So, you’ve become a Christian. Your sins have been forgiven and you’re a new creature, or so you’ve been told. Christ/the Holy Spirit/your church are about to free you from the shackles of same-sex attraction.
This is a lie. While undoubtedly the pastor/priest/minister and your church/assembly/fellowship will exert subtle, and not so subtle, pressure on you to conform and suppress your sexuality – and for a time you might be able to – you will never change it. Certainly Christ and the Holy Spirit won’t be working any miracles. They don’t exist.
You will do the work of denying, suppressing and repressing who you are. In the process of doing so you’ll cultivate self-hatred, discover just how depressed and lonely you can be, and make yourself ill – I speak from experience. People on Living Out are doing just that right now. I predict that one day everyone of these so-called ‘Side B’ gay people will regret the awful compromise they’re making for the sake of an hallucinatory salvation. What they’re actually doing is trying to please the church, showing everyone how serious they are about dealing with ‘sin’ and ‘living out’ their faith. No good will come of it.
Being gay is no sin. Homosexual sex isn’t either, including when it’s just for fun (like a lot of heterosexual sex.) How do we know? Because there’s no such thing as sin: it’s a fabrication of an ancient, superstitious mindset. Nor are committed same-sex relationships ‘dishonourable’; they’re as wonderful as any other loving relationship. Same-sex marriage – without scare quotes – is too. If your desires are for intimacy with someone of the same sex, then that is how you will find your life’s fulfilment. That is who you are.
So, here’s the dilemma for the wannabe Christian who knows they’re attracted to people of the same sex:
Do you want to compromise who you are for the sake of conformity or do you want to live as yourself?
Do you want to become ill, depressed and lonely for Jesus’ sake, or do you want to find happiness and fulfilment in life?
If the latter, then you really must see Paul’s ranting for what it is and walk away from the discredited belief system that is Christianity. Instead, ‘live out’ your life, true to your nature. It’s not easy, I know, but, as someone or other once said, when you find the pearl of great price, all else is worth abandoning for it.
One thing seems clear: you can’t be gay and a Christian. Not really.
But, Neil, there are many people who are gay and very committed to Jesus Christ. Where I live, there are gay and lesbian affirming churches within easy driving distance everywhere.
Why would someone want to walk away from their faith based on a more fundamentalist view and interpretation of the Bible?
I realize that you’re not able to agree, but I just don’t see that the apostle Paul was even addressing sexual orientation as we understand this today, or the issue of gay people involved in loving and committed monogamous relationships.
How can I know this? Well, for one thing it seems obvious to me in the text. For instance, in Romans, he is talking about people who have given them selves over to idolotry, and rejected a knowledge of God..These same people then became filled with thoughts even of murder.
Did this sound to you, for example, like the gay priest and his partner over in the next town who want nothing more than to care for people and to share the love of Christ. Of course not, Neil.
I’m certainly not a Bible scholar, and I realize that scholars and Christian in general can come down on differing sides of this issue. As was mentioned by Bruce, the Methodist church in the USA is addressing this issue.
But, I can’t help but feel that in this post you are projecting your own painful experience onto others. Not all committed Christian people are struggling with their sexuality. They are celebrating it, and enjoying a relationship with God in Christ at the same time.
They see who they are as a gift from God. Why should they silence their voice within the Christian community, give into oppression, and walk away from Christ?
The point I’m making in these two posts, Becky, is that being a Christian and gay necessarily involves significant compromise. Either the gay person compromises something essential about themselves, as those on ‘Living Out’ are doing, in order to fit with what the Bible and numerous churches claim; or they embrace their sexuality and compromise instead what the Bible says when it speaks against same-sex activity and relationships.
Of course, a gay Christian can dismiss or disregard all of this, claiming that the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says, or they can argue, as you do on their behalf, that such ‘teaching’ is culturally bound and therefore doesn’t speak to today’s committed same-sex couples. Either way the Bible is seriously compromised. (If its teaching on homosexuality is culturally bound then equally it could be said that many of its other ideas are too: ideas about atonement, salvation and resurrection. These too are the products of first-century minds mired in superstition.)
As a result, the gay Christian, and people like yourself, have to exercise a great deal of cognitive dissonance as they set what the New Testament clearly teaches about homosexuality against what they themselves prefer to believe.
I’m not projecting anything, Becky, merely pointing out that both of these positions – compromising either oneself or the Bible’s abhorrent teaching on same-sex matters – are untenable. My advice would be, and is, that the gay person who is dabbling with Christianity would be far better off rejecting the latter. Indeed, any person would be better off without it. There are many ways of helping others that don’t involve the assumption of supernatural beliefs.
Speaking of which, you do know, don’t you, that a ‘relationship with Christ’ is not actually possible? You are doing all the work sustaining that illusion.
Neil, I just think there is a real chasm between the thinking of people in these various camps. To the fundamentalist, any insight which feels that parts of the Scripture maybe culturally bound feels like some kind of compromise and is untenable. On the other hand to more moderate/progressive Christians it feels like we are not “cherry-picking,” but actually taking Scripture even more seriously, attempting to “rightly divide” the word of truth.
To give an example, the idea that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself is regarded as objective truth. However, the images/analogies the church or even the Scripture may use to describe this are culturally bound. I think God meets people where they’re at. This feels like common sense to me.
I feel that many have simply ditched the baby with the bathwater.
Also, Neil, and this is a serious question. As a gay man, do you have concern about the rise and increase of Islam in Western Europe and around the world? I think I would be tons more concerned about this than moderate/progressive Christianity which is generally very affirming of things such as the equality of women, gay rights, the rule of law, and the separation of church and state.
I never see this concern reflected in any of the blogs promoting the new atheism. It seems to me almost always directed toward discrediting Christian faith. I seriously cannot understand it. Maybe I am just in the wrong blog stream or something.
Also, I think when it comes down to subjective spiritual experience, how can we really judge or speak for another person. Neil, it may be true that you never had an authentic experience or relationship with Christ. I can’t know this one way or the other because I’m not inside your skin.
But, respectfully, how are you able to judge with certainty that I don’t have an authentic experience or relationship with God in Christ?
I’m not able to see how this certainty is possible.
I guess we’re going to have to agree to disagree. 🙂
As you know Becky, this is an atheist blog. I am an atheist. I find no evidence for the supernatural in any form and consequently I do not believe in the Gods, Saviors and the other assorted beings, and places, that practioners of religion claim exist. Asking, therefore, if I ever had a true relationship with Jesus Christ indicates that you really don’t understansd what it is to be an atheist. Nonetheless, I can assure you that my relationship with Jesus was every bit as real as yours.
Which brings me to your question of how I’m able to judge with certainty that you don’t ‘have an authentic experience or relationship with God in Christ’. Because there isn’t a God, Becky, and you cannot have a relationship with something that doesn’t exist. Faith, yours included, relies instead on subjective feeling – see how often you use the phrase ‘I feel’ in your comment above – encouraged and reinforced by church and a highly selective reading of the Bible. How else can you claim that ‘God reconciled himself to the world through Christ’ is an ‘objective truth’ when this is patently not the case? Such a declaration of faith is not demonstrable ‘objectively’; it is merely an emotional response to the need for comfort in a precarious and often hostile world.
As for your other red herring, that I do not critique Islam: the clue is in the name of the blog. All the same, I have on occasion criticised Islam (here for example: https://rejectingjesus.com/2015/01/18/where-is-the-love/) However, I do not know Islam to the extent I know Christianity – even though I regard it as equally meaningless and damaging – nor did Islam take thirty years of my life.
You’re always welcome here, Becky, and I do appreciate your courtesy. However, as Gary has told you on Escaping Christian Fundamentalism, hanging around atheist blogs in the hope of slipping in a word for Jesus isn’t really worth your while. Unless, of course, you have more doubts about your beliefs than you’re prepared to concede…
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I grew up with a very liberal protestant church. They didn’t take the bible literally, they were OK with the idea that the people who wrote it included stories that were taken from their mythology, and also included some of the cultural prejudices of their time. That sort of church is fine with evolution, fine with female pastors, and fine with gays. As long as you thought God was real, and that Jesus was real and died for your sins, they weren’t too worried about following all the ancient moralizing. Fundamentalists tend to view this sort of believer as not a True Christian™. But I’m glad that I grew up in that kind of a church, because it was much nicer that what I’ve seen of Fundigelicalism. When I deconverted, it wasn’t traumatic, and I don’t have any lingering emotional damage from being there.
I hear what you’re saying, Ubi. I’ve experienced such churches, though most of my time was spent in evangelical ones, which, by and large, were not tolerant. However, I always ended up wondering why liberal churches bothered. They only just manage to salvage the baby from the bath water, but I struggle to see how they can claim that the Bible contains one ‘central truth’ – that ‘God is Love and Jesus shows it’ (as one liked to say) – while the rest can be safely ignored. Why not the whole lot? I guess that’s what you decided in the end. It’s good your deconversion wasn’t traumatic.
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I can see why liberal churches bother. Focusing on the central core message and ignoring most of the rest lets them focus on being better people, on being more involved with helping their community, and with supporting each other with less judgment. Going there lets people have a religious”tribe” and feel good about having “faith”, with much less of the “god wants you to hate people” part. I don’t mind the presence of these churches in my area, and I wish more Evangelicals would switch over to them, if they aren’t ready to fully deconvert.
But (as my Mom found out), if you really want a church, you can go to a UU congregation, and have all of that community and fellowship stuff, but not have any dogma pushed on you at all.
Neil and Ubi, I would reason in this way. The Scripture teaches in Hebrews that Jesus is the exact representation of God, and that in this time God has spoken to us by His Son.. For me, the incarnation demonstrates God’s love and also HIs nature. So, as a follower of Jesus, He is the lens, the hermaneutic through which I would view the teaching of the entire Bible.
So, therefore, if I read something in Scripture which appears to violate, say the love of an enemy in the OT, I don’t automatically conclude that I am looking at the unadulterated “word of the Lord.”
You know, I just think it depends on what people feel is the center and foundation of Christian faith. Is it the incarnation, the way of Jesus, or is it a certain view relating to the inerrancy and literal interpretation of the Bible?
If people believe the former, they will be struggling. But, if they accept the latter, they will, IMO , experience freedom, as well as a more healthy and balanced faith.
I also feel that in the more moderate/progressive churches, people tend to be more comfortable with ambiguity and not having all the answers. Things are not always seen in a black or white kind of way. We are not always going to agree. Even the apostle Paul wrote that in this life we see “through a glass darkly.”
Whatever position a person takes, I think a certain degree of humility is a good thing.
Neil, also I want to thank you for your courtesy as well, and for your openness in allowing me to comment here. Take care.
Got the switch, Becky. No problem with that. As for the rest of what you say…
“…as a follower of Jesus, He is the lens, the hermaneutic through which I would view the teaching of the entire Bible.” But only insofar as you ignore a good deal of what he said. I understand why you want a warm and friendly Jesus, who espouses loving one’s enemies and helping others, but that’s not all he represents, is it.
He told those around him that God’s kingdom would be established on Earth in their life time (Mark 1.15; Luke 11.20; Matthew 16.27-28 etc); he was certain that when that happened, non-believers would be sent to the outer darkness with much weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13.28); he implied he’d like to put his enemies to the sword (Luke 19.27); he claimed to uphold every aspect of the Jewish law – the one the proscribed death for every minor infringement (Matthew 5:17–48); he said that his good news was only for his own people, the Jews (Matthew 15.24), and so on.
You can dismiss all of these as being ‘culturally bound’, mythological or incompatible with the Jesus you know and love, as most believers do. But it’s hardly honest, is it, Becky? The Jesus you believe in is one of your own making.
I can see how you arrive at this construct, I really can. You base what you believe on careful cherry-picking of what the Bible says and on what you ‘feel’ about it. If it doesn’t fit with want you want to believe, then out it goes. How do I know this? Because you say so: “I just think it depends on what people feel is the center and foundation of Christian faith.” You ‘think’? ‘People feel‘? So Christianity can be whatever you want it to be, based on what you personally ‘think’ and ‘feel’? Got it. But then you can’t claim, as you do, that any of it is ‘objective truth’.
Uh, oh, my statement needs to be switched. The former is the latter. Sorry. 😦
Neil, you are not the first person to share this concern and so I’ve thought deeply about it. Does it seem reasonable that Jesus would contradict Himself? I mean He prayed for forgiveness as He was being murdered. He counseled love of enemies. He went about doing good, healing people. There were various times
that His teaching superseded the OT law. There is a conondrum. Is the problem with the teaching of Jesus or with our own understanding. To give just one example, Jesus says something like I have not come to bring peace but a sword. I’m paraphrasing here
A man’s foes will be of His own household. Even family members will be estranged from each other. Well, Neil is this the ideal will of God or is it a natural consequence? If I come from a family of hate filled racists and begin advocating for healing and love toward even societal outcasts, there is going to be division and strife, maybe the sword metaphorically or physically. What happened to many of the followers of Christ during the reign of Nero, for example? What I think is that people are not being dishonest. They interpret the teaching of Christ and what it means to be a Christian differently. I guess we can only agree to disagree Neil. You have made one choice and I another. I feel deep sorrow for your pain and am very glad that things are so much better for you now.
Neat side-stepping there, Becky. You argue that the bits of Jesus’ teaching you happen not to like are either contradictions or are only the consequences of what he said. These might apply to the references you make, but they certainly don’t to his promise that the Kingdom of Heaven was arriving soon or that he came only to reach the lost sheep of Israel. These are central to his teaching according to what we find in the gospels. His commands to love enemies as well as neighbors, to turn the other cheek and so on, are directed at his own people, first-century Jews, as they prepared for the imminent arrival of that Kingdom on Earth. Read any book on the synoptic gospels other than ones by evangelical authors and this is what you’ll find. Try Bart Ehrman’s Jesus Before the Gospels for starters.
I know you desperately want a Jesus that fits your (church’s) construct of him, but take a look at the big picture, Becky. Look at everything he says, particularly that which doesn’t fit your idea of gentle Jesus meek and mild, and see how it does fit the picture of an apocalyptic preacher trying to alert his own people of the New Age that was to come soon, and dramtically at that; this was Jesus’ ‘good news’. If you do that, you’ll see he does make some sort of sense.
However, unfortunately for him, and you, he was also completely wrong. Despite Paul’s radical reinterpretation of Jesus’ mission (though Paul also believed the end of the age would come about in his time) Jesus’ ‘good news’ has no relevance today whatsoever.
Don’t worry about my pain, Becky. I don’t have any, not of the sort you mean, anyway. I’m happy, having discovered that being oneself is the key to happiness. Let go of trying to make Jesus be what you want him to be – in fact, just let go of Jesus – and be happy being yourself instead.