be better in that situation to establish yourself as a safe person to open up to before making an invitation. Speaking out when others make homophobic comments can be huge. Chances are, you know someone who is gay, whether you know it or not. On average, studies have put the gay population at around 4% of the population (they range anywhere from 1 to 10%), which is around one in twenty-five people. Speaking out against homophobia might be enough to put you in someone’s safe zone, and will surely make life easier for gay people who already have to deal with enough homophobia in their lives. And for those gay people in the Church who are already struggling deeply trying to figure out being gay and Christian, this may literally be a life saver.

A couple terms, and one very important distinction

Often, when homosexuality and religion are discussed in the media, you hear references to those who take the ‘pro-gay’ position and those on the ‘anti-gay’ position. Other labels, such as conservative, liberal, traditionalist, and progressive, are often used as well. However, I always have felt that these terms aren’t specific enough, and when someone uses one of those terms, I’m not always sure exactly where they stand. An issue this complex has so many facets and subtleties that are impossible to convey in a black and white, conservative and liberal, or pro-gay and pro-family dichotomy. For example, I know of self-described fundamentalist Christians who believe God blesses same-sex marriages, and I’m sure there are liberal Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin. While I could just reject using any labels at all, there are some common terms used by those discussing homosexuality and Christianity that I think cover the main points very well, without leaving us writing out small paragraph definitions of people’s beliefs on this issue.

The terms I’ll be using originated at an organization called “Bridges Across the Divide” (, though I’ll be using them as they are used at GCN (, where I first heard these terms used. Their usage at GCN, though slightly different than their original definitions at Bridges Across, seem to be the most common definitions of these terms:

Side A takes the position that God blesses monogamous, life-long, committed same-sex relationships.
Side B takes the position that God calls gay people to life-long celibacy.
Side X takes the position that gay people can change their orientation through prayer and reparative therapy.

Other, less commonly referred to terms that I’ve seen used:
Side AAA takes the position that God can bless same-sex sexual activity outside of a lifelong, monogamous commitment.
Side C refers to a position either in between Side A and B or that someone is unsure of whether Side A or B is correct.

Though this system of labels isn’t perfect, I think it’s a good starting point and is able to describe the beliefs of most people on this subject quite well.

One of the great points of these labels is that they make a distinction that is far too often overlooked when homosexuality is discussed in the Church: the distinction between orientation and behavior.

I think when people hear someone is gay, they automatically think that person is sexually active (or would be if the opportunity arose). Sexual behavior (and a sexually libertine lifestyle) is automatically linked with the term ‘gay’ in the minds of many people. However, this is not the case for a lot of gay people. For them, the term ‘gay’ refers only to their sexual orientation. I know many Side B gay Christians who identify as gay, while not acting on their sexual orientation. Also, there are many Side A gay Christians who identify as gay, but are abstaining until they get married.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that this distinction be made. 

For example, while some Christians who believe homosexual sexual behavior is sinful might describe themselves as ‘not gay-friendly’, this could sound to Side B gay Christians like those Christians are against them as people, just because of their attractions to the same sex. Likewise, when people say that “God and gay don’t go together!”, this may come across to celibate individuals who are attracted to their own sex that they aren’t welcome in the Church no matter what.

Likewise, churches who say they are ‘gay-friendly’ may be seen by other Christians as approving of sexually uninhibited behavior, when what they actually mean is that they take a Side A stance.

This terminology also helps to distinguish the positions of different denominational positions as well.

For example, the Southern Baptist Convention obviously doesn’t take the same approach towards homosexuality as the United Methodist Church does, although their official positions are that homosexuality in any form is sinful. The general Southern Baptist position may be best described as Side X, while the official stance of the United Methodist Church would be said to be Side B.

Can you see now how fuzzy these commonly used terms are?

A church says it isn’t gay friendly - does that mean it requires its gay members to undergo reparative therapy? Or that it accepts them if they are celibate but still identify as gay? What about a welcoming church? Does it take a Side A or Side B position?

Pro-family evangelicals - one would think they'd generally be Side X or Side B, right? Not necessarily - there's Evangelicals Concerned, a Side A group of GLBT Evangelical Christians.

There are so many shades of gray - or, in this case, so many blurred shades of the rainbow - that I think those discussing this issue with others don’t always know where exactly the other person stands. And I think knowing that is an absolute first step to any productive dialogue. Because if we don't know where the other person is coming from, then aren't we just going off of our preconceived ideas of who that person is and what that person believes?

Second first post


My name is Adam and this is the first post on my new blog about being gay and Christian, how that plays out and has played out in my own life, my experiences with other Christians and GLBT people, and how to help bridge the divide between these two communities. Obviously, I have quite a bit I can write about, and this is hopefully the first post in a long series. This first post will be about why I want to write about this issue and why I feel it's important . . .

* * * * *
I’m someone who really hates controversy. Conflict, heated arguments, very awkward situations - they all drive me crazy and I avoid them like the plague. So, when it comes to an issue like homosexuality and the Church, it’s not something I’m inclined to readily talk about. In fact, even though this issue has been one of the defining elements of the past six years of my life, it’s only been until recently that I’ve talked about it with other people.

I used to think that society was too focused on this polarizing issue and that bringing it up any more would be a negative thing. However, I’ve since come to realize that it's not so much the issue that is the most polarizing, but more the way people on both sides of this issue are treating each other that is the real problem. Very seldom do people hear the voices of those in the middle of this crossfire, those who are Christian and gay. I hope that by writing about this issue as a gay Christian, I can bring a new perspective and opinions that people may not have heard before.

Most importantly, I want to reduce the immense amount of negativity and pain surrounding this subject. Not only is the subject of homosexuality threatening the unity of numerous Christian denominations and splitting churches, all this negativity has made life hell for many gay people. This is especially true for those in the Church, who are already struggling to reconcile their orientation with their faith and who often feel alone and with nowhere to turn in their churches, leading many to deep depression or worse.

I hope that by writing about this issue and my own thoughts and experiences, I’ll help change the perception of this issue as a battleground of the “Culture Wars” to an issue of profound importance to many struggling people. I hope people will realize that any talk about this subject needs to be done with the sensitivity, respect, and compassion it deserves.

- Adam