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Moving Thoughts on Homosexuality

Some heartfelt, honest, and poignant thoughts are shared about the struggles of one homosexual Christian here.

With every year that passes, I realize more and more that I don’t want to live life on my own.

More than anything, I would like to have a life partner. But I keep circling back to the conclusion Nouwen arrived at: fulfilling that desire seems impossible, so long as I continue looking to Scripture to guide my moral choices.

Perhaps the greatest unresolved question of my life is, How can I give and receive love, how can I experience intimacy and mutual self-giving commitment, if I am not permitted to marry a person of the gender to which I am attracted?

In a recent reflection on contemporary society, novelist Marilynne Robinson posed the simple question: “will people shelter and nourish and humanize one another?” Read in light of the Christian Church’s relationship to its gay members, her question takes on an added poignancy. Will the Church shelter and nourish and humanize those who are deeply lonely and struggling desperately to remain faithful?

I may have more thoughts on this later, but for now, read the article.


  1. N. Dan Smith wrote:

    I have always thought the converse was equally difficult: how does the church uphold a teaching against homosexuality to a loving, committed gay couple?

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink
  2. parishioner wrote:

    I know well-meaning Christians who often remind me, “God’s love for you is better than any love you might find in a human relationship.” While I believe this is true in an ultimate and profound sense, putting it this way seems to set up a false dichotomy. A statement more in sync with the drift of the New Testament might go something like this: “God’s love for us is expressed and experienced mainly through the medium of human relationships.”

    * * *
    He’s hit the nail on the head with that. Jesus said it’s also the way the world is supposed to recognize us/His body–through corporate love. That kind of “reminder” by Christians is sometimes an excuse for not showing love–”Go see Jesus. I don’t have time for you / Your issues and need freak me out / I’m not interested in letting Him love you through me.” It’s hoped that’s not what his friends are doing, but I see this mentality all the time where I live.

    It isn’t just the Christians dealing with homosexuality who are terribly lonely and isolated. It’s my heterosexual friend who had HIV who didn’t feel safe telling anyone in our church what she was dealing with. (She finally told two of us when she was diagnosed with and began dying from AIDS, and forbid us to tell others.) It’s the heterosexuals who have always wanted to marry and have waited and waited and waited, but no one has asked, the waiting all the more excruciating for women with limited years for childbearing. Then of course, there are the unmatched in marriage who deal with a different kind of loneliness.

    I’ve often thought that Isaiah 56 speaks of a relationship with God with special intimacy for those who are eunuchs (or effectively eunuchs) because of the isolation and often crippling loneliness:

    And let not any eunuch complain,
    “I am only a dry tree.”

    4 For this is what the LORD says:
    “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose what pleases me
    and hold fast to my covenant-

    5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
    a memorial and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
    I will give them an everlasting name
    that will not be cut off.

    The celibate homosexual surrendered to Christ has a struggle more unique than the celibate heterosexual surrendered to Christ, but surrender we all must. N. Dan’s question must be answered in this context. Jesus calls us to radical surrender, to an exclusivity incomprehensible to our sinful nature. He demands a loyalty and love that has the potential to divide loving families and loving couples. We can make the pain of that division (and possible celibacy) less painful for others if we listen to what we’re called to as the body of Christ. We’re not our own, we were bought with a price.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink
  3. saint egregious wrote:

    I too am deeply moved by this piece, by the anguish, the struggle for faithfulness, the focus on self-sacrificial love. Auden was a remarkable man, struggling to be a Christian as best he knew how, with the best theology at his disposal. Like his dear friend Niebuhr, he struggled to take the bible seriously, if not always literally.
    I would only add that I think one can find just as much faithfulness in gay Christians who have felt called to lives of sexual fulfillment within covenanted relationships, often with no less theological seriousness than Auden. As far as a theology of gay love goes, Eugene Rogers comes to mind, whose work Rowan Williams has held up as a model of serious Christian wrestling, one that refuses to give credence to a liberalizing theological tendency so rampant in the american context. Rogers refuses the simple dichotomy of self-sacrificial cruciform love versus self-indulgent hedonistic love which one so often finds in these debates. Instead, he invokes covenanted marriage as perhaps the greatest example of ascetic discipline, and then asks, why not this kind of cruciform love for gay couples? All this in a distinctly trinitarian theological context.
    Only, it seems to me, if we invoke an ‘abstract fundamentalist deployment’ of scripture [Williams' phrase from "The Body's Grace] are we required to take the undoubtedly admirable path of Auden as the only possible one for a faithful Christian wrestling with the intricacies of human desire.
    I suspect many readers here will not want to entertain this embrace of both possibilities in this most vexing of theological crossroads. But for me, I would be hard pressed to choose between the faithfulness of an Auden or a Stringfellow, and would resist it with all my might as the devil’s work to be forced to do so in the name of orthodoxy, no matter how generous it appears to be. The devil, as Ben has shown so admirably in his work on Milton and Barth, loves to tempt us with theological abstractions, and I for one agree with Williams that nowhere is such abstractness more prevalent than in the current debates on sexuality in the church. The irony, of course, is simply too much, that in dealing with the flesh we are so tempted to abstraction. Stringfellow and Towne did not give in to it, knowing that the body is a source of grace and joy, even as it is a source of cruciform suffering. Why, again, need we be forced to choose between the two possibilities?

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink
  4. Hill wrote:

    Brilliantly put. The crisis of homosexuality in the church is simply the most visible fruit of an inadequate practical theology of sexuality per se. It’s just that heterosexuals enjoy the support of “the world” and are hence less likely to be made painfully aware of the ways in which their sexual lives, by habit and according to the wisdom of the world, constitute an area staked out against the claims of the Gospel. I think this is one of the most profound witnesses that the Christian homosexual community can offer, by way of calling us all to celibacy (and we are all called to celibacy until God calls us to marry) and the radical renunciation of our desires so that we might receive them again from God, rightly.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  5. ss wrote:

    Question: since when do gays have the monopoly on “loneliness” and “anguish” or are alone in their struggle for faithfulness?

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    I don’t see anything in the article that claims any such monopoly. However, the point of difference is that the sort of loneliness and anguish described is essential a desire for marital and sexual intimacy. While all Christians may experience and struggle with this, the gay Christian, who strives to adhere to the church’s traditional ethics is stuck with the fact that this struggle will, for him, never cease. The straight single Christian has a way “out” the gay Christian, it seems, does not. That should matter to us.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
  7. Hill wrote:

    I agree with you to a degree, Halden, but I think we have to be careful about establishing what is normative in terms of sexuality in the Church. I think there is a profound sense in which consecrated (or at least intentional) celibacy ought to be thought of as “normative” in at least a parallel sense to connubial life and perhaps more strongly than that given that it doesn’t even exist as a theological option in the evangelical world (this is true among huge swaths of lay Catholics as well).

    My point is that I don’t think the solution to the “problem” that homosexuals don’t get to take the immanent fulfillment of their sexual desires for granted in the heterosexuals do is one necessarily to be solved by extending our mode of thinking about heterosexuality to homosexuals, because by and large, the way we think about heterosexuality is deeply flawed.

    I think we ought to seek for those of heterosexual proclivity to have a similar notion of the impossibility of the fulfillment of their sexual desires as that which confronts homosexuals in a more stark fashion, because that is the context in which the movement of faith and the proper ordering of our sexuality according to God’s will and by his grace can take place.

    I would almost argue that this constitutes a kind of “blessedness” that is proper to homosexual Christians in the sense that the meek and the poor of spirit are also blessed, and in keeping with the idea that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.

    Not that I think you wouldn’t be sympathetic to this. I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to discuss the subject here.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  8. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, I agree with all that. My point was not really theological, but existential. In other words, whatever the theological truth of the matter, straight Christian singles often tend to cope with their situation on the basis of a future hope for marriage. Dating and “looking” can serve as means to deal with with feelings of loneliness and desire for intimacy–for the gay Christian following the church’s ethics that isn’t really an option.

    And the ultimate point is that the real issue here is not whether or not desire for intimacy and partnership is not a moving, and deeply affecting issue. Clearly it is. Rather what’s wrong with how we think about sexuality in general revolves around how we identify marital and sexual intimacy with our desire to “experience intimacy and mutual self-giving commitment”. For the Christian our marital state should not have any bearing on the right fulfillment of those desires within God’s economy.

    In other words, the problem is that we’ve located our desires for intimacy and commitment in marriage and sex in the first place. That’s the primal idolatry at work in so many Christian discussions of this whole issue regardless of whether they are liberal or conservative.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  9. Hill wrote:

    Exactly. Many of my thoughts on the matter come from my interaction with some very dear evangelical friends, as well as my own experience in that milieu, and I think that what evangelicalism lacks in terms of a theology of sanctification it has replaced with an idea of marital fulfillment as the content of sanctification (since once I ask Jesus “in to my heart,” he’s there to stay.) This leads to all sorts of interesting things like an inability to think of chastity as something other than not fornicating and not committing adultery and the inability to conceive of something like chastity within marriage at all. Driscoll comes to mind here. It is also at the heart of all sorts of psycho-spiritual pathologies suffered by heterosexual adolescents and young adults as their spiritual life becomes collapsed into a weird solipsistic quest for connubial and sexual fulfillment (since most of them were “saved” at age 9 or something anyway).

    That’s a bit ramble-y and hopefully you can pardon my crude use of “evangelicalism.” I’m just speaking from my experience on the ground with close friends.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  10. Doug Chaplin wrote:

    It is a good piece. The question which doesn’t seem to occur in it is this: “Given that I am gay, what most needs to be redeemed? My un-loved-ness or my same-sex attraction.

    Monday, March 16, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  11. parishioner wrote:

    “Rather what’s wrong with how we think about sexuality in general revolves around how we identify marital and sexual intimacy with our desire to “experience intimacy and mutual self-giving commitment”. For the Christian our marital state should not have any bearing on the right fulfillment of those desires within God’s economy.”


    Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

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  1. Against the Either/Or | Theopolitical on Monday, March 16, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    [...] highlighted a deeply moving and provocative article by Wesley Hill, a young Christian who struggles with his gay [...]

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