28.02.12 People often email me looking for answers to questions that are concerning them. Questions I am often asked are
Can gay Christians have sex?
Should they be celibate?
If they can't marry shouldn't they then refrain?
Aren't only heterosexual relationships allowed in the bible?
Here is one I recently received and my response. (Video also below)
I just read your article on Sy Rogers, which was fantastic. The church of my childhood used Sy Rogers as the pin-up boy for ex-gay ministry. He spoke at our church at least twice while I attended. So I'd wondered how he’d "fit" into the whole picture these days.
One question I do have, which I feel a little hesitant asking, is about the practise or abstinence of sexual relationships for a homosexual Christian. Being heterosexual, it seems cheeky to ask, as the Bible obviously says it's ok for straight people to have sex within certain guidelines. So how then does the GLBTIQ Christian person view this? I have devoted gay Christian friends who have been in longstanding relationships as families for over 10 years.
Is this something that needs to be worked out individually, or as a couple, in the sight of God?
I am so glad to hear you found my article in Sy Rogers helpful. I have had a lot of positive feedback from it. Not everyone is happy though that I burst their bubble. We know that some Christian friends, parents and church leaders still promote Sy Rogers as an ‘ex-gay’ and use his tapes and videos to push their own ignorant and ill-informed agenda that homosexuality is a sin and that ‘change is possible’. Unfortunately I still receive too many emails from young gay and lesbian young people who have been told ‘If Sy can do it, you can to’. This pressure from friends, parents and church leaders often leads them into depression and thoughts of suicide when they discover they can’t change who they are and told they will only be acceptable to God as a heterosexual.
Sex and Gay Christians
Regarding sex for gay Christians, there are a variety of perspectives so it does seem that it is very individual. Although I am sure that some Christians will be very quick to tell others how they should live and that the Bible clearly tells them what to do.
Just as there are different approaches to morality within the straight world so there are within the gay world. The spectrum is complete in both worlds all the way from sex obsessed at one end to celibate the other. This is also true in the non-faith and faith worlds. Christianity does not have an exclusive licence on morality. Both religious and non-religious people know when they are crossing personal boundaries of morality.
Let’s just be clear before we start that over 90% of straight Christian couples who go to the altar these days are not virgins. A fact which seems conveniently overlooked when people often moralise about gay Christians. The way some right wing Christian leaders speak about morality I would expect them (before they agreed to perform the marriage) to ask the couple if they are both virgins and if the answer is no, then in order to be consistent and non-hypocritical, refuse to marry them. This of course is not put into practice.
If a gay or lesbian person is a Christian there is not a lot in the Bible which specifically instructs them on how to handle morality. Unless of course someone subscribes to the view that sex is only permissible within a heterosexual marriage. Considering that the concept of sexual orientation was unknown in biblical times and that the extremely patriarchal society gave little or no space for same sex relationships it is understandable that no guidelines are mentioned.
Add to this the fact that the only references to same-sex activity (not relationships) are always in the context of rape, abusive relationships, prostitution or pagan rituals the picture is pretty dark. Some subscribe to the belief that same-sex relationships such as David and Jonathan’s and Ruth and Naomi’s were not only loving but also intimate and physical. To come to conclusion yourself about this will require a great deal of reading from both sides of the fence; delving into culture and original languages to get a much clearer insight. People have made assumptions just by reading an English translation and interpreting through their own cultural understandings. This is dangerous in any situation, as context is essential to understand the meaning of what was being said to or about those people, at that time.
Side A and Side B
Back to the ‘is sex okay for the gay Christian’ topic. A model that is often referred to is the Side A and Side B model created by Bridges Across the Divide (www.bridges-across.org/) over a decade ago.
Side A believes that gay/homosexual sex is morally equal to heterosexual sex and therefore okay in a committed monogamous same-sex relationship.
Side B believes that it is okay to accept your same-sex-orientation (not reject or change it) but gay/homosexual sex is immoral and therefore the person can never act on their orientation.
Some people want to impose celibacy on gay Christians and this came up when I was invited to share my story to a group of Pentecostal ministers recently.
Jesus said something pretty interesting about this. Matthew 19: 11 and Jesus answered, This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it.12 For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so. (Good News Bible)
It appears that celibacy is a gift. No one would ever belong to a church that decided which heterosexual Christians should be celibate and those allowed to marry; although the Catholic Church has imposed this rule on nuns and priests for centuries. Jesus said celibacy is a gift from God not a requirement of full-time Christian service. So if Jesus said it was a gift, how can straight Christians tell gay Christians they must live celibate lives? This reminds me of the arguments of Paul and Peter regarding the new Gentile believers. The Jewish converts to Christianity were trying to impose their rules on to the Gentile converts of obeying the Sabbath and also following ritual cleansing and eating practices. It is a matter of conscience isn’t it? That’s what the Apostle Paul said. Once we begin dictating how others live out their faith before God then we slip back into the law instead of grace. Anyone who knows the message of the New Testament it is that Jesus clearly came to set both Jew and Gentile free from the law so that they could live by faith and grace.
Of course currently, in the majority of churches, same-sex couples are not allowed to make a lifetime commitment of love and exclusivity to each other before God and the congregation as heterosexuals can. Was this option available we would most likely find that the same would happen as does with heterosexual relationships…..most of them work….some fail….for a variety of reasons. None of us go to hell because our marriages fail. Although some Christian legalists would have us believe this and was an edict of the Catholic Church for many years.
There is another aspect to this.
Some gay Christians believe in serial monogamy. Their morality is based on commitment, respect and mutual agreement. In other words they most likely would not have one night stands, anonymous sex etc. They would view that as being promiscuous. They reject the ethos ‘if it feels good do it’ or ‘anything goes’ espoused by some gay and lesbian non-believers and the heterosexual world. Their relationships are based on love, respect and commitment to each but also expressed in a physical way.
I would never tell a person how they should live. I have enough trouble looking after my own life. So if someone says they have chosen to be side B then I have to respect that. It’s their life not mine. I do however wonder what their decision is based on.
Three questions for Side B’ers.
Is their decision based on left over traces of internalised homophobia and the years of messages they have heard that homosexuality is a sin or abomination. Are these thoughts and beliefs still plaguing their conscience?
Is their decision based on a lack of understanding about sexual orientation? The sexual part of our human nature is God given isn’t it? Was this part of our human makeup only given for procreation? If people are bible believing Christians then it “should be remembered that in Genesis God not only said “go forth and multiply” He also said “it is not good for man to be alone”. It is through our sexuality we experience so many wonderful things of human experience such as love, intimacy, affection and life partnership; gay or straight.
Is their decision based on previous sexual experiences which may have only been negative? We do know sex can be abusive, addictive, destructive or it can be the most profound, intimate and spiritual experience two people can have as human beings. It is not unusual for people who hate, deny or suppress their homosexuality to experience unhealthy behaviours, addictions or obsessions. If you have only experienced abusive, addictive, destructive or meaningless sex then it would be difficult to comprehend the other. I know I did for nearly four decades of my life. And interesting to note that the addictions and obsessions often disappear when a person accepts their orientation and comes out of the darkness and secrecy of the closet.
The Side B person who believes that gay/homosexual sex is immoral and therefore the person can never act on their orientation has to totally shut down the emotional, psychological and physical side of their God given nature.
My question would be:
So you have decided to accept your same-sex-orientation. That's great. But you have also decided you must never act on it. So what happens when you experience an overwhelming pure, sacred love for another individual and would like to spend the rest of your life with that person to the exclusion of all others? That doesn’t sound immoral to me any more than two straight people doing the same.
The big thing for some straight people to get their heads around is that for many gay and lesbian people it was and never is about who I have sex with…..it’s about who I love. My orientation is far more profound that who I have sex with and to reduce it down completely to or describe it only in terms of a sexual act is ill-informed and offensive.
Or as Boy George put so well…."There is the illusion that homosexuals only have sex and heterosexuals fall in love.”
Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom 2 b[e], Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and this year was one of four finalists for the ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International ( www.gayambassador.com )