A Guest Post from Dave at
Gay and Evangelical
There seems to be an assumption that attraction is the same as lust. Feeling attraction for someone of the same gender must be lust, right? In fact, some of these comments from others seem to indicate that they themselves feel that if they (as a straight man, for example) were to feel attraction to a woman that it would undoubtedly be classified as “lust.”
Really? Is that really the sort of men and women which populate the Church? Have we created men and women who have no idea how to understand love apart from sex, affection apart from marriage, and attraction apart from dating?
I had a wonderful friend once. He and I met at a ministry retreat and immediately hit it off. I had a Reformation Study Bible and he had a Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. It was friendship at first glance, really. We were both gay, but talked about our families, our churches, the music we liked, the books we enjoyed, and our hopes and fears about the future.
I remember the first time he came to visit me. It was so surreal that someone would’ve flown such a distance to be with a friend. At the time, I wasn’t so sure I was worth that sort of investment–but he tried to show me I was. I’ve only recently begun to believe him.
He and I walked down a busy Seattle street once, where the participants from the Pride Parade were clearing out. I was uncomfortable–I’d grown up in a midwestern suburb. The dress, the manner–it all weirded me out, frankly. This friend stopped me and said, “David, Christ died for these people. Do you believe that?”
I was humbled and built up by his presence.
I loved him. With all my heart.
Friends of ours were certain that he and I were dating (or, at least, that we wanted to). They were always suspicious of our closeness–the degree of our intimacy. But there wasn’t anything physical between us. We loved each other. Deeply. Truly.
I remember one of the last times I saw him, more than four years ago. He hugged me and told me I was a good friend. The words were a welcome comfort, since this friend really wasn’t very good at emotions. But the comfort would not last because I knew I probably wouldn’t see him again for a long time.I saw him once more a year later, but haven’t seen him since.
My attraction to him wasn’t the result of carnal desire (or whatever the terminology might be to demonize my friendship) or sexual confusion. It was beautiful friendship, forged in the fires of family troubles, theological pursuits, literary appreciation, and my own insecurities.
I treasure one memory in particular: on the way to an art museum, we ran out of things to say and travelled in silence. But it wasn’t an awkward one–instead, it was the kind of silence that two people who know each other well appreciate because they are just spending time together. I can’t promise he had the same feeling in that moment; we never discussed the moment. But I’ve held it close to me because it was one of the most intimate moments I’ve ever had with anyone.
Scripture tells me that God does not want people to be alone. Not only does he give spouses, he gives friends. To King David, Jonathan’s love was better than that of women. Their friendship was held in high regard by the Author himself. Jesus himself placed a high value on intimate friendship, the ‘disciple whom he loved’ even seemed to occupy the inside of the king of the universe’s space bubble.
Not of this. My desire for male companionship has fueled my desire for real connection with my friends. I wouldn’t wish that away for anything because it doesn’t come between me and Jesus or anyone else. Instead, I thank God for my close, true friends.
I agree that there is genuine affection for another man apart from sexual desire. Western Christian men are often so shallow regarding understanding the nuances of emotions Within male friendship. However, I do think there is sinful desire which can also creep into my heart and I need to guard against that. I appreciate C. S. Lewis’s distinguishing Eros from philia in his book, The Four Loves. I neither feel guilty for having fond affection for my male friends but I also guard my heart because I am a sinner that can also have sinful desires. It isn’t and either/or where one is true and the other not. Both affection and lust are possibilities within a friendship. For me this does not mean forgoing deep intimacy with male friends but rather to be honest that those feelings sometimes get confused. I am grateful for many intimate, affectionate, God-honoring friendships I’ve had with other men. If feelings ever crossed the line, I confessed it as sinful desire and continue on in the friendship without freaking our or panicking. Life is messy and emotions can be confusing. One friend, who doesn’t deal with SSA, asked me once, “Have you ever been physically attracted to me?” I wanted to lie and say no but our friendship has been built on total honesty and mutual trust. Reluctantly I said, “Yes, when we were first becoming friends.” I didn’t know how he’d ready to this revelation. He threw his head back and laughed, “I’d hope so, I’m pretty good looking. It’s nice to know both girls and guys find me attractive.” We both laughed and he gave me a hug before heading home to his wife.
I have no quarrel with anything you say here. Thanks for reading!
I couldn’t help but read a subtext that is one of the challenges of friendship. It’s tenuous nature. This is a man you deeply loved yet the life that his presence in your world provided is no longer there. Some series of events has taken him out of your life. Having experienced this many times over a much longer lifetime I can say that it doesn’t get easier.
Unfortunately. I’m sorry for your losses as well and I pray that God is showing grace to you in the friendships you do have.
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Thank you very much for this post, David, and all other contributors to this blog. I think I’m starting to get an inkling of how complex and nuanced same-sex relationships can be, which is far better than what I originally thought of them. Thanks for helping to change my mind.
Great piece. In many ways, this is a great discussion to have more broadly. I think this also highlights the struggle of discerning what it even means to be gay. I stopped identifying as gay because I realized that I just didn’t experience sexual attraction to men. Even so, in most other ways, I do generally feel attracted to men and not to women. So, when I imagine developing an intimate relationship with someone else, I always imagine doing so with someone of the same sex. After all, the APA defined sexual orientation as reflecting an enduring pattern of not only sexual attractions, but also romantic and emotional attractions.
As I’ve talked about my experiences more openly with people, I’ve come to recognize that there are a fair number of guys who don’t experience strong same-sex sexual attractions, and, to the extent that they do, experience them only secondarily and in response to other primary attractions (generally emotional attractions).
I often wonder whether part of the struggle we face lies in the paucity of “plausibility structures” for committed same-sex relationships/friendships. Wes’s book from a couple of years ago signaled a good start concerning that discussion. Even so, Wes seemed to stop short of endorsing committed bilateral same-sex relationships of the friendship/platonic sort. I suspect that there’s a fear that such relationships will merely become the “gateway drug” to something else. But it need not be that way.
I often wonder whether the depression doesn’t lie with the fact that there are so few effective social channels for connecting with other like-minded Christians. Surely I’m not the only one like me, i.e., who’s open to same-sex dating, but who isn’t so interested in same-sex sex. But, as much as I rack my brain, I have a hard time figuring out how best to connect with people like me. And that’s probably part of my frustration with this project: It doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of material embodiment. It’s easy to say that those of us who find domesticity unattractive can find our wholeness in spiritual friendship. But finding people who want the same thing ain’t easy.
Thanks for sharing this, it was very helpful.