Note: On the coattails of “A Teen’s Brave Response to ‘I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay,’” PolicyMic asked me to write an article on the topic, “Is it possible to be Christian and gay?” I am happy to do so. I just request that before commenting, you read I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay, the follow-up (Brave Response), and the below article. At least, I request that you read the below article in its entirety and really attempt to understand the message.
Is it possible to be a practicing Christian and gay at the same time?
Probably the most controversial issue facing Christianity today is its stance on homosexuality. The media (and some nominal “Christians”) have pitted Christianity against homosexuality, and unfortunately, most believe that the two are completely irreconcilable, closing an entire group of people off from the most spiritually liberating gift they could ever receive.
Jesus’ message was one of radical love and acceptance, and we are called to be more like Him each day, so first I would like to clarify exactly what Jesus’ message was, and what exactly the gospel is. After that, I will address the question at hand.
The people who are most hostile towards homosexuals are self-righteous and condescending religious people. If you actually open up the Gospels and read them, you will see that Jesus not only hated this self-righteousness, but he had a very strong message for “religious people” that stands today. He routinely told the moralistic, self-righteous religious people of first century Israel, the Pharisees, that they were very far from God, that prostitutes would enter the kingdom of heaven before them, and that they didn’t even know God because they belonged to their father, the devil (next time you are in a conversation with a condescending religious person, try that one on them).
Any time there was a morally upright religious person and a social, sexual, or moral outcast during Jesus’ three-year ministry, Jesus took the side of the outcast. Jesus’ message was NOT “the moral are in, and the immoral are out.” His message was, “the humble are in, and the proud are out.” While he preached the existence of eternity, heaven, and hell, Jesus’ message was one of radical acceptance and love of our neighbors. He did not force his teachings down people’s throats; rather, He spoke in parables. He enraged the religious people of his day with his message so much that ultimately, they killed him. At the hands of the people Jesus came to save, he suffered a humiliating death, being mocked and jeered at, as people challenged him to come down from the cross if he was really the Son of God as he claimed.
Ultimately, the message of Christianity, the gospel, is this:
You and I (and everyone) are so spiritually lost, so ungodly, so much worse than we can imagine, that it took nothing less than the death of the Son of God to save us, to pay the debt we owe our Creator for our ungodliness. However, because He suffered and died gladly, each of us is more loved than we could ever dare hope to be loved on this earth, despite our infinite brokenness.
Read that again. If you truly understand the gospel, it will offend you in some way. It will also completely liberate you from the bondage of this world when it finally sinks into your heart. Christianity is not a religion; rather, it is good news. That’s what “gospel” means: good news.
Now, onto the topic at hand: Can a person live a sincere Christian life as a homosexual? This is a very tough question. No matter how you answer it, someone will take issue with what you say. For illustrative purposes, let’s take something else that Christianity is at odds with: racism. The reason Christianity is against racism is because a person’s race is sacred. It cannot be violated. Likewise, the reason Christianity is at odds with homosexuality (read: homosexuality, not homosexuals) is because human sexuality is sacred; neither can it be violated. How can we make sacred one of these and desacralize the other?
Sex is a sacred gift from God. Christians cannot justify an aberration from it any more than they can justify a man’s proclivity to go beyond his marital boundaries. Anyone who is an able-bodied man will tell you that temptation stalks him every day. Does the proclivity to commit adultery mean he doesn’t love his wife, is a bad person, or is going to hell? Of course not. But having a proclivity does not justify expressing that proclivity. That goes across the board for all sexuality.
When God created man, he said, “It is not good for a man to live alone” (Genesis 2:18). Therefore, God created the mystique, majesty, charm and complementary nature of womankind in a way that made it possible for her to meet a man’s needs. Likewise, a man complements a woman and meets her needs in a way that only a man is able to. That sacred commitment and complementariness is a design by God. In other words, according to the Bible, God intended sexuality to operate in a very specific way: within the confines of marriage, between a man and a woman. That is why most homosexuals have such a hard time accepting Christianity.
That said, whether you are gay or straight, do not let your sexual proclivities destroy your objectivity. If you decide to examine the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and recognize that there are only three options about His existence, that He was either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord of the Universe come into the flesh, be aware of the fact that we all have a very large incentive not to believe Christianity is true because we have to change our lives if it is. And remember this is true of every single person, heterosexuals included. Everyone has a huge incentive not to believe it because it has massive implications for our lives if it is true. If Jesus was not who He claimed to be, who cares what the rest of the Bible says? However, if it is true, the entirety of the Old Testament is true because Jesus affirmed it.
Wrapping up, no one could say it would be easy to be attracted to members of the same sex and be a practicing Christian at the same time. In fact, it would be monumentally difficult. However, many gay men and women have come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and thus believe that God does not want them to use their sexuality in that way. When you accept Christ, your very hungers and desires change. Speaking from my own experience, my own sexuality radically changed when I met the real Jesus. It changed my life forever. Moreover, history is replete with examples of people attracted to the same sex who never acted on their impulses because their love for Christ was so great. Two quick examples:
Henri Nouwen was a professor of Psychology at Harvard. He went to St. Petersburg in Russia and saw Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son. He sat in front of it for three hours and it changed his life. He resigned from his position at Harvard and went to work with the mentally handicapped in Toronto. He disclosed in his autobiography that he was gay, but never fulfilled it for the sake of Christ. Many others have done the same. To the one who has that disposition, it is more difficult than a heterosexual person can ever imagine, but sometimes we renounce our dispositions for the sake of Christ and just trust.
A second example is also a Harvard man. Peter Gomes was a minister at Harvard’s Memorial Church and a professor at Harvard for 37 years. He was African-American, and openly gay. He wrote often about how the current gay rights movement is very similar to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He frequently defended gay groups on Harvard’s campus against bigotry and discrimination, oftentimes against nominal Christians. Gomes, although openly gay, remained celibate for his entire life, passing away in early 2011.
What does it take to be Christian? Belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, that God has raised Him from the dead. Believe this in your heart, and you are a believer. In order to be a believer, one can certainly be of a homosexual disposition. However, if one intends to move up in responsibility in the church, and perhaps be a teacher and dispenser of Truth, one would have to raise questions as to whether one could continue his or her sexual relationships.
The bottom line is that regardless of whether we disagree with someone, we are called to love and accept them, as Christ loved and accepted us, despite how much he disagreed with how we live our lives.