emotions, experience, friendship, Gospel, homosexuality, loneliness, Romans, Scripture, sexual sin, sexuality, sin, temptation, witnessing
A couple of days ago, one of my classmates sent me a PM through Twitter, asking me my thoughts about Andrew Wilson’s recent piece for ThinkTheology. We PMed back and forth on the subject, but as I was at work (sorry, boss), I couldn’t think it through as it deserved. Now seemed like a good time.
I’ve been made aware that some folks seem to be inferring (or that some folks seem to be perceiving that inference has been made to the effect) that satire is inherently demeaning to the object/person at which it is directed. I’m not going down that road because I’m not equipped to presently. Instead, I’d like to make an observation or two and address part of why I felt that the tone of the piece was inappropriate as a stand-alone artifact.
First, it should be noted by me, Capt. Obvious, that in Andrew’s piece, ‘idolatry’ is to be understood as ‘homosexuality.’ If you created a document and used the “replace” feature, you would get the general desired effect. This creates a problem because much of the conversation is lost on a great many Christians after this part. Here’s why:
Not all (or even probably, many) who wrestle with homosexuality and who call themselves Christian make this jump:
So it has been such a blessing to discover that worshipping one God, and him alone, isn’t for everyone.
In fact, there are a great many people who are seeking to adhere to a biblical, traditional sexual ethic.
Now, if the intent of the piece were to draw attention to the inconsistencies which those who have decided that chastity outside of biblical marriage looks like choosing to (among other things) not have sexual intercourse even between consenting adults, I suppose it has achieved its goal; but I am not at all certain this is the way to do it.
The American Church, on the whole, has been wretchedly lousy in promoting the single life. I myself was told the reason I was to stay a virgin before marriage was to be able to give myself to my wife later in life when I should have been told that I’m to be chaste because I am bought with a price and no longer my own. This was a carrot on a stick that, even at the age of 17 or so when I heard it, I knew wasn’t really out in front of me.
I grew up in a family and attended a church which knew relatively nothing about hospitality. The only hope of not living or dying alone was to get married. A great many people who have adopted the sort of view that says that being celibate isn’t for everyone seem to me to have done so because they still hold to that backward and unbiblical view. To them, it does seem like a blessing to finally give themselves permission to be united to someone and not be lonely.
Loneliness is real. In my 20s, I was unsure I could live and die as a single man. I wanted so much to have someone/people who would know me deeply and truly. After all, isn’t that what we should all want–as people made in the image of God?
I suspect a very good friend of mine actually apostatized from the faith because he was certain that he could no longer live by himself. Sure, he exchanged the truth of God for a lie in a very real Romans 1 way. But since he is a person and not merely a theological issue, it doesn’t seem helpful to reduce the answer to “he’s exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” Because both he and I are baptized and made in the image of God, I’ve tried to have conversations which dignify him and his fears and joys as someone made in the image of God and one who bears His sign and seal. He can accept or reject these invitations to life (ie, repentance, faith, sanctification), but I doubt very much he’d listen to me if I reduced him to an idea instead of treating him as a person with hopes, doubts, and feelings. (And I know him well, so this isn’t an assessment from 100 yards away.)
The piece doesn’t even allow for someone like me who calls himself “gay” but doesn’t have sex. Instead, for a majority of people, I would seem to be lumped in with those who hold to a different ethic than I do. Trust me: I don’t need anyone else to treat me with suspicion. I’ve already lost my job as a teacher in a private Christian school over how I choose to identify. This article, in my view, does nothing to further understanding between those who love Scripture and are attracted to the same gender/sex and those who are heterosexual in orientation (whether or not they’re practicing outside of biblical marriage).
I want to see pieces written by Christians who have the blogosphere’s collective ear that proclaim the message of the Gospel in winsome yet incisive ways. I feel that an opportunity was missed here to promote biblical sexual ethics while honoring the hopes and fears of those at whom it was unfortunately directed.
Preach it. I’m sad that Wilson’s piece has gotten so much attention, positive and negative. I tried to compile my thoughts on it, but I found it too difficult to do so in a way that was kind and respectful. Thank you for your thoughtful response.
Joe Naturgesetz said:
I’m not so sure that the piece was supposed to refer to all who have a homosexual orientation, or only those who claim that homosexual acts are permissible. But you make good points about lack of hospitality and about the need for understanding of the distinction between celibate gays and sexually active ones, so that the celibate could be welcomed into leadership positions and fully affirmed, while the active are welcomed in a way that does not affirm their homosexual acts (which is easy to say, not easy to do).
“I’ve already lost my job as a teacher in a private Christian school over how I choose to identify.” Sorry to hear this Dave. It’s painful to be reminded of the suspicion and animus directed at gay people by the church – even gay people who remain chaste.
Why do you suppose your experience was different from your friend’s – that he lost his faith due to the specter of perpetual aloneness, and yet you have not?
That’s a complicated and difficult question. One reason may be that I’ve found good community here where I am. Another may be that I feel loneliness differently, or at least do something different with it. The Holy Spirit has something to do with it, but I’d quickly add that I don’t think He’s given up on my friend.
Well good luck to you! So many different pathways represented in the stories I read online. For some it seems like the damage done by a particular stripe of faith becomes insurmountable. But it doesn’t seem like that’s the case for you. Have you ever been to the GCN conference?
I haven’t, no, but I’ve had several friends who have.