Two weeks ago, Christian rock singer Trey Pearson came out as gay. His band, Everyday Sunday, had multiple albums and several #1 hits on the CCM single’s chart. Trey said he had tried for years to become straight, even marrying a woman and fathering two children, but nothing had changed. He wasn’t sexually attracted to his wife, was unable to meet her intimate needs, and felt burdened by having to pretend to be someone he clearly wasn’t. He and his wife had mutually agreed to separate, putting a plan in place for him to continue to be very involved in raising his children.
What shocked me about this announcement was the response to it. A fairly well-known Christian radio show host spat on Twitter that Trey was ungodly, and so were all the other CCM artists who had come out as gay in recent years.
All Trey had confessed to was same-sex attraction. Not an affair. Not abusive behavior. Not breaking one of the commandments. Just “I like men.” Yet that statement alone was enough to erase his godliness and call his salvation into question.
This is proof of the homophobia that exists in the Church. Mark Driscoll can confess (unrepentantly) to stealing, beating counselees upside the head and fleeing church discipline, and still get support for his new church plant. Tullian Tchividjian can confess to having an affair with a member of his congregation (which is clergy sex abuse) and still get hired on staff at another church a few months later. Doug Wilson can plagiarize books, threaten to humiliate rape victims, and publicly use filthy, sexualized slurs against women, and still get invited to speak at conferences and write articles for John Piper’s websites. I could go on with many other examples. (Though to be fair, the Christian radio show host mentioned above has criticized these things as well.)
Why do all of these men–men who have stolen, lied, slept around, and behaved in despicable ways–get a pass from the broader Christian community, while those who confess “I’m attracted to the same sex” do not? Why do Driscoll and Wilson get to keep preaching and selling books, but Trey can’t have his music played in church anymore?
Why is it that we applaud authenticity when pastors confess to neglecting their families, or disliking parishioners, or giving into bouts of explosive anger, but react with disgust and outrage when the same authenticity comes from someone who is attracted to the same sex?
Even if everyone else were faultless, it would still be wrong. Being attracted to someone is not a sin.
The conservative church may not want to hear this, but there are gay people in your church. Right now. Today. There are gay people singing in your choirs, writing your worship music, and sitting next to you in Sunday School. There are gay people working at your favorite Christian charities. There are gay people on staff at CCM, CBN and TBN. There are gay people writing on popular Christian blogs. There are gay teens in your youth group. There are gay people on your elder board. There are gay students attending your seminaries. You may even have a gay pastor who stands up in front of you every Sunday and rails about the sin of homosexuality.
The gay people in your church may be married to an opposite-sex partner. They may have children. They may tithe and give other offerings. They may be serving in your weekly outreach programs. They may come to church in their Sunday best, not looking anything like the trendy clubgoers that you see frequenting your local gay bars on Saturday night.
And the only reason you don’t know they are there is because they haven’t told you yet.
And do you know why they are there? Because they love Jesus and want to serve him. They want to be disciples. They want to fellowship with other believers. The want to be part of a conservative faith community. They want to further the Kingdom of God. Some of these people, like you, believe that gay sex is wrong. Some of them are living as celibate singles or in heterosexual marriages, doing their best to live up to the commitment they have pledged to God and their spouse.
But that doesn’t make their feelings and attractions go away.
Now imagine that these people, in many churches, get to hear on a regular basis that they are condemned. That they are such horrible sinners that God gave them over to this attraction so He could punish them. That they are dirty and represent everything that is wrong with our world. That they need to be told, over and over, to repent, even while they are walking in repentance. That they aren’t fit to be parents. That they are a danger to children. That they aren’t qualified to minister within the church, ever. That their songs of worship to God aren’t fit to be sung. That their sexual orientation, which they did not choose, should induce a gag reflex in straight Christians. That they aren’t right with God until God takes their attractions away. That they aren’t worthy of communion, which is simply a remembrance of the sacrifice Jesus made to forgive all sins.
Imagine what that must be like. To love Jesus with all of your heart and be so despised by his followers.
To see others offered grace and forgiveness for their struggles, but not you. To see others applauded for their openness and authenticity while you are shamed and shunned.
This is why we have to have a different conversation about gay people in the Church. Because even the ones who are there–who are doing their best to live faithfully to the scriptures as your church understands them–don’t feel welcome, loved, or safe in your community.
That’s a problem. It’s a problem when the Church offers to pray for gay victims of a mass shooting and the victims respond, “We don’t want your prayers, because we know what you say when you pray for us.” It’s a problem when a young gay person says, “I’m a Christian, but I haven’t attended church in over a year because I can’t find a church that will truly welcome me.” Is it any wonder that they would flock to bars and clubs instead, where there is a community that values them? The Church needs to be encouraging gay Christians in their faith, allowing them to be open and authentic–evaluating their walk with God, not solely by what feelings and attractions they have, but by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
Hint: Heterosexual orientation is not a fruit of the Spirit.
We already teach that salvation is through faith in Christ alone, that he alone is our righteousness–that while our sinful nature has been mortified through the Cross, we will never fully escape sin or temptation this side of our resurrection. We teach that humans are fundamentally broken in all areas, that grace is available to those who commit themselves to God, and that said grace allows us to live redeemed and justified in spite of whatever thorns in the flesh God allows us to keep.
The only change required is not showing partiality to whom this doctrine is applied.
If you think even feeling attracted to the same sex is sinful, then why do your potentially sinful feelings of anger and fear and frustration get to live under Christ’s blood, but your brother’s same-sex attraction does not?
If there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, why do you still condemn the LGBT people who have accepted him as Lord and Savior? Why is it acceptable for Bill to struggle with alcoholism, or David to struggle with lust, but not acceptable for Todd to be attracted to men?
There are people in your community who are trying to enter the Kingdom of God. Gay people. And there are others in the Church who are blocking the door. Are you one of them? Because the problem with blocking the door is, you don’t get to enter, either (Matthew 23:13).
I think it’s time we talked about it.