Frankly Yet Tenderly

I admit I understand completely the biblical perspective suggesting that homosexual sex is deemed sinful. I was, after all, raised within the theological confines of this position; I, thusly, know it like I know the back of my hand. So I also understand, in light of this position, an insistence within conservative evangelical churches that their LGBTQ brothers and sisters, who are trusting in Christ, are to remain single and celibate. Allow me to be frank yet tender: You all typically are doing a horrible job at truly befriending these LGBTQ brothers and sisters; and, yet, I believe that many of you long to do so but, perhaps, are uncertain as to how to do so.

Befriending these individuals requires more than asking them out to bowling once a month. After all, you are requiring them to remain single and celibate, and, hence, they will have much more time on their hands at doing nothing within their singleness. You, likely, have a wife or husband and, perhaps, children. Your time is reserved strictly for work and family. The single and celibate LGBTQ believer has a job but nothing else to keep his or her mind busy and active and fulfilled. Bowling one night a month, as a means at fellowship and true companionship, is tragic. These people need friends, real friends, friends with whom they can talk to daily and spend time with eating, or shopping, or going to the movies (etc.).

But I feel obligated to convey to you these truths, as well: their same-sex attraction will most likely never change. Accompanying that reality the individual may always sense the basic need for affection, romance, and same-gendered sexual intimacy. Friendship cannot replace emotional and physical-sexual intimacy. There remains, therefore, the possibility that all the close friendship that one can maintain will never help diminish the longing for him or her to desire a life-long committed relationship.

If I am to continue to be frank, I confess that I never imagined in a million years that I would become LGBTQ-affirming, and actually begin a life-long committed relationship with a guy. If anyone had told me five years ago that, by June 2017 I will be pro-LGBTQ and pro-same-gendered relationships, I would have thought the individual to be clinically insane. But life is a journey. I am also far from being alone on my journey.

John Smid was Executive Director for Love in Action, an "ex-gay" organization, the oldest "ex-gay" organization established from the now-defunct "ex-gay" Exodus International. (I do not believe in "ex-gay" methods, "ex-gay" ideology nor the intent of "ex-gay" advocates, and that is why I use scare quotes for the misnomer.) John divorced his first wife, according to author Jeff Chu, and then "came out, then 'left' homosexuality and remarried after becoming a conservative Christian."1 Chu chronicles John's journey out of the troubled Love in Action organization and into direct encounters with LGBTQ believers.

John, early in that newfound context, quips: "The idea of two men having sex with each other is something that, in many men's minds, is so repugnant. So it's easy for them to embrace an interpretation of Scripture that says all homosexuality is wrong."2 He wondered if the traditionalist view was correct. In this book, published in 2013, John Smid admits that he has been married to his (second) wife for 22 years and, yet, has not experienced any diminishment in his same-sex attraction. He adds:
I have a good marriage. My wife and I have a great love and mutual respect for each other. But there are certain complications because of what we experience in terms of a mixed-orientation marriage. People don't want to admit that their marriage isn't everything it should be. They fear that if they explore this [all of the respective complications in being married], it will nullify their marriage, but it doesn't. My wife is really walking alongside me. And I am so grateful for that.3
My mom asked me: But don't you respect him for "trying to do with right thing"? My answer is, frankly, no. Yet, tenderly, I understand that, within his conservative evangelical context, both ideologically and theologically, I know why he attempted to make his second marriage work.


Attempted? Yes, since in November 2014 he married his same-gendered partner, Larry McQueen. Why I do not respect gay men or gay women marrying a straight counterpart has more to do with the heterosexual counterpart. Again, I understand the struggle, but perhaps I understand it all too well. I understand bisexual married men who confess to me that, though they love their wives dearly, there is an ache within them to be physically-sexually intimate with a man. But at least the bisexual men are attracted to women. If they can control their same-sex urges, and merely focus on their attraction to women, they could at least feel fulfilled in their marriage. (I am told that this is not as easy as was typing those words.) But gay people who are not even attracted to the opposite sex, when they feel obligated to wed, will experience multiple complications.

My response to my mother was as follows: How would you feel if dad was not attracted to you (or only somewhat attracted to you) physically, and sexually, but desired other men?4 Would you, then, respect him for "trying to do the right thing"? If you pitied him, and utterly loved him, I suppose that you would try your best to help him in his marriage to you. No doubt you would pray your little heart out for God to change him -- to make him straight and, hopefully, attracted to you physically and sexually.

But, oh, that nagging doubt! Oh, that heartbreaking insecurity, and the feelings of not being attractive. Frankly, yet tenderly, read my heart: genuine ex-gay orientation is a farce for the majority of same-sex attracted individuals. I do not find noble the marrying of a same-sex attracted individual to a heterosexual with only one exception: if the homosexual individual is genuinely in love with the heterosexual, as well as genuinely physically-sexually attracted to the same, then I find that noble. Otherwise, allow the heterosexual person to wed a genuine heterosexual, and remain single and celibate, should your theology and conscience dictate such; or faithfully commit yourself, before God in Christ, to a member of your gender. Those are my thoughts on the matter.

__________

1 Jeff Chu, Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America (New York: Harper, 2013), 127.

2 Ibid., 130.

3 Ibid., 131.

4 This footnote probably belongs in the post itself. I know for a fact that some gay men who are married to heterosexual women cheat on their wives by having anonymous sex with other men. This, I think, is heartbreaking on many levels. If only their wives (and others) knew then I wonder if so many would ask the question my mother asked: Don't you respect him for "tying to do with right thing"? My answer remains no.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.