“If I were to switch sides and become a Christian, I wouldn’t be Gay anymore. But that is who I am and always will be. It’s who I AM, not something I do.”
That was a response from a friend who was telling me why he could not begin to even think of becoming a Christian. He added more reasons, but this objection was primary. His identity was tethered to his sexual desires and he saw no way around that.
That’s not surprising. His view is also at the core of many conversations within the Christian community about the issue of identity and conversion.
There are many issues in those discussions, but the central point I am discussing in these blog posts concerns the use of the term ‘Gay Christian’ by Christians, and can be summarized with this quotation from the first post:
I believe the phrase ‘Gay Christian’ is deeply problematic for a number of reasons, most importantly because it is representative of one of the most monumental shifts in our collective understanding of what it is to be human that has been witnessed in thousands of years. This societal change is a triumph for those who adamantly oppose a Christian view of people as God’s image-bearers, often unknowingly supported by those who would want to affirm a Christian view of human dignity rooted in creation.
What has occurred? Simply put, the champions of the Sexual Revolution have succeeded in changing ‘homosexual’ from a word describing an action to a word identifying a person.
By accepting the recasting of homosexuality as an identity rather than behavior, our culture has embraced the full flourishing of a radical idea about what it means to be human and cast aside the last remaining vestiges of a civilization rooted in the soil of Faith. We once knew our identity in reference to the Creator above; we now look for our identity from our desires within.
In the rest of that first post I explored the history of this change, beginning with the revolutionary ideas of what it is to be ‘fully human’ that took deep root in the Romanticism of the eighteenth century, giving birth to words like ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ as identifiers of kinds of humans within the burgeoning professional psychological community. When what a person desires or does becomes an aspect of the essence of who they are, then we have a new ontology, a new way of ‘being’, a new way of saying what constitutes personhood.
The Idea of Being
When it comes to ontology – what is ‘of the essence’ of a person – western civilization had largely thought in terms of homo sapiens as male and female. Issues of class in various forms entered the discussion as well, as did race. Despite the efforts of some to make those with certain skin pigmentations ‘less than human’, the Biblical view of all humans as God’s image-bearers ultimately prevailed in law, even if it did not always prevail in hearts.
When Dr. Martin Luther King gave his moving ‘Mountaintop’ speech in Memphis he was supporting the city’s striking sanitation workers. They carried placards declaring ‘I am a Man’ , and King’s speech rightly pushed back against those who held that he and others were ‘other than’ or ‘less than’ human because they were black, denying the dignity of the black workers. The signs did not say, “I am a Black Man”, though that was certainly true of the striking workers. The emphasis was on the idea of being fully human over against those who denied Scripture and the law, those who preferred a society where pale humans were a superior race and upheld a society of supremacy through discriminatory laws that suppressed other humans, other image-bearers. Being human was not to be defined by race, a truth that cost Dr. King his life on that fateful visit to Memphis.
The Eugenics movement of the 20th century factored into this deplorable subjugation of peoples, culminating in the Nazi terror and Holocaust against the Jews, a terror that was first racial more than it was religious. The war to overcome the Nazi tyranny led inevitably and thankfully to the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1960s, making our laws more reflective of a Biblical account of human persons. The Christian Faith formed part of the apologetic for the Civil Rights movement, and rightly so. The failure of some Christians to grasp their own theology and act accordingly on the issue at the time does not diminish the truthfulness of the position; it merely magnifies the failures of the racists.
As Christians we confess, together with ancient classical civilization it so happens, that it is in God alone that ‘we live, and move, and have our being’ (Acts 17). It is who we are in relationship to the Creator that defines human identity.
The Sexual Revolution
The 1960s also, however, saw a different revolution take place, one that had its roots not in a Biblical view of humans but in one that was entirely contrary to it. The sexual revolution was a runaway success in terms of ‘liberating’ the culture from norms and taboos that had long governed the public governance of sexual relationships. It redefined identity.
Space here doesn’t permit a re-telling of the movement from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, but I am well within the bounds to assert that this twenty-year period witnessed the sweeping aside of centuries of accumulated wisdom and tradition on the matter of human sexual relations and an accounting of personhood. ‘Free love’ (unbridled sexual partnering), the use of hallucinogenic drugs, and the repudiation of institutional hierarchies – including the ‘traditional’ family – in favor of radical self-expression – and the music that celebrated it, performed in mass concerts – were common denominators in this new cultural wave. From Berkely to Woodstock, a new generation was inventing an entirely new culture of personal expression.
Women, in particular, broke out of traditional roles which ‘confined’ them to home or subservient occupations in the workforce and began to assert a new and more powerful influence in the culture through access to positions of power in the Public and Private sectors once held to be the exclusive domain of males. While certain aspects of this ‘feminist’ chapter of the revolution can be seen as decidedly and intentionally anti-Christian – I recall Gloria Steinham in 2012 calling this ‘the first post-Bullshit generation’, specifically referring to religious mythology – other aspects of it are in step with a more robust Biblical account of women as image-bearers of God and full partners in the flourishing of civilization. Nevertheless, the anti-Biblical ideals of the Sexual Revolution, including the radical autonomy of the individual, the enthronement of desire as sovereign arbiter in seeking what is best and what constitutes authentic human fulfillment, held the most influential sway and served to reshape the entire culture.
Unlike the civil rights movement which claimed Biblical warrant and example for its truthfulness, the Sexual Revolution repudiated identity in sacred revelation for identity in the personal expression of pure desire: we were who we said we were, not what any higher authority claimed that we were.
“It’s MY body!”
“It’s MY life!”
“No one and no institution can tell me who I am or what to do! I am FREE!”
These battle cries of the 1960s are the foundational catechism for the common culture we see around us today, codified in civil law. The Sexual Revolution had massive implications for civil law. From no-fault divorce to Roe vs Wade, an entirely new and unrecognizable social landscape presented itself in America in 1990 than was the case in 1960.
The culture was being redefined and the institutions which constitute that culture were changing with it or being swept away. This was especially true in reference to the family and family law.
The Sexual Revolution and the Homosexual Boundary
This radical shift in culture and law, however, did not extend to those with homosexual desire as the 1990s dawned. The Sexual Revolution had largely bypassed what would soon become known as the Gay community. The AIDS epidemic which swept through the Gay community with frightening and terrible consequences led to massive protests and Gay Pride events. Many religious leaders, already under unrelenting pressure to conform to new cultural norms related to the Sexual Revolution, seemed prepared to draw a line in the sand on homosexual behavior. The openly licentious characteristics of the Gay Pride events and Gay ‘lifestyle’ served to reinforce in many minds that making such actions and relationships licit was a bridge too far, even for the sexually liberated deconstructed westerner of 1990.
That consensus largely ‘held’ for almost another twenty years.
As late as 2008, then Presidential candidate Barack Obama would state publicly that a correct view of marriage was between one man and one woman and that ‘Gay Marriage’ was not defensible. “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.”, he said. That was a common position across the political spectrum (though very obviously some individuals on both Republican and Democrat sides rejected the Obama view).
That position would be totally reversed by the end of his Administration. By 2016, the legal and cultural triumph of the pro-Gay position was so complete that not only would President Obama celebrate the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision to legalize Gay Marriage by illuminating the White House with a massive rainbow, but now, approaching the 2020 election, we have a major candidate for the Presidency who is Gay and married to his partner, as well as a current President, oddly the darling of many Evangelicals despite his own sexual revolutionary history, who openly supports Gay marriage.
Even more significantly, a cultural and political climate now exists in which suggesting Gay people be denied the right to marry or that Gay sex was sinful or anything other than normal, would decimate a candidate’s chances for election. Being pro-Gay is now a cultural passcode for access to power, whether politically, economically or, in some cases, religiously. To be anti-Gay is now to be anti-American. Patriots are pro-Gay. Those who are not, are bigots.
The recent twitter exchange between a current member of the US Women’s National Soccer Team and a former member is a case in point. The former member, a Christian holding to the traditional Christian teaching on sexuality, felt she could not in good conscience wear a specially designed US Team jersey that celebrated Pride Month. As a result, she withdrew from the team. Some claimed that she was unwelcome on the team, several of whose members and the head coach are living in lesbian relationships. A current member of the team answered that alleged exclusion with a tweet claiming that the player who withdrew was ‘homophobic’ and a ‘bigot’, and that her actions had nothing to do with her faith; in fact, she asserted, the decision to withdraw was an insult to other Christians on the team and elsewhere.
It is the designation of ‘bigot’ that tells the story of how the sweeping cultural change we’ve witnessed has occurred so quickly and so completely.
What happened between 1990 and 2015, when the Obergefell decision was released, that created this cultural earthquake?
In short, the Sexual Revolution co-opted the language of the Civil Rights movement and asserted the idea of ‘being’ in place of ‘behavior’. It was an ingenious move. The roots of the Sexual Revolution that enthroned self-asserted identity – ‘I am who I am’ – married the struggle for personal justice – ‘I have my rights because I am a human’ – making sexual desire and behavior an identity, equal to racial identity.
The argument is beautiful in its simplicity: “I am who I am – a homosexual – so you cannot deny my rights to marry, or fight for my country, or any other right commonly held as ‘inalienable’ as one of God’s creatures.”
Deny rights to a man or woman on the basis of their sexual desires? That’s bigotry. ‘Person’ is defined by desire, and so to deny a person rights on the basis of those desires is legally unconstitutional and culturally bigoted.
The argument, once accepted, meant it was game, set, and match to the radical new approach.
It continues to resonate in the Gay community because of the suffering it has endured (and I’ve noted this elsewhere in previous posts). From Stonewall to the studied neglect of AIDS victims for far too long – and the way some Christian leaders spoke of 9/11 as a judgement from God because of the homosexual movement in the US – one must at least grasp why a person would feel themselves to be a persecuted minority.
Justice Kennedy and the Identity Revolution
The argument was given legal force through the opinions of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy who, through four key opinions, created the legal framework and normative force of the law for the culture which now exists.
On Kennedy’s substantial role in this matter, let me quote at length from a 2018 article by Scott Bomboy for Constitution Daily:
“On May 20, 1996, the Supreme Court issued an early landmark decision supporting the right of gays under the Constitution to seek protection from discrimination. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority decision in Romer v. Evans, starting his prominent role in future decisions that affected the constitutional rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
The issue in Romer v. Evans was Colorado’s Amendment 2, which was passed by a majority of the state’s voters in 1992. Amendment 2 barred any judicial, legislative, or executive action designed to protect persons in Colorado from discrimination based on their “homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships.”
In the opening of his majority opinion, Kennedy cited perhaps the most-famous dissent in Supreme Court history, John Marshall Harlan’s comments in Plessy v. Ferguson.
“One century ago, the first Justice Harlan admonished this Court that the Constitution ‘neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,’” Kennedy said. “Unheeded then, those words now are understood to state a commitment to the law’s neutrality where the rights of persons are at stake. The Equal Protection Clause enforces this principle and today requires us to hold invalid a provision of Colorado’s Constitution.”
Bomboy continues, “Then, in 2003, the Supreme Court overturned the Bowers decision in another landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas. And again, Justice Kennedy wrote a majority opinion that focused on gays’ rights versus laws that restricted them. “The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual,” Kennedy said.
On June 26, 2013, a divided Court in United States v. Windsor said that the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) was unconstitutional as a “deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.” And again, Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.
“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages. It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their State, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State,” said Kennedy.
“It also forces same-sex couples to live as married for the purpose of state law but unmarried for the purpose of federal law, thus diminishing the stability and predictability of basic personal relations the State has found it proper to acknowledge and protect,” he added.
Finally, in the case of Obergefell, Bomboy notes Kennedy’s decisive role: And in Obergefell v. Hodges from 2015, Kennedy’s majority opinion established that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment recognizes a national right to same-sex marriage. “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state,” he said.
“As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right,” Kennedy said.
Writing in Bloomberg, Noah Feldman correctly observes, “Kennedy became the swing voter and the lead author in a series of gay-rights cases that, over 20 years, brought the Constitution from tolerating outright bans on gay sex to requiring states and the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage. The key rationale behind those cases was the idea of “equal dignity,” a concept that Kennedy developed to bridge the doctrinal gap between the right to privacy on the one hand, and the equal protection of the laws on the other.”
In fact, so important is Justice Kennedy’s work on this issue that his ‘Opinion Excerpt’ is frequently read at the marriage ceremonies of Gay couples; it is a kind of sacred text that defends the rite taking place.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilizations oldest institutions. They ask for dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
IT IS SO ORDERED
The Issue of Identity Moved Kennedy
At the core of Kennedy’s decision was a belief about IDENTITY. This belief, this notion of personal identity rooted in self-awareness, expression, and self-definition, is THE issue which moved Kennedy and thus MOVED the revolution.
In the Texas case, he wrote, ‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.’ In the Obergefell case, Kennedy began his opinion, ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ (Italics mine, in both quotes).
In other words, the legal Constitutional framework for the Sexual Revolution in America that has resulted in Gay Marriage and a whole host of other new legal protections for those engaged in homosexual relationships is NOT the issue of human dignity as God’s creatures revealed in sacred Scripture and repeated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. It is founded on a new philosophical order that roots human dignity in the right to self-definition: “I am who I am”.
As it stands now, the Law supports everyone in whatever actions they take which they deem are consistent with their self-definition because their dignity is at stake. If I am a man that believes myself to be a woman, then a woman is what I am, and others must acknowledge this reality; I have declared it and my declaration is sovereign. The same is true for those who are female and feel themselves to be male… or perhaps one gender on Monday and another by Thursday. It is true for men or women who, contrary to their bodies, desire sexual union with those of the same sex. Such desires are as legitimate and protected as desires for the opposite sex and suggesting otherwise will earn one a swift censure.
While transgender issues and gay issues are very different matters, the philosophical roots for the way both are handled in our culture, and the reasoning behind the language employed to define the legal parameters of each, is identical – the philosophy of self-asserting identity as determinative for being and dignity. The homosexual man is not unclear about his gender or the gender of his preferred sexual partner. The transgendered man is unclear, for any number of reasons, about his gender or the preferred gender of a sexual partner. In both cases, however, the legal foundation for their pursuit of those relationships is precisely the same: self-assertive identity.
This philosophical and legal shift shows no signs of slowing down or being reversed.
Christians must now either abide by the new definition of dignity as defined by asserted identity discovered in desires and codified by our Highest Court or perish as participants in the culture. We Christians are being told that our millenniums-held basis for human dignity as men and women made in God’s image is not only inadequate as an account for human flourishing and freedom, but is, in fact, false, harmful, bigoted, and anti-American. The attack is not only religious (Your religion is repugnant) but cultural (You can no longer come to the party or speak your opinion in public spaces of cultural influence).
Christians are responding to this new situation in a variety of ways.
Some Christians have responded by saying, “We had it wrong all along. Sorry about that.” In this new equally radical view, the Christian doctrine of the love of neighbor means that one must approve of what one’s neighbor does or feels, regardless of what was once thought of as ‘sin’. Love means approval and acceptance, rather than generosity, service, and kindness. Tolerance means accepting as true all claims for truth made by others while refusing to speak of or defend the truth claims one holds.
Obviously, love of neighbor IS our duty, no matter the neighbor or her spiritual condition, religious views, or sexual desires. Yet this love is a witness to the Love of God that sacrifices himself on the Cross because of the reality of sin. Authentic love does not deny sin even as it serves despite its reality. The Christian is aware that she is the recipient of great mercy and rejoices to extend that mercy to all, regardless of religion, asserted identity, or any other aspect of human brokenness.
Yet another line of reasoning among these people holds that Scriptural references that forbid sexual acts between men and men or between women and women are either outmoded and outdated, or have simply been misunderstood: these weren’t prohibitions against sex between homosexuals but prohibitions against homosexual acts by heterosexuals. Follow that?
Importing to the Scripture the modern notions of homosexual identity rather than desire and deed, they twist the Scriptures to fit their new position of cultural accommodation so they can retain their positions of affluence and entre among the cultural elites. From Bishop Gene Robinson of ECUSA and author Matthew Vines to the late Rachel Held-Evans and church leader and author Jen Hatmaker, champions for this new accommodationist position among Christians are finding their voice and gaining a following. For these Christians, a denial of the traditional Christian sexual ethic is central to how they communicate Christian truth.
Sometimes these people are referred to as ‘Side A Christians’ – they are largely Orthodox in their historic credal affirmations but wholly radical when it comes to their views of human identity and sexuality. They are ‘affirming’, which means they celebrate same-sex unions on just the same basis as opposite-sex unions, or same-sex relationships – prior to marriage – as acceptable in the same way that opposite-sex couples may ‘hook up’ and still be regarded as good church members. Side A disciples would use a term like ‘Gay Christian’ to denote a man or woman who claims to believe in Jesus but who also continues to engage in homosexual acts arising from homosexual desires, all while defending and celebrating these as authentically Christian.
An entirely different response has arisen from those who are often referred to as ‘Side B Christians’. By way of contrast with Side A, these Christians affirm the long-held Biblical norms of sexual morality and practice. They insist that persons experiencing same-sex attraction that remains unaltered through life must affirm that marriage is between one man and one woman as this bears faithful witness to Christ in his love for the Church, which is his Bride. They will insist that same-sex attracted Christians live celibate lives, often in communities of friendship, or enter into opposite-sex marriages. Singleness is promoted as a joy rather than a curse, a place of magnified service, as it was for Paul and Timothy. Prominent Side B leaders include Rosaria Butterfield, Nate Collins, Wesley Hill, Christopher Yuan, Sam Allberry, Tim Geiger, and many, many more.
Needless to say, I have little sympathy for the Side A approach. Look, if one wishes to assert that in this free and democratic society, civil authorities may make changes to the law as they deem appropriate, including family law, and it’s frankly not the Church’s position to speak about such things, OK, I at least understand your view. In fact, I should be clear that I believe embracing a culture war approach on these issues is not only futile but damaging to the cause of the Gospel as it inevitably politicizes the Faith. However, if you seek to take the Christian Scriptures and teaching on such matters and twist them to conform to a new cultural majority opinion – which is exactly what ‘Side A’ followers are doing – then you are behaving in rank infidelity to Scripture and the Church. That’s not a culture war issue; that’s a fidelity to the Gospel issue inside the Church.
Within the Side B ranks, however, despite agreement on Orthodox views of the Faith and historical Christian teaching on human sexuality, a substantial divergence of opinion exists over a variety of issues, in particular the wisdom of using the phrase ‘Gay Christian’. Bearing in mind how Side A followers employ the phrase, many in Side B do not want to see anyone use that phrase for those who have come to faith in Christ, even if they continue to experience same-sex desires, all while affirming the long-held Christian position on human sexuality and living in chastity as singles or in mixed marriages. It is this disagreement that sparked both of these very long essays.
Things have been a little heated as of late on this issue, especially in the PCA. For instance, despite the fact that Revoice’s Nate Collins, or PCA Pastor Greg Johnson don’t use ‘Gay Christian’ in self-referential ways or endorse ‘Gay Christian’ language, they are frequently said to do so. The same is true of my friend Stephen Moss. When I hear people say that these men do use that language to describe themselves or others, I have to wonder if they’re listening carefully to what’s being said. So when people in the PCA bang the drum on this issue as a problem in the PCA, I can’t help but think they’re operating out of fear of what might occur rather than awareness of what is the case. I have heard other Side B leaders use this language, but they’re not in the PCA.
I really appreciate what I heard Harvest Director Tim Geiger say on the subject recently. In a meeting he spoke at as a guest of our Presbytery Study Committee, he noted that while he would not use that language, he also recognized that it was a matter of sanctification in understanding for many. Tim knows, as do I, that people are in a lot of different places in this journey to wholeness and listening to them with compassion and patience is a must as we seek to serve people.
Side B leaders like Rosaria Butterfield and Christopher Yuan have exprssed important and sometimes critical differences between their position and that of other Side B leaders like Wesley Hill and Ron Belgau. I respect everyone engaged in this discussion so very much that I’d suggest that they all, along with the very able Mark Yarhouse and John Freeman, have so much in common that they belong around the table conferring with one another with a view to helping us all better grasp reality and how to serve Christ and his people.
The Side B Christians I know who do use ‘Gay Christian’ language are simply seeking to be both honest about their faith and their ongoing struggle when they have not experienced a change of direction in terms of desire as they continue to pursue walking with Jesus.
Most everyone acknowledges that 180 degree changes of direction in erotic desire are very rare, and discredited ‘pray the gay away’ approaches to the pursuit of holiness are harmful and out of step with the Gospel. It is understandable why some Side B leaders believe saying ‘Gay Christians’ is simply an honest way of speaking, and it has the added advantage, in their view, of helping in communication as they reach out into the Gay community with the Gospel. For all the reasons I’ve already stated, I don’t think this is the right way to approach matters, but I have much to learn from these friends and I thank God for them, even as I make the case for a clear line on how we speak of identity.
Deeper and more patient listening by all, for which my colleague Scott Sauls has ably advocated in his recent superb post (see http://scottsauls.com/blog/2019/07/06/pca-and-nashville-statement/), is an absolute must right now. Everyone should be around the table working together, not behind the barricades hurling accusations at one another.
I’d forgive anyone asking, ‘Why in the world have you gone to such lengths to explore all of this background when what you’re dealing with is a very small matter among a very small group of believers, apparently mostly in a pretty small denomination?’
In short, language matters and right now, in this unprecedented cultural moment, it has to matter for Christians as never before. This is no ‘small matter’. This is the crux of identity, and if handled incorrectly could undermine Gospel clarity and Biblical anthropology, both leading to the decimation of the Church in the west over the next twenty-five years.
A delegation of religious officials from Jerusalem was sent on a fact-finding mission to the Judean desert, investigating the growing popularity of the radical prophet, John the Baptist. Upon arrival, they interviewed him, trying to ascertain what kind of leader he might turn out to be. “Are you the Messiah?”, they asked. John repudiated that suggestion. “What then, Elijah?” Again John denied that identity. “Who are you then? What do you say about yourself? We need to give an answer to the people who sent us” (John 1:25ff).
“Who are you… what do you say about yourself?”
When John did tell them who he was he answered from Isaiah. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness…” John knew who he was not because of the expectations others placed on him, or because of his remarkable gifts and evident success, but through the words of Scripture. His identity was determined by the declaration of God concerning him.
We are not our desires – these merely point us to the ultimate One in whom our hearts might find full and eternal consolation and satisfaction. We are not our sexuality – even our status as male and female for the purpose of marriage and procreation is a temporary relationship; in eternity we are ‘as the angels’ and not given in marriage. We are not our accomplishments – they will either fade away as the product of our own efforts, or become crowns we cast before Christ in worship, acknowledging that all comes from him, exists through him, and returns to him.
We are who God says we are, not what we assert that we are. Only God can properly say, “I AM that I AM.”
We are humans made in God’s image, according to his likeness, male and female, just a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory.
We are humans in need of a Savior because the image of God in us has been vandalized by our rebellion against God. The fateful poison of that pride runs deep in us, influencing us at every step and enslaving our wills to sin.
We are humans justified/made righteous and adopted by the Father through the atoning work of Christ, united to him by the Holy Spirit, sanctified by the Spirit’s work to conform us to Christ, and in a life-long fight to the death with temptations from without made more enticing by the sin which continues to indwell us. We are simil iustus et pecator.
We are humans who were slaves to sin, but who are now sons and daughters of God.
We are humans whose best deeds did not and could not save us because our very best was still polluted with the toxins that destroyed us to begin with, but whose deeds now, however pitiable, are sacred offerings made perfect in heaven through Jesus’ mediation.
We were dead but now we’re alive
We were in Adam, but now we are in Christ
We were part of the old order of death, but now in Christ we are a new creation.
We are NOT our sexuality or desires, both part of a world that is passing away.
We are NOT rich or poor, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, Gay or Straight. We are in Christ, and while we are not yet all we shall be we are most assuredly not who we once were.
‘Gay’ and ‘Straight’, ‘Homosexual’ and ‘Heterosexual’ are NOT words that describe my God-bestowed identity, even if they accurately describe the current state of erotic desires I find within me.
Paul wrote to Christians living in one of the most sexually licentious cultures of the ancient world, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
And later he wrote them again saying, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
We are in Christ, and while we are not yet all we shall be we are most assuredly not who we once were. We were once fallen; we are now new; we will one day find ourselves restored to the ancient beauty that our sin has violated.
As a Christian I believe it would be improper for me to use a word from my past life to describe my current identity, except to say that I am a sinner who lives in perpetual repentance, looking to the Savior. In the case of ‘Gay Christian’ language, it would also be reckless and unhelpful for me to employ that phrase as it is representative of a non-Biblical way of viewing my brothers and sisters and neighbors. No matter what we may continue to encounter of sin’s terrible presence within us, we are not known by the presence of that power. Our identity, our answer to the question, “Who are you… what do you say about yourself?” can only be adequately answered by referring to God’s unchanging word rather than the unsettled, tossing and turning senses of myself.
A New Day
Those of us within the Christian community who hold to the ancient paths on human identity and sexuality need to extend grace to one another as we all wrestle with how to express ourselves both pastorally and evangelistically. The pace of change in the culture has made discourse difficult at all levels. So let’s bear with one another and help one another navigate these tricky currents.
Let us make sexual holiness our priority in sanctification, just as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. We must reclaim marital sexual relations as holy, as Hebrews states, and maintain that standard despite the contrary views of a prevailing culture that fears commitment and except in reference to the pursuit of pleasure.
Let us also embrace fully our many brothers and sisters who once thought of themselves as first Gay but now find themselves in Christ and are learning to think of themselves first as ‘Christian’. Let us make certain that they and their families are not excluded from the life of the Church and her service in the world as they too grow in faith, hope, and love alongside all in the Church.
Let us make sure that our churches are places where all people are welcomed graciously and served faithfully, hearing the Gospel proclaimed in truth and love.
Let us work to make sure our churches, filled with the presence of God, are places of safety for children, honor for women, and places where singles find themselves honored as servants of Christ, as were Paul and Timothy, not pushed aside by a culture that sees marriage as the only valid path of Christian discipleship.
Let us acknowledge our own sexual brokenness as our first witness to the Gospel in the world, together with our repentance for our many hypocrisies and ill-treatment of fellow image-bearers because of their sexual desires for those of the same gender. Let us begin with the log in our own eye before addressing the specks in the eyes of others. Let us lead with repentance.
Let us seek the good of our cities and towns, working in love with all, regardless of creed or the lack thereof; regardless of whether or not they accept a Christian view of reality. God’s common grace upon all and through all has ministered to us already through the talents of men and women who would today call themselves ‘Gay.’ Whether in commerce or art, medicine or the military, music or architecture, let us give thanks to God for these blessings and bless those he has used to bestow them on his creatures.
Let us cease being shocked when the un-Christian world behaves in un-Christian ways, making ourselves the arbiters of morality rather than embracing our call to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to all. We are not here to tell the world how to operate; we are here to bear faithful witness to Jesus. That in itself, by word and deed, by message and example will, as Dr. King showed, bring about the changes needed.
Let us dedicate ourselves to be so fully engaged in sharing the Gospel of Jesus with people, that when people are asked what they first think of when they hear the word ‘Christian’, it will not be ‘the people who are anti-gay bigots’, or ‘the people who are political and after power’, but rather ‘Yes, those are the people who serve so kindly and generously in my community, and can’t stop talking about what great things Jesus has done for them.’
I have to believe that these goals are ones all in the PCA can embrace together and work towards prayerfully.
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