This blog continues my series on church angst. Check out the previous posts: “To Where Do I Turn in the Church?” and “How Affirming Christians Burden Me.”
Last post I wrote about my frustration with affirming Christians who want to see a change in my beliefs on same-sex relationships. But what about the other end of the spectrum? What about certain conservative Christians who hold the position that my orientation needs to change, not my theology?
Many conservative Christians don’t believe I’ve ever really tried to change. Those with this position assert that my goal must be to become heterosexual, that God wants nothing less than that for me — and from me. Thus, if I haven’t received this orientation change yet, then my faith must not be strong enough, or I haven’t ever truly wanted this change.
Many in the Church tell me that to acknowledge my sexuality is to identify with sin — that the language I use determines who I am, not my actions. For these particular Christians it isn’t enough that I have chosen to remain single and chaste, even as the culture and much of the Church tell me that marriage and sex are the most important things life has to offer.
Not marrying a man, not having sex, and even actively speaking out against people who want to change the orthodox Christian stance that marriage is between one man and one woman doesn’t seem to be enough. This position makes impossible demands that God seems unwilling to grant, despite my many times of pleading for Him to make me straight or change something else about the way I am.
It would appear that either God can’t change me (which I firmly believe to be false), or that He has chosen not to change me, even after devoting myself to seeking that change through fasting, prayer, and all sorts of other spiritual disciplines.
As such, the most likely explanation is that — as the Pharisees did with the people of their time — conservative Christians holding this position of change are placing demands on me that God has not.
And therein lies the real problem: this position of change gets between God and His children. It tells me that to be acceptable to God, I first need to have heterosexual attractions. Obedience in word and deed instead shifts to mandating that my flesh cease desiring sin — a demand we don’t seem to make on anyone else.
Do we do our best to crucify our flesh with Christ and yield any and all desires over to Him? Yes. But these Christians tell me that until this desire changes, no other aspect of my faith matters; no other aspect of who I am matters.
Again, we see some irony: the very position that claims I am identifying with my sin by admitting I am same-sex attracted insists that the entirety of my salvation and faith rest upon removing my same-sex attraction. This false ultimatum makes my sexuality my de facto identity until my mission to become straight is complete.
In these particular conservative Christians’ eyes, my sexuality is my only identity.
It’s the same lie Satan throws at us time and again: that we must become something more holy, more perfect, and less sinful before we can go to God. Satan seeks to hinder us via shame and disqualification from stepping forward in faith to do that which the Lord has called us. This position encourages Christians to remain forever drinking milk when we should be old and mature enough for solid foods (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Will some people experience change in their sexual orientation? I believe they will. But I don’t think that is the majority experience. It’s dangerous to claim orientation change is necessary for salvation, or to move forward in Christian ministry or vocation.
Our enemy is real; the Christian fight is real. And while we have assurance that in Christ we win the war, it feels as if we are losing the battle in the American Church.
We can’t afford to have anyone sitting on the sidelines of this battle of faith — which is why I’m frustrated that this position in the Church seeks to do just that.
Have you experienced conservative Christians expecting or demanding a change in your sexual orientation? How have you overcome this angst, or do you still wrestle with frustration/anger with the Church?
Interesting, I usually resonate with a lot of conservatives, but I can see the point here and believe there are still people in this mentality. They’re people that I feel like I can have more of a conversation with. I saw that there’s another post from a different angle, so I’ll read that as well!!!
This actually doesn’t surprise me. I’ve read and heard from some Christians that you must be heterosexual in order to follow Christ. For them, it isn’t enough to stay single and celibate; you must be attracted to the opposite sex and if you aren’t, then you aren’t praying hard enough, you can’t truly be a follower of Christ and/or you must not truly want to change.
The truth of the matter is that orientation change efforts do not work. There’s a reason why Exodus and various other conversion therapy and reparative therapy networks and etcetera have shut down. A large majority of people with same-sex attraction do not experience much change. Do some? Yes, but they are in the minority and their change is almost always in addition to ongoing same-sex attraction alongside opposite-sex attraction. I have never heard of a case of someone who is exclusively same-sex attracted who has completely had a 100% change in orientation, wherein they go from exclusive same-sex attraction to exclusive opposite-sex attraction, and same-sex attraction completely vanishes. It is almost always going to be an ongoing struggle
Personally, I stopped wishing I was straight back in early high school (I’m only 26, but still). To me, being gay it’s just a aspect of myself that’s unique and honestly makes me who I am. Although it’s a struggle, it’s a struggle that not many people, so I’ve learned to be content (and even happy with it). I have no interest in being a cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill, boring, typical straight guy and all “bro-y”. I love being sensitive, creative, artsy, intuitive, affectionate and tender – all aspects that I believe are attributable to my sexuality. Yes, I believe in the traditional biblical stance on sex/marriage, but I no longer wish I was straight and I don’t believe I have to be “straight” to be a Christian. I have no desire to be “one of the guys”. When I started to accept myself and how my sexuality shapes me and makes my personality what it is – and in essense who I am – I learned to be proud of who I am. And besides, men are beautiful and gorgeous, I can’t imagine me not being drawn to men. I’ve fallen head-over-heels for men and have crushed on countless men whom I’ve not been sexually attracted to in the least. In fact, the more I fall in love, the less sexual I feel towards them. I know that’s an alien concept to most, but I do believe that that’s proof that my romantic and sexual attractions are seperate.
I’ve heard lotsa SSA guys talk about how they appreciate their sexuality because it makes them artistic and empathetic and all, and I really can’t relate to that. I’m mediocre at the arts and terrible at expressing empathy. In terms of my proclivities and all, I don’t feel any difference between myself and the average straight guy except for maybe my strong willingness to partake in physical touch. Maybe it’s because I’m also attracted to women, idk. What do you think causes SSA dudes to have different traits?
I would describe my orientation as that of a straight woman, but in a male’s body.
I have zero attraction to women; especially not romantic attraction – those butterflies, lovey-dovey, falling in love, crushes, etc. feelings are things that I’ve only felt strictly for men. Women, for me, have always just been sisters and best friends – never more; so, I can’t relate to what it’s like to be attracted to women. It’s essentially like my entire orientation is that of a straight woman, but just in a man’s body. That’s as best as I can describe it and it’s why I believe that SSA and gay guys typically carry those same sensitive and nurturing traits that are often associated with women.
Truth be told, I feel downright out-of-place and nearly uncomfortable around straight men. They may as well be an alien species to me. I feel much more of a sense of ‘belonging’ with women and fellow gay guys. I don’t really connect with straight guys and I also don’t have anything in common with most straight men – sports, cars, girls, hunting/fishing, etc. are pretty much the typical masculine/straight guy interests, and I have never had any interest in any of those things, and most other SSA/gay guys, generally and by-and-large, don’t either. That’s as best as I can do to explain it, so yeah. That’s all I’ve got for now!
Thank you for an excellent blogpost. My heart absolutely goes out to you. I really hope and pray that these unjust criticisms will not discourage you to live a celibate life as an SSA/gay Christian.
I’m glad to say that here in the UK I have never been pressured by any Christian or any church to change my sexual orientation. I also admit that I have never (or perhaps only very occasionally) prayed for my orientation to change. These things may reflect the fact that I haven’t been involved in very conservative Christian circles since I was a young lad, although in recent years several brave SSA/gay conservative Christian leaders in the UK have both ‘come out’ and then advocated what in the a Side B approach, rather than gay conversion therapy. (Nevertheless, conversion therapy has been a problem here in the UK, to the extent that our government is legislating to ban it in many circumstances.)
The many stories of faithful SSA/gay Christians who earnestly pray that their orientation should change, to no avail, and the failure of Exodus and other ex-gay ministries to achieve a lasting change in most of their clients’ sexual orientation should send a clear signal to your conservative Christian detractors that God accepts us as we are, and does not see a change in sexual orientation as a prerequisite to salvation. More fundamentally your detractors need urgently to reflect that John 3, v 16 does not say ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who belives in Him, except those who are not wholly heterosexual in orientation, may not perish but may have eternal life.’ (I know that the Gospel writers did not categorise sexuality in the way that we do in the twenty-first century, but I think my point is still valid.)
Although I believe that SSA has a positive side – an appreciation of beauty, not just of appearance but also of character – it also, of course, includes a temptation to sin – to engage in a sexual relationship/sexual activity with another man. And yet – temptation is not the same as sin! Jesus was tempted, as scripture shows, but without sin, and that is the pattern which he calls us to follow: temptation will come but we are to resist it, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, just as our straight brothers and sisters in Christ are called to do.
I hope that you will be upheld by the solidarity of your fellow contributors to YOB and its many supporters, including me.
Our Dear Brother-in-Christ, Aaron. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing such wonderfully a written testament to faith, His grace, and the hypocrisy of such Earthly-human judgments placed upon so many by those seeking to impose their own absolutes in the name of God. Your points are poignant and heart-felt. There is no doubt that your words are inspired by the immense power of The Holy Spirit, who seeks through you as a humble vessel, to diminish the divisive judgments, promote empathy and understanding, and reiterate our Lord’s limitless grace. Well done, humble servant.
I haven’t experienced this pressure myself at this point, but then again, my fellowship w most Christians isn’t deep enough to talk about my sexuality.
BUT I did have an interesting convo w a gentleman who had just been through 2 years at Teen Challenge and who, after I shared about my experience w addiction (my sexual addiction) 30+ years ago, as well as my orientation–noting that it hadn’t changed, and that I was alright w that—insisted that he had been “delivered” from homosexuality. He told me about two sisters I know of who minister in Theophostics (similar to Leonne Payne’s Inner Healing stuff). I’m familiar w their ministry and can confidently say that they are not as effective as they think they are and are “ultra-spiritual” in their approach—ie minimizing the complexity of what is normally the therapeutic process of approaching trauma.
I wanted to warn him that things may not be as “resolved” as he thinks. But he was caught up in his wishful zeal and wasn’t open at all!!!
I fear for what will happen to him when his childish zeal wears off and he likely experiences same-sex attraction again. His whole *hope* is in his being “healed” and “delivered!”
We who have come to admit that the change we sought is not happening can have a wonderful peace and liberty that is not based on what we think the outcome should be, but on God’s love for us!
Though most of us don’t experience “deliverance,” we can, indeed, experience knowing God’s love in a way that brings deep peace, security, hope, joy, and freedom!!!
Oh I can resonant with that guy you spoke to. I grew up in a very conservative community and made it sound like being SSA was a “those people” thing. When I realised my SSA, I struggled with it, I really did. I thought I needed to be straight to be saved so I started praying for change in middle school. I had liked one of my best friends but they moved not long after I started to pay more attention to my feelings. Then the new kid came around. I almost instantly started liking in her and this lastest about 2 years. When I went to high school, I realised I didn’t really like anyone even though it was a single sex school. I then assumed God had come through and answered my prayers. I was liberated from the 😈gæ demon😈. Ya…that lasted for exactly one semester ☠️☠️☠️☠️. I found who I’d be head over heels for the rest high school. I’d mistaken simply not having feelings for someone at the moment to mean I was straight 🤣. That’s probably what that guy was going through. I kept trying to call my feelings everything and anything else until I had to give up and call a spade a spade 😂. This led me down pretty much a non religious life for a bit which ofcourse was affirming.
I literally couldn’t believe I had a seat in heaven because of my SSA and thought since God didn’t change it, He didn’t want me there. I thought He hated me and had nothing but disgust for me. As for the SSA I couldn’t be convinced of an affirming theology but I just couldn’t be an exgay. It only caused me pain and the self hatred almost lead me to commit suicide. I’m thankful I learnt of side B theology, more importantly side B community. It makes me feel like I’m not sinning simply for not hating myself, thankfully.
It really helps to not feel alone and like I genuinely have a place somewhere with my convictions. I was ready for the church rejection but not the lgbt rejection. Honestly if I hadn’t found an online community, idk where I’d be today spiritually. I hope once that guy realises it doesn’t go away, he doesn’t hurt himself or be led to believe what I’d believed 🥺
Thank you for this Aaron! You last blog and now this one bring a much needed nuance to the issue. I’ve often been shocked at the fierceness of some conservative Christian groups against groups like ours, Revoice, and others. We agree on the same level that homosexual sex is sinful and yet its still not enough for them?
My experience has been that straight guys, inside or outside the church, just don’t get the ongoing nature of our temptations.
I have heard or overheard comments like this:
” I thought you overcame that years ago”
“He still thinks he is gay.”
I don’t think conservative straight leaders in the church intentionally discourage us and limit us. They don’t mean harm. They just don’t get it.
The answer is not to reject the church, but to educate!
A church I went to growing up believed that you were lost if you’re homosexual. Theologically, I’m guessing if you asked they’d say God can love anyone, but they didn’t really believe it for gay people. They just seemed more comfortable not having homosexuals in the church.
Maybe it’s fear as much as bad theology that makes being straight a criteria for being saved. But it’s damaging, isn’t it? How many have left faith behind or self-harmed to deal with needing to be straight. Or how many have flipped the script, becoming Side A cause they can’t change their orientation? Talk about irony. Jesus said anyone can follow Him if they’ll take up their cross, but too often doesn’t it seem like church is the bouncer at the door, not the greeter?
It’s a journey getting over all the things church cares about that Jesus doesn’t. So much of it seems like a smokescreen disguising the fact that what’s true and living and vital in Christ has been forgotten or maybe was never known. In the conservative church I go to now, so many are more alive & passionate for politics than Christ. I wanna walk with those for whom Christ is a reality they’re living in and for, and I find that more in the persecuted church. You can see Christ in those who are faithful to Jesus despite the things they’re going thru. Also here at YOB, and in guys like you, for whom Christ matters most.
I’ve never experienced that explicit demanding of a change in my orientation, but I do field semi-regular calls to use different labels and words to describe my identity and experience with sexuality. The Church can be frustrating, certainly, but I also aim to remind myself of the other people I’ve been ignorant about too. I’m far from where I want to be in understanding people of color’s experiences, or women’s, or trans people, and the list goes on. I’m more intentional than I’ve ever been about aiming to understand these diverse stories, but I know I’ve got a ways yet to go. It helps met to give the Church some grace as we all strive to do better.