Photo by: Diana Crandall
By Christian Brown
When my best friend got married in 2009, I was thrilled when he chose me as his best man.
It was an honor to stand by his side at the altar and support him as his beautiful bride walked gracefully down the aisle to wed him.
I’ll never forget the flashes of joy on his face as she drew closer and closer. First, a grin and a giggle, then tears, plenty of tears.
Many things were running through my head at that moment, but there’s one thought in particular that still haunts me today.
“I’ll never get to experience this joy because I’m a gay Christian.”
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I’ve never shared this thought publicly before. Instead, I’ve spent the last 15 years secretly trying to find a way to reconcile my sexuality and my faith. I’ve searched for cures and healings, fasted and prayed, invested in ex-gay counseling, studied the Scriptures, and considered lifelong celibacy.
My conclusion? I’ll never be happy unless I embrace both my sexuality and my Christian faith, even if it means getting the Church welcome mat pulled right from under my feet. I used to believe that being in a gay relationship was a sin.
As a result, I spent much of my young adulthood searching for alternative options, but to my chagrin, none of the Church’s “solutions” worked.
There’s been a lot of coverage of ex-gay Christians who left the “homosexual lifestyle” and much fodder over evangelical churches who have abandoned the conservative stance on homosexuality to welcome the LGBT community.
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For years I’ve hidden my true sexuality in order to avoid this conversation. I was afraid of losing friends, family members, and church membership, but even as the Supreme Court provided marriage equality nationwide this week, I feel like I must speak out. I have to tell the truth.
While the issue of affirming the LGBT community is still splitting up Christian leaders, I can say on a personal level, the issue has always divided me.
Taken during a school field trip to Washington D.C. in 1998.
Ever since I was 12-years-old, I knew. I liked other boys. An unsettling discovery for any young black kid growing up with an absent father and a strict, religious mother.
But what crushed me the most was the fact that I knew God hated homosexuality. Although it was never said directly, I learned early on where all these unrepentant people went – hell.
My upbringing in the Pentecostal church taught me that God loved everyone, but sinners who did not know Jesus had their place in the lake of fire. First on the list were atheists and homosexuals.
You can imagine the impact this teaching had on me. I sought every cure I could find. I prayed and fasted earnestly every night that God would heal me of these “nasty attractions.” I watched testimonies of “ex-gay” Christians who overcame same-sex attractions and became heterosexual.
“Lord, please let it happen to me.”
I joined ex-gay ministries online and received counseling from ministers who encouraged me to shed any gay identity and see myself as a “son of the King.”
Along the way, I dated women “in faith,” believing that my attractions would change once I met the right girl.
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The result? Nothing. Nada. My attractions never changed, but one thing did change as a result of me trying to eradicate my homosexuality, I slowly began to hate myself.
Depression began to set in. I became verbally abusive towards myself using words I dare not repeat here. I knew I was a Christian, a part of God’s family, but I wanted to end my life.
Suicide was an option for me just like it is for so many LGBT youth unfortunately.
This is where I have to thank God. Contrary to what some might think, God does love the LGBT community and His sacrifice on the cross transcends race, gender, and sexuality. The Bible says if we only call upon the Lord we will be saved.
If it wasn’t for that hope, which I found in Jesus Christ, I know I’d be dead. But through the anger and emptiness, God was there – and I found solace in knowing that one day things would get better.
I decided to stop fighting my attractions and just accept them. But what would that mean for my future? I was left with two options: committing to lifelong celibacy or affirming same-sex relationships.
Honestly, neither one felt right initially. And maybe it’s because the Bible and Church doctrine aren’t on the same page.
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Both Jesus and Paul the apostle address celibacy in scripture. When His disciples are ranting about the messiness of marriage and divorce in Matthew 19:10, Jesus says not all men can accept the alternative (celibacy), but only “those to which it has been given.”
Likewise, Paul encouraged unmarried Christians in 1 Corinthians 7:9 to remain single if they could exercise self-control. If not, he urged them to marry because that’s better than burning with passion and lust.
Although these scriptures appear quite clear, the evangelical church has had no problem mandating that gay Christians adopt lifelong celibacy because that’s apparently a better alternative to homosexuality. But is it?
Being gay didn’t stop the fact that I love to worship God. And I did it with all my heart.
I’ll be the first to say I do not have the gift of celibacy. As a result, the last 10 years for me as a young adult have been torturous.
I’m of marrying age yet I cannot court a partner, cannot ever fall in love, and must suppress desires I have for a committed, monogamous gay relationship.
It’s not easy, and honestly, it’s not sustainable anymore.
I cannot imagine a life being celibate forever. Is it because I’m lustful and can’t live without sex? No. It’s because I’m human and can’t live without companionship. In recent months, I’ve been reviewing the alternative to lifelong celibacy – an affirming gay lifestyle.
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It’s easy to fall into the trap of reading the Bible in a very literal way.
Most of the time, that’s a good thing, but there are moments when context is needed.
For example, 500 years ago, all Christians believed the Sun revolved around the Earth. They based this on scripture as the book of Psalms speaks of the Sun’s rotation (it’s rising and setting.)
When famed astronomer Galileo discovered that the Earth in fact revolves around the Sun, the Church excommunicated him and declared him a heretic.
Could it be that the six passages in the Bible that condemn homosexual practice were not directed at the modern-day context of it?
When it comes to homosexuality in the ancient world, both conservative and liberal scholars acknowledge that it had a different context in the Roman Empire.
First, the concept of an exclusive gay orientation didn’t exist.
While some men were known to have sexual encounters with both sexes, all men were primarily viewed as heterosexual. This might be why Jesus and Paul did not think to mention homosexuals in their conversations about celibacy. They both assumed all humans were heterosexual.
Second, homosexuality was viewed as an excess caused by lustfulness and a lack of self-control.
Matthew Vines, the author of “God and the Gay Christian,” explains this point better than me. But many writers of the time used alcohol as an analogy for lust. Just like an undisciplined person gets drunk, an inordinately sexual person commits homosexual acts.
It didn’t have to do with a person’s orientation; the ancient world believed homosexual acts happened when people got too lustful.
Do we really believe that today? Are all gay people just whoremongers driven by lust? I doubt even most conservative Christians would accept that philosophy. In the 21st century, we understand that being gay is something that is outside of a person’s control.
Last point on ancient world homosexuality, it usually involved man-boy relationships, temple prostitution, and the rape of slaves by their masters.
Bottom line, there was nothing redeemable about this practice so it’s obvious why Paul and Moses condemned it.
Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll see that the gay Christians in our churches today don’t want any association with evil lust, rape, molestation, or fornication. We just want inclusion, affirmation, and the ability to have the same loving, monogamous relationships and marriages heterosexuals are allowed.
While this might sound reasonable, a majority of Church leadership has not been persuaded that this doctrine is worth accepting, making it uncomfortable for anyone to truly own his or her sexuality and Christian faith.
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A recent Time Magazine article by Elizabeth Dias highlighted evolving attitudes on LGBT inclusion in the evangelical church, but it overlooked an important point – most Christians haven’t had a change of heart.
Using statistics from the Public Religion Research Institute, Dias highlighted the growing acceptance of gay marriage among young evangelicals, a bloc that doubled its support from just 20 percent in 2003 to 42 percent last year.
However, that doesn’t mean too much when more than 30 percent of the U.S. church world is 60-years-old and older. In fact, a Duke University study shows that 61 percent of America’s churches are led by a clergyperson over the age of 50.
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Those numbers don’t bode well for LGBT inclusion when just 42 percent of Americans 65 and older think gay marriage should be legal.
That’s the lowest level of support compared to any other U.S. age group.
What does that mean for thousands of gay Christians? Coming out in support of same-sex relationships is a surefire way of being rejected by the American Church.
What does that mean for me? If there are no other solutions from the evangelical church on this, I will consider the possibility of a gay relationship.
(But for the record, I am not actively in a relationship nor am I seeking one now.)
Nonetheless, I’m likely to face immediate rejection from friends and family, but I’m not afraid.
God loves and accepts me. And it’s high time I did the same.
Follow Christian Brown on Twitter here and read his follow-up article “Three Things I Learned Since Coming Out As A Gay Christian.”