Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To All the Sincere Christians Uncomfortable With Gay Relationships . . .

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.

Last night - by referral of a friend - J and I watched a wonderful French gay film called "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.


Carrie said...

I don't know how much the christian community would still recognize me as a christian, hell I don't even know how much *I* still recognize me as a christian, and I'm not uncomfortable with gay relationships, but I wanted to say that this is a fantastic entry. And that I love reading what you write again. I was sad when you disappeared from xanga (though due to lack of internet, so have i). Very happy to be reading you again. You should never stop writing. Ever ever.

Pomoprophet said...

ha. I love how you call it the Evangelical lifestyle! Its so true! I was just going to blog about that very thing!

I dont understand why the Evangelical need to let us know they disapprove of our relationships. I don't really care and i'd rather not hear it. But its like they feel obligated so they feel better about themselves or are right before God somehow.

How uncomfortable for you and J that his brothers make it known they dont accept you. I guess its like My BF's Mom... And I know the feelings and thoughts I have towards her. It doesnt bode well for a sustained, healthy relationship.

love you dude.

ShannonDBR said...

This is a fantastic entry. I love how you can be so honest & speak what’s on your heart. I am not one of the Christians that you speak of, but I do know many of them. I must confess I understand where there are coming from & I am sure they do, in fact, mean well, but I just don’t see things like the Christians that you are referring to.

To me, being gay is not a choice. I do not know one gay person who would choose to be gay, if they had the choice. It is how they were born. It is who they are. It is who they were created to be. And God created you, just as He has me. And God does not make mistakes.

The last time I checked, Matthew (7:1-3) states "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” And unfortunately, it is so ironic that the most judgmental people that I’ve come across, call themselves Christians.

If those Christians must speak passages that support their views about why the “gay lifestyle” is wrong, they should not omit passages that do not conveniently support their views either. However, the sad truth is, people can interpret & use the bible in ways they see fit.

Furthermore, who gives anyone the right to tell others who they should love. If living, & even being married, has taught me anything, it is that you can’t help who you love.

Life is just too short to not love one another. And true (& unconditional, if you are lucky) love is so very rare to find. You are lucky to have found J. And as long as you both are in a healthy, loving & happy relationship that is all that should matter.

And, yes, I would say by not only your words & actions but by your body language (& J’s too) that you are deeply in love.

Shame not everyone can see that. Maybe you should take pity on them because even though they have eyes they are blinded by ignorance, & that is just sad.

Got Lovin’? {:)


D.J. Free! said...

Oh no! Actually, his brothers were VERY accepting! I guess I didn't make it clear in the post that I only mentioned his brothers as a backdrop to the question I had. But they really are great guys, and they're pretty gracious. They do, however, hold a more conservative theology than we do on this particular issue - but they don't even SLIGHTLY hint at non-acceptance. You'll meet them at the wedding. I love them :)

Carrie, thanks for following me here! Don't think of it as me leaving Xanga. I'm still there really . . . all of my friends' posts still get emailed to me, and I still respond. I'll just be writing MY stuff here :)

I don't plan on stopping. I hope you don't either! Miss hearing from ya! :)

D.J. Free! said...

Haha. Thanks, Shannon! You're so sweet! You honor us! Seriously.

Jeff S. said...

DJ, I read your post with interest, but your argument becomes a bit weak from a biblical perspective when you ask the question "If it is love, then how could it be sin?" If you were just talking about the issue of being in relationship, of loving another man, that is one thing. But most people would assume that a committed relationship involves some form of sexual expression. In that case any heterosexual couple could ask the same question as justification for either having sex before marriage or living together without being married (along with the assumed sex). One could add other examples with that same question, which avoids the issue of obedience to the Word. The heterosexual couple down the street from us lived together for several years before getting married. If I were to say nothing was wrong with that fom a biblical perspective, then I would have no basis for upholding marriage as God's best for a couple.

Just saying you might not want to base your argument so strongly on that question.

D.J. Free! said...


I think you too easily wave a magic wand over the question at hand. Notice how your approach to the question doesn't even answer the question. Instead of focusing on whether or not the relationship is one of love or not, you've only focused on the sex part of it.

The crux of the question is NOT "is gay sex wrong?", but rather "is gay love wrong?"

The sex question is a peripheral one, and would best be answered through the lens of the weightier question of love.

You also misunderstand the intent of the question. It's not an argument, it's a question. So I'm interested in hearing what people (yourself included) have to say on that issue.

D.J. Free! said...

By the way, Jeff, I hope that did not come off in a snarky way. I do see your point, and I would not at all like to minimize "obedience to the Word", but it seems as though Jesus would say that obedience to the Word is summarized by love. So, if we're going to know how to interpret the Bible, and live by it, we have to do so by way of love. Therefore, I think we have to discuss what love exists between gay couples . . . if any at all (I know there are some who would say that there IS no love in a gay relationship, and I'd love to hear from those folks why that is.)

Thanks for commenting! I recognize that the commenters thus far have been more like-minded with me, so thanks for being a dissenter. As always, I value your opinion, and love hearing from you - b/c I KNOW that love is the foundation of the Gospel for you and I.

Jeff S. said...

DJ, thanks for the follow-up. I would've responded sooner but life got busy.

My initial comment was not meant to be focused on the "sex part". It was meant to be focused on your statement "If it is love, then how could it be sin?" From a scriptural standpoint, it is a weak argument, and since your blog post was titled "To all the sincere Christians...", I thought you need to have a better foundational question to your argument, since I know many evangelical Christians that would jump all over that question if you addressed it to them. Teenage couples having sex, unmarried Christian couples living together, bigamists, polygamists, incestous relationships, adulterers, all could ask the same question - "If it is love, then how could it be sin?" It does not leave any room for making the case that some relationships are disobedient to the Word.

That being said, I have read arguments (including one Xanga blogger that I can no longer read because he gets me too riled up) that no gay relationship could be considered true love, and I find them hard to take seriously, although I still hold to the belief that Christians should not be in same-sex sexual relationships (let's just agree to disagree there). I have loved other men, and I love other men now, and I know the strength that love can have. I long for a couple particular friends even now, and sometimes wish there was more to our friendship. It is a strong emotion, and I cannot doubt that two men or two women love each other in very real ways. Heck, David even said his love for Jonathan was stronger than his love for a woman. So I am not a "dissenter" with you on that point. Christians who argue that two men or two women cannot truly love each other just have to get past their "ick" factor to understand and see them as individuals in a loving relationship, whether they approve or not. To say that someone cannot love another is just avoidance of the fact that it really happens.