Church calls its LGBs to Celibacy - Culture Loses it
Sex is great.
Now let's be clear: we are not talking about the male-female gender binary right now, as wonderful as that is. We're referring today to the actual act of knocking boots. Let's also note upfront that I’m a bloke with a solid history of heterosexual behaviour. I look back upon it all with fondness while also cheerfully anticipating much more in the days and years ahead. It’s important to clarify this point because some might think that in discussing celibacy that we're disparaging or making light of the gift of sex. Not at all. Rather, we must expose the dysfunctional view of our orgasm worshipping culture for what it is. Then we can put this gift in its proper perspective.
The Sexy Celibates
Which brings us to our point. There has been a lot of chatter through social media lately on how unfair it is that Christians with same-sex attraction are being called by the church to a life of celibacy. (Cue the gasping and shameful shaking of heads).
A lot of this is a reaction to our increasingly vocal celibate, same-sex attracted leaders and writers. These would include awesome women like spoken word artist Jackie Hill Perry* and writer Rosaria Buttefield.
It would also include British pastors like Ed Shaw and Sam Allberry. If context allowed me to say that I have a man crush on these two, I’d say it. But I’m not sure it does. Let’s just say, I think they’re awesome.*
That they don't need to have sex?
What we have in speakers and leaders like this is something that flies in the face of the whole Queer Theology narrative. We have men and women who are strongly same-sex attracted (our society would use the term ‘gay’) who are at the same time living celibate lives for the sake of Christ that are full of joy and love and who are giving good leadership to the Western church in the 21st Century. When (mostly straight) theological sex activists say that it's unfair to call same-sex attracted people to lives of celibacy, these Christian leaders say, 'Really? Tell me about more about that.' Their lives give them the authority to call out our culture's sexual BS.
It's driving some theological revisionists nuts. It's scary, some activists wish these people didn’t exist. Even Vimeo was recently pressured to take down testimony videos from former homosexually active people who now live faithfully to Christ (here). Big brother is here and wearing a rainbow blouse.
The celibacy of these leaders not only offends gay theological activism, it offends our whole culture. The message they preach and live out is that one can live whole, complete, and happy lives without sex. Our Western culture started believing that sexual activity was necessary for the fullness of life and love ever since Sigmund Freud. ‘To deny yourself sexual activity is to deny your humanity’ is how the sounds bites go.
As Christians, we tell a better story. Our story says that humans need love and intimacy. But sex is optional. Sex is based on naked bodies. Intimacy is based on naked souls. The leader we follow, Jesus, lived the fullest life of any human as a celibate. The apostle who wrote most of the New Testament, Paul, was single, celibate, and thankful for it. Jesus calls us into a loving, vulnerable relationship with God – and then with others.
In the church, the unmarried (celibate) life became very popular in the 2nd-4th centuries. It even became a bit extreme to the point where married Christians were viewed a bit like 2nd class citizens. Fortunately, some early church leaders like John Chrysostom helped bring balanced and laid out healthy teaching on marriage.
But today we have swung to the other extreme. In some churches, people even pray that the unmarried folk among them will ‘find the right person’. Don’t do that. Let’s not assume that marriage will be a part of God’s plan for everyone. It may be better for them to be unmarried and freed up to serve God in other ways.
Sex: a Limited Good
Sam Allberry sees the irony.
Personally, I lived a celibate life until I was married. I never related to the term ‘lost my virginity’ – as if I might accidentally misplace it. When I got married I didn’t lose it, I was more than eager to give it away. I didn’t care much for exercise, but with sex, I started to make an exception.
But I was just as happy when I was a celibate as I am now. The gospel of orgasm that our society preaches is a lie. Before I was married, my soul fed on the intimacy from close men and women who make up my inner circle. It still does.
Many Christians would say the same. Yes, we're sometimes tempted to behave sexually in ways contrary to God's call. But we are not animals and our identity is not rooted in our sexual desires. God works in us to make us capable of self-control.
Though I had a desire for sex before I was married, I did not need it to be happy or human. We don’t belittle sex. Sexual activity is a good gift.
As a bloke, I’m certain that boobs are a sign that God loves men and wants us to be happy. But they are not necessary. Christ is.
If we say that it’s wrong to call LGB folk to celibacy, we're excluding them. For Scripture calls all people who aren’t married to this life. If we say that they need to enter into a ‘gay marriage’ in order to experience true intimacy and joy, we lie.
And to be able to live free, confident, and joyful without sex, that's sexy. And that's the Gospel.
*Perry has I good hip-hop album I'd recommend.
** Check out Shaw's 'Living Out' ministry - lots of good resources from same-sex attracted, celibate Christians