An Update on the Gay Debate: evolving ideas, untidy stories, and hopes for the church

I was a senior in high school the first time I shared my story on a stage. The ex-gay ministry I had been attending for 8 months asked if I would be willing to share about the Lord’s work in my life, and I was honored. That was the beginning of what has now turned into twelve years of speaking publicly about some version of being gay and Christian. There were several motivating factors for me entering into the public conversation back in the day: one was that I wanted to be accepted by my community—I wanted to be the good kind of gay. The other reason was that I wanted to do right by the gay youth silently suffering in the pews. I wanted them to know Jesus loved them and they didn’t have to go it alone.

Twelve years later, I care a little less about approval and a lot more about the gaybies. Because I care about the gaybies and it’s right to keep it real even if it comes at a cost, it seems like a good time to share some of the ways my thinking on how to best love and support sexual minorities has evolved through the years. I’ve been troubled by the way human stories are often used to further one agenda or another in the culture war, and honest, nuanced, untidy stories seems like one way to avoid that happening (quite as much).

Though I’ve been slow to admit it to myself, I’ve quietly supported same-sex relationships for a while now. When friends have chosen to lay their lives down for their partners, I’ve celebrated their commitment to one another and supported them as they’ve lost so many Christian friends they loved. When young people have angsted at me about the gay debate, I’ve just told them to follow Jesus—to seek to honor Him with their sexuality and love others well. For some, I imagine they will feel led to commit to lifelong celibacy. For others, I think it will mean laying their lives down for spouses and staying true to that promise to the end. My main hope for all of them is that they would grow to love Jesus more and that it would overflow into a life spent on others.

While I struggle to understand how to apply Scripture to the marriage debate today (just like we all struggle to know how to interpret Scripture on countless controversial topics), I’ve become increasingly troubled by the unintended consequences of messages that insist all LGBT people commit to lifelong celibacy. No matter how graciously it’s framed, that message tends to contribute to feelings of shame and alienation for gay Christians. It leaves folks feeling like love and acceptance are contingent upon them not-gay-marrying and not-falling-in-gay-love. When that’s the case—when communion is contingent upon gays holding very narrow beliefs and making extraordinary sacrifices to live up to a standard that demands everything from an individual with little help from the community—it’s hard to believe our bodies might be an occasion for joy. It’s hard to believe we’re actually wanted in our churches. It’s hard to believe the God who loves us actually likes us.

I don’t think this happens because anyone hates gay people. Most of the Christians I know love gay people­. They simply underestimate the burden of feeling marginalized, scrutinized, unwanted and relationally toxic because one of the best things about us—the way we give our love away—is seen as sinful. It’s easy for straight Christians to underestimate how exhausting it is to simply exist in communities that feel uncomfortable with gays: we’re constantly wondering if we should tell the truth when asked that question, or sleep on the floor when there’s room in the bed, or cut that hug short, or voice that question, or publish that post, or write that tweet, or curb that mannerism, or run from that friendship, or shut down those feelings or leave the church altogether. Those fears subside around friends who simply delight in who we are as whole human beings made in the image of God.

We’re made for long-term, committed relationships that bind us to one another and cost us something. Relationships are where we realize how selfish we are and begin to delight in setting our wills aside to nourish another. They’re where we grow in tenderness, having received grace in our ugliest and most embarrassing moments. They’re where we energize one another with a love that overflows into hospitality as we welcome our neighbors into our homes.

Some might find that in friendship, which is wonderful. But most will find it in a spouse because that’s the context we have for making such serious commitments and staying true to them once life happens. When we make those kinds of promises to one another, we need a community to surround us to support us for the long haul. Communities with a traditional sexual ethic have, more often than not, dismissed sexual minorities the moment they moved in this direction. Rather than working out what it would look like for them to stay connected to the church and process all the questions in community, they’ve forced gays to go it alone.

Moreover, that kind of treatment isn’t just reserved for those in relationships. The fire I’ve come under (publicly and privately) as I’ve sought to live into the traditional ethic causes me to question whether this is about genuinely held beliefs or straight up homophobia. I say this with nothing but sadness: the kind of discrimination my friends and I have experienced as celibate gays makes me lean toward the latter.

Because many Christians assume that those who support same-sex relationships do so out of a desire to satiate their appetites rather than sincere Christian convictions, I feel the need to say that I’m not dating anyone (though I’ll add that our public obsession with total strangers’ sex lives does strike me as strange). I’m as single as ever and have remained celibate throughout my twenties. The Side B dream is one I truly believe in: it’s my lifelong goal to persuade people to make cross-country moves for friends, establish relationships across generations, share homes with married couples, and grow old with friends regardless. But it feels important for me to push for those kinds of changes as someone who also supports people in same-sex relationships so that friendship is promoted as a good in itself rather than a quick fix for the gay problem.

My goal now is the same as it’s always been: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the God who’s been my first love all along. When it comes to this conversation, my goal has been to help Christians create the kinds of communities that make LGBT people feel wanted—where we can worship God, use our gifts, serve our neighbors, and find a family to share in the joys and sorrows of living in a world where so many people are so lonely. That looks a little different to me now that I’ve seen so much fruit in affirming communities, but it’s a widening of my circle—not a move in a different direction.

If it turns out that I’m wrong, I trust God will be faithful to catch me. For now, though, I hope those of you who disagree will continue to welcome my friendship and serve alongside me. It’s not too late to call it quits on all the fighting. We could choose instead to focus on all we share in common and seek to mend what’s been broken in this fragile world.

Advertisements

178 thoughts on “An Update on the Gay Debate: evolving ideas, untidy stories, and hopes for the church

  1. You’ve brought complete integrity to this conversation since the first word I read from you. I am grateful for your witness and for your continued honesty.

    Reply
  2. Goodness, Julie, you never cease to amaze me with your insight and graciousness in expressing what is always a challenging word. You remain a voice that is very helpful in my becoming all that God desires. Thank you for the way you challenge the Church, and specifically me!

    Reply
  3. I have been having my own struggle with “acceptance” and coming out. I consider myself a gay Christian. That is often a hard concept to grasp and one I am still trying to get comfortable with. I started an anonymous blog to talk about my story and my struggle. If anyone is looking for support I hope you know you’re not alone. I can certainly use all the support I can get.

    inandoutlifesjourney.blogspot.com

    Reply
  4. This doesn’t add up for me and there’s no homophobia in my life or heart. We regularly have a group of young adults in our home for a ‘Let’s just look at Jesus’ Bible study. Several singles, including non-Christian gays who are welcomed and cherished members of the ‘tribe’. Our churches are so nuclear-family focused… ALL singles can feel marginalized, and all alike can struggle with the ways that following Jesus requires them to follow him in single celibate life, still committing to deep and loving friendships, laying down their lives for those to whom he’s called them. Not sure this justifies departing from clear biblical sexual standards… which aren’t really grey areas for serious disciples or students of the Scriptures.

    Reply
    • Hi Marcia. I’d me the claim that the statement that there are no grey areas for serious disciples is simply incorrect. And that’s not my opinion. That’s a fact. The Bible is thousands of years old and was written into a culture you are not a part of in a language that you (I assume) don’t speak. I’m not saying this to be mean, but I do feel the need to voice my position. Fair enough if you think the grey area is small or that there is (in your eyes) only one truly plausible interpretation, but claiming that there are no grey areas when it comes to sexual standards seems a bit extreme.

      Reply
      • I would agree. It poses the question: Is the Bible meant to be a rule book or should it be taken holistically as an evolving love story between God and humanity that gives us a taste of how we should love others? Instead of parsing laws out of passages that aren’t even legal code (while ignoring others) or, should we consider holistically as a testament to the Word – Jesus.

        Some Christians (and I don’t mean Julie at all) seem to desperately wish Christianity had its own version of Shari’a or Mosaic law revealed from God that definitively says what is okay and what isn’t. They often talk about God’s law as if Christ died to replace Mosaic law with something else. Others realize that the charge of loving others as Christ loved us and the responsible freedom Paul describes is even more demanding that obedience to an inflexible set of rules because it contains grey areas that make us think and take risks.

        It’s been a real blessing to watch more and more Christians put legalism behind and risk seeing the fruits of the Spirit in the lives of others.

      • Is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” a rule or an evolving story? Why is the greatest commandment exempt from the charge of legalism?

    • I was tracking with you fairly well except for your final sentence, which comes off as quite self-righteous. There are quite a few ‘serious disciples or students of the Scriptures’ who take a different view; in fact, many who study the Scriptures diligently and faithfully for years are the ones who begin to gray where they used to see things in black and white.

      Reply
  5. From the first time I was introduced to your story, I have been challenged by your transparency. As I’ve stumbled through my own journey as a gay Christian, I’ve craved congruence(honesty, really) and been encouraged by your expressions of it. Thank you so much for your continued transparency. And thank you for using your words to point to Jesus. As someone currently worn out from the search to find a church community where I can fit and serve and share true friendship, your shared dreams mean so much. Thankyou.

    Reply
  6. Thank you for bringing such honest and gentle words into this conversation. I have experienced the same thing; often people (probably not consciously) play the gays against each other and use the “good” gays as examples to show how wrong the “bad” gays are, not knowing that the overarching homophobia hurts all gays, the “good”, the “bad” and the ones in between. It does make you feel as if God’s love is conditional on you behaving the right way, which it surely isn’t. This is one of the main reasons, why “side b” doesn’t seem to work for me.

    Reply
  7. I have to be honest: I’m hoping that the verses against homosexuality will one day go the way of the same verses that were used to justify slavery. I hope one day the church realizes they translated those verses with an agenda rather than an unbiased search for truth. It’s certainly happened many times throughout history, from the treatment of women to the position of the earth in the universe. Knowing that makes it difficult for me to trust the accuracy of the translation of “clobber verses.”

    Reply
    • How exactly should the verses regarding homosexuality be translated? How else should we translate Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10? What retranslations happened in response to the “treatment of women” and the “position of the earth in the universe.”

      Reply
      • Um, we acknowledge that the earth isn’t the center of the universe, which the Catholic church finally apologized to Galileo for. We don’t sell women to their spouses anymore. Are you being serious with this response?

      • Romans 1:26-27 is part of a paraphrase of Wisdom 14:12-29 Paul is retelling in order to critique in Romans 2. The original passage and Paul’s paraphrase deals with those who chose to worship and serve idols, whom Paul describes in detail v. 23, being punished by God (“God gave them over”) by acting against their nature (para physin) and burning in lust and committing degrading acts. That’s a long way from what LGBT couples experience together. And again, the passage is a wind-up to the critique in Romans 2 (“Therefore you have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things…”) The whole point of the passage is that we should stop judging others because we’re no better.

        1 Corinthians 6:9 forms the first part of sin list Paul uses to finish out a section on selfishness as evidenced by lawsuits between believers. The behaviours in the sin list are all selfish and exploitative of others in nature: fornicators, adulterers, the greedy, drunkards, revilers and swindlers as well as idolaters. This kind selfishness goes flatly against what Christ spoke of when talking about the Kingdom of God in the Gospels (“But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you…”) The two Greek words “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” have been translated as “homosexual” and “homosexual offender” in English-language Bibles, but that doesn’t take into account the cultural context of Corinth. This is 1st Century Greece where men had sex with boys, not other men (because a man putting himself in the passive “women’s” role was unacceptable in Greek society where women were considered inferior to men.) Philo of Alexandria in1st Century AD said that Paul is describing a form of temple prostitution. Martin Luther’s Bible (1522) translates “arsenokoitai” as Knabenschänder or “child molester”. The NRSV uses the term “catamite” which is a boy temple prostitute and “sodomite”, which in this context, is a rapist. 1 Timothy 1:10 also uses the same word “arsenokoitai” which again in the Greek context is a pederastic relationship. Temple prostitution and pederasty fit into the larger rhetorical point Paul is making about selfish behaviour. But the lesbian and gay couples Julie has discussed do not.

    • With all due respect, Beth, this is an unequal comparison: The church (not the Bible) said the earth was the centre of the universe; however, it is the Bible (not any church) that initially spoke out against homosexuality in both Old and New Testaments. Moreover, Jesus was clear that he did not abolish the law (the moral law, that is, distinct from ceremonial and civil laws): Matthew 5:17 (NIV), quoting Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

      Re: “Um, we acknowledge that the earth isn’t the center of the universe, which the Catholic church finally apologized to Galileo for. We don’t sell women to their spouses anymore. Are you being serious with this response?”

      Reply
      • Right, and the church is responsible for interpreting the bible. My point is that the church has been wrong about what the bible means, and it’s taken several centuries to become clear about that.

        I’m not saying the church is wrong about interpreting the verses on homosexuality, but you have to admit, there has been a pattern of the church “coming around” to affirm things right when the culture does. This happened with interracial relationships and it could happen again with other issues, which makes me ask lots of questions rather than blindly accepting anything.

      • The word homosexual wasn’t even in the bible until the 1960s. The verses you speak of are not addressing loving monogamous sand sex relationships. You are reading and interpreting with preconceived ideas.

      • Re: [[“”Liz
        July 14, 2015 at 4:45 pm

        The word homosexual wasn’t even in the bible until the 1960s. The verses you speak of are not addressing loving monogamous sand sex relationships. You are reading and interpreting with preconceived ideas.””]]

        Fair enough, but it’s not enough to say you disagree. Not sure which verse you think I’m speaking of (I didn’t say), but I’ll assume you mean these below. If the Bible does not address homosexual relationships (and/or lust, and/or sexual activity), then what do *you* think these passages refer to?

        I mean, Romans chapter 1 is pretty clear, and little ambiguity there? Same with Leviticus 18:22 ESV: “22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination”

        Rom 1:26-28 “26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

        See also: Jude 1:7 (ESV)
        7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,[a] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
        Footnotes: [a.] Jude 1:7 Greek ‘other flesh’

        PS: I admit that Sodom’s sins included arrogance and lack of love for the poor, as Ezekiel 16:49-50 clearly states, but this does not preclude or deny their sexual sins. Same with Genesis 19:1-11, in which the men wanted to “know” the angels in the same way Adam “knew” Eve, e.g., physical sexual relations.

        Even the liberal NIV frowns upon homosexual lifestyles: (not to be confused with the mere orientation: The orientation is a temptation, not a sin; see e.g., Hebrews 4:15 for a distinction here.)

        1 Timothy 1:8-10 (NIV)

        8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine

    • I admit that you’re probably very close to correct in your last comment, Beth: sadly, the church has been slow to conform with the Word (and Spirit) of God (and in some cases, it’s as you say: slow to ‘“coming around” to affirm things right when the culture does.’ — That is but one more reason for us to lean on God, not Mammon (mankind or our world system). 🙂

      Reply
      • When the majority of churches take on the views of the culture, though, it makes me wonder if the error was in translation, or if that many churches are wrong about something.

      • Re: [[“”Beth Caplin
        July 14, 2015 at 12:32 pm

        When the majority of churches take on the views of the culture, though, it makes me wonder if the error was in translation, or if that many churches are wrong about something.””]]

        To answer your question, it would be my studied opinion that the translation is VERY accurate. To be fair, even the KJV, universally-viewed by academics as VERY accurate and literal (Ye Olde English vocabulary notwithstanding), has a few typos, and, to wit, here is one typo in the KJV that I caught:

        2 Samuel 15: 7(KJV) Holy Bible:
        “7 And it came to pass after forty years,…”

        FORTY? Oh, really!? The NIV, generally-considered less literal and less reliable than the very accurate KJV, actually gets it right here:

        2 Samuel 15:7 (NIV) HolyBible:
        “7 At the end of four[a] years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the Lord.
        Footnotes:
        [a.]2 Samuel 15:7 Some Septuagint manuscripts, Syriac and Josephus; Hebrew ‘forty’

        In other words, not only do various manuscripts disagree, but (and more-importantly), King David only reigned for about forty years, so this historical account would make no sense if it were forty. Thus, the Holy Bible, as we know it, is a translation, and does have a few errors that are not in the original language. But, actually, the errors in the Bible are VERY few, and here is proof of that: my own recent research on answering 2 questions, one of which you imply:
        QUESTION #1: Is Reincarnation real??
        QUESTION #2: Is the Bible True??

        http://www.GordonWatts.com/theology/reincarnation.html

        http://www.GordonWayneWatts.com/theology/reincarnation.html

        Thus, to answer your question, I believe that the errors are generally not in the translation, but in the readers who often wrongly interpret or fail to apply The Word.

    • Hi Beth, I share that secret hope. But then I get so confused because if so, that seems to negate the sacrifice of so many before us who took up that cross.

      Reply
  8. I was pretty hard on you on Rachel Held Evan’s blog because it was hard to avoid the implicit judgment directed toward gay couples. I truly apologize if I made things harder for you and frustrated you. We are all on our journeys and I pray that where ever you end up is where the Spirit leads. Peace.

    Reply
  9. Reblogged this on Another Anomaly Among Many and commented:
    Guys, Julie Rodgers gets it. I’m thankful for her voice in the midst of a topic that is often quite polarizing, and I’m thankful for someone who is able to see that things aren’t always as black and white as they seem. Read her stuff, because she gets so real on so many things.

    Reply
  10. Thank you. I was missing you. I look forward to reading your thoughts. Like Elijah, I sometimes feel that “I am the only one…” who feels that there is more to sexual orientation than male/female heterosexuality. There is much that we do not understand and to stand on the idea that the Bible is clear about homosexuality is just plain naïve. Yes, when God created, He created “good.” We tend to believe that we know exactly what that “good” is. 1 Corinthians makes it clear that without love everything is worthless. It’s not a cliché to say that “love” conquers all. It’s true. Many who do not care to understand what causes some to not be as God intended (as if they truly know the mind of God) condemn and stand on that condemnation for fear of being told something that may help them see a different perspective. Even if they hear the truth, many take the attitude of King Agrippa, “can you so quickly persuade me…” I believe you are a voice of reason. Keep writing.

    Reply
  11. Julie, I’ve always appreciated your heart and your courage in sharing your story. As a mom of a gay kid who advocates for more-than-lip-service love in the church, I also question “whether this is about genuinely held beliefs or straight up homophobia.” Thanks for your honesty. Thanks for sharing your beautiful self with the world.

    Reply
    • As a dad of a gay teen I too want more than lip service about love from our churches. It can be difficult to determine genuine belief and homophobia from the church. Regardless, our gay teen children still get hurt because see this love that the church talks about as not being more than just words.

      Reply
  12. I knew it. I could already see your stance a couple of years ago. Sorry, Julie; this is not love. It’s not love to not teach the Truth as expressed in the Bible I remember reading how you were physically attracted to early on but then targeted by a teacher who more or less led you into the gay life. Lifelong celibacy is cruel. Do you know how many straight Christians have throughout the ages chosen that rather then sin? But now in the new paradigm that is if it stands in the way of what one wants, you just say it’s not sin anymore. Do you know how many ex-gays there are? Quite a few. Why? Because feelings can change. There is zero science behind the notion that anyone is born gay. Can they help what they feel? No. But that is a far cry from being born that way. Julie, you’re asking people to violate Scripture. Please grasp that.

    Reply
    • There is SO MUCH science on being born gay: twin studies, prenatal hormonal influence, genome mapping, functional brain studies and much more. With more coming out every month…

      Reply
      • So, is your argument that any behaviors impelled by feelings that may be influenced by biochemistry are inherently moral?

      • Nope. My argument is simply to call out how wrong it is to say, “There is zero evidence that people are born gay.” A statement like that is a gross misunderstanding at best, and a deliberate effort to mislead with incorrect information at worst.

  13. Julie,

    I appreciate your compassion. I am not able to decide for another, what their walk with God should be. I hope God has given you peace in knowing this is not your job. ❤️

    Reply
  14. Thank you for sharing your perspective and affirmation of same-sex relationships. I believe that the “clobber passages” will gradually be dropped from most pulpits and from the belief systems of most Christians just as verses that seem to clobber Jews and foreigners (and, as an earlier commenter stated, seem to affirm slavery) have been dropped. In Christ there is no male or female, no Jew or Greek. This over-arching principle of Christ’s mission clobbers all discrimination. There are no more margins, no room for marginalization. To forbid same-sex relationships is, simply, sex discrimination. We are all God’s people, born into a world of biological diversity that God created. No one is a mistake, no one should be forbidden a spouse with whom to build a family and share life’s journey.

    Reply
  15. Julie,
    Your words are balm to a thirsty heart. My church (Baptist) just went through a wonderful discernment process to determine the mind of God on our acceptance of the LBGTQ community. After four weeks of talking to each other, we decided that we can do no less than complete acceptance in Christ with no “buts”. Gay members are full members and every office of the church including ordination and leadership are fully open for all our members. We have a great and spirit-led pastor who handled this in the most gracious and loving way.

    Reply
  16. Julie, Do not pretend that your stance has not evolved significantly. You no longer support same sex attracted people in heterosexual relationships, or so it appears. I take it you think it’s impossible? I continue to believe nothing is impossible with God. I am attracted to the same sex, but His promise to me is still a heterosexual relationship that is going to be good and healthy. You are doing a disservice to people who are same sex attracted if you pretend that this route is not available to a significant percentage of us. Sexuality is fluid and always will be. God is faithful, and you are absolutely right, he does not want us to be celibate by default. Whether married or celibate, we do it with purpose. If you continue to simply write about same sex relations and celibacy, I will probably unfollow the blog…it seems that everyone supports that. There is no longer anything radical. Sorry for the pessimism. Just disappointed. By the way, of course I’ll continue to love people in all of these categories. Point well taken. Response would be appreciated! Sam

    Reply
  17. Julie, I would like to have develop a friendship with you over the course of time. I am one who has experienced sexual orientation change after Jesus called me out. If not for the healing, change, and calling out I would be a lesbian today. I don’t think the church is getting it “wrong” or is homophobic just because they still see any “sexual minority” as “missing the mark.” from the intended design by God. So I would like to find a way to connect with you to talk and interact and really get to know each other so that we can walk in each others shoes, so to speak. Is that possible?

    Reply
    • Jennifer, how do you see bisexuality/gender fluidity in your possible healing? Not everyone has the capacity to love multiple genders. And not every bisexual does so at the same time, or even loves both genders for life. Gender fluidity on some individuals parts does not invalidate the experience of gay Christians. I’m not doubting that an orientation change happened because of healing or because of your involvement with Jesus. I’m not doubting that you will remain happy not dating women. But I cringe at the thought of the implied thought that this way, that is right for you, is right for all. As healing and wonderful as it has been for me, my way of embracing bisexuality is probably not right for you. (I once saw myself as straight too.) And though theoretically a friendship might enrich us both, I’d hate to start a friendship with you to try to convert you. That’s not a friendship. That’s an imposition.

      Reply
      • I agree, if you remember the Kinsey scale of sexuality… I think people who achieve “heterosexual functionality” are closer to the middle of the scale. The problem is over-spiritualizing it and calling it “healing.”

  18. Reading your blog has always been a surprisingly refreshing experience for me. I am not a Christian and so I don’t share your biblical convictions and don’t feel compelled by God to live a celibate life, but I am a spiritually focused person intent on living a moral, healthy life to the best of my ability. I am also gay, have known myself to be for as long as I can remember just like yourself, and I’m incredibly tired of the polarized, extremist nature of the “gay debate” (and most other debates and discourse in the media and society today, but that’s another story).
    My experiences have shown me that most of life is one giant gray area, that everyone takes a different journey and comes from a different place in life and that the best thing we can do for ourself and others is to seek what’s true and to accept others’ truth. My personal situation and journey has given me the gift to understand that I can place my life’s value on oneness with nature, personal strength, and loving friendships and bonds of all kinds rather than restricting it to a romantic relationship as societal priorities so often urge us to do. I am glad that there people like you out there encouraging us all to be more supportive of all kinds of bonds and of life and family arrangements that fall outside of heterosexual marriage. I am even more glad that you have a strong enough heart and insight to love and support those who choose the path of entering into romantic relationships, and see the value in their choices.
    The one thing that’s always been clear when reading your words is that you are someone who always has her eyes open looking for the truth. Your genuineness is much appreciated; thank you so much for sharing your experiences and being a free-thinking and honest voice amidst the rest. It’s a gift to read and relate to your story and thoughts.

    Reply
  19. I definitely understand where you’re coming from. Many times I’ve wanted to drop my faith altogether because I was so tired of feeling like I was stifling myself. So far, I’ve always been pulled to stay a Christian.
    One thing that I can’t quite tell from your post is whether you now acknowledge same-sex relationships as morally upright, or whether you are affirming your resolve to love those in same-sex relationships and not judge them even though they disagree with you on the topic of marriage and sexuality. From all of the articles and commentaries I’ve read, and my own (fairly amateur) interpretation of scripture, God’s ordination for marriage between a man and a woman seems so beautiful that I can’t imagine anything deviating from that framework would be right. Still, that doesn’t weaken my resolve to love any person that crosses my path, whether they agree with me or not, and your writing has helped me to cultivate that love.
    I also think that the main victim here is celibacy. Our culture sends an incredibly strong message that you can only attain personal fulfillment through romance, and I myself used to subscribe to that view, which made the fact that I am living celibate a hard pill to swallow. But now I truly see celibacy as a path full of joy and commitment to God, even if it’s not necessarily my “choice” to live a life of celibacy. Unfortunately, I don’t think that LGBT Christians will ever feel universally welcomed into the church unless we can revive the tradition of celibacy for celibacy’s sake, just like the apostle Paul did.
    I appreciate all your writings, Julie, and I look forward to all the wonderfully provoking thoughts you’ll get me thinking about, even if we don’t always agree on everything.

    Reply
    • I was also confused as to exactly what Julie was saying. Glad you asked the question and hopefully she’ll expound a bit for us.

      I agree with the rest of your comment as well. Very well written.

      Reply
  20. Julie,

    I read your post. Very informative. I am struck by how there is such a divergent atmosphere within the church. In fact, it goes deeper than that. It also brings up the questions within families as well. We tend to want a black and white answer and if there is a nuance anywhere then that person is suspect on both side. We as a Christian family are caught in the middle. We are Conservative Christians with a gay teen son. Our lives have forever changed. We did what the churches told us to do and followed this path. We also realized that our son is our son. He is not an issue nor a cause for either side he is our son. After a while, it dawned on my wife and I that he is to be loved and accepted. We have heard so many different views and opinions and that is fine. All we just wanted to be was a family. Yes, we are a family with three children and one is gay. This is who we are. In the end it is up to God to change him if that is His desire. If not, then it is ok. We are at peace.

    Reply
    • Beautiful, Nate. As a gay “daughter, ” this touches me deeply. I am lucky too to have parents who were able to grow.

      Reply
      • We have been growing as a family where our oldest son who is 15 is gay. It has been almost a year and a half and we have navigated through so many unchartered waters that once we think we have reached our destination we are on a new voyage. I want to stress to Christian parents that if you have a gay child they are still your child. They need you just like your straight children. Sometimes, they will need you more. I am happy to hear from those who had loving and accepting parents. Unfortunately, it is not that way.

  21. Wow. This was so beautifully written, I simply have no words. Just wow. Thank you, Jules, for being the very hands and feet of Christ. Love you long time!

    Reply
  22. Thank you, Julie! for being brave enough to write what is on your heart. I think many of us are evolving privately along with you. Keep strong and resolute in those beautiful principles of justice, mercy, love and humility. Those qualities certainly shine through this message.

    Reply
  23. Dear Julie–Thank you so much for your courageous and eloquent description of your journey–your writing and your work resonates with the call to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with the Lord. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face toward you and grant you peace. ❤

    Reply
  24. Julie, you gotta stay the course. Celibacy is worth it because it shows the world that Jesus is sufficient and worthy to be trusted over all things. Even a spouse! Don’t waiver from this message! All the suffering, all the criticism, the cross you have to bear is more than most, but we can’t let our critics or our compassions dictate our convictions. Paul longed for people to be celibate like him. God promises to be a husband to those who don’t have spouses. The church absolutely needs to support SSA Christians, but we, and you as a sister in Christ, can not celebrate support or be happy about what God has called sinful. Walk with gay Christians YES, pick them up when they fall YES, but don’t change the goal! Righteousness… doing the will of God in a twisted generation.

    And Peter said, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

    Reply
  25. Julie! I’m so glad that you posted again!! 😀 I missed reading your blog. Your blog helped me come to terms with my own sexuality and begin thinking of how following God will look practically as a gay guy. After a lot of prayer and reading, I believe, that if God puts the right guy in my life, He will bless that relationship.
    I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’m hoping God puts the right gal in your life as well! But ultimately, I’ll be praying that God continues to speak to your heart and that you will have the strength to follow your own convictions. Your story continues to help others and opens the minds of many straight christians as well! Please keep writing 🙂 do it for the Gaybies!!

    Reply
  26. Julie!

    1. Ecstatic to get notified of your new post this afternoon. I’ve missed your words.

    2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so graciously. I love your heart posture.

    3. Be encouraged. I believe in the type of community that you talk about, cross-cultural, cross-generational, completely intertwined real Jesus intimacy. I think it’s a desire of so many people’s hearts and they don’t even know. Keep sharing the good news and your journey. Your voice is appreciated.

    Reply
  27. Julie. You are so very beautiful and such a blessing to everyone looking at the LGBT dilemma in the church. We all deserve to loved by our partner straight or otherwise. Thank you for being celibate. I can see you do love God with all of your heart. God had changed my heart so much toward the LGBT community. So many seeds of hate, confusion, and misinformation have been strewn throughout society and especially the church. Be strong and keep speaking out. God is using wonderful committed Christians like you to show us the truth. I love you Julie

    Reply
  28. Thank you for this well-written article. As a straight Christian who loves the LGBT people in my life, I stand with you. Your article was deeply inspiring for me. I am a worship leader and church staff , and I hope to do what I can to welcome all. With people like you, my job is easier. Thank you.

    Reply
  29. Thank you. So real, so honest, so truthful, so profound. You brought tears to my eyes, once in joy and once in sorrow. You eloquently put into words what I have been feeling and didn’t know that I was thinking. Thank you.

    Reply
  30. Julie, you’re a treasure. What breaks my heart is the many sentences that I know are going to be ripped out of this post and bandied about as “proof” that you’re “not really one of us.” I hate hate hate that this is coming. I know you agonized over every word and I think there is no way to write in a way that is immune from misuse and misrepresentation. Just know, that when it comes, so many of us are with you. You can quote me.

    Reply
    • If this does happen, it will partly because more activist minded people like Matthew Vines are now claiming Julie as “one of us”. Culture wars have two sides. If Julie can influence Matthew to be more like her (in her public role) things might get better for gay kids in conservative churches.

      Reply
  31. Julie –
    I am one of those people from the affirming Church who has been publicly and privately critical of your public speaking. It was, and is, my view that those efforts contributed to shame and the marginalization of gay people in the Church.

    If I lacked grace in those critiques, please forgive me.

    What I read in this post is a vision for moving forward in the so-called third way. Joyfully accepting each other as siblings in Christ as we discuss our differences openly and honestly is, I believe, what we’re called to do.

    I commend you for your courage; I’m fairly certain that this post will carry a personal cost for you – especially in the current environment.

    I greatly appreciate that, even if we never agree on the theology, you are willing to stay in communion with those of us who affirm the sanctity of gay covenantal partnership. And I join you in your vision for Church that is so much more profound than a collection of nuclear families.

    Peace and blessings to you.
    David

    Reply
  32. I have lived with SGA since as long as i can remember, I remember things that made my attraction stronger and things that made it weaken. After years of objective study, I still feel uncertain as to what God expects me to do… except “don’t worry about it” a very clear message i received some years back. (Perhaps that *worrying* may be my bigger sin.)
    I most often look to others to help me glean understanding, but they are either so “pro gay”, to the extent of twisting scripture in ways I cannot justify, or completely oblivious to debate because they stand so firmly on traditional interpretations that they really don’t seem to CARE what someone struggles with. Yet these same mount no soapbox to condemn divorce and remarriage, because “Does God really expect them to remain single or put up with that rat of a spouse of theirs?”
    Voices possessing both compassion and victory are sorely lacking.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Reply
  33. Thanks for your transparency and sincerity in this post, Julie. It’s always good to see an update from you! I hope that we as a church can progress in our bridge-building, communication, and visible compassion even as we also value, above all else, fidelity to the divine Teacher’s ways.

    Reply
  34. Much love, Julie. Thank you for your love and compassion for all still caught in the trenches, and for affirming the good of relationship. I’ve heard how much you’ve impacted the college for the good (an alumni here) and wish you the best as you go forward in whatever direction you are called. Wishing you strength and healing and the capacity to love and forgive from any wrong done to you in the name of good, and peace as you affirm and live and celebrate the power of joy and love and fearlessness. Blessings

    Reply
  35. I’m so sorry for the cold shoulder you’ve received. I have admired your principled walk with Christ for some time now. I had hoped and prayed that Wheaton would provide a supportive community for you. I find that most Christian “communities” are a big let down. I think the path you’ve walked is so brave and righteous. Please know that there are so many of us who view you as a light in the midst of a conversation filled with darkness and anger. It kills me to see married Christians lecture the single with regard to celibacy. The contemporary church does a horrible job dealing with singleness. I identify with you in your struggle as much as a single straight Christian can. I also pray that the Holy Spirit will make your path clear and give you grace and strength to follow it. It is hard to love sexually active gay people but to be concerned only because of the clarity of the Bible. There are raging homophobes out there. There are also many of us trying to reconcile our biblically-informed faith with the desire for all people to experience fulfillment in this life and the next. Thank you again for your heart and your bravery.

    Reply
  36. I agree with much of this essay. But it did spark a note of concern. One challenge in Christianity is being both loving and proclaiming God’s standards. Yet when you claim “For others, I think it will mean laying lives down for spouses and staying true to that promise in the end” and that we should not “insist all LGBT people commit to lifelong celibacy,” you appear to be emphasizing the first over the second. That in order for Christians who are gay to not feel shame and alienation, their decision to enter into a homosexual relationship should be accepted. This way, they will feel like they are “actually wanted in our churches.”

    If all Christians are required to do is love one another, then this view might make sense. But God tells us to do more. He tells us that there is a Divine Law-giver, who establishes moral principles we are expected to live by. To tell a person he/she doesn’t need to follow these moral principles, then, isn’t Biblical. In fact, I would argue, it isn’t loving either. I may be mistaken, but it appears that you believe that celibacy is God’s desire for Christians with SSA. But you feel the need to not insist upon this because every Christian should have every blessing here on earth. Including a “long-term, committed relationship that binds us to one another and costs us something.” But this is far from the Biblical truth. Rather, we are told that we should expect to sacrifice. To be willing to give up our deepest longings.

    I had to come to this realization after waiting years for a child. Are humans made to bring children into this world, raise them, and love them? I believe so. But does every couple get this opportunity? No. It wasn’t until I had given this up to God that we were given our daughter. But God didn’t have to give her to us. He could have said: “I’m glad you’ve learned this important lesson, because you will never have a child.” And I would have needed to be content in my childlessness. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

    Every person needs to be willing to sacrifice their deepest desires and needs for God. This is true when we aren’t dealing with a moral issue. And it is even more so when we are dealing with a moral issue. Does every single person embrace their singleness? Not at all. There are many who desperately desire a mate. But, for some, this desire is never fulfilled. And does the Bible then insist that they must “commit to lifelong celibacy”? Yes, it does. This is true whether we are talking about a homosexual or heterosexual single person.

    And when a Christian is faithfully content with the situation they find themselves in, pursuing God’s moral standard of purity, then they should be lifted up as an example to the church. And here is where your essay strikes an important chord. The church should not let it seem like it is only true of gays that “communion is contingent upon gays holding very narrow beliefs and making extraordinary sacrifices to live up to a standard.” Rather, all Christians should be expected to do this, in their own lives, in their own unique circumstances. And that we are indeed all truly wanted in the church. And that God truly does love us and like us. Because, and here is the great Gospel message: while we are called to extraordinary purity, our full and complete acceptance by God is not contingent upon whether we successfully follow this call. He loves me just as I am. His love of me is not based upon my obedience. But neither does His love for me negate that He calls me to obedience.

    I do not reluctantly accept a Christian with SSA. I do so wholeheartedly because he/she is just like me, a Christian with OSA. Someone who has been saved by the grace of God, cleansed of all sin, declared righteous … even though we all still engage in our individual sins. You, Julie, are my sister in Christ, with all the rights and privileges which come from being adopted by the Creator of the Universe. And because we are family members, we have a responsibility to remind one another of the responsibilities that we have been given as children of God, which includes obedience to our Divine Father. This is what loving siblings do for one another. We speak truth in love, which allows us to grow in maturity (Ephesians 4:15).

    Reply
  37. I was joyful as I began to read this post. I thought about how wonderful it is to see a gay woman articulate so well the experience and understanding she has. Then she states she is single and has resigned herself to the Side B dream. She seems to long to continue to be among the community of believers while being out as a lesbian. I’m so very sorry that there are still people who think one can’t be in a same-sex relationship and a faithful Christian at the same time. I think this will change as years go by as have many other issues that seem amazingly backward to us now. I read through all the responses to this post and, having grown up in a fundamentalist church, I understand what many of those writers stand for. Some people truly believe that it is right and virtuous and faithful to be celibate unless in a heterosexual marriage. People can believe whatever they want. They will find churches and friends who agree with an interpretation of life they believe. Ask yourself how you know something to be true. It seems to me that some people continue to see homosexual relationships as impure because of traditional thinking rather than what is God’s will. People use scripture to prove almost any point they wish. There are so many Bible contradictions.There are people who absolutely believe that rain comes because they have sacrificed a goat (or a virgin, etc.) and this pleased the rain god. How can someone else say that is nonsense? Believing that you get messages into your brain from God could be understood as hallucinations. Truth is what the community comes to believe. It seems a shame for the writer of this blog to deprive herself of one of life’s pure joys, a loving marriage, because she’s been taught to see this as sinful. The only life we have solid proof of is the one we live now. It is sad to think the writer’s life will go on by before fundamentalist Christians have come to understand this point more progressively. If there is indeed heaven after this life, would your God have withheld this from all those who entered into a same-sex marriage? There isn’t realistically space here to touch all areas of this concern, but I want to say that we don’t have to be lonely and outcast to be faithful. God bless you, Julie.

    Reply
  38. You are a very kind person, but I am so disappointed to read this post. I took heart in the fact that as difficult as it is to be a celibate gay person that you recognized the importance of the truth of scripture over feelings. Yet we now have another person who leads young people saying that she knows more about scripture than those who have given years of research to understanding the original language and the intent and expectations of Jesus and Paul, people like NT Wright, Robert Gagnon, Wesley Hill, and Tim Keller–years of study. I do not pretend it is easy to be a celibate gay or a heterosexual single person who lives a life of chastity. Of course, not. And, yes, we have not treated the LGBT community as we should. But somewhere we have decided feelings trump truth. In our efforts to be resurrection people, we have also forgotten we are people of the cross, whatever our crosses to bear might be. Somehow we have decided that as long as we love others it doesn’t matter what other hard sayings and challenges scripture has for all of us. Somehow scripture has ceased to be important except when we talk about love (very important of course, but it also requires truth). Why do we bother with scripture at all? And to those who talk about the slavery issue, we have a gross misunderstanding of what the Bible means, and again people like Wright explain it very well. I am sorry for the pain of anyone (and there is plenty of pain to go around; LGBT people are not the only group that suffers), but God decides how we are to live. Perhaps it is time for everyone to read “The Screwtape Letters” to be reminded how easily the Enemy twists our thinking. It seems he has become better at it than ever before, contributing to the chaos surrounding us, and I weep for the way we have decided we no longer need to live as though God is sovereign.

    Reply
    • Hey Lynne, I understand your concerns. Perhaps feelings and scripture should mix together and not trump one over the other. God is merciful and understanding. It takes faith to allow him to lead everyone on this matters regardless of their starting point. We all desperately call upon his name from a place of suffering and need. No one can fully be in someone else shoes except to help them keep their faith through support and ellowship. I would rather continue to point a LGBT couple to Jesus, once they have made that decision rather than turn my back on them. I think that shows grace. At least that is my understanding of unconditional love. What do you think?

      Reply
    • I think your argument contains two fundamental fallacies:
      1. The fallacy that only the conservative position is biblically supportable: There are many scholars who have spent an extraordinary time studying the Bible and who have at least come to the conclusion that there exists a grey area, a tension between what is clearly condemned in the Bible and monogamous, faithful same-sex relationships. You yourself illustrate this point when refuting the slavery argument. We have or used to have a gross misunderstanding of what the Bible means when it references slavery, because at the time slavery meant something else. Now, I wonder if you would allow that argument when it comes to same-sex relationships…?

      2. Your second fallacy is the misunderstanding of God’s position in this. You yourself said “god decides how we are to live”. Not you, not me, not Julie. People have spent millennia trying to discern what exactly God wants us to do and in case they come to a different conclusion than you do, that’s ultimately God’s job, not yours. When in doubt, love each other, that’s what the Bible calls the greatest commandment.

      Romans 14 says: “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him”

      Reply
  39. Pingback: Wheaton staffer announces support for gay relationships | Denny Burk

  40. Julie, I have admired your walk for a long time now and have often felt encouraged by your words and insight. However, I must say I am a little disappointed by your above statements.

    “When that’s the case–when communion is contingent upon gays holding very narrow beliefs and making extraordinary sacrifices to live up to a standard that demands everything from an individual with little help from the community–it’s hard to believe our bodies might be an occasion for joy.”

    As Christians our beliefs MUST be narrow. Narrow is the way to eternal life, and so too we must be narrowly focused on Jesus. If Jesus were here I don’t believe he would accept same-sex relationships on the basis that the alternatives are too difficult and the sacrifice too extraordinary. Instead, he already promised us that this life, infiltrated by sin, would be much too difficult for us. That we should cast our cares on Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

    In fact, I think one of the great tragedies of the church today is that Christians no longer know what it means to sacrifice everything (American Christians at least). The problem is when we say to God, “no, You are asking too much because that is the one thing I can’t give up. I can’t give up my same-sex attraction.”

    The reason gay Christians feel so alienated today is because at times it seems as if they are the only ones truly being required to sacrifice something BIG. However, Jesus calls us to lay down everything at his feet and I firmly believe that the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward. Julie, thank you for always seeking the truth on this most sensitive of topics. But please consider the possibility that you could be wrong, and that many people look to you for guidance and truth. We cannot (willingly) stray from the path of righteousness, especially when so many others could follow us down that path. I pray that the Lord would bring you clarity and truth on this topic. We all need it.

    Reply
  41. Julie, this was lovely. I’ve been having this conversation with myself for several months and had it with my boss just this afternoon. I’m bisexual, and I’m celibate for reasons only tangentially related to my orientation (since technically if I met an appealing guy I could marry the “right” gender). I’m currently working at my conservative evangelical home church. God, what a nightmare it’s been. I think Justin Lee puts it well in comparing the response of straight conservatives to that of Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog: “A hero doesn’t care if you’re a bunch of scary alcoholic bums!” Technically he’s “loving the sinner”, but on the inside he’s completely disgusted with them. I’ve come out to several people at my church and that’s exactly how it’s been. They’re awkward and sort of grossed out underneath the pile of Christian platitudes they heap onto you–and that’s the good ones! The bad ones make vulgar comments about “plumbing”, or, God forbid, start talking about Sodom.

    The Bible tells us that you will know a tree by its fruit. I have seen the fruit of the conservative interpretation of marriage, and let me tell you, it is rotten. I’ve tried to talk to our outreach people about issues like LGBT youth homelessness, our higher risk of suicide, and our problems with inadequate health care. They stare at the floor and hem and haw and I can tell they’re wondering if the people I propose we spend church dollars to help are having sex. Whenever I come out to someone, a personal conversation always follows in which they not-very-subtly try to figure out if I too am having sex. They’re obsessed. It’s creepy. And the fact that the only part of us they care about is our genitalia prevents them from loving us as whole people.

    If you’re looking for the straight Christians showing the love of Jesus to the LGBT community, you will find them, almost universally, on side A. It is a rare side B straight person who manages to walk that narrow and precarious tightrope (and what I have seen is that when a person starts to love you as a human being, they find it harder and harder to deny the validity of your marriage). After years of study I think I’ve finally found consistency between my hermeneutics and my heart convictions. It’s possible that I’ve misinterpreted the Scriptures. But honestly, it would take a full-on burning bush type revelation to make me conservative again. I can’t bring myself to believe that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is truly guiding the churches that have treated my people so horribly–that have dressed the wound of my people as if it were not serious–that have said “peace, peace” when there is no peace for me or for the millions of rejected, bruised, and beaten Christians caught in the crossfire of the culture war. I know where I can find good fruit, and when the harvest comes, I choose to be found under that tree.

    Reply
    • Holly, I’m sorry for the situation you find yourself in. I’m sorry that within conservative Christianity, we continue to deny people permission to just plain love their LGBT neighbors. I’m sorry that people at your church are missing out on a huge blessing by not knowing you or hearing your heart.

      Thank you for putting yourself out there to be known; I know you pay a price for that daily.

      Because my son is gay, I’ve had the opportunity to stretch in ways I never would have asked for. I’ve met many LGBT Christians, both celibate and partnered, and been humbled by the beautiful fruit in their lives. I know several non-Christians who see that fruit and express a deep respect for what they see as “real” faith. I have been very jaded about church, after being on the receiving end of “love the sinner.” I remain a church-going Christian because people like you have shown me what the love of Christ can look like in a community.

      Keep shining your light, and also take care of yourself.

      Reply
  42. Pingback: Julie Rodgers, Celibacy, Sexual Identity, and The Church » Narrative & Nuance

  43. Seeing as the old legal rationale for outlawing close family members from getting married was a biblical or genetic issue, would you also support a father marrying his son? This isn’t a purely “gotcha” issue – I have yet to hear a Christian gay marriage supporter give a consistent answer.

    Reply
    • Adam, I know a lot of straight people are worried about the whole slippery slope thing. Please know that questions like this implicitly compare the marriage of two gay people to incest (or bestiality, or pedophilia) and are deeply offensive. If you are married, imagine having to defend your marriage against that type of question. You might be tempted to say, “Just go away.” Maybe that’s why you haven’t gotten the answer you’re looking for. There are more helpful and important questions to ask on all sides.

      Reply
  44. I’m an atheist who rejects the Bible as a source of moral wisdom–I think it pretty clearly condemns gay people–but nevertheless I applaud your compassion and bravery, Julie.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s