I hope this letter finds you well. You’ve been on my mind lately as it’s been a few weeks since we’ve met up. We’re overdue to grab a coffee – I hope we can soon. I also want to thank you for thinking of me as you sent out invitations for what I know will be a big day for you and Joanna. I’ve known you since before you met her (two years ago now, is it?) and I appreciate all you’ve shared with me about how meaningful that relationship is to you.
It was especially kind of you given my Christian faith. You've never directly asked me my views on gender or sex in much detail. But I think our conversations must have touched on it enough times to at least make you a bit unsure of my reaction when you sent the invitation.
I have to say 'no' to your kind invitation. You know that I care for you and that I value our friendship. You know I don't reject you because you are gay. So, would it be too much to ask of you if I explain why my faith would make attendance at your ceremony an unloving thing to do? You know from all the discussions we've had that I respect your intelligence, so I trust you won't see the style of my writing as mansplaining. If you are willing to read, I will try to explain my beliefs in a simple and basic way.
You have rarely talked to me about my faith and my few attempts to bring it up has not – seemingly – met with much interest on your end. You asked me once what God thought about cheap beer and 80’s music - but I think that’s the extent of it (He’s not a fan in case you’ve forgotten). But our talks have revealed that we still share the love of many things: culture, films, music, books, and spiced rum.
But my relationship to God isn’t just a small piece of my life that can fit neatly into a drawer. It’s rather a pair of glasses that enables me to see and interpret everything else – just as your atheism affects everything you see – be it consciously or unconsciously. It’s because we each wear different glasses that my declining to attend a day which is important to you may not make any initial sense.
Your atheism posits that all the world is the result of time and chance acting upon matter. But as a Christian, I believe the world was created with a purpose, to be received and experienced with gratitude, and lived out with the intention it was created for. For that reason, you see our mutually beloved spiced rum differently than I do. You see it through the materialistic lens. You see your taste buds as the fruit of evolved bacteria that just so happen to derive pleasure when put in contact fermented molasses.
You may give thanks to me if I happen to buy you the drink – but that’s the extent of your gratitude. I see the rum differently. God knew we’d figure out how to make rum and so he gave us taste buds specifically to enjoy it. He also gave us cinnamon and other spices so that we could blend the rum in a way that angels approve of. God allowed us to discover rum because He is good, wants us to be happy and give Him thanks. We both enjoy it – but for me, it's an act of worship. For you, it's a chance meeting of molecules. Our rum drinking is different because our universes are different.
The same is true for my sex. Like rum, we may both enjoy sex - but I have sex different from you. And that’s not just because I’m a bloke. As an atheist, you see sex as one of the accidents of the universe – more pleasurable than most perhaps – but still purposeless in the ultimate sense of the term. But as a Christian, I believe sex is a gift given by a kind God whose heart is bigger than Christmas. It’s a gift that is intensely purposeful and we should not use it in accordance with any impulse we may experience. Like electricity, it is a great gift – but misuse of that powerful gift may harm. We have many rules regulating how electricity is managed in public places – not because we don’t value our citizens, but because we do.
God knew that He was going to save the world through Jesus sacrificial death and that He would be with His people in full, unrestrained love forever. Because God knew that’s where He was taking human history, He created male and female and established marriage as the life-long union of one man and one woman and that relationship is to be the one place where sex is done.
He does this for everybody’s sake (including those who are single) so that we can all see and be reminded of where God is taking history. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and the wife is to respect her husband as the church does Christ. Marriage and sex – when used in the way God created – gives the world a picture of who God is.
You may be tempted to think that my ultimate desire for you is that you ‘be straight’. No. In my neighborhood, I am surrounded by heterosexuals who have prospering mutual funds, but bankrupt souls. They don’t know their Creator and their heterosexuality doesn't earn them any brownie points with Him. My desire for you is that you’ll come to know this God. You may call this my (ahem) missionary position. And so it is. It’s a position borne out of friendship. Though you express little interest in getting to know the One who has given you so much, you're still invited to His house.
Not all Evil
You may also be tempted to think that I see your relationship with Joanna as being all evil. This is not the case either. There's much good that I see in your relationship with her. You love one another, care for one another, and enjoy each other’s company. It seems you are good friends, and friendship is a gift from God.
My belief is that God has given us sex for a purpose and that using that gift for other purposes only causes harm in the long run. That's why I cannot celebrate this day with you - because I think there is something better. Of course, given your atheism, any talk of purpose (and therefore sin) is silly. Life has no ultimate purpose - and therefore purpose cannot be misdirected.
I know some Christians who would acknowledge everything that I’ve said above about the Biblical purpose of sex, yet they would still attend the ceremony out of affection for you as their friend. I feel the weight of that. But the more I consider that, the more convinced I am that it would be unloving to attend. Given my beliefs about the universe, humans, life, sex, and love, being there would only be hatred dressed in a suit of politeness. Do you really want me to celebrate something with you that I think will bring you harm in long run? If there’s one thing that we both share, it’s that neither of us like fake people – and showing up would be polite fakery.
I understand if my refusal stings. Please consider it from my point of view. From my end, I would love to continue the friendship we’ve enjoyed over the last four years. Like rum and sex, I've received your company as a gift from my God.
Every kind intention,