Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Rules Don't Change

Imagine a conservative evangelical "gay-friendly" church with gay Christians that modeled sexual boundaries to both gay and straight people. Is there one? I'm not talking about celibacy. I'm talking about genuine committed relationships. There's something that's really been bugging me lately.

I've spoken to a number of gay Christian couples who can verbally acknowledge that sex is a sacred thing. Our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit - sex creates a one flesh union between the two - yadda yadda yadda. There's also a movement of people advocating same-sex marriage saying that not only do gay people have a right to marry, but also that God can and would bless such a union. Fine. I'll concede that for the moment for the sake of exploring a broader point that I'm observing.

Here's the thing. If a committed gay relationship was just like a committed straight relationship in that both placed a high value on commitment, then wouldn't the guidelines for when sex was appropriate in the relationship be the same in both the gay and the straight relationship? In a straight relationship, it's typically accepted that pre-marital sex is a no-no. (This would be referred to as fornication). So then wouldn't it be logical to say that pre-marital sex in a gay relationship would also be unacceptable?

Why is it that "some" gay Christians embrace their acceptance in God's eyes by thinking that it's okay to have gay sex just because they are in a relationship? Relationship doesn't necessarily imply commitment and commitment doesn't necessarily imply covenant. If sexual activity were only acceptable within a marriage context, and marriage could be defined by a covenant between the three (God and the two individuals acknowledging that God has brought them together to be one), then wouldn't the acceptable thing in a gay relationship be to abstain from sexual activity until their relationship matures to the point of lifetime covenant?

Please note that I am not, at this moment, talking about the acceptability of gay relationships (please hold any comment regarding this because that would be off-topic). I'm talking about the fact that I'm frustrated - even irritated - by this double standard by "some" gay Christians who will simply have sex and claim that God blesses it just because they know that God blesses gay Christians. Being accepted as a gay Christian has nothing to do with whether or not sex is acceptable! I find it troubling when i speak to "some" gay Christians who tell me that they "feel" that God said that this is okay or that they "know" that this person indeed is the one that they have been waiting for his/her whole life and so it's okay to be having sex with the person after only two weeks, two months, or two years even though it's prior to establishing a covenant with each other.

This seems absurd to me. No wonder why "some" conservative straight Christians refuse to acknowledge gay people as Christians because of the fear and assumption of promiscuity among them. That God loves gay Christians cannot be used as an excuse to have sex. If we can acknowledge that sex is sacred and is reserved for those in a covenant relationship, then the rules must apply regardless of whether or not it's gay or straight. There needs to be sexual boundaries within His Church - both gay and straight.

A young straight couple out of high school is told not to fornicate - not to have sex until they are married. The same expectations should rest upon the gay couple. The gay couple ought to hold off from being sexually intimate until their relationship has matured into a covenantal context. Again, i'm saying this in the context that sex is sacred.

I think that "some" gay Christians abuse their freedom because they are so tired of having the Church say that they can't be Christians and so they refuse, with sinful pride, to listen and follow guidelines for holy living. As Christians, both gay and straight, we are called to be set apart - holy. The rest of the world who choose not to yield to Jesus as Christ live with indulgence. We, as Christians, both gay and straight, are not to live that way. Sex is sacred and the very act itself should be honoring to the Lord by mirroring His covenant of love and faithfulness towards us.

Granted, I'm saying all this with what some may view as an ultra conservative viewpoint in regards to sex (of which I don't apologize for) and maybe I'm simply a romantic but I just think the standard should be consistent. If being a gay Christian meant that I can have gay sex without restriction, then I would strongly plant my position on the side that says no. However, being a gay Christian does not imply the acceptance of gay sex outside of a covenantal context. Part of being and growing as a mature Christian means that we make the distinction between love and lust. We put off self-indulgence and we put on self-control. It just seems clear to me. If it's right for straight people to abstain, then it's right for gay people to abstain.

Note: If you're going to weigh in on this, remember that I'm not talking about whether or not it's okay to be in a gay relationship. I'm saying that for those who do believe that it's okay should at the very least also acknowledge that our view of the acceptability of sex for gay people should be the same as for straight people.


JJ said...

I just wanted to weigh in and say that I agree with you entirely. This was my main frustration while reading "Stranger at the Gate". I believe, that as a Christian, sex is to be reserved for marriage... the question that I'm asking right now is whether or not marriage is an option for me as a gay woman... not whether or not I can have sex.

I do understand (I think) some of the reasons behind many gay Christians seeming to abandon this standard -- mainly the fact that marriage has been barred to them, but there have always been other options... other commitment ceremonies (that I believe God could bless if He chose to, whether or not they were legal or not) or public covenants.

Anyway, I don't want to end up just writing everything you wrote again... I just agree with you, the rules shouldn't change.

Brandon said...

In all fairness, there are a goodly number of Christians who'd be a bit reticent to say that sex is only good inside the bounds of the 'marriage' covenant.

I agree with your point, though, Gay or Straight, your understanding of sex in the covenant (or not) should be the same.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your statements - your views should be the same for straight and homosexual relationships, but I think the theology behind barring sex before marriage should be more thoroughly examined. I'm not saying I have decided what I think the Bible is saying, but I know that there is room to argue on both sides when taking into account the cultural situation of ancient days, along with the literal translations. I definitely think sex should be reserved for a committed relationship - it can be so damaging outside of a committed relationship, which is where I think God is coming from. The point it, what exactly defines a committed relationship.

Eric said...

I'd be interested to hear more about any views that sex should not be barred before marriage in regards to cultural context in ancient days. Does the previous anonymous commenter or anyone else have any info regarding that view?

Anonymous said...

I've just heard that in Biblical times marriages were generally arranged, and girls usually were wed from the time they could menstrate. Also, the boys were expected to get 'experience', while girls had to remain pure. Clearly things are different now. People date, often for years. In general, people wait much longer to get married. Who knows what that means for Christians today. I'd be curious also to know what the greek word for fornication is and what it meant during the time of Jesus.

The other thing that comes to mind is how we've kind of disregarded some other Biblical ideologies because it doesn't fit in with our current society (of course there are many other theologically based reasons). Most churches now accept people who have been divorced, and even marry couples who have previously been married. If you take a literal translation of the Bible, this in Biblically unacepptable.

Also, the Bible also suggests in many places that slavery is acceptable, but we don't see many Christians today who believe that. (Thank God)

Finally, if we literally went with what the Bible says, women would have to remain silent in the church at all times. Most Christians don't currently believe this was intended for all women.

Just some further thoughts.


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JJ said...

I have heard some Christians question the rules regarding premarital sex... but in the end, they all (at least as far as they told me) ended up waiting until they married.

I'm not entirely sure about the original Greek meaning of the word "fornication"... I could look it up, but I am way too tired right now. I will say though, that it seems to me that according to Paul, the only outlet for sexual release is marriage ("better to marry than to burn with passion")... and this comes from a man who was celibate... and during a time when, as I understand it, women married very young but men tended to be much older (in order to be financial stable to support a family). Paul makes no distinciton between genders when it comes to his rules about sex.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I haven't thought about this particular issue that much though, so I am far from an expert.

Brandon said...

Hey Eric. Man, you continue to impress me! I'm not gonna weigh in on this issue, as I see the issue as part of something bigger; not isolated on its own.

I do want to thank you, again, for wrestling with all this and finding the answers for yourself. Not too many people have the courage to ask themselves the hard questions.

Anonymous said...

You asked a great question! I've struggled with this a lot myself.

I'm gay and have been in a committed relationship, but still find it hard, personally at least, to equate a partnership between two men or two women with a marriage between a man and a women: one that is meant to reflect the relationship that Christ has with His church.

If then in my view (which I'm not saying is the correct one -- I'm still on this journey myself), "marriage" is not an option for two people of the same sex, all of the marriage verses in the Bible would become sort of irrelevant, and any sex would be out of the question.

This leads to another question I've puzzled over: how do you define "sex" between (in my case) two men? I won't get into any graphic details (don't worry!), but I can't help thinking that a lot of gay guys, myself included, aren't into what many people think of as "gay sex". The description of Jonathan and David's relationship in 1 Samuel, which I take as non-sexual, is one which many gay men -- Christian and non-Christian -- would find natural and fulfilling.

Just a thought I've been pondering. Love your blog -- keep it up!

Anonymous said...

That's a good point too. What is sex? For many Christians who truly believe that sex should be saved for marriage, oral sex becomes ok because it's not actually intercourse. But to me it's all the same.

Anonymous said...

this post is really interesting to me. i am a queer christian and i am dating someone. but i am waiting to have sex with her until we are married. it's been interesting to watch her deal with this because that wasn't a comittment that she had but she was willing to wait because she wanted to be with me. now she is happy to be waiting as well. it's a struggle to wait. and it's hard because there really aren't any queer couples to look up to who hold this as a value. for me the decision came about to wait because it was always something that i valued: waiting until marriage. why should that change just because i am queer? i don't think it should.

thanks for this post. just wanted to share my story. i am hoping to marry this woman that i am with, and i think our sexual union will be even sweeter because we waited.

Anonymous said...

oh, sorry, the post above was by me:


Mark said...

Was just at Greenbelt and one of the sessions was a panel discussion comparing marriage and civil partnerships from a legal and theological view. Of course, this was in the UK where civil partnership is available.

I also attended a late night session regarding the church's attitude towards sex and one person on the panel talked about how the notion of 'pre-marital' sex is actually a fairly recent sociological construction and isn't supported in the Bible very well (as the Bible has its own, culturally biased take on what "marriage" is). The real difficulties from my point of view are coming up with reasonable definitions of "marriage" and "sex" that are biblically based.

Closed said...

I agree with you, and yet, I will point out that for gay Christians, that covenant often doesn't have the kind of public supports that allow for such a STRAIGHT development. Gay commitment amongst many very commited Christians happens in stages, myself among them. And in Jesus own day, commitment happened in stages among opposite sex marriages, betrothal was for a year, then marriage...it's messier than we would like it. The point is promises before G-d. And that is the locus we should be moving for in sex.

As for how does a same sex couple express that union between Christ and the Church. Just like the sacrificial love of an opposite sex couple. Check out some of the back thoughts of the Anglican Scotist on my sidebar.

pax Christi,