This is a response to Michael Brown’s article on the Christian Post website, entitled ‘Some Honest Questions for Professing “Gay Christians”
For readers who would prefer a shorter (and much more gracious) answer to Dr Brown, please see this response by John Smid, a former ‘ex gay’ leader.
Dear Dr Brown,
I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of you before someone I know on Facebook linked your article to their timeline. I am aware that a large geographical and cultural difference separates us, you being an American professor with a radio show (Line of Fire – great title!) and 22 books to your name, and I perhaps a slightly less eminent grad student living in the UK. No, I don’t have a radio show, and although there are some books in my head, they are not on paper yet.
But I thought you might be interested to know that I am a “Gay Christian” (love what you did with the quotation marks there, it adds a bit of mystery – are you questioning my sexuality or my faith? Or perhaps you are just preempting what I suspect you believe is the answer to the question you ask in the latest of your 22 books ‘Can you be Gay and Christian?’).
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. You asked some questions, and I’d like to think you actually wanted some answers, so here I am hoping to furnish you with some. But I hope you’ll forgive me if I ask you a few questions myself. I know that answering a question with a question is not the done thing, but here we are, and I really just want to make sure you know that I ask these questions in the love of God and the fear of God, being jealous for your wellbeing in the Lord.
Sorry if my tone is a little acerbic, please believe that there is not an ounce of hate in my heart. No, not even one. Just quite a lot of ounces of frustration. Enough to make a five tier rainbow sparkly gay wedding cake.
1) ‘Are you 100% sure that your interpretation of Scripture regarding homosexuality is correct?’
‘I once heard a gay pastor give a talk about these issues at a local gay and lesbian center, and to my surprise, he was not dogmatic in his presentation…A few years after that, I participated in a forum at a local college together with a lesbian pastor and some others, and again, to my surprise, the lesbian pastor was not dogmatic either, encouraging everyone there to seek the Lord and study the Word for themselves.’
I think more than anything else in your article, this statement speaks volumes about the ways in which we differ in matters of faith. You were surprised that a pastor encouraged her congregation to seek the Lord and study the Word for themselves? I can’t help wondering why this was so surprising to you, or why it would not be a good thing for a pastor to do. Each of us will stand before God and answer for ourselves. I doubt whether ‘but my Pastor told me…’ will cut it on that day, for any of us.
A robust faith can question and doubt, indeed, a robust faith must question and doubt. This process does not lead away from God, but toward God. I think for a lot of LGBT Christians (oh yes, forgot to mention, we prefer this term because it includes all of us, not just gay people) this necessary process of doubt, confusion, pain, leads to a much deeper faith, a faith that is much more willing to listen, to be still and know, to love.
This seems to be a good time to mention that choosing to live openly as an LGBT Christian is not the easy option you appear to think it is. Many of us were unceremoniously told to leave the churches we loved. Many of us went through crippling times of self-doubt without anyone to help pick up the pieces. Some of us had to re-evaluate our whole lives after sometimes 20 years or more of trying to be straight. When we found life partners, many of us were told that we were headed straight to hell. I know one young girl whose parents told her never to come back to their house. We had to deal with the abuse the world threw at us (it’s not fun to be called a ‘f*cking dyke’ when peacefully walking down the street) AND the abuse that many churches threw at us (it’s also not fun to turn on the TV and see someone condemning you to hell). So no, it was not an instant ‘relief’. It was a long and painful road. And if God and a few good Christian friends had not been willing to walk with me down that road, who knows where I might have ended up.
And that road, more than anything else in my life, refined and renewed my faith.
Scripture is translated and interpreted by many groups of people. I have learnt so much just by being with different Christians and hearing how they read Scripture. It is a treasure chest which sometimes seems to contain sharp edges (a double-edged sword, as Paul calls it in Hebrews 4). Can any of us be 100% sure that any of our interpretations of Scripture (all of Scripture, not just the 6 verses about homosexuality), are correct?
And when we stand (when we fall in fear and trembling) before the Lord in all his power and glory and majesty and see his throne shrouded in shimmering rainbow colours (Revelation 4), will he ask us about our exegesis of Genesis 19, or will he look straight into our hearts to see whether we proclaimed the Good News to the poor, freedom for the captives, sight for the blind (Luke 4) …and whether the Spirit has entered there and the grace that is freely available to all has covered all of our weaknesses?
Dr Brown, are you 100% sure that YOUR interpretation of Scripture is ALWAYS correct?
2) Do your beliefs start with certainty about the authority of Scripture, or do they start with certainty about your “sexual orientation”?
Loving the quotation marks again, Dr Brown!
I find it puzzling that you seem to want to separate and compartmentalise faith and sexuality. You need to understand that for most LGBT Christian people our sexuality and our faith have been present with us from a very early age. A friend of mine who collected the stories of LGBT Christians (please let me know if you want a copy!) once commented that in the testimonies she heard, most people became aware of both their faith and their sexuality at around the same times in their lives. This was at different times for different people; some had a strong sense of faith from a very young age and had also known that they were ‘different’ or that they ‘liked boys/girls better’ from the time when they were very small children. For me, it was a bit later. I became a Christian when I was 16. I had known since I was about 14 that I was attracted to girls as well as boys, but faith was a life-changer for me. I absolutely poured myself into studying the Bible. The authority of Scripture was, for me, absolute, even though I had little idea how to begin reading or applying it. I am so grateful that God sent people into my life to help me with this.
Confused about what the Bible said about sexuality, I poured out my heart to a youth leader – I told her about my attraction and asked whether it was ok to be gay and Christian. She said no. And I believed her. I was sold out. I didn’t even ask to see the Bible verses for myself. I didn’t even know what they were or where to find them until years later. I stifled the part of me that thought women were uniquely beautiful and concentrated instead on the part of me that liked men. I stifled it to the point where I didn’t even realise I was attracted to and falling in love with the woman who is now my life partner because I had insisted to myself that I was a Christian now and therefore did not have that type of attraction any more (you can read more about that story here)
So for me, and for many, Scripture came first. Many of us tried really hard to stifle our attractions but found they would not go away. Can you imagine someone telling you God doesn’t want you to ever marry or be attracted to a woman? Can you imagine trying to stop yourself feeling an attraction to a beautiful, funny, talented, wise Christian woman, but finding it won’t go away? Notice I didn’t say ‘sexy’, Dr Brown. You fall into the trap of characterising LGBT relationships as being fundamentally about sex and forget that, like heterosexual relationships, they are about a good deal more than that. I’m sure, given your long and successful marriage, that you know that a long-term relationship does not revolve around sexual intimacy, though that may be a part of it. A relationship is built on companionship, laughter, fun, shared interests, family, home, cake… (yes, I confess, I am slightly obsessed with cake!) I think God is relational, that God honours good relationships, that God does not think it is good to be alone all the time. I don’t think God asks us to choose between relationships and faith.
Dr Brown, when did you realise you were heterosexual? If you had to choose right now between your relationship and your faith, what would you choose?
3) ‘What do you say to those people who are genuinely ex-gay or to those who are still same-sex attracted but have chosen to separate themselves to the Lord unless he changes them?’
I say, ‘Peace and blessings to you my brothers and sisters. We have shared so much of our journeys. We have known the same pains, losses, struggles. We have known the same judgemental attitudes, the same enforced silences, the same times of loneliness. Our paths have diverged but know that there is always a place in my heart for you.I am praying that God would be a constant comforting presence to you, that you would know companionship and joy and that he would protect you from harm.’
Dr Brown, I hope that you are affirming and supporting those known to you who are walking the ‘ex gay’ path. Many who walk that path are still struggling in a myriad of ways. There is by no means one model for faithfulness among LGBT Christians. I respect their walk and their choices, but resent the fact that you characterise that one group as ‘faithful’, ‘holy’, ‘content to be single’ , having ‘overflowing lives in Jesus’. I suspect you are implying that the other group, who have chosen monogamous gay relationships are somehow less faithful, holy etc. Are you sure about this? Can you see into our hearts? And why are you trying to pit us against one another?
You are right that you have no idea what it is like to struggle with this. Please don’t presume to speak on behalf of all ex gay Christians, or presume that all LGBT Christians in relationships are somehow lesser because of our own choices. All of us have to act according to our consciences. Those who pick the ‘ex gay’ path chose differently from me, and I wish them well, but don’t put pressure on them to be perfect role models , or assume that their choices would be right for absolutely everyone with a same-sex attraction. In addition to this, many have left the ‘ex gay’ ministries thoroughly disillusioned, and without noticing any significant change in their attractions despite spending years of their time and piles of money in the attempt.
You also ask what I would say ‘to heterosexual Christians who, through no choice of their own, have remained single their entire lives and yet have served God faithfully and lived holy lives?’ I am not sure exactly what you are getting at here – are you suggesting that I should be single because some straight people never get married? Surely you can see that the situation is not the same, in that straight folks at least have the option to be married, even if it doesn’t happen. No one is trying to say that a single person can’t serve God faithfully. Of course they can. But that doesn’t mean that a married or partnered person can’t also serve faithfully.
Dr Brown, what would you say to those people who have tried really hard to walk the ex gay path but have found no change in themselves? How long should they have kept trying? What would you say to an LGBT Christian who has chosen to be single for a really long time but this has caused them significant loneliness and depression?
4) ‘If you were convinced that God opposed all forms of homosexual practice, would you follow him anyway?’
Thank you for sticking with me this far, Dr Brown. I suspect we have come to what is, for you, the crux of the matter.You ask ‘would you reject the one who died for you if you came to the conclusion that he did not approve of same-sex relationships? Would your homosexuality come first and Jesus come second?’
This is what you really want to know, because if I say ‘no’ then it proves your hypothesis, that ‘given the choice of rejecting their own identity or rejecting a God whom they understood rejected them, [gay people] chose to reject him.’ Because you believe the above statement is true, you are struggling to understand how anyone can say they are gay and Christian. So if I say ‘no’ I am no longer a Christian, and if I say ‘yes’ I have to do my best to no longer be gay.
Let’s reframe this one slightly.
Dr Brown, if you were convinced that God APPROVED all forms of homosexual practice, would you follow him anyway?
Think carefully about your answer, Dr B.
If you say ‘no’, then you are choosing your own opinion about homosexuality over your faith.
If you say ‘yes’, then you are affirming that this matter is not in fact of such great doctrinal importance (a ‘hill to die on’) as you claim.
…do you still want my answer?
Yes, I would follow him anyway.
And I would still be gay.
Dr Brown, will you take these things prayerfully before the Lord? I and many of my LGBT brothers and sisters are praying and interceding for you!
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