I am in the process of quitting smoking — a month into one of the hardest tasks of my life.

Sure, the nicotine withdrawals make quitting difficult. But those symptoms can be controlled by use of the patch. Smoking has been a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety.

What caused such stress and anxiety in my life?

It could have been grad school. I didn’t start smoking until grad school. I was working for a degree in theology, and this mean, hyper-masculine Hebrew professor caused me so much stress that I picked up smoking.

Was it my professor’s fault? Hebrew is a difficult language, but this professor made me question myself as an individual and my calling in ministry.

Was my professor the reason I got hooked on smoking?

I do think he was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But this opened up deeper issues.

My attraction to the same sex caused me a lot of stress and shame.

First, I had the stress of not dating while my closest friends dated — along with the inevitable loneliness bound to come about.

Second, I also faced the inevitable rejection. I was in school for the sole purpose of serving in some sort of church ministry, and same-sex attraction (SSA) is not always accepted in ministry settings.

Even if one abides by the rules set by that organization.

Prejudice is real. I have been rejected by various ministries in the past.

I once worked at a Christian camp, and a month into the summer I told my boss about my SSA. I figured my reputation had been solidified to that point, and I should be safe.

Well, that didn’t work. My interaction with the campers got greatly restricted. For some reason being attracted to the same sex was the same as pedophilia in their eyes.

I have so many other similar stories of prejudice.

We SSA people know prejudice well. There’s a reason there’s an LGBTQ+ community — because oppression and prejudice were experienced.

This puts the SSA Christian who holds to the traditional sexual ethic in a weird spot.

We disagree with many ethical actions of those in the LGBTQ+ community, but we experience the same prejudice and oppression as they do and we want that oppression to end for us and our brothers and sisters who are also minorities.

It is a tricky balance.

This prejudice has caused me so much stress and shame, and as I got closer to working in ministry the stress built and my smoking habits increased. There was no way I could deal with this.

Everything I’d worked for could end because of an attraction — not by any act that I’d done.

It was unfair and wrong.

Notice that I am making a distinction between moral action and inaction. A religious ministry has a right for standard in moral action, but when no action takes place they do not have a right to reject people who agree to that standard and make every effort to uphold it.

My SSA was this elephant in the room. As I entered into ministry, I knew my SSA could end it all in one swift move.

Nonetheless, I felt called in this specific ministry setting and moved forward.

I had this hope that maybe, just maybe, things would turn out. I hoped that instead of being rejected I would be loved. I hoped that people would notice their prejudice and change once they met me.

I spent much time in prayer — but also smoking.

I have now been in my current ministry setting for a bit, and I recently came out to them.

The response from everyone has been incredible and loving. God provided in many ways, and my wildest expectations were exceeded.

For the first time, I think I can actually quit cigarettes because my SSA is no longer a cause of concern. I know that I can practice my gifts without concern of rejection.

For many who read YOB, we are afraid of prejudice and rejection. We wear a mask in many of our churches and communities because of that fear. We live in constant anxiety and stress.

I want you to know that you can have hope.

You do not have to live in anxiety, because people can get over their prejudice.

Hold on to the reality that you are God’s child, and prejudice and shame can never take that away.

God is working on his people; therefore, there is hope of acceptance.

Have you experienced prejudice in the Church because of your same-sex attraction? Have you experienced love from the Church after they found out about your SSA? Do you bear any stress and anxiety about taking off your mask?

  • The first church I went to I experienced prejudice of who I am, even though I had not had sex with a guy – yet. Still they tolerated me with false smiles, always calling me a ‘sodomite’ behind my back. Sill I went, for two months. I had just gotten saved while trying to kill myself. I was was on fire for the Lord. I was tithing my full salary (and I didn’t make much) and led two to Christ. I would still look at guys occasionally, which I didn’t understand. Someone had sold me a bill of goods, that I would be ‘cured’ if I just believed.
    Then the guest speaker came…he was fiery and charismatic. He delivered a sermon on the wrath of God, using the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of His wrath. He then declared all gays go to hell; and I couldn’t even stop noticing guys. The whole congregation then gave a hefty ‘AMEN’ and ‘PRAISE JESUS’. it was catchy; I even found myself uttering the word. I was acting like a mindless sheep, hating the very thing I was: a homosexual.
    I got angry and left. I didn’t go back and no one came by to see why I had quit going. Three days later I had my first gay sex. I didn’t love him, I just wanted to get back at God and I was mourning the death of my best friend. I was away from anything having to do with religion for twenty years. It took a stroke to bring me back to God in 2012.
    The church I go to now is loving and kind. They know about my homosexual past and reasons behind it. I even gave my testimony on YouTube for all to see. I was also able to help a boy who goes there going through SSA. The pastor there gives me words of encouragement, helping me with my addiction to pornography and to remain celibate. He says that I am an inspiration to everyone there for my perseverance. Only one person there calls me ‘sodomite’, but I still love him.

  • Thank you for sharing, Will. Like you, I serve in vocational ministry and have faced the same prejudice when I open up. I have lost jobs in the past or have had strict standards put in place out of fear. It is still believed by many in the church that same gender attractions equal pedophilia.
    I have experienced loving reactions from churches as well. My current church received similarly to your church. But it hasn’t taken away all he fear and anxiety.
    I pray you continue to find victory over that anxiety! And congrats on one month free of cigarettes!

    • I have experienced serious misunderstandings from church leadership.
      Once a SSA friend confessed to me an encounter he had with a younger guy in our church. Both guys were of legal age. Out of care for my friend I told no one for years.
      When the younger guy told a pastor, the older guy was banned from all contact with youth. Two pastors confronted me and asked me why I did not inform them about my friend. I told them I keep my friends’ confessions confidential. They urged me to inform on all friends who confess similar sexual sins so pastors can “protect the church”.
      Afterwards I was marginalized and never asked to lead a small group in the church again!

  • I wish I would have known this site existed before. I was caught looking at gay porn, and finally came to grips with my homosexuality. Then came the struggle of the Bible says it’s wrong, vs. my SSA, ad nauseum. I wanted to talk to someone in the church, but after being told it’s the unforgivable sin (quote), I crashed. “Just get over it,: and other sundry things caused great strife. Articles like this are helpful in knowing I’m not alone. That is, I needed a community that wasn’t just “be yourself” but rather, “We are here to get you to what God expects.” Glad to hear similar stories.

    • The unforgivable sin?! What is with people? Pardon me, but I am tired of all the crazies out there who say such things. In the Old Testament, homosexual ACTS were punishable by death. But so was heterosexual deviance (i.e. incest, adultery). And yet, today you have ministers preaching from the pulpit that gays should still be stoned to death. It is the epitome of hypocrisy to believe such things when adultery is rampant in the pews, and the men of such churches are sinning against their wives by looking at pornography.
      There is a difference between attractions and acts. Jesus Christ is gracious to forgive the acts and strong enough to help one with the attractions to live above them faithfully. But this ungracious and misguided approach that in effect crushes the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax, I cannot away with it. It is hurting far more than it purports to help.
      I’m so sorry, Friend, that such things were said to you. Know that you are a man deeply loved by God. Jesus Christ says to you, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” God bless you!

      • What a powerful statement and well written. Thanks for your wisdom! The frustrating thing is is having to keep my SSA hidden and covered, for where I have shared, it’s as if it’s a shock (“You act and look so manly.”). I also keep it covered because I don’t want my loved ones to suffer due to association. One person I worked with came out, and the church literally shunned him. Thank goodness for the leaders of this blog who are leading the charge.

        • Friend, do not feel like you have to “come out” in that manner. I know some people have taken this route, because they think it is being more authentic. But attractions do not define us as people and certainly not who we are in Christ. We don’t have to live our lives stigmatized by others nor by our own selves. It is, however, extremely helpful to have friends in whom you can confide, and may God bless you with such. But don’t feel pressured one way or the other, brother. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. That’s what matters the most. It is so nice to “meet” you!

  • Very powerfully written article Will! It is sometimes sad to think that even though we’re side b that it doesn’t save us from any prejudice. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced this because I have masked my sexuality so well from the people around me in my life. But who knows, maybe one of these days it may rear its ugly head and affect me. And I too hate who being SSA somehow makes us pedophiles or equivalent to women in the eyes of the rest of the world. I pray for better understanding in the future from most people. I know the stress it causes too well.

  • Thanks for sharing your heart Will…I can appreciate the stress. I remember a few days after the Christian Service organization I had served with had closed and I was back home, the phone rang and the voice on the other end (I didn’t recognize his voice) said, ‘can I ask you something, are you still gay?” I had never told anyone about anything and I figured it must had been someone from that organization since no one else knew where I was at that point. When I asked who was calling, they hung up. It caused me great stress for a long time…I wondered who was talking behind my back and what was being said, true or not. I’ve never forgotten that moment and will always wonder…

  • Thanks for writing this, Will. I feel like I’ve had a relatively easy go at things, not experiencing much open or even thinly-veiled prejudice. However, I’ve heard enough stories like this that I don’t doubt the prejudice is alive and kicking. It’s important to tell those stories–and also to point to God’s ongoing work to convict us (referring to the church, collectively) of our sins and grow us toward himself.
    P.S. I have never smoked a cigarette but in seasons of stress I have recurring dreams where I’m smoking, so I guess I’m a smoker at heart…

  • Will Cooper

    Greetings from the friendly country of Canada. While writing this bio I am drinking a French press coffee and listening to Arcade Fire on vinyl with my prayer journal, a pile of books, a piano, and a typewriter beside me. Some may say I am a hipster, but I do not really like culturally constructed identities in an attempt to place my personality in a box. I read a lot of theology and philosophy, and I do much research in that area (it's kind of my job). When I'm feeling particularly adventurous and motivated, I will watch a hockey game and drink a beer with my friends – like every good Canadian.

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