Finding Home (And Dory) 

Warning this post contains spoilers for the film “Finding Dory”


I may sound a bit outlandish when I say that Pixar’s long-awaited sequel to “Finding Nemo” contained a more provoking story than the original. It is not often that I can say that about a sequel, but what “Finding Nemo” does in relating to the human experience of wanting to find and be found by those we love, “Finding Dory” proves even more touching by appealing to the common desire we all have for finding a place to belong and call home.

The film opens with a young Dory growing up in an aquarium with two kind and concerned parents who fear for what kind of future Dory may have with severe short-term memory loss. And it is only a matter of minutes into the film when I knew where this film was heading… It was hard not to cry while watching Young Dory ask her parents, “What if I forget you?” and then alarmingly—yet so humanly—jumping to the next question of “Will you forget me?”

This is a question, if I consider it honestly, I ask internally of friends and family. However, it is the tender young Dory voicing that question aloud. It is a question in which I believe we are all probably asking—whether that is to our parents, friends, spouse, or God. 

Dory, of course as evidenced by the title, ends up getting lost from her parents and her home and for a while really does forget about her parents. Ironically though, I found there was a double meaning at work. While Dory is lost from her original home, she does find a new home among Marlin and Nemo (as seen in the original film) but then soon finds herself missing from both homes.

This is something I found quite powerful in this film. Neither does the film elevate friends over biological family or elevate biological family over friends but sees them both as good and in cooperation with one another. We need our friends and family members to help cultivate the idea of home, but like the film, not all of us necessarily have guaranteed access to biological families— whether by birth, locale, estrangement, death, or by other reasons.

For some of us, the idea of home is a sad one and the feeling of homesickness is a painful one especially when there is no home to feel sick about. The feeling that no one is coming to look for us or that everyone has forgotten about us, is not an unusual one in this world marked by loneliness and isolation. And this film really makes me wrestle with that.

When Dory after a long trek across the ocean finally makes it back to where she believes she will find her parents, she is for a brief period shaken by the assumed death of her parents. She exclaims in a moment of despair and grief, “I have no family!” and in a matter of seconds the family she had once forgotten briefly becomes a family she will never have again. But in her panic, you  can hear Nemo pleading “That’s not true, Dory!” trying to gently break through to her that she still certainly has a family and a home— despite not having parents to prove it.

There was a moment I was certain that this was how the film would end: Dory surrounded by all her friends grieving the loss of the family she only barely ever had. Considering the genre, this probably would not have appealed to many, and of course Dory does end up finding her parents alive. However, the film really does not end as expected.

Surprisingly, rather than leaving her home among Nemo and Marlin, she returns back with her family and her new friends to the home she already has. Her home was at the Great Barrier Reef rather than the aquarium. Her home was not just for herself but for those around her. Her home was not her home but their home. Similarly to the church, the community Dory had with Nemo and Marlin was one marked by water rather than biological ties. Rather than inviting Nemo and Marlin to be a part of Dory’s old family, she reverses it and invites her parents and her new friends into her, Nemo, and Marlin’s wider aquatic home.

Dory’s story begins with the existentially charged question of “Will I be without a family and forgotten?” and ends with an answer: “I was not forgotten and I found an even bigger family.” And for those of us in the church, this story contains an element of rich truth: we are being pursued, we are not forgotten, we have been brought into a wide, diverse family, and we are promised a redeemed home. There will surely be days where we will feel that fear of being forgotten and never having a place to belong, but in the family of God, even in death, separation, and loneliness, our stories will not ultimately end in homelessness. 

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Intended for Love – Part 2: The Consequences of Materialistic Sex & Gnostic Friendships

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This post is part of an ongoing series. If you have not read Part 1, I would highly encourage you to do so before continuing. 


In the previous post of this series, I argued that we have mistaken ourselves to be creatures simply looking for sex rather than creatures who are fundamentally driven by love and in result have been left lonely and disconnected. In that post, I sought to define those two contrasting frameworks in detail while in this post I have sought to present some of the more specific consequences of operating out of that sex-seeking framework. To clarify these consequences, I have broken this post into two parts: “Consequences in Culture” and “Consequences in the Church”. The final third of this series will seek to explore some of the possibilities of moving forward within a love-driven framework.

1) Consequences in Culture

One of the most day-to-day consequences that I have seen played out in our culture while operating out of this sex-seeking framework is the sexualization and decline of friendship. As a man in our culture, for instance, I have found it increasingly difficult to pursue rich and intimate friendships with people of either the same or opposite sex without eyebrows being raised. If I put an arm around another guy, will people assume that we are sleeping in the same bed? If I give a big hug to a female friend of mine will people assume we are romantic lovers?  As a male, the solution it often seems to maintaining reasonable friendships is to remain at a physical and emotional distance with anyone who is not considered my romantic interest. Closeness would seem to be reserved for only those I want to be sexually intimate.

If we are creatures that are primarily just seeking sex and in result use relationships for that end, this consequence should come as no surprise. When we are seen as creatures fundamentally in need of sex, nearly any relationship could devolve into a sexual one. Why would they not if we are truly wired to use friendships as a means to an end? With this in mind, friendships are and have been on the decline in several ways.

If sex is the primary thing we need from people, those friends of ours that we are not sexually attracted to will always become secondary to those friends of ours that we are attracted to. Or for those married, when attractions waver for our spouses so will doubts arise of the one in whom we are committed. Only those that we are or continue to be romantically or sexually attracted to can really offer us what we most desperately need in this life (so we think). Not only will marriages suffer, but as singles we will often feel at arm’s length with friends because we do not want to or appear to sexualize a seemingly non-sexual relationship. And these fickle relationships will typically deteriorate when we are offered a relationship that will give us what we think will finally fulfill us. If you have ever been in your early to mid-twenties as a single person watching your friends get married, you might know this sort of experience.

To clarify, when I say “friendships” I mean both friendships existing outside and inside of marriage. Certainly friendship between spouses must exist in a healthy marriage, and it is evident that the sexualization of friendship has had a significant impact on friendships within marriage as well. As a celibate person, I have obviously never experienced what it is like to be married, but as far as I know when a marriage is built upon how good the sex is within it, it will eventually crumple. When sexual gratification becomes the glue of marriage, marriages will fail. Seeing ourselves as ultimately sex-seeking creatures, instead of love-driven creatures, has devalued marriages as well as the friendships within them. This I assume is because as soon as the other is unable to fulfill us sexually we will assume we are being denied “the good life” and/or our proper “soul-mate”. We see sexual satisfaction as a sort of evidence or indicator of true love rather than sex as a gift within committed and covenantal love, and as a result, we have brought an incredible strain on marriage.

If we continue to believe that love is contingent on sex rather than sex being contingent on love, marriages will begin to fail as soon as you board the flight back from your honeymoon. Of course sex is good and healthy for flourishing marriages, but like all good things that become ultimately necessary things, they cripple us. This seems to be a significant reason why this generation has such anxiety about marriage and why “Tinder” and other outlets for easy hook-ups have become more and more common. Why get married when you can find uncommitted erotic pleasure outside of marriage? Why not live with your significant other before you get married so you will know for sure if the sex will be good or not? Marriage within this framework becomes constrictive and unsustainable, and still, it is not the singular victim either… chaste singleness also becomes an absurdity.

As a person in campus ministry practicing chastity, it is interesting to see the response I get when I mention to people on a progressive campus that I am both committed to vocational singleness and yet still believe sex is reserved for the context of marriage. Responses like these are not unexpected: “Aren’t you hurting yourself by doing that? That seems really repressive.” If this sex-seeking framework were true, this response would absolutely be right. If we need sex to live, chastity could very well be considered a form a self-harm. However, if we actually need love to live rather than sex, sex should be treated as supplementary rather than necessary. I would even go so far to say that because we treat sex as something necessary to live, we will inevitably use others for the sake of sex.

It is not hard to spot how destructively sex-saturated our culture has become with the rampancy of pornography, sex-trafficking, and casual sex. If sexual freedom has become one of the gods of our time, using others (even consensually) for our own sexual gain would seem to be the worship of that god. Our culture of consumeristic materialism has made our own pleasure and happiness the ultimate good. Like a post-apocalyptic story in which people resort to cannibalism out of a need for food, it seems we will treat sex the same way if we can not find it by normal means. If we continue to operate as simply sex-seeking creatures we will do whatever it takes to continue to hopelessly seek after that sensual end even at the expense of others or ourselves. The astronomical rise of pornographic films and pornography usage should be clear evidence of this. Not only as we pursue sexual freedom and fulfillment do we slowly diminish the value of sex but this materialistic view of sex also leaves sex devoid of its spiritual purpose.

There are spiritual consequences of reckless, consumeristic sex that are easy to become immune to if we continue under the assumption that it will eventually meet our deepest longing. As sex loses its material purpose so too does it become easier to lose sight of its transcendental purpose. To put it another way: if our sexuality and spirituality are fundamentally linked (as I briefly argued in Part 1) then there is a correlation between the mishandling of sex and the increased harm of our own souls. C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce says it far better than I ever could, “There’s something in natural affection which will lead it on to eternal love more easily than natural appetite could be led on. But there’s also something in it which makes it easier to stop at the natural level and mistake it for the heavenly. Brass is mistaken for gold more easily than clay is.” A dramatic consequence of stopping at sexual liberation for what we think will give us ultimate joy is missing out on what we were intended for. And I believe we as a culture have been duped into worshiping brass as gold… and sexual freedom as God.

2) Consequences in the Church

While our culture has found it tempting to undervalue and overuse sex, I believe the church, out of the sex-seeking framework, has been tempted to overvalue and idolize sex in its proper context: marriage. However, in response to our culture’s materialistic views of sex we have begun to swing towards an almost Gnostic view of all other non-marital relationships. As a by-product of the sex-seeking framework, we have inadvertently assumed that marriage is the only place in which it is appropriate for two bodies to be remotely close to each other both literally and in the sense of consistent physical community.

As culture has made sexual liberation the cardinal virtue, it seems the church has similarly responded by making sex within marriage the cardinal virtue. While sex within marriage is certainly a beautiful thing, an over-emphasis of it has seemed to under-emphasize that we as humans need so much more than just sex to flourish relationally. If we continue to operate under the assumption that we are creatures who need sex to stay sane, we will continue to push for all people to get married, and in the process will undervalue intimate friendship outside of marriage because it seems too risky a thing to pursue.

This is where the consequences in culture and church overlap the most. Whereas culture condones or even applauds friendships that become sexualized, the church on the opposite end seems terrified of them. I believe this is one of the biggest reasons there is such a push to get married and not to remain single or celibate within the church. It is as if we believe the quick fix to sexual licentiousness is getting married while being single is asking for some grand, sexual failure to occur. And as a single person in the church I feel this. It is not uncommon that I find myself increasingly pushed to date this or that woman in the church so I can finally become a mature individual. It is also not uncommon that I find myself increasingly hesitant to get too close to another single person for the fear that people will assume we are either romantically interested or sexually intimate. This sort of fear breeds isolation and kills community.

Do not get me wrong, the church still seems to value friendship and community. However, it often feels as though it is a Gnostic form of friendship that we are seeking… or in simpler terms, a view of friendship that excludes bodily contact or physical presence. This gnostic view of friendship seems to be a by-product of the sex-seeking framework in which has significant consequences within the church. I understand that living in a hyper-sexualized culture means that healthy physical affection can quickly and easily be overstepped, but in our attempts to remedy the situation, we have also been too fearful to take any steps at all. In a similar way to our social-media crazed culture, our church communities have often neglected to cultivate an atmosphere of friendship that includes consistent physical presence or sensory connection (outside of the friendly handshake or once a month meeting over coffee). Tragically, we have been left clueless on how to provide that sort of atmosphere and continue to just push people to marriage. Not only does this leave single people without a script for vocational, chaste singleness that includes healthy amounts of intimacy, but it also places an ungodly amount of pressure on these marriages.

This lack of a script for singleness and this huge weight upon the script of marriage has serious ramifications for those in our churches, whether married or single. For those married, this over-emphasis can often leave many families feeling isolated and left to survive on their own strength. If marriage is supposed to be the exclusive route to human flourishing, what happens then if aspects of those marriages feel empty? If marriage is supposed to be the solution for physical and emotional loneliness, how then do we give support and a voice to those struggling in marriages? Single people need close friendships, and families likewise need those friendships. Marriages should never exist in a vacuum, nor should singles exist to themselves.

Whether it is the woman who has yet to have a man pursue her or a man who is celibate because of his sexual orientation, there are people in our churches who may never get married. That is a reality. And as someone in this category, I have found this lack of a script for singleness troubling. Not only does it unintentionally feel like there is no room for me (and others like me) in the church, but I often feel as though I become either the object of people’s pity or suspicion. Being single in the church often feels like being Pluto among the planets in our solar system… (Pluto is not a planet). And if I do not belong among the planets, do I belong among the asteroids or in the solar system next to us? This lack of a script encourages many of us to move on rather than to utilize the benefits of celibacy and singleness for the greater church community- both among families and other single people. On missing out on this script of singleness, I believe we also miss out on a fundamental characteristic of God.

I have often wondered why God created Adam initially by himself without Eve. Certainly, it was incomplete without Eve, but I still am struck by the fact that God created in the order that he did. It is not as if he just created Adam and Eve at the same time, but he created Adam, then put him to work in the garden, and then declared that it was not good for man to be alone. I have a hunch that in God doing this He wanted to show us something of his nature. Not only do we reflect God in marriage but we also reflect him in singleness. And I think Johnathan Grant nails it in his book Divine Sex. He says, “Whereas marriage reflects the intimate bond within the Godhead, singleness expresses God’s ever-expanding love for his Creation…Christian singleness must be affirmed as a positive vision of life because it engages our sexuality rather than ascetically rejecting it.” While most of the sexual energy in marriage goes primarily towards the cultivation of the marriage (and subsequently on the lives of those around it), singles have the benefit of using that sexual energy more widely in the cultivation of the Earth and in the lives of those around them. Without this affirmative view of singleness, I believe we have deprived our communities of a reflection and embodiment of God’s character in the lives of single people within the church.

Not only do we lack a compelling script for single people in the church and increase the burden on marriage with a singular script, but we have also bought into a reductive view of human sexuality in presupposing the sex-seeking framework. If sexuality is really just about the pursuit of sex, then we are essentially reducing ourselves into animals. And one of the greatest arguments against this anthropology is in the person of Jesus who was both fully God and fully man – which includes a sexual nature. Even with this sexual nature, Jesus remained chaste while simultaneously being perfectly sexual. This seems ridiculous to even write out, but Jesus did not move towards others so that He could sexually gratify Himself. Rather, out of his sexuality, He moved towards people in love. In Genesis, we learn that God created sexuality before the Fall, and that the Fall has seriously disordered our originally good sexualities. Yet, Jesus the Incarnate Son of God used his sexuality as it was intended – to move towards others in love and to cultivate life. His sexuality expressed in singleness was used in his “ever-expanding love for His creation” and, yes, his sexuality expressed in marriage was, is, and will be used in the love, pursuit, and consummation of His Bride in the long-awaited marriage of the Lamb. In reducing our humanity not only do we reduce the image of God in which He has specifically placed in mankind but we also lose sight of the Love our love-driven natures were intended for.


These consequences have certainly forced us into paying a heavy toll on ourselves, our relationships, and in our communities. However, these consequences should help lead us to believe that perhaps our assumptions have been drastically off. Rather than just trying to survive as creatures in dire need of sexual gratification, instead, we can begin assuming and seeing the fruit of living out of the reality that we are in reality, love-driven creatures.

I hate to leave posts hanging like this. It absolutely bothers me when people make mention of loads of issues but leave it as if there is nothing to be done but be miserable and despair, and it seems as if I am doing that very thing here. I urge you though to please wait for the final part of this series in which I hope to begin a conversation on what it may look like as we begin to address these issues and grow in intimacy as love-driven creatures.


*Stay tuned for “Intended for Love – Part 3: The Fruit of Love-Driven Creatures”*

A Follow-up Q&A on Homosexuality and Christianity

kHjKZ4yA Follow-up FAQ to “Falling Through the Cracks of Same-Sex & Traditional Marriage”:

It has been nearly a month since I posted this article (please consider reading it before progressing), and it has received quite a bit more of a response than I could have prepared for. The response to that article spawned both thoughtful and concerning questions from readers, and it has urged me to write a follow-up post to help answer some of those questions.

I was talking to a friend recently who also writes about the intersection of Christianity and homosexuality. He told me that he does not exactly enjoy writing about these vulnerably conjoined subjects. However he feels like his frustrations with the general “culture war” have left him no other choice. And I would agree, that is essentially where I stand. I do not want this to turn into a blog exclusively about sexuality. Although, as I have stated before, I do think there is a tension mingled throughout most of my writing that will hopefully be recognized even in this discussion. The intersection of my sexuality and my Christian faith is only derivative of what I actually want to write about.

I did promise a follow-up to that post though, and I felt it appropriate to answer those questions with my own knowledge on the matter. I decided to break this post into bullet-points to address these frequently asked questions. I also did not intend for this post to tread tons of new ground on conversations that are currently happening but to hopefully provide a groundwork for those interested in entering and learning from those conversations.

My hope in this post is that it would be helpful to those of you with orthodox, Christian beliefs eager to learn and longing to both love and understand your lgbt friends, neighbors, students, family members, and congregants.

  • Should you call yourself “gay” or “same-sex attracted”?
    This is a good question, and it is one I have been chewing on myself for several years now. Personally, it is only as of recently that I’ve come to somewhat of an answer. Many find that by labeling yourself as a “celibate, gay Christian you are buying into our culture’s tendency of turning sexual orientation into a primary identity. So by even using “gay” as an adjective and not as a primary identity-label, many consider that you would still be undermining your primary identity in Christ.

    From a pragmatic standpoint, I find it easier and more helpful to cut to the point in conversation with another and say “I’m gay” (to describe what I experience, not necessarily my identity) rather than having to say something like, “I experience same-sex attraction and desire.” It is unfortunate that the word to describe a same-sex, sexual orientation in our culture implies so much and carries so much baggage. However, I still think it is the simplest yet most nuanced way of describing how I experience my own sexuality. Yet, I am still not convinced that our categories for orientation are even helpful or good.

    I do sympathize with those who are against using the term “gay” to describe themselves as I recognize that in our culture it normally implies having sex, whether monogamous or otherwise, so I really do understand where some might say it is like identifying with a word that is synonymous to a dire sin. But I do believe there is drastic distinction between having gay sex and considering yourself gay (please wait til the next bullet-point to hear me out on what I mean by that).

    I also feel the alternative of saying “I’m same-sex attracted” carries both personal and theological baggage. Personally, having to limit myself in how I experience others of the same-sex feels demeaning as it does not quite describe all the ways I relate and only seems to describe how I’m erotically attracted. Theologically, there is an implication that I am solely erotically attracted to men which seems to perpetuate the idea that sexuality is only about eroticism. It not only feels demeaning to me, but it seems to reduce the depth and beauty of sexuality.

    In all honesty, I find each set of terms beset with their own particular problems. This is where I really must ask that when we have these sorts of conversations with all sorts of people coming from all kinds of backgrounds with different presuppositions that we have these discussions with nothing but the utmost gentleness and respect.

     If you do not agree with what I have said, I would ask you earnestly to consider this: if your frustration with word choice is not allowing you to listen to the experiences someone has, please value what that person has to say before you confront their word choice. I’m not asking you to agree but to first listen.

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  • Is homosexuality sinful in and of itself?
    I find this particular discussion tricky but in need of consideration. I have been to several Christian conferences and seminars on sexuality that left me feeling hurt, misunderstood, and frustrated when homosexuality got lumped into the category of hardcore pornography, masturbation, illicit sex and other active sexual sins. Distinctions need to be made between being gay and having gay sex. If homosexuality continues to get labeled as a sin in and of itself, the conversation on homosexuality will continue into the category of active sexual sins. If that is the case, speaking from experience, shame and self-loathing will quickly find a home in that individual.

    Imagine for a moment all the things you deeply love about your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, opposite-sex/same-sex friend that cause you non-erotic desire for them: wanting to be around them, talk to them, take them out, hug them, etc.. Now consider all of that being inherently sinful or disgusting. I say this to urge you to take this argument seriously as there is much at stake in the emotional lives of gay or same-sex attracted individuals including myself. 

    If homosexuality in general is sinful, sexuality would seem to be remarkably shallow. It would imply that sexuality is really only about erotic desire and not about other desires — such as relational and emotional intimacy, friendship, companionship, closeness, and a recognition of beauty (I’m only scraping the surface). I urge you to consider this: If when I see either physical or interpersonal beauty in another man, should I call that sin? For that matter, if a heterosexual man sees beauty in another man, should I call that sin? If I see it more frequently and more obviously than someone with a heterosexual orientation and subsequently have to sometimes fight the temptation of lusting or idolizing it, does that make it sinful? Do you see what I am aiming at? Sexuality is much more than just eroticism or a carnal desire for sexual gratification.

    With the “homosexuality (in general) as sin” framework, it would seem the only two options for progress in a homosexual would be a complete shift to a heterosexual orientation or a reduction of desire. If it is all bad then our only options are to make it good or eliminate it. However, this framework operates under the assumption that we have no trace of dignity within us. Since I don’t believe that to be true, and I resolutely believe in God’s words that the original creation was “very good” I think this framework is flawed. Let me explain that.

    I am not saying a homosexual orientation is not disordered. I recognize it as a result of the Fall. I recognize that sex is only permitted within a monogamous, heterosexual marriage within the boundaries of God’s holy law. Do not hear me saying that any sex outside of this is permissible, but we do need a more holistic understanding of Imago Dei, Total Depravity, and what has happened to our desires between the creation of man and the fall of man. In Reformed Christianity circles, it can be very easy to lump everything into the Total Depravity category and ignore our original dignity and goodness as image bearers of God. Though the Fall disordered good desires for things like friendship, companionship, and beauty, our answer is not to just stop all desire. If depravity assumes, as John Calvin once phrased, “a nature formerly good and pure,” sanctification is a process of restoration and renewal — NOT a process of utter annihilation. John Stott says it well:

    “…whatever we are by creation, we must affirm: our rationality, our sense of moral obligation,… our hunger for love and community, our sense of the transcendent mystery of God, and our inbuilt urge to fall down and worship him.  All this is part of our created humanness. True, it has all been tainted and twisted by sin.  Yet Christ came to redeem and not destroy it.  So we must affirm it….”

    Yes, it is murky to sift through these hungers and to recognize the good from the disorder of sin, but it is worth it.

    To summarize: I do not believe homosexuality in itself is a sin as that would imply our basic human desires for things such as intimacy and beauty would be inherently sinful. However, I do resolutely believe that acting out these desires for intimacy in a disordered way (sex outside of marriage, homosexual sex, lust, viewing pornography,  masturbation, etc.) is entirely sinful.

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  • How do we better welcome gay/SSA people into the church?
    There is so much to be said on this, so I will only stick to one (of many) answers. With that said, one way we can better welcome them is by showing them how we suffer.

    One of the reasons I think our church’s pews have so few gay or same-sex attracted folks sitting in them is because of this feeling that they are asked to give up so much more than anyone else in the congregation. Speaking from experience, it is difficult watching couples hold hands while their kids tug on their pants after service, knowing that is probably something I will never get to experience. It only worsens when I am then questioned for being single as if I am doing something wrong.

    The reality is that as Christians, we all have to suffer in different yet profound ways. We all have massive crosses to bear. Those married and those willingly or unwillingly single, we all are struggling. Still, some crosses are more noticeable than others, and unfortunately, we have a tendency to keep those crosses hidden. One of the problems it seems is that we have idolized marriage as the answer to our need of intimacy and left single and celibate Christians feeling as though they are the only ones who have to really give something up. Clearly, it is untrue that married people are not suffering and do not experience loneliness. So what is hindering us from being more transparent about our sufferings?

    People will either look for a community of fellow sufferers or settle for something or someone that immediately satiates their particular suffering. 

    Without a proper theology of suffering, we will never be welcoming. And it is not enough to have an individual theology of suffering either. Our theology of suffering must be communal. Our masks must be taken off so others might see the hopeful yet battered faces underneath them.

    I hope my difficulty with celibacy might encourage a friend to continue to be faithful in a difficult marriage. Similarly, my friend’s decision to not marry an unbeliever, despite being in love with her has encouraged me in celibacy. Both sides of this required the sufficient transparency to let the other into our own personal suffering. How can we bear one another’s burdens if we hide them?

    As Christians, it is our belief that this life will be the worst it will ever be for us, that we have a life and future coming that will be the pinnacle of our existence living in perfect intimacy with the Lover of our souls. Contrary to this belief is the belief that this life is the best we will ever have it. If the latter is true, celibacy is essentially pointless. I say this because as we convince others that they must be married to live the ideal Christian life we are buying into the prosperity gospel’s “your best life now” mentality.  If we honestly believe in Jesus’ words that state “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” celibacy should not be abnormal, sexual fulfillment should not be an entitlement, and self-denial in general should not be crazy nor foolish but expected. 

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  • Should you expect change (in attraction)?
    Again, a difficult question to answer. This has been discussed time and time again, and I can not help but give you a grey answer.

    When people ask me if I think homosexuality is a result of nature or nurture, I assume they are looking for a single answer. My answer is that it can be either or both. Human sexuality is incredibly complicated and the answer to this question will likely vary from individual to individual.

    If the answer to the nature vs. nurture debate does vary from individual to individual then the question of whether or not change can be expected will probably be just as complicated.

    However, I will say that I know far more people who have seen little to no change in their experience of same-sex attraction.

    With that said, I want to address a problem that is typically implicit within this question. There is a big issue in expecting change as there’s usually an assumption that at the core of same-sex attraction in every individual is some plaguing, root sin that can be uprooted so that the same-sex attraction could essentially be diminished. Basically, it is a posture that assumes if we become morbidly introspective enough and repent enough our sexuality will be fixed. There must be a distinction between an effect of the Fall and the result of personal sin, and we should pursue wisdom in discerning the difference in different people of different sexualities. 

    So, should I expect change?

    I guess it depends on what is meant by “change”. Is “change” synonymous with continued sanctification, integrity, holiness, wholeness, and awareness of my own story even if that looks like no change in attraction? Or is “change” simply a shift in attraction from the same-sex to the opposite-sex? Like Paul’s thorn in the flesh, I do not know if we have grounds to expect such a change in circumstance, yet that should not cease nor hinder our growth in grace.

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  • Can we survive without sex?
    It’s unfortunate that our society has confused intimacy to mean sex and sex to mean intimacy.

    For instance, most in our culture would assume these two Biblical figures were in a homoerotic relationship:

    “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me [David]; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.”

    In no way should we assume Jonathan and David’s relationship was anything more than an incredibly intimate friendship, and I do not believe any culture but our own has ever assumed it to be sexual. I do not doubt that living in a hyper-sexualized culture as the one we are in now has distorted our ability to see intimacy as anything but a desire for sex.

    It is saddening that many (especially men) in our culture can barely say “I love you” to one another nor show signs of physical affection (holding hands, touching arms, arm around the shoulders, even kissing, etc.) without others assuming signs of erotic interest. It is interesting to note that when Paul speaks of “greeting others with a holy kiss” many commentators would agree that Paul is speaking of a same-sex kiss. It is uncomfortable is it not? However, it really is essential and good for two people of the same-sex to express healthy physical and emotional affection — think of John the Beloved and Jesus. Our response to a hyper-sexual culture should not be some sort of Gnostic view that our bodies and bodily needs for affection are unholy. God created us with physical bodies to embrace and be embraced like the father and the prodigal son embracing one another. He created us with bodily senses that can (and should) express and receive love. This is a particular difficulty for people who are celibate or single in our culture – one I am painfully aware of. Not only must I go without sex, I often feel I must go without intimacy since the two can rarely be seen apart from each other. 

    I believe we can survive without sex, but I don’t believe we can survive without intimacy. So here’s where we have our work cut out for us: to cultivate an environment within our churches for single, celibate, and/or widowed people to flourish.

    ******
    *******

I hope these answers are helpful for you. I do recognize each of these responses alone could be turned into their own blog-posts. There are miles and miles to go on this conversation, so thank-you for being willing to ask these sorts of questions and hear what I have to say even if you do not agree. And I hope to possibly expound upon some these answers in the future.


Additional Articles/Resources:

* For a more in-depth discussion on gay-identity labels, I’ll redirect you to Melinda Selmys’ post on gay identity terminology here.
** If you’re particularly brave, I’d suggest a glimpse at this First Things piece on why even our framework for sexual orientation can be unhelpful at best.
*** I’ve found this article from Gabriel Blanchard far more articulate and profound than myself on distinguishing the dignity and depravity within homosexuality.
**** My friend Stephen Moss has gone into great detail on how to welcome gay people into our congregations right here.
***** Melinda Selmys speaks into ministering to those who are gay or same-sex attracted very eloquently over here.
****** Rev. Brian Habig has a wonderful sermon on physical affection and “holy kisses” here.
******* For further detail on living out intimate lives without sex, I’d highly suggest Wesley Hill’s new book Spiritual Friendship.

Falling Through the Cracks of Same-Sex & Traditional Marriage

“Loneliness is the greatest plague of our generation. The fight for gay-marriage is simply a response to it. Church, we are doing something wrong in our approach. Until we can be a nest of intimate friendships and a holistic community for the lonely, estranged, and non-married, a traditional sexual ethic will never be attractive.”

I wrote that last week in a bit of frustration over the responses I’d been reading about the recent SCOTUS ruling, and I wanted to follow-up on explicitly what I meant by those words. Hopefully this post will explain a bit of my frustration from both sides’ responses, and maybe this post will offer a little hope of something better.

If you haven’t been able to notice by now, if you know me or read this blog, I talk about loneliness and isolation a lot. Not just because I deal with both, but because I’m beginning to recognize like Henri Nouwen did that “loneliness is one of the most universal sources of human suffering today,” and I’d like to see a way forward for me, for my friends, for my community, for my church, and for my culture.

I was visiting a church service this morning by myself in my hometown looking through the church bulletin which was covered in pictures of beautiful families, and as the pastor ran through his pastoral prayer for the congregation, I felt a tinge of isolation. His prayer hit on all the families in the church, the kids, those adopting, the grandparents, and those married without children – all wonderful things to pray for – but I felt like an oddball by its conclusion. Very rarely do I hear of single or celibate people being prayed for within churches. I hear many sermons on marriage and parenthood, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a sermon in person on singleness or the goodness of celibacy, despite what I see in scripture as a commending of those who are single. Add to this the little phrases littered throughout Christian culture like “family first” and “focus on the family”, and hopefully you can begin to see just some of my frustrations with being a celibate man in the church.

It often feels like there isn’t room within the church for those outside the context of biological families. I’m not saying this is always the case as I (and many others) have been blessed by a beautiful church home which has loved me incredibly well, and I only hope to love them a fraction as much as they’ve loved me, but I feel as though this is a rare treat. There’s definitely a pressure present in the mainstream of Christian culture in America of feeling as though I have two options: get married or be alone.

This is what has me sympathizing (but not agreeing) with the Left over the recent SCOTUS ruling. Although I don’t believe in a sexual ethic of anything but a man and woman engaging sexually in the context of marriage, I do understand the dark corner in which those with a homosexual orientation or who are experiencing same-sex attraction have been cast.

There’s a tension in our culture that if you don’t fit into the mold of a traditional family that you will forever exist in isolation and loneliness. For many who’ve considered themselves “gay” or “same-sex attracted” within the church, there’s this seeming, unwritten dichotomy in most places:

1) go away… and don’t get married despite not being in the church.

2) stay… but magically shift your entire orientation, and get married.

Is it any wonder there has been such a push for gay marriage? There’s an assumption in place that only in marriage can we escape loneliness. So why wouldn’t the LGBT community long for the same thing? We’ve offered what we’ve considered to be the “antidote” to isolation, and we’re now angry that others are seeking the same antidote.

I want you to consider living the rest of your life with no promise of a spouse, no promise of kids, no promise of grandchildren, no promise of people to take care of you when your old, no promise of people to love you if you fall seriously ill, and no promise of ever experiencing lasting intimacy with another. These are just a few of my thoughts that circulate when I imagine a life without marriage in this culture. Does this not sound even just slightly despairing? It makes sense that gay-marriage would be inevitable does it not?

As I scanned my newsfeed last week through the outrage and celebration over the results of the ruling, I again felt overwhelmingly overlooked. As someone who identifies with a traditional sexual ethic yet also experiences exclusive same-sex attraction, both sides left me frustrated. I don’t agree with the impossible dichotomy imposed by some of those in favor of traditional marriage, but, besides not morally agreeing with same-sex marriage, I also don’t agree with the conclusion that by marrying members of the same sex that we have found an answer to the problem of loneliness.

Between the traditional family and (now) the progressive family, I feel like someone caught in no-man’s land, and I know plenty of others who feel the same. Consider the single women who long to be married but can’t, the men and women who’ve chosen to live celibate lives despite their sexual orientations, the socially impaired, the mentally handicapped, the widows, and all the others that Jesus alludes to in Matthew 19:12. Consider this in the church where the traditional family reigns supreme, but consider this with the progressive family as well. Loneliness still exists, and (gay or straight) marriage can’t solve that.

So where do we go for the answer?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?

I have a few thoughts, but I’d be foolish to claim to have a definitive answer to such a question.

I think my own church has been a really beautiful reflection of what it may look like to move forward, so much of what I’m about to say has been sparked by the hospitality I’ve already so received and have been allowed to personally give to others.

So hopefully without sounding too idealistic, the church needs to begin to be a nest for those inside & outside the framework of the nuclear family. We need it to be a place that if you were to no longer be married or have kids, for whatever reason, that you’d still have enough meaningful or intimate relationships to sustain you. Single people need a place they can expect lasting, intimate friendships and not be looked down upon or suspiciously questioned for it. Families need a place they can be cared for by other families and single people – others who enter into their dysfunction, help cook meals, help look after kids, and take part of their load and place it upon their own backs. The church should look like an integrated community of single people, married people, families, widows, the elderly, college students, those of racial and sexual minorities, and all those I’m too naive to name.

Or as Wesley Hill quoted J. Louis Martyn in his recent article, “the answer to loneliness is not marriage, but rather the new-creational community that God is calling into being in Christ, the church marked by mutual love, as it is led by the Spirit of Christ.”

We need a way forward that proves that a life without sexual intimacy can still be a life full of intimacy in the context of friendship, community, and a “water thicker than blood” family. And perhaps by cultivating a community which includes those who’ve fallen through the cracks, we can begin to close the cracks themselves.

A Quick Review of “Spiritual Friendship”

I have been long awaiting this new book from Wesley Hill. Hill is a pioneer when it comes to the murky waters of affirming celibacy and a traditional sexual ethic within the church. But this does not mean Hill is asking for those (“celibate, gay christians”) to pursue a life without intimacy, certainly not. This is where Hill challenges us to a rekindle a better understanding of friendship in a more holistic manner.

In “Spiritual Friendship”, Wesley Hill poignantly crafts his own experiences into a rich telling and exposition on the long, lost tradition of committed, spiritual friendships. Hill expertly takes a look at the world & culture we live in and shows how friendship has in several ways become a foreign language to us. Without becoming unrealistic or overly sentimental, Hill also begins to express both personally and theologically what a transformed view of friendship might look to us practically.

It’s not uncommon when talking about friendship as a celibate person to begin to idealize friendship especially when one’s own sexual orientation and theological beliefs seem to almost hinge upon it for survival. But Hill does not do this. Hill, with a heart-breaking and common-to-me honesty, really speaks into the hardship of friendship: “that’s the perfect description of trying to love your best friend when he doesn’t love you back, or at least not in the way you wish he would.” Hill doesn’t only just speak of the potential byproducts that occur with intimate friendships but also speaks of the suffering that must occur with and within friendship, “The calling of friendship is, in other words, a call to pain. Joy, yes, and consolation, but not as a substitute for pain…Friendship, then – for Christians who take their cues from the arc of the scriptural story – lives with pain.”

Hill then leaves us readers with practical steps to take towards cultivating friendship itself, not leaving us on a pessimistic note. The life of a celibate christian does not have to end (or worse endure) in loneliness as Hill reminds us, and I’m thankful to be practically reminded of that.

Overall, this is a book that the church needs to consider. Not just for the sake of ____ in our churches, but for the church herself. And for that, I’m grateful.


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