THE TONY CROSS COLUMN
Article No. 169
The huge benefit of being gay or lesbian in today's world[For archived articles please go to tonycrosscolumn.org.uk]
Over the past fifty years gay and lesbian people have been through a difficult time because they have suffered all kinds of criticism, abuse, persecution and obloquy. But there have been compensations - what are these?
The first and major benefit for gay Christians is that they are aware of the indwelling Christ. The Holy Spirit testifies to their spirit that they are indeed children of God - beloved - treasured by the Father. This is always the major blessing for any Christian - whether heterosexual or homosexual. To know that the fact that you are gay does not mean the end of that sweet fellowship with God is the major - even the only - thing that matters. Where would any Christian be without that support and testimony in their spirit?
Of course many gay people have some distance to travel before they can admit even to themselves, never mind anyone else, that they are gay. Saying to oneself ‘I am gay’ is bound to be a traumatic moment because it means one is now firmly placed in a minority group that is often the target of other people. That, however, can be borne without too much difficulty - indeed, it has a bracing and enlivening effect sometimes. But to know that there are many ‘strong’ Christians who think that, as a gay Christian, you are deluded is a real difficulty. So lets examine the position before we continue to consider the benefits of being gay.
When someone is a Christian and secure in their faith and then discovers something fundamental about themselves that is utterly condemned by some other Christians, it is inevitable that they enter a period of difficulty. Are the other Christians wrong? - or am I wrong?, they think. And these other Christians are not just Christians who, like most Christians, have their doubts at times. These are often conservative evangelical Christians, and they appear to be so certain. They can actually quote chapter and verse from the bible to show how wrong homosexuality is - and will often do just that!
So if they are truly Christian and yet are so sure that being gay is evil, sinful etc, what effect does that have on me? I look at their arguments from the bible, but then I read other biblical scholars who see those verses in quite another light. I listen to the appeal to tradition - homosexuality has been verboten for thousands of years, apparently - but the appeal somehow rings hollow because there are many things that no longer fit the biblical pattern. In fact life today is changing so rapidly that a lot of the bible is looking more and more like a cast back to a totally different world than the one in which we live. So I am unconvinced by their conservative evangelical arguments. Yet, of course, they accompany the arguments with an attitude of exclusion. They want to shut me out as a gay Christian. They don’t trust that I am guided by the Holy Spirit. They think I am either badly confused or am being guided by evil spirits.
So there are probably many young Christians who are beginning to suspect that they are gay but who keep their suspicions a total secret. They don’t talk about it to anyone. Their parents are, of course, from a different world and so that route is blocked. Their friends may sometimes make derogatory remarks about gay people. Maybe that route would be dangerous. So who else is there? Grandparents are very loving, but would probably find it all even more incomprehensible than their parents would.
However, there are strong Christians who believe not only that gay Christians should be welcomed into church, but that they should be treated as equal. Thank God for these people! How can I find them? That is perhaps how the mind of a gay Christian teenager goes in these days. Can any advice be given? Yes! Search out some Christian who you know accepts gay people as normal. Go for it! If you cannot find such a person then contact Jeremy Marks of Courage who will be delighted to help in any way he can.
So - you are Christian and you have accepted that you are gay. Now what? I believe that you will find that there are great benefits to being gay.
The first and major benefit is that being a gay Christian makes you rethink all your beliefs. When your very existence is questioned by other Christians, then you have to go back to basics and decide what you believe and what you discard. Not all ‘church’ beliefs are of equal value! For example - should you continue to attend a Christian Fellowship or church where the leadership have so obviously got it all wrong about homosexuality? You know that they have got it wrong because you know that you are gay. You didn’t choose to be gay. You didn’t want to be gay. But you have realised that you are gay. You furthermore know - either from your own experience or from the many attested stories of other gay people - that you cannot change yourself to heterosexual. All this talk about healing you, so that you are a good heterosexual Christian again is a load of nonsense. The best scientific brains tell us that you cannot change your sexuality in that way.
So you dig deep within yourself to find out which beliefs are really important to you. To see whether your experience of Christ is genuine or is simply copying other people. To ask yourself whether you have really committed your life to Christ and want to please him above all else. This process of spiritual self examination is wholly good. It is not dangerous introspection - it issues in a new confidence. Like Luther you want to say to the world that you are a real Christian, you know the power of the Holy Spirit and you are gay - and that is that!
You come out from such a self-reckoning a stronger Christian. More determined to deal in reality and not in sham.
Unfortunately you immediately hit a problem. If you are going to be ‘real’ and not ‘sham’ then should you not proclaim your sexuality to everyone around? This is a difficult one, because in one sense being open about your being gay is the most natural thing in the world. But on the other hand you know it is going to draw a line in your life and that it may change situations and some people’s attitude to you. Does that matter?
Each person has to decide for themselves in the light not only of their circumstances, but also after prayer about it. It may be that God is calling you to be in the open with your homosexuality. After all, why not? On the other hand there may be circumstances in your life that preclude an open advertisement of the fact.
So each person must decide for himself or herself. Maybe you will be like many gay Christians - out to some and not to others!
So the first benefit of being a gay Christian is that it is a step into reality in your relationship with God, not a retreat from it. You depend on God to see you through whatever comes. Secondly, you start to go deep within yourself to re-evaluate what exactly you do believe and what you don’t. If, for example, you have been brought up to think of the bible as a magic book that is infallible and inerrant - then you know from your own experience that having that belief has misled many Christians into an anti-gay attitude. An attitude that is clearly wrong. So you start looking for a better and more realistic attitude to the bible, which is the most valuable book that we Christians have.
The third benefit of being a gay Christian is that it releases you from a stereotypical approach to life. Suddenly you have to start thinking about long term relationships. You have to decide the difference between civil partnerships and marriage - and how that bears on you and your situation. Instead of following the well worn path followed by the heaving masses, you strike out and begun to make your own present and future. You begin to rethink your values and decide afresh what you want to do with your life. Discovering and admitting to yourself that you are gay calls into question all that you have lived by to date. New vistas open up. The importance of helping heterosexual Christians to see and accept that gay Christians are just as normal and acceptable as they are becomes important. You start to think about what you would look for in a partner. Must she be a Christian? Do you want him to be a churchgoer? And so on.
I have surely said enough already for a heterosexual person to realise that when one accepts that one is gay it amounts to a total revolution in one’s life. It may mean breaking relationships that are precious. It may mean a period of loneliness while one finds new friends who accept you just as you are.
In effect it is a new adventure. A new starting point in life. Even for gay people who are entwined in situations that they cannot or do not want to get out of - it is still a complete revolution. It affects every area of life. Friends, family, lovers, colleagues. churchgoers, other Christians - just some of the ever widening circles of people that will be touched by your recognising that you are gay. Even if you never say a word to anyone about it, you will have changed. You will not be the same person anymore! And God will have new tasks for you.
I must close this, but there is much more to explore in the adventure that comes about when one realises one is gay. And sadness and sorrow may be there too. But one is in the real world, where one accepts what is true, and that is a huge advance for any human being. One could talk of one’s attitude to those who despise you, to those who try to shut you out, to those who cannot face the reality of homosexuality. But these must all wait for a further article! Meanwhile we all have to get on with life by embracing as much of reality as we can. God helps us - and fully understands exactly our situation. We only need to turn to him and live out each day in his presence, for he loves us and never leaves us.