Nothing Has Changed

Before I made the leap from Side B (the belief that gay sex is sinful) to Side A (the belief that God blesses same sex relationships) I believed that to shift my beliefs on the matter would radically alter my life, my faith, and my very religion. To me, the chasm between Side A and side B was as wide as the gap between Christianity and Hinduism, and to allow myself to get a boyfriend would be the equivalent of praying to Shiva. A world where I was free to pursue my dream to have a partner was a fundamentally different world, and a God who approved of same sex relationships was a different God. The dream of partnership felt as inaccessible as all my childhood dreams: no, Hogwarts is not real and I will not be receiving a letter informing me that I am a wizard. No, Narnia does not exist and I will not be finding the wardrobe at a thrift store any time soon. No, Doctor Who is only fiction and there is no Time Lord blazing across the night sky in his TARDIS, rescuing humanity from the horrors of the cosmos. No, there is no such thing as a gay relationship that God blesses, and there is no such thing as a God who would condone such a thing as moral. Such a life, such a God, is only fiction.

And then something astounding happened: it wasn’t a fiction to me anymore. By a long, tumultuous and at times dangerous process, I came to believe that I had been wrong. I now believe that gay people can experience long lasting, monogamous bonds that can be blessed by God. I had believed that such a shift would be a fundamental transformation that would devestate every aspect of my life. But it didn’t.

I believed I would worship a different God if I believed I could marry a man, but I don’t. He is still Three in One, the great I AM,  the maker and sustainer of worlds. He is the same God who hung on that cross and died for my sins. He is still the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am still a great sinner, and he is still a great savior. Christ is still the Son of God in my life, with as much glory, mystery, and compassion as before.

I believed that my Bible would be less meaningful and authoritative if believed gay people could marry, but it isn’t. I still read my Bible every morning, and it is still the God breathed and inspired scripture it was before. It is still the final authority in my life, and engaging with it is still one of the most important journeys I could ever make.

I believed that the shape of my faith itself would be radically altered if I accepted gay marriage, but it isn’t. The creeds that define the central aspects of my faith have not changed, and I can still speak them, affirming every word.

I thought that I would compromise the integrity of my intellect if I affirmed gay relationships, but I haven’t. I find that my intellect is as robust as ever, and that I have not had to stoop to compromised forms of theology to believe that God blesses gay relationships, nor have I had to compromise other deeper values of hermeneutics that act as guides in my life. Instead, I have found that the integrity of my mind and the integrity of my heart are now finally dance partners instead of rivals.

The glorious and beautiful truth is this: nothing truly significant has changed. I believe the same things, worship the same God, and have the same faith. Even in practice, my faith has not changed. What has changed is that I feel that I have grown in my faith, and have more deeply surrendered my sexuality to God. When put into perspective, all that has changed is a shift in how I view one aspect of human nature and how God responds to it: something that, despite all the “doctrinal statements” the church throws about these days on homosexuality, has not enjoyed any central and authoritative doctrine or creeds. I stand in disagreement with the majority of the Church, but not in such a way that excludes me from her company.

I know this now, but for years I didn’t. For years, I had emotionally confused secondary Christian questions with the central Christian questions. I believed that the question of gay marriage was as central to my salvation and as pressing as the question of whether Christ really did die on the cross and atone for my sins. This is not to say that these secondary questions are not important, or that our ideas don’t have real consequences. They are extremely important and must be confronted with grace and wisdom, but it is to say that I – and much of the church – have confused the secondary for the primary, and there is only one word for such confusion: idolatry.

Yes, we will have our disagreements, and we will have our convictions, and we will all struggle to the best of our ability to try to fathom the will and words of a perfect creator with our sin-stained and limited minds. But at the end of the end of the day, to follow Christ and to believe in his grace is the best any of us can do, regardless of whether we are gay or straight, married or unmarried, affirming or non affirming. If he is God, he is big enough and good enough to pick up all the pieces our best attempts at following him leave in our wake.

23 responses to “Nothing Has Changed

  1. If you’re not taking God at His word when He clearly says He abhors such things, you’re in direct opposition to Him. You can use this justification now in your pursuit of a boyfriend or to have gay sex or in support of others’ desires, whatever, but try using it on judgement day. His word is clear. God does not change bro and we can’t compromise with Him on anything.
    It sounds like you simply chose to believe a lie to chase after the flesh despite claiming to hold the word of God as authoritative(no judgement there if you do or not). You know, the devil knows the word of God too. But he and his angels believe and tremble. Only he uses it to deceive and attempt to manipulate believers and unbelievers alike. You believe the words written in the Bible? Does it not describe God as righteous, holy, pure, incorruptible, just, unchanging? Where is the lustful behavior you want to pursue lauded in the written word?
    And as I am sure you realize, the entire gay community and everything about gay culture is in direct opposition to God. It hates anything to do with God. I strongly believe you have been deceived by the selfishness and lust in your own heart to think that God would bless such a union even when his word clearly states that it is an abomination to him.
    My advice: get on your knees and pray and repent before you go any further with this belief.

    • With all love and respect, you clearly have not read anything else he has written and shared on this blog. He does, in fact, address all of the points you make, and I encourage you to engage with him and the community thoughtfully by reading the entire story. Such unbending condemnation is the tool of fear and oppression, also weapons of the Devil in his insidious past time of infiltrating the Church. The Inquisition stands as the dark reminder of the history of such an approach and such thinking. I think you will find that even if you disagree, you are most welcome in this space – but please disagree with substance and thoughtful engagement of the issue, not blind, uniformed declarations of condemnation. Yours in Christ, Ben.

    • With all love and respect, you clearly have not read anything else he has written and shared on this blog. He does, in fact, address all of the points you make, and I encourage you to engage with him and the community thoughtfully by reading the entire story. Such unbending condemnation is the tool of fear and oppression, also weapons of the Devil in his insidious past time of infiltrating the Church. The Inquisition stands as the dark reminder of the history of such an approach and such thinking. I think you will find that even if you disagree, you are most welcome in this space – but please disagree with substance and thoughtful engagement of the issue, not blind, uniformed declarations of condemnation. Yours in Christ, Ben.

    • I find your sweeping generalizations extremely offensive. What do you know about the gay community?

      Shall I characterize the entire conservative Christian community as a bunch of smug, hard hearted d*cks? No, because I still have dear friends in relatives in that community and I know it not to be true.

    • Congratulations, Greg! You have won the Matthew 23 Scribe and Pharisee Prize for bashing not only my dear brother in Christ, Stephen, whom I love and respect as a dedicated follower of Jesus — but an entire community of gay Christians you have never met! Hooray for you!

      I am sorry if that response seems caustic, but you really have no clue what you are talking about. I hope you might take the time to actually meet and get to know real, live gay Christians before responding in a way that cuts like a knife. And I’m not talking about the sword of the Spirit, either, but the dagger of intellectual and fleshly pride.

      • I realize how harsh my comment sounds. Nothing is said out of hatred toward anyone. I have had homosexual desires my whole life but came to a different conclusion.

      • Greg Foreli –
        Our differing convictions don’t invalidate your story or the struggle you must be enduring.
        I wish you peace

    • I stand in agreement with you Greg in what you wrote, good on you for standing up for love of your brother Stephen for we are our brother’s keepers and it is our duty to warn and instruct if they are going astray and then for that person to confirm the warning with the Word of God.
      Like you said the devil knows the word of God too and a lot of Christians only have head knowledge without heart knowledge, having the heart part means to actually walk in the head knowledge. Having same sex is unnatural and the Word clearly states such a person will be cast out of God’s presence forever, that is hell. The last prophecy is here it will be like the days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah. All previous prophecy was an end of an age this prophecy is the end of the world. Revelations:
      18:3For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.” 4I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; 5for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.…

  2. Thank you so much for posting this. As always, you have been able to put words to an experience which has been difficult for me to share with friends and family. Your blog, I think, has done great work in maintaining good relationships with my parents, and I am forever grateful. Thank you!

  3. David. I admire your courage to face this epic topic in front of us all.
    I am straight, always have been. Although the Bible has what it says regarding this topic…it is not my [or our] responsibility to address that with you. You have your OWN relationship with Jesus. You have your OWN convictions. You have me [and countless others] in your corner just glad to have another brother in-Christ to share His love with.
    You said it best ” If he is God, he is big enough and good enough to pick up all the pieces our best attempts at following him leave in our wake.”
    I admit that until the last few years, I was not of this opinion; rather I excluded gays… That’s ok, because my OWN relationship with Jesus taught me differently. Now, I see no difference — we all are in-love with Jesus.
    And what exactly is wrong with that?

  4. Stephen I don’t know you at all, only what you have shared on your blog. Much of it has been challenging and gut wrenching to read. I disagree with you though something has changed. You appear to be more confident and comfortable with yourself and I think that can only be good.
    I don’t quite understand why each person is arriving at different conclusions about their personal journey and sexuality. It is a mess. In fact I am moving in the opposite direction you are but I don’t think it means we are separated by a spiritual gulf and I don’t agree with any posture which loathes LGBT persons and condemns same sex relationships. What separates us is the grievances we hold against each other. And, I hope we will all continue to extend grace towards each other and learn to forgive our offenses and failings. I hope we will all stop trying to focus on what is and is not someone else’s sin and instead work on our own. We don’t need that kind of scrutiny when we are in a relationship with God who is doing his own work in us through Christ.
    Trying to change someone’s belief about sin is a distraction; we should rather allow everyone the opportunity to be changed by the love of Christ which is what you expressed very well in your own words.

  5. I had never thought about “idolatry” as being a possible name for the attitude you describe, but I think you may be right.
    There are people I’ve known that I at first thought shared my central religious belief (that we are saved from spiritual death by accepting the love offered by Christ) who then revealed that what they really believe is that salvation comes from having the “correct” opinion on each of a short list of theological issues. A sort of salvation by multiple-choice test.
    When with those who say they will go to hell if they allow themselves to believe God blesses loving same-sex relationships but then turn out to have been wrong, I feel deeply sad but I haven’t known what to say.
    You’ve clarified this for me: Thank you. Yes, believing that “the question of gay marriage was as central to . . . salvation and as pressing as the question of whether Christ really did die on the cross and atone for [our] sins” does seem accurately described as a form of idolatry. God doesn’t give us theological quizzes and then reject us if we have a wrong opinion.

  6. Another [quick] thought.
    Jesus came to save sinners. I was a sinner destined for Hell before I was born-again. Once saved — there is no more sin, there is no more condemnation because of it and thus…no more guilt! We [David & me] are the same in-Jesus! THIS is why I see no difference between us.
    As far as continuing in my sin — or David in his…that’s a private thing between each of us and Jesus. No man/woman has the right to look at what Jesus said he covered in His blood — especially if God does not even do that!!!
    I still have times when my past sins) seem appealing… So – I’m just an average guy living an above-average life because of Jesus…just like David.

  7. An individual does not represent a group. I must keep chanting that in order not to smash either a raving Fundamentalist Christian nor a LIberal Communist gay rights supporter.
    Why dont we stay out of the personal lives of others? Why cant people live and let live? Why do some people feel the need to be ‘correct’ and force that ‘correctness’ upon all of us?
    This is the first time I’ve read anything from the author. I am an Asatruar/Heathen and a supporter of equality and I shall look forward to reading more of what the writer says.

  8. Above is a beautiful worship song to our God in Heaven, let us always be in love with Him. We have all sinned. Sin has so messed up mankind and this planet Good news, great news, through Jesus alone we have the Word & Spirit again to make us perfect from the inside out and to be made into the likeness of His Son Jesus. Jesus did not come to save us from hell or take us to heaven but to deliver us from the bondages of sin, yeah how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!. You are so loved Stephen by God and those He has given you, I know you love Him too, will continue to pray for our Lord to continue to lead you into all Truth and also where He wants you to be. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in honesty once again.

  9. Would like to share this beautiful story of a testimony to the power of God to change a heart, this may help those who feel as he did, and if many many years have past and you feel hopeless or that God doesn’t care, but He does. Don’t give up in anything in life, God’s timing is not always ours, but keep the faith during all the torments and trials He is preparing a beautiful witness..

  10. Oh Steven, my heart cries out for you.
    As a gay psychiatrist myself, and an agnostic, my fear for you is not ideological but psychological.
    I hope I am not being too frank in saying that having read your blog, I see all the tell-take signs of a very borderline personality organization. Obviously I haven’t had sessions with you, but some things are not that hard to tell from intimate soul-bearing writing.
    My fear then for you in terms of all this religious stuff is that maybe your journey in that regard isn’t addressing root causes so much as symptoms?
    Your current comfort with yourself is heartening and yet what if you find that, even after abandoning every structure and stricture and old value you held…you find yourself still struggling, still suffering, still cycling from one emotional crisis/collapse to another, and realize “Hm, maybe it wasn’t this or that belief making me freak out after all.” Maybe it was something deeper inside your mind, or the reason that these beliefs caused you conflict was only as an expression of a more structural conflict that would play out no matter what your beliefs? Your self-reported crisis this winter on hiatus is not a good sign for the theory of “it was Side B or Side X’s fault that I suffer!”
    In my work as a therapist I firmly have become convinced of this: a psychologically whole or healthy person can hold pretty much any values or lifestyle. In my experience, though I have no moral problems with any sort of consensual sex, it is also definitely not some sort of psycho-emotional necessity in any absolute sense. A healthy person with ego-syntonic beliefs about celibacy can embrace it just fine.
    Obviously, some Side B people live under “mandatory celibacy” just fine. You’ve experienced the spiritual pain and stagnation that you had under that regime and concluded “it didn’t work for me, therefore the idea that it’s mandatory for all can’t be true. A calling for some maybe, but not for all.”
    I’m not that interested in the “moral” question. I think you should be much more interested in the “psychological” question: “what is it about me personally that made such a moral teaching so oppressive?” In other words, “not called” is rather vague, as is talk of special graces, etc. What does it mean concretely in terms of personality structure? What psychologically is the difference between those who “need” sex and those who don’t?
    Maybe it’s just a normal and healthy variation in psychological structure or temperament. But in my experience, the people who “need” sex to the point that their deeply held moral beliefs become suffocating and a horrible sentence to them…are usually people who are already significantly broken and fragmented, by primal subconscious forces that preceded any question of religion or ideology (as much as those may get tangled up in it all).
    I’m more of a relativist morally; I believe healthy people can commit to and live with integrity and authenticity by just about any moral system. However, I also would agree that some moral codes are oppressive and toxic to people who ARENT whole and healthy. It’s a poor analogy, but: Some high-functioning alcoholics, for example, it would be cruel to ask them to give up drinking cold-turkey as they could shrivel up into a repressed angry person and lose their job if you took away their booze. Likewise, expecting a strict avoidance of sexuality for some people is akin to preventing any future growth towards integration in them.
    But note: this is true only because they are ALREADY broken. In some ways this makes some sense to me of the moral condemnations of teetotalers or Side Bers. Not that I think a healthy person can’t drink or have sex, but that I think someone for whom these are emotional necessities…is inevitably already a broken person, and if we take “sin” to mean brokenness, then in this sense the existential need for drink or sex to even “get back to normal” or to function psychologically and be happy and grow in freedom and human communion, is in that sense legitimate to call “sin,” albeit the acts themselves at that point are symptoms, not causes, and it may even be unhealthy to repress them.
    In short, I think you have a long way to go, Steven. I think, right now, avoiding sex etc may indeed be unhealthy and oppressive to your spiritual growth/psychological integration. But I’ll also say this: I wouldn’t be surprised if you have more crises, I wouldn’t be surprised if, say, the next one pushes you even more radically (for example, to embracing premarital sex), because I don’t think the source of your suffering is really these abstract philosophical ideas at all, but rather something deeper in your personality structure (of which those Christian conflict over moralizing sex is only a manifestation, not a cause). And I’ll add that I think that if you ever do address these borderline-esque personality issues and become truly healthy and whole, then you’ll at that point maybe find that if you wanted (and I’m not saying you should, just IF you did want to) you’d probably be able to embrace celibacy or mixed-orientation marriage or ANYthing, basically, without issue or without problem, and will look back and realize that your perception of these morals as unbearable was true but only relative to or in the context of a personality that was ALREADY broken.
    I know I’ve been terribly presumptuous, but I’ve seen this before and I really wish you:

    • Terrence,

      I find your comment deeply disturbing and unprofessional. You do not “know” Stephen, nor is he one of your clients. As someone who does actually know him, and who is also educated about BPD, your “diagnosis” is a far cry from correct or helpful.

      As the mother of a gay son, I also disagree with your statement that “a psychologically whole or healthy person can hold pretty much any values or lifestyle.” Since you were not raised in a family/church system that told you that your orientation was sinful and abnormal, I don’t think you can truly understand the agony that individuals raised in this kind of culture experience.

      I have seen countless people go from being suicidal, depressed and extremely self-destructive to being healthy, growing, and hope-filled individuals once they have stepped out from under the mandatory rule of celibacy and the spiritualized, deep shaming that is par for the course in evangelical circles.

      They weren’t depressed because they were, basically, unhealthy individuals who were suffering from a mental illness – they were depressed because they had been raised to believe that their very being was inherently sinful and offensive to God.

      I don’t think you can truly understand that unless you have experienced it, or walked closely with individuals who have.

      Please don’t minimize the damage that is done by the traditional, evangelical church’s position on homosexuality by saying that Stephen’s “problem” isn’t the church at all, but his own psychological abnormality. That is an incorrect, and damaging assumption to make, adding additional wounds to a young man who has already been subjected to far more than his share of needless shaming and condemnation.

      • Linda, I think coddling is the last think people like Steven need.

        To put it bluntly: I don’t think people just happen to wind up gay AND conservative Christian in some sort of tragedy of circumstances. I don’t think either sexual identity or religious identity is so simple in its origins.

        I believe firmly that if someone winds up painted into a psychological corner it’s because they (subconsciously) put themselves there. If there hadn’t already been internal fragmentation and triangulation going on…Steven either wouldn’t have wound up gay, or wouldn’t have wound up Christian. Neither is inevitable on account of nurture or nature.

        People who settle on incompatible identities come adolescence are manifesting a pre-existing conflict from well before either identity could have possible been settled. People settle on mixed allegiances for a reason, because it serves some defensive purpose for them.

        There are plenty of kids from conservative Christian families who turn out gay and just brush their family’s opinion off. And there are plenty of people for whom a gay sexual awakening is simply a psychological impossibility because of their investment in the values of their cultural commitments.

        I’m not saying personality disorder is a choice, but you don’t have to care what a family thinks, for example. Lots of people have disapproving parents. Some simply don’t care! People who DO choose to care about disapproval, while nevertheless choosing to not totally repress the thing disapproved OF…are manifesting an ambivalence which is the very definition of neurosis.

        Internal conflict is always under our control. Pretending that internal conflict is imposed externally is sheer bad faith. We can be and care about whatever we want. If we choose to care what other people think, then we also make ourselves accountable to those opinions. If we choose to care about opinions that shame us for things we either can’t change or refuse to change…then one is setting oneself up for failure, and probably (in most cases I see) looking for pity and an excuse for self-pity. Crying “but I want both!!” when “both” is simply impossible is a denial of agency and our ability as free subjects to author ourselves, and serves as an abnegation of responsibility for our own happiness.

        “Poor me, I’m conservative Christian and gay, what do I do??” You either stop being conservative Christian, or stop being gay. It’s that simple. The former is probably easier than the latter in our current cultural milieu, but it’s really that simple. People who don’t choose to resolve into one or the other…are choosing not to resolve. The interesting question is why: what defensive purpose is served or was served by wallowing in ambivalence? Why is giving up one or the other perceived as MORE painful than the pain of the conflict/tension? (if you can’t decide, flip a coin even! Surely making SOME choice is better than persisting in the tension for years…) This question of “why was the horrible pain of ambivalence still better than just choosing to resolve in one direction?” is where the real therapeutic work begins.

        Like you, I’ve also seen plenty of gay people leave conservative ideology and become happier. But I’ve also seen plenty of people choose to prioritize religion and so sublimate their sexuality in an ego-syntonic way, and also be happy.

        The magic isn’t that gay love is good and necessary for fulfillment and conservative ideology intrinsically oppressive, nor is it that homosexuality is and enslaving sin and Christianity liberating bliss. Rather, the magic is in the fact that these people finally resolved into a single coherent self-narrative (one way OR the other) rather than continuing to cling to incompatible alternatives (to “sacred tension” as it were…)

        But in my experience, the real salient question here, in such cases, isn’t “which should I choose” (usually ones true authentic desires become clear enough)…it’s why was I clinging to two incompatible visions in the first place? What need was served by holding on to conflicting loyalties or allegiances in the first place?

        The answer is always internal, not external or circumstantial, and the conflict usually only truly resolves once that deep structural work has been done. The resolution into one coherent vision (or the other) is usually the final RESULT of this psychological resolution, not a cause.

        On the other hand, embracing one or the other without the underlying self-work can just lead to the unresolved conflict manifesting in new ways, or to more extreme attempts to resolve it through identity craft (which is confusing causes and effects). This is what concerns me in Steven’s case. I’m not convinced the “surface” resolution (of resolving definitively on gay over conservative morality) is a manifestation of an internal resolution of the original subconscious conflicts. I simply see little evidence for that in his descriptions of how these self-evolutions have progressed.

    • I want to thank you for your comments because we can learn from others. I also agree with both comments you made. As human beings we cannot have our cake and eat it too in some matters. I feel the same when you said people in Stephen’s situation have to choose either homosexuality or Religion – Christ. I see a huge difference in being gay and being homosexual. To me gay is normal, just like being single is normal, married or not married is normal, but as Christians, not worldly persons, who choose to cross that line that is against Christ’s teachings then we have become double minded in our thinking and like you said that is what makes our situation worse. I have seen Doctors diagnose people Bi-polar and I can see for the ones I know who have that label that they are living in adultery and they are not even religious so cannot even say that it is the teaching of religion causing them this double-mindedness but even the world frowns on this behaviour so that is why they are messed up. For Christians, Sin means to Miss The Mark, the bullseye, which is why Jesus Christ is the One who came into the world to reveal and make a way back for us to hit the bullseye even though it’s a process in the making but at least you have the Spirit of God joined to your spirit for the first time in your life, enabling you to actually live the Christ life. Why do homosexuals want what the Creator says is abominable in His sight allowed in His body of believers, the Church? I believe if you want to be homosexual then go back to the world not the Church, it is their choice. The Church must not be like the world, it is not of the world but it is in the world, it must be a full representation of Christ. As a Christian I am not to judge others but within the Church I am instructed to warn and teach my brother’s and sister’s in Christ if they are missing the mark. Love will warn and discipline. With all the media attention on gay marriage in the world leave it in the world but don’t bring it into the church. Maybe the church should stay out of the world and it’s affairs and the world should stay out of trying to bring their affairs into the church. The two must be separate. What the world does is it’s business, what the Church does is it’s business, in the end we will have the Church acting and looking like the world.
      Would like to share this beautiful story of a testimony to the power of God to change a heart, this may help those who feel as he did, and if many many years have past and they feel hopeless or that God doesn’t care, but He does. Don’t give up in anything in life, God’s timing is not always ours, but keep the faith during all the torments and trials He is preparing a beautiful witness..

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