An Open Letter from a Gay Christian

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“This is a gay that the LORD has made,” declared the t-shirt in bold rainbow colors. I pondered my feelings about such a statement. Bold it was, certainly. I knew there were Christians who acknowledged that same-sex attraction is inborn, but to claim that God made someone that way? That was something else entirely. And yet, whether or not I fully agreed with the message proclaimed by the brightly colored tee, there was a part of me that felt proud at reading such a statement. After all, I thought to myself, I know God loves me; the Bible reminds me of that fact over and over. I also know that my attraction to people of the same sex is inborn, not a choice. God doesn’t love people because they are gay; neither does he love them in spite of the fact that they are gay. He simply loves.

Unfortunately, the same cannot necessarily be said for the church. My point in writing this letter is not to provide any sort of deep theological argument; rather, it is to relay the personal sentiments of a man whose faith is the cornerstone of his life, and who just so happens to also be gay. I hope to address some issues regarding the church’s treatment of and interaction with gay individuals and specifically those who are members of the church.

Having grown up in heavily Reformed West Michigan, I have experienced a surprisingly wide range of views from Christians on the subject of homosexuality. Naturally, being gay leads me to have a certain disposition toward how I believe the church should act toward our gay brothers and sisters. However, the fact that I am a Christian and that I desire to live a godly life certainly has an influence as well. This balancing act is one I have witnessed among other Christians both gay and straight, and it has lead to three general means of thinking about and handling this issue.

First, there are Christians who believe that homosexuality in its entirety is wrong; simply identifying as anything other than cisgender and straight is sinful and acting upon it is especially so. Taken to extremes, this view leads to the propagation of hateful ideology, and there are an unfortunate number of hate groups using Christianity as a cover to rationalize their actions. I would argue that most Christians, regardless of their position on homosexuality, would prefer not to have the name “Christian” associated with such groups.

Next, there are the “hate the sin, love the sinner” Christians. Now I know that there are those in the gay community who would beg to differ, but for me personally this view is almost as difficult to face as the first. Often Christians who subscribe to this view will sum up their beliefs along these lines: “I don’t have a problem with gay people. They can’t help it. But they shouldn’t act on their feelings.” To them, being gay in and of itself isn’t sinful, but doing anything to pursue those feelings is. And to them I have this to say:

Imagine you have found the love of your life. You meet, there’s a spark, you start spending time together, which eventually leads to dates. You begin to tell people about this special person, and that’s when you start getting the responses. “We know you want to be with that person, but it’s wrong. The Bible says so. It’ll be alright, though. You just need a loving Christian community to come alongside you and give you the support you need.”

Such words, though spoken with the intention of encouraging gay Christians to live a godly life, point to a complete misunderstanding of the experience of individuals identifying as both Christian and gay.

You see, the main problem with this view is that it completely ignores one of the most basic principles of what it means to be human. It’s widely known and accepted that there are different types of love. There is romantic, sexual love; there is familial love; there is friendship; and, of course, there is the unconditional love of God. In order to live a fulfilling life, humans require each of these types of love to varying degrees. Indeed, I believe God created humans with these needs with the intent that we can fulfill them for one another — accepting, of course, the unconditional love that only he can provide. If, then, these Christians believe that same-sex attraction is inborn, and if they believe that people require different types of love in order to live their lives fully, they contradict themselves with their expectation that people with same-sex attraction simply abandon the pursuit of romantic relationships, no matter how healthy or supportive or loving they may be. Doing so is asking literally millions of people to deprive themselves of the fulfillment of romantic love, a request which I believe is entirely unreasonable and unrealistic.

This leaves the last group of Christians, those who believe that same-sex relationships can be positive and pleasing to God. This group, though relatively new, is growing. In my own personal experience, I have encountered an increasing number of those who choose to see them as valuable members of the body of Christ, rather than focusing on their fellow Christians’ sexual preferences and practices. Seeing this gives me hope that the church may move beyond its unfortunate historical tendency toward condemnation of those it perceived as immorally different or inferior.

In the end, regardless of one’s stance on homosexuality, this truth remains: We are all sinners, having fallen woefully short of God’s glory. Whether homosexuality or homosexual acts constitute sin or not I cannot say. But that is beside the point. For though we are sinners, we have been saved, redeemed, and called to a new life of community and renewal. When Christians drive away their gay brothers and sisters by one means or another, they are going against the very command Christ gave his followers — to go and make disciples, to draw people in, not to push them away. We will never bring God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” if our focus is on trying to fix what we perceive to be wrong with people when instead we should be building relationships and loving them as Christ loved. If Jesus could dine with tax collectors and prostitutes, I think we could stand to welcome the gay community into our churches.