I was once a part of a group for men who talked about their same-sex attraction experiences week by week. It wasn’t an ex-gay group; it was a group where we could talk candidly about our wives (most of the men were married) or our temptations or attractions or broader life-issues. It was very helpful for me in that season of my life, before I was more forthcoming about my attractions to people in general.
There was a bit of age divide in the group. Most of the under-40 set were unmarried (there was one exception to this that I can remember) and most of the over-40 set were married (there were one or two exceptions to this). The over-40 set never wanted to be referred to as “gay Christians.” The under-40 set (especially the under-30 set, of which I was a part) had no trouble whatsoever with the title “gay Christian;” for us, it was saying “We’re same-sex attracted and we love Jesus.” To the older guys, it was tantamount to bringing everything that would fall under the heading of “biblical sexuality” into question and to being two steps away from finding a boyfriend and giving up on Church.
I’ve often pondered the divide I’d observed and I think that Melinda Selmys at Spiritual Friendship has spoken very capably to the need for those of us who are “Side B” gay Christians (that is, we see sex as being for use and enjoyment between a married, opposite-gender couple) to reach out to those older (and generally conservative-leaning) Christians and explain ourselves patiently and with the goal of maintaining and cultivating unity in the Church around Scripture. She says at one point,
In the case of homosexuality, a lot of older people (and also younger people raised in extreme religious communities) have been conscientiously conditioned to see not only the behaviour but even the inclination as sinful and repugnant. For example, in the 50′s homosexuals were explicitly portrayed as evil, predatory, and possibly murderous monsters who would pull the unwary and unsuspecting in their traps. Homosexuality was understood as a form of dangerous mental illness, and the person who suffered from it was understood in much that same way of most people today would conceive of a paedophile. As is easily observed if you read a lot of right-wing press, many of these memes are still alive and circulating – and for people who have been conditioned by them the idea of a “chaste, Christian homosexual” is a really hard swallow.
I certainly have experienced such a thing from well-meaning, older school-board members myself (circa December 2011).
But if this is the backdrop of older Christians’ lives, then I and others like me need to be willing to have those conversations even when the conversations are not pleasant. There is a gravity to promoting the unity of the Church in the Gospel and I, for one, have treated it lightly many times. As a 30-something Christian, I’ve tended to rejoice that more people who are willing to give me a shot at pastoring a congregation are graduating from seminary but I’ve tended to wish those who would have concerns which spring from the sorts of social conditioning Melinda refers to above would just…well…disappear.
But that’s not a very loving way to deal with people for whom Christ died and whom I, in turn, are called to love, minister to, commune with, sing with, cry with, and pray with.
How can such dialogue be carried out well with someone who can’t conceive of a “chaste [gay] Christian”? I don’t know. It will no doubt be a bumpy ride.
N. B.: As a post-script, it’s probably worth familiarizing yourself with the current controversy at Crisis Magazine to which Melinda refers. I would spend time covering such things here on my blog, but Ron, Wes, and the rest at SF are covering them nicely without my voice being added to the volume of life at present. Pray for them as it is very difficult to hear that what you are doing damages the Church when you love it as much as those bloggers do.