A few weeks ago, I posted an article on this blog called “Coming Out As A Christian” that was all about my fear to identify myself as a Christian at work. I’ll be honest: it got a whole lot of clicks — at least way more than any other piece I’ve written in the five months since leaving Entertainment Weekly. Quite a few of those clicks came directly from a popular site called The Gospel Coalition, which decided to republish my piece and thus flatter me to no end. But even before TGC got a hold of my words, the post had done pretty darn well picking up traction for itself on social media.
As a writer, I like to believe that some of that had to do with the actual content, which resonated with Christians struggling to express their faith at work. But, if I’m being honest, I think a lot more of the post’s success just had to do with the headline. In fact, I’m willing to bet that a good number of people only clicked on my article because they were curious to see if I was announcing to the world that I am gay.
That was the point of using a provocative headline. I liked the idea of putting “Coming Out,” a term used almost exclusively in conversations about the gay experience, right alongside the word “Christian.” I liked the tension it created. Is he about to say that he’s gay? Is he about to say he’s a gay Christian? Wait, what would that even mean?? Of course, that article actually had nothing to do with my sexuality, but its title was not just a shameless attempt at click-bait. “Coming Out As A Christian” was, in fact, always intended to be a two-part series about living transparently, and that headline’s potential double meaning made it the perfect phrase for launching a new season of honesty in my life. After all, I am a gay Christian.
*Drops the mic, leaves the stage*
Just kidding. This definitely isn’t an admission worthy of a mic-drop. It’s just really not that dramatic — or at least I don’t feel like it is. I haven’t been keeping it a secret from close friends for over five years, and any embarrassment that I once felt about myself has long since disappeared. Today, I’m ready to let a whole lot more people in on the non-secret.
First off, what do I mean by the term gay Christian? That’s simple. I mean that I’m a Christian man who believes Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. I believe he died and rose again and offers a way to Heaven for all people. I also happen to be a guy that finds himself attracted to other guys. Please hear this: those two facts are not mutually exclusive!
Now, I choose to not act on my gay desires because I think scripture makes it pretty clear that that’s not God’s ideal plan for people. I’m not angry or jaded about that fact, nor do I look at sacrificing my own sexuality to God as a tragedy. To me, it’s simple obedience — and it is not shame-based. I know that I was fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Heck, I was created in His very image! (And so were you!) But, like every other Christian that’s ever lived, I’m simply in the ongoing process of learning how to not give in to every natural desire that I feel — whether that has to do with sex or not.
Mind you, I haven’t always had a zen attitude about my situation. I spent well over a decade feeling tortured by my own feelings, addicted to pornography, and deeply ashamed of my nature. I used to spend hours on the family computer Googling terms like “garlic” and “Gap hoodie,” frantically hoping that I could push my “gay” searches far enough down the alphabetical auto-complete menu that my parents wouldn’t ever see them.
It didn’t help that I felt completely uncomfortable being honest with anyone in my church as a young teenager, and that I was harboring a heavy secret on my own. It was ultimately my own fear that kept me from confessing to peers or leaders, but let’s be real: talking about gay feelings in church is not the same as admitting you told a lie or got drunk with your friends over the weekend, even if it should be. Generations of Christians have framed homosexuality as the ultimate sin, and the church has continually — maddeningly! — reserved a special brand of judgment and condemnation for people wrestling with same-sex desires. In my experience, many Christians don’t even like to engage with the idea of gay people in the church. They’d rather shrug off the issue and recite a catchphrase like “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” which I’m pretty sure hasn’t made anyone feel loved, ever.
I often wonder if those people realize just how many of their own Christian friends may be silently suffering because they’re so afraid to admit they’re feeling gay feelings. Take it from me, the number of gay Christians (or Christians dealing with same-sex attraction, or Christians struggling with homosexuality, or whatever label you want to use) that are regularly attending church would likely astound you. I’ve learned this firsthand over the past year. As I’ve gotten into the practice of openly telling my story, I’ve been utterly stunned by the sheer number of people who have reciprocated my story with a similar one of their own, confiding in me that they also experience gay desires and have no idea how to reconcile those with their faith. I’m talking about friends I’ve known for ten years, random people at bars, married couples at church, fraternity brothers, former camp counselors, and so many others who have taken me by surprise.
They’re all part of the reason why I feel so compelled to open up about my life right here on the most public platform available: the Internet. I know there are throngs of people around the world wrestling with their own sexuality and trying to understand how that relates to their personal walks with Jesus. I know that thousands of people are living the same story that I am — but I also know that that story isn’t part of the public consciousness in a popular way. I think that both Christians and non-Christians actually have very little imagination about what it looks like for someone with gay feelings to live a life committed to Christ, and I think it wouldn’t be so hard to show everyone what that looks like. More than anything, I believe that the stigma that suffocates this conversation and persuades so many people to live secret, bitter lives has got to be lifted. The special shame that Christians place on anything “gay” has got to be erased. This dialogue has simply got to happen. So let’s start having it.
Obviously, there’s far too much contained in this subject for me to cover everything I want to say in one post. I don’t want to write anything that long, and you certainly wouldn’t want to read it. This is only meant to be an introduction — a stepping stone into a new season of life. But I do plan on gradually parsing out my impressions and experiences as a Christian man. (And that’s legitimately all I’m planning to do in this upcoming season: to tell my own story. I’m not here to dictate how anyone else should live their lives. I’m not here to condemn anyone. I’m not here to offer a “solution.” All I can do is invite people into the beautiful awkwardness of my experience, where things aren’t nearly as black and white as popular culture might prefer. Fortunately for all of us, Jesus loves the gray areas.
I’m kicking off this new chapter by launching a YouTube series all about the intersection of my faith and sexuality. Why a web series? Because I want to help reform the tone of this entire dialogue and I think YouTube is the perfect place to talk about life in a disarmingly casual manner. Plus, I’m not exactly a theologian — vlogging is definitely more my speed, and I love the complete accessibility of it. Check out the intro video if you want, and please share it, or this whole post, with anyone you think might like hearing what I have to say. Thanks, people!
I feel obligated to wrap up this post somehow, but I’m not sure what to say. The moment I press “Publish,” I am entering into a total void. I genuinely have no idea what my life, my job, or my community will look like in a few months after I set off down this road. But I suppose there’s no point in worrying how people will react. I need to just do my best to trust in God’s sovereignty. May He do with this post whatever He sees fit.