Gay Christians’ Conflict Between Their Sexuality And The Bible

For the last couple of years or so I’ve been reading many books and web articles written by gay Christians.  I’ve benefited so much from them but have found the autobiographies to be the most effective in helping me to see the issue of homosexuality from their side of the divide.  I’ve always believed that same-sex sexual relations are sinful because “that’s what the bible says”, but while these books and the people who wrote them have made me more understanding of their plight, I’m still convinced that same-sex relationships are against God’s will and can never be blessed by God because…..“that’s what the bible says”. 

Some of the authors of these books present reasonable-sounding arguments to justify and allow same-sex relationships, and that the traditional Christian view of homosexuality is wrong; and it can be hard to contradict some of them.   The main area of dispute in the bible is around the so-called “Clobber Verses” i.e. the passages from the bible which speak specifically against same-sex relationships.  They are Genesis 1:27-28; 2:23-24; 19:1-29; Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; and  Deuteronomy 23:17-18 in the Old Testament; and Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; and Jude 1:7 in the New Testament.  Some gay Christian authors, and even a growing number of gay-affirming straight Christian authors, use word studies in the original languages, biological science, and psychological science and history, setting the verses in a social and/or religious context (which isn’t necessarily correct), and (some use) liberal theology to reinterpret the Clobber Verses.  They also appeal to sentiment, asking if God is fair and just to give a person a same-sex orientation while at the same time condemning all who practice same-sex relationships.  And they insist that a loving and monogamous same-sex relationship or marriage is not what the bible is referring to when it condemns same-sex relationships.

But when we follow their arguments and search the King James Bible for ourselves, we can see the flaws in their “evidence”; even the science presented by some gay Christians in biological or mental health fields is disputed by other scientists, so the debate is still open.  The debate therefore, must be restricted to the bible.

The gay Christian authors of all these books and articles have each responded differently to the conflict between their sexual orientation and their profession of faith in God, and I imagine that they are each representative of many gays who remain silent about having undergone the same struggles, and only their close friends and family are aware of it.  So I’m thankful for each of these books and articles because it has opened my eyes to the torment that gays in churches have had to endure, and it helps me understand why they have chosen the various lifestyles they now live.  This article is a discussion of some of those responses.

Suicide

One such author is D. A. Helminiak, a Catholic priest who has ministered to gays and lesbians since 1977 through a support group called Dignity.  He has written a book in favour of same-sex relationships, reinterpreting the traditional understanding of the Clobber Passages.  In part of a heart-rending catalogue of the horrors and abuse gays suffer, he writes; “Thirty percent of teenage suicides are among homosexual youth.  Proportionately, this figure is at least three to four times higher than for other adolescents.  [A study in Massachusetts found the rate of attempted suicides six times higher]” (Helminiak, D, 2000, p. 17).

For obvious reasons, we never get to read the stories of the “Thirty percent of teenage suicides”; their lives were so intolerable for them because of their struggle that they could no longer face life, and so they ended it.

My friend Stuart is gay

When I met Stuart he was 19 years old and I was 21.  A few days later a colleague at work told me about Jesus and I was saved.  As soon as I got home I told Stuart that I’d become a Christian that day.  He was delighted because, he told me, he was also a Christian.  We used to sit in his room and talk about everything, including sharing our sexual thoughts.  He shared with me that he was struggling with same-sex desires and that the thought of sex with a female was repulsive to him.  It had never occurred to me that any male could feel revulsion for a female, but I accepted it without comment and with new awareness. 

About three years later the inner conflict between Christianity and Stuart’s sexual orientation and desires became intolerable for him and he tried to commit suicide.  He survived but seemed mentally unhinged for a while and I was a little afraid of him.  But in a short time he had fully recovered and was more balanced, and a few months later he was groomsman at my wedding.  Sadly, he rejected Christ and the gospel and became militant in his gay identity.  His militancy has since softened but he is a convinced – and consequently condemned – atheist now.

Another Stuart

Dr. Stuart Edser, who is now a leading psychologist in Newcastle, Australia, and specialising in gay issues, has written a book entitled “Being Gay, Being Christian: You can be Both”.  Dr. Edser was brought up Catholic, “’prayed the sinner’s prayer’….at a Baptist youth camp beside Lake Macquarie and asked Jesus to be my personal Lord and Saviour” (page 22), attended some Protestant churches, joined Evangelical Union at university and handed out evangelistic tracts on campus, led camps for Christians and became “a solid student of the scriptures and of evangelical scholars”, became an elder in a local Uniting Church and taught the bible there, studied to become a lay preacher, and was invited to speak at various churches and groups in Newcastle and New South Wales.  He later had another religious experience known as the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  Following this he and some friends founded a successful Pentecostal church which is still in existence and he was one of its leaders. 

But all the while he was wrestling with same-sex desires.  He was so convinced that God was going to change him that he “even bought a gold ring as an act of faith that God would heal me or deliver me from my torment so that I could marry according to His natural design” (page 22-23).

However, despite all his efforts, which included fasting and prayer, speaking in tongues for hours on end, healing of the mind and memories, “attacking Satan”, and exorcism, his same-sex desires would not go away, and he lived with this torment for “year after year”.

Finally, he tells us, “My sense of hypocrisy knew no bounds.  Here I was, preaching and teaching the Lord’s Word, leading His people in worship, and yet all the while convinced that I was the filthiest, most abject of sinners….As a consequence of this hypocrisy, and a crushing loneliness, I became suicidal.  I could not change my desire yet I had a genuine heart after God.  In my mind, the two were mutually exclusive…..There was no deliverance.  I felt so dirty, so filthy, so fleshly.  One evening I aimed my car for the cliff overlooking one of our local beaches.  I would smash myself on the rocks far below and let the ocean take me.  I flattened the accelerator to the floor of the vehicle and sped toward the precipice.  Three-quarters of the way to the edge, I slammed on the brakes.  I flopped onto the steering wheel, frightened and distressed, and wept and wept…. (Edser, Dr. S, 2012, p. 24).

These tragic elements of Dr Edser’s story have so much in common with other gay Christian lives I’ve been reading about, and my heart goes out to them.  I’ve never had to deal with such torment in my experience, and I have no idea how I would respond if I did have to deal with it.

Abandon God

Anthony Venn-Brown, author of “A Life of Unlearning”, after many years of torment and failed efforts to be heterosexual, abandoned God altogether and dived fully into same-sex sexual relations and the murky side of the gay world.  Apart from suicide, it’s the worst decision he could have made because they’ve chosen the fading cheap baubles of this world in the form of romance and sex for the brief period of this life, over a life both in this world and the world to come of a living and loving relationship with God.

This is not to say that romance and sex in a loving relationship are cheap or evil – far from it.  They are good gifts of God for the blessing and benefit of humanity.  But when a choice has to be made between them and a loving relationship with God, there is no competition, and our lives must be given to God.  “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps 37:4).

Anthony Venn-Brown is an example of a Christian who tried to defy his same-sex attraction by marrying a woman.  He was relatively happily married to her and they had children together.  But he never felt authentic, he says, and he pined for the love of a man the whole time.  Ultimately Anthony and his loving wife and children became just as much a casualty of their church and its pastors as he was; and he abandoned his relationship with God and immersed himself in the sordid world of promiscuous gay sex. 

Tragically, most gay Christians who have abandoned Christ have done so because they felt abandoned by Christians and abandoned by God, however well-meaning some of those Christians were. 

Heterosexual Marriage

Other gay Christians have been enabled to marry and live a genuine, sincere, loving, heterosexual relationship with their opposite-sex spouse; Jackie Hill Perry, author of “Gay Girl; Good God” is one such.  Having felt convicted that her same-sex relationships were unacceptable to God, she turned away from them in repentance and faith in him.  She then got involved with a loving church and Christians who accepted and loved her and, after a period of learning the bible in a relationship with God, and after many struggles, found that she was able to love and marry a man. 

While many gay Christians have been pressured into a heterosexual marriage, Jackie was not one of them. But she does relate how difficult it was for her as a Christian because she couldn’t simply stop feeling attracted to women.  Her finding romance, love, and marriage with a man came gradually, essentially sneaking up on her as she immersed herself in her new life with Christ, finding her identity, she tells us, in him rather than in her sexuality.  But even today she struggles with same-sex desires; marriage has not “cured” her of this desire and God has not removed it.  She lives with it, and her husband knows about her past relationships and present struggles.  Most gays pressured into a heterosexual marriage have not been so successful and, despite that in many of them their spouse understands and is supportive and willing to help, the marriage doesn’t last. 

Celibate Living

A third choice open to Christians who are same-sex oriented is a life of celibacy.  This is not necessarily an exciting way to live and is, in my opinion, unnatural under normal circumstances.  The apostle Paul advocates it for those who have the gift to live that way (1 Cor 7:7-9), but he never mandates it; and neither should contemporary Christians.

For gay Christians like David Bennett, author of “A War of Loves”, following his conversion to Christ and after years of personal struggle, searching, praying, and reflecting; and after realising his sexual orientation could not be changed; and because he saw that a same-sex relationship is sinful; he concluded that a celibate life was his only option.  Celibacy was his own decision; it was not forced on him by others.

But both David Bennett and Jackie Hill Perry were able to choose their lifestyle directions because they saw that their identity is not defined by their sexuality but by their relationship to Christ.  It is true, as I said above, that when our desires clash with a right relationship with God, God must come first.  Therefore David, believing that his sexual orientation is sinful, made the only choice he could if he wanted to live right with God. 

Same-sex Relationships and Marriage

But for the majority of Christian gays and lesbians, the above options are really no option at all.  Like all Christians, gay Christians don’t want to abandon Christ.  They love him and serve him to the best of their ability, and the thought of abandoning him is unthinkable.  But, apparently, gays’ and lesbians’ same-sex sexual orientation is an integral part of who they are.  It would be equally unrealistic and unreasonable to expect a heterosexual person to change their sexual orientation.

These gay Christians have chosen to continue to profess faith in God and a daily walk with him whilst living in a same-sex sexual relationship or marriage.  For such gays there are churches founded by gays for gays, and the number of this group of churches is spreading.  Probably the biggest and most well-known of them is the Metropolitan Community Church; but they aren’t widely spread in Australia as far as I know.  The Uniting Church in Australia, while not a specifically gay denomination, is “gay affirming”, has two marriage services, one for opposite-sex marriages and the other for same-sex marriages, and it has active gays and lesbians in the ministry. 

However, such a situation is wrong and brings God’s condemnation – not only on the ones involved in a same-sex sexual relationship, but that specifically gay or gay-affirming churches exist.  Such churches are not part of the body of Christ because they exist in opposition to him.  And because they encourage and support gay Christians in their expressions of sin, they also bring God’s condemnation on them.  No matter what our circumstances, we court disaster when we defy God.

How Gay is Gay?

It is interesting to me that my friend Stuart told me a year or so ago that the best sex he ever had was with a woman.  He lived with her in a sexual relationship for four years.  And he still frequently visits female prostitutes.  I was stunned when he told me this because he had told when we were young that the thought of sex with a female repulsed him.

I was also surprised when I read that Dr Stuart Edser said in his book that he, too, had a satisfying sexual relationship with a woman.

And Anthony Venn-Brown lived in a marital relationship with his wife for several years and they had children. 

In a previous church to which I belonged was a young man my age who was an elder.  He was married to one of the women in the congregation and they had children together.  But he began having sexual encounters in public toilets with random men.  He eventually left his wife and family, moved interstate, and settled down with a male partner. 

Jackie Hill Perry, although a sworn and committed lesbian, became a Christian and eventually married a man, with whom she lives happily and to whom she has borne children.

And there are many such stories of gays and lesbians who have been converted to Christ who now live in a happy heterosexual marriage.

So this makes me wonder how gay these gays really are.  Given that they have admittedly lived in a heterosexual relationship and have even enjoyed that relationship, they have no excuse before God in saying that they are same-sex attracted and their real desire is same-sex.  The fact that they can live successfully in a heterosexual sexual relationship precludes them from living lawfully in a same-sex relationship.  They may not like living in a hetero- marriage as much as they would a homo- marriage, but, before God, they have no excuse not to.

Dr Edser, whom I mentioned above, in his book, tells us that sexual orientation is formed in the embryo in the third trimester; and he gives other science of sexual orientation being outside the person’s control.  He is a trained psychologist and has studied the subject of sexual orientation perhaps more than most due to his personal involvement with it. 

I can’t argue with him on a scientific basis as I’ve had no training in any scientific discipline, but I can argue his theology because I have some training in it.  And other scientists do disagree with Dr Edser’s view and they indicate that there is no consensus on the subject of sexual orientation. 

Dr Edser, finding that conservative biblical theology does not allow him to practice his same-sex preference, has chosen to adopt the liberal theology because it allows him to indulge a relationship with his male partner.  He may have fooled himself into believing he’s OK with God now, and attempts to deceive others through his book that same-sex relationships are perfectly acceptable to God; but he can’t fool God.  And God doesn’t accept Dr Edser’s change of an orthodox theology to an unorthodox one in order to be able to practice his sexuality as he wants to.  “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived….For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 2:13; 4:4-5).

My Conclusion

Once a heterosexual couple have committed themselves to each other in marriage, and have sealed it by becoming one flesh sexually, that bond is life-long.  The only justification for them to separate is death or unfaithfulness.  And if the abovementioned gays and lesbians have been able to have that heterosexual relationship, it is no good bleating about feeling authentic or having same-sex preference above opposite-sex desires.  Jesus said: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mk 8:34).  Jackie Hill Perry has made the commitment to a heterosexual marriage and has learned to live with her same-sex attractions.  David Bennett has concluded that celibacy is the only path for him to take; consequently he broke off his relationship with a man whom he deeply loved, in order to follow Jesus.  He counted the cost and counts Jesus as more worthy of loving than any other; and he will not lose his reward.

References

Bennett, D. and Wright, N. T.  “A War of Loves”, 2018, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Edser, Dr. S, “Being Gay, Being Christian: You Can Be Both”, Exisle Publishing, Wollombi, NSW, and Auckland, NZ, copyright Stuart Edser, 2012

Helminiak, D. A., 2000, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, Alamo Square Press; Millennium Edition; for Kindle

Perry, Jackie Hill, 2018. Gay Girl, Good God, B & H Books, Nashville, Tennessee

Venn-Brown, Anthony. 2015, A Life of Unlearning – a journey to find the truth, New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney, Auckland, London, Cape Town

Scripture references are from the King James Bible.