Tag Archives: homosexuality

Christianity Helped Me Come Out: Coming Out Story #15

This post is part of the “Our Stories” project, where readers submit their testimony or coming out story. It’s important to engage in meaningful and life-giving discussions about a topic that is too often silenced. When you tell your truth, you help someone else accept theirs.

This post comes from Jess. She shares her story as it was originally told on her blog, Design of Gender. You should definitely check it out!

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Growing up, my family did not go to church, though we celebrated all the consumerist Christian holidays (still do). I learned how to consume religion through family dinners, purchasing gifts, and giving cards. But what were we celebrating?

My first experience of organized religion was when a friend invited me to church when I was in elementary school. I went with her to Sunday School and we memorized a Bible verse. I didn’t really understand why we would do that. My second experience was in high school when I started going to a church youth group. I learned the basics of the Christian faith, got my first Bible, and learned some worship songs.

So by the time I reached college, I continued to attended a church group. I went to two different church groups during the course of my four years. One group, I went to my first and part of my second year of school; while the other, I went to my second through my fourth year and continued to be a member after I graduated.

I liked going to the college church group for the community I found there, though I didn’t always go regularly. I enjoyed going with my friends and deepening those bonds with them. We became very close from those experiences together and car rides home.

As those friends became busier and almost stopped going, I slowly began to make friends with others in the group. But always felt distant like I was never “Christian” enough to be there – like I didn’t really know much because most of the others had grown up going to church, even my friends had. They could not imagine what life was like without ‘Faith.’ I knew all too well that it was pretty much the same. Sure you may worship something else or hold on to the faith you find in other people but you learn to deal with it all just the same.

During the year after I graduated from college, I became super involved. I went to all the church group events during the week. I even shared my story or testimony in front of the whole group (50+ people). It was amazing. I had other college students coming to me in tears at the end of worship because my story had moved them. I brought people back to Christ through my story of faith, back to a religion that they had professed but didn’t really feel connected to. They could relate to my story of faith and grace. We were one and the same.

My story started a chain reaction. Soon many others wanted to share their stories. My courage and bravery in sharing my testimony allowed others to realize they could be brave too. I received hugs and congratulations. I loved sharing my story because finally, I felt like I, too, knew enough to be there. I had transformed, but I also had been keeping a secret. A secret I had known about for several years. A secret that I had come to terms with more than a year before that time.

So despite all the hoopla of sharing my story, I also felt the dread from keeping this secret. Even when I was surrounded by people, I was alone. I never felt comfortable enough to tell those same friends or church community that I was dating a really fabulous female. I never felt comfortable telling anyone that I had come out to myself a little over a year before and that I was unbelievably relieved to finally do so. I never felt comfortable mentioning that I had asked God about it and received an overwhelming feeling of acceptance. I had always brought “all that I was” before God and s/he had “embraced me just as I am.” Why did these people need to know any different than the assumed heterosexuality they projected onto me?

Generally, Christians, especially Evangelical, Baptist, and other right leaning conservative Christians,  seem to have a problem with individuals who date members of the same sex, especially individuals who profess some belief in their religion and also see nothing wrong with two women or men dating, forming relationships, and families. There are some denominations that openly accept LGBTQ people but they are not a majority (yet).

My college church group was part of a Community Church, not part of a specific denomination, that holds belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. They believe that the Bible is the “inspired word of God and that it is the final authority in faith and life.” As such they don’t believe in multiple readings of the Bible or that the Bible (being written by men) contains errors (be it from translation, etc.). They have a firm “hate the sin – love the sinner” approach to all things not following their prescribed set of principles/beliefs. I knew that if I told them my secret that would be the response, “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.”

Further, I imagined them wanting to help me overcome this “sin” I was acting upon or “struggling” with. But that’s the thing, I was the happiest I had been in years; when I was able to fully express who I am, I wasn’t “struggling” with anything. I was finally able to be me! It was during this time that I investigated and posted on my blog what some churches say on LGBTQ issues. My post received several comments that further proved the “hate the sin – love the sinner” approach. I was disappointed that the community I had come to appreciate and love would never fully accept me for who I am. They would “hate” a vital aspect of my identity while also professing to “love” me. (How do you love unconditionally if you refuse to accept part of a person’s identity? If they contradict with your beliefs? If you are praying that they change? Is acceptance not part of love? Is ‘tolerance’ love?  Or is the ‘unconditional love’ focused toward who you think you can change the person into?) It kills me that it would be done through the Bible “as the word of God” because I don’t believe that is how God intended it to be.

But I didn’t let this new found disappointment stop me from continuing to pursue religion or continuing to date the woman I was seeing. If anything I wanted to learn more. It was through the teachings, songs, worships, and Bible studies that I was able to fully accept myself, my very queer lesbian self. It was the love I found in the Bible that helped me to love myself. (In order to love your neighbor as yourself, you must first love yourself.) It was the love I found from non-religious friends I trusted enough to come out to. (They were the ones who showed unconditional love. It didn’t matter to them the gender of who I dated. They were happy for me.) It was the love I received from new colleagues and older friends. I’ve posted many times on my blog on love and belonging. I’ve posted clips from Glee and Senators in the state of NY discussing marriage equality. I’ve posted on Pride Parades and video clips that discuss LGBTQ things. I’ve posted on labels, language, change, and voice. But it has been the convergence of all these topics on my blog that has allowed me to see how every part, even the religion I ran away from, was an important stepping stone to where I am now.

Being a feminist and closeted lesbian within the church group was fun at times and I loved those tiny moments where I could be a “feminist evangelist.” But I hated that I wasn’t allowed to share my whole life with them. I couldn’t say that I hung out with my girlfriend over the weekend because she came to visit. Unlike other members of the group, I had to check a vital part of myself at the door on the way in and often as soon as I stepped out of the car. I stopped going to this group at the same time that I decided to be open about my life which coincided with the same time that I started graduate school. Slowly, I began to share my secret with others by casually mentioning my girlfriend/partner.

Today, although single, I’m out to many people. I teach classes on a university campus and routinely come out to my students. Everyone that I work with, I’m out to. But I’m still not out to some family. When I told my parents almost a year ago, my mom told me that “other people didn’t need to know.” She said there were basically two ways to deal with this “new lesbian status of mine”: I could just continue to be me and keep it to myself or I could be what I would call “loud and proud.” She said she hoped that I would choose the right (quiet) way. I remember saying that “I wasn’t going to lie about it.” And I haven’t, although I don’t always mention it.

Just today, I was talking to a good friend of mine that I have known now for almost 7 years and he said without any prompting from me, “You know what … you’re still the same person. You haven’t changed because you came out.”  It was so refreshing to hear this from him. I’m so glad he called. Even if he has teased me about being a lesbian, he is someone I can count on to listen, and understand as best he can. His teasing comes from a place of love not from hate.

I still pause about whether any of my “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” ‘friends’ really need to know. Because how crazy is it that as a closeted lesbian, I was able to bring (presumably) homophobic people to a deeper faith? Or that God used me, a closeted lesbian, to bring others to a deeper faith? What does it say about our God and the religion s/he designed?  What does it say about the Bible?

For some reason I think if I told members of that faith community, they would surely experience a homosexual panic. They might say that I have let sin into my life or profess something about the works of Satan. Surely their God would not condone or even openly accept my behavior. But I would tell them that not only does their God accept me but s/he also helped me to love myself, my very queer lesbian self.

Their Christianity helped me come out and life outside the closet is much, much brighter.

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Step Into My Closet and Meet My Skeletons

I’ve decided… I’m on a mission to change the world. All of us are. What we all desire is a purpose—an assignment—to somehow positively affect our little corner of the world. As a Christian lesbian attempting to build bridges, I do a lot of jabbering about love. But do I carry it out? Sometimes, the answer is no. What are some reasons we fail to practice the love that we preach? Perhaps fear, laziness, hurt feelings (a big one for me)… the reasons can be endless. We’ve all heard the saying, “Those who are the most difficult to love are the ones who need it the most”. I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I wrote a blog a couple months back called “Homophobic Homosexuals: Do It For Them”. Many times, it is these internally homophobic people who are the most difficult to like. But though they have an irritating knack for raising my blood pressure, I am called to not only like them, but to love them.

I’ve shared with you before that I used to be a homophobic homosexual. Let me share a story from my past to illustrate that point. During the 2004 Presidential Campaign, I wrote a letter to the editor of our local newspaper. [Before I tell you the content of that letter, let me say that I am not a political person. I never discuss politics on this blog (and with good reason)! In fact, I’m now a registered Libertarian, so I’m quite apathetic when it comes to debates between the G.O.P. and the Dems.] When I registered to vote at 18, I registered as a Republican. My mother’s entire side of the family was registered to that party, so it just seemed like the thing to do. When I began to realize there was nothing I could do about my sexuality, it sort of threw a wrench in my plans. I had this picture in my head of who and what I was supposed to be. Determined to fling myself straight into heterosexuality (pun intended), I wrote a letter to the editor in which I took the classic, right-wing, conservative stance. I’ve since burned the newspaper clipping, but it went something like this:

“I cannot fathom how Christians justify their endorsement for John Kerry. His support for same-sex marriage is absolutely un-Christian! Homosexuality is not normal, and if we continue to tolerate it in this country, we will head down a path of destruction.”…. blah, blah, blah….

I continued on for at least two paragraphs, spouting off the same opinions in a variety of ways. I was proud. I knew what I stood for, and I wasn’t going to budge. One problem, though… I was making out with someone practically every weekend (you guessed it… a girl). That’s right… I knew the way to act and the words to say. But the shell of a person that everyone saw was a big fat lie.

This story is embarrassing to recount. Looking back, I wonder how I could have been so hypocritical! But by writing that letter, I did two things: 1) I got “attagirl’s” and pats on the back from my circle of friends, and 2) I made sure that no one could “wonder if I was gay”. Hadn’t I made it clear in my rant? I was certainly a man-lovin’ lady… a definitive heterosexual.

My inbox was flooded with emails the day my letter to the editor was published. Some affirmed my tirade, some were flat-out mean, and some were thoughtful letters written to me from gay pastors, trying to tell their side of the homosexual debate. I’m ashamed to admit that I discounted them all. Because their views were way out of the realm of my personal comfort, I dismissed them. Retrospectively, I wish with all my heart that I could have let go of my pride and opened the door to communication. Maybe I would have learned a thing or two. Maybe my heart could have been softened. Maybe I could have learned to love a little harder.

Why do I tell you this story? Well, because while I get angry and hurt by those who refuse to engage in conversations about this issue … I have to remember that I used to be one such person. We have to admit to ourselves—however painful it is—that there will always be people who just simply don’t want to have that conversation. They can’t see us as children of God… just people with problems. How do we love those people?—I mean, truly love them?

We must remind ourselves that loving people does not mean that we allow ourselves to stay in abusive situations. Living a life of love requires that we have good emotional and spiritual health. Therefore, if we do not take care of ourselves, we cannot take care of others. There will be some people you must learn to love from a distance. What does that mean? Is that possible? I believe it is. If someone is manipulating you, gaslighting you, or making you feel less than… then it’s time to say goodbye. You can love that person by praying for them and hoping that good things come to them, rather than wishing they would “get what they deserve”. You can love them by releasing that hurt and animosity that exists in your heart. You can, in fact, love authentically from a distance.

In closing, I want to apologize for my past behavior toward the LGBT community. I wish I had saved those emails I received in response to my letter to the editor. Perhaps I could offer some words to undo the damage I did. I’m ashamed of the steps I was willing to take in order to ensure my safety and secrecy deep inside the closet. Now, as a Christian lesbian, I can truly say I’ve seen both sides of the story. Living my life openly and honestly is the best decision I’ve ever made. My relationship with God is stronger, my friendships are real, and my life is chock-full of love. So, my present-day self would like to give my past self a message: Be willing to listen, be willing to let go of your pride, and be willing to live a Godly life of honesty and love.

The Sins of the Homosexual

Reconciliation of faith and sexuality is a long and ongoing journey—one which I know many of you have experienced firsthand. When I finally admitted to myself that I was attracted to women, that struggle became my fixation. Growing up in a fundamentalist environment, I already knew all too well what was thought about (whisper) homosexuals. It was so bad that no one could bring themselves to talk about it from the pulpit or in youth group. It was the unspoken sin… that which shall not be named. So it’s no surprise that I kept quiet when I figured it out. If this is such a sin, then I know God can heal me. I just need to figure out how I can get Him to do that. After all, I don’t want this. I didn’t ask for this. I’ll just pray hard enough. Read my Bible enough. Meditate enough. Fast enough. Make enough promises. 

Well, we all know how that worked out, don’t we?

But the fact is, changing my sexuality became my obsession. Whenever people mentioned the word “sin”, I immediately thought of my same-sex attraction. Ugh. I’m filthy. I’m so disgusting. God doesn’t want anything to do with me unless I change. God, help me change… I can’t do this without You!  Whenever I felt especially worthless, I would refrain from wearing my Christian t-shirts, jewelry… even my college sweatshirts (I graduated from a very conservative Christian college in the Bible belt. What would they think? All of my old professors? My old friends?) It seems so silly now, but I honestly felt that way.

The years that followed college were tumultuous in terms of my self-image, identity, and self-confidence. Never once did I consider leaving my faith. Jesus was my life. I knew he loved me, but somehow I believe he despised me at the same time. When it came to a point where I could no longer deny that God hadn’t healed me yet, I began to pray. Fervently. I began asking the questions I was always too afraid to explore. (It’s a wonderful revelation when you find that God doesn’t condemn you for asking “why”.) The next six years led me down a path of rediscovery. I got to know God again. I read the Scriptures with fresh eyes. I began to study different translations, and began looking at cultural cues. My journey eventually brought me to a place I never expected, not in a million years. This whole time, God has heard my cries for healing, and He answered them! I got my healing… just not like I expected. I prayed to be straight. Instead, God changed my heart, and opened my eyes to the fact that He loves me just as I am! As you can imagine, this was a wonderful revelation, although not an easy one. That “thing” that defined sin for me was now considered a gift. What do I do with that? It didn’t take me long to see what God was trying to tell me:

I had been fixated on my sexuality for so long, I had ignored everything else. I had become obsessively focused on myself. I no longer made time to encourage others. I was not serving others. I was not the hands and feet of Christ. My true sins and failures were brought to the forefront: I was a gossip. At times I used my words to tear down and not to build up. I let anger consume me unnecessarily. I lacked compassion. I lacked kindness. In my quest to cure myself, I abandoned humanity.

In the same way, I’m convinced that Satan uses the debate about homosexuality and the Church to his advantage. We are distracted, obsessed with plowing our battle lines deeper and deeper into the ground. Meanwhile, people are starving, wars are raging, and hate is impending in virtually every facet of society. Instead of having our hearts broken over the world hunger crisis, we are worried about who is in love with whom. And that little light in the darkness begins to flicker and fade.

We, as a Church, will never agree on everything. But God is bigger than our biases. When it comes to discerning good from evil, light from dark… there is one thing that never fails: You will know the nature of a person by the fruit they bear. You can love or you can hate. You can be a healing presence to the world, or you can be a hurting presence. You can build up, or you can tear down.

As it turns out, being straight isn’t a prerequisite for extending God’s love to the world. If you ask me, that’s Good News.

Heterosexual Questionnaire: a Self-Assessment

Someone brought this questionnaire to bible study last night. I got a pretty good chuckle, so I just can’t help but share! Apparently it’s been around since 1977, but I had never seen it. So, I thought perhaps some of you lovelies may have missed out on it as well. Enjoy, and pass it on!

Heterosexual Questionnaire, by Martin Rochlin, PhD.

1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?

2. When and how did you first decide you were a heterosexual?

3. Is it possible your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of?

4. Is it possible your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?

5. Isn’t it possible that all you need is a good gay lover?

6. Heterosexuals have histories of failures in gay relationships.  Do you think you may have turned to heterosexuality out of fear of rejection?

7. If you’ve never slept with a person of the same sex, how do you know you wouldn’t prefer that?

8. If heterosexuality is normal, why are so many mental patients heterosexual?

9. To whom have you disclosed your heterosexual tendencies? How did they react?

10. Your heterosexuality doesn’t offend me as long as you don’t try to force it on me. Why do you people feel compelled to seduce others into your sexual orientation?

11. If you choose to nurture children, would you want them to be heterosexual, knowing the problems they would face?

12. The great majority of child molesters are heterosexuals. Do you really consider it safe to expose your children to heterosexual teachers?

13. Why do you insist on being so obvious, and making a public spectacle of your heterosexuality? Can’t you just be what you are and keep it quiet?

14. How can you ever hope to become a whole person if you limit yourself to a compulsive, exclusive heterosexual object choice and remain unwilling to explore and develop your normal, natural, healthy, God-given homosexual potential?

15. Heterosexuals are noted for assigning themselves and each other to narrowly restricted, stereotyped sex-roles. Why do you cling to such unhealthy role-playing?

16. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?

17. With all the societal support marriage receives, the divorce rate is spiraling.  Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

18. How could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual, considering the menace of overpopulation?

19. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Techniques have been developed with which you might be able to change if you really want to. Have you considered aversion therapy?

20. Do heterosexuals hate and/or distrust others of their own sex? Is that what makes them heterosexual?

 

Confessions of a Formerly-Homophobic Lesbian

I was once homophobic.

It’s true. What I didn’t realize back then, is that those feelings of fear and dismay toward “those people” stemmed from my own internalized emotions. I didn’t know what to do with the feelings I had. So I just naïvely believed that I was simply a loyal, true-blue friend. That’s must be why I constantly found ways to nurture my relationships with my girlfriends, right? And the agony I felt when we weren’t together? Well… surely that was just the spiritual and emotional bond that young Christian women shared.

I told myself that lie for years. I assumed an interest in boys would manifest eventually. I dated a handful of guys… all of which were Godly, amazing young men. There was no logical reason why I shouldn’t be head over heels. Yet, when I was out on a date, all I could think about was getting back to my “best friend” of the moment… to relax, be myself, and of course, engage in hours of female bonding.

I really am appalled when I think about my ideology back then. Because I’d been told what to believe about homosexuals, I knew that I had better keep a safe distance. I was friendly to everyone—and perhaps even went out of my way to be nice to “those people”—but I never socialized with them. In my own haughty and hypocritical way, I saw my “kindness” as a way to show them Jesus. (I cringe even as I type these words.) My insincere actions reflected nothing of the selfless, humble, love-centric life of Christ.

Occasionally, I’ll read my old journals. They are teeming with clues of my repressed sexuality. Here I was, a teenager who wrote about all of these feelings I was experiencing… yet I didn’t know what to call them. Deep inside I knew there was something going on. But being gay wasn’t an option for me as I saw it, so I simply didn’t think about it. I realize now that my unwillingness to confront these emotions did not make me straight… it just made me confused.

Looking back, I now understand that if I couldn’t even understand my own sexuality, then I had no business judging others who had embraced theirs. On behalf of all homophobes everywhere, I’m sorry. I apologize for the actions that take place when fear replaces love. And no, I’m not suggesting that all homophobic people are really homosexuals, themselves (although I have seen it happen on more than one occasion). All I’m advocating here is love. When I sought the way of Christ, I found that true love is unconditional. We are called to love all people—no matter their race, gender, social class, religion, or sexual orientation. I pray for the day that all people can live without fear… a day when not one more soul is separated from the knowledge of Jesus’ relentless love.

“Shunned”: Guest Blog Series

Here’s a wonderful post from Josha. She explores the true nature of Jesus, and reminds us that he’s there for us, even when others aren’t.

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To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And THEY THREW HIM OUT.  (John 9:34)

Have you ever been shunned?
Have you ever felt “thrown out?”
Have you ever been accused of sin and felt shame, whether it be true or not?

My heart goes out to anyone who has ever felt the pain of this kind of rejection. So please consider the following:

Part of the debate of homosexuality is nature vs. nurture; which places blame on parents as people try to figure out if it is the sin of the parents or of the individuals that has caused them to pursue being gay…avoiding the thought that it was a natural occurrence…..and sadly placing undue shame and essentially shunning individuals for being who they were created to be.

Listen to what Jesus has to teach about nature and nurture and see how he responds to those who are shunned.

As he went along, he saw a man blind form birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?
    “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, “said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:1-3)

Jesus is acknowledging that God allows nature to take its course and that nobody should be blamed or accused of sin based on imperfections that comes upon them such as this man born blind.  People are born with different qualities and characteristics and imperfections to no fault of the individual or of the parents. Further more, it is a way in which the Lord brings himself into relationship with us.

Perhaps Jesus is also educating his disciples about the misuse of Scripture in regard to nurture; addressing the idea of bad things happening to people as punishment from God due to sin. A thinking that could have developed from Exodus 34:7…”he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

Jesus takes advantage of this opportunity to be a light in the world and to show mercy as he proceeds to make mud and placed it on the man’s eyes and sent him away to go wash it off. Upon doing this, the man was healed and could see. The neighbors who knew this man were skeptical as to if this man really was the same blind beggar… the only thing different was now he could see.

Why couldn’t they believe him when clearly he could see?

The neighbors brought the man to the Pharisees. The Pharisees did not want to believe that Jesus had healed the man who was blind. They became very up set with the man as he was proclaiming that Jesus indeed comes from God, evident by being able to see for the first time in his life. And this is when they through insults at him and shunned him.

Now, for all who have felt shunned, listen to what Jesus did:

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he FOUND HIM, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35)

INCREDIBLE! Jesus found him! Implying that Jesus went looking for this man who had been “hurled insults at” and thrown out by the Pharisee, the teachers of the law, the “holy ones.”

I believe the Bible is the Living Word and this message tells me that anybody who has ever been thrown out of church or any organization affiliated with church, just because they are gay, “JESUS COMES LOOKING FOR YOU.”

When Jesus finds you, I believe you will know, because look at how Jesus related to the man born blind. Keep in mind; the man has never seen Jesus with his own eyes until now.

“Who is he Sir? The man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him”
Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact he is the one speaking with you.”       (John 9:36)

The man was born blind by NATURE and Jesus NURTURED his spirituality.

Have you tried talking to people at church and they just won’t listen? Have you been told that you are headed down a sinful path while you were simply trying to educate someone about same-sex attraction? Have people tried to place blame on your parents or on other things to try and explain your “confusion” of your sexuality?

As the blind man was healed in a way that nobody expected, those who have same-sex attraction are healed as well and we are trying to proclaim that Jesus has set us free and sometimes it feels like nobody is listening.

Why can’t they believe that we were indeed born this way and are indeed healed?

I realize some people might say, “Jesus healed the blind man by giving him sight and he can heal the gay man too by making him straight.” But look at how he healed the blind man. He made mud out of spit and rubbed it on the man’s eyes, breaking the law of working on the Sabbath. I’m sure there were many other ways he could have healed the blind man.

I love that as one who is attracted to the same sex, I can say that I feel like Jesus has healed me despite the unlawfulness of the appearance in which he has healed me. He did not heal me the way many would expect him to heal me. But like Mandy has said on her website, “We are gay people who have prayed for healing.  The healing came… but not in the way that we expected.  We prayed to be straight.  Instead, God opened our hearts to the amazing fact that He loves us and accepts us just as we are.”

I want to be clear in that I’m not equalizing, “The Pharisees” to “Christians who are against homosexuality.” I do not believe that most Christians have a Pharisaical heart, but I think it is more that the topic has been hidden and ignored and misguided for so long that people just need to be educated and opened up to the idea of purity that can be found in homosexuality.

The truth is that we have all been born blind… spiritually. And we spend a lifetime of being nurtured and healed by Jesus who gives us sight.

I pray that God opens the hearts of everyone to the reality that we, who are attracted to the same sex, are loved and accepted as we are and that our wish is not to indulge in sinful behavior but to grow closer to God.

Was Same-Sex Marriage Once a Christian Rite?

A provocative and controversial article was recently brought to my attention. It’s a piece regarding the history of same-sex unions within the Church. I’d like to re-post it here for discussion. Please keep in mind, I am posting this solely as an objective conversation piece. I neither endorse nor reject the views in this article… but I do find it quite thought-provoking. Please feel free to share your thoughts or opinions in the comment section.

Note: The article shown here was written by Thos Payne, and was originally published in the Colfax Record in August, 2008.

When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

by Thos Payne

© SS. Sergius & Bacchus - 7th cent.

© SS. Sergius & Bacchus - 7th cent.

A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon suggesting that a gay “wedding” is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple.

Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (AD 512 – 518) explained that, “we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life”. This is not a case of simple “adelphopoiia.” In the definitive 10th century account of their lives,

St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the “sweet companion and lover” of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus’s close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as erastai or “lovers”. In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.

Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” (10th and 11th century), and the “Order for Uniting Two Men” (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiated in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12thand/ early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) recorded.

Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe list in great detail some same gender ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century rite, “Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union”, invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, and called on God to “vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints”. The ceremony concludes: “And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded”.

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic “Office of the Same Sex Union”, uniting two men or two women, had the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae (Paris, 1667).

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, homophobic writings didn’t appear in Western Europe until the late 14th century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place.

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, “taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together” according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Prof. Boswell’s academic study is so well researched and documented that it poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in fact, nothing of the sort.

It proves that for the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom, from Ireland to Istanbul and even in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given love and commitment to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honored and blessed, through the Eucharist in the name of, and in the presence of, Jesus Christ.

Notes on the findings of Prof. John Boswell concerning the performance of same-sex marriages by the church from the 4th century to the present.