My first love was a gay man. A charismatic and flamboyant flirt, he was my best friend through those awkward teen years between 14 and 18. He had devastating brown eyes, a raunchy sense of humor and a vicious wit. He could take apart the biggest jock or the most authoritative teacher with a sentence or two, but he put up with me and that’s saying a lot. I was an annoying, awkward, painfully shy, and self-righteous good girl.
I remember praying desperately that God would somehow let me marry him. We actually “went out” for about a minute the summer I was sixteen. When he broke up with me I was crushed but we remained good friends throughout high school. The summer before I left for college, he said he had something to tell me but I needed to guess. When I eventually guessed that he was bisexual, he said yes. I now realize how difficult that had to be for him and how scared he must have been under his bravado. I told him I loved him and accepted him but I thought that gay sex was wrong. He told me he couldn’t believe how well I was taking it. We stopped a coffee shop and talked it over before work. Outwardly, I played it cool. Inwardly, I was freaking out.
At lunch, I found one of the youth leaders and told her about my friend’s revelation in between sobs. I was horrified that my friend may be entering a life of sin. She comforted me and suggested I meet with the assistant pastor who gave me a booklet about overcoming bondage. I know I read through it but I don’t know if I ever gave it to my friend. I didn’t really believe even then that he could change who he was.
We hung out a lot that summer in between work. We had dinner and coffee together. He asked me moral questions about sex to which I had no answers. At the end of the summer he gave me a packet of torenout pages of magazines that he had written advice for college on in black sharpie and even added a few perfume samples to freshen the air of my dorm room. I still have it. Later, he came out as simply gay.
In college, I began to research what science knew about homosexuality. The etiology of homosexuality became important to me. I thought if could figure out what caused it, I would know if it was moral or not. At first, it was my opinion that homosexual feelings developed from a propensity to characteristics that caused a person to act more like their opposite gender and other people calling them gay so that it eventually became a self-fulfilling prophesy. As I studied biology more , it became obvious that sexuality is not nearly as simple as one would guess. A dynamic and fragile interplay between genes, hormones, and chromosomes takes place in the womb, which more often than one would guess, don’t quite go as expected.
I met a friend in college who was activley trying to get the PCUSA to accept gay and lesbian clergy. We argued theology and I accompanied him to a candle light vigil protesting violence against GLBT students. I felt like a fraud at that vigil since I still believed that homosexuality was wrong, however I strongly believed in preventing violence against anyone. Eventually, through my conversations with my friends, I realised that the Bible wasn’t nearly as clear on the subject as I had once thought. There were only a few scriptures dealing with homosexuality. Compared to those dealing with fear, pride or materialism, scripture on homosexuality is only microscopic amount. The first scripture was Leviticus 18:22 and was found along side of laws that Christians no longer follow, such as the ban on eating pork or shellfish, having sex while menstruating, wearing clothes made of mixed fibers, or getting tattoos. The ones in the New Testament (Romans 1:18-32) all had to do with prostitution and idolatry. All except one. In 1:Corinthians 6:9, the word arsenokoitai, a word that Paul probably created (he had a perchance for making up words), had something to do with unequal sex. That could mean a lot of things: pedophilia, marrying an unbeliever, non- consensual sex, homosexuality, or temple prostitution. It seemed like a bad idea to base an entire theology on a word that no one could verify the meaning of. Eventually, I started attending a Gay Strait Alliance and became a straight ally. My dorm room was officially a safe place for GLBTQ people who needed a shoulder to cry on or a place to come out.
All this time, although I didn’t realise it and before this term was created, I was a Side B Christian. Side B Christians believe gay people cannot change who they are attracted to but have the obligation of not acting on their attractions. They believe being gay isn’t a sin but gay sex is. I realized that clearly people cannot help who they are attracted to. I can’t change my sexual preference and I can’t change which men I find appealing. The fact that I find Adam Levine, Liam Neeson, and Ryan Gosling hot but Mark Walberg, Brad Pitt and Channing Tatum kind of meh is completely out of my control. Trying to convince me that Channing is hotter than Adam is useless. I still thought acting on the attraction was wrong though. Just like a married man being attracted to a woman who is not his wife is not a sin but is simple biology but using her image for fuel for the spank bank later is a sin. This is why the etiology of homosexuality is unimportant in it’s morality. My biology may make me attracted to any number of men, but it’s my choice of what I do with that attraction.
Eventually, however, I realised I no longer believed that a committed, lifelong homosexual relationship was a sin. This put me firmly in the Side A camp, which are Christians who do not believe that gay marriage is sinful. There were several reasons for this. The primary reason was Jesus. He said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:38-40. I realized the reason that we follow laws such as “don’t covet” or “don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” is because it breaks the law of love. However, as Christians, we feel free to eat pork or get a tattoo because it doesn’t. Other commands, such as head coverings for women or short hair for men that are mentioned in the Bible are considered cultural and not important today. The crux came when I was having a discussion with a friend and the laws of Noah came up. He stated the reason Christians believe homosexuality is a sin while eating pork is not, is because we still follow the laws of Noah, one of which is against homosexuality. He had a point. In Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem was trying to decide whether Gentiles should be circumcised if they became Christians. The final council decided they did not need to be, however they still seemed to restrict the Gentiles to the laws of Noah “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” Acts 15:29. So if Christians should follow the laws of Noah as well as the law of love, it would make sense that homosexual acts would be immoral. However, it seems like a lot of Christians eat blood (black pudding or blood sausage anyone?). So why can we break that one and not the one against a committed homosexual relationship? The reason is that throughought history, the law of love has been the gold standard for whether an action is moral or immoral. It doesn’t seem to break this law to eat blood nor does it break it to be in a life long committed homosexual relationship.
This is why I am a Side A Christian. However, I live with and love Christians who are Side B or undecided. The one thing we can all agree on is that World Visions decision to go back on their first decision to allow married gay people to be empoyed in their organization is devastating. For me, it’s another example of Christians marginalizing an already marginalized group. It’s silencing a voice that we desperately need to hear. For my friends who are Side B, it is creating a false hierarchy of sins as well as preventing more hands from feeding the poor. Why is it more important that someone is in a gay marriage than it is that someone is materialistic, proud, fearful, lustful, hateful, a glutton or an adulterer ?The Bible and Jesus actually speak to those things much more than homosexuality. Why doesn’t World Vision ban people with those sins? Either way, it was an incredibly hurtful decision.