J and I both have a number of dear friends and loved ones who emotionally range anywhere from befuddled to dismayed about the nature of our relationship. Many of them are very loving, compassionate, graceful people . . . but they have a hard time reconciling gay relationships with the (Evangelical) lifestyle. Certainly I understand their hesitancy . . . after all, I didn't come out of the lifestyle until about 5 years ago myself.
"Just a Question of Love" ("Juste une question d'amour"). Now, if you are at all familiar with gay cinema, you realize that they are generally full-on camp, with sparse acting talent, and far too much sex not to be considered soft (sometimes hard!) porn! That's why we generally stay away from gay films. But this film was absolutely refreshing: there was very little nudity (and what nudity there was, was actually a woman . . . and you know how those French are more artistic about human figures than stereotypically sexual), it was done rather tastefully, and the acting was pretty darn good.
The story follows a young man (Laurent) during his coming of age, and his coming out to a family that previously rejected a nephew when he came out of the closet. Since losing his cousin, Laurent has been having a hard time relating to his family (even resorting to pretending to date his roommate and friend, Carole, just to fit in), and a hard time in school. He is subsequently forced to work an internship, or be kicked out of school. His tutor, Cédric, is older, more seasoned, and clearly disinterested in falling for someone with the kind of baggage Laurent has. Yet, they do fall in love, and in a heart-wrenching turn of events, must find a way to deal with the messiness of human relationships. It's really quite a beautiful tale.
Aside from the many parallels that this story has with our own (e.g., Cédric's "I'm gay; take it or leave it" approach with his family, compared to Laurent's more deferent approach with his own), what I really walked away with was the masterful way the film underscored the issue of love as being foundational to the moral and relational questions that come to bear when discussing gay issues. So, in the spirit of humility (having previously seen the world from the lens you currently own, and living the subsequent lifestyle), and in the spirit of genuinely wanting to understand those that disagree with the current lens I own, I would like to offer some questions to those sincere Christians who are uncomfortable with gay relationships:
1.) Would you describe the relationship that J and I have as one that is based on love (i.e., do you think we love each other)? (Unfortunately, this question requires you to know us - but if you don't have that privilege, relate it to any other long-term gay couple you know.)
This question was rather salient to me last weekend, when J's family (his brother B and his brother M along with M's fiancee) came to visit us. Not having had the opportunity to ever really broach "the gay issue" with them directly, I facilitated a conversation about their approach to our relationship, and why it's different from their parents'. At one point, B stated "you guys must love each other", to which I replied "we absolutely do; otherwise, we wouldn't have gone through all this mess!"
*Editing note - I should be clear that J's brothers have been really quite gracious. While they do hold a more conservative view on this particular issue, they have NOT let that get in the way of relating to us, and loving us very well. They're pretty cool :) *
Had the conversation not gone in another direction, had I more time, I would have followed that up with "if you acknowledge that we love each other, why exactly do you think that our relationship is sinful?"
Think about that. As Derek Webb says "Love is not against the law." When I was living the Evangelical lifestyle, I could never say that a gay couple actually loved each other. By definition, their relationship was sinful, thus any apparent "love" was surely some form of counterfeit love . . . maybe even lust. I knew the second that I thought of this as love, I didn't have much theological ground to stand on to call it "wrong."
Perhaps a more conservative-leaning postmodern would say that I am errant for posing such an "either/or" query (i.e., "either you say that we love each other, and we're thus living a Godly life together OR you say that we are sinful and therefore couldn't love each other"). The pomo Christian might say "I think there are indeed many ways in which you genuinely love each other, but the physical aspect of your relationship is lust, or at the very least 'not-quite-love'" And to them I would say "very well, then support and affirm our relationship in all of the ways in which it is loving: comfort us when we've hurt each other; advise us when we are confused about each other; attend our ceremony when we pledge our undying, Godly love to and support of one another; accept us; and relate to us as kindred spirits and brothers in Christ."
But the question is there for you. If it is love, then how could it be sin? If it is lust, then are you not blind? ;)
2.) If Jesus incessantly demonstrated that relationships and loving people supersede religious rules and customs, why do you place heavy burdens (that you don't have to ever bear, mind you) on LGBT people, instead of submitting your fundamentalist religious beliefs to God?
In other words, if you've gotten to know any gay people at all - at all - you would be well-acquainted with the grief that comes with having the worst of all crosses in the entirety of the Bible: being gay. (I'm being somewhat facetious, but unfortunately, this is what many people feel in their heart, even though they confess with their lips that "all sins are equal.") Why then - knowing the anguish that this "struggle" causes, and the number of LGBT who have committed suicide and/or were suicidal in an attempt to "not be gay" - do you insist that your religious leanings on the issue must be correct? When the Pharisees placed heavy burdens on the masses with legalistic rules about the Sabbath, Jesus declared that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. In the same manner, if Jesus were to speak on the issue of homosexuality today (considering he said nothing on the issue - at least nothing that made it into the Gospels), would he not say to us that sexual mores were made for man, not man for sexual mores? And in that way, wouldn't the definition of "sinful sex" be those practices which are inherently unhealthy, and thus lead to lust, greed, selfishness, objectification, and all other manner of evil? Wouldn't healthy living for the gay person be to relate in such a way that lead to the fruit of the Spirit (love, patience, kindness, etc.) in their lives?
In my own life, even my parents acknowledge that they've seen the manifestation of these very fruits - not to mention a lot less depression in my own life - since harkening to the voice of God and accepting my sexuality. They now see me living the "abundant life" that John speaks about in his Gospel - that I'm experiencing "everlasting life" (i.e., "life of the ages") more now than ever before. And yet, they insist - despite clear evidence of the Spirit - that their interpretation of the Bible is true, and lasting, and could not be incorrect. Is this not the true sin? Aren't people who do such things modern day Pharisees who hold to the supremacy of their religious rules at the expense of relationships and loving people? (Thanks to Brian McLaren, whose thoughts on pluralism as illustrated in his exegesis of the Gospel of John inspired much of the thinking behind this question. See A New Kind of Christianity)
These are, of course, open questions. Feel free to answer or not. But if we're ever to see any bit of the Kingdom here on earth, I'd say this is necessary dialogue to have.