Same-sex attraction myths

Written by Luke Aylen

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When it comes to church discussions, sexuality is like a DFS sale - it’s not going to be over any time soon. How do we navigate the heated battlefield when it comes to faith and homosexuality? In a previous issue of Clarity, Luke Aylen exposed and overcame the big myths in the same-sex discussion and we felt it was worth blogging to support those with questions...

MYTH 1 : People choose to be gay...
I’ve certainly met people who seem to think that being same sex attracted is something you choose. Personally, I can 100% confirm that I have not chosen my sexual orientation. Did you choose yours? When I was a teenager, desperately trying to grapple with what it meant to be attracted to other guys and to reconcile that with my faith, I very much wished I wasn’t having to deal with this complex and sometimes painful situation. What makes a person gay? To be honest, people aren’t sure. Is it nature? Nurture? Does God make them gay or is it the result of something else? Different people base a lot on their theories of environmental factors or the illusive presence of a ‘gay gene’. It’s a highly politicised area of debate. Most scientists recognise that our sexuality is shaped by a complex mix of chemistry, experience, environmental and potentially genetic pre-dispositions. In other words, its like most aspects of our personality. If the debate shows anything, it’s that we are remarkably complex and nuanced in our makeup. The questions that Christians should ask themselves, in all areas of our lives, is not so much: “Why am I like this?”, as: “How do I respond to God with where I’m at?"

MYTH 2 : God hates gays, and so do Christians ...
the media is pretty quick to picture Christians and their God as homophobic. Even the most traditional or conservative reading of the Bible debunks this myth. It shows we are made in the image of God for the purpose of being in relationship with him (Genesis 1) that even though all of us are broken and do wrong towards God (Romans 3:23) he loves each one of us so much that he sent Jesus to restore the relationship for anyone who chooses to follow him (John 3:16). No one is excluded from these all-inclusive statements.
Years ago I read a blog titled ‘Is the Gospel good news for gay people’. The answer has to be absolutely and unquestionably yes. For every person the Christian message is good news. You might have, like me, heard people arguing that Christianity is trying to repress and quash the lives of Gay people. This misunderstanding happens when we fail to recognise why people might choose to respond to God by living in a counter cultural way. Many of my other gay friends are baffled by my decision to remain single (my chosen response based on how I understand the Bible). At first they think I’ve been forced into a submissive second best. They are often astonished when I share how this decision is, for me, a freeing and exciting one. The Christian faith isn’t about rule-keeping - no one is forcing this choice upon me. I choose to live a certain way because I believe that God gave up everything for me when Jesus came to Earth. So does God love gay people? We can scrap the label: does God love people? Absolutely. And speaking of labels, this reveals myth number three.

MYTH 3 : Gay is your identity ...
In the last survey about ‘sexual identity’ by the Office for National statistics, 3% of 16-34 year olds identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual (93% overall identified as heterosexual). The very fact that our national surveys link sexuality so centrally with identity gives us a picture of how society understands our sexual attraction. People say they are gay, or they are straight. It’s a core, sometimes-central part of who they are as a person. But is our identity really based on our sexual desires?
Desire in any capacity is a pretty unstable thing to base identity on. It fluctuates or can be misdirected. It’s based on a consumerist idea that what I want and what I consume is who I am. It causes us to stereotype and generalise, grouping together completely different and diverse people and labelling them ‘the gays’. It doesn’t even stack up from a psychological point of view. It’s widely accepted in psychology that sexual orientation isn’t a number of different types or identities. It’s a spectrum ranging from completely attracted to the opposite sex, to completely attracted to the same sex. Our limited labels over simplify this spectrum and force people into boxes. It took me a long time to realise that when God looks at me, he doesn’t see boxes. He doesn’t just see a compartment labelled ‘Luke the gay guy’ or ‘Luke the Christian’. He sees all of me - the good the bad and the ugly. But more than that he sees ‘Luke. The Son that he loves’. The Bible teaches that our identity is not in any one part of our experience, personality or sexuality. It’s in God and how he views and relates to us.

MYTH 4 : Gay Christians will die alone and miserable - probably with a house full of cats ....
The traditional view of sexuality understands sex to belong in the context of marriage between a man and a women. As such, gay Christians who believe this, like me, choose a life of celibacy. When I tell people, as a 24 year old man, that I suspect I’ll be single for life, I am met with either disbelief or horror. Even after explaining, I am often confronted by this myth but it’s a huge lie.
First off, I’m more of a dog person. Secondly, singleness is not a lifelong sentence to solitary misery. The bible speaks overwhelmingly positively about singleness. This is good news for us because, nationally, as many as one in three over 16 year olds are single. Statistically it seems there are benefits too. Single people are supposedly more likely to do more exercise, eat healthily, have longer lasting friendships and even end up with less debt. I’m not sure I can attest to the healthy eating (pizza anyone?) but I have certainly come to realise that singleness is not the second-best option that should be looked on with pity. I used to fear that maybe I would die alone or trudge from one day to the next in a lonely existence shunned by my happily married and paired up friends. I’ve come to realise two things. Firstly the grass always seems greener, but in reality, both singleness and relationships have their blessings and challenges. Many view my singleness as a sacrifice (me included) but I have wonderfully deep friendships with married friends who have shown me that marriage is often a continual string of daily sacrifices for their partner. In both cases, our sacrifices make us better and stronger people. The second thing is that romantic relationships are just one of the many wonderful, intimate and life-giving relationships we have. Our desires for intimacy, security, companionship or trust can be lived out in our friendships, our families, our communities and for Christian’s in our church families. I may never have romantic partner or spouse, but I will not die alone and miserable because all our deepest longings can be met in unexpected ways. As a Christian I see this chiefly in my relationship with God, and in my relationship with others.

MYTH 5 : You need all the answers ....
If you are a Christian you might dread that moment when someone asks you what you or Christians more generally think about homosexuality. Or else maybe you have a friend or family member who is journeying through coming to terms with being gay/same sex attracted. Maybe you are attracted to people of the same sex yourself and working out what that means in your life or in regard to your faith? I’m a serial blagger - if there is a question, I can feel tempted to try and blag an answer. To make up something which sounds nice and neat and simple even when it’s not. But realistically that isn’t helpful! Five ‘myths’ really isn’t enough to explore such a huge topic (it often feels like five books wouldn’t be!). If you feel like you haven’t fully wrapped your head around this controversial and complex area then don’t worry, you aren’t alone. But try and be pro-active rather than reactive. Maybe take some time out to do some research or read some books.
If you are supporting someone else, don’t panic about not being able to answer all their questions. When I was struggling the most in trying to reconcile my faith and sexuality, I went to visit my youth worker at the time. I poured out a million questions and frustrations. When I had worn myself out and he had listened patiently and lovingly, he said the most important and helpful thing anyone has ever said to me: “I wish I knew the answers to all of your questions. I wish I knew magic words that would make everything seem ok. I don’t. What I do know is that I am here with you in it for the long run and we will journey through this together.”
If you are going through this yourself, find some Christian friends who might journey with you, or if you feel unable to do that, know that Jesus understands everything you are going through and offers to walk with you through even the most difficult and confusing times. We don’t know all the answers, but we can look to Jesus to help us find them out.

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