Sunday, February 7, 2021

My Faith and Sexuality

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

—1 John 4:7-9


I subscribe to emails from, and they send out some interesting stuff. I particularly enjoy their "Daily Affirmation" emails that contain inspirational quotes. If you follow my Twitter (@ClosetProfessor), you may have noticed that I sometimes retweet these quotes. Last week, they sent out an email about their Faithful Sexuality course (registration ended on Friday). It looks like an interesting course, but at $83, I will not participate, especially since I just don't have the time. I bring all of this up because Brian G. Murphy, one of the founders of Queer Theology, wrote in the email about his experiences with coming to terms with his sexuality and the guilt he felt in those years. Here's an excerpt from that email that brought up some thoughts of my own:

I spent too many nights sitting on the floor of my shower after sex, hoping that the water would wash away not just the sweat but also the sex & shame.


I would get home from a date or a hookup, hop into the shower, and before long, I'd find myself curled up on the floor of the shower, with the water rushing over me. Talking about it now, it sounds like a cliche scene out of a movie, but that was my actual response.


Eventually, I'd get up off the floor, brush my teeth, and resolve to not do "it" again. Not kiss a boy. Not have casual sex. Not do XYZ sexual act that I deemed "too sexual" or "depraved" or "not romantic enough." I'd delete his number from my phone or unfriend him on Facebook. I'd make a pact to try again at "waiting until marriage." Maybe I can find a girlfriend? Or at least a Christian boy? "I should go back to church." "I should stop looking at porn." I should I should I should.

When I was in high school, I did everything I could to deny that I was gay. Other kids constantly bullied me for being gay, which seemed to be the worst thing I could be. My first sexual experience was with a girlfriend I had one summer when I attended a summer honors program at the University of Alabama. She was from Kentucky and a bit of a tomboy. We had a dinner to attend for the program, and she needed a dress. She had never owned a dress, so I took her to buy one. Though we grew to care for each other over that summer (she is probably the only woman I ever saw myself spending the rest of my life with), she went back home to Kentucky, and I went back to my home in southern Alabama. The distance, and that this was a time before texting or email, we grew apart. She is married and a university professor now. We’ve had no contact in 25 years, but I do think of her fondly and wish her well. 


My second sexual experience was very different. My best friend growing up (we are no longer friends because of her rabid support of Trump and her harassment of me for not believing in wild Trump and QAnon conspiracy theories) was very sexually active in high school. She didn’t try to have sex with me because I was a virgin, and according to her, she did not like having sex with virgins. However, after I lost my virginity, she began pressuring me to have sex with her. I turned her down, and she acted very badly, pretending to be hurt. I know now, she was just manipulating me. I don't handle people being upset with me very well, and I often try, to my detriment at times, to fix things. When she tried to seduce me again, I did not resist because she made me feel incredibly guilty for turning her down the previous times. I felt so dirty and disgusted with myself after that experience. I felt so violated. I went home, and like Brian above, I took a long shower to try and wash away my shame and disgust.


After that incident, I continued to try to date girls. Like Brian, I thought, "Maybe I can find a girlfriend?" Finally, when I was a sophomore in college, I was dating a girl, and it ended with a nasty argument. It was pretty ugly, and I know I hurt her a lot. It was then that I realized I would likely make any woman I had a relationship with miserable, and in turn, make me even more miserable. So, I vowed not to pursue women anymore, but I did not resolve to date men. I have always felt that I made a mistake in my decision not to date anyone because I feel like I wasted time and decreased my chances of finding a fulfilling relationship. However, I still could not fully come to terms with being gay. When I would be turned on by gay porn or fantasizing about a guy, I felt disgusted with myself. It was a traumatic experience in many ways.


Even when I did start hooking up with men, I felt much like Brian did. It always seemed like bad things would happen after a hookup, from unexpected expenses, problems with classes, missed opportunities to help my future career, etc. None of these “bad things” were real consequences of the hookup, but I always felt that I had brought all these “bad things” upon myself. God must be punishing me. When I thought it had gotten so bad that I had to do something, I’d take action to “get rid of the gay.” I would delete any dating profiles; apps didn't exist back then. I would delete any gay porn on my computer and any bookmarks/favorites on my web browser. If I had any sex toys or gay DVDs, I'd throw them away. I'd do everything I could to get rid of anything gay in my life. I know I needed some serious therapy back then. I would fall into deep periods of depression, and it was years later before I sought treatment for my depression.


Once things seemed to get better, I turned back to porn or hooking up with some guy from a dating site or bar. However, the pattern would repeat itself. The same phycological factors would surface again, and I'd purge anything gay. Eventually, I finally came out to myself and then to a couple that were friends of mine. They were very supportive, and I finally had someone I could talk to about being gay. It helped, but I would still go through periods of purging anything gay and have bouts of severe depression. I continued to think that God must be punishing me. Later, I heard my preacher say that God does not punish us in this life, but only in the next if we do not ask for forgiveness. God forgives, and he would forgive us and not punish us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) My former preacher said that God did not punish people for their sins here on earth. His words helped me accept my sexuality. 


I wonder how that preacher would feel if he knew his words helped me come to terms with being gay. I had always liked this preacher, and I trusted him. He never got political in the pulpit, and he mostly preached on better understanding the Bible and how to be better Christians. (One of the few exceptions to political discussions occurred when he preached against a lottery in Alabama. It was not received well by the congregation, and he never mentioned it again.) He never condemned anyone for their sins and never seemed to judge others. That changed when the Supreme Court announced the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. He preached a sermon on the evils of homosexuality. If it had been a sermon that followed the Church of Christ's beliefs, I might have taken it better, though I still disagreed. Instead, he used an Old Testament verse out of context and based his arguments on Old Testament verses. The Church of Christ is a New Testament church, and he used a verse from Malachi. He also quoted some New Testament verses, but not from his usual King James Version, but a more modern translation that incorrectly uses the word homosexual. I know most people would not have a problem with a preacher referencing an Old Testament verse. However, for a preacher in the Church of Christ to base a sermon on an Old Testament verse instead of using a New Testament verse is just not done and is very unusual. We believe that Jesus brought a New Covenant that replaced the Old Testament, which is seen as historical but not doctrine. When he used arguments that were diametrically opposed to the basis of our version of Christianity, I lost all faith in him. He had never once mentioned homosexuality before this sermon, and my disappointment in him was profound. I should have walked out of the church that day, but I was a coward and did not. My family was there, and I did not want to embarrass them. However, it changed my relationship with the church after that, but I’ve gotten off track.


For many years I dealt with the guilt of being gay because it went against what I had been taught growing up. My parents, friends, schoolmates, teachers, etc., acted as if being gay was one of the worst sins you could commit. Such an unaccepting society is a very unhealthy way to grow up. My views and guilt changed when I studied the Bible more. I looked at the meanings of the words that preachers used to condemn homosexuality. I came to understand that God is about love. He is not about punishing us. Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, and the passages used as "clobber passages" did not mean what I had been taught they meant (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 [Pederasty in Corinth], 1 Timothy 1:9-10 [Pederasty in Ephesus], Jude 6-7 [Strange Flesh], and Romans 1:25-27 [Cult Prostitution]). Once I came to this understanding, I have had a better relationship with God and with myself. We all have our own journey coming to terms with life’s issues, especially when it concerns your sexuality. I pray for the day when we don’t have to come out and that the whole spectrum of sexuality and gender is accepted as natural. I do not doubt that there will always be homophobic people, just as there are racists and anti-Semitic people, but I hope that one day the idea of hating others for who they are is abhorred by the vast majority of people.


Alan Scott said...

Thank you for posting and sharing your experiences, Joe. My growing up story is different but there are some similarities, enough to assure me that I wasn't the only one who harbored those same thoughts.
God bless!

Adam said...

Very informative post, Joe. My journey is different in some ways, but faith has been central to my life. I'm still actively engaged in church despite it's weaknesses. I hate how the Christian Church has hurt so many. I pray and work to make sure all are included, served and loved. There are lots of progressive churches that are affirming of people like me with same-sex attraction. If anyone is looking for an LGBTQ-affirming church, one place to start is

nikki said...

I'm sorry you had to go through such a hard time. It shouldn't happen to anyone!

Kylie said...

It's just my opinion you were fighting off the Holy Spirit. I don't think the shame came from upbringing or training as much as it was the Holy Spirit. Please bear with me. The passages you chose and called clobber passages in Aramaic and Greek don't mean what you came up with and wuth philosophical examination they also don't hold to your persuasion. The only possible way a homosexual could be saved just as any other believer that was born into sin is IF in 1 Cor 6 where Paul writing what God breathed wrote, " And some of you were...but you were washed.." So, is God saying that as a result of you being justified you no longer are going to receive the penalty of sin? Or is he saying since you were justified you were given power to overcome through the blood and the Spirit? Arguably the Scriptures teach the saved are changed and have new desires to please God. Romans chapter 1 in context was in reference to idol worshipping unbelievers and the consequences of believing the way they did. One big problem with ascribing it singularly to homosexuality is not every unbeliever becomes a homosexual. Another problem is not every homosexual takes on the characteristics that are further listed.

But let's say for the sake of argument that your theological understanding is correct, but what about debauchery? Your pictures do nothing but promote loose morals. Desire is born. Then comes the action. Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike are guilty of debauchery when they engage in sexual release without covental bonds. And the Holy Spirit tries to convict.I don't want you to think I'm just being hypocritical as I struggle also. I just wanted you to think about it on a deeper level. Most of the religious books that make claims for homosexuality being acceptable make very weak and easily defeated arguments when posed to theologians that understand historical context and the original languages. I've only read one argument that held any water, and offhand I can't remember what book it was. If I remember it I will communicate that to you. Have a great day.

Joe said...

Alan, Adam, and Nikki, thank you for your kind comments.

Joe said...

Kylie, as a member of the Church of Christ and as a historian, I believe in using historical-grammatical analysis in order to understand the biblical authors' original intended meaning. I have studied the Greek of the original text. Few scholars believe that any of the Bible was written in Aramaic, but originally in Greek, especially the Epistles of Paul, who was Greek. None of the New Testament texts refer to homosexuality. Newer translations of the Bible, which use the word homosexuality, are inherently wrong as the word did not exist until the late 19th century. By studying the original Greek, it is clear that Paul (Jesus never spoke of homosexuality in any sense) was not speaking of homosexuality as we know it today. He was discussing pederasty and temple prostitution.

I do believe that the Holy Spirit guided me, but not in the way you describe. I remember the moment when I came to be at peace with my sexuality. I believe with all my heart that this was God speaking to me through the Holy Spirit to show me that I was as God created, gay and all, and that God had no problem with my sexuality but embraced me being my true self. There have been many times when I have felt God communicating with me. I’m not saying that God spoke to me like he did Moses through a burning bush or anything like that, I mean that I felt an overwhelming peace in my heart, and I knew that God was with me and helping me to understand my faith better.

Furthermore, I use the images that I use because I believe in the beauty of man, and I see nothing wrong with celebrating the beauty of God’s creation. Some of the greatest art of mankind was created to honor God and is in churches and church museums.

I have heard all the arguments you make, and often they come from people who have not truly studied the Bible or have studied under those with a particularly hateful agenda. As the main Biblical text at the beginning of this post states, “God is love.” We must look at all things through the eyes of God’s love. If we reject people because we condemn them for how God made them, then we are not following God’s teachings. I try to do all things through the lens of God’s love. I may not always be successful, but I try and that is what God commands us to do.

I would hope that you would read more of my posts on religion. I post them every Sunday. I especially hope that you will read my series on the Church of Christ and Homosexuality that begins with the following post and contains links to all of the posts in that series: I go into much greater detail on the hermeneutics of the clobber passages listed above.

Anonymous said...

I have had almost identical feelings and struggles and actions of purging. I tend to agree with poster "Kylie" that these feelings were likely the holy spirit speaking to you. I know the Bible mentions something along the lines of wrong being written on our hearts. Basically we know what is wrong. Also I never saw you mention the topic of repentance. Jesus told the prostitute "go and sin no more" after he told the others to not cast stones at her. They weren't spotless and nor was she, but he forgave her. That being said aren't we supposed to repent?

Joe said...

Anonymous, I ask God for forgiveness and repent for my sins all the time; however, I will not repent for being gay because there is no sin in living my life the way God created me. I have always known that I was attracted to men and not women. What spoke to me was the homophobia and hate I was surrounded by my whole life, especially when I was growing up in rural Alabama. The fear and the hatred espoused by those who considered themselves Christians had me denying who I was. If God is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipresent, and above all, infallible, then when He created me with same sex desire, He could not have been wrong.

What is wrong is when people make you hate yourself and torture yourself to hide who you are and to live a lie. That is a sin. Being your true self and loving someone of the same sex is not a sin, and I will never believe it is. I did not come to this revelation lightly. I prayed; I meditated; and I studied the scriptures. I know that I have finally come to terms with being the man that God created. When I accepted that God had created me with same sex attraction and was not flawed in his creation, I have been far closer to God and had a much greater connection to God. That was the Holy Spirit speaking to me. The wrong written on my heart was put there by the hatred I was taught to feel for who I am. All of those voices in my head telling me to hate who and what I was was homophobia and hatred fueled by ignorance, and worse than ignorance...willful ignorance. I find few wrongs greater than willful ignorance: those people who don’t care to gain truth and knowledge. When you deny yourself because others tell you that you do not know God, then you are dishonoring God. The people who put those ideas into your head are dishonoring God, and they are the ones committing a great sin.

So, yes, I do repent and ask God for His forgiveness. I know I sin, and I am not perfect. Jesus Christ was the only perfect man to ever walk this earth, and I will never claim to be perfect. However, my sexuality has nothing to do with that. My sexuality, as with anyone’s sexuality, is who they are and who God created them to be. How could that possibly be wrong?