Over a year ago, I wrote a post recounting my experience as a bisexually-attracted man. That post was mostly a reflection on my own experience, with some takeaways coming from that. I’ve been thinking for a while about writing a “part two” discussing how this interfaces with questions of the Christian faith and the broader conversation that Spiritual Friendship is contributing to. I recommend reading my first post before this one if you haven’t already.
Given that I do frequently experience attraction, including sexual desire, towards women, marriage is a significant eventual possibility for my life. Although every marriage has its difficulties, I don’t expect that I’d have significant difficulties resulting specifically from being married to a woman. One could describe me as “celibate” on account of the fact that I’m single and sexually abstinent, but my convictions do not point me toward lifelong celibacy as strongly as for others on here. This state in life may well be much more transient for me. So does this mean that the conversation happening on Spiritual Friendship is less relevant to people like me?
I don’t think so. One thing I’ve really appreciated about how Ron and Wes have run Spiritual Friendship is the way they have intentionally cultivated a conversation that is broader than celibacy. Two of our contributors, Kyle Keating and Melinda Selmys, have written about their experiences in marriages to people of the opposite sex. I’ve learned a lot from them, as well as from other people in similar situations, about what healthy marriages can look like when one spouse is a sexual minority.
There is also a great deal I share in common with celibate gay Christians, simply by virtue of being someone who experiences same-sex attraction and has traditional Christian convictions about sexual ethics.
For example, I still cannot avoid facing a lot of the same questions. Even at the most basic level, there is the question of what to do with my feelings for men. Even if I do get married to a woman and have a sexual outlet, that doesn’t make all the questions disappear. For example, what do these feelings mean for the potential to form friendships with other men? Do I have to set the same sorts of boundaries in all my friendships that a straight married man does in his friendships with women? How do I deal with the potential for sexual temptation in all-male environments? How do I deal with feelings of shame and guilt over my feelings? The list goes on.
Celibate gay Christians were among the first people I saw taking these sorts of questions seriously while remaining faithful to Scripture. Their writings resonated with me in a way that the writings of straight Christians never had. (There have been writers from several other perspectives that I have resonated with at different points, to whatever degree I still agree or not, but celibate gay Christians have been some of my biggest influences.) So in a lot of respects, I’ve found that I naturally identify myself with celibate gay Christians, even if my state is a little different.
Another extremely important aspect of the conversation that we’re having at Spiritual Friendship is not really about sexual minorities at all. The title of the blog itself references friendship, and much of the tradition surrounding friendship has been forgotten altogether. Deeper friendships are a great good for everyone, and insights related to faith are often applicable to all believers. Much of this conversation is relevant to me because I’m a Christian, rather than even with regards to my sexuality in particular.
This conversation has also helped me think through what Scripture teaches about celibacy. In general, I find that celibacy is vastly underappreciated in the Protestant world, despite the praise both Jesus and Paul give it in the New Testament. Having a sexuality outside the norm, and then getting to see how other Christians process celibacy, has caused me to look at these teachings more seriously. This has actually allowed me to see marriage as something other than a simple default for my life, so I’m still working to figure out how to discern God’s call in that regard. This is another area where it has been helpful to learn from the married members of our community, as well as of course the many married members of other Christian communities I’ve been part of. Seeing people live a broad set of vocations is helpful in learning about the different callings God gives.
Of course, many of the questions about celibacy are much more urgent for someone who does not experience attraction to the opposite sex, and I do believe that living according to the traditional ethic is more difficult in significant ways for people in such a situation. So I think it’s good and proper to have a discussion that acknowledges this and goes to special lengths to discuss the challenges of celibacy. However, this does not mean that I’m in a completely different category; much of what we say is quite genuinely at least an “LGB” conversation.
In closing, I want to say that one of the things I’ve found most life-giving about initiatives like Spiritual Friendship is the way that the group has taken me in as one of their own. Although I’m not in exactly the same spot as the celibate gay contributors, I’m not just an ally, either. I find that this is recognized, and I get the sense that others like Kyle and Melinda outside the “celibate gay” mold are included the same way. I really appreciate this, and I’ve genuinely loved getting to know the other contributors and numerous other members of the broader community. I feel so honored to be a small part of this work God is doing through us.
Jeremy Erickson is a software engineer in Wisconsin. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.