I have been single my entire life, and celibate for a large portion of my life. You may be asking yourself: what’s the difference between single and celibate?
It’s true that we often use those words interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Singleness is just the objective understanding of your reality. There is no purpose to singleness; it just is.
Celibacy is living your singleness with a specific purpose.
Some Christian denominations and communities do not accept the idea of celibacy. They do not think that concept is found in the Bible. I disagree with that view, but I do think it is legitimate and respect that position.
For the majority of Christianity, however, celibacy is built within Christian teaching. In fact, for all of Christian history, there have been large celibate communities.
Sadly, many of those communities fell to the wayside during the Protestant Reformation. I study this theological tradition a lot, and I am a huge lover of John Calvin. I often make the joke that if Calvin were alive and he were gay, I would switch to an affirming theology.
Most people do not get my humour.
But it pains me to say that Calvin is one of the main reasons why celibate communities largely do not exist within Protestantism.
Why was Calvin so critical of monastic communities? Well, he had good reason with much corruption within monastic communities.
Calvin also didn’t like lifelong vows of celibacy, because we don’t know God’s future plans for us. There was also this view that monastic communities were more spiritual than local church communities, and Calvin strongly disagreed.
The interesting thing is that I agree with all of Calvin’s criticisms. And if we followed those criticisms, then we would create healthy celibate communities.
But instead of making corrections for healthier celibate communities, we got rid of celibate communities altogether.
Now, we get to my main question: why don’t celibate communities commonly exist in evangelical circles?
Or, put another way: where are my celibate straight friends?
In all my years of celibacy, I have not met a celibate straight person. I am sure they exist; I just haven’t met anyone.
It seems the only celibate communities forming are only by fellow “Side B” gay Christians, done so out of necessity. That really bothers me.
Don’t misunderstand me: it is good for celibate gay Christians to form communities. What bothers me, though, is that those communities should have already been started by celibate straight people.
I truly believe if our churches were following Scripture well, a large portion of our churches would be celibate.
And the majority of those celibate people would be straight.
Sadly, it seems the large majority of celibate people in Christian communities are gay. This can create an unhealthy version of celibacy.
The reason we should be celibate is not because of our orientation and our sexual ethic; the reason for celibacy is to love God and the kingdom of God more fully.
When the only celibate people in our churches are gay, there is a tendency to focus our reasons for celibacy on our sexual orientation and not on God’s kingdom. That will produce unhealthy — and probably unchaste — celibate lives.
The Reformation overcorrected when it responded to unhealthy celibate communities, getting rid of those communities altogether. We need to work hard to bring celibate communities back.
These celibate communities must be majority-straight people, and celibate people need to make up a large portion of our churches.
I think our churches have suffered greatly by ditching celibate communities. We must bring them back for the health of our churches.
So, I ask again: where are my celibate straight friends?
Do you see healthy celibate communities in your local or broader church? What successes and frustrations have you experienced as a celibate believer in the local church and/or in celibate “Side B” communities?