Not long ago a close friend of mine, a conservative evangelical, brought up the issue of gays. As we talked I asked, ‘What about gay Christians?’…‘What?!’ they responded very flustered. ‘Gay Christians!’ They could not imagine such a thing. The discussion went no further, but I understood how they felt.
I used to disapprove of gays (the old word for all related ‘behaviors’), but I now affirm them. I wish I could say my change came through a single flash of insight and understanding such as Paul experienced on the road to Damascus, but it did not. It was a cautious, step-by-step process for me.
I grew up assuming that God disapproved not only gay behavior but gays themselves. God was a forgiving God, but anyone who ‘chose’ to be so perverted, and who refused to give it up, were perpetually defying God’s laws. How could he forgive constant sin?
I knew about their depraved ‘lifestyles’–didn’t everyone? Just think of Sodom—or Paul’s description in Romans 1. Their depravity was obvious.
However, I didn’t actually know any gay people. There were no gays at my school (right?). There were no gays in my church (right?). And there were no gays at my Christian College (RIGHT?). It was not an issue I really thought about much because it did not immediately concern me, my friends, or any of my acquaintances. I just accepted the assumptions I had absorbed from my environment.
But it was at my Christian college that my assumptions were first challenged.
The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay
I loved to poke around the religion section of the college library. I learned so much and discovered so many new things. One day while browsing through the stacks I ran across a book titled ‘The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay’. It was written by a gay minister who was kicked out of three denominations, including mine. Why it was in our conservative college library, I have no idea.
The author’s name was Troy Perry. His story was so sad—and so human. He did not resemble my image of perverted gay people at all. He seemed to genuinely love God and wanted to preach the good news of Jesus, but three denomination threw him out. After much discouragement and travail, he started a little church that would accept gays. He called it the Metropolitan Church; it was not associated with any denomination. Now, it IS a denomination.
Wow! Was this ever a challenge to what I thought about gays! The book was not a sudden flash of insight that changed my mind, but it did make me think about the issue—which I had never done before.
Years later, I read another rather shocking biography: ‘Stranger at the Gate’ by Mel White. I knew very well who Mel White was—he was a right-wing Christian political activist who was very involved in developing the conservative Moral Majority in the 1980s. He worked with the major names of the Moral Majority leadership, and his name was well-known to those who followed such things.
In the book, Mel describes his coming out as gay and immediately being ostracized by Moral Majority leaders. He, like Troy, came across as a genuine, human person who wanted to do the right thing. He caused me to deliberate further on the issue of Christian gays and to seek other books on gays and Christianity.
One writer insisted that Jesus supported gays. When pressed for proof they stated that Jesus’ entire demeanor was inclusiveness. Well, this is true but it was not enough to convince me. What if Jesus did NOT approve of gays? Other writers suggested gay relationships affirmed in the Bible: David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and specifically Jesus’ affirmation of the centurion’s gay relationship with his servant. As much as I wanted them to be, these cases seemed unconvincing to me—they still do.
The Clobber Passages
Along the way, I learned about intersex births, where the baby’s sexual organs were completely ambiguous, and the doctor or parents made arbitrary decisions on whether the infant was male or female. This made a big impact on me; individual sexuality was not so clean-cut after all.
I knew that God was loving and accepting, and my empathy and compassion pulled me toward acceptance; but the major concern for me were the biblical ‘clobber passages’ that condemned homosexuality. I could not act contrary to what the Bible taught on the subject.
I studied them all and concluded that most of them do not say what we think they say. My only concern was Romans 1, but it can be read more than one way.
My Final Conclusion
I did not want to be mistaken and accept what Jesus did not, but I decided I could either err on the side of caution or I could err on the side of love, compassion, and inclusion as Jesus did. So I chose to discard my inherited assumptions and prejudices and follow love, compassion, and inclusion.
I did not make the change quickly or easily, but between the weakness of the clobbers and the constant example of Jesus’ inclusion, I committed to full affirmation. Since then I have studied even further and am completely convinced that I made the right choice—the one that Jesus would make—full affirmation.
I now strongly believe the clobber passages are without merit—all of them. If you are interested, I discuss each of them on my Resource Page on Gays and the Church, which also includes articles by others and additional pertinent resources. If you condemn LGBTs, I invite you to reconsider.