Single and Gay?

I’ll tell you my church story.

Disclaimer: not meant to offend; merely expression of an individual’s emotional development in and out of church life.

Background

I was never raised religious. No one in my family was particularly into God. Superstition yes. But never loyal to one religion.

Religion was something I stumbled upon. It began with grade school. Back then most schools were either Catholic or Protestant, at least the more decent ones. I loved the bible – the stories fantastical, a Jesus figure that loved you as you are. To a kid that’s pretty comforting. An all powerful God too –  no longer need to fear the gremlins and monsters lurking in the dark. Say a prayer and God the father will come to your rescue and annihilate all the scary demons.

I don’t say this sarcastically. I’ve seen the power of, shall we narrow it down to, “Christianity”? To the meekest and lonesomest ones it provides comfort. To the sinners and the down-trodden it raises them from the bottom rungs and tells them they are worthy. It doesn’t matter if your mom or dad or sister or brother didn’t love you. God does. And that should be enough. I’ve seen near destroyed lives picked up and pieced together by the power of Christianity.

Problem came when church teachings didn’t align with rational thought. This gets a bit messy. Every church is different and every interpretation of the bible is slightly different depending on which denomination you’re from. Baptists believe that one must be baptised to be saved. Catholics believe you can enter a purgatory after life on earth to earn your way back to heaven. Some, like Pentecostals, practice the speaking of tongues. Mine doesn’t. Then you have the other denominations on the further end of the spectrum – and be careful now – if you slip a little too far away from mainstream you’ll be classified as culty. Mormons don’t make the Christianity cut – but I appreciate the similarities in parts of their book and the bible.

Same Sex

My problem with church began with homosexuality. I’m not gay, but a handful of good friends are. The awkwardness began when I was told regularly at church that God wasn’t ok with gayness. There are biblical backings – the obvious one Sodom and Gomorrah. And a handful of passages in Romans and other old testament books that condemns same sex coupling.

Yet there are contradictions. A handful of practices that were not ok in the old testament are now ok. I’m thinking menstruation, and how a woman was perceived as unclean and sinful during her bleeding (Leviticus 15); how pork was perceived as unclean and not to be consumed (Leviticus, Deuteronomy); how slavery was ok (old and new testament alike); how having multiple wives was ok (old testament). Some of these practices (like polygamy) could be explained away by Jesus’ condemning of such in the new testament, but bottom line is, the forbidding or allowing of practices/customs changes with time. As we learn more about the world, especially in the realms of science, as our humanity evolves and we develop new standards for morality, so does our interpretation of the bible and official church doctrine.

We’re already seeing this evolvement in the homosexuality debate. Churches are divided. There are the conservative churches that still hold on to the traditional teachings against homosexuality, and you have, for instance, some Anglican churches allowing and blessing same-sex unions, perhaps even allowing gay people as candidates for bishophood. My church is against homosexuality. I don’t have a problem with it, but in order not to ostracise myself from religious friends whom I’ve known a long time, I don’t get into debates about this. I just won’t sign or support anything that condemns homosexual behaviour.

Sex

My second problem is sex. The most usual form of sexuality condoned by Christians is the heterosexual, no-premarital intercourse type. It’s straight forward (no pun intended!): if you’re straight, don’t have sex with anyone else other than your spouse (extra points for not masturbating and watching pornography), then you’re ok. There’s no need to feel guilty, unclean, wrong.

But what if you don’t fit into this narrow mould? Worse – what if you’re single and getting older?

Then you’re bound to a lifelong existence of loneliness and holiness.

I say this out of observation. Single church life is very lonely. While I understand there are ministries and fellowships directed towards single people, truth is for almost every church most of the resources are directed towards Christian couples and families. The pastor is almost always a married man with a family. People high up in the church power ladder are almost always married. Married couples, at some point, no longer understand the needs of a single person at 30, 40, 50 and above. There was an amazing article discussing this phenomenon, and the message in it was that married church couples need to acknowledge that they don’t understand the singlehood church life, and that church as a whole needs to reach out and provide more resources to single churchgoers.*

The difficulties of singlehood within church becomes inhumane at a point. Let me illustrate. You’re a man of 35. For whatever reason you weren’t able to find the wife that God prepared for you. Perhaps it wasn’t God’s will that you marry. But your heart says otherwise, and you long to get married. Every brother around you now has a wife, and perhaps young children. They’ve settled well into couple/family life, have new responsibilities, and the fellowship time you guys shared during the single days has long vanished.

You find it harder to stay pure. Because your church doesn’t allow masturbation (some may – but from what I know most don’t), you release your sexual energy through guilt-ridden, angry sessions of jerking-off, maybe accompanied with pornography. You may or may not admit this “sin” in your small-group sessions. There is some resentment, because (let’s assume you’re part of a couple plus singles all male small-group) the married guys can obviously have sex with their wives. But you can’t. Because if you have sex you’ll be committing adultery.

The girls start looking at you weird. If you’re lucky, a much younger Christian woman might find you a catch and marry you despite the near 10 to 15 year age difference. Or maybe it so happens that both of you are single at 40+ and ready to take that step in marriage. But if you’re not that great of a catch, ain’t that good looking, as you age you tread closer and closer to crossing that threshold of sleazy single guy. Couples think twice before inviting you to their baby showers or birthday parties, because it might be awkward. You may have a position of power in church, where you minister to younger kids or perhaps an early-adult fellowship. But the older those kids get, the less relevant you become. As they step into relationships and marriages of their own, they no longer look up to you because you don’t have the marriage experience. What you say holds less weight over time. This is partially the church’s fault. This isn’t Paul’s world anymore where celibacy was celebrated. While married life and single life should be equally valued, since the bible’s message and goal is obedience to God and growing closer to Christ regardless of marital status, in practice married life is much more honoured. This is evidenced by the ridiculously high percentages of pastors being married before ministry.

 

For women it’s equally painful, but perhaps less invasive since traditionally women are perceived as less sexually active and don’t have much of a problem with masturbation and pornography. Note the use of perceived. It doesn’t mean that these women don’t struggle with sexual desires and suffocating feelings of loneliness. It’s just that female “sexual sin” is less of a focus in small-groups and church teachings. Most examples of pornography condemning during church sermons are male focused. I can only speak from my church experience.

But the pain is there. You’re less happy about attending weddings, because you don’t want to be stuck at the couples table where you’ll be the only single person. Or worse, stuck at the singles table where only the awkward leftover unmarried church people are clumped together. Baby showers are painful. While you want to be happy for your sister in Christ for her third child, you can’t help but feel she’s traveling further and further from you in the race of life. No matter – the ultimate gift is eternity with God, right? The pain, the loneliness, the feeling that life or biology jipped you becomes unimportant at the prospect of heaven. Only that it’s not – you’re living this life. And it sucks.

So here you have it. Pockets of single men and women punished to stay asexual, pure, giving, and are expected not to have sex until they get married. A lot of them will stay unmarried, because past a certain age it’s nearly impossible to get a decent date, let alone step towards the direction the alter. These men and women continue to attend church – for many, it’s the only community they’ve known for the past decade or more. They’ve invested week after week of church and small-group attendance, time they could have used to expand their social circle and meet other people, but it’s time they will never get back. At 35, 40, 50, it’s very difficult to break out of that church social circle and meet new friends. Only, now that everyone has formed families of their own, you realise you’re the one left behind.

There are of course problems with married life as well. But I’m not going into that.

If you’re gay, the problem is even more complex, or altogether another problem. You’re theoretically not allowed to have sex with the person you like/love, because you’re not supposed to have sex with people of the same sex, period. Your love for your love interest is sinful. Your natural tendencies to like people of your same sex are altogether sinful. Basically – you are sinful. Forget the “hate the sin, love the person” talk. It’s not possible from a practical level – anything that preaches that sentence will still feel like a huge judgement regardless.

I can’t even imagine the pain and guilt that builds up over time. I’m straight and I’ve felt that guilt and fear throughout my life. I can only multiply that feeling 100 times and assume it as the pain and oppression gay people feel at church.

Next Steps

These are a couple reasons why church no longer makes sense to me. That’s why I’m breaking away from its grips. I’m tired of being told what to think, feeling sorry for those who are marginalised within the church community, disagreeing with certain church doctrines especially in relation to sexuality, and knowing that citizens of church are divided into first and second class: the married and the unmarried.

What are your church stories? Are you a believer struggling with the same thoughts? How have you worked a way around it all? How relevant today are church teachings re sexuality? 


 

*If anyone knows the article name, please share! The article is approximately a year old. 

Further reading: 

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8 thoughts on “Single and Gay?

  1. I always love your posts. You’re a great writer! The posts make me think more. I agree with most of what you had to say. You brought up some very good points. It seems like you don’t mind people sharing their own opinions so I’ll try to keep my thoughts respectful and short.

    First of all, I go to a Baptist church and it’s not necessarily that you must be baptized to be saved. First reason is that Catholics believe that babies could be saved with the sprinkling of water on their heads called infant baptism. This is wrong since how can babies accept and have faith when they don’t know anything. Also, Baptists believe that when a person is baptized, they are showing a confession to Jesus Christ in front of other believers. The thought behind that is that if a person can’t show their belief in front of Christians, how can they stand up for what they believe in front of the world.

    I’m not gay nor do I believe that homosexuality is ok. I won’t even get into the thought that it is gross. As you mention, in the Old Testament God says that He “hates” homosexuality. Although, in another verse He makes it clear that the sin is the thing that he hates. IN the New Testament in 1st Corinthians, Paul brings up that a man should be only with a woman and a woman should only be with a man. As we all know, there are health problems like Aids when people start messing around with the wrong “partner.” In the old testament, the law is made to help people from doing wrong and hurting themselves.

    I know a lot of liberal people that I don’t bother talking about this with them. I don’t agree with them at all and I believe that Christians who do believe that this is fine, are believing in something God clearly says that he hates. However, I’m not one of those Christians who makes trouble by holding up signs or anything else those people who say they are Christians do.

    I get what you mean about being single. It’s honesty a struggle with me. Yeah, I’m a teenager who loves beauty. Sometimes, it’s a struggle. God obviously made marriage and I don’t think he wants anyone to not be married. Sometimes, I’ve seen people who are so clearly matched that God must’ve had something to do with it and they don’t marry them. They then complain that God hasn’t showed them someone to marry.

    I actually go to a pretty liberal church because I love the music and the pastor is good. In the sermons, we don’t talk about those themes but I know a lot of people who are liberals in my church. We just don’t about it. If someone wants my opinions, then I’ll tell them. All they need to do is read the Bible. You can’t accept one thing in the Bible and not believe the other things. You gotta have faith that it’s something that God wishes.

    I hope you don’t mind my long thoughts, which I said would be short. I always love your thoughts. You’re a great writer and I want to hear what you think of my thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not at all – thank you Steve for leaving your thoughts and for being so encouraging about my writing! While you as a baptist attender don’t believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, there are baptist interpretations of the bible (based on e.g. Mark 16) that say that it is. This may be an incorrect interpretation, but it’s still something that’s being preached. Which goes to my first point about different denominations preaching different things. I agree with you regarding what baptism means – it’s a step forward to declare one’s faith openly.
      Agree that the Catholic version of baptism doesn’t make sense – I don’t think God condemns innocent infants to hell if they unfortunately die before understanding anything. Infant baptism is more likely a developed custom rather than God’s will.
      As to the points against homosexuality, I’ll try to respond in summary. Homosexuality is only gross if we have been conditioned to think it as such. In the natural world, many if not all animal species practice homosexual behaviour (see post for more). While that shouldn’t be reason to jump straight into imitating all animal behaviour (e.g. polygamy and killing to survive), it’s scientific fact that loving someone of the same sex isn’t that “unnatural”.
      God in the old testament hated a lot of things … for instance if you read Genesis you get the idea that he hates women. Why purposely make child-birth such a painful and horrible experience? God there was vindictive, almost full of malice. If that same God is the God I believe in, then he’s quite some scary God. And not really forgiving either if he decides to punish a whole human race’s sex, for the rest of time, based on one sin that the first woman made. He made these people and breathed life into them after all! Then we’ll have to talk about free will, but let’s do that another time because it’s way too complex for this comment section. Anyway …. I don’t really believe in Genesis as a literal story. From scientific facts the evidence in support of Darwinian evolution is overwhelming, and it appears the Creationists are losing ground in the debate. In the age of carbon dating, space exploration, physics breakthroughs, it’s kinda hard to argue that the earth is merely 2000 plus years old.
      Regarding people missing out on a great partner right in front of them – yes, that happens! People are fallible and make mistakes. Sometimes even if God puts the greatest things in front of their eyes they miss it. But that kind of waiting for Godot attitude is sometimes exasperated by Christian culture: you need not look too hard, because God prepared something awesome for you. Truth is – if past a certain age and you’re still single and want to be married, you need to get yourself out there like normal secular people do – use dating websites, expand your social circle, expose yourself to new potential companions. Not sit there quietly at church and hope for a husband or wife to land on your lap!
      I used to take the bible as a whole and wasn’t too critical about it. Everything I read was true, because supposedly every word is God breathed. I used to also think homosexuality is gross. But today, I no longer think those things. I believe in a more liberal interpretation of the Christian faith – if it’s true, if God is really great as we know it, then He, and the faith, will withstand anything, including scientific challenges and a shift in humanity’s morality.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I got to admit on a funny note, I’m mostly a Baptist because of the potlucks. There’s a saying around our church, that “Baptists love their potlucks,” which I highly agree with.

    I don’t think any of us have the right to put words into God’s mouth saying who should be saved and not, but I mostly definitely agree with your comment. I think there’s a difference. Yeah, everyone is born with sin in their lives but babies can’t think for themselves.

    The one question that I’m wrestling with that I would be interested in having your take is, what happens to everyone that lived in the Old Testament? You know what I mean? The law was only for the Jews and the Gentiles didn’t know anything about it. Obviously, they knew that there was a God of Israel by all the miracles that He did for the Israelites. However, I feel like all of those people were there for my benefit. I look at that and see that trying to stay perfect by works is impossible. However, People now who want to be saved by Jesus Christ have it in the sense, the easy way to be saved. It’s still very hard to admit that you’re a sinner but you probably get my point.

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    • That’s a great question. I must say I don’t know. To the Egyptian who faced the Israelite’s God that sent them 10 plagues, I wouldn’t imagine it being very easy accepting him as benevolent and loving. Or the many wars that dotted the old testament, where God commanded the slaying of every breathing being (Deuteronomy), God doesn’t appear as very just. So for the people living in those circumstances, not only did they not yet have Jesus’ gift of grace and salvation, they were also filled with the knowledge and rumours that there was an Israelite God out there ready to kill them at war or by the force of nature! Not a very good time to be anti-God. We get the feeling that the conversions back then were fear-based, and not love-based as Christianity today preaches.
      The concept of Christianity hasn’t yet solidified – Christ hasn’t even been born.
      The thing is, if you really believe in a just and merciful God, the only consolation is to trust he knows what he’s doing – like he won’t condemn babies to hell, he won’t condemn innocent civilians in the old testament to hell either. And if they unfortunately were one of the innocents slayed by the Israelites during conflict, you can only hope that God will take care of them and not double screw them over: first send an army to annihilate their city, then send them to eternal damnation…
      Does that make it easy for the person living that very history? Absolutely not. It must have been inhumane, painful, sorrowful. But it’s not just history. We need only look at the current Israel/Palestinian conflict to see live examples of suffering civilians, in the name of God.

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  3. HI, Me again. Just stumbled on your blog and reading most of the posts now so I will definitely spam your email with comments. Hope its not too annoying.
    I really do think that religion is a slippery slope. It doesn’t matter what you practice, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism etc.
    The part I am mainly interested in is the homosexuality topic. My church is not accepting of homosexuals though I personally think they are just as human as I am and are just attracted to the same sex. I do not understand how the same christian that preaches love is the very same christian that will not accept someone because of who they fall in love with.
    To love someone means accepting who they are as a whole, with their flaws, their taste and their interests. And if we preach that we should show love to our neighbors but not accept anyone that is homosexual, I wonder what kind of love we are talking about.
    I believe we should all be able to worship God together, gay or straight and be as one community. I have never found anything gross about being gay and I do not understand Christians that loathe homosexuals. I remember my friend once telling me that homosexual people need Jesus. I was stumped. I just do not get into debates about homosexuals with Christians anymore because there is so much hate that spews out of such discussions and you wonder just what Christianity really is about and how the God they claim to love can condone such hate about the very people He created.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi kaycee, thanks for leaving such a thoughtful reply! No you’re not spamming at all, not to worry. I agree with your thoughts. Sometimes it’s tough to be in an environment which vilifies another group just because historically that’s what was done. And sometimes because of how people interpret the bible. I think it could also be fear, and deflection. If we fear something unknown (homosexual behavior), condemning it makes it less scary. Or, to condemn other people’s sins makes it easier to not look at our own. I’ve always thought Christians are generally more squeamish about sex and talking about it. What better tactic than to talk about someone else’s sexuality, especially an openly endorsed problematic one? Then we don’t have to talk about our own sexual sins, desires, fantasies, what we struggle with.
      I find it strange that in the midst of much bigger issues like ISIS, child porn, human trafficking, women’s rights, clean water for everyone etc, we choose to focus on what goes on in the privacy of someone’s bedroom.
      Just my two cents. It’s been a while since I started disagreeing with this stance against gays and to me, like you say, it’s just not an important issue. Best I clear out all my sinful behaviours with God before I pick at people’s “sins”!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh yes and the hate that is spewed out … My experience is somewhat different because for the most part my church avoids this topic and no one really talks openly about it. But in private you know that it isn’t approved. Hmm I wonder why sp much hate is spewed during discussions. Would it be totally crazy to ask the haters why they feel so strongly about it and why they focus on this topic out of the many in the bible….? Just curious as to what fuels that vicious attitude!

    Thanks for sharing your story!

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