Jul

10

2012

Jeff Buchanan|10:00 PM CT

The New Sexual Identity Crisis

We live in a culture addicted to identity labels. We seek to summarize everything essential about an individual in a word, phrase, or 140 characters. With every label and category there comes another level of segregated identity, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of sexual identity.

One can look at the gay community and see the level of identity fragmentation represented in the use of acronyms such as LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Ally). The sexual identity label has become a method of reducing individuals to a micro narrative of sexual orientation. In man's created need to transcend himself, this self-referencing label creates a personal crisis of identity and purpose.

This sexual identity crisis has breached the church where labels such as "gay Christian" and "gay celibate Christian" are becoming more commonly used and accepted. Some Christians with same-sex attractions now say the evolution of common vernacular makes it acceptable to adopt these terms as accurately describing their experience. But are such labels compatible with our identity in Christ? Do they draw us closer to Christ? Here are six points for us to consider.

(1) Identity Distortion/Reductionism

Understanding our identity in Christ is essential for Christian living. When we were born again, we received a new identity, and we are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). We will share in Christ's inheritance, and as we grow in the revelation of our new identity, we will increasingly be enabled to live according to God's will. If our identity is "in Christ," can we add to this identity without implying that Christ is somehow deficient?

With every additional label--whether it is occupation, gifts, interests, or sexual orientation---we detract from the complete work of Christ in our lives and splinter our identity into fragments. We become defined by our actions and our desires, which plays into the pragmatic mindset of "I am what I do." Rather than looking in a mirror that is complete and unbroken where we can see a perfect image, we are content with piecing together a distorted mirror of our own making. In Christ we have an identity far greater than the sound-bite descriptions commonly found on dating services.

(2) Sexual Segregation

An identity based upon same-sex attractions can potentially create a segregated church community. Those dealing with same-sex attraction can be tempted to obsessive introspection and self-pity. The sexual identity label can create an "I'm Special" category that encourages narcissism. But everyone in the church struggles with various challenges and problems. No one's struggle is unique. We must not let such differences isolate us from the strength found in a sharing community.

(3) Absolute Anchor

While some who suffer receive immediate explanations from God, others are challenged to wait. In the midst of waiting, we must always have hope. An identity rooted in same-sex attractions serves as an anchor that keeps us docked in our present circumstance. We have accepted our lot in life, and experience now becomes our identity. Should a person ever develop a desire to explore a heterosexual relationship, he or she will find it difficult to overcome the label that can deter interested parties.

(4) The Authenticity Trap

Many in this younger generation with same-sex attraction feel they must adopt the "gay" label in order to be authentic. Considering the word authentic means "not false" or "conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features," one must consider if taking on this label is defining a person by identity or by experience. Many mistake disclosure for authenticity. They are trapped by a cultural philosophy of "I feel therefore I am." True authenticity can only be achieved by conforming to the image of Christ rather than idol of our desires.

(5) The Power of a Name

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits" (Prov. 18:21). Scripture is replete with examples of the importance God places on a name. Often, God would change someone's name to signify a new beginning in life. God didn't always give someone a name that exemplified who they presently were, but rather a name that reflected who he knew they would be one day by his grace. The labels and identities we adopt contribute to the perception of who we are and empower us to behold who we will become. That is why any name outside of Christ will always fall dreadfully short of God's intent for us.

(6) Culturally Dictated Confusion

Some would argue that language is always evolving and the use of a "gay celibate  Christian" identity would be acceptable based upon dictates of today's culture.  While it is true that definitions are subject to change, this reasoning doesn't translate in the realm of gay sexual identity. The term "gay" can have vast socio-political and cultural connotations, and it raises such question as whether the person holds to a traditional orthodoxy on the issue of homosexuality. Are they choosing abstinence to remain chaste as a single person with same-sex attractions, or are they waiting until they can enter into a same-sex marriage? The use of this label to conveniently communicate one's experience actually promotes confusion and misunderstanding.

It is not experience that determines who we are but rather our identity in Christ that enables us to be continually transformed in his image. As we disciple those with same-sex attractions, we must contend for a gospel-centric identity. To assume any other name is to look upon ourselves in a broken mirror. Only when we see ourselves in the reflection of Christ's image will we find our true identity.

Jeff Buchanan is the executive vice president of Exodus International and holds a master of theological studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. His experience as a Christian who struggled with same-sex attraction and later, as a pastor counseling others, has prepared him to address these challenging issues.

  • zilch

    How do Christian strictures apply to those of us who are not genetically one or the other, e.g. intersex people? Just curious to see how black/white plays out in a colorful world.

    • RDRussell

      If you re-read points 1 through 6 I think you'll find the answer to your question.

      • Daniella Lollie

        No it doesn't say anything about that.

        • ;zilch

          Exactly. According to you (and the Bible, as far as I can see), there are men and there are women, with different roles, and nothing in between. But the world is not so simple- just google "intersex conditions" for plenty of examples of fuzzy boundaries in real life.

          • Nathan

            The Bible says God created people male and female. So if you are one or the other or someone in between, that includes you!

            Blessings!

          • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

            This article isn't about how people are born. It's about how we shouldn't identify ourselves with our sexuality.

        • Victor

          @zilch, by framing your question in such a way, it seems you've already taken the position that the Christian Church has already limited and categorized people into specific predefined roles. While I cannot possibly know what it is like to be a "shade of grey" or another color, I believe the author is specifically addressing Christians and saying that sexual or gender identity should not be what defines us, rather it's who we are in Jesus Christ that define us.

          "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. " Galatians 3:26-28

          • http://thenface2face@wordpress.com Karen Butler

            I'm late to this discussion, but Zilch's comments remind me of Messiah College professor Jenell Williams Paris, who states in "The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are" that, "Heterosexuality is an abomination."

            Paris argues that there is a continuum of sexual identities, and believes that, historically, the terms “heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” have never had to do with theology or ethics, but are recent “social constructions…created by people within the last two hundred years.”

            A very effective rebuttal of the book is by Dr. Peter Jones of Westminster Seminary: http://truthxchange.com/articles/2011/05/14/heterosexuality-is-an-abomination/ He is especially persuasive when he makes clear the devastating implications of such a worldview, and its connection to neo-pagan spirituality.

            Zilch, if you are still reading, perhaps Jones could help you in understanding why Christianity's strictures are necessary. And Jeff Buchanan, I would be very interested in what you thought of the book, and Dr. Jones' review.

  • Annonymous

    Amen brother. As one who has also dealt with this issue I agree 100% with what you say. It's interesting to me that many people who deal with homosexuality insist, rightly so, that it be treated like any other sin but then get involved in a church and expect to be treated in a special way because of their particular sin. We can't have it both ways.

  • Marcos

    Great post. Unfortunately just by writing this, anyone reading my comment will label me (gay, etc...). The assumptions we make about others betray our public mask of loving people. Sadly, we in the Church DO categorize. We are so terrified of sin, we need to label it. In doing so, we are lemmings of a culture that pigeon-holes every person. We are hurting thousands every time we leave them in their labels, and affirm those labels. It's no better than a Church that alienates sinners by casting them out of our communities. We may as well hold up signs that read "God hates Fags". Either way, we are leaving people in their masks of shame.

    • Cody

      It is sad that the actions of ONE group can 'label' the rest of us.

  • http://www.theretuned.com Matthew

    Our identity is in Christ and not in a lifestyle that leads us away from Christ. On #5 I agree that names are very important and God was not describing the character of the person he gave a new name to but what God was hoping the person would become. If someone labels themselves as a "gay celibate Christian" they are looking at their past without any regards of what God holds for them in their future. It would be as if I said about myself that I am a pornography celibate Christian instead of realizing that my sins are forgiven through Christ and Jesus is moving me beyond that to a life with him.

  • Joe Dallas

    You just made one of the best contributions to this ongoing discussion over identity/orientation that I've ever seen. Your points are spot on, and need to be read by anyone dealing with this issue, either personally or ministerially. Great job, Jeff.

  • http://keanuheydari.com Keanu Heydari

    Reading this post made me think, "Amen, Amen, and Amen!" Many in the church today fail to realize that the issue of homosexuality is so much more important than securing the sanctity of marriage. Yes, this is a vital component of ensuring a victory in the struggle over sins of the flesh, but more important—it is essental to make everyone feel welcomed in a church environment. Understanding our identity in Christ is the first step to a conscience linked with the Holy Spirit.

  • http://www.sometimesalight.com Hannah

    I agree(and appreciate!)the direction and tone of this article but it sparked an additional question for me

    In the current debate, using the label "gay" identifies both the experience/lifestyle AND the intrinsic SSA. Because I'm not convinced that SSA by itself is sinful(while lust is and so is sex outside of marriage), how would you suggest that someone communicate this aspect of themselves?

    I guess I'm asking this: stripping away the issue of sinful behavior, how would someone identify what, in many ways, may be part of their intrinsic make-up as much as any other disability brought about living in a sin-cursed earth? We don't ask blind people to simply "realize their identity in Christ." We acknowledge their blindness and help them live a productive life waiting for the day when they will see. So how do we do the same for our brothers and sisters who have SSA?

    • Jen

      @ Hannah
      i am not sure what SSA is but you say "stripping away the issue of sinful behavior, how would someone identify what, in many ways, may be part of their intrinsic make-up as much as any other disability brought about living in a sin-cursed earth"

      I would say that it is similar to one born into a family with addictive traits. I have heard people reject even one sip of alcohol because there was a family member that became an alcoholic. This is a predispostion in their genes, maybe, but they were not BORN an alcoholic. They did not crave alcohol at birth. Same with ANY other sin or struggle. We all have them, but through Christ we can OVERCOME them :) He is the strength we need. It will not be easy and we might mess us sometimes, but if our eyes are on Christ, He will pick us up and turn us back around into HIS desire for our life :)

      • Hannah

        SSA=Same-sex attraction. I appreciate your allusion to alcoholism, but I'm afraid when it comes to ssa, we in the church don't differentiate between between those prone toward ssa and those who actively engage in gay lifestyle choices the same way we do for alcoholics. As many comments in this thread quickly prove.

        We also have to be very clear in what we mean by "overcoming" temptation. From my understanding, overcoming for a brother or sister struggling through ssa means chasity, not necessarily a fundamental re-wiring of disposition.

        • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

          "Wee in the church"?

          Pray, which church would that be? The Church of the "We Tolerate Anything in the Name of our Underlord so as not to Appear Offensive?" (WTANUAO for short).

          "SSA" is a nice euphemism under which to sweep all perversity.

          "As many comments in this thread quickly prove." Sorry, lady...all that "proves" is how far up their hind quarters some of you have buried your heads. And those posts read as the "Gospel of the Lukewarm."

          • http://www.sometimesalight.com Hannah

            Gene,

            First, please tone it down a bit--no one here is arguing that we accept the gay lifestyle as normal.

            Secondly, all I am saying is that someone struggling through ssa doesn't receive the same loving reception in our churches as someone who acknowledges a pre-disposition to alcoholism. If someone stands up and says "I never drink because my grandfather was an alcoholic" he is applauded; but if someone stands up and says, "I take extra precautions in my life because I have SSA," we (at best) keep him at awkward distance, and at worst, judge him for the very disposition. And yet we don't judge the person with a propensity to alcoholism.

            This issue is more nuanced that you seem to be willing to recognize. Please, for the sake of your brothers and sisters in Christ who are actively seeking holiness and purity in the midst of their SSA, please be gracious. You don't know how damaging your words are.

            • appreciative

              Thank you, Hannah.

            • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

              I think the underlying problem/theme of many of these comments express the inability of many to draw a clear distinction between “judging” and “discernment” and between “tolerance” and “acceptance”.

              I strive not to judge man’s heart, but am discerning in who I associate with. And I tolerate certain behavior in that I do not seek its extermination…but do not accept it as another viable alternative within the realm of human relationships.

              If someone were to stand up in our church & admit to struggling with homosexuality, they would receive prayerful support and guided through counseling. However they would not be allowed to interact with either the youth group or the college group. Parents are naturally discerning as to who they want their children associating with.

              Homosexuality is a scourge upon mankind. The unrepentant who practice it and seek to foist its acceptance/affirmation upon society must be dealt with severely. To corrupt innocent minds into viewing perverted behavior as “O.K.” is as deviant as the very act itself.

            • appreciative

              Gene, we all struggle with sin. All of us. It's just that few are willing to "stand up in church and admit" it. Whatever sin you struggle with, I imagine that you would still consider yourself worthy to interact with your youth or college group. I mean, I could be wrong, but I get a sense that in your mind SSA is a "sin set apart" that ought to require some kind of social quarantine in church and society. If socializing with "sinners" -- those whom the RELIGIOUS shunned in Biblical days, btw -- was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.

            • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

              Your example breaks down immediately, doesn't it? Yes, Jesus socialized with sinners...then admonished them to "sin no more". He did NOT associate with those stridently seeking governmental protection & indoctrination via the education system.

              As to the "set apart" issue - it's simply common sense as a parent to disallow the infiltration of homosexuals into youth groups. I'm even wary of older, heterosexual men who wish to assist in youth groups, and interview them thoroughly before allowing such.

              Homosexuals have already shown themselves to be poor decision makers (in a very large area of their lives: relationships). As such they need to be kept away from impressionable youths who are just acquiring their life skills. We don't want that process tainted do the degree that we can avoid it.

              Folks are worthy to interact with youth because they show themselves to be a typically acculturated people: married with children. they want the best for their children and want them associating with like-minded children from like-minded, typical parents...that keeps the nuclear family & culture rolling along nicely. Mixng deviancy in does not.

            • appreciative

              If it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.

          • http://www.theologicalthoughts.com Michael

            '"SSA" is a nice euphemism under which to sweep all perversity.'

            Prophetic.

            • http://www.sometimesalight.com Hannah

              I do not use SSA as a euphemism for a gay lifestyle. I consider SSA a disability of a sexual nature the same way that blindness is a disability of a physical nature. Is blindness normative? No. Should blind people be allowed to drive? No, both for their own safety and the safety of society at large. So to, I do not believe we should embrace SSA as normative or provide for marriage for same-sex couples.

              What we must not do however is condemn SSA when we do not condemn blindness. Instead we must champion those who live holy, overcoming lives in spite of their SSA--the same way we celebrate and champion those who overcome physical disabilities.

              And this is simply not happening yet.

    • Cody

      Hannah,
      Same Sex Attraction is not a 'programmed' biological default. Blindness is something that is irreversible. This is why God doesn't condemn people for being blind, but He does condemn people for BEING homosexual.

      • appreciative

        Just when I think I'm not gonna get sucked down the rabbit hole....

        Cody, I would respectfully assert that there's no proof that SSA is either reversible or irreversible.

        Hannah, again, thank you.

        That's gotta be it for me on this thread. Otherwise I'll be on here all day. Take care.

        • Cody

          Thank you.

      • http://www.sometimesalight.com Hannah

        Actually, there is a lot of unwanted SSA. And a lot of Christian brothers and sisters who would do anything to rid themselves of it. Whether it is nature or nurture really is not relevant in the same way that blindness can both be congenital or the result of an accident. Both are brokenness, the result of a sin-cursed earth. Both have varying degrees of severity and both are helped by therapy and support.

        Still at the end of the day, we treat blindness differently than SSA. While we rally around those who are handicapped, we reject and abandon those who suffer SSA.

        And with that, I'm done. Like Appreciative, I could be here all day, but there are children to feed, a husband to love, and work for the kingdom that I need to do.

  • http://www.jeffwbuchanan.com Jeff Buchanan

    Great question Hannah!

    In one sense, I would say someone who is blind has the same challenges. While they must navigate through life with the challenge of being blind, they must not let that be their definition. There is a difference between saying "I'm a blind Christian" and "I'm a Christian who is affected by blindness." (Interesting - notice the double entendre in the "blind Christian" example. Confusing, isn't it?) In the end, the person with blindness must walk in the revelation of Christ's saving and redeeming grace in order for their lives to glorify Him and not their condition.

    For the person with same-sex attractions, I believe that simply stating that one struggles or has same-sex attractions is sufficient to communicate their situation/condition. The emphasis is on what affects them and not what defines them.

    • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

      But the blind do not prance down the street...or slam their way into the school system DEMANDING acceptance & affirmation of their condition as "normalized" behavior. That's a critical distinction amongst the culturally "damaged".

      Drunks & addicts do not lobby Congress or form special interest groups to gain even more rights than normally acculturated people.

      "Gay" is a sociopathic lifestyle choice. It is an aberrant perversion of human relationships and needs must be viewed and treated that way.

      • Ed-Livermore

        Gene, I understand your feelings and often deal with the same feelings about those who seem to have an agenda where ultimately the few, want to control the majority in every way. When I sit at the feet of the Lord, and pray for the Lord's Mercy and Grace...I am reminded that we are in a time where the Spirit of God is still working to convict hearts and change lives. I believe that the body of Christ needs to spend more time in intercession on be half of all the lost,and those whose sin is separating them from Christ. The Church needs to realize the battle, that is taking place in the heavens,and like so many Saints before us but battle on our knees...especially those struggling with sexual sin. Lord help us to do this and be Christ to all...and like Paul..."by all means save some." God Bless you brother Gene!

        • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

          I can muster compassion for those struggling...IF they realize that THEY are struggling and that THEY have the problem. Like Christ said to the woman at the well "Go, and sin no more."

          IF, however they seek to multiply their sin by ramming it down the throats of children via legislation, curriculum and tolerance days at school...

          ...that's a different story; and I respond accordingly.

          Blessings back @'cha, Ed.

          • James Freeman

            I am afriad thou doest protest too much! Look that up. It's from Shakespeare. It might apply to you. Often the most homophobic among us is repressing or hiding something. People who have to judge people as sicker than them, are either hiding their own sin, or really don't understand nor had their eyes open to their own need for a Savior, and thus what the Cross did for all mankind for all time. May your eyes be opened.

            • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

              James,

              Whenever liberal trolls enter a discussion on homosexuality an asshole, such as yourself, makes the exact comment you just made. It's an attempt to "reframe" the issue.

              Given you logic, war protesters must in reality be soldiers, Occupy Wall-Streeters latent Capitalists and Yankees fans true Boston Red Sox devotees.

              The other taunt is, when discussing the physical breakdown of the human body (anus, large intestine, immune system) brought about by homosexual sex, is "Oh, you know so much about it, you must be gay."

              Childish stuff, James. Grow the f*ck up.

              ; ]

            • Elizabeth Quinones

              Thank you, James, for exposing Gene's true colors.

              I pray against Satan's lies and his deceptive ways to get Gene to not see that he is to love others and to not cast those struggling with homosexual desires as lepers and pedophiles. That Gene knows that he is deeply loved by God and may Christ remove hatred in his heart. And may God shower extra grace and love on him so that Gene can show love and grace to those who need a savior as desperately as he does.

              Gene, if God has healed and saved you from your sins, he can do the same to anyone else--even the ones you deem as the most vile kinds of people.

    • http://www.sometimesalight.com Hannah

      Jeff, thanks for your response. Also, I think the allusion to blindness is such a better way of understanding SSA than something like alcoholism. It reminds me of the passage where the disciples asked who sinned that the man should have been born blind--he or his parents? And Christ's marvelous answer: Neither; he is blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

      We really must begin to view SSA with this same clarity and compassion.

      • Good thought

        Hi Hannah --

        You seem to be identifying SSA as a genetic or natural condition. Yet we can have thoughts/feelings/suggestions that are outside of our control (i.e., in the subconscious) and yet still have roots in our conscious mind. For example, if I hang out in an art gallery that specializes in erotic images for a whole day, then I am quite likely to have later thoughts about sexual encounters of a similar type despite the fact that I never made a conscious effort or choice to do so. SSA is extremely complicated; so are the roots of every other sinful inclination. I know many men who struggle with pornography and identify parts of its beginning in their early (pre-sexual!) childhood experiences.

        So, all I'm saying is that you don't need to prove that SSA is like blindness (an obvious physical impairment) to say that it is somewhat outside of the conscious mind of most people. Few of us ever know why we are tempted by certain things, while others aren't. Adultery? Divorce? Gluttony? Violent anger? Yet God does not require that we be temptation-free, but rather that we follow Him in the midst of temptation, regardless of its origin. All of us sinners are much more alike than we ever like to think, including our good friend Mr. Bulmer above.

        I hope and pray that you continue to find that sense of release in Christ and freedom from judgment that comes from knowing that in the midst of every temptation, He is able to make you withstand it. Or as Luther put it, "we can't stop the birds from flying over our heads, but we can stop them from making nests in our hair". We don't need Christians dealing with SSA to stake out a new identity for themselves (re: post above), but I think we do need to assure them that the fact that these temptations arise does not damn them to hell. Christ is, after all, our Savior.

        • http://www.sometimesalight.com Hannah

          Just to clarify, I don't know where SSA comes from--nature/nurture or a funny combination of both--but you did use a word that I completely agree with and would like to highlight. You used the word "natural" and I would simply offer that SSA is as natural to a FALLEN human condition as blindness OR gluttony.
          But we don't generally treat it that way--we are surprised and taken aback when people admit to it. This is a cultural conditioning, not a biblical one.

          That's why I used the illustration of Christ and the blind man--to show that at times in human history even physical handicap was deemed to be the result of sin. (Often even a woman's infertility was seen as judgement from God.) We don't approach physical disability that way today--we respond with compassion and support--but we do continue to subtly judge even the unconscious inclination toward SSA as judgment in and of itself. Pardon my language, but it's almost as if someone who has SSA is "damned if you do, damned if you don't."

          The Gospel is about restoring all of creation--physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc. So in one sense, blindness and SSA are the same--brokenness that will one day be redeemed in Christ. But until then, they are both significant shaping forces in how we struggle day by day. And--like Paul's thorn in the flesh--they both actually aid our sanctification as we learn to lean on Christ's grace in the midst of our brokenness.

          I don't think we disagree--I just think that when we need to be a bit more honest with ourselves as conservatives. We say that the Gospel is the solution to all brokenness but we do not yet behave as if all of us are equally broken.

          (As an aside, I personally have never experienced SSA but have many close friends who have struggled through it and have felt the rejection of conservative churches. Sadly for them, the only way to find personal resolution was to embrace the "gay" identity offered in the culture. Precisely what Jeff was saying was not necessary because of Christ's work.)

  • Nick

    My question is how does this apply to people that would be heterosexual? Most of the time they don't say, "Hey, I'm a straight Christian." It is just assumed that they are when they say, "I'm a christian."

    Also what is meant by your statement, "Should a person ever develop a desire to explore a heterosexual relationship, he or she will find it difficult to overcome the label that can deter interested parties."? Are you saying that should a gay christian ever decide to pursue a heterosexual relationship they gay christian will find it hard to find anyone because they have identified themselves with homosexuality for so long or that someone they are pursuing who is heterosexual will not believe them?

    • http://www.jeffwbuchanan.com Jeff Buchanan

      Nick, that can certainly be the case. (However, this point is secondary.) When someone says "I'm gay" they've clearly communicated a fixed position and identity. It would be difficult to redefine themselves should they come to a point in their lives where they are interested in a relationship with the opposite sex. Confessing that someone has same-sex attractions is informing of the condition. Conditions can change. Also, the avoidance of these labels communicates a receptivity to the transforming power of Christ within our lives.

      • Ed-Livermore

        Great explanation and great article!

  • James Freeman

    I have never described myself as gay even before I knew Christ. I never wanted to be gay growing up. I just wanted to be accepted like all people do. Perhaps the most painful part of my personal journey is when others began labeling me gay. I didn't even know what that meant until my sexual desires began awakening and I had to be honest with myself about my feelings. My point in saying this is that I knew bullying long before it was ever recognized as such. To this day, I grieve for those, who like myself have no choice in how they would develop, and ultimately will be labeled by others. I do understand why eventually folks simply find it easier to admit what everyone else is thinking about them. (This of course is describing the person whose gestures and mannerisms out them--which by the way often never disapate--I know this because I have tried). At some point it becomes easier to except and say outloud what others are already saying or thinking about them. Suddenly you don't feel like you are lying to yourself and the world around you any longer. I agree that labels are something that means little when you discover who Christ has created you to be as His masterpiece--but it doesn't help when the world--including other Christians, albiet behind closed doors and not to your face--believe and say of you, "Gay!" So from that standpoint, I can't help but wonder for some people if loving them where they are in their need to hold on to the label is okay. Being there myself, I truly wish Christians would just love them labels and all, and let them figure it out with God. I think all the fuss is much ado about a minor rather than a major.

    • appreciative

      James, I'm appreciative for your comment. Thank you for being so open, especially knowing the risk of doing so here. May God continue to show his gracious and abundant love to you, and to me, no matter the labels we wear.

      You are loved.

    • Cody

      James,
      Where did you get the mannerisms that caused the 'labeling'? What has made you so comfortable expressing your sexual identity in such limited ways? America's expression of femininity is only one culture's way of being female. Femininity can really only be expressed by females. The essence of being female can only be expressed by a female. My point is: I wonder how mature your understanding is of your sexuality when you have never expressed your 'maleness' in the venue of heterosexual marriage. Please know that I am not attacking you personally. I think that over all America places too much importance on sexual identity over against spiritual identity. If people are spiritually aligned with the Word of God, every other tendency that demands their identity would have to fall under the Lordship of Christ. Hence, homosexuality would be fled from along with other sexual sin.
      To encourage you: try to see your sexuality as a small part of who you are and align yourself under the Lordship of Christ. If you do so I think you will find the idol of homosexuality is just a lesser god demanding your worship.

      • James Freeman

        Cody, your ignorance of this topic,and of me, is deafening. You really should remain quiet on something you know little about. Your assumptions about me are so telling. I am happily married and have children in our household birthed out of a relationship based an itimacy level that I doubt all heterosexual men ever experience because sex with a woman comes easy, and often cheap. That said, my mannerisms were imprinted in me long before puberity, and although they have subsided some, I still get people making "assumptions" about my sexuality without them even knowing me. You make what is so necessary among professing Christians even more obvious by your statements. Learn to love without judgement or assumptions, and please just love people without conditions, the need to be right, and be heard. If we all, myself included would spend as much energy learning what love looks like in relationship with people around us everyday who are difficult for us to love, I think we are then getting around on the right track. The point is that I do not see myself as gay, nor do I label myself that way, but unfortunately, others, including Christians, who don't know how to love without judgement and assumptions do, and will laugh at you, or gossip about you behind closed doors. Christians are some of the worst offenders. Leave gay people alone and stop trying to change them. Love people and let the Holy Spirit..who we are not, and can never be...do the rest.

        • Cody

          Wow. I had no idea you would lash out at me like that. Is it okay for you to talk to me the same condescending way your bullies did to you?

          Look, for what it's worth, I am sorry for upsetting you. I was simply trying to explain that homosexuality is idolatry...This is what the Bible clearly teaches. It makes no sense for you to make your seething comments at me, accusing me of not knowing you, when all the while you have no idea who I am.

    • ;zilch

      Hey James, thanks for your story. Whatever you decide to believe in, more power to you.

  • Myrna

    I know that I am going to get slammed for this. The church has gone too far in the name of tolerance.

    Labels I agree are not good, no matter what they are. However the Bible is quite specific about having sex outside of marriage and lying with someone of the same gender. It is just plain sin like other sins listed in the Bible. Is it now ok to rape, maim, kill? How far away we have come in the view of that. Why is it now ok for people to live in sexual sin (no matter their orientation) in the church? Just because the world is more free about sexuality, doesn't mean that the church should be. Yes we need to love and yes we need to welcome and not judge a person based on their sin. We need to stop labelling - I totally agree. BUT - sexual sin is sin and we need to stop condoning and encouraging it in our churches. Biblically sex is meant for a man and a women in a marriage relationship. Period. That people are unable to resist the temptations and feelings to fall into the trap is the work of the enemy not God.

    • Ed-Livermore

      Hello Myrna, you are so right about the truth in the Word of God. I believe that the Church needs to strive to be able to "Speak the Truth in Love." In Christ, "Mercy and Truth...have kissed one another." The Church needs to speak the truth, but make sure that it is the Message that may/may not offend and not the messenger. I really enjoyed this article and the insight on the possiblity that those who embrace a label, might be unaware/hindered by who they can become in Christ...through repentance and faith, and by the Power of His Holy Spirit. There is no doubt a Huge Danager/Error in not taking a Biblical Stand for Truth...just today a major denomination seems to be going down that path. One thing is for sure, the Body of Christ and our Leaders, need to see seriousness of what we are up against...intercede, and battle the enemy who is truly behind this current movement. This is a Spritual Battle and the Church needs to understand this and put on the full armor of God for this battle for so many souls.

  • http://www.corinthtoday.org paul cummings

    I can't recommend enough Mark Yarhouse's work on this...fair and balanced never shying away from the Gospel.

  • http://www.theretuned.com Matthew

    I think the debate over nature vs. nurture is a false one. We are all born with sin because of Adam and we are also exposed to sin by being surrounded by sinners. So if I have a proclivity towards lustful feelings is that because I was born that way or because of my environment. The answer would be both are correct but I do not let that define me. It might have defined me in my life before Christ but after Christ my identity is in him.

    • http://www.sometimesalight.com Hannah

      You are absolutely correct Matthew, but there is an assumption in your comment that stuck out to me. And I think it really explains the disagreement that is happening in this thread.

      In referencing the issue of homosexuality, you say "if I have a proclivity towards lustful feelings..." But we all are born with a proclivity toward lustful feelings--regardless of our sexual make-up. Lust is not the same as a person's propensity to be attracted to the same sex. There are people in our pews who experience SSA and yet are courageously living holy, godly lives. Unfortunately they are rarely applauded and often feel condemned for their very struggle.

      Again, I'm not disagreeing with anything you said; just that your wording encapsulated why we're talking past each other in this thread.

  • mel

    I know of no where in the bible that says we have a right to have sex. Instead I seem to recall that we aren't even supposed to be thinking about it if we aren't married. Never in a million years will anyone convince me that any of those things have anything to do with anything but self love and lust. I'm just so sick to death of hearing about it and running into it every where. You can't even go on Pinterest without running into photographs of men's genitals because why? Because it is someone's identity and they are in love? Sure....

  • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

    I wonder - if "Gay Christian" is being increasingly used & accepted in certain Christian circles, what about terms like:

    "Fornicating Christian"
    "Adulterous Christian"
    "Child sex-ring Christian"
    "Human Trafficking Christian"
    "Rape-as-alternative Sex therapy Christian"
    "Thievery-Based Christian"
    "Kiddy Porn promoting Christian" or even,
    "Non-Christianity adhering Christian"

    Will we eventually accept those as well?

    A line must be drawn somewhere. Some metric needs must be followed or...

    ...why bother setting ANY limiting behaviors?

    • appreciative

      Not the same at all. All of your above "terms" connote behavior.

      • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

        And what is "gay" if not behavior? And aberrant behavior @ that.

        And they are the same: they all (including "gay") describe perverted behavior. But in order to understand "perversion" one must first understand the "version".

        • http://www.corinthtoday.org paul cummings

          can I speak a word of gentle caution to the above statement? The world defines homosexuality(being gay) with a script that goes like this, If you have a same-sex attraction, act on that attraction, let that attraction define your orientation, let your orientation now define your identity. Where as Christians would say, let Christ 1st define your identity and then everything else is of lesser importance to that...the problem is the Church typically has 2 responses to peopel who struggle with same sex attraction:1. It's a sin, repent- and/or- 2. It's ok, God loves you just the way you are.
          Neither of which are helpful to that person who knows it's a sin but still struggles.
          We as Christians need to have an open dialogue with people who profess Christ as Savior, and yet know that their orientation is homosexual...to encourage them to 1st have their identity in Christ and not in their orientation (which may or may not be changed by the Lord). We have several folks like this at our church...they know they are Gay, but also know that the Bible speaks clearly that homosexual sex is a sin, so they have chosen to live a single-celibate life to honor the Lord as best they can. Those are "Our" people...not the Gay Community's people. And if we see them as "Our" people we will support and love them to be an encouraging body that surrounds them reminding them that their identity is 1st in Christ and not in their orientation, which I think in turn helps them as they carry their "thorn in the flesh" through their lives.

          • Mel

            What does repent mean?

            • http://www.corinthtoday.org paul cummings

              I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you're being open and honest, so I will repond in kind.
              To repent literally means to turn around, renounce and go the other way. Part of Christian repentance is to ask Christ for forgiveness for your sin (whatever sin) and knowing that if you have submitted to Christ as both the one you are trusting for salvation and also as the head/Lord/God of your life He freely forgives you. Then you also turn from your sin (not staying in the act, but literally leaving it).
              This doesn't mean that the desire to sin goes away. We struggle with it all our lives...check Romans 7 where Paul speaks plainly about it.
              So anyone who is a Christian, gay or straight who repents of sexual sin (any sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman)repents by asking Christ for forgiveness and then turning away from their sinful acts and following Christ and not their own sinful desires...
              That may have been more than you wanted to know ;-)

    • A Christian

      "Fornicating Christian" and "Adultery Christian" have been silently accepted in Christian circles for centuries. Do you also view heterosexual divorced couples and sexually active non-married couples as perverted? Do we not "ram" divorce "down the throats of children via legislation"? Why does it matter to you so much who someone chooses to love? Perhaps you could spend more time contemplating your own sin of hatred rather than contemplating the sins of others.

      • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

        You're either not reading the posts within this thread, are a homosexual proponent or are woefully ignorant (perhaps all three).

        The drunk, the adulterous & the drug addicted do not seek equal status for their perversions; homosexuals do. They bring their sordid lifestyles into society and into the elementary school systems (usually under the guise of "bullying") in order to elevate the lifestyle, wash away the natural shame attached to it and de-stigmatize its cultural impact. And recently, to elevate it to the point of retro-fitting it into "marriage".

        That's why it matters. If all homosexuals did were to perform their acts in the privacy of their bedrooms, we have little to no problem (there would still be the disease they spread with which to deal). But they DON'T stop there...they're obsessed with equality: something they are not. What they are is a blight upon society, much like drunken drivers; negatively affecting cultural norms.

        • A Christian

          First, you are one angry person. Second, I read all of your obnoxious posts. Third, I am not gay. Fourth, I am not ignorant and based on your posts would venture to say that I probably have three times the amount of education than you. Fifth, I am not a proponent of homosexuals but I am a proponent of humanity. Sixth, I agree that addicts and adulterers do not seek equal status because they are automatically given equal status. We don't walk around our community saying "look at that person drinking in public, how dare they expose their perversions to us" nor do we say "I know that person was married to someone else how dare they hold hands with or kiss their new spouse in public". I too will end my posts with this one and give thanks to God that your knowledge and opinions of homosexuality are not simply not Godly.

          • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

            Ooo...I apparently touched a nerve.

            Do you actually have any children? The schools present the D.A.R.E. program that presents against drugs & alcohol. And real churches & Christian communities will toss adulterers out of the congregation.

            And what part of the word "abomination" remains unclear to your liberal-Christian mind? Because that's what God calls homosexuality. And Christ would tell you/them "Your sins are forgiven, now go and sin no more."

            Did you catch that last part? Sin NO MORE! Not parade naked down Fifth Avenue, NOT spit out the host on the steps of St. Patrick's cathedral, NOT indoctrinate school children and NOT attempt to get homosexual unions labeled "marriage."

            I have merely drawn a line in the sand and stand up for moral metrics. If you wanna' play fast & loose, darting in-out & around cultural definitions...be my guest;

            ...just don't act surprised when you're labeled an "idiot".

            • James Freeman

              One never sees this type of harshness toward sinners (...which by the way we all are...that's the Good News), but toward the religious. You, sir, have "outed" yourself by your comments. I challenge you to find a gay person, and build a relationship of respect with them, and then share what God's love has done for you and in you. Otherwise, you are a but a clashing cymbal. I dare say what I see in your posts has more to do with what has caused the extreme reaction within the brokenhearted to no longer be put down, marginalized and hated, than anything else. Christians should be known by their love, and the power of their own personal tesimony of God's grace, than Bible bashing and promoting hate toward any group of people. I pray even now that you, Gene, will repent of your good works, and fall in love with Christ at the foot of the Cross where no sin is higher or lower than any other. You are a bigot and need to educate yourself by actually learning to love those you despise. (The type of Christianity you profess reminds me of all the men who once professed to be Christians but secretly wore white robes and hats and gathered in churches over their hatred of black people).

      • mel

        NO they haven't. They have only been accepted by the same people who think that "love" means never calling a person on behavior. They have only been accepted by the people that had something to gain from turning their heads, whether it was social standing or power. Sins that the bible speaks against too.

        Someone that calls someone on a bad behavior cannot be a bigot. A bigot is someone that acts against a race or a religion. Sex does not qualify in either of those categories, currently.

    • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

      This is a great article on this topic. And a great explanation of why the term "gay christian" or "gay celibate Christian" should go out the window.
      Here is another article I found helpful, if anyone is interested, about why the term "gay" should just go out the window: http://www.cfmpl.org/blog/2012/06/27/gay-unnatural-unhelpful-categorization/

      My favorite part here in that one is that the author points out that maybe if we didn't have a short snappy catch all phrase for a group of human beings still made in the image of God but have been involved or are involved with a problem of chastity toward people of the same gender, than perhaps we are less likely to talk about them more than we ought to. Pretty interesting, huh?

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  • http://apologeticsworkshop.wordpress.com/ Gene Bulmer

    We also, as a culture, must return to calling things (acts, behavior, consequences, etc.) "good" or "bad" and STOP accommodating perversion in the name of "tolerance", "acceptance" or [gasp] the risk of "offense".

  • Ed-Livermore

    John Wimber Quote -"If the Church loses the ability to recognize and resist the seducing influence of cultural trends the result is a shipwrecked faith & powerless witness. We don't follow trends, we follow Christ..."

    "In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Hallelujah! We have Christ, His Word and His Holy Spirit!

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  • http://www.pureheartseminars.com Tom Cole

    Jeff, this is a fantastic article. I hope people read it and gain understanding. You did a really good job!!!

  • Phoebe

    I appreciate your gospel-centered thoughts, Jeff. I remember hearing you at an Exodus seminar, and really appreciate your ministry. God bless you.

  • Peggy Dallmann

    Why did you choose only THESE labels to discuss in this article? There are other labels that apply to Christians. I can think of "liberal" and "conservative" as two major examples. The conservative Christians, for example, are forever assuming that the more liberal Christians do not believe in a divine Jesus, thus categorizing, judging and condemning us in one fell swoop. It seems to me we should look beyond all labels to resolve the issues you raise in your article. There is great division in the church, and great need for healing. We need to look beyond labels of our fellow Christians before we can begin to overcome the great divisions, regardless the nature of the labels, in my humble opinion.

    • mel

      What do you consider a liberal Christian? Give us your definition.

    • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

      Well, if you are talking politics, I'd agree with you here. But the term "liberal Christian" is actually a technical term that has nothing to do with how you vote.

      • mel

        That is what I'm not clear on. When someone calls themselves a "liberal Christian" what does that mean? Are they still thinking in terms of politics or what. I have always understood a "liberal" Christian to be someone that doesn't believe in an inerrant bible or that what applied in the past doesn't apply now for some reason.

        Politically, definitions shift. I used to be a moderate but now I'm labeled extremely conservative. Do the definitions shift in the Christian world?

        • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

          Oh I gotcha. Yeah, when people talk about liberal theology or liberal Christians, they shouldn't be talking about politics at all. Now, it gets confusing because some people talk about Christians who happen to vote with the democrats as "liberal Christians." But that's an unfortunate use of the term. Maybe we should start saying Liberal "Christians" to help people differentiate. ;-)

          Liberal Theology is that which (as you say) doesn't teach the inerrency of the scriptures. Usually liberal Christians interpret the bible using only modern hermeneutics or lenses and they aren't open to the taking into account the historical teaching of the church. They may hold SOME things in common with orthodox Christians, but it is merely by coincidence. Though Liberal Theology and Liberal "Christian" are rather LARGE umbrella terms, they shouldn't be confused with how you vote. One can vote as a democrat and still be aligned with orthodox Christianity.

          • mel

            That is why I wanted to know what Peggy thought it meant. Perhaps she is not as liberal as she thinks she is or maybe she is having an identity crisis.

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  • http://n/a Another Mike

    After reading the excellent article by Jeff (Thank you).

    A good follow up on this article (posting) is another article just posted on Christianity Today.
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/julyweb-only/lets-not-cut-christ-to-pieces.html

    Let's Not Cut Christ to Pieces: Struggling with homosexuality is a paradox, but embracing homosexuality is a contradiction.
    by Michael Horton

    Any comments for or against what Dr. Horton states should be directed toward him or toward Christianity Today.

    Find your peace in Christ.
    (just) Another Mike

    • Cody

      Thanks for the link! Horton gives a biblical response like Buchanan for those of us who want solid biblical understanding on this whole issue.

  • http://wordinmyheart.wordpress.com/wp-admin/ Joe

    Here's a novel idea. Have a conversation with the people you fear/despise. But it has to be genuine conversation - with an (implicit) acknowledgement that every single human being that has ever lived acquires a certain amount of dignity/self-respect from being called what he or she wants to be called.

    You may pity 'gays' but no gay man or women today believes he or she is your social inferior. And an ever growing number of their (straight) family and friends feel exactly the same way.

  • Richard Holloman

    OUTSTANDING! Thank you Jeff for posting about such a critically important foundation truth.

  • JD Green

    This is a huge issue in the world and the church today. My teenagers have recently been asking me about it (I am a preacher in my church) because they have friends that are struggling with this. The culture actively promotes this and it has caused great confusion.
    I keep thinking of the hardest words our Lord spoke about being His disciple....Deny YOURSELF....whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
    I know that it is hard to struggle with sinful urges, I speak as a man who is married with 9 children and STILL is tempted with heterosexual sin.
    To any man who is wanting to go this way please consider...
    Can you accept that another person would love you and not approve of all that you do?
    Can you trust in another MAN who loves you and does not approve of all that you do?
    What if another Man loved you...wanted you..wanted to own you...to call you his own. so much that He would die for you. that He would give his very life TO you?
    would you give up your love for MEN so that you could truly love that MAN?
    take it from an old sinner...
    HE is worth it.
    HE is Worth it.
    HE is worth it.
    Hannah...you are a blessing.

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  • http://linalamont.blogspot.com Nissa Annakindt

    There is a reason why the person with same-sex attraction uses the 'Gay' label. That's because until we use it, we are wearing a 'straight' label.
    Unfortunately in the church some people want to reinterpret the word 'Gay' so that it only applies to persons living lives of active sexual sin. This is hurtful to the chaste Gay Christian (like me) who is often living a life of loneliness out of love of Christ, and who is being labeled as a chronic sex sinner and a pervert for being honest enough to admit to their same-sex attraction.
    The reason those who hate Christianity are doing such a good job of labeling all Christians as homophobic haters is that some Christians are not doing a good job of accepting even the chaste Gay person as a fellow Christian. Please, let us prayerfully consider our words on this issue. (

  • Michael Hallas

    When we look at issues of identity the first thing that we must understand is that it invokes a lot of emotion. To take a step back lets look at an object like a spoon. Why is a spoon a spoon? Its creator made it a spoon. Now you can use a spoon to dig, but that doesn't make it a shovel. So our actions or what we do cannot determine are identity. Spending the night in your garage doesn't make you a car. If we look to the Bible for what God tell us about our identities, we will find that we are all created in the image of God, we are all sinners, and that we are either children of God or of Satan (1 John). The difference between the Children of God and of Satan is how they live in accordance with scripture by the work of the Holy Spirit.

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  • Jeff

    I believe the argument over nature/nurture is irrelevant when discussing SSA. Whether a person's "homosexuality" or "same-sex attraction" or whatever terminology we choose to use, is caused by genetics, or by the environment they grow up in, it's not a choice either way. With genetics, obviously we don't choose how we're created. In the nurture argument, we also don't choose the environment we grow up in, and by the time we do have a choice in the matter, we've already developed and partly established our identity. So I don't know if it's really appropriate to ever say that someone chooses to be gay. Just like heterosexual's don't really say that they chose to be straight.

    • cody

      Regarding the nurture vs. nature discussion: I believe the narrative about Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction gives clear indication that the sin of homosexuality is a sin that pervades culture. After all, God didn't destroy other surrounding areas, and if homosexuality is a 'natural' libido then why wasn't it more wide spread? Further, if it is a genetic issue, we would likely not be encountering homosexuals in such a great number in society today because homosexuals are incapable of reproducing; hence, their imagined homosexual 'gene' would not have a chance to be passed on unless they had children with someone of the opposite sex.

      • Jessica

        My probably with using the story about Sodom and Gomorrah is that while people bash gay people...many Christians over look the fact Lot offered to let a bunch of men rape his daughters. Tell me, does that sound godly? Why is homosexuality a sin, but not the rape of a woman?

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  • shane

    this article is so stupid. you guys don't seem to understand that christians are the ones making all the "labels," not just people who are LGBT. you guys are the ones laying all the requirements for "male" and "female" based on stereotyes and ignorance of the gender/sexuality spectrum

    by the way, being LGBT is not sinful. that is a distorted idea that's taken hold of christianity over a time of about 1700 years, beginning with the rise of the roman catholic church. if everyone really payed attention to what the Bible really says about marriage and commitment and the values it suports, they wouldn't be saying so much crap about gays

    • cody

      You are wrong. Read the scriptures.

  • Paul

    This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.(1 Timothy 1:15)

    When Jesus saves us He gives us a new nature but we are not saved because of our "righteous" behavior - we are saved because of God's grace. I believe that people can be set free from homosexuality - just like drug and alcohol abuse - but I still love people that struggle with their abuses even if they are never set free from them - and Jesus loves them too.

    Maybe I'm totally missing the point of the discussion - but I have a handful of young people in my youth group that are struggling with their sexual identity and their God identity. I don't cast them out until they "get it" - I love them, HOPING that they see the Jesus that lives in me.

    This issue has been very difficult for me to navigate as a youth pastor and I pray constantly that I deal with it responsibly, lovingly, and biblically. The people that make these toxic comments on these posts don't seem to have a love for people or a desire to see people set free - only to spew a hatred for a certain brand of sin.

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