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I choose not to be straight

This has had 4 million plus views on YouTube but grandpa here has only just seen it. In these vox pops they ask folks whether you're born gay or choose it. Then they follow up with the question: "When did you choose to be straight?"...

Here's my answer: Who said I was "straight"? I'm not "straight". My desires are twisted in a thousand ways, like everyone's. Those desires have incredibly complex causes from genetics to environment to experiences and, yes, choices along the way. But I'm a Christian so I don't really foreground choices anyway. I believe in the bondage of the will for goodness sakes. I don't really view people as rational, decision-making machines and I reckon the best social science research confirms that. We are all the results of a complex mixture of forces and our individual choices make up just a piece of that pie.

But back to my original point, I am not "straight." I hate the term "straight". Lusting after the opposite sex en masse is not a virtue and it should never be held up as an ideal against which to judge others as crooked. So allow me to use the limited power of my choices in this regard: I choose not to be "straight". I repent of any identity marker called "straight." Lord forgive me if  I ever take refuge in the label "straight."

Let me go further. I choose not to be "heterosexual". The very idea of classifying me according to a "sexual orientation" is anti-gospel. I am a Christian - that's my identity. Can you seriously imagine Jesus turning to His disciples during the sermon on the mount and saying "Let your sexual desires be unto the multitude of women"? Course not. Jesus is anti-heterosexual and so am I.

Incidentally, I happen to lust after all kinds of sentient beings - males and females alike. Asked to name a top ten of good looking Hollywood actors I may well name a majority of men. What does this say? Not a lot, except that perhaps our modern, western taxonomy of sexuality is off-target. I don't find the categorisations of hetero-sexual / lesbian / gay / transgender / intersex / questioning /queer / asexual etc, to fit even our small slice of the global population, let alone the rest of the world, let alone the rest of human history. Most of world history would look in complete bafflement at our sexuality descriptors, therefore I choose not to buy into that categorization. And I choose not to read the bible through those extremely novel lenses - a temptation to which Christians and non-Christians fall in equal measure.

I'll admit happily, there are very few things I can do to change what or who I desire. But what I do choose is not to define myself by those desires. I choose to let my desires be desires and to let my identity be in Christ. I choose to say No to desires that would harm me or my loved ones (Titus 2:12). When I fail at saying No, I choose not to wallow in self-condemnation. If my "sexuality" doesn't define me, then neither do my sins. I choose to go to Christ with it all and find infinite forgiveness and love.

At the same time I choose never to condemn others who wear a different label. I choose never to feel superior to another human being simply because my distorted desires are more socially acceptable than theirs. I choose never to treat someone as inferior for their desires or their behaviour. I choose to love people no matter the spectrum they choose or the place they sit on it. And I choose to invite the world - whatever their label - to renounce that identity and find the liberating joy of adoption in the family of God. For in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, gay nor straight.

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FOLLOW UP POSTS:

Why we should go after "straight Christians"

Podcast: Why we must be sexual sinners and shouldn't be straight

The idolatries lurking within some conservative Christian world-views

34 thoughts on “I choose not to be straight

  1. Oli Butler

    Thanks Glen. This is insightful and helpful. On another note, I always have the nagging feeling that finding my identity in Christ destroys my identity. Above and beyond the spatio-temporal distinctions between people and things, the main thing that seems to 'identify' one person from another is aspects of their personalities, their memories, dispositions etc. However, if my identity is found in Christ and your identity is found in Christ and his and hers etc., then what distinguishes us from each other and what distinguishes us from Christ? Finding our identity in Christ seems to somewhat reduce our identity—to become an 'eliminativist' about our identity—not liberate us from labels. Thoughts?

  2. Sam

    Hi Glen,

    Thanks for at least being prepared to raise this topic.

    There is no doubt that as a Christian my primary identity is in Christ. All other identities and descriptors pale into insignificance alongside this fact, and it is pivotal to what makes me who I am. To know that I am a child of God transforms the way I think and live.

    But just because our primary identity is in Christ, does that mean we have to reject all other identifying terms?

    Interesting that you make reference to Galatians 3:28 which says that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I love that verse. But it does not mean we should pretend that people’s ethnicity or social status or gender are not important. I think it means we should acknowledge everything that makes up a person’s identity, however different from us, and still choose to love the person completely. If for example we need to pretend that a person’s skin is not actually black in order to love them, how is that real love?

    Do we have to stop using all labels other than Christian? What about our nationalities? Our skin colour? Our genders?! Perhaps I should avoid using those identities and say that I live in a northern region of Ireland, have a pale skin pigmentation and both X and Y chromosomes. It gets a bit ridiculous.

    Being exclusively attracted to my own gender is part of my lived experience, whether I like it or not, and whether it leads me into sin or not. I could say "I am same sex attracted" but gay is a useful shorthand, and it feels like semantics to deny me that.

    But actually, it's more important than that. In my view, the reluctance of conservative evangelical Christians to use the term gay is one of the many factors that contributes to a “them and us” mentality between the LGBT community and a large proportion of the Christian church. In other words, it is to some extent perpetuating the perceived division and sending those of us who are gay the message that we do not have a place in the church.

    I totally agree with you that human sexuality is considerably more complex than most of us really comprehend, so people should be free to describe their own sexuality in whatever terms they choose and are most comfortable with, or indeed be free not to label their sexuality whatsoever.

    Nonetheless, for those of us for whom the term gay (or lesbian or bisexual) fits, let us be free to use it without shame or judgement or suspicion. To deny us this is to invalidate us and our lived experience of being attracted to the same gender.

    Regardless of how crucial or overarching our identity in Christ is, that does not mean we can or should discard every other part of our identity.

    There is beauty in the unity of diversity.

    Sam

  3. the Old Adam

    Of course God loves gay people just the same as everyone else.

    But we, the church, ought never, should never, affirm the sin of homosexuality…or any other sin under the sun.

    It makes no difference if someone was "born that way"…or not.

    We are ALL born liars. Right? (Jesus said so)

    But that in no way makes it right, or good, or ok to do.

  4. Glen

    Hi Oli,

    I think "in Christ" is exactly parallel to "justified by grace through faith." It's the foundational reality of my standing before God and the world. But it isn't the only thing to be said. I am, after all, God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works..." (Eph 2:10). But whatever I say about myself begins on the gracious footing of "nothing in my hand I bring" and proceeds by grace, through faith. Same with "in Christ". I'm also a husband and an Australian and a cricket fan, etc. But the "in Christ" bit grounds my ultimate identity and shapes (and sometimes excludes) the way I pursue lesser identities. So it doesn't eliminate my particularity (any more than grace eliminates works) but it sets those identities in their proper relations. And - to bring it back to its relevance here - it should stop me from loudly yelling "born that way" as a primary marker of identity.

  5. Glen

    Hi Sam,

    thanks for commenting, love your blog.

    I think the approach to take with this is solidarity and subversion. I am in total solidarity with any and all who say that their desires do not conform to some golden norm. That's why I am very eager to abandon any labels like "straight" - cos I'm not. That's the solidarity thing. The subversion thing is about calling into question a very recent taxonomy of "sexuality" which is in danger of raising sexual desires to the level of basic identity markers. That's Freud, not Christianity. And I - along with many queer theorists - want to subvert that way of seeing the world.

    These articles have been buzzing around my head recently:

    http://dailycaller.com/2014/03/19/nobody-is-born-that-way-gay-historians-say/2/

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/03/against-heterosexuality

    When I say I'm not straight, that's part of the solidarity move - I get things twisted like everyone else. The equivalent for you might well be to say "I'm a Gay Christian, so what?" That could be an excellent way of moving people *beyond* labels. But I'd also want to see subversive moves too cos we really don't want Freud's spectacles as ours.

    This is not to deny or diminish the experience of anyone's sexual desires and how deeply they run and I don't want anyone to keep a lid on those feelings. I can handle hearing a married man's struggles and a single man's struggles no matter who they're attracted to. But where the sexual identifier in the bible is around one "flesh", it becomes a bit gnostic to make the new sexual identifier about *desire*. I want to subvert *that* aspect of the LGBT identifiers. But, as I say, I'm all for moves in the direction of solidarity too.

    Final note on Gal 3:28... my reading this morning was Col 3 which has a similar verse - "there is no barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, Christ is all and is in all." Wonderful. Then Paul, in the same breath, tells slaves and free how to live in their *different* callings. Absolutely. But when it comes to a calling on someone's life, the relevant distinction in Paul's mind is not heterosexual or homosexual (that conceptual framework was still 18 centuries away!) - for him the relevant distinction was married man / unmarried man or married woman / unmarried woman. I think there's a danger of raising *desires* to the levels of callings and at that stage we need to subvert.

    What do you think?

  6. Oli Butler

    Thanks Glen. Some helpful comments. Identity is a strange thing. I know it's a very selfish and self-centred question, but I want to ask: what makes me me? Or what makes you you? It's possible that what may come across as significant identity markers (although not as significant as being 'in Christ') could break down once we hit old age and get dementia etc. If we lose every aspect of our identity except for being in Christ, then what distinguishes us from each other then? We don't cease to be people. People in a vegetative states still have rights, no? But what makes a person? Haha, these are big questions.

  7. Glen

    Hey Oli - big questions indeed. I think, as with everything, we have to begin with Jesus. He "finds His identity" by abandoning Himself utterly to the Father's will. He *is* the Son when He submits utterly to the Father. No wonder He then tells us that if we want to find ourselves we need to lose ourselves in Him.

    Identity comes on the far side of losing ourselves (just as good works come on the far side of grace alone).

  8. Oli Butler

    Thanks. That's certainly something to think about. I guess the Christian life entails working out exactly how that plays out in our life. I.e. how we can best lose ourselves in and for Christ so that we might find ourselves.

  9. Glen

    Luther's line springs to mind: We live far above ourselves in Christ by faith and far beneath ourselves in our neighbour through love. Where we don't live is "in ourselves". We receive from Christ and pour out to others in cruciform love - but right there *God* is able to make us fruitful and reveal to us and the world who we truly are. Once again we don't find ourselves by searching for ourselves but in giving ourselves away for the gospel. In God's economy this does not eliminate our personal identity, it establishes it!

  10. Sam

    Thanks Glen for responding (and for checking out my new blog).

    I think there are some things we agree on and some we don't. I guess my main issue is with your reduction of LGBT identifiers to being just about *desires*. I refute that because I think being gay is about much more than that. My sexuality is often expressed in ways which do not involve either lust or sex, and it affects the way I experience the world in all sorts of ways.

    Let me include 3 quotes, all from people who take a conservative traditional viewpoint on sexual ethics. (Links to the full articles included below.)

    From Melinda Selmys:
    "The foundation of their argument… [is that] being gay involves identifying with a form of lustful disorder, and every Christian should devote themselves heart and soul to stamping out every last trace of lust from their heart in order to be worthy of Christ. I think that this kind of rhetoric is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be gay. Homosexuality as defined by the Catechism refers solely to same-sex lust. But gayness is not the same thing. Being gay is not reducible to having, or desiring to have, homosexual sex. It is a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one’s own gender."

    Wesley Hill:
    "But let’s remember that much of what contemporary Christians would classify under the label “being gay” is part of what Scripture describes under the heading of that new, resurrection life in Christ."

    Julie Rodgers:
    "Many gay people feel like “SSA” [same-sex attraction] does not authentically communicate the extent to which their orientation affects their day to day lives: it gives the impression that this is simply a feeling that arises from time to time. But sexual orientation involves more than mere attraction; it affects the way we interact with the world… It’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing—just different. But in order for your gay loved ones to be known by you, it’s important to extend them the liberty to communicate their reality through whatever language they feel best describes them."

    Even aside from all of this, sexuality labels are sometimes just practically useful. As an example, some of my closest friends are female - and sometimes if pursuing a friendship with a girl it may be useful for me to be up front about my sexuality so that she doesn't have expectations about what direction the relationship is going in.

    Anyway, thanks again for your thought-provoking post and for engaging with the issues in a reasoned manner.

    Sam

    http://spiritualfriendship.org/2014/03/17/still-looking-to-desire/
    http://spiritualfriendship.org/2014/02/26/is-being-gay-sanctifiable/
    http://justbecausehebreathes.com/2013/08/01/my-identity-as-a-straight-christian/

  11. Cal

    Oli:

    In another way to consider it, Paul sets up a dichotomy between being found "in Adam" or "in Christ". Adam, having invited his race's slavery, is marked by all our violence, concupiscence, arrogance, lying etc. Yet we're all individually marked in our own sorts of ways as sons of Adam.

    In another, we're the sons of Christ when He puts His hand over our eyes and says "Child, your eyes are open". We're still us, but us as we are really meant to be. All the divisiveness of Adam's race are brought to harmony in Christ. And it is true unity, not false, as it was at Babel.

    It is not in conformity to cultural mores, traditions, languages, clothing etc. Rather we are of One Spirit, One Baptism, One Trust.

    Glen:

    This was a good article. I appreciate you working through this and not falling into the typical trap of Freudian thinking. People treat labels of homo- and hetero- as stone carved into Humanity, not realizing they're incredibly novel, and not particularly helpful. Hence it's not just straight or gay anymore. It's LGBTQA. The labels will keep multiplying.

  12. Glen

    Hi Sam, sorry you were briefly in spam.

    That Wesley Hill article is excellent. We need more David-and-Jonathan-love in the world. For that reason we mustn't let Freud tell us that same-sex love is "gay", cos that kind of category was three millennia away! The real problem is that Freud has spoiled David-and-Jonathan-love for *all* of us - especially those he wants to label "heterosexual." It would be wonderful if *every* man could be comfortable with expressions of same-sex-love which are completely Scriptural and good for us. I see Indians and Africans walking down the road hand in hand, patting each other on the thigh, arms around each other. I see photos of western men in other ages doing the same:

    http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/07/29/bosom-buddies-a-photo-history-of-male-affection/

    Are they "gay"? Are they in touch with a "homosexual" way of relating? No, they're just guys who haven't yet been taught by Freud to fear such intimacy.

    This is why I say we need solidarity and subversion. In solidarity with all gay men I say "Please can people pursue David-and-Jonathan-love without social stigmas being attached." In subversion of the categories I say "Please can we join forces and bring down this taxonomy of sexuality that splits us off from one another and from the fullness of Christian discipleship."

  13. Glen

    Thanks Cal. Yes, contrasting 'in Adam' with 'in Christ' helps a lot. Especially when you consider the Babel-like ladder-climbing of the Adam-identity as opposed to the blind-but-*receiving*-sight Christ-identity.

  14. chris oldfield

    Hi glen, can I urge you to read Foucault. There's an extraordinary coming together of the amazing grace of the reformation/counterreformation response in the invigilation of the sacrament of penance in the discourse of sexual "identity". History of Sexuality vol. 1 is where to start. By contrast, when the resources in the gospel are SO rich and SO deep to call into question this entire discourse, not simply as a matter of resistance, but in view of what GOD calls us (beloved) in Christ, the "evangelical" witness here is SO shallow, and SO banal. When Foucault and Luther agree, I think it's worth sitting up and taking notice, but hardly anyone is. For what it's worth, here's my stab

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/mzm8rxkyl0lj2bg/Better%20real%20confusion%20than%20false%20clarity.pdf

  15. Glen

    Fantastic, thanks Chris - what a handout! Love to hear the audio for this if it exists?

  16. Sam

    Thanks Glen.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your desire for people to be able to pursue David-and-Jonathan-love without social stigma. In fact, I think if we were in the same room I may just need to give you a man hug for that comment!

    It's actually something my friends who are same-sex attracted (and have a traditional interpretation of scripture) talk about a lot. Our UK society seems to be a bit "all or nothing" when it comes to intimate male relationships. So gay/SSA men who do not want to pursue sexual relationships can be left with no means of satisfying their legitimate needs for touch, intimacy and deep connection. I know it sounds ridiculous but I know men who become so desperate for non-sexual physical intimacy that they reach the end of their tether and end up having anonymous sex with a stranger just so they get a hug and a bit of affection.

    Whether the destruction of our taxonomy of sexuality would solve this, I have doubts. But by all means, push for greater acceptance of David-and-Jonathan love in whatever ways you can.

    (The Five Friends Movie made in the States is a great resource to engage with the subject of deep male friendships.)

    Thanks again.

    Sam

  17. Glen

    *Man hug returned*

    Thanks for comments (and for the links too) - you've helped me think and see things a bit clearer.

  18. Chris Oldfield

    Hi glen

    It was quite informal, a work in progress and obviously context sensitive but here you are.

    1. Evangelism and questions of gender
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/ma0c2qviofgonen/1.%20Evangelism%20and%20Questions%20of%20Gender.mp3
    2. The image of God and the image of Adam https://www.dropbox.com/s/42jpwzn9r6xxo6e/2.%20The%20Image%20of%20God%20and%20the%20Image%20of%20Adam.mp3
    3. The calling you have received https://www.dropbox.com/s/qh5hjq8lq2rc2no/3.%20Called%20not%20by%20Men%20but%20by%20the%20Grace%20of%20God.mp3
    4. Foucault and the social consciousness of sexuality
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/aaop1neqehapk62/4.%20Foucault%20and%20the%20Social%20Consciousness%20of%20Sexuality.mp3

    Chris

  19. Glen

    Hey Tim, thanks for dropping by. I might have overstated things in the post if I'm heard as saying we have *no* other identity than Christ. What I mean is that "in Christ" is our foundational identity. Of course I'm an Australian, husband, cricket-lover etc. But none of that can be pursued or owned in unfaithfulness to Christ. Nonetheless there are callings on my life, including as a husband, which are particular not universal and I am to honour Christ in those particulars.

    Actually one of my arguments against the PoMo sexuality categories is that they minimize gender differences in a Gnostic-like flight from the physical given-ness of the human body. So, Yes to ID in Christ, but once we've grasped this I also say Yes to gender differences (not those of the 1950s but those of Scripture).

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  23. j

    Glen, choose the Word and don't compromise Christ or scripture to fit the "modern" world. If you want to do a piece about labels then do that but don't dismiss the universal questions of morality in doing so.

    Is not one man and one woman bound in marriage scriptural? (Mark 10:5-9; 1 Cor 7:1-9). Prayerfully read Genesis 2:21-26, Romans 1:24-27, 1 Cor 5:9-13 and Proverbs 3:5-6. The righteous live by faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

  24. Glen

    Hi J,

    Welcome to the blog.

    Is there a sense you feel that I haven't chosen the Word? I completely agree that "one man and one woman bound in marriage" is the exclusive context for sex. Where have I disagreed with that?

    My problem with "straight" / "heterosexual" /"orientation" language is precisely that *that* language is unscriptural. *Because* I value the Word and not the modern world I reject the terms "straight" / "heterosexual" /"orientation". Those who want to be "straight" and "heterosexual" - they are the ones who have been swayed by modern categories, not Scriptural ones.

    See what I mean?

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  32. Salvador Ung Hayworth

    The problems with labels is that they can be both descriptive and infer something more in the minds of people. For example, "Monogamous heterosexual marriage" is biblical but "monogamous homosexual marriage" isn't. However, any sexual relationship outside of marriage is unbiblical and sinful too. So in one case the term heterosexual is helpful but heterosexual sexuality outside of marriage is still sin. But then we are talking about sexual activity in action and in thought. We are not speaking of "orientation" or any other sort of illicit inclination. We are born with a sin nature and that means that we will be tempted to follow certain passions that in Christ we are supposed to crucify. The problem with seeing our identity in sexuality is that it becomes a default and almost a justification for what we do. "Well, that is who I am" and we will never see victory in that area. Scripturally I am to reckon myself dead to sin. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live." To reckon my identity according to my sin nature or old sins throws question on whether we believe that we are new creations in Christ. It is not about feeling like a new creation but reckoning it by faith just as God has reckoned faith for righteous for "Abraham believed God and God reckoned that faith to Abraham for righteousness".

    As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-14 ... such were some of you.

    Rosaria Butterfield addresses this subject candidly and honestly in her book "openness unhindered". Though I don't subscribe to the reformed understanding on original sin ( in that we not only are born with Adam's sin nature - which I do affirm - but that we also inherit the guilt - which I do not affirm). Nevertheless I think her whole discussion of the issues to be very insightful and in places funny as she recounts her adjustment to Christian circles and Christian community as someone in many ways was alien to it all.

    But the other reason why I recommend the book is that it is not only helpful concerning the issue of the homosexuality that she was saved out of, (if you read the book you will realise in what sense I mean this), but the principles can apply to any sort of sexual sin and enslavement.

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