How did you reconcile this with your faith?

How did you reconcile this with your faith?

JohnSmidPensiveB&W#1I have often questioned people who have embraced their homosexuality and their Christian faith. “In light of the traditional view of God’s opposition to homosexual relationships, how have you come to reconcile this part of your life?” I really want to know what it is that has become the major factor in ones ability to find peace with God knowing they are going against the flow of years of Christian tradition. What were the factors that have played a role in helping find peace and joy living an open Gay life?


Matthew Vines has recently published his new book, God and the Gay Christian which has become very controversial. It is claimed to be one of the most impacting books of the year! Matthew has gone over the top to work to embrace his faith and reconcile his homosexuality.


As a young Christian man, Matthew Vines harbored the same basic hopes of most young people: to someday share his life with someone, to build a family of his own, to give and receive love. But when he realized he was gay, those hopes were called into question. The Bible, he’d been taught, condemned gay relationships.


Feeling the tension between his understanding of the Bible and the reality of his same-sex orientation, Vines devoted years of intensive research into what the Bible says about homosexuality. – Amazon Description


Dr. Michael Brown wrote an article based on four rhetorical questions he poses to professing gay Christians. I find these questions to be helpful in my own answers to those questions.


Today, however, more and more men and women who identify as LGBT are professing to be devoted Christians, believing that the church has wrongly interpreted the Scriptures through the centuries and claiming that committed, monogamous same-sex relationships can be blessed by God. – Dr. Michael Brown


Needless to say, I’ve written an entire book (Ex’d Out, How I Fired the Shame Committee) that chronicles my own personal journey in making this transition myself. But I’m still discovering other factors and other ways of communicating my answers. I’d like to take a stab at answering his questions.


Question 1: “Are you 100% sure that your interpretation of Scripture regarding homosexuality is correct?”


Throughout my vocation in ministry with LBGT people spanning over two decades, as well as my personal walk of faith for thirty years, there have been many unanswered questions about what the bible says and doesn’t say about homosexuality. As I continue to study, review, and listen, those questions continue. There are perspectives from many angles that continue to be revealed on this matter. The dialogue is certainly heating up in this day and age of revelation and from the information superhighway.


There are people who say they have absolute certainty about what the bible says and yet I question their honesty. The words written do speak of certain same sex behaviors that are incongruent with love and commitment in significant relationship. There are clearly prohibitions of idolatrous practices between two people of the same gender. Some of the words Paul uses regarding same sex behavior have been tremendously controversial as well as the understanding of the Hebrew or Greek languages from thousands of years ago seems to be studied and questioned regularly. Truthfully, no one can say they have it figured out 100%.


No, I cannot say I am 100% certain about what the bible says, or doesn’t say about homosexuality, or a full understanding of the interpretation of the verses commonly attached to same sex behavior. But I can say I have learned more in the recent years than I have known previously and what I have discovered has impacted my life deeply.


Question 2: “Do your beliefs start with certainty about the authority of Scripture, or do they start with certainty about your ’sexual orientation’?”


My beliefs and life practice begin with what I have known about the bible. I believe that the Bible has been given to us as a significant reference point regarding my faith, and belief in God as my Creator and Savior. I agree that the Bible is useful for correction, for guidance and as God’s love story for His people. I do not minimize the significance of how the bible plays a role in the formation of my own faith and Christian practice.


I must say I am very certain about my sexual orientation having lived with it for my entire life. There has never been a question in my mind as to where my romantic, and sexual attractions are. And to add to that, I don’t think God is the least bit surprised at my being gay and believe He has been actively leading my life throughout the years to discover more of myself and how I might make decisions about the results of that pursuit.


It sounds as though Dr. Brown is trying to separate the two points as though they can be mutually exclusive. My experience with homosexuality has always been subject to my faith and my relationship with God.


Question 3 “What do you say to those people who are genuinely ex-gay or to those who are still same-sex attracted but have chosen to separate themselves to the Lord unless he changes them?”


I had a public presence that communicated every day that I was ExGay for 25 years. Most who knew me would have never questioned me on my story of God’s intervention in my life. I held my cards close to my chest hiding them from virtually everyone. I severely minimized this reality in the way I spoke about my attractions, desires, and deep needs for same gender love and affection. I can’t say I lied, but I can say I was not authentic out of the fear that I would lose far too much if that kind of honesty came forth.


For those who say they are ExGay, I have no right to question their sincerity or their life experience. Who am I to judge, or to interpret their sexuality or to asses their desires? I know men who are married to women that prior to their wedding, have had a life experience with homosexuality that was real for them. Some of these men appear to be genuinely content with their marriages and their life in general. I also appeared to be genuinely content in my life as a Christian gay man who was married to a woman. I was certainly not going to in any way communicate anything to the contrary during those years. It was far too fearful for me to be that honest with myself, much less with others. But, honestly, I know other men who outwardly live what would be considered to be an ExGay life and yet they are acting on their same sex desires outside of their marriages. Yes, I do question the ExGay story.


However, while sharing a public testimony of change, deep inside I knew that nothing had changed and I did everything I could to suppress the deeper inner desires and anxiety that I lived with every day. So, honestly, I am hesitant to believe all I hear. But this doesn’t mean I won’t accept someone’s word that they consider themselves ExGay and live in peace with that. Some have been quite pointed with me that they believe God wants them to live a life without same sex romance or sexual expression and in that conviction they find joy in believing they are obedient to God in their sexuality.


I know men who are celibate who say they have joy and satisfaction in living a celibate life that they believe is congruent with their faith. What I question is what would they do if they discovered that it was acceptable to open themselves up to a monogamous same gender loving relationship? If their faith would allow them to have that, what would they do then? Would they admit that their heart’s desire had always been to find that part of their soul fulfilled? Sadly, for many, the longing that exists to connect to another soul in a deeply intimate way is staved off through one night stands and through the internet in unfulfilling ways. I’d like to hear a little more honesty from people regarding the real truth about their desires. I do at times believe that some people sugar coat their stories almost as though they are claiming something in faith that they do not experience in the hope it may come true some day. This is exactly what I did. I wasn’t truly honest during those years and gave the same messages of happiness and joy about being obedient to God as I believed I was called to be.


Question 4: “If you were convinced that God opposed all forms of homosexual practice, would you follow him anyway?”


When I first began my walk of a personal faith in God over thirty years ago, I separated myself from all of my gay friends. I became celibate. I spent $40,000 of my own personal money and twenty two years of my life to find healing, change, and the tools to live an obedient life because I believed God was opposed to any sexual expression with another man. I was taught to believe in the miracles of God to heal, to deliver, and to transform. It was my hope that I would find that miracle in my sexuality and I was going to serve God regardless of whether I got my miracle or not. I got married believing God would honor my decision and that He would heal my sexuality to the point where I would find satisfaction and joy within what I believed to be His will for my sexual and relational needs.


I think I proved my willingness to follow God deeply according to the convictions that I believed were from Him. I was convinced God was opposed to any form of seeking to fulfill my same sex desires. I lived within those convictions to a fault until I found changes within my personal faith and my understanding of the bible.


The changes in my convictions that have occurred didn’t begin with me pursuing a same sex relationship and then attempting to justify it. These changes began with changes in my view of scripture, church practice and in my own personal relationship with God. Over a period of eight years I prayed, studied, and began to embrace a renewal in my understanding of God’s grace and love for me as well as an overall view of the bible that is now filtered through the love that I know is God’s heart for me and for His creation.


After I embraced this refreshed relationship with God I began to see things very differently than I had for the previous 25 years. I began to see that the prohibition of fulfilling the deep inner desires for connection, love, intimate and fulfilling sexuality had come from what I believe to be a faulty interpretation of the bible as well as what I believe now to be fear based teaching on redemption and God’s heart for His people on this matter.


So, I was no longer convinced that God is opposed to same sex monogamous relationships. Once I began to see God as far more loving and personal than I had ever believed, I began to open up my heart to a more honest and authentic life. The suppression of the deep desires surfaced and I came to believe that God truly was open to me seeking Him for the desires of my heart to embrace my natural and very intimate gay self.


Along  this journey I’ve sought God with all of my heart. I have questioned, I have released and subjected my decisions to Him regularly. Each step of the way, the doors have opened without my need to pry them, or force any decisions I’ve made to embrace my homosexual reality.


For Dr. Brown to infer that there are not Gay Christians who savor their relationship with God, or subject their lives and decisions to Him is to deny their words and minimize their testimonies.


I would not want to deny the stories I hear from others who consider themselves ExGay, nor those who feel convicted to oppose same sex relationships within the Christian faith. We must have a willingness to trust these differences to the grace of God and continue to love one another throughout this journey called life.


In my opinion the main objective for relationships with those who make it their life goal to pursue God and follow Him is to be as supportive of one another as we can of that journey. I find that far too often in our differences on this matter we have become enemies that have no outcome but that of deep discouragement and separation that in my opinion isn’t of God. I do not believe this is an issue to divide over. I believe it is very important and so much so that it can be a life and death issue. But I don’t believe it is beneficial to reject one another over it.


Honestly, it does seem that in these days of discovery and revelation, there are people who are Christian leaders who seem to want to make this issue a line in the sand within our communities. Their words, questions, and poignant statements are at times divisive and counter productive.


I believe it would be far more beneficial to listen to one another than to throw the daggers of criticism at one another. Thankfully, I have friends on all sides of this issue. There are those whom I used to serve with in the ExGay movement that I consider to be gracious loving people with whom I cherish and enjoy wonderful relationship. Some people who have walked with me for many years continue to show their love and support even though they disagree with my life choices and my biblical understanding. Sadly, there are also those whom I’ve loved sincerely that have severed relationship with me over this matter. I feel grieved about the loss of our connection and wish it could be different. But even in that, I understand this can be a very emotional and challenging matter for many people.


We can ask these questions and truly desire to hear the answers in a healthy and intimate dialogue, or we can ask with an agenda to conform, or to change the other’s opinion through the questioning venue. I think we can discern the differences in the motives for the questions and recoil from answering them when the motive is to teach, or preach to the one we are questioning. I know I can tell the difference. Which one do you think is the loving way? Jesus asked lots of questions.


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2 Responses to “How did you reconcile this with your faith?”

  1. Some Honest Questions for a Professing ‘Anti Gay’ Christian | Middle Ground says:

    [...] readers who would prefer a shorter (and much more gracious) answer to Dr Brown, please see this response by John [...]

  2. Charlotte Norton says:

    Hello John. We do not know each other but I have followed your story with interest and I’m really glad you responded so graciously to Dr Brown’s questions (I found your response while writing my own). Choosing not to ’sugar coat’ your experiences can be costly but it is real, and I believe your story will help speak freedom to many who struggle under heavy and unrealistic burdens. May you be richly blessed as you continue to tell your story.

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