My Early Teen Years Part 1: What I Went Through

Aaron Taylor wrote a recent two-part piece (part 1 and part 2), discussing pastoral responses to same-sex attracted youth.  Eve Tushnet has suggested that several of us continue that discussion by reflecting what it was like to be that teenager ourselves, and I would like to do that here by discussing my life early in my teen years.  In this piece, I will discuss that part of my life, and in a follow-up piece, I will offer some reflections on what would have been helpful.  Before I get to the teen years, though, I want to discuss more about my environment leading up to that time.

I grew up in a Christian home, in a stable family.  Although it’s not like everything was perfect all the time, I had very good and healthy relationships with both of my parents.  I first learned about sex and sexuality from having “the talk” with my dad.  I was given the expectation that as I hit puberty, I’d really start to have a “hunger” for girls, and that the ultimate end for that was to be married to a woman and to have sex within that context.  I was taught that my sexuality would ultimately be a good thing, but that I would face struggles with lust and sexual purity.

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My Experience of Bisexuality

I wanted to follow up Kyle’s excellent recent post on the complexity of sexual identity with my own account of bisexuality. I’m certainly not trying to characterize Tom Daley or anyone else, but I wanted to give some picture of what it could mean for a man to have a bisexual orientation.

There’s a fairly widespread belief that bisexuality doesn’t really exist in men. From what I can tell, there are a variety of reasons for this belief. I think one of the more common reasons is that it is quite common for gay men to initially identify as bisexual. That leads to the suspicion that any man claiming to be bisexual simply hasn’t been able to accept himself as gay yet. Some skepticism stems from a 2005 study titled “Sexual Arousal Patterns of Bisexual Men” that failed to find evidence that male bisexuality actually existed, although a 2011 study titled “Sexual Arousal Patterns of Bisexual Men Revisited” using the same methodology showed a different result. I was always puzzled by the 2005 study, given that my experience contradicts the conclusion many people were drawing from it. There is also need for caution in interpreting the results of both studies, because the methodology used simply involved measuring genital arousal in response to certain forms of pornography. Thus, it only measured one part of attraction under artificial laboratory conditions and may not be reflective of someone’s full experience of sexual orientation. Given that I’ve never used porn, I’m actually not certain what results I would have gotten under the studied conditions.

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Sin and Sexual Minorities Part 7: Of Logs and Specks

In this final post of my series on sin and sexual minorities, I will examine an additional major principle that is useful in determining what sins we should prioritize addressing, and I will conclude with a few related thoughts. This principle comes from Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV):

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

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Sin and Sexual Minorities Part 6: How Doctrine Matters

Up until now in this series, I have focused on sins against sexual minority people.  As I alluded to in the introduction, I will now turn to some initial reflections on how to work this into a holistic understanding of sin with respect to sexual minorities.  I am writing from the perspective shared with the other writers of this blog, that “God created human beings male and female, and that all sexual intimacy outside of a faithful, lifelong marital union of a man and woman is contrary to His plan.”  The purpose of this series has not been to argue that this does not matter, but rather that we should not consider only this matter when looking at the topic of sin and sexual minorities, because all other areas of Christian morality also matter greatly.

For the final two posts in this series, I will discuss two important principles that we should always keep in mind while addressing the sexual sins that some sexual minority people commit.  I do not presume to have complete pastoral solutions even if I had the space to write them out, but I think the principles I will point out here are both scriptural and fruitful.

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Sin and Sexual Minorities Part 5: Sins of the Heart

Scripture clearly teaches that sin comes from the heart. For example, in Matthew 15:18-20, Jesus teaches that the sins that defile a person come from inside a person’s heart, rather than from outside. In order to truly address our own sins, including the sins described in the previous two posts, we must address the condition of our hearts. The gospel is not really about behavior modification, but about inner transformation. Therefore, in this post, I will discuss some of the attitudes of the heart that contribute to sins against sexual minority people. Despite the fact that I’m not straight, these sins in particular are ones that I have often had to address in my own life, and that I have not completely overcome. However, I believe it will be edifying to bring them to light.

A very common sin, and one that Jesus addressed repeatedly during his earthly ministry, is that of self-righteousness. I think that a lot of straight Christians see themselves as fundamentally better people than most sexual minority people. This is not a truly Christian attitude, because we are all sinners who rely on God for salvation and sanctification. We have done nothing to earn a better place in God’s eyes through our own actions.

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Sin and Sexual Minorities Part 4: Sins of Omission

In the previous post of this series, I discussed overt sins of word and deed, where the nature of the sin is doing something that we should not do.  In this post, I will discuss one major sin of omission, where the nature of the sin is not doing something even though we are commanded to do it.  I personally find that sins of omission can be a greater struggle.  It’s far too easy to just not get around to doing the sorts of good I am commanded to do, or to allow myself to be controlled by fear of man.  However, failing to do what God has commanded is still sinful.

Although the sins I discussed in the last post relate to sexual minorities of all faith convictions, the particular issue I discuss in this post relates specifically to celibate gay Christians.  In Galatians 6:2, we are commanded to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (ESV).  As we have discussed previously here and here, celibacy for gay Christians is often involuntary in the sense that it results from obedience based on conviction, rather than from an otherwise felt gifting or calling.  This type of celibacy can be a difficult burden for people, so if we are really bearing one another’s burdens, we should certainly be bearing that one somehow.

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Sin and Sexual Minorities Part 3: Sins of Word and Deed

Sexual minority people are often the victims of several forms of overt sins of word and deed. Many of these are actions that we can all acknowledge are absolutely sinful. However, I find that many Christians are reluctant to admit the frequency with which sexual minorities in particular are victimized. From what I’ve found, this often results simply from lack of awareness, so I would like to use this post to provide some basic background about issues we should be addressing. Unfortunately, the issues are too numerous to do justice to in a single blog post, so I cannot be comprehensive.

In “Day of Silence 2013,” I discussed the grave moral issue of anti-gay bullying and argued that we need to consider more than just sexual ethics when discussing the topic. Similar issues arise with the issue of hate crimes. In some parts of the world, it is tragically common for sexual minority people to be murdered or brutally beaten if their sexuality becomes known. Milder forms of harassment are also common, and are almost ubiquitous in significant segments of society. For example, “faggot” is a common insult, even though it is deeply offensive. Many people will call something they don’t like “gay.” I can tell you that as someone realizing my own attraction to other guys, hearing that has often been hurtful. Sexual minority people may be rejected socially if their sexuality is known, regardless of their beliefs or subsequent decisions about how to live. Although I have fortunately not experienced this personally to any significant degree, it has happened to others. This sort of behavior should never be considered acceptable.

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Sin and Sexual Minorities Part 2: Why I Criticize Christians

Many, though not all, of the sins I will mention in this series are not infrequently committed by Christians. In the past, when I’ve brought up these kinds of sins, I’ve sometimes been accused of harboring a deep-seated hatred of Christians. As is probably obvious to everyone who actually knows me, nothing could be further from the truth. I think these accusations might come from people whose thinking has been deeply affected by a mentality of culture war, and who see my concerns as a form of friendly fire that inhibits an effective attack on the enemy. I don’t think much of such a paradigm, especially given that our true enemy is not of this world and that we should be at war with all forms of sin, especially our own sin.

So why do I actually choose to spend so much time focusing on the sins of Christians? It can basically be summed up the same way Matt Jones discusses his reasons for coming out in Going Public, Part 2—“I love the Church too much to let it love LGBTQ people so poorly.” I think that some of the ways many Christians have approached sexual identity issues have been incredibly detrimental to the witness of the Church, both to sexual minorities and to the culture at large.

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Sin and Sexual Minorities Part 1: Introduction

In Christian discussions about sexual identity issues, the notions of “sin” and “morality” often come up. Typically, gay sex is in focus. There are often complaints about how the gay community is promoting particular sins or forms of sexual immorality. As someone who holds to a traditional understanding of sexual ethics, I agree with some of these concerns.

However, I think this is a far too limited way to view sin and morality. Christian morality cannot be reduced to sexual ethics; other issues are critically important as well. Furthermore, many complaints by Christians demonstrate much greater concern about certain sins committed by sexual minorities than about sins committed against sexual minorities, if sins against sexual minorities are acknowledged at all. Sins against sexual minority people are in fact serious and common, and as Matt Jones discusses in “What Is Love?,” true concern for sexual minorities requires us to acknowledge and fight these sins.

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