Hey, hey, HEEEEYYY!!! Get that cursor away from the “X” on your browser! Yes, I know you are sick to death with all things political right now. Especially with an upcoming election. But hear me out.
It’s no secret we live in very divided times, in a country with a toxic political atmosphere. Battle lines have been drawn between liberal and conservative in a tug-of-war we call “the culture war.”
Some say this culture war has its roots all the way back to the Civil War. A more contemporary understanding suggests it may have its origins in the Vietnam era when our country was split between the hawks and doves.
Either way, the culture war deeply affects us today. I remember well the culture war flare-ups during my teen years.
The post-9/11 early 2000s saw a revving up of the culture war yet again, and I remember three controversial issues at the forefront: the Iraq war, abortion, and of course *drum roll* gay marriage. It seemed to me then you were either for or against these things with nothing in between.
So yes, it was a pretty depressing polarization.
Even after the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, I’ve noticed many Christians still arguing over homosexuality like it’s still 2004.
In my years before finding Your Other Brothers, coming to terms with my sexuality was extremely difficult as it seemed there were only two options for my future. These two options reflected the polarized extremes embodying the culture war.
The first was the conservative option which upheld the belief that homosexual sex was condemned in the Bible and immoral. This side often championed the “ex-gay” or “reparative therapy” option.
Thus, in order for me to live a godly life and not suffer with living alone, I would have to rid myself of all same-sex attractions, become straight, and marry a woman some day. This would require pursuing reparative therapy which would presumably change my sexuality.
The other option, championed by liberals, was just to be my “true self,” start dating men, and eventually marry a man to pursue a sexual relationship, while somehow cultivating a belief that the Bible does not forbid gay marriage or gay sex (an affirming belief known as being “Side A”).
Out of these two options, the former seemed to line up most with my biblical beliefs. Not to mention, I saw all the outrageously sexual imagery from gay pride parades.
The secular gay world turned me off, so the choice seemed a little easier. I never did any real reparative therapy, though I did dabble a bit with online ex-gay support groups.
Frankly, amid my decision-making, I myself had been caught up in the culture war. It was always: “This is good, this is bad, the end.”
When I first came across Your Other Brothers back in 2016, it truly blew my mind. A bunch of gay/SSA Christians suggesting an actual middle and moderate way? Living with my sexuality as a celibate, abstaining from gay sex (known as being “Side B”) just never even crossed my mind.
I never realized there were so many nuances to the issue.
The sad thing is, I’ve met many gay/SSA Christians who have told me that they too were forced to choose between two cultural narratives on homosexuality. Tragically, many felt pressured into marrying a woman in hopes that it would make them straight, only for it all to end in disaster and divorce.
Others felt the only way to love and be loved was by rejecting their biblical beliefs and marrying a man. Or rejecting their faith altogether.
I’ve been active in YOB and the larger Side B world for about four years now. As you may imagine, I’ve seen a lot of STRONG pushback from both cultural sides of the homosexuality debate.
The conservative ex-gay side has slammed our movement as “radically liberal” and “part of the gay agenda.” While the liberal Side A crowd labels us as “just another super conservative ex-gay thing” and “led by people with internalized homophobia.”
It’d be hilarious if it weren’t so sad and revealing of our culture’s polarization.
Thing is, I often see people choose and argue their convictions on sexuality not so much because of deep biblical analysis but just out of “being a good conservative” or “being a good liberal.”
I don’t think this is done consciously, but it’s often self evident.
For example, a guest host on a conservative Christian podcast dismissed the testimonies of mistreatment and church abuse from gay/SSA folks saying, “Oh, these people are just like Black Lives Matter — always playing the victim.”
I’ve also listened to a Side A podcast where they dismissed celibacy as “abusive,” that it’s cruel to deny anyone sex because living without sex is impossible.
So yes, neither side is interested in much dialogue. In my discussions with conservative ex-gays on Facebook, I get Bible verses chucked at me like spears while those with a liberal Side A sexual ethic just stop talking altogether.
Neither conservative nor liberal side wants to hear my full views, beliefs, and nuances on the subject because I’m judged as “one of the other.”
I grew up in a somewhat conservative, white, midwestern suburb among a hostile homophobic crowd in high school. Was I all too eager to choose a Side B life because of my own cultural upbringing? Was I merely brainwashed?
I did go through a period of soul-searching to make sure this wasn’t the case. I read several books by “Side A” authors such as Matthew Vines and Justin Lee.
I kept an open mind and sympathized with many of their viewpoints. I even felt they made some legit points, but ultimately I disagreed with their conclusions.
Still, I’m glad I read them and felt my convictions were rational rather than reactionary.
The point of this blog is not to bash liberals and conservatives. After all, I think both sides have some things right.
The conservative side lines up with my beliefs that the Bible forbids homosexual activity while the liberal side honorably fights against homophobia and for fair treatment of LGBT+ individuals.
In my experiences in the Side B world, I’ve met people from across all the sociopolitical spectrum which is super refreshing. If the people were entirely on one side or the other, then I’d be very concerned.
We are all sort of victims here as the homosexuality and gay marriage debate has been so wrapped up in our country’s politics. It can be hard not to be reactionary to suggestions that a particular issue has more depth and nuance than we first thought.
Wrapping one’s biblical beliefs around the sociopolitical status quo has been the downfall of many Christians for centuries. Such as using the Bible to justify slavery.
The Church as a whole has been fighting so hard to defeat the “gay agenda” that they have failed to see the LGBT+ people amongst them trying to live according to traditional biblical teaching. But to them we might as well be dancing in the streets of San Francisco in sparkly pink thongs.
I think it’s important to look past the social stigmas and take off the lenses of the culture war when viewing homosexuality and the Bible. It’s not a “left” versus “right” issue anymore.
In my case, I’ve been forced to reexamine societal expectations of masculinity and male friendships.
There are many nuances in between the lines. And a lot of them are shaped by our society and culture.
Ultimately, what’s hot now politically will wither in time while God’s words remain eternal.
Do you feel yourself caught up in the culture war? How have you escaped feeling trapped by either side, or do you struggle with this dynamic?
I feel caught up in the culture war, between the religious right and the liberal left. I am a political conservative, but I am also gay and loved my best friend. So what am I supposed to do? I find all those people parading in San Francisco embarrassing, but shouldn’t have heard in church that all gays go to hell. I don’t support the idea of gay marriage, but can’t honestly say that if my friend hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have married him. So what to do? This whole 2020 election cycle is a perfect example of what is going on. The DNC insists that Trump will take away gay rights, but the founder of the Walkaway Campaign supporting Trump is a gay hairdresser from New York City, with many gay supporters publicly endorsing the movement. It is like living the Star Trek Mirror Universe. Sometimes I don’t know what is going on.
I hear you Bradley, without getting too political I have basically come to the ultimatum that ideologies are BS and there are always exceptions to things. This culture war with the whole left vs right and nothing in the middle leaves little room for grey area or compromise. I think ultimately one needs to be their own person and not blindly follow where their ideologies might lean towards.
It’s posts like this one that remind me how grateful I am for the mute and block buttons on social media! Sweet blissful escape.
Indeed, I’ve had to unfollow a lot of people on Facebook recently.
Eugene, I love your sparkly, pink thong. I mean, I love your line about said thong and the sad truth it demonstrates. You are doing well to avoid both extremes of this wretched war. The noise level and contentiousness get so intense that we can’t hear Jesus encouraging us to remind kind and walk with him in meekness. Thanks for pointing us back.
Aw thank you, I like my sparkly pink thong as well. And yes, hearing Jesus through the noise of contemporary politics is always so hard. I think the people on the extreme ends drown out Jesus’ voice with their own shouting.
Since when did Side B become “radically liberal”? Tbh I’m kinda glad I don’t know where the battle lines are at the moment. Neither side has been super helpful trying to move ahead in life. Even calling it Side B feels like you’re pigeonholed into a really small place that matters more to the two sides. It’s probably gonna sound naive or simple to the point of stupid, but what if we just follow Jesus and listen to his voice? It always seems better than where other voices are telling us to go. And if conservatives wanna call it liberal, and liberals call it conservative, I’m thinking that confusion’s on them 🙂
You did a really good job covering the territory in your post Eugene, but at the end I found myself longing for a different place traveling a new path.
Indeed Alan, the fact that folks like us have been branded as radical liberals even though we believe the Bible forbids homosexual sex has truly boggled my mind. And yeah you’re right, the confusion is on those people. I think they’re just judging things based on a narrow view of the culture war and little variations just don’t compute. That’s why we do need to listen to Jesus, he’s above all cultures and politics. Although I’m curious, what do you mean you find yourself longing for traveling a new path?
It’s always gonna be following Jesus and that’s wherever he leads, but so often it’s thru valleys and navigating caverns. The new path is the same path, just on higher ground where the seeing and being seen is better.
I think that’s a beautiful metaphor for it. Just like us, we still retain a somewhat conservative view on Biblical sexual ethics but have changed our approach to it from years past.
Hey, came across this prayer from 400ish years ago; a reminder that there’s good in the valleys we travel.
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, You have brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see You in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Your glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Your stars shine; let me find Your light in my darkness, Your life in my death, Your joy in my sorrow, Your grace in my sin, Your riches in my poverty, Your glory in my valley.
Thank you for that Alan! Very beautiful, such a good reminder to remember God even in our valleys.
There is a culture war that goes on in my head, but in the world, I think the culture war has pretty much been lost. It only rages in the churches and no one in the world listens to us anymore while we rage. I think we’ve settled for a ‘this far and no further’ mentality. The focus should not be on the culture anyway. The focus should be on making new Christians. It’s the only effective way to change the culture.
Indeed, Jeff. Nate Collins wrote in his book “All But Invisible” that conservative Christians have more or less lost the culture war. Yet we see so many still fighting like it was ten or twenty years ago. I think a lot of this and what’s currently going on in the world can be chalked up to wounded pride and arrogance gone mad. We still retain our relatively conservative sexual ethics but we (as to reference another group like ours) shifted our posture on it with the changing times.
The worst part of this war, for me, is how the church has handled it. It has always being a given to me that Side A, or LGBT activists in general, might feel my way of life as being a setback to the past, unhelpful to the cause, or straight up wrong. for that reason, it’s not too hard for me to accept indifference or hostility of that community. It is hard for me, though, not finding a safe place to be able to process my faith and sexuality journey in the church. It makes me sad that we still haven’t learned to accept people where they are, in whichever journey they are going with Jesus. How different would my teenage years have been if I was just accepted as I was, with no stereotypes attached to it, no church bullying, nothing, just abundant christ-like love.
Indeed Gabe, I hate that feeling of open hostility on both sides which are ironically for opposite reasons. Organizations like us here at YOB and various other Side B groups are actively trying to engage churches to promote better inclusion and loving for LGBT folks.
I wish that this Christ-like love was abundant everywhere too, Gabe. I often feel like I have two parts of my life: the SSA part and the normal Christian part. There are definitely connections between the two and God is deeply involved in my personal journey, but like Eugene said, there’s a war going on out there. My conservative mom expected me to get a girlfriend within six months of starting college. That didn’t happen, so she started bringing up “girls” or “a girlfriend” conversations once in a while. After I told her about my SSA, she went through a period of deep fear and concern despite my assurance that I would not sleep with a guy or compromise my values. She is now in a phase of bringing up “a girlfriend” nearly every time I come home, always finding some small way to fit it into conversation. It really sucks to constantly have your spiritual journey overshadowed by someone else’s dreams for your future.
The liberals are telling me, “Screw your family and God; you do you.” I can’t listen to that. However, my family, which I know will love me no matter what, is sending me the message of, “If you don’t want to be alone, find a circle of normal friends or (much preferredly) find yourself a good, Christian woman.” What would be so bad about me finding a guy who feels the same way and walking this road with him? Wouldn’t that give God just as much glory as giving my mom grandkids? I too wish that I could just be accepted as I was, rather than having my spiritual journey glazed over by someone close to me.
Amen to that last line! God’s Word is the only thing that remains eternal. It’s exhausting to always be in the middle of the war, always finding ourselves on the front lines. We face the lonely, yet abundant path of Christ. Always other, but finding deep kinship with our fellow “others.” Its the most wonderful terrible thing. I do think it’s worth it.
Oh indeed Aaron, it is totally worth it. I’ve talked with many Side B folks who talk about how exhausting it is to be cancelled from people on both sides of the debate. But we have each other to walk through this difficult position.
I consider myself a political and theological moderate in general, but I don’t believe that anyone can claim the middle ground in this area unless they deny that either side is likely to end up in Hell for their beliefs. All I can say is that I don’t want to believe either side is in that kind of danger.