Thursday, November 03, 2005

Embracing A Different Gospel

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel... If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:6, 9)

For 13 years I was taught that being gay - in thought and action - was wrong. Being gay, my life was filtered through that lens - that my sexuality was part of my flesh and that it should be denied. Naturally, I am mindful of these things on this journey of mine as I expore what it looks like to be gay and Christian. It seems alarming that I would pursue such a thing. Am I deserting Christ and simply trying to live my own life - taking back my life after giving it to Him over a decade ago? Am I embracing a different gospel from those who say that God accepts me as a gay believer?

I've been studying through the book of Galatians for several weeks now and I had to ask myself some questions: At the very core of my faith and at the moment of belief, what was it that I accepted? What did I place my faith in?

As I wrestled through this in prayer over several weeks, I realized that I was placing my faith in the person of Jesus Christ, being the Son of God, as my Savior and Redeemer. I was placing all my trust for my salvation in the work He did at the cross. I was accepting the fact that, outside of Jesus, there is nothing that I can personally do to arrange for my own forgiveness - I have no righteousness, no good works, no birthright. I literally needed Jesus to do this for me. I needed Him to reconcile me to God. I needed His grace . . . .

When I accepted Christ, that was the gospel that I accepted. My sexuality had nothing to do with that decision. I didn't believe in Him because I wanted Him to make me straight. I believed in Him because I wanted Him to make me acceptable. Yet, after I became a Christian and began learning and growing in my faith and knowledge of God, the churches that I had subsequently been a part of taught that I was not acceptable because of my sexuality. They taught that I needed to be straight in order to avoid God's wrath and "justice". I began to believe this and it made me cling all the more to God's grace because otherwise there was condemnation for me.

That's not the gospel that I accepted. I accepted a gospel that taught that there's nothing I can do to avoid God's wrath. That was the reason why Christ was willing to die on the cross on my behalf in the first place - because there was no other way. He is the Way. Yet, I am told that the "sin" of my sexuality can overide His grace. These well intentioned Christians, who interpret all gay thought and actions to be sin, were teaching me a different gospel.

I'm not going to feel guilty about this journey of mine because there may be some who would accuse me of embracing a different gospel other than the one I accepted. It's not a different gospel. It's just not the mainstream, traditionally accepted gospel that attaches heterosexuality to the salvation equation.

So then I began to read Galatians through that lens. In Galatians, Paul addressed the issue of those Jewish Christians who were proclaiming that the Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised. Yet at the core of their message, the issue wasn't circumcision but rather that they were saying that despite the grace of Christ, they still needed to "do" something in order to be accepted into the fellowship of God (and believers). And that belief is still proclaimed today by those who have been teaching me that I need to circumcise my sexuality, become straight, in order to be fully Christian, fully accepted, and fully forgiven.

"This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearances..." (Galatians 2:4-6)

"But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" (Galatians 4:9)

"Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them." (Galatians 4:17)

"Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh." (Galatians 6:12-13)

There are two issues here - the first is of grace and the second is of sin. I believe that we are saved by grace through faith alone. As for sin, the issue is not about having the freedom to sin - I believe that we do not have a license to sin. The issue of contention is about realizing what the sin is. Some would say that references to "homosexuality" in Scripture refers to all gay activity while others would say that those references are referring to a context of idolatry and lust. Being well versed and believing the former for 13 years (because that is what I was taught), I am inclined to believe on this journey now in the latter. I don't think that sexuality itself - heterosexuality or homosexuality- is a sin. I believe that unloving expressions of our sexuality is a sin - prostitution, adultery, fornication, pederastry - all forms of lust. These are things that can be categorized as "sexual immorality". Yet these things can be done in both heterosexual and homosexual contexts.

The problem, I think, is in people's interpretations of the word "homosexuality" when we read it in our modern translations of the Bible. The actual word as we use it today wasn't used back then. So the task is to interpret properly what was meant in ancient times. Today, we read the word "homosexual" and we assume it means "gay". However, just as there are lustful contexts for both heterosexual and homosexual contexts, there are also loving expressions of our sexuality in both contexts - committment, monogamy, faithfulness.

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6)

"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God." (Galatians 6:15-16)

I don't think being gay or straight is the issue. I think that we all need to realize that our salvation comes in Christ alone - not in our sexuality nor in our ability to live out our righteousness. He is our righteousness. We do not have a license to sin, however, because of Him we are a new creation - not simply creatures who live heterosexually, but rather we are a people of God who love more wholly.


Anonymous said...

Stunning thoughts, Eric. Absolutely stunning.

Makes me want to get home and study Galations for myself.

Anonymous said...


Only one word can discribe your comentary!



Genius said...

I understand from what I have been told that salvation depends on three pillars which are basically faith. I thought that was main stream and a such being gay doesn’t stop you from being saved - BUT you are highly immoral if you do the absolute minimum to avoid harm (gain salvation) and then proceed to intentionally break laws. That has implications regarding their faith also. how deep can your faith be in that case?

I note that you take the second plausible position which is that homosexuality as a whole is not a sin at least not how you do it. And I expect that interpretation is in a sense open to you BUT the next question is, is this analysis biased on self justification? If so it may not be "immoral" per se" but is the potentially lesser "crime" of "intellectual laziness".

Note I am not trying to make trouble just to inspire some thought on the matter

Eric said...

" this analysis biased on self justification? If so it may not be "immoral" per se" but is the potentially lesser "crime" of "intellectual laziness".

i appreciate your comment Genius. the whole point of my blog here is that i began my journey of learning about the different perspectives regarding faith and homosexuality. that includes doing my own studying, researching, etc... so i don't think that's "intellectual laziness".

the common thing that i have heard from some straight people is that they assume that gay Christians are doing all kinds of twisting and bending of Scripture or not even studying at all in order to justify a "lifestyle". they seem to discount any conclusions that gay Christians may have without even taking the time to do their own studying and researching and discerning. they fall back on their own traditionally held belief that it's wrong. to me, that is intellectual laziness. even arrogant.

if you read through my posts, especially early on at the beginning you'll see that i have been very cautious not to simply adjust my faith to my own desired lifestyle. i've even said many times that on this journey, i come to no concrete conclusions even though i say that i "incline" or am "leaning" towards believing certain things. but this isn't out of me just wanting it to be true. it comes from this process of doing my own studying, praying, researching, and discerning.

i don't believe that a person should "do the absolute minimum to avoid harm (gain salvation) and then proceed to intentionally break laws". that's not consistent with anything i've ever written. i believe that we are to live out our faith. the distinction that i make is that of the word "homosexuality".

I understand that you are not trying to make trouble but want to inspire thought on the matter, and i would encourage dialogue, but i would challenge you...are you really willing to explore this or do you merely want to assert your own correctness? are you willing to objectively see what the two other sides have to say (Side A - gay relationships are acceptable; Side B - should be celibate) or are you simply clinging to the side you've always held (Side X - it's all wrong)?

if not, then that would be intellectual laziness. and that would make dialogue a waste of time.

i encourage you to read the paper that i wrote on establishing a framework for entering the hot zone (link on the left column).

i would also encourage you to read my blog in its entirety to gain a better perspective of my journey and what i believe before suggesting that the phrase "intellectual laziness" may apply to me.

that could potentially be offensive and arrogant.

Anonymous said...

Having gone through a similar process (including 5 years with an "ex-gay" ministry), Eric, I wholeheartedly concur with your analysis. I also had to ask myself why I originally made my commitment to Christ; part of my prayer, that night when I was 16 at a Campus Crusade camp, included a request to be rid of the gay issue. So was I making a commitment to Christ in order to change from being gay (blackmailing God, in a way -- give me heterosexuality or I won't believe in You!), or starting a process of letting Jesus heal me of whatever He knew I needed to be healed of (not what I thought I needed healing from)?

What the Holy Spirit & Scripture have shown me since then is that Jesus wants to heal us all (gay or straight) of homophobia & homo-hatred. And God is faithful to answer our prayers (remember, though: in His way, not ours), and He did -- by healing the homophobia I'd internalized for so many years, while allowing me to deal in a healthy way with my sexual orientation.

What helped me see outside the narrow worldview of the ex-gay ministries is when I saw so many people -- wonderful, caring, intelligent, faithful Christians -- fail to change their orientation, as demanded by the ex-gay ministries. I realized that, if Satan's goal is to get us away from God by any means necessary, then the guilt that gay Christians beat themselves up with (and the high rate of dropping out of church all together that usually followed) was a perfect plan to alienate believers from God. Satan doesn't even have to do much work -- just have homophobic so-called Christians tell LGBT Christians that they're going to hell, and let them beat each other up, and those who internalize the misinterpretation will also drive themselves away from God, feeling they've failed Him. What a truly diabolical plot!

The homophobic-fundamentalist cult that has taken over much of American evangelical Christianity needs to be confronted, and your blog does it well! If the homophobic-fundies are really most concerned about effeminacy in men, then they should also take a second look at a verse I'd always wondered about its application to LGBT issues, Gal. 3:28. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." [KJV] The original Greek actually says "nor male and female" -- making it more obvious that God doesn't give much thought any more to His children's gender differences. (Was Paul a proto-feminist?!)

Keep up the great work --
Love in Christ,

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric,

I really admire the work you've done on this. It's funny, I found your site through because of your post on George Takei. I was pleasantly surprise to find a blog so deeply involved in this question.

I'm a member of St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco (, an independent congregation that was expelled from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the early Nineties for calling non-celibate gay clergy. We're a mixed congregation in the heart of the city's gay community, near the Castro. Please come and visit us if you're ever in San Francisco; I think you'd find it very rewarding.

I've never studied the Bible or theology closely, but what I've experienced at St. Francis has taught me that homosexuality and Christian faith are not at all incompatible. On the contrary, I've learned that the experiences of gay people in San Francisco -- namely, helping each other through the AIDS epidemic and struggling to form and affirm our relationships without an established model and in the face of societal disapproval -- have helped to create a deep and well-examined faith.

Jesus taught us, above all, to love one another, right? At St. Francis, I'm surrounded by love, not only for our fellow people through charitable work, but in so many devoted long-term gay and lesbian couples. On anniversaries, we celebrate those relationships as gifts from God that sustain and strengthen two people through the years. Seeing those couples together through both good and bad, it's obvious to me that God is there with them. For me, that truly bridges what appears at first glance to be a divide between Christianity and homosexuality.

Good luck with your journey!


Genius said...

I did sense after I wrote the post that it might be taken as being offensive and I apologise for any offense which was unintentional. I also agree that I should take into account the entirety of your position, but I will take a couple of posts to get up to speed.

> they seem to discount any conclusions that gay Christians may have without even taking the time to do their own studying and researching and discerning.

As a bit of an academic I am interested in what exact parts of the bible you would use to indicate that there might be an issue with gaynes being a sin (or what it is exactly that supports that general world view) I expect reading a few of your posts might reveal this which i will do soon.

I agree that the anti gay christians (I dont consider myself in this catagory) are very often being intelectually lazy in part because the issue is pretty pheripheral to their religion and the cursory analysis of the evidence seems to come out against homosexuality.

> are you really willing to explore this or do you merely want to assert your own correctness?

I could take offense except that I did the same thing to you the post before!
I actually hope you can win this debate - some things in the world seem unfair - but I dont let that stand in the way of arguing for what I think is likely to be correct.

Eric said...

Lance, Steve, Randy, Dave, and Matt: thanks a ton for all your input and encouragement. After first writing this post, i wasn't sure how it would be received. Bless you!

Genius: I'm pleased to sense the humility in your latest comment. I do prefer dialogue because it's important for me to be able to process my journey with people of varying positions.

I started my journey because I came to the realization that I believed being gay was a sin simply because that was the only thing I was taught. I intentionally avoided anything gay-Christian related because, quite frankly, I was the one who made the assumptions - that they were just compromising their faith for a desired lifestyle. I began to realize that my belief about it being a sin came from a place of ignorance and not being informed.

So i decided to enter this journey into what i call the "hot zone" to hear what the other "side" had to say, taking a neutral position, and expecting to come full circle believing that it indeed is a sin. This way, I can "own" what I believe having been informed. The thing is - now that i'm taking the time to investigate, i'm becoming more and more convinced that my former belief that being gay is a sin was in error.

My journey continues. I appreciate that you say you actually hope I " can win this debate ...". I'd rather not win a debate because at the end of the conversation, it's still my life to live - and it's a wonderful and difficult life at that. So what i'm hoping for at the end of the conversation is peace and resolution. I trust Christ is walking with me, if not ahead of me preparing my way.

Since you've indicated that you are a bit of an academic, I'd appreciate your feedback regarding Justin Cannon's paper. It's in the post "Homosexuality in the Bible" and you can comment there. I appreciate your willingness to read through my other posts as well to get a broader perspective of my journey.


Anonymous said...


I’m also impressed by your humility. However I do take issue with one statement:

. . . but I don’t let that stand in the way of arguing for what I think is likely to be correct.

At my place of business there is a co-worker of mine name Shawn. He is a devote Christian with a wife, two children and believes homosexuality is immoral. Knowing I am devoutly Christian he naturally assumed I was heterosexual. That was five years ago and he has learned a lot in that span of time.

In spite of my sexual orientation, Shawn and I have fellowshipped on a number of occasions. Never on any of those occurrences has he ever disrespected or treated me as anything less than his Christian brother! The reason why we get along so well, is because Shawn is too humbled and occupied with his personal walk with Lord than to worry about the speck in my eye.

July 19, 2004 was the 10th anniversary of my declaration of Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. On that very day I told my beloved Shawn how glad I was to have him as my brother in Christ and we hugged. We both grew up a lot that day!

What this wonderful man of God has taught me, Christianity is not about arguing what I think is likely to be correct, it’s about working out your own salvation with “fear and trembling”. (1)A well-meaning evangelical once asked a previous Archbishop of Canterbury if he was “saved.” The Archbishop replied with great insight, “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I hope to be saved.”(1)

I’ll go out on a limb and say, being correct or asserting what is correct is irrelevant! Loving one another unconditionally as our Lord has and continues to loved us is priority number one!!! Morality and principals have there place, however if it gets in the way of fellowshipping with your brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s not worth holding stead fast to. I believe Christians are obligated to extend the same grace as Jesus has afforded to us. That is a very tall order and not an easy one. We worship God the Father who has declared Love as his highest law and commandment(s).


(1) Taken from a post on the message board of the Gay Christian Network entitled “Conflict in the Church aka Family Quarrels”

Genius said...


You may be right that it is the "greater evil", to exclude you from a/the community for being gay BUT if you ask me a question I will tell you as I see it. Hopefully in the form of a discusion as opposed to an argument - one that doesn't end in anyone being excluded.

Anonymous said...


I’m very secure with my walk with The Lord to the point of not feeling excluded from the greater body of Christ. “Estranged” is a more descriptive word. The reason, I have a wonderful support spiritual support system that is made up almost entirely of Christian who are Gay and my earthly family. There is my home Church and the Gay Christian Network ( which has both severed to help me and others grow in the spirit. Then there is my Mother with her unconditional support and prayers, I came into relationship with Jesus. Without her my earthly family may not have accepted me and my two other gay brothers.

However issues with the greater body of Christ regarding homosexuality has made me into a somewhat salt shaker Christian. I don’t care very much for the secular Gay community and I’m very dubious of straight Christians in spite of my experience with Shawn. That part of me changing ever so slowly!

There are many closeted friendships between gay and straight Christians that need to come out into the open. Issues of sexual orientation are only the tip of the iceberg. Christendom in all its factions needs to dialog in a meaningful and respectful manner.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank everyone for their respectful and loving input towards this healthy debate. There are days I wonder if people with the ablility to love themselves and others so deeply as I continue to exist. All of you give me the hope and encouragement they do.

Jeff Kursonis said...

Hi, I loved reading your blog. I am a new pastor in NYC, and over the years I have had many friends that shared your similar journey - most of them of the living a celibate life view (B?).

I am trying so hard to move forward in as progressive a way as I can regarding this deeply important aspect of human community. I feel compelled to find a way to love people and help them know Christ as deeply as they can, and I am free enough from the cultural bindings that are created in church culture to be able to see the obvious homophobia in evangelicalism and the militant homophobia nearing genocidal furor of fundamentalism.

I know there has to be a way that more resembles the loving God I know.

But, I still struggle with some biblical texts regarding the morality of sexual acts.

Here is a rather graphic way to think about it, but it helps me to think clearly (read no further if offended easily - this is progressive language). And this is from a male perspective:

Where a man sticks his penis has moral implications.

Can a man stick his penis into an animal?

Can a man stick his penis into a child?

Can a man stick his penis into someone male or female he is not married to?

Can a man stick his penis into a watermelon?

Can a man stick his penis into a woman he is married to but who is also his sister? his cousin?

If having a committed monogamous relationship is the key, then apply that to the above situations.

A man can stick his penis into an animal if he has a committed monogamous relationship to it.
T or F?

A man can stick his penis into a child if he is in a committed monogamous relationship with them?
T or F

I think we would say False to both of these. So, just committment and monogamy don't do it alone.

The fact remains that there are moral implications of where a man sticks his penis.

So, where do we get the answer to the question of a man sticking his penis into another man?

I would really like to hear some good research and thinking into that question.

I don't know the answer.

(and I did try to think of another word besides "stick", but I felt it was best)

In addition, I would say that I think the Galatians reasoning is poor textual interpretation - I'd love it if you had something good that I could really wrap my arms around, but here is the problem I see with that interpretation: When Paul is refering to issues of circumcision, he is refering to people doing a religious act.

Teachers saying to the Galatians that in order to become a Christian, you have to both a. accept Christ and b. do the religious act of circumcision as written in the Mosaic law (ie. continue to follow the Mosaic law).

That is very different than talking
about acceptable actions within the realm of human behavior in categories like sexuality where some of them are acceptable and some are sinful.

Think about it this way, think of religious ritual as a red zone, and human behavior as a green zone.

You can't interpret Paul's words regarding a red zone subject, as applying to a green zone subject.

The problem with all interpretive schools regarding green zone issues - those of human behavior, is that it is so easy to have an agenda which weakens your interpretive objectivity.

If I'm studying about religious ritual, and I don't really care what way it goes, I just want to find the right way, then I am more likely to be neutral and objective.

However, life is not lived in a vacuum and almost all attempts to interpret are connected in some way to a hope or an agenda, so this does not obviously preclude green zone interpretive work, but rather makes the need for really clear thinking and a really balanced approach very important.

I'd love to have someone really take the (penis)language and thinking above and really answer it well in that language.

I'd also love for you to read my recent post and let me know what you think, how I could improve my thinking. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I think using Galatians and Paul's example of circumcision is a poor text to justify homosexuality. It is an appeal to selective evidence – the more complex and/or emotional the issue, the greater the tendency to select only part of the evidence, prematurely construct a grid, and so filter the rest of the evidence through the grid that it is robbed of any substance. Paul is talking about clinging to a religous ritual to add to your salvation as unnessecary. Homosexuality much like any other reprobate lifestyle is not a religious ritual.

Eric said...

thanks for your comments Wes.

a few things that i wanted to point out in response is that i'm not using Galatians to justify homosexuality. rather, i'm using Galatians to reveal the fact that the mainstream thought about homosexuality being a sin comes from a place of assumptions and its own interpretations. This post isn't a commentary about homosexuality and how it's okay. This post is about exploring how traditional ex-gay perspective imposes it's position as if its black and white on those of us who live in the gray.

It's not so simple.

I'm hoping that the dialogue about this issue can happen with an approach that doesn't begin with the automatic assumption that gay people aren't true believers.

The point in this post is that the salvation equation has nothing to do with being either gay OR straight. Salvation comes through grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Thanks for your perspective!