Growing up, one of the biggest struggles I went through was trying to integrate my sexuality with my faith. Believe it or not, I knew from the ripe old age of seven that I was gay. It’s not that I wanted to have sex with men when I was younger…I just remember thinking how cool it would be if I could marry a boy instead of a girl when I was older. My very first “schoolyard” crushes were always boys, and when I hit puberty, these feelings for members of the same sex only grew stronger.
But I’ve always held my Christian faith and my relationship with God very close to my heart as well. I was raised in the church, and I remember wanting to be a missionary when I was much younger. I used to spend my money on Christian tracts to hand out to my friends, and I really had a true “hunger for the Lord” when I was growing up.
I remember hearing that homosexuality was a sin for as long as I can remember. This was really an intense struggle for me. I would lie awake for hours at night, praying-begging God to “make me straight.” I would ask for forgiveness for having feelings towards other men. When I was about 14 years old, I started to get really depressed about all of this. I started to think about suicide-I knew that so far, God wasn’t making me straight, and I didn’t know how I could go on with these feelings inside of me.
When it came time for college, I decided to go to a Christian institution called Eastern University near Philadelphia. The first semester of college, the depression continued, and I sought the help of an “ex-gay” ministry. The counselors at the ex-gay place told me that with God’s help, I could “heal” myself of homosexuality. They encouraged me to attend group sessions, which were lead by “straight” men who were formerly homosexual. Quickly I realized that ex-gay ministries didn’t produce straight guys-they produced miserable, self-loathing gay men in denial. I’m planning to write another whole article on Associated Content about how horrible my whole “ex-gay experience” was, but for now, let’s just say that it didn’t work and 6 months later I was feeling worse that I was before I started college.
The summer after my freshman year, I reached a boiling point and I had what I refer to as “my first nervous breakdown.” Crying spells, no sleep, and severe loneliness characterized the next few months. That summer, though, I was working as an intern for Tony Campolo, who most evangelical Christian’s will recognize as a world-renowned preacher and social activist. Part of my job involved shipping copies of Tony’s tapes and books to people who had placed orders on the website.
I started to read & listen to some of these materials, and as it turns out, Tony and his wife Peggy are very supportive of homosexual Christians. Peggy, in particular, believes that God allows for lifelong, committed relationships between two members of the same sex, and she has a lot of good Biblical evidence to back her up. Although Tony’s views aren’t quite so liberal, he doesn’t think that homosexuals are going to hell and he thinks they can be actively involved in the church (including leadership positions), just like straight people. Peggy & Tony have held many discussions where they present God’s message of love for the homosexual community, and they have made recordings of these discussions widely available. (For more information about Tony Campolo, visit his website at http://www.tonycampolo.org.)
This rocked my world & the foundations of my faith. Homosexuality had always been presented to me as a sin…no ifs, ands, or buts about it. But there were actually people out there who believed differently. They realize that the Bible has been historically used to oppress women and racial minorities, and they know that this current era of vitriolic condemnations of homosexuality will someday be looked at with bewilderment and disgust by future generations–just like we look at some past church teachings today. Luckily, Eastern University is on the liberal side of Christian universities, and I met lots of students & professors there who helped me figure out that God loved me, regardless of the gender of the people I loved.
If you are a gay person who is struggling to integrate their Christian faith with their sexuality, I would encourage you to seek out resources that are affirming of who you are as a person. I suspect that many gay people just figure that if God has rejected them, they will reject God. But the fact of the matter is, God hasn’t rejected you. He loves you & created you in his image, whether you’re gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered…it doesn’t matter to him. Find books, websites, and churches (like the Metropolitan Community Church, a denomination started by gays & lesbians and their allies) that welcome homosexuals with open arms. If you have questions, find someone supportive to talk to.
Saying “Yes, I’m gay” doesn’t have to be the end of your Christian journey. If you have more questions about what the Bible really says about homosexuality, visit http://www.whosoever.org. Also, if you’d like to get more involved in the fight to make churches in American more friendly for the LGBT community, visit the Soulforce website.
I’m happy to report that almost as soon as I accepted the fact that I could be gay & Christian at the same time, my life got so much better. My faith is important to me, and I knew that I could never feel “complete” without a spiritual component to my life. If you have struggled like I did, please do whatever it takes to find a place of comfort and peace for you & God. You will be so glad that you did.