The tide started to turn, perhaps, when my editor was reading a piece for my previous blog, “Sacred Tension”, about being gay and Christian. She looked up at me and said, “Stephen, I can’t let you publish this.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because people would feel attacked, belittled, dehumanized,” she said, “I won’t let you publish this piece, not in its current form.”
“But I’m right,” I said.
“That’s no excuse for being ugly.” She went on to practically rewrite the whole article, making it a much kinder, gentler piece.
The article in question had to do with what many in the gay Christian world call “Side B” – the belief that, while a gay orientation cannot be helped, to act on it is sinful. (Conversely, Side A is the belief that God blesses gay marriage.)
I was expressing how deeply I believe Side B is wrong, blind, and dangerous, and that stories of how it hurts people are important. I still believe everything I wrote in that article, but the way I expressed it was ugly, demeaning, and wrong.
I’ve always been dedicated to peace, kindness, and dialogue. Growing up gay in the conservative world, I’ve always understood that there are reasonable, kind and loving people on both sides, and that it is far more productive to engage in humble dialogue instead of vicious flame wars.
My dedication to that standard was starting to erode, though, and the article my editor refused to let me publish was an example of that slow, painful erosion.
My ability to uphold that ideal was breaking down because, as I see clear as day in retrospect, I was hurting very, very deeply. I had spent a lifetime warding off unintentional knife stabs from fellow, loving Christians. I was nursing a million wounds, chielf among them the pain of going through the ex-gay world, and the betrayal I felt regarding the traditional ethic: I had done my best, fought my hardest, and it left me broken, suicidal, empty.
The dialogue with other Christians – good people struggling so deeply to love and understand and yet bound by the straight jacket of their theology – started to wear me down, and down, and down. Even good and productive conversations started to devastate me.
Left to marinate in these unhealed, ongoing wounds, I became explosively, brutally angry. I learned the painful way that hurt and anger take us to a very primitive part of the brain: where it is only “us” and “them”, where everything is black and white, where there is only survival or anihaliation, and fear – so much fear.
I regret to say that, as I became overwhelmed with my pain as a gay Christian man, I lost sight of the humanity of my fellow Christians who disagree with me.
I started to spiral, and I finally realized the painful truth: I was unable to practice my ideal of gracious kindness and dialogue. I was too compromised, in far too much pain, and I had to detach.
I stopped writing. I cut off all access to social media. I practically vanished from the face of the earth, focusing only on my job and the 3 or 4 friends that I trusted. I felt like a mortally wounded animal, limping up the mountain to hide.
It’s taken a long time for me to even begin to heal. Now, little by little, I’m able to communicate again. I’m able to stand in peace with those with whom I disagree, and I am able to practice the brutally hard compassion I know Christ commands all of us to embody.
I am more capable of conversing in love, of expressing the full extent of my beliefs without losing sight of the humanity we all share. I am able to see that what unites us all – God’s love – is far greater than anything that divides us.
Several weeks ago, my partner and I had dinner with a couple of pastors. While very good friends of ours, they are also Side B, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to engage in such conversation, yet again, when the healing process has been so hard. I’d been dialoging with these pastors for years now, and while I knew them to be safe, kind, and caring, I simply didn’t know if I was up to the task that evening.
One of the pastors looked at us over dinner, with immense pain in his eyes, and said:
I just don’t know anymore. I am no longer non-affirming, but I’m not exactly affirming either. I’m in a middle place, and I just want to love people. I believe both positions take a tremendous amount of faith. And no one knows about my theological shift – if my denomination knew, I would be excommunicated. I can’t talk to anyone about this. It’s hard, but I keep asking myself: at what point does orthodoxy come at the expense of orthopraxy?
Before the meal, we held hands, and my pastor friend prayed. He thanked God for my partner and I, and with that prayer, he welcomed us to his table – not as rivals, not as seperate, but as family, as fellow Christians, fully embraced by God.
During that meal, I was moved – moved by my friend’s humanity, by their willingness to learn, by their courage to not know, and to let go of familiar beliefs. I was moved to tenderness by this secret meal – a meal that could have these pastors ousted.
I remembered my original ideal – that conversation, kindness, and long-suffering patience really do make a difference. I also realized that, as was the case with me, sometimes we can’t engage – sometimes it simply hurts too much – and that is ok, too.
23 thoughts on “Gay and Christian: When it Hurts Too Much”
I agree with you that “Side B” is a very unhealthy – and unGodly – option.
You have my sympathy for all the anguish you have been through.
Take strength from the love-friendship of your partner – and MOST SPECIALLY God.
There are plenty of Catholic priests (and some bishops and even Cardinals) who are very open-hearted towards gay folk. Not all of these are “Progressivist Liberals” either. I speak from personal knowledge.
“The times, they are a changing!”
I hope that at some point you will have the strength to retrace your steps to Catholic communion. In the meantime, my prayer for you is that you are well and happy and grow in holiness day by day.
Wow. This is powerful — real, honest, transparent. I appreciate you sharing, even when it’s painful.
Thank you for reading ❤
Why are you still a Christian? I quit it long ago for Asatru.
This is a good question, and I fear the answer is much too complicated for a comment post. I might have to dedicate a full blog post to this question.
Good idea; I’d love to read it.
My answer to “Why am I still a Catholic” is here:
I am so glad I read this article. I resonate with so many things you said. Perhaps I may be able to put some of my thoughts into words. I feel so frustrated by the boxes that everyone wants to put me in because they seem helpful to all of them but never to me. I appreciate your story because it reminds me that fitting myself into the labels and boxes of others can be the most self-destructive thing possible. Sometimes I myself can become anxious when I don’t land on either side of an argument. I find comfort when I hear stories of other people being in the middle ground. And I love the stories of journeying through life and finding ourselves changing our minds drastically because it’s the best thing for us to do and that’s where our healing happens. Thank you for loving others who still are in the middle or even the other side. You inspire me to let myself be where I am and be patient in the process, while still loving others who don’t side with me.
I am what you’d call a gay celibate Christian…… I have tried the gay lifestyle and was unhappy. I tried to be a Christian and not go the gay way and failed over and over. Once I embraced the knowledge God loves me, the Christian part became so much easier. Side B gets it wrong in a lot of ways…. the church has failed us in many ways, but I for one can’t get around what the Bible still says, so don’t condemn Christians for believing parts of the Bible you are uncomfortable with.
I am content where I am at, and though I disagree with your view, your blog interests me and it helps to read opposing views. Hope you don’t mind a comment from a guy who disagrees with you….. You are a great writer, and I enjoy reading your thoughts, though I never commented before 🙂
I don’t mind you being here at all! I welcome all perspectives here, and I am glad you enjoy the blog.
I can certainly understand your frustration with the christian world. It is sad that no matter what, there are going to be christians who just will not accept you as you are….and that is sad. I truly believe God created us and we should be able to live just as we are without guilt and condemnation. I have to admit, I at one point was like many, saying the gay life was wrong and against the bible. Yet I have come to believe that we may have some wrong interpretations and wrong understandings of what the bible was talking about. If we look at Jesus and the way he lived, we know he loved those who the religious people would not associate with. That was not to say the people they would not associate with were terrible sinners, but in the eyes of the religious, they were. I no longer look at gay people the way I used too. People are people, created in the likeness of God and deserving of being treated with the basic human rights like everyone else. I’m tired of the discrimination and condemnation applied to gay people when all they want is to live a happy life like the rest of us. I am not gay and I cannot understand how gay people feel, but I sure do think we all should be able to live our lives just the way God made us. I think that if you are a Side B person and are happy that way, great. If you are Side A then you should be able to live and be happy that way without condemnation from anyone. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and try not to worry about what other people are saying.
This election and the hatred spewed wounded me so badly that it activated my PTSD and other mental disorders that I developed from growing up in brutally conservative Christian Oklahoma. I’m still not completely “back,” yet, after spending several days in the psychiatric ward. I had lost all nuance and had devolved back into the abused, hurt child where everything was “black or white” and those on the other side saw me as a problem that needed to be eliminated. I wanted to find a shotgun and blow the head off those smugly carrying “Stop your crying and get over it! Trump won!” signs to counter the protests here. Then, maybe, kill myself. The only thing that saved me was my spirituality and belief that no matter how badly I wanted to do those things it was not the answer and I would pay an eternal price, like eternal regret, for it. My murderous rage is a warning to the other side that there are those who are not in a spiritual place, and sicker than me, to stop their actions. There were three other veterans who were hospitalized in a two day period because of their inability to deal with this election and the hatred it exposed against the LGBTQ and minority communities. Therefore, this pain and illness is more widespread than is being reported. I’m praying there will not be a terrible tragedy that is born out of the way our society has moved to embrace false prophets and values antithetical to the most basic Christian “Golden Rule” values. I’m most sickened by the rise of modern day Pharisees and the worship of celebrities, ignorance and mammon. I know I’m sinful and require grace, but I find them smugly arrogant with the idea they can do whatever they want as long as they are “them” (meaning whatever they have decided is an unforgivable sin at the moment). I’m not where you are, yet, but I’m moving towards more grace. In the meantime, I’m praying for G-d to heal my heart and soul. A LGBTQ Submarine Veteran of the Cold War
they are NOT “them” (obviously)
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. This is a hard time for those of us who have been so wounded by the conservative world. I pray that you will continue to find healing.
Excited to read your thoughts. It is a journey I am familiar with in so many ways. As a woman I have struggled with fundamental Christianity’s rigid model of life and womanhood. I couldn’t find my place although I tried so very hard. Over the years watching the shades of religiosity differ from the lived Christ life, I wanted to leave. But again was tethered by desires of faith and hope. I believe I’ve found a happy medium and writers such as yourself give me hope that I’m not alone on this faith walk. Thank you.
Thank you so much, and I am so delighted to have you along for the journey ❤
This was fantastic to read. Thank you much for sharing your story. I’ve struggled to speak with kindness and empathy lately especially when I feel I “right.” I’m learning nothing is black and white and relationships should be valued. My boyfriend and I have different views on how we think God feels about gay marriage. Once upon a time, that would have been “grounds for divorce!” Lol. But now I’m realizing that nothing beats a sincere willingness to struggle toward the truth together. I believe God blesses gay marriage but I have some friends who believe they should be celibate if they are gay so I’ve learned to be humble in dishing out my opinion since it isn’t a personal struggle for me. May God continue to grant us grace in this conversation.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I join you in your prayer for greater grace in this conversation. And your words about struggling towards the truth together are powerful. Thank you.
My wife shared your well written, heart touching journey. I was moved. I shared the link on my FB page. Thank-You for your courage.
I have many friends that identify differently than I do (actually, all of them). I identify them as simply my friends, fellow human beings, and fellow sojourners along the precarious path of spiritual expression in search of truth. Obviously, we share a diverse set of views and opinions.
I’m a Jesus Freak from the 70s. Somewhere along the beaten theological trail that leads to Jesus, it seems some people concerned themselves with membership exclusion more than membership inclusion. It has led to a lot of hurt, pain, confusion, and division.
Thank-you for mustering the courage to replace your fear with grace, compassion, tender mercies, and love. I wish you well, and support you on your journey. Your story is inspiring. Keep the faith, friend.
Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. I’m deeply thankful the article connected. Be well, by friend.
Homosexual sin is serious. Paul says the active and unrepentant homosexual, as with all active, unrepentant sinners, will not enter God’s kingdom. Paul urges his readers not to be deceived on this point. He assumes there will be those who deny this teaching, and argue that some forms of homosexual conduct are acceptable to God. But Paul is clear: homosexual conduct leads people to destruction. This is a serious issue.
So, every sin is as bad as the other and we all sin. When we sin we are to repent and turn the other way.
Leviticus 18:22: ” Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” 3. Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
Thank you for your comment, though I must ask a question out of genuine curiosity: do you really think I haven’t heard this 1000 times before? And if so, what do you think will be accomplished by sharing it here?