Can You Be Gay And Christian?

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I don’t think there’s any debate about whether or not a Christian can experience same-sex attraction and yet remain faithful to God, living in obedience to his will for sex and marriage — either by pursuing marriage with someone of the opposite sex, or choosing to remain celibate. The answer is yes: you can be gay and Christian. But let’s explore the question that often follows: “Should Christians call themselves gay?”

About a year ago, someone emailed me and asked, “Are you heterosexual?” Despite being trained by Christian culture to avoid calling myself gay, and despite my impulse to write back with a full-blown essay on labels and Christian identity, this question had a pretty clear answer: No, I’m gay.

Of course, “gay” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. For most, it simply means being attracted to the same sex; for others, it means you’ve chosen to embrace or identify with homosexual behavior. That’s why when I came out on the blogosphere several years ago I chose to say, “I’m (kinda sorta yeah not really) gay.” Although I’m still careful with my terminology in mixed company, today I’m more comfortable using the term “gay,” especially among friends and family who know what I mean. Namely, that I’m attracted to men but committed to God’s design for human sexuality, which excludes homosexual behavior (i.e. gay sex).

Confusion over the term “gay Christian” is understandable, as it can mean one of two things: 1) a Christian who experiences SSA but believes homosexual behavior is sinful, or 2) a Christian who experiences SSA and believes homosexual behavior is acceptable and blessed by God, but only within the confines of a loving, monogamous relationship. Simply put, the first position is orthodox and the second is not. The disparity between the two has sparked an ongoing conversation about whether or not Christians should call themselves gay at all.

I don’t typically call myself a gay Christian, but I’m not opposed to those who do. The Church often spends more time talking about what Christians who experience SSA ought to call themselves (or not call themselves), rather than talking about how the gospel has shaped their lives. Rather than encouraging and equipping them to face a world that tells them to submit to their sexual desires. Rather than ensuring they have a church community that supports them as they pursue the countercultural path of holiness, whether that’s celibacy or a godly marriage.

My advice is to let people say “gay Christian” and explain what they mean. It’s possible they’re doing more for the kingdom by using that term than those who spend time debating whether or not they should. The label itself is a peripheral issue.

4 comments on “Can You Be Gay And Christian?

  1. Melanie

    I agree, although any reservations I have stem from the differing definitions and misunderstandings surrounding “gay” culturally as you so clearly pointed out. I think it takes a bit of courage to speak out as you have and I am grateful. I admire that about you as well as well as your talents and sense of fun while serving God. It is refreshing. Thanks.

  2. Barry

    Though I am not currently in a position to identify myself as such, I personally like the label “gay Christian”, even for celibate same-sex attracted people. Why? Because its authentic, and a person who identifies as such as open about their struggle and where they are at.

    One of the most difficult things about same-sex attraction is the way church culture treats it. Not just the arguing over labels, but the pressure to suppress the struggle and keep quiet about it or seek out orientation change therapy (which many have been burned by) or conform as much as possible to heterosexual norms. In a lot of Christian circles, those dealing with same-sex attraction don’t have the freedom to really be authentic about the things they are dealing with as much as straight people do. So many times in my small group I’ve talked about my depression and loneliness but couldn’t go any deeper than that. By identifying as “gay”, you are putting it all on the table.

    Plus, this arguing over labels pushes the world away from the church more than it draws them in. To the world, anybody who experiences same-sex attraction is “gay”, whether or not they are celibate or not.

  3. Mike Rumple

    Not sure if this post is still open but thought I would give it a try because I’ve been a christian since a young boy but I’ve also been struggling with SSA for a long time. I’ve been in both straight and gay relationships but decided around 10 years ago that I had to be celibate to remain faithful to God. In your bio I noticed you say you are joyfully single. I truly thought that making a commitment to be celibate would give me peace but it’s actually been just the opposite. It’s caused me to feel like I don’t fit in anywhere so therefore I’ve become somewhat of a recluse. Please share how you find joy in your life.

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