Torrey Gazette was recently privileged to run a post by Michael Salinas. Michael's post detailed the perspective of a young Christian who experiences same-sex attraction. The post has been the most widely read piece ever published by Torrey Gazette. It clearly struck a chord with the online community that follows Michael and the Torrey Gazette. The reason for this might not be simple, but it should also not be ignored. Follow up blogs (granted of less popularity) are needed to continue the discussion.
The post has also garnered some unique conversations, both private and public, for me personally. What follows will attempt to answer some of the most basic questions. These are not the answer to these important questions. These simply reflect my answers in this ongoing discussion. I encourage people to engage in the comment section or send us an e-mail if they would like to contribute to the conversation in full article form. I want this forum to be kind to those in favor of Michael's post and those in opposition. Needless to say, I will now be taking my turn at the microphone.
I do not experience SSA. But I have a history of other sexual sins. The question has been asked why I would not publicly declare those sins and intimate thoughts (e.g. "coming out") while encouraging and applauding Michael. I would like to answer briefly in two parts.
The Southern Church
Michael and I both have been raised in the great state of Texas. In the South gender stereotypes reign. They reign loudly enough to demand their own post. I hope to finish that post next week. Nonetheless, nothing is less "manly" than being attracted to other men. These gender stereotypes and the culture have made for an interesting experience of "coming out." Though not paradigmatic, I know individuals who have privately confessed to pastors their SSA experience and been asked to leave their church. A full fledge separation from the covenant body of Christ because of one's temptation. I mention this not as the standard but as the reality of some of the brothers and sisters in Christ that I personally know. This is not a made up exaggerated hypothetical. This is the experience of many in Southern evangelical churches with fundamentalist backgrounds.
I know that this is not true of every church, pastor, or elder. But the refrain is common and nauseating. I know some who have deserted the church. I know some who continue in their hunt for a church that will not exclude them over honesty. This is happening throughout the south at the sickening rate. There is no allowance nor room for SSA in the "good ole boys" clubs that often dominate evangelical non-denomination or SBC churches. Now this "good ole boys" club does not exist in every church. But where it does it is poison to the gospel of Christ.
Part of the reason that Michael's post has had such a huge impact in this part of the country is that the conservative constituents of the South need to hear his words. We are not talking about people who are tempted by liberalism. I am talking about churches that take seriously the inerrant and authoritative word of God. I am referring to God-fearing, conservative Christians who experience SSA and are scared shitless by their pastor and congregation's potential responses because of crude jokes and innuendos. Even in progressive conservatism a single individual experiencing SSA can expect to be "set up" with dozens of single Christians and asked repeatedly about their love life. There is no room or space for the development of a celibate ethic. As much as the LGTBQ has their political agenda, the old white heterosexual pew sitter has their agenda. Neither is comforting to the Christian experiencing SSA and fighting toward a celibate middle ground.
This discussion needs to happen in public because congregants need to be woken up to the struggles and plights of their brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a tremendous amount of ignorance on the subject of "gay Christians" or "Christians experiencing same-sex attraction." As a point of note this is one of the places I disagree w/ Michael's post in that I fully affirm and encourage the verbiage of "gay/homosexual Christian" while agreeing with his definition. I pray for a day when SSA can be treated like every other temptation. I pray for a day when there is not a cultural stigma against SSA in the church. But until that day this conversation, and posts like Michael's, need to occur in public.
The second reason these discussions needs to occur in public is because the world is listening. Youth leave the church at an alarming rate. I don't really care about discussions of election, regeneration, or baptism at this point. The point is that youth taste the goods of Christianity and find more value in the world. In some cases, this has been because of sexual confusion.
I know that youth are leaving the church for a myriad of reasons. In many cases, it is not because of SSA. But many still will claim that the church's stance on SSA is too narrow and exclusive. To them, I would say that the Scriptures alone should exclude and make narrow what needs to be accepted concerning sexuality. Still, the church's lack of openness on the issue of SSA has led to many false blasphemers.
That's right. I'm not concerned with false converts. I am concerned with false blasphemers. My heart and head are concerned with those who have experienced "church" without any Christ-like compassion. This has occurred due to presumptions going unchallenged. Ultimately, I do not want to blame the church entirely. Many have deserted because they have not found open dialogue with individuals within the church. I know that many within the church are kind hearted and open to ministering to those who experience SSA. But we are the church and not just individuals inside the church.
This public discourse is a lighthouse to these individuals. It is a beacon of refutation. It screams out to people who experience SSA, "seek comfort here." This is what Christ was about. This is what His church should be about.
Perhaps you are sitting there asking yourself where you fall in all of this. My simple question would be how many people have privately come out to you in the last year? If the answer is zero then you have one of two possibilities. First, you do not know anyone who experiences SSA. Or second, you are not trusted enough for someone to confide in you. I know that might hurt to hear. But this is the echoing practicality of Michael's post. There are believers suffering in silence because they do not trust their friends and family. If believers feel this way, can you imagine the stark reality of the world looking at us?
For the time being, this conversation must be held in public for the world to see and witness. It needs to see Christians who experience SSA being honest. It needs to see the Church welcoming brothers and sisters in Christ to the table in communion and ministry. It needs a dry and harsh honesty that is embarrassing. Only after the church looks upon those who experience SSA as their valuable brothers and sisters in Christ can the discussion move to the back burner.
Let me conclude with a passage from Saint Paul that continues to rock my world,
The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Cor 12:22-25)
We are in the stage of presenting "greater honesty" to our family that experiences SSA. We are in the stage of giving "greater honor...that there may be no division." We must be hell bent on "the same care for one another." In due time, the church will be able to have these conversations within their own walls and within their own confessionals. Until then, you will find me ready to boldly and vocally identify with my brothers and sisters who experience SSA. Christ's death on the cross is not for them in a special way. But for them right now, His nakedness is represented by their honesty.