Why I Need Celibate Gay Christians

I was forced out of the closet by a phone call. A dear friend had confessed that she was struggling with attraction for a woman, but was trying to not act upon it because of her Christian faith. Our other two friends on the phone strongly recommended she accept her sexual identity rather than let her sexual practices be dictated by her religious beliefs. I—the once militant atheist—came to her defense and said she should let her conscience be her guide. If she believed her religion that deeply, then she should try to her best to adhere to it and we shouldn’t admonish her for prioritizing her religion over her sexual inclinations. This, of course, stunned them and I was forced to come out of the closet as someone interested in Christianity. I confessed that I had started doing Bible studies and attending church. These were the friends least surprised when I was baptized a few months later.

Being witness to my friend’s intense struggle as I came to faith—even though I myself am straight and will not personally share her particular pains—was an immense blessing. It was readily obvious to me as I counted the cost of discipleship that making the commitment to Christ would truly entail dying to myself and taking up my cross every day. I did not know what this dying would look like—can we ever fully know what new sinful part of ourselves we shall be called to crucify years down the road? But I knew that the Christian walk entails—even for Western Christians with all our comforts—a great deal of suffering and no immediate promises of deliverance. I learned that repentance comes in waves, and that even the most faithful need God’s mercy again and again. I’m so grateful for my friend’s transparency in our relationship and her faithful wrestling with God through her struggle.

This is what I’ve seen time and time again from gay and bisexual Christians: those who wrestle faithfully with this question often come out much, much stronger in their faith than straight Christians. They realize from the very beginning that the call to follow Christ is a call to come and die. (As is true for us reluctant converts.) I have learned countless things from my LGBT Christian friends, and it’s been clear to me that God put them in my life to really force me to acknowledge the sacrifice entailed in following Jesus. They’ve been an incredible blessing to me, and helped me to develop a spiritual maturity that I know I wouldn’t possess were it not for their influence. The body of Christ would be weaker, flabbier were it not for their presence. But they’ve matured more quickly in part because of the challenges they’ve faced, as a muscle grows most when challenged by heavier weights.

Now that’s a difficult experience—to realize that really what Christ is asking you to do is to give up everything you hold dear—and it can only feel worse if it’s combined with a significant amount of stigma. But I would suggest that for some, maybe homosexuality can be a gift—a calling to celibacy made clear, an opportunity to mature in the faith—that should be rightfully appreciated and used to bless the church.

You see, for those of us who are straight—churches often feed us the candy instead of the medicine. They say, “Just wait until marriage and it’ll get better” or “virgins will have better sex when they are married!” Many evangelical churches set expectations high (because it’s more hip or easily persuasive) rather than challenging a sex-focused culture and seeming “out of touch.” Those who end up married are dissatisfied sexually because they’ve been sold unrealistic expectations and disconnected from the church who gave them false promises. Those who don’t marry out of circumstance may end up feeling equally like there’s something wrong with them, and never have the sense of vocation that would offer them a fulfilling narrative about their role in God’s kingdom. Because the current message is that you can only be called to celibacy if you’re asexual and the cure to your loneliness is found in the spouse you’ll find someday, not in the God who has redeemed you and brought you into a spiritual family.

What I would like to see from the church is a different approach to homosexuality: not one that stigmatizes gays or offers false promises of changing orientation, but rather begins with, “We love you! God loves you!” and ends with “you are a blessing to us! You are an essential part of the body! We need you to help us grow stronger! We need you to remind us of the lies of our culture and of the promises of God!” Because that is how I feel every day toward my LGBT friends who are Christian—a regular realization of “dear, how I love you! Oh, how I need you!”

Jordan MongeJordan Monge is the Northeast Regional Director and Director of Content Development for the Veritas Forum. She studied Philosophy at Harvard University, where she converted to Christianity, and blogs at jordanmonge.com.

17 thoughts on “Why I Need Celibate Gay Christians

  1. this is very true, Jordan, thanks for expressing this, the unrealistic expectations in our world’s culture for romance combined with the expectations for gay Christians to change their sexuality can lead to discouragement or worse I think I’ve been there more than once. For someone who has beliefs in celibacy and the traditional view of marriage keeping our relationship with Jesus as primary is key and is where we can find our solace though at times it is challenging and a solitary path which is why it is encouraging to find others going through the same experience; learning from them and walking with them too.

  2. Wow, am just about in tears reading this. As a gay/SSA Christian myself…wow. Just wow.

    Thank you for saying what I’ve been longing to hear from another believer. It’s so uplifting and powerful for my soul right now.

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  4. There is so much to affirm about this piece, yet one glaring mistake that must be addressed – the labeling of believers who struggle with same-sex attraction as LGBT or gay. As a 33-year veteran in the healing process for homosexual confusion, I can attest to the fact that everyone is created with a dormant seed of heterosexuality that is meant to germinate during puberty. “Homosexual-as-identity” is a false and damaging construct. Some strugglers never receive the nurture that is necessary for that seed to properly germinate. For others, that seed is damaged through abuse, neglect or a myriad of other developmental factors. The scientific evidence that people are born gay is simply not there – a fact that many of the gay researchers in the field openly acknowledge. If you continue to label believers who have forsaken acting on their aberrant attractions for the sake of Christ, “gay”, you are stripping them of the hope that their damaged or unformed heterosexuality can be healed and begin to emerge. For some, the turnaround is substantial. For others, it will only be partial, based on time factors, willingness to do whatever it takes and the availability of proper guidance (assuming they are pursuing it at all). The thing I like about your piece, however, is the emphasis on God working through us in relationship with Him. I understand that the Church is ill-equipped to help strugglers and it makes lots of mistakes. But there are solid ministries that can help them. They do not create unrealistic expectations in those they help and they celebrate the fact that God is pleased with their search for holiness whether their temptations go away or not. His focus is on them, yet not to leave them the way they are, but to help them be transform into His image to whatever degree is possible for them in their lifetime.

    • David – You are simply wrong on so many fronts in this comment (both scientifically and theologically), and I refuse to falsely promise those who experience same sex attraction a change in orientation.

      First, other writers on this blog have done an excellent job of explaining why they use the term “gay Christian” and so I echo their thoughts on the matter: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/02/01/once-more-on-the-label-gay-christian/In short, I use “gay” to refer to orientation – that is, the group of people one is attracted to – and *not *to refer to their sexual practices (which may involve celibacy). Getting upset about this would be like my getting upset at being called straight even though I’m abstinent.

      Stanton Jones (of Wheaton) and Mark Yarbrough (of Regent) performed a longitudinal study on the effects of ex-gay therapy ( http://wthrockmorton.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Jones-and-Yarhouse-Final.pdf). They found that only 23% reported a substantial reduction in homosexual attraction and substantial conversion to heterosexual attraction (though who’s to say that’s not just wishful thinking?). 36% reported some reduction in homosexual attraction (but not total), 7% had no change, and 25% failed to achieve any change whatsoever. 23% is not a high enough success rate to pitch ex-gay therapy as *the *solution to a gay Christian.

      While a person’s life circumstances may have an effect on their orientation (this also likely explains why ex-gay therapy can be successful in certain circumstances), that does not change the fact that it is often an innate characteristic. For example, I recently learned that my roommate was born left-handed but grew up in China and was taught that it is wrong to not use one’s right hand. She now writes only with her right-hand. Is she right or left-handed? I would still say she was born left-handed, even though she currently uses her right hand. Just because some people might experience a slight change in orientation (women seem to be slightly more flexible) doesn’t mean that the majority of people with same-sex attraction can experience that, nor does it diminish the fact that they were born with a certain disposition toward the same gender. Research ( http://pss.sagepub.com/content/16/9/694.short) shows that homosexual attraction is in part influenced by *pheromones *themselves, demonstrating that orientation is – in significant part – a biological and not merely a social phenomenon. You might even consider investigating cases like congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which has also been shown to correlate with homosexuality and bisexuality ( http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/84/6/1844.full).

      Your willingness to make universal claims like “everyone is created with a dormant seed of heterosexuality” demonstrates a lack of concern for the particulars of each individual’s situation. If you read books like Wesley Hill’s *Washed and Waiting* or even read some of Josh Weed’s stories, you would quickly see that it’s possible to have a perfectly normal adolescent development and *still *have same sex attractions.

      Finally, there is no promise in the Bible that we will be delivered in this life from our temptations and our struggles. Paul specifically talks about how God would not deliver him from a thorn in the flesh after Paul prayed three times for it to be taken away. But God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” As Paul boasted, so I think those who are attracted to people of the opposite gender may boast – for it further goes to demonstrate the glory of God and our salvation and sanctification through grace. I suspect that, just as there is no marriage after the resurrection, so too, there will be no orientation. I pray regularly for God to make his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven by helping me to treat my peers as brothers and sisters rather than as romantic interests, and I may pray the same for my gay friends, but I will not promise them deliverance from their temptation until the day when we are all delivered of our sins and every knee bows at the name of Christ.

      • Where do I begin? You have attributed claims to me that simply aren’t there and then argued against them. No where do I claim that people should be told they can be completely rid of homosexual temptations or give them false hopes that that will be their outcome? I give them the same hope that the Apostle Paul gave them when he declared “such were some of you” in 1 Cor 6:11 – referring not to the false modern construct of identity, but to practice. I give them the hope that with every temptation, God will provide a way of escape. To withhold such hope is unconscionable when God is present to enter into a healing process with them should they desire one. You really should discuss what I actually say rather than what you want people to think I believe. As for science, you are seriously uneducated in what the studies actually show. None of them have shown that homosexuality is innate or inborn. Additionally, you must understand that correlation is not the same as causation. And if you will read the peer reviews on the science, there is no proof whatsoever that homosexuality is determined by genes or biology. The peer reviews are critical, because many of these researchers are gay and some even admit to setting out to prove a certain outcome and are not initially honest about what their data actually proves, that is until their peers hold their feet to the fire. As for the possibility for change, you have cited researchers who have indeed discovered that change is possible. The success of one approach or another becomes irrelevant on one level once that has been established. Masters & Johnson, for example, report a much higher incidence of change that Yarbrough. A great resource for the most recent research and its actual meaning is http://www.mygenes.co.nz. Your research citings are woefully deficient. None of them are of studies that have proven genetic or biological causation. None such study exists. Again correlation or influence does not prove causation. The so-called “influence” or “correlation” could just as easily be attributed to the activities of the gay lifestyle or the trauma often associated with homosexual confusion or identity as they might be anything innately biological or genetic.

    • He’s asking if you’ve read any of the many blog posts on this site about the terms “gay,” “ex-gay,” and “same-sex attracted.” Many authors have gone over the terms before — and why they use the ones they do — in much more detail.

    • Sorry, I didn’t see your reply until today. You write that “the labeling of believers who struggle with same-sex attraction as LGBT or gay” is a “glaring mistake.” There has been extensive discussion of that question on this blog going over a year.

      You obviously might not agree with the conclusion of that discussion. But the way your comment opens up, it sounds more like you have not even examined the argument. That leads you to assume that you know what is being said when someone who had followed that argument and understood the way labels are used here would have read the post you reacted to differently.

      The puzzled tone of your reply suggests even more strongly that you are unaware of the discussion about labeling, and that probably contributes to the failure to communicate here.

  5. Pingback: Why I Need Celibate Gay Christians | Jordan Monge's Homepage

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  8. I love through all this that even the author mislabels people. There are many many non-celibate LGBT Christians. You do not get to decide who is and isn’t a Christian.

  9. Pingback: How Celibate Gay Christians Can Encourage Straight Chastity | Spiritual Friendship

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