This is the second part in my blogging series on the varying forms of my church angst. Check out part one if you missed it!
Many of us with same-sex attractions have experienced that well-meaning friend or family member who feels the need to “love us well” by telling us, “God made you gay, so how could marrying someone of the same sex be wrong?”
I appreciate not being cast out by said people because of my sexuality, but they also seem unwilling to believe that I’ve actually given my sexuality some thought. This isn’t some case of “I grew up too conservative” or “I’ll eventually mature beyond these harmful beliefs.”
These particular Christians mean well, but usually I just find their “support” patronizing.
Broadly speaking, this affirming position claims I’m hurting myself by refusing to pursue a same-sex relationship. I grow burdened with discouragement and excess temptation upon being told I’m fighting for nothing, that I’ve essentially “made up” a demand from God that isn’t actually there — and that even if I am right, this is just a secondary biblical issue that God will understand my breaking.
Essentially, the affirming position tells me a same-sex relationship has no lasting impact on my faith or relationship with Christ; it’s just doing what I must to survive.
People holding this affirming position often disregard the damage I’d do to myself and my faith by going against my convictions — what I strongly feel God has asked of me. Rather than making a supportive home for me in their churches, those with this position tend to look down on me, assuming I’ve just been brainwashed by conservative Christians; one day, I will “wake up” from my ignorance and dangerous internalized homophobia.
This group often claiming to be “for me” is also unwilling to take me as I am — the very thing they accuse of those demanding orientation change.
As odd as it is, I struggle more with feeling supported by Christians who want me to embrace my desire to marry a man than with those who think even having a homosexual orientation is sinful. Maybe it’s because it feels as if this affirming position really should be “for” me in being willing to listen to my perspective and my beliefs, and ultimately respect them.
I often hear from people with this affirming position that God would never ask so much from a Christian; of course, that line of reasoning is nonsensical. When I look at stories in Scripture, when I look at the persecuted Church around the world, I know that God has demanded this and more from many of His children.
It seems these particular affirming Christians think a God who could allow someone to remain same-sex attracted but not marry the same sex is unpalatable.
It’s unfortunate, because I can’t help but feel that some people miss out on experiencing the depth of love, peace, and intimacy to be found when being obedient to the Lord in the very things that hurt the most.
Is there chaos and pain in that obedience, too? Sure.
But it has always been the Lord’s kindness to me that has kept me on this path of obedience, not fear of His wrath.
People in the affirming camp frustrate me because they seem to think they know better than me, and yet I don’t think they really understand me at all.
Do you feel misunderstood or even judged by affirming or “Side A” Christians? How do you reconcile the burden of this disconnect?
Hey Aaron- you are loved! Just as you are. You’re doing the good work God has called you to.
Thank you, Josh!! You too 🙂
I love it Aaron! I relate to it a lot too. I sometimes have some folks telling me that living life without sex of any kind is damaging. So far my head hasn’t exploded yet. But in all seriousness, apart from believing that my celibacy is honoring to God, I’m extremely happy living as Side B. I love all of the community and relationships I have within it. Its all been extremely healing for me, and I definitely feel like my head would explode without all the love and support I’ve gotten from it.
Haha no it has not! Mine either. Its true though, its sad to think there could be straight people out there that might be much happier single (yes, even if that means no sex). Yet everyone gets stuck in the typical patter of thinking there is only one path to happiness and community.
My Dad was like this – in many ways I think he was surprised and unnerved that, despite me having grown up in a relatively affirming family and church (and by an affirming church I mean never said anything about it, but would not, in general, be presumed to be non-affirming), I still ended up deciding to be Side-B. But thankfully he has mostly respected my decision. He might not understand it, and I think it concerns him sometimes, but he isn’t constantly pestering me about it and trying to convince me otherwise.
Yeah, I’ve felt that same way with some of my family. I think it comes from a good place- they want me to be happy and feel loved. I know in their mind that means marrying a man, but I do appreciate that they aren’t constantly trying to “convert” me to Side A.
I get this so much. But I did choose to marry the opposite sex and am happy with her. And that has led to some very uncomfortable conversations with others in the church who can’t wrap their heads around my life. They don’t understand that, for me, marrying a woman is what God guided me into doing and he has blessed it. But the church expects me to blend in with the wallpaper and to never raise the subject of same-sex-attracted men in the church. They don’t know what to do with us. God bless you, Aaron.
Thank you, Bill! You married fellas are so important to this community. Your struggles are both the same and very unique from mine, but its great to get to work alongside both married and single men to carve out a home for ourselves in the Church.
The disconnect for me isn’t how Side A views Side B, I kinda expect Side As to either patronize, mock or hate Side B cause at the heart of things A/B doesn’t seem to be about sex as much as it is about how God views sex. I’m guessing a lotta Side As feel judged by Side Bs solely by what we believe, regardless of anything we say or do. The disconnect I try to navigate is seeing Side As being embraced by a large portion of the church while the church I share the same beliefs with at best tolerates Side Bs or shuns and excludes. I fight the idea that the only church that will embrace Side Bs only has Side Bs in it.
You mention the persecuted church, I heard a guy from Eritrea who had lived thru something horrific cause of his faith say that passion isn’t how much we love something, passion is how much we’ll suffer for what we love. I like that, it’s kinda how I reconcile things in the narrow place that Side B often is, the love of Jesus that’s real from God that makes everything good even when it’s hard.
That helps me to see Side A guys better. There’s a lotta Side A guys who believe they’re following Jesus and not just excusing sin. I like to believe that as God is using our Side B journey to lead us into Christ, that God can lead them on their journey as well.
Yes, I agree. Its frustrating that side A can find such accepting homes while we often find no place to turn. I love your friends statement though “passion isn’t how much we love something, passion is how much we’ll suffer for what we love.” Its encouraging to find brothers here to help stir up each other’s passion for Christ. Suffering is tough to do alone! Grateful for community to do it with.
So I remembered where I heard it after posting the comment, it was a video, but quote was about this guy from Eritrea who went thru something really tough. It’s about 5 minutes, and worth seeing. Talk about stirring up.
Great post Aaron! Thank you. While I have never had that experience of what you described, I do know 100% that even if I came out and said I was a single, celibate Side B guy, I would never get any support either.
I remember the day so well…
I had worked in a Christian Service organization and when the decision was made to close it’s doors, I was devastated. Things had happened that I would have never believed could or would happen in a Christian place. I had come home to recover and try to sort things out. That first Sunday I had gotten a cold, so I didn’t go to church. I was home alone when the phone rang:
caller: Is Dave there?
me: this is he
caller: can I ask you a question, are you still gay? (in a bit of a hostile tone)
me: who is calling?
caller: hangs up
I so needed some encouragement, but the only phone call I ever received was this call, and even to this day, it haunts me. No one else knew where I was, so it was obviously someone from the organization I had worked at. I didn’t recognize their voice and I wish we could have talked about it.
Thanks again Aaron – love your posts!
That’s terrible… the fear of being shunned makes me afraid to reach out sometimes, or even want to be a part of this faith. But I know it’s about God, not the failings of his people. I wish all the best, internet neighbor. Thank you for sharing.
Homophobia is real! And its sad to see even people in the Church (especially people in the Church?) are part of perpetuating that. I’m sorry that happened to you. I hope that this community can be that encouragement you needed.
Larry Crabb wrote an excellent book that I am reading
He reminds us that somethings will not be fulfilled in our human lives and that if we will focus on God instead we will find what really matters and lasts! This book has encouraged and challenged me–hope it might help you all as well.
Thanks for sharing!
I would like to say something. Not to take away from your point, but to add my current perspective to it. I apologize, it may be kind of long.
The problem with me is that my brain tends to make things about “right vs. wrong’; I get this horrible urge that my only options are to either condemn or agree with something, and box it in as such. These moral fears can be petty, sometimes, like what TV shows I find enjoyable. But the larger problem is in my binary thinking, which defeats nuance, which defeats compassion and understanding.
I cannot see gay couples as immoral. I can’t see their relationship as “sin.” Maybe I just don’t understand love well enough, but all I can see are the beautiful parts; self-giving, healthy, loyal love. I’m not saying that some acts aren’t spiritually beneficial according to the Bible, but I just see… people. People, who want the same things as everyone else does, who are often marginalized just for wanting them. Their love and wish for love is human, not evil, not something I need to hate or find wrong.
My struggle is being controlled by moral fear, a type I am told God does not use nor wants us to use. I just want to stop being afraid of “being wrong,” of thinking that I need to force this into a mental box, that I need to force myself to hate things that I simply cannot hate. Maybe I have some warped perspective on it, I don’t know.
But for people like you, I want to be able to better support you, too. You’ve taken the path in the desert, just as Jesus did. But we shouldn’t have to be alone in our burdens. I want that kind of support as well, for my own non-typical, taboo issues. I just want to stop being afraid all the time. I want to learn how to love and not be constantly anxious and panicked about what’s sin and what’s not. To break free from the letter of the law, of “religion,” of black-and-white thinking.
Be free. To seperate the inner abusive voice from the image of God. To believe, and not fear.
But I don’t know if that’s right or not. I can’t seem to feel good about anything.
Thanks for sharing, R.J. Nuance is tough, like you said. And I think binary is often our primary mode of thinking as humans. I appreciate that while we may not agree theologically on everything, we can still have space to wish for the best for each other and interact in a Christlike way. That is so rare in our culture these days!
Its difficult to navigate the ever present “grace-vs-works” debate. Ultimately I think we have to find rest in Jesus and trust in His ability to fully satisfy God’s wrath against our sin. After all, its the kindness of God that leads us to repentance, not His wrath. Remember though that this kindness does indeed lead to repentance. Not that we never make mistakes, but I think our mutual love for Christ does gradually compel us to continue to cast off our sinful ways.
I feel so seen right now! This is my exact experience. I’ve been a Christian for a few months now & embracing the side B walk got me in a place where everyone thought they knew me better than I know myself. I had bad experiences with Christianity prior to my conversion so I expected hate from straight Christians. I knew at first glance lgbt people wouldn’t understand but I’d thought if I explained myself I’d atleast still find people who’d understand and encourage me. I was so naïve. I lost my lgbt friends and had another bad experience with a church. I felt so isolated and ngl I contemplated going back because I’d had community but I couldn’t walk away from the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I decided to hold on. My faith & relationship with God has also kept growing but so has the veil from my eyes about the pack mentality of the lgbt been lifted. A few months into faith I had one tell me with full confidence how being side B makes me a murderer of the lgbt children that unalive. I was so angry because that was me myself & I know celibacy isn’t the problem it’s how it’s spoken about. That was only the beginning. Online I kept seeing people talk about not denying who I am, equating my SSA with my core identity. It kept repeating that I realised the reason why we’re not allowed back isn’t just that they mistake us for side Xers, it’s because we don’t find out core identity in it. The reason why I really embraced that identity as my core is because I felt rejected by everyone else. They embraced me whole heartedly more than my own family. They were my “safe space”… Seeing the hate really hit hard because it wasn’t just a loss of community. It was a loss of family. I recently tried to make affirming friends as a way of giving them another chance. I came out as Christian but didn’t mention the side B part yet. It didn’t take long for someone to say something remotely religious for them to begin insulting Christ. Then the advice to SSA christians and the pure condescension.
It was the final blow. I’d love the lgbt because I thought it was unconditionally love, now I see it’s so long as you look like what they want. That’s not real love, I’d thought the longing for that would drive me away from Christ. Now even if I wanted to leave Christ, it wouldn’t be to go back to them. Now I see it wouldn’t be uncoditional as I’d once thought.
Side B’ers, we’re on our own. We’re not broken or BrAiNWaSHed, we just don’t conform. That’s not a bad thing 😁. We have each other & the Triune God backing us up. We take up space, let’s never apologize for it. 😌
Amen and Amen! Its hard to see the loss of family, but Christ reminds us that He is worth everything we give up, even our family. Whats tragic is that the Church is meant to be that family instead, but that just doesn’t always come to fruition. Instead we have each other here! More than that, we have Christ. Welcome to the family 🙂
I just came out publicly for the first time recently in my early 40’s as someone who holds to the Side B beliefs. I had just gone to Revoice, which was just quite inspiring to me. I’ve been honestly amazed at most of my church community at how grace filled they’ve been. I’m so thankful for that.
I agree, though, that some people that I know who are Christians with affirming beliefs seem, at a minimum, confused by my beliefs. I know there are some aspects of this I don’t know how to explain very well because I’m just processing some things myself still. I’ve stuffed it all away too much over time. None have the comments have been terribly negative from this group of friends but I can tell there’s a level of concern I think they may have for me. One has kindly invited me to join the Episcopal church which I believe is generally more affirming. I just tried to politely simply say “thank you.” I just believe that God wants only marriage between a man and woman which I had stated in my post. He has his reasons which we certainly do not completely understand, but certainly I believe that He means the best for us in his commands.
I also came out to my psychiatrist this week since I had come out publicly and I figured he needed to know about that since my anxiety has been up rather high due to all of this. He seemed to pause for a bit and say, “John, you’re going to have a hard time finding a place in conservative Christian churches.” He was definitely trying to point me in a more affirming direction. I then explained that actually my church has been quite supportive. After hearing that I really had been thinking about this a lot and had not just simply jumped to a conclusion, he seemed to understand I really wasn’t just trying to react to what others wanted out of me.
I honestly don’t know what I would do without my congregation and most people who have responded to me from the congregation I grew up in. If my congregation was like a group of folks I recently interacted with on an online group involving my denomination, I probably would, indeed, be leaving for a different church either due to my own choice or due to being kicked out. I was greatly saddened and grieved about the lack of empathy that was being shown from the negative online group – and to be clear it wasn’t necessarily being directed at me but at the nebulous “gays” or “homosexuals.” I think most denominations have their own extremes within them and I assume this negative group was one such extreme.
Yep. I’m in a place right now where it feels like “affirming” Christians (including those who claim they’re supportive of any journey) have lots of spotlight and some of us just get lost in the fray. I’m some ways, “Side A” narratives make it hard for me to feel heard and understood. I totally get you (and I love you…although I haven’t met you yet…)