On being a gay Christian

A few days ago, the Ask Papabear column featured a letter from an individual with some very good questions, but I didn’t feel he got the best answer he could have. So the following is my attempt to add to the initial answer and correct a few errors in Papabear’s response.

 

Wolfthorne,

I saw your email to Papabear, and you ask some really good questions. I understand the tension between what the scriptures say about this topic, and what your body says and also what our culture today says.

But sadly, Papabear did not provide the best advice and I’d like to offer an alternative answer that better answers your questions.

If you don’t mind, you say you are an apostate. Why is it you have walked away from the faith? Is it because you do not like what you believe it says about your orientation, or is it some other reason? Have you been able to objectively falsify it, or do you believe it to say things about you that you do not like? I realize this is a very personal question, but it’s an important one to know the answer to.

To be clear, I am answering your question from the perspective of a “walking talking duck” Christian. Like your mother, I am very committed to the faith and fervently believe it to be true, and proclaim it as such. I do not keep my faith to myself but am very public about it. You’d also consider me a very theologically conservative type.

And I will tell you the Bible does not say you have to give up “being gay” in order to be a Christian. It simply is not there. What is there, and this is where a few too many people are turned away, is that it does set certain standards of behavior and considers all sexual activity outside the marriage covenant to be wrong. When you strip away all the details, that is what you have left. By all means make of that what you will.

The Bible does not say whether or not “being gay” is a choice. That’s irrelevant from the perspective of Scripture. It has nothing positive or negative to say about being emotionally or romantically attracted to people of the same sex as you. (I would dare to say the authors weren’t quite aware that was a thing.) It does not say this attraction is a choice or something you are born with. What it does say is that you are not to have sex with anyone who is not your marriage partner. And I trust you’ll agree that whether or not you engage in sexual intercourse is a choice you make.

As someone in a similar situation to you, I recognize there is more to life than sex (something I agree with Papabear on) and pursuing sex is not something I want to do. I recommend you pursue a deep, intimate friendship with someone whom you trust, and leave sex out of the equation altogether.

There’s something Papabear touched on but got wrong about that. He’s right that way back when, adelphopoiesis was a thing. But it was not, as he claims and as Boswell claims, an endorsement of a gay relationship with sex expected. Boswell has been rather thoroughly refuted when it comes to this (1). Adelphopoiesis was a formal recognition of kinship, and it had nothing to do with sex. For that matter, quite often the two parties were already married–to women–and might even have had children. For a scriptural example of two men who would have been united in this way, had the ritual been around at the time, look to David and Jonathan. They were very dear friends, they viewed each other as brothers, but they were not lovers.

Papabear also doesn’t seem to know how we got the Bible. It was not edited by committee, and no groups of humans sat down and decided what books were in and what books were out. Development of the canon was a process that did indeed take centuries, but it was a matter of tradition and consensus. For the New Testament it was like this. There were certain books that everyone agreed on right away (the four gospels), some books that were less certain (Hebrews, 2 Peter, Revelation), some books that not everyone agreed was scripture (Shepherd of Hermas), and some books that everyone except the fringe groups who wrote them recognized as fake (all the various gnostic gospels and books). The Old Testament followed a similar path. Over the centuries you had the books everyone recognized (the Torah) and the other books which some accepted and some didn’t. In both instances, after consensus was reached, they held councils acknowledging that they’d reached this consensus. There was no formal decree of what belonged and what didn’t.

There is some disagreement today on what books belong in the Old Testament, and the rejection of apocryphal books is something the Protestant churches get wrong, but it is incorrect to say there are multiple versions of the Bible. By and large, everyone is using the same source documents to translate the Bible from. (It wasn’t a game of telephone or translations of translations. We have accumulated enough manuscripts by now to trace the history of any changes that took place, and we know what the original documents said with a very high degree of certainty.)

In conclusion, Papabear does have some good points, but what he says is incomplete, especially from a Christian perspective, which is your background. You do need to tread carefully, but there is a wholesome, fulfilling answer to your question to be found in friendship. I think you will find all you are seeking in a relationship there.

  1. Why Boswell is wrong. http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?print=1&did=1294-viscuso

Edit: Fixed the link at the top so you can actually see it exists.

8 thoughts on “On being a gay Christian

  1. Whatever we choose to believe about non-gender-binary folks, I lament that deep, platonic friendships, agape friendships, seem to be more difficult thanks to the way our culture is handling the situation. It was hard enough for guys to cultivate that kind of brotherly relationship without the extra dimension of sexuality as another avenue for selfish thoughts and suspicions to creep in.

    • Yes, it is unfortunate that the culture we live in has crippled friendships in this matter. It need not be this way. What do you think might happen if people began to recognize this cultural foolishness for what it is and refused to play along?

      • I think it would affect every aspect of our society from divorce rates, to growing wage gaps, to the quality of customer service.

        As to the LGBT movement? I have nothing concrete. The issue is complex, but I have to wonder… would some of these guys/girls feel the need to place their identity in an community based on sexual preferences if they felt accepted and embraced by more of their same-gender peers? Or for that matter, by their parents? I think it’s a possibility.

  2. Hi, Levi, it’s Papabear (Grubbs). It’s very nice to see a letter like yours. In my column, I’d like to make a few things clear…. First, I want to be clear that I know many Christians who do not judge gay people badly. Next, I never said that the Bible said being gay was a choice; it does say, however, that sex with the same gender is wrong. Christ, however, never says anything about gay people in the NT. About your reply, if I am correct you’re saying that it is okay to be gay as long as you don’t have sex. While I noted, and you agreed, that sex is not the only thing in life, it is a pretty important part of a healthy relationship, including gay relationships. To have a relationship with someone you love, yet be forbidden to express that love physically, is a sentence to an unhappy life.

    Concerning what I said about the Bible. There were, in fact, meetings about the content of the Bible, including the Council of Trent. Also, it is a fact there are many versions of the Bible. The Eastern Orthodox Bible, for example, contains books not in the KJV. The Protestant Bible differs from the Bible the Roman Catholics use. Also, there are many many many English translations of the Protestant Bible. You might think that the fact that they just differ in language is insignificant, but, actually, it makes a lot of difference how you translate a text originally in Greek into formal or colloquial English, and this can lead to a number of interpretations of the Bible.

    While Boswell’s conclusions are, indeed, debated, it doesn’t mean they are wrong. It means they are debated.

    The above is not meant to be criticism, so please don’t take it as such. I am grateful that there are Christians like you who judge the LGBT community with a good dose of love in your heart.

    • Hi, Levi, it’s Papabear (Grubbs). It’s very nice to see a letter like yours. In my column, I’d like to make a few things clear…. First, I want to be clear that I know many Christians who do not judge gay people badly. Next, I never said that the Bible said being gay was a choice; it does say, however, that sex with the same gender is wrong. Christ, however, never says anything about gay people in the NT. About your reply, if I am correct you’re saying that it is okay to be gay as long as you don’t have sex. While I noted, and you agreed, that sex is not the only thing in life, it is a pretty important part of a healthy relationship, including gay relationships. To have a relationship with someone you love, yet be forbidden to express that love physically, is a sentence to an unhappy life.

      Why assume it’s a sentence to an unhappy life? I will repeat what I said before. There is more to life than sex, and more ways to find fulfillment than sex.

      Concerning what I said about the Bible. There were, in fact, meetings about the content of the Bible, including the Council of Trent. Also, it is a fact there are many versions of the Bible. The Eastern Orthodox Bible, for example, contains books not in the KJV. The Protestant Bible differs from the Bible the Roman Catholics use. Also, there are many many many English translations of the Protestant Bible. You might think that the fact that they just differ in language is insignificant, but, actually, it makes a lot of difference how you translate a text originally in Greek into formal or colloquial English, and this can lead to a number of interpretations of the Bible.

      As I am familiar with New Testament Greek and read several translations, I am aware of how translations may differ in tone from one another, and how some do a better job at translating the text than others. That does not, however, negate what I said in the first place. The meetings about the content of the Bible were held once a consensus had already been reached; there was no “deciding” going on in them. Certain traditions do differ in the number of books they accept (mine is closer to the Orthodox understanding), but a solid study of how the books came to be will demonstrate that this was an organic process. There’s no contradicting, no incompatibility going on.

      While Boswell’s conclusions are, indeed, debated, it doesn’t mean they are wrong. It means they are debated.

      No, he is wrong. It’s pretty simple. He’s been refuted rather adequately. Would you like to show how he is right?

  3. Dear, Levi. It is Wolfthorne.

    Sorry it has taken me this long to reply, but I would like to give you my honest answer.

    Lets just say that there was a time where my religion (non-denominational) demands a lot. A walking talking duck is a phrase I use because she doesn’t just say that she’s a Christian, she actually and continuously DOES something with it (i.e. inviting people to church, reading the bible everyday, hanging out with friends, studying the bible with other people). Its not just something you claim, its something you have to do. Rather, the religion that I grew up in. You have to walk the walk, in order to talk the talk, right? That’s what Jesus’s disciples did, they didn’t just hang around and went about life, they devoted themselves to it, before and after Jesus’s death.

    For the record, I’ve met some atheist people who are anti-gay, and they don’t have a shred of anything to back that up with, then other than the fact that they’re just uncomfortable with it.

    I felt like things were not going in the right direction, if not because I decided to pursue it for the wrong reasons, and had also done a lot of things that didn’t make the most sense to me. And because of how much my religion was costing me, as well as time consuming it became, I ended up leaving my church. That and part of my nomadic lifestyle, which I unfortunately had to endure, because there was never a time where I felt like my Mom could sit down and just relax. I got angry, I got miserable, and ever since leaving the church, I hate to break it to you but I’ve never felt so happy.

    I am not an atheist, far from it. Just an apostate. While I do believe that there is some form of a higher power, god(s)/deities, etc. I just cannot be comfortable with myself in regards to both what my religion at the time believed in, and me being gay just makes the whole thing worse. And, honestly, I am just one person. I really don’t think it is worth fighting for. Anyone can pick apart just the tiniest little scripture in any version of the bible, and basically interpret however they want and you’ll end up getting multiple, numerous answers of one piece, and no one will agree which one is true and which one is false. And this scripture I must say, is proof enough:

    “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24

    While the scripture mentions “money”, the bible is really talking about everything that is considered, unfruitful, shall we say? Basically anything in the bible that is considered a “sin”, and while some people say that homosexuality is a sin and some don’t believe that. If I’m going to go to a church, where people are going to threaten, belittle, and act like a bigot towards me, then why bother go to any church at all? And while there are Christians that don’t care what your preferences are, and laws are changing to help that, it still doesn’t change the fact that there will always be people who are against it and no matter how many times you can try to convince them, some will be unwilling to relent. And while you can remain closeted however long you want, secrets will leak out. So its not worth it.

    Regarding the Old Testament versus the New Testament. The reason as to why the Old Testament had such outrageous laws: i.e. no clothing of two cloths, no eating shellfish, no tattoos, etc. was mostly because that the Israelites in the Old Testament were prone to sin a great deal more, so strict laws were placed, and anyone would’ve faced God’s wrath if such laws were broken.

    In the New Testament however, much was changed. It never mentioned anything regarding clothes, heck, Jesus said to not worry about what we wear, it didn’t mention eating crustaceans as a bad thing, if anything God said to not call something that he made clean, unclean. Tattoos were not mentioned so, it never said you COULDN’T get a tattoo, but you did have to treat your body like a temple. There’s a ton.

    All I can say is, religion hasn’t been too kind on me and my family. All of my family members in my immediate family and I do mean ALL of them, including myself, have scattered like pieces to live out our lives. And I am living out mine quite happy and contented. I am making smart decisions on how to be the best person I can be and make the right choices, despite also having a few drawbacks.

    I am in no way the brightest person in the world, but renouncing my religion while it was a bit sad, has given me kind of a contented outlook on things.

    Thank you for your reply.

    Stay furry,

    Wolfthorne.

    • Wolfthorne,

      Thank you for taking the time to reply, and I am sorry it has taken me nearly two months to respond to you in turn. It is inexcusable and I will not try to offer an excuse.

      Your reply is heartbreaking, to be honest with you. I am very sorry to hear that Christians have been unkind to you. That is not right of them, and they are violating the command to be loving. As such, they are bad examples.

      Yet I wonder why you would be willing to take these bad examples and extrapolate them. You even admit that there are other Christians who would not judge you in this manner, yet you want to continue to do what you’re doing or give up on the whole Christianity thing altogether because some people might disapprove.

      I would tell you not to attend a church that is going to threaten you, belittle you, and act in a bigoted manner toward you. I agree, that environment would not be worth it and would do more harm than good. But at the same time, I will not tell you to attend a congregation that tells you everything you are doing is fine, nothing to worry about, keep doing what you’re doing. Such a congregation is more interested in feelings than sound teaching.

      I would tell you to go to a church that challenged you, that might not approve of you but was polite and welcoming to the extend they could be. Your presence would challenge their viewpoint as well as yours, which is best for all involved.

      I must argue with your claim that the restrictions in the Old Testament were because the Israelites were prone to sin more. That is arrogance to the highest degree, and more than a little racist. The restrictions were there to make them different from the rest of the societies around them. They were to serve as a different example. (And they’re actually rather progressive for the era.)

      And while I am disappointed to hear of your decision, I wish you well on your journey.

      • Levi.

        Sorry for my derogatory statement regarding Israelites, I did not know that it would be considered offensive or rude.

        Anyways.

        I honestly do not know what else to do. I don’t have the courage to literally go church hopping, nor do I have the courage to participate in an LGBT church. I am sorry that you’re disappointed. But… I don’t know what else I can do. I went through major programming believing homosexuality is a sin. And… it doesn’t t look like I can get a better picture out of it.

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