May 24, 2019

Why I am an Ally – Part 1

Why now? Why did I pick this time to publicly declare that I am an ally to the LGBTQ community? There are a number of reasons:

In the last number of years I have seen an increasing rise of hate on social media aimed towards homosexuals and other marginalized people. This hate has come primarily from Christians. If there is a post against bathroom legislation for transgender people, I will have multiple Christian friends share it. If there is a post extolling reparative (conversion) therapy, no matter how dubious the source, it will be shared by several Christian friends. A negative article about refugees? It will be popping up in my Facebook feed. This series of posts is both a message to other Christians that there is a better way, as well as a message to my marginalized friends that there are some who are willing to listen and act. To say silent is at least in my mind to stand with the oppressors. To quote Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Secondly, the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to be good news. In fact, “gospel” means good news. Christians have made it anything but. If you are to read the facebook feed of many Christians you will see that they have defined themselves as being “anti-…” In doing so they put up stumbling blocks to others coming to know Jesus. Someone commented recently in my church’s small group: “Have people in North America really had an opportunity to meet Jesus, or have they just met a parody of him, and as a result said, ‘No thanks.’”

In addition to this, I also have a concern with how the Bible is being interpreted and misrepresented in this subject area. How does “good news” become condemnation? What does the Bible have to say, and how should we understand it?

Finally, my youngest daughter is clear and unequivocal in her support for her LGBTQ friends. I wish to stand with her. While a few friends have started ask questions about what I think on these matters, I have not been very open with my thoughts. I am taking this opportunity to change that.

This series will be in three parts. The rest of this post first will be a bit of an introduction to some of the people and experiences I have met along my life’s journey. Part two will look at both an overarching biblical hermeneutic (the science of interpretation) as well as looking at some individual passages. In the third part I will present an exchange that I had with a co-worker Geoff who I will introduce briefly below. I will wrap up part three with some concluding thoughts.

Part 1 – Interactions

One of my earliest memories is of a young boy named Craig coming up a small hill at the back of our house to say “Hi” for the first time. I was only three years old at the time, and Craig’s family had just moved into the house behind us. Ours was a small neighborhood of about 100 homes, isolated from the city by a mile of fields and forest. Everybody knew everybody, and Craig stood out like a sore thumb. Craig was “different”. As he grew older other kids started to notice that difference and started to bully him. Among other things they called him fairy and faggot. I had another “F” word for him: Friend. Craig and I liked to explore the fields and woods behind our little neighborhood together and build forts in places where no one would find them. We were allowed to go as far as the “third cowfield”, where my Dad’s bellow would remind us that it was time to come in for supper. Craig and I became best friends, and remained that way until my family moved away to Africa when I was eleven years old. By the time we came back from Africa four year later his family had moved away to a distant town.

When at university I met Steve. Steve had been an enthusiastic Christian who just a couple of years earlier been the President of his school’s Christian fellowship. During high school Steve came to the realization that he was gay. He also told me that found himself with two choices: Either live life as a Christian, or live life as a homosexual. He felt that it was an either/or proposition and that he could not in good conscience be both. He felt that in order to be true to himself he had to give up being a practicing Christian. I remember him coming back from a Christmas Eve service that he did attend, and wistfully saying how much he missed worshipping with other Christians. I also remember Steve and another friend telling me how they had been afraid for the their lives as they were accosted as they walked home one evening.

Four years later I had switched schools. At the new university’s Campus Crusade group I met Bill. He too was an enthusiastic and devoted Christian leader. I remember how genuinely he cared for others. He led worship for the group and was active in sharing his faith. But then something strange happened. It seemed like one moment he was in front leading the group and the next moment he was gone. When I enquired “What happened to Bill?” I was told that he had told one of the group staff that he was struggling with homosexual temptation. I wasn’t party to that conversation, but what I do know is that a person who I considered to be an exemplary Christian no longer felt that he could be part of the group. Bill passed away from AIDS several years later.

After graduating, I found myself in a working a a computer programmer in a number of different workplaces. Six years ago I received Birthday greetings from Geoff, a former work colleague. He wrote:

Michael, Happy Birthday. You’re the only dyed in the wool Christian, other than my mother, that has had my back. I will always be grateful to you for that.

In the nine years that I had known my colleague, and in many years before that, he had not met another Christian who he thought that he could depend on. The thought of that made me very sad.

I had a series of follow up questions for Geoff that he graciously answered, I had intended to share that that interaction with the Internet Monk audience years ago, but never felt the time was right was do so. In my final post of the series I will revisit that conversation.

There have been other conversations with other people along the way. I specifically wanted to introduce Craig, Steve, Bill, and Geoff to you because they were (or are) friends. I want to remind us that when we have theological discussions about homosexuality we are not dealing with some abstract concept, but with real people: Friends, parents, sons and daughters, siblings, co-workers, and neighbors. Please remember this while commenting.

Also please refrain from commenting on actual Bible verses until after my next post. What I would like to hear about is your own interactions with people. How have these interactions affected you? What have you learned? Looking back, are there things you had wished you had done differently.

As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Comments

  1. Michael Barnett says

    Overall I would have to agree with your views and opinions. Currently I wouldn’t say that I “affirm” a life of homosexuality but it does not stop me from loving a very close friend of mine and his boyfriend. These two men have been so very kind and caring toward me and shown me the love of Christ which I am more than happy to return. These two friends invite me over for dinner and we have a great time playing music together. At times they have interjected and provided Scripturally based advice to a difficult situation that I am facing. Despite my opposition to their life style, it does not and should not cause me to ignore Jesus’ simple command to “love others.”

    • Michael Barnett says

      I couldn’t figure out how to edit my comment so I’ll add on below.

      These interactions have taught me to seek understanding from all. To stick up for those who are having “stones” thrown at them. And to continue to love in spite of differences (which often looks like giving time and a non-judgemental listening ear)

      • Rick Ro. says

        –> “These interactions have taught me to seek understanding from all. To stick up for those who are having “stones” thrown at them. And to continue to love in spite of differences (which often looks like giving time and a non-judgemental listening ear)”

        I don’t think anything comes as close to Jesus-shaped than this.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Though straight, I have had stones thrown at me for being “different”. “Beware Thou of the Mutant” and all that. And if you’re not straight, you are “different” in a way that conflicts directly with one of the strongest taboos in church subculture. So everything gets ramped up.

  2. Fantastic post. I go one step further – I support and affirm homosexuals living as homosexuals. Although this goes against what I was taught when I was young, if there is a conflict between what scripture says and ‘real life’, I will go with ‘real life’ just about every time and assume that scripture has been misinterpreted or we (or scripture) have just plain misunderstood God. The reason? A slow trickle, starting with a friend Timothy who struggled with ‘being a Christian vs being a homosexual’ when I was at university, and ending with my daughter, who came out at the age of 15.

    • Robert F says

      Yes.

    • Rick Ro. says

      -> “if there is a conflict between what scripture says and ‘real life’, I will go with ‘real life’ just about every time…”

      Jesus seemed to met most people in the midst of real life, yes, and put scripture in his back pocket for the most part, except when dealing with those self-righteous religious folks who should’ve known better.

  3. There’s a line in an Orthodox prayer, “Spirit of truth, present everywhere & filling all things…”. I take this to mean that His image is in everyone. As we follow truth, it makes us more human.

    The above article can be applied to atheists, Buddhists, Moslems, etc. When people follow the “inner spark” or negate cultural values from around them they grow. It seems gay people have the ability to shed some of the cultural bs that makes us less human. That being said, Jesus locates salvation in Himself & the Spirit locates it transformationally in us. His persona, & being our exemplar, dismisses any elevation of sexuality. He doesn’t dismiss non-sexuality though eg eunuchs. He elevates marriage in His statements on divorce.

    He is the Lord of the cosmos. The OT shows us the beauty in His created order. I believe when we go against this order in any way, we dishonour Him. We go against Hs plan for the universe. He elevates love in Song of Songs, between a man & a woman, planning marriage. These are the images He gives us in His word. Anything else is reading back our cultural norms into the script.

    While LGBT lifestyle corrects some corruption of Gods image in humanity, it introduces a whole new set of “passions” to the template God originally planned.

    • Mike Bell says

      As I alluded to in another comment I may do a fourth post that touches on some of this. I will definitely be looking at the Romans 1 and 2 passages next week.

    • Given that marriage (and predumably procreation) are not going to apply after the resurrection, it may be an open question as to how attached God is to that “template”.

      • True, but that is because Christ as Head marries the Church, His bride. There is a sacramental link between that image & a husband & wife. His fullness is in male & female unified. Not in male & male or female & female.

  4. Pellicano Solitudinis says

    “While a few friends have started ask questions about what I think on these matters, I have not been very open with my thoughts. I am taking this opportunity to change that.”

    This is a really thought-provoking statement, especially in the light of the “What you can’t say around other Christians” post of two days ago.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      +1

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Have you been turned into a pile of rocks yet?

      Because Fred Phelps’ REAL sin was being too open and direct.
      (“Always use proper Code Words…”)

      • Christiane says

        wow, Headless, actually that is a good point . . . .

        the ‘christian’ far right works through ‘code’ a lot more than people realize

        It’s like a kind of continuum, with Phelps and his ilk on one end of the line and the fundamentalist-evangelical faith communities on the other end of the same continuum . . . . the differences? . . . just a matter of degree of ‘code’ words and actions. Perhaps there WAS always a ‘connection’ between the two extremes although the fundagelicals couldn’t see it . . . . they were blinded to the HARSHNESS of their own rejection of gay people AND they pointed to Phelps as ‘unacceptable’ in the wide open directness of his extreme hatred. . . .

    • Rick Ro. says

      -> “What you can’t say around other Christians”

      I’ve been fortunate enough to have a mix of Christian friends who aren’t afraid of possibly being viewed as heretics. It’s very, very nice to have a few folks around who I can say, “You know, as I read the gospels I get a sense that some of what we typically hold as ‘truth’ might not be Truth.”

    • Mike Bell says

      In my previous church I felt very much constrained in my leadership role and in my membership commitment as to what I could or could not say on many topics. Like Michael Spencer in his role as a teacher, I was forever looking over my shoulder, and had to remove a couple of posts based on objections. I feel much less constrained now.

      • Why do we so often let others define what our “testimony” actually means…

        My testimony would be nothing without being an ally.

  5. Robert F says

    Superb post. I agree with you all the way, Mike B.

  6. Thank you for thoughtfully engaging with this. I look forward to the rest of the series.

    • To give some context as to where I’m coming from, and since I read iMonk but don’t comment that often, this is me:

      I have some gender dysphoria, and in the middle twenty-aughts found a woman who could roll with that. We married, and after 5 years or so that included a lot of grace and magic and the death of her mother, she decided she was, after all, lesbian and not bi, and so she moved out. And she stopped going to church, again. I bear her no ill-will, though there was a lot of pain on both sides.

      And so the attitudes of Christians toward folks on the LGBT+ spectrum are dear to me, either painful or comforting, in proportion to the love they contain.

  7. It took finding out that someone I dearly loved was gay to examine everything I had been taught and believed. It didn’t happen overnight, but step by step. I now belong to a church that is inclusive and affirming. Love God and love others is my guide these days.

    • Rick Ro. says

      -> “Love God and love others is my guide these days.”

      Yep. Fruit of the spirit, and against these there is no Law.

    • Mike Bell says

      For me it has been a long process. I am still in flux, but getting closer to an established position.

  8. Burro (Mule) says

    As an act of conscious ascesis I think I’ll refrain from offering an opinion at this time.

    • Rick Ro. says

      Since you’re a self-proclaimed male chauvinist and make no bones about it, I’m pretty sure everyone knows where you stand on this topic, too, Mule.

    • Mike Bell says

      I appreciated your self restraint and for following the guidelines that I set out for commenting here. Next week I will look forward to your interaction on my biblical interaction.

    • Clay Crouch says

      You know, Mule, it’s not so much what you say as, how you say it. My wife reminds me often that I have the same failing.

  9. I think many (not all of course) will agree with the gracious spirit of your post here, Mike. Will you be writing more substantively about what you mean by “ally” in the post title? It can mean a lot of things.

    • Exactly. Similar to what “love others” looks like, or can look like. Thanks for asking this, Mike H.

    • Mike Bell says

      To be honest, it was the best fitting word I could think of at the time. Perhaps my next two posts will help to flesh this out for you.

  10. Rick Ro. says

    Appreciate the post, Mike B. I’ve found my journey though this topic to be very similar to many here. Held the standard evangelical Christian position for many years after becoming a follower of Jesus, then had a moment while talking to my bi-sexual sister that put it all in perspective. We were arguing over the “sin” of homosexuality and in the midst of this it became clear to me that my sister was SEEKING God and Jesus, and that my evangelical position was actually a barrier to that. God “spoke” to me through the Spirit in that moment, saying, “Rick, just tell her I want to have a relationship with her.”

    Suddenly the burden of “defending truth” fell away. I looked at her and said, “Sister, all I know is that God wants to have a relationship with you. This stuff we’re arguing about? I’m letting it go.”

    It was a breakthrough not only in OUR relationship, but in her seeking and finding God and Jesus, and in my approach to the LBGTQ community. What I learned through this: We are not to build walls and put up barriers, Christians. We are to build bridges so that the seekers and the broken can find Him and enter into relationship with Him.

    The rest of the story: my sister found God and Jesus, is still a strong supporter of the LBGTQ community, AND in many MANY ways a better Christian and follower of Jesus than I am. I could tell you some of her works that put me, a long time believer, to shame.

    • Mike Bell says

      ” We are not to build walls and put up barriers, Christians. We are to build bridges so that the seekers and the broken can find Him and enter into relationship with Him.”

      This where my heart is at.

  11. Radagast says

    This will be interesting and as an older guy I will attempt to listen with an open mind. I have watched change over the years as I have my own observations and the opinions of my seven children between 28 down to 12. My observations through my children can be grouped like this:

    My oldest have strong opinions to the contrary
    My middle are tolerant
    My younger are accepting – bordering on activist.

    My experience running a religious Education program in a Catholic Church has revealed similar attitudes. These days the Church is the bad guy when dealing with this topic in the mind of youth.

    I grew up in the 70’s – attitudes were very different back then. These days, at least in my part of the country I am not seeing the bullying, more like putting this behavior on a pedestal. From my observations lots of kids are using this as a new form of rebellion. Some parents are quick to embrace only to find out a few years later it was a phase… again no scientific evidence, just observation.

    Personal opinion – there seems to be so many shades of this all the way to being able to decide what one is simply by desire… From my perspective one is free to be what they want to be but not free to expect that I see it the same way. So much focus of identity on sexuality, it strikes me as a form of Narcissism. I support that one is a creature of God deserving of love and respect – beyond that I do not believe I am obligated to consider a person different from what I see….nor should I be required to make a big deal about it.

    I will be interested to read what you write.

    • ” I support that one is a creature of God deserving of love and respect – beyond that I do not believe I am obligated to consider a person different from what I see.”

      Radagast, I’m curious how much you know about dysphoria?

      • Mike Bell says

        There have been a couple of comments here that make me think that a fourth post may be needed.The areas of “choice” and “genetics” should maybe be explored as they are relevant to the discussion. This would be a post that I would approach with some trepidation, as there is so much we still do not know.

        • Rick Ro. says

          –> “The areas of ‘choice’ and ‘genetics’ should maybe be explored as they are relevant to the discussion. This would be a post that I would approach with some trepidation, as there is so much we still do not know.”

          Definite “minefield” territory there, LOL…

          • Mike Bell says

            Next week will already be a minefield. I have been very encouraged by the tone of the discussion so far today.

            • Christiane says

              Mike, I was encouraged by the tone of your POST. Over at SBCtoday, they had some guy posting who was a rabid homophobic and the comments supported him for the most part. That is a hard thing to see.

              Imonk is a very healthy blog setting, in my opinion.

      • Radagast says

        Tokah,

        It is not a term I am familiar with so I will sit back, listen and learn. Also note that the comment you captured may be misconstrued…. meaning I have all manner of people as friends, I just don’t tend to overtly put them into categories, or care to.

        Regards….

        • Ah, the way you wrote it, my first thought was that you might be one of those folks who feels that trans people can settle on their ID, but that would hold to their right to ignore that identity in how you address/describe them, and not realize how hurtful and damaging that can be.

          Imonk comments aren’t really a great place to try to explain it, so I won’t do that here, was just trying to put you in context.

    • Rick Ro. says

      I agree with some of what you write. The flip side to fundamental evangelism is fundamental liberalism, and the other side of the coin is just as intolerant as they claim us to be. Narcissism, yes.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      These days, at least in my part of the country I am not seeing the bullying, more like putting this behavior on a pedestal.

      I figure that to be “Now that WE’RE the Winning Sexual Orientation, Let’s Throw Our Weight Around.”

      A typical reaction when a tribe finds itself on the top after being on the bottom; there’s a strong urge to throw their new-found weight around. If not payback for what they received when on the bottom. Of such things are tribal blood feuds made.

      From my observations lots of kids are using this as a new form of rebellion.

      If so, it should not have much staying power. Like Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”, you can only maintain that level of “because they’re against it, I’m For It” for only so long.

  12. Radagast says

    I have a longer post that may be stuck in moderation…. I will check back later to see if it is here before reposting…

  13. tophergraceless says

    This issue has always been a big deal for me. Looking back on my leaving Christianity, I went to collage in 2000 so I can remember going to a very rural high school and not knowing anyone who would claim to be gay (several people came out as adults) and meeting many out gay people in college. I sort of straddled the transition from when same-sex marriage was beyond the pale to open acceptance as I went through and graduated college. i became a little obsessed with the issue and I can honestly say that I have listened to hundreds if not thousands of hours of sermons and radio shows about this topic. I noticed how the conservative message changed over the years from one of complete and visceral disgust with gay people to a softening but still refusing to budge that exists today.

    I can say that when I was still searching I didn’t join the Catholic Church specifically because of their stance towards gay marriage. I found this blog at that time as well. I can say that it is a little odd that outside of the church the one thing my non-christian friend know about evangelicals is that they hate gay people. considering that an issue that effects only a small part of our population has now become the lens that defines how Evangelicals are understood by the outside world. Anyway, I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

    • Rick Ro. says

      –> “considering that an issue that effects only a small part of our population has now become the lens that defines how Evangelicals are understood by the outside world.”

      Bingo. Through our actions and words, we have built a barrier to the people who need a relationship with Him. (Sounds like the Pharisees, eh?)

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > …about evangelicals is that they hate gay people. considering that an issue
      > that effects only a small part of our population….

      Due in part, no doubt, BECAUSE THEY NEVER EVER EVER STOP TALKING ABOUT IT, EVER.

      They will somehow drag Obergefell into every last darn topic or conversation [witness almost every essay on Mere Orthodoxy]. Until you just want to say: “Dude, I think you have a problem; lay it down, go see a movie, maybe take up jogging?”.

  14. David Gushee, Professor of Christian Ethics at McAfee School of Theology, wrote “Changing Our Mind” after struggling with his sister coming out. It is a helpful resource for those who are trying to find their way on this issue.

    • Mike Bell says

      There are a number of resources out there. I decided for my next post to focus instead on my own interactions with the scriptures.

      It will be somewhat truncated as to do a proper exegesis of the relevant verses does require an entire book.

  15. I have ten close friends and extended family members who are gay. Remember the old days when we used to say that I feel “really convicted“ about this or that? That was to say that the Holy Spirit was really impressing something or another on your heart. Well I have felt no conviction or movement of the Holy Spirit in any way to take any action to try to change them. Some would say I am abdicating my Christian responsibility and not listening to the Holy Spirit but that’s hogwash. I have no agenda except to commune with them as I do with anyone else. “Flaming” gayness is, in my opinion, mostly a persona adopted by choice. I’m not partial to the over the top-ness of it. I don’t like gay tv and don’t watch any shows that “preach” the gay agenda if you will, just like I don’t watch CBN which pushes the conservative “Christian” agenda. The gay people I know and love are very natural and easy to be around. It’s not that there is nothing effeminate about some of the guys but they’re not trying to assure me of just how gay they are and consequently it is not even a consideration in our interaction. Get in my face about your sex, your religion or your politics and I’m an equal opportunity avoider. Life is way too short.

    • Mike Bell says

      My daughter has had, and continues to have many more interactions than I have had. She is involved in a theatre arts program provided by the local school board which I believe has probably saved the lives of several kids.

  16. Absolutely. Good article.

    I’ve never had a friend who came out or transitioned while I’ve known them, but I’ve been good friends and am good friends with many gay and bisexual men and women. And without exception, they’ve all been outside the confines of the church, whether through internet sites like iMonk, at my schools, at my gyms, at my work places, etc. And I know how hypocritical or fine of a line I walk between them and hanging out with my old fundamentalist friends, who will gleefully and vehemently throw out all the slurs and threats of violence in public settings while also privately making comments to me about me ‘loving the fa*s” more than Jesus or holiness. I’ve cut a lot of people out of my life, but some you can’t; not easily.

    These people are my friends. They’re my family at times. They deserve to be happy, to be loved, and have equal rights as anyone. They don’t deserve to be hated. And anyone who does hate them, we can love you, but you are not welcome anymore in my life if that’s a defining characteristic of who you are. I will not tolerate your hatred. I will not tolerate your sin.

    You are welcome to repent and give both up and join the rest of us.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      When I first came across the Culture War types in the early Eighties, the trench lines had already been drawn. Fred Phelps’ slogan was not only dogma ex cathedra, but a Requirement of Salvation lest Christ spew thee out of His mouth on J-day. So if you were Really a Christian…

      It didn’t help that the first non-straight I knew was a full-honk sexual predator and hissy fit on a hair-trigger; his outing himself during a spectacular mid-life crisis and subsequent predatory behavior and attitude gave a LOT of credibility to Jack Chick, James Dobson, and the other Culture War flagbearers on the subject. The guy acted just like those preachers said THEY act, like some sort of Damascus Road Conversion experience or something, Moral Superiority attitude, Wretched Urgency Witnessing attitude, and all.

      (Since then I’ve figured he just went completely off the deep end when he turned 30. And lucked out in that this was before Internet chatrooms/social media, else you would probably have seen him opposite Chris Hansen on “To Catch a Predator”.)

      Now a first impression like THAT tends to really color your view of the subject.

      It’s no fun being a weirdness magnet.

  17. Patriciamc says

    Excellent post; I can’t wait to read more. There are so many things in this world to worry about that I finally decided that since I’m not gay and have no gay children, that this is one issue that I don’t worry about and feel free to say that I have no idea what is right. The one thing I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is how I’m to treat people, and that’s to love my neighbor as myself and treat others as I’d have them treat me. God will not judge me by my opinion on this issue, and if I’m friends with a gay person, then that person’s preference is between him/her and God – I’m not in the mix. If I make a cake for a gay wedding, then God will not judge me by what those people do, but if I refuse and make a scene, then I would be more concerned with my own appearance and not with what furthers God’s kingdom.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      When I was listening to Rich Buhler’s talk show in the Eighties, he once interviewed a woman from “Spatula Ministries”, which specialized in counseling Christian parents whose son or daughter had just come out of the closet. The ministry’s name came from “The first thing you do is take a spatula and scrape the parents off the ceiling.”

      Thing is, homoerotica is one of contemporary Christian culture’s STRONGEST taboos. Once you understand that, a lot falls right into place.

  18. senecagriggs says

    Not for the weak of stomach – seriously

    Ed. Note – Your link violated the parameters of the discussion today.

    Please do not post any more links, they do not contribute to the topic at hand.

    • Rick Ro. says

      Good removal of a link. That was intended purely for shock value and had no bearing on the discussion of how Christians are supposed to represent Jesus to individuals within the LBGTQ community. Not only that, but that person’s testimony, though written from a homosexual’s perspective, could’ve been written by anyone whose quest for love and acceptance led them down a really dark path and into the abyss.

  19. Wednesday was the 43rd wedding anniversary for my wife and me. We had a great time, lunched at a Scottish pub and watched “The Book Club” that afternoon. One of my best men at that wedding was a friend I’d met in our Philosophy of Religion class four years earlier. We attended a church-related school that I guess you could say was then fundamentalist. It was a couple of years later that we came to be friends when it happened that we chose the same graduate school, he in philosophy and me in physics. We had another friend getting a masters in religion. The three of us would get together and talk church and religion. We were all wrestling with faith matters. We had been taught that our group had the answers. If one did not understand the proper role and interpretation of baptism (which must be by immersion), do acapella only, practice congregational autonomy, etc then one’s soul salvation was in danger. Now that we were adults, this did not make sense. When one begins to question, the questions don’t stop. What is next, perhaps evolution is true and inerrancy isn’t. And what about God? One evening while pondering some of these, my friend confessed that he was gay. I thought to myself, he has been a good friend to me and I will not let him down. And we continued to be good friends. Eventually we both left West Tennessee for school and work. Lost track in the eighties but in 1990 we met up and he was enthusiastic for Eastern Orthodoxy. Gave me some books to read. Then lost track of him again except that he and his partner had moved back to West Tennessee. Eventually my wife and I moved back and I tried to track him down and had no luck for a couple of years. Then, in 2016, I came across a Masters Thesis he wrote on Fr. Sergius Bulgakov. He had decided late in life to do an MA in Religion. Turns out he still has an interest and affection for Eastern Orthodoxy. He has just finished another on Sergey Horujy. My friend and his partner of over thirty years are active Episcopalians. They are retired and spend their time being good. Stocking food pantries and doing other good works. My friend conducts Christian Meditation sessions at a kind of half-way house for homeless and addicted. I usually attend once or twice a month, if I can.

  20. Christiane says

    ” I want to remind us that when we have theological discussions about homosexuality we are not dealing with some abstract concept, but with real people”

    AMEN, AMEN, AMEN

    the ‘labels’ always fail to divide us once we meet the real people and get to know them . . . maybe because as human persons we are all made from the same elements of the Earth and infused with a soul from the same Creator and as such we ‘recognize’ one another in a way that just the ‘label’ would not allow

    • And yet, if you’re the one on the outside looking in, finding a label for the way you experience life, knowing you’re not the only person like this, can be amazingly empowering. I suppose it’s important to move beyond the label eventually, but finding it for the first time makes a person feel less like an outcast.

      • Christiane says

        Hi Richard,
        thank you for replying.

        I think of ‘labels’ as something mis-used by people who hate, who develop ‘stereotypes’ and teach their children to hate them, who preach hatred of those ‘stereotypes’ that are not representative of real people.

        It is not wrong to want to belong to a community of people who do not reject you. I can understand that need. But those people, let them be seen as real people also, who deserve respect and acceptance as children of the Creator. It’s the mis-use of labeling as ‘stereotypical’ that I think is the problem.

        It’s important to accept yourself as a valuable human being, and be proud of who you are, and if this self-acceptance is helped by identifying with a group that is often the target of ‘haters’ then it takes great courage to stand up and be able to say ‘I also am a human person, like you, but ‘different’ too from you, and that’s okay’.

        Thank you for explaining how you see this, Richard. I love that you can come here and share and not be considered an ‘outcast’ on this blog. 🙂

  21. Richard Hershberger says

    “He also told me that found himself with two choices: Either live life as a Christian, or live life as a homosexual. He felt that it was an either/or proposition and that he could not in good conscience be both.”

    A side point, but this is fallout of the Big Lie that Christian=Evangelical. I’m not sure when this was, but I’m guessing around the ’80s. Even back then, there were churches that did not think gay and Christian contradictions.

    • Mike Bell says

      Early 80s would be exact. Options were very limited in those days. Even today I still hear that opinion a lot.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        The options were there, even back then, but not in any church you would call “Evangelical.” If by “Christian” he meant “Evangelical,” then indeed there were no options. But broaden the horizons a bit, and there turns out to be a lot more out there. Perhaps not where he lived, but to put it bluntly, that is reason to move.

        • Richard, if all the people you know as christian around you disdain your humanity because you’re gay/whatever, the natural response is not, “I bet there are some nicer ones worth moving for!” This isn’t someone disagreeing with something you’ve done, this is facing a population of people angry at what you -are-.

          A lot of us just came to the conclusion that God indeed loved everyone BUT us, and that might seem crazy to you, but it was a shock to discover that christianity wasn’t unified by far on this topic when I finally came to learn that!

        • Michael Bell says

          And my friend was 17 and living in a small town at the time. So his experience would certainly be like Tokah describes.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      A side point, but this is fallout of the Big Lie that Christian=Evangelical.

      A Big Lie originated by the Evangelical Industrial Complex, who redefined “Christian” without and adjectives to mean Fundagelical and Fundagelical alone.

      Remember the phrase “I Used To Be [Catholic, Methodist, Mormon, etc] But Now I’m CHRISTIAN(TM)!”?

  22. senecagriggs says

    The link was quite appropriate. But I knew it was against the narrative of Imonk and would not be appreciated.

    This is, ultimately, a progressive site where arguments against the narrative are not acceptable for too long.

    if this post stands you can google–= I survived gay barely which goes into the medical details.

    The other link is a wiki link about lesbian battering – also appropriate to the discussion but again stands against the narrative.

    • Mike Bell says

      Here were the parameters for the commenting today:

      “What I would like to hear about is your own interactions with people. How have these interactions affected you? What have you learned? Looking back, are there things you had wished you had done differently.”

      Next Friday I will allow considerable more latitude, but will again ask for it to be on topic. That is, interacting with the biblical verses and viewpoints that I bring forward.

    • Rick Ro. says

      No. Just, No.

      Why post content that only represents the worst of someone you’re against, Seneca? What about links to wife-beating in order to speak against monogamous heterosexual marriages, then?

      Oh, wait, those are “God-approved” via scripture.

    • senecagriggs says

      Since my church follows a preaching pattern, the issue of homosexual behavior doesn’t come up unless it a part of the Scripture being studied. In my 30 years at the church we’ve never had a preacher that ranted about homosexuals.

      We did, however, change some church by-laws a couple of years ago regarding building usage, that would keep us from being forced to allow the marriage ceremony of same sex couples in our sanctuary.

      ____________
      I have no reason to treat people in the homosexual lifestyle badly; and I don’t. I don’t preach at them, I don’t attack them for their choices but neither do I tell them, “Yeah, go for it. I support you 100 percent.”

      The homosexual lifestyle appears to be a destructive lifestyle, I’m hardly inclined to ally myself with it.

      • Rick Ro. says

        –> “The homosexual lifestyle appears to be a destructive lifestyle, I’m hardly inclined to ally myself with it.”

        There’s some sleight of hand there! You don’t ally yourself with it because you don’t agree with it, not because it’s (as you claim) destructive. Otherwise you’d stop reading David’s psalms; I mean, talk about a guy who cratered his family via destructive lifestyle and poor choices!

      • Clay Crouch says

        Do you have any friends or family members who are LGBT? If so, what is the nature of those relationships? Have any of your views changed over the years? That’s the kind of discussion Mike B is looking for. I hope that helps.

  23. Speaking from the other side, I can say that most of my interactions with cis-straight people reveal at worst ignorance and prejudice, and not very often outright bigotry. I have been convinced by interaction with a number of cis-straight members of my church body over the years that most offense given is accidental, and most weird assumptions they have not maliciously meant. And the general ignoring of the needs of the LGBTQ+ in the membership is often for quotidian reasons anyone is ignored – the way married people with kids forget their single friends quite frequently.

    That doesn’t mean I have my own reactions under control. I still cringe internally when someone I am speaking to reveals they are a Christian and ponder what I’ve said to them and how they reacted in a new light. I am on guard in a way that I can’t totally tamp down.

    I’m in a pretty conservative wing of the church, so initial interactions with cis-straight christians is negative a pretty high percentage of the time (I am often the first out queer coreligionist they’ve met!), but given a three or four year period of acquaintance, most of those negative interactions turn positive. People who once crossed the room to avoid me or exited any conversation I was included in give me genuine hugs. These individuals have become to me icons for my hope for the Church in her local existence in the US in the near future.

    I think we also have to recognize the strides it takes for someone to make that leap. They have to take everything they assumed about people that look like me and rewrite that part of their brain to perceive my actual existence before them. That’s -hard-. Their worldview was a comfortable one that required little nuance, and to make the leap means bringing in discomforting levels of nuance, context, and question. It’s a lot easier to talk about a faceless group out there somewhere.

    So overall, I’d say my interactions have been both taxing and largely worthwhile in more cases than not.

    I do wish I’d understood the role of gender vs sexuality earlier. Coming from the land of evangelism, sexuality was the big deal, and that was ingrained and scarred in DEEP. To be still rejected so often by so many even as celibate, then, was an insult to injury that I hope is unimaginable to most of you. It helped bridge at least an understand when I came to realize that a lot of that rejection was about their perception of my sex/gender and how I handle it, so no behavior on my part could have changed the initial interaction.

    • Mike Bell says

      Thanks for commenting Tokah. Appreciated.

      Could you elaborate a little bit on your last paragraph, I don’t quite grasp what you are saying.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        The way I understand it is that gender is your biology. As in the parts. Sexuality is how the parts want to be used. What attracts you. Which is also part of your biology.
        Hence transgender is the you enter a process to physically transform the parts. This is different from your attraction.

        I am open to correction.

      • Rick Ro. says

        I think Tokah is referring to the fact that remaining celibate doesn’t seem to matter to certain Christians. They hear of a person’s non-traditional sexuality and think “celibate or not, you’re guilty as charged.”

      • This would take more than a comment to really delve into also, but basically because most of what we talked about in the 80’s/90’s evangelical culture war thingies was homosexuality or being gay, that was kind of the thing I internalized as being the most objectionable about me as a person.

        In my current church context, that isn’t the case. The people who oppose me often aren’t set off primarily by my presumed sexual orientation (which was the part I struggled with self-hate on), so behaving on that front didn’t help. They object more to the fact that I appear not to be gender conforming (the process of performing the gender they’d associate with your genitals).

        Now, this is something I never mentioned at imonk because I don’t tend to be honest about this around christians, but I am intersexed physically – even if I were inclined to be a very female person, I was ALWAYS going to have secondary sex characteristics that incline people to think I’m trans and bad at it. No matter how I dress or what have you, someone out there thinks I’m trying to fool them about something – neither male or female looks quite right. (Though I’m virilizing over the years and at this point could mostly pass as a guy if I don’t sing!) US Culture is pretty decent about androgynous people, so I don’t have a lot of problems in the world, but church is still always a roll of the dice on if there will be a visiting hostile person.

        The reason I normally don’t share that is that intersexed people get a special pass from conservative christians that I”m pretty uncomfortable with – I don’t think my behavior is anything that needs to be excused! They crowbar the I out of LBGTQIA as if we’re different in kind, and because of my orientation and the fact I only know I’m I because it caused medical problems, it is easy to see a life where I never knew. (You may have heard of olympians who don’t discover it until their sex is challenged by the oppositiion, that’s the realm I’m in.) A few less medical problems and I’d either be living as a simply butch lesbian or trans non-binary guy with no idea of the physicality backing that up in my case, and so those are my people they are inclined to crowbar me away from. 😛

        • Mike Bell says

          I can’t imagine how tough that must be Tokah.

        • I’ve also always been gender non-conforming, but that’s probably due more to being autistic than anything else. I’m not intersex and have never felt dysphoric about my gender assigned at birth. I just often don’t perform it the way our society thinks guys should and that tends to throw people. I mean I *can* if there’s a reason I accept as important for me to do so in a given situation. Most of the time I don’t bother and I don’t appear to have internalized so much of it like most people do.

          And I generally use straight since that’s how I’m perceived and treated and since I’ve been with my wife for 30 years now, it’s the only description that matters. But I’ve always known the way most people describe sexual attraction hasn’t really fit me. More recently I’ve come to realize I’m probably more somewhere on the ace spectrum than really heterosexual. Gender is not even as consistent a factor for me as some existing emotional connection. But again, I’m perceived and treated as a cis straight white guy, so the distinction is really just one to improve my own self-understanding. It does help in a way, but honestly the autistic label was a whole lot more important and life-changing and life-affirming for me.

          Peace.

    • “Still rejected so often by so many even as celibate…”

      Indeed. ‘Twould be wonderful if folks in the church could come up with a way to be comfortable in their midst as a celibate person (who, given the society, lives alone and thus spends 90%+ of the time alone). Rather, I get “where two or three are gathered…” which devalues my spiritual experience completely.

      And thanks, so much, for participating in this discussion. I love your thoughtful insights into this kind of thing.

    • Dana Ames says

      Thank you, Tokah. May the Lord help you, always. I don’t know anything except that it’s difficult. Hugs to you.

      Dana

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Your point of view is always welcome to me, Tokah. I imagine you looking like, well, I said I wouldn’t share my opinions. It doesn’t matter what you look like.

      But I’m glad that you’re here and proud that you’re Orthodox. You have a lot of grit.

  24. Highwayman says

    Interesting and thought-provoking discussion.

    Going back to Mike’s original questions: Back in 1980 or thereabouts I worked for a while with an excellent prison chaplain who was a good friend to my wife and me until he moved away to another prison. We heard no more about him until four years later, when he became one of the first people in the public eye to die of AIDS and his photo was plastered all over the national papers (with some pretty vitriolic articles) as a victim of the “gay plague”. I’m not often or easily shocked, but was totally flabbergasted and very sad when the story hit the news – we had had no idea that he was gay. I still wonder whether it would have been better if we’d known when we first met him, although I don’t think it really had any effect on his work or on his friendship with us.

    I agree with Christiane’s comment above that “…the ‘labels’ always fail to divide us once we meet the real people and get to know them…”

    Whilst I detest the way in which sexuality in all its forms seems to be rammed down our throats by the media these days, in real life and real relationships with real people it is very seldom an issue and it’s a shame that so many Christians make so much fuss about it.

  25. Dana Ames says

    I’ve had gay friends since college. Even as an Evangelical, I fought the temptation to think of them as less than human, and I was uncomfortable with the culture war mentality regarding trying to force people to become straight. Interacting with LGBT+ people didn’t “change my mind” about that. I have some opinions, but they’re about serious Christians who find themselves in this struggle, not about people who don’t profess Christianity. I don’t usually share my opinions, because I don’t have that struggle, nor do I have the closeness of relationship with the LGBT+ people in my life that would allow that kind of sharing, except with one Orthodox man. He remains celibate; we both hold to the teaching of the Church on the matter, but he has challenged me about how we talk – and/or fail to talk – about sexuality, and he has very pointed observations.

    A serious Orthodox Christian will make every effort to become the kind of person who sees other people without judging them, and who will bow before their suffering, whatever it is. Another person’s sin is, in a very real sense, not my business. I am to attend to following the commandments of Christ and the teaching of his Church in my own life, not force them on anyone else, even a fellow Christian. Fr Stephen’s latest article contains this maxim: “Love people as the very image of God and resist the temptation to improve them.” The Good News isn’t about sin per se; the focus on all the minutiae of the legalities of morality in western theology has put the cart way before the horse.

    One thing I do know is that the issue is a lot deeper than how we currently frame it. How people in our culture now are pressured to talk about it from whatever angle they view it is not helpful, either. For example, though I understand why Michael uses it, I don’t find the word “ally” to be useful, because it implies a situation in which someone is posited as an enemy; I think it’s problematic for me as a Christian to be considering any human being my enemy. I have said more than once in these comments that I look to the serious Christians of the first couple hundred years AD, who didn’t seem to be concerned with eradicating the immorality of the society/culture that surrounded them.

    Dana

  26. Richard Hershberger says

    To answer Mike’s question, in some respects my background should have prepped me against LGBTs. My father was a career US Navy chaplain. He spent about half his career with the Marines, and this was obviously his true love. On the other hand, we were LCA (one of the predecessor groups to the modern ELCA), which was generally on the liberal side of things. We were, for example, ordaining women since (IIRC) the 1970s. I picked up the usual stereotypes from the surrounding culture, but wasn’t primed by my church to be anti-LGBT.

    Off to college: I knew openly gay and lesbian people in the ordinary course of college life. There was one fellow who was closeted longer than this served any good purpose. He later admitted that he was afraid his friends would abandon him. The actual reaction was general rolling of eyes, as he finally admitted the obvious.

    Fast forward a couple of decades, to my wedding. It so happened that my closest friends were women, so I asked them (after clearing it with my betrothed) to be my wedding party. My best, um…, person was a former girlfriend. We made a terrible couple, but great best friends. Also in the wedding party was a couple. This was before gay marriage was legalized, but they were (and remain) the most married couple I know. This was a Catholic wedding, for my wife’s benefit. The priest was great. If he figured it out, he had the sterling sense not to say anything. A good time was had by all.

    So overall, my transition was from a vague collection of cultural stereotypes. They didn’t stand a chance in the face of my knowing actual gays and lesbians, which happened at an early age. To the extent that there was a transition to be made, it was gentle.

  27. Robert F says

    I grew up with the usual social and religious inculcation against homosexuality, and the fear of contagion that it generates. Almost simultaneously, however, I also imbibed the lessons of tolerance that I perceived in my public school education, and from the zeitgeist of the 1960s and 70s counterculture. Personal experience of the normal humanity of people of different sexual orientations in my immediate relational orbit, and my own sense of being an outsider in different but resonant ways, moved me decisively over to being an ally at a young age, sometime in my late teens. Once I became really aware of the fact that Mike brings up, that when abstract discussions on this subject (or offhanded remarks) occur we are talking about real people, who are sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and etc., and who are loved and love and hurt and are hurt, and who are very frequently in the room the discussions (or remarks) take place whether we know it or not and whether they take part (or respond) or not, my own attitude had been settled toward alliance rather than hostility or even neutrality (is it possible to be neutral?). No religious abstraction can alter that basic aspect of humanity and human relationship for me, or move me away from that alliance.

  28. John barry says

    This is a serious question , once again I am not afraid to show my complete unawareness of the issue. The transgender bathroom issue , how did this become an issue and what is the issue?

    If I am in the mens bathroom and a person walks in who is dressed and appears to be a male and goes into a stall what is the issue. If a person dressed as a woman came in I would be confused’ So if a person dressed as a woman came in and went into a stall in the ladies room, what would be the issue. What is the issue on the transgender bathroom issue? Is this a national problem, is it an issue to be an issue. Why is the uproar about a issue that I cannot even understand.

    • It’s a thing that can be used to stir up fear, and it is a point of division that is easy to wiggle for ratings, basically. Before people poked it, people just used the safest and least confrontation-causing bathroom. People right on the cusp got dirty looks no matter what bathroom they used.

      Now it is a political football, and the process of throwing it has made life scarier for folks affected by the advertising and more dangerous for my folks. Trans people already have a statistically higher UTI rate due to sometimes just not having a good choice and forgoing the process entirely in public, but it has extended out to more naturally androgynous folk and intersex people, too.

      Part of the difficulty is that there’s no such thing really as “looking like a man” and “looking like a woman” – there are broad strokes, but the actual process of visually identifying someone’s gender is checking off boxes on a checklist that is -subconscious-. Most people have the same things on that checklist – clothes, what they know the person’s name to be, secondary sex characteristics, cultural local bits, but the order of PRIORITY of those things varies and no one knows the actual order of their own list unless they get it sneakily tested!

      This means two people looking at the same middle-ground person walking into a bathroom can each say “that’s obviously a man” and “that’s obvious a woman” and both feel justified. This has always been so. Before, people mostly kept their mouths shut if they objected to where you think you fit, especially if you show up with a friend. It has gotten harder, though. People are revved up by the news and the ads and it happens even with a posse that someone will make a thing of it. Masculine-leaning folks can avoid this most places by using the men’s if they’re willing to, because men on the whole are chiller on this topic, but femme people who don’t check enough boxes struggle in BOTH places.

      It becomes an odd sort of calculus – having the looks to probably use one bathroom in peace, but the state ID to support your use of the other one if questioned… but usually by the time you have to pull that out, the day has been ruined by the confrontation and you might have been thrown into a wall by an overeager security guard. It certainly won’t reverse being yelled at by a stranger while desperately in need of fulfilling bodily functions or the reasonable emotional reaction to that.

      So a lot of times you just… don’t. Sometimes you don’t use the bathroom, sometimes you just don’t go out at all because you would HAVE to use the bathroom, and you know you won’t have a posse to bring to help make it safer. All the while, people stir up fears that perfectly rational behaviors up till now are suddenly dangerous for the people who -don’t- have these problems!!

      • Robert F says

        Part of the recent increase in the controversy surrounding this issue is also schools’ allowing or not allowing students self-identification to determine what restroom and locker facilities they use, and the fallout of those decisions in the wider public arena, when one side or the other takes legal recourse against the schools’ decisions.

      • One of my daughter’s trans guy friends passes pretty well. And as you mentioned, men tend to be a bit more “mind your own business” in the bathroom. Her closest friend, though, presents as a pretty femme trans guy, which makes navigating bathrooms a real challenge. We live in the Austin area and it does help that they passed an ordinance back in 2014 requiring businesses to label single use bathrooms as gender-neutral (like everyone’s bathrooms at home). The new Mueller Alamo Drafthouse was designed so it has a room for men with urinals, but all the toilets have their own doors and are all gender neutral. And the sinks for washing hands are all in a shared area. That seems like a pretty sensible design approach for a business to me. Gendered toilets didn’t even exist in the US until the late 19th century, so it’s not like they are some essential human thing. And there’s little I can imagine that’s more dehumanizing than to make the simple need to relieve yourself an existential threat, which is basically what those bathroom bills do. It’s a fear and hate based tribal in-group response. And it’s become so pervasive across that segment of our population that reports of cisgender people being accosted and assaulted in bathrooms because someone believed they were using the “wrong” one are now becoming more common.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          We live in the Austin area and it does help that they passed an ordinance back in 2014 requiring businesses to label single use bathrooms as gender-neutral (like everyone’s bathrooms at home).

          As long at they don’t go Virtue Signalling their Righteousness with it like the signs I’ve seen on hotel bathrooms in the Bay Area.

          The new Mueller Alamo Drafthouse was designed so it has a room for men with urinals, but all the toilets have their own doors and are all gender neutral. And the sinks for washing hands are all in a shared area. That seems like a pretty sensible design approach for a business to me.

          Same here. If some Sexual Enforcer is peeking under the doors of the toilet stalls, who’s in there using the can is going to be the least of your problems.

          Gendered toilets didn’t even exist in the US until the late 19th century, so it’s not like they are some essential human thing.

          Last I heard, gendered toilets still don’t exist in France.

          However, here it has become a Tribal In-Group Recognition Shibboleth in Culture War Without End, Amen. WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON??????

    • Dana Ames says

      jb,

      A lot of people are upset because they don’t want “intact males” going into the female bathroom space; they are afraid that some men may say they’re trans in order to be granted access to a place where women have their pants down, so that they can gain an opportunity to violate the women.

      See HUG’s remark below.

      Dana

    • Radagast says

      In my mind there seems to be a simple fix to the problem – have a bathroom that has one stall in it for use by anybody. This way you are not calling anyone out specifically, the person has privacy, and there isn’t the issue of a guy with less than appropriate motives taking advantage of the current ambiguity and exploiting it (and there-by putting women at risk).

  29. I lived in the Montrose area of Houston in the 70s through my middle school years. I’ve had LGBTQIA+ personal friends, family friends, and family members (by blood and marriage) my whole life. My wife, by contrast, growing up in a small Texas town, didn’t really know anything about being ‘gay’ until she moved to the Austin area after high school. My spiritual heritage in childhood and young adulthood (and today) is probably more complicated than my wife’s. But then, much of my life is more complicated than that of many people.

    It’s never been any question for either of us that we fully and openly support all LGBTQIA+ and that’s been true regardless of any church we’ve attended at any point in time. Some churches make it a lot more challenging even to be present than others, though.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever been a great ally, but I recognize my youngest’s friends (who were mostly queer in one way or another, using the word they used to describe themselves as a group) have not only always been comfortable and open around me, but several even agreed to complete a survey instrument as seniors in high school for me for a paper in a Human Sexuality course I was taking to finally finish my degree. Thinking back, I recall one of her best friends came out as a trans guy to my wife and I before he came out to his own family. Though to be fair, his family was a … challenging one. And I know a few things about a challenging family of origin.

    The A in the acronym is often usurped for ‘Ally’ but it actually stands for Asexual, who along with the I (Intersex), B (bisexual), and T (trans) are often erased even within the community. It’s not exactly a natural community, but more one created by the hatred and oppression they collectively experience from the overwhelming majority around them because of their sexual or gender identity (which are two *very* different, though too often conflated things).

    One of my cousins, the one I was closest to the first half of my life, recently came out as a trans woman and reconnected with me. It’s been a rough road for her in a lot of ways and I’ve had my own struggles as someone who is finally perceiving his life more accurately and with greater understanding after my recent ASD diagnosis.

    Grace and peace. Love your friends and do what you can to support them.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Though it seems odd that the “A” in the Unpronounceable Acronym is there. You’d think Aces (i.e. the bottom of the bell curve in sexual desire, like how nymphomania is the top end) would slip under everyone’s radar. Except maybe for the usual “If you’re not doing somebody, you’re a NOBODY” trope of a highly-eroticized culture.

      And the “I”? That’s an actual physical medical condition that got dragged into the dynamic; possibly due to the weirded-out factor.

      And it seems a lot of the “hatred and oppression from the overwhelming majority” are side effects of a Hypermsaculinity attitude. When someone’s trying to prove to themselves “ME MAN! ME REAL MAN! RAWR!”, the very existence of I/B/G/Q is a terrifying reminder that their Hypermasculinity is not as secure or obvious as they think. (Plus, since Hypermasculinity is also often tied up with Power, Domination, and Violence, the fear that someone Bigger, Stronger, and More Manly than Thou could use you like you do use an (inferior) woman. By force.)

      • Dana Ames says

        This!

        Dana

      • Adding a link will probably put my comment in moderation, but I think the FAQ on asexuality is needed to dispel a lot of misconceptions. Someone who simply has low sexual desire or libido but otherwise some form of typical sexual attraction (the actual opposite of excessive sexual desire you mention) is one type of gray-asexual. Someone who is fully asexual, though, may be sex positive, have a healthy libido, masturbate, and even feel other forms of attraction (romantic, aesthetic, sensual). Just as the minimal information I had in my head for years about autism kept me from even considering that it might apply to me, so the minimal information I had about asexuality (mostly pretty much the way you described it) kept me from looking any further. And that’s true even though I’ve always struggled to find language to describe the way sexual attraction worked for me even though I always knew it was different and not much like the way others described it at all.

        https://www.asexuality.org/?q=general.html

        I probably fit somewhere in the broad gray-asexual definition, leaning toward demisexual. My libido (in the sense of ability to perform or feel desire toward someone in those situations where sexual attraction has been active) has always been fine or even toward the high end. However, as far as I can recall, the list of people toward whom I’ve felt any sexual attraction is pretty much the same small list over my lifetime as those with whom I’ve had some form of sexual contact. And in all but one instance (my current and long-time partner), the relationship was really initiated, often overtly and directly, but sometimes more subtly, by the other person. And those ranged from outright sexual abuse to relationships ranging from abusive in other ways to highly manipulative to simply less than healthy. My current relationship stands out as the exception and it’s the one in which I’ve really felt we’ve both had shared and mutual sexual agency every step of the way.

        I have no idea why sexual identities like mine would be threatening to others and dismissed by them, but then I don’t understand the pervasive negative response I’ve received my whole life as an autistic person either. And that was a constant of my life no matter how hard I worked to train myself to pass as something at least close enough to “normal”. I guess toxic masculinity is as good an explanation as any for the emphasis on highly gendered and sexualized roles.

        And there are lots of horror stories associated with intersex individuals who were born with physically different bodies. (That’s a subset of intersex people.) I found studies on them when I was doing my 2015 research paper. It has long been the norm to perform surgery on them to assign a specific gender absent any medically necessary reason for the surgery. And that can not only result in physical pain and harm as they grow, but in issues of dysphoria where they picked a gender to surgically assign that doesn’t fit the child as they grow and develop their own identity. That’s still a common medical practice today. And it really needs to stop. Only medically necessary surgery should be performed on infants. Everything else can be worked out as the children grow up.

  30. So, for years I followed the conservative line, because I didn’t know any better. My friend in JC often found herself attracted to people who did not respond, because they were gay. She also had gay friends of long standing, so we disagreed about whether choice was involved. Eventually during a Sunday school class, I learned that one person had been molested as a youth by someone of the same sex. Another, who had always seemed to have exemplary faith, talked about being suicidal after figuring out he was gay and God did not plan to change that. My kids had both gay and trans friends and I had to explain just how under the radar it all really was when I was growing up. A couple of my friends have gay kids and swear they just came that way. I was forced by all of this to change many long held assumptions and opinions. As far as I can tell, we are to love everyone and let God worry about sorting it all out.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Your first sentence sums up the issue succinctly- on this and other issues (climate change, taxation, welfare, warfare….)

  31. Robert F says

    I find the constantly and quickly developing language surrounding the discussion of this issue daunting. I really don’t know how to keep up with it.

    • I would say be quiet and listen when you hear something new and try to learn without demanding that others do that work for you. Where you do understand, speak where your words can help or heal or even defend. If they words that you wish to speak would only inflict violence on others, it’s probably best to keep them in. You can always say, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about that topic. As with most things, people tend to “keep up” more or less to the extent it either impacts them personally or affects somebody they love.

  32. Looking forward to reading Parts 2 & 3.

  33. Donald Johnson says

    I am recently affirming. I ran away from studying this area for years. Finally, I realized that if someone I loved closely told me they were gay, I would be forced to study this area. The question for me at the start was can I accept Paul’s conclusions in 1 Cor 5 and yet claim 1 Cor 6 did not refer to all active gay people? It was a story of ups and downs.

    • Donald Johnson says

      P.S. The non-affirming side for the most part kept insisting that the relevant Bible texts were clear, yet book after book including massive tomes kept being produced to proclaim this supposedly obvious fact. So I began to wonder if it really was so clear, why such a profusion of paper?

      So I started my investigation of 1 Cor 5-6 by asking whether it really was so clear. The question became: Is there a possible faithful reading of Scripture that does not end up declaring that all homosexual acts are sinful? That is I concentrated on the claim that the verses were clear.

  34. I was a regular reader here at IMonk way back when the OG, Michael Spencer, was still here. I remained a regular for quite some time after that, but eventually stopped coming here, and it was mostly because of the heartache I felt when I read the comments of a post that had anything LGBT related.
    Imagine my surprise when I popped in to see what you folks were talking about these days. Nicely done, Christians!
    I look forward to the rest of the series.

    • Michael Bell says

      Hi Debra,

      Nice to have you back. You did come to mind when writing this.

      I was grateful that I didn’t have to do much moderating.

      Mike