Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my frustrations with the Church. I got the chance to share some of my angst in my recent YOBcast debut, but I found myself with more to think about and say after the episode. And so kicks off a 4-part series on my journey with Church angst.
It feels like many Christians ask the impossible of me. I am a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction (SSA), and rarely have I been able to grasp all that entails for me and my life.
Rarely have I known exactly what my sexuality means for my faith, my friendships, my family, my career, or my interaction with the Church.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’ve had plenty of “ah-ha” moments with my sexuality. Most of them happened in college as I came to terms with the idea that my sexuality was here to stay, that coming out might actually be something I had to do with other people, and chaste living may not be just a “phase” before marriage — but a lifelong commitment.
I’ve wrestled with how to come out, and who to come out to. I’ve wrestled with the question of whether God is really worth all that He asks of me, or whether a same-sex relationship is too appealing to resist.
I’ve decided He is worth following, no matter the cost, but it’s been proven a heavy burden to bear — a burden often made more difficult by other Christians.
But who are these Christians making life difficult for me and many of the other SSA people I know? They don’t belong to any one church, denomination, or even shared set of theological beliefs.
My frustration stems both from those who hold an affirming stance on same-sex relationships and those with a traditional view of marriage between one man and one woman, as I believe.
And that’s part of the angst.
There is no one group that is “for” my existence as a celibate SSA Christian, nor is there a specific group “against” it. It can feel like I have no clear place to turn to in the Church, because every place is equally likely to attack some part of who I am or what I do.
Meanwhile, all I strive to be is a sold out follower of Christ.
I find it hard right now to love the Church, even though I know the Church deserves the very same grace Christ has shown me. The trouble is the Church has often felt more like the Pharisees than a family, piling burdens on me instead of helping me carry the ones I already have; instead of rejoicing with me as I fight the good fight of faith and continue on the race of endurance in Christ.
There are many wonderful Christians in my life, and I certainly don’t mean to say no one out there has shown me love and support. But there are so many more Christians from both sides of the debate who tell me I’m never good enough.
I’ve found two broad categories of Christians who are the most frustrating for me. As many complicated topics tend to be handled, sexuality becomes oversimplified, black and white; nuance gets lost, and I find myself in another two-party system demanding I take a side.
One side wants me to change my theology. The goal for this side is to let go of my conscience and embrace same-sex relationships and marriage.
The other side seeks a change in my attractions rather than my theology; their goal, to give me the clean, easy story of “gay-to-straight.”
Neither side seems to want to sit in the tension with me, with those like me. Both sides believe they have found my “fix” and that I waste both my time and theirs by not running with either of their folds.
I invite you to join me on this journey of venting, processing, and voicing real concerns that many of us in the SSA world face regularly. Maybe instead of simply “bashing” the Church, this series can spur discussion and healing.
Maybe instead of growing bitter in our angst with the Church, God can somehow use our angst as a tool to fall more in love with Him and His Church.
One blog at a time, one day at a time, we move forward, keeping in mind we serve a God madly in love with us as individuals, but also with His corporate body and bride: the Church.
Have you experienced angst with the Church? Do you also feel the tension of feeling misunderstood by both “sides,” or does one side in particular cause you more angst? How have you overcome any angst with the Church?
I can’t put into words how special this post is. THANK YOU
Thank YOU! I appreciate the kind comment and that you took the time to read this post 🙂
I’m not gay myself, but I want to know how to understand SSA Christians struggles and make my community better for them. I have the same feeling: there seems to be only orthodox-but-cruel Christians and compassionate Christians that water down the faith. I feel torn between the two, and refuse to act like they’re the only options! There are many people (gay and straight) outside who want to do things better, and “side B” people like you are a real TREASURE for us to learn.
Hi Giovanni! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your posture of caring and support so much. We need straight brothers and sisters to help make the Church a place where people truly become family.
Hey man, thanks for your comment, and this, “…I want to know how to understand…” I’m with Aaron, a lot of us navigating this journey are still figuring things out and the answers we’ve found often lead to other questions. I come to church to know Jesus and hope to see something of Christ in other believers and pray that they see Him in me too. Maybe the best way forward to understanding and just being church is offering what we have of Jesus to each other. Thanks again brother, I was blessed reading your comment.
You put much of the “Side B” struggle into such simple words, Aaron. Even though this life is also anything but simple. I know this post resonates with so many, myself included. Sexuality aside, I think I have a certain “homelessness” engrained in me, spiritual and otherwise. But the Side B life can amplify that sense of restlessness. Grateful for YOB and the greater Side B community to bring a sense of refuge amid the long winding road. Eager to see the rest of your series play out!
So true. Thank you. What chaos my backside is the rampant hypocrisy of those dear brothers and sisters, whose lives are from from perfe t, yet feel free to judge others as immoral, unless they live their l8ves in a way that is consistent with their own beliefs. No room to disagree. I have had several married ex-gay men appraoch me for online sex in the lasr few months from a support group I belong to, yet all the while presenting themselves as healed. I have found that the side A folk are at least consistent with their beliefs.
Aaron, thanks so much for your post. Can a REALLY old guy share a comment? I am 73 years old, have been a Christian since grade school, been SSA for as long as I can remember, have been married for 50 years, and a pastor for that same length of time. I have always struggled with so many questions as to how my sexuality and the complexity of my life can become and be lived out as a cohesive whole. For me the result has been extreme self isolation. I am just now, at this late date in life, carefully “coming out” to a few friends, watching their reactions carefully to see if there is a place for the real me in the Christian community I have long been part of but to which I have never felt I belonged.
I am so encouraged by many of you younger brothers who are willing to more publicly discuss matters which could not be addressed in my youth.