Why This Series
It would be easy and obvious to start The Integrate Project with a series of articles on the difficulties for LGB/same-sex attracted people in The Church, of which there are many. Or perhaps something on conversion therapy or same-sex marriage? Terminology seems to be a pretty controversial subject in this area, why not start there?
No, I think it’s important that we start with the value of LGB/SSA people in The Church. In other words, I want us to think about what stands to be gained if The Church does well by the same-sex attracted people in its midst. How would the wider kingdom benefit from having thriving LGB/SSA Christians in our communities?
Sexual minorities and the Christian Church – it’s hard to think of two more divided groups in the modern west. The last few decades have been rough for all involved. Everyone has been left at least a little bruised as the ground has shifted. We’ve been tripping over the fast-paced change that is continuing to happen in our societies.
Some things that have been central to our culture (marriage, gender, etc.) have been dramatically redefined. This, in some ways, has been a good thing in terms of making our cultures safer for people who, historically, have been truly vulnerable to prevailing attitudes. Frankly, there’s still more to be done here. At the same time, you can’t expect such major upheaval to come with purely positive consequences for everyone. From my perspective, one unfortunate outworking of all of this is the polarisation of sexual minorities and Christianity.
Of course, this unhappy relationship predates the same-sex marriage debate by quite some time, but it has been the centrepiece on the table at which the argument has been held. This engulfing and controversial piece of legislation brought this division into spectatorship. Nobody needs to explain to you the relationship between the LGB+ community and the Church, you already have the emotional sense of it, even if you haven’t been paying all that much attention – the narrative has been reinforced time and time again. If you’re not sure what I mean, then watch the first… I dunno… five minutes of the show Christians Like Us on SBS On Demand.
It’s my conviction and my experience that people who are both gay and Christian have the potential to disrupt this aggressive distance with real effectiveness. We present something challenging and inconvenient to the portrayal of Christians and sexual minorities alike.
If the predominant narrative of Christians interacting with LGB people is one of hatred and suppression, then how valuable is the non-self-hating same-sex attracted Christian who feels safe enough and loved enough in the Church to be open about this part of their internal reality?
If marriage and the nuclear family has become an idol in our churches, then how important is the celibate gay Christian in reminding The Church of central Gospel truths regarding sacrifice, waiting, and community? And if sex has been elevated to the level of godhood in western culture, then this kind of person is testament to what it is to be whole and human outside of our sexual obsession, confusion and entitlement.
The LGB/SSA Christian often finds themselves in the crossfire between the most prevailing narratives in our culture: the heteronormative narrative versus the sexual liberation & gender non-conforming narratives which usually go hand in hand. The right and the left. The progressive and the conservative. For the sake of word-count I won’t go into exactly what these narratives capture, but you can probably make a good guess just from the titles. In my opinion, they each have helpful things to offer as well as unhelpful. But one thing is clear, and that is that they have come into sharp conflict in our modern world.
The thing is, however, the single, celibate, gay Christian is largely absent from these narratives. We are only now starting to carve out a story through which we can identify ourselves and find coalition and solidarity with others like ourselves. Since we are a fledgling community, we have the chance to make our story about The Gospel. The Gospel is a far better story to be caught up in than any of these narratives that drive our cultural conversation and pay dividends to our media outlets. We have the chance to stand in the middle, hold up our hands, and interrupt the lack of nuance that has caused our societal divide.
By the emerging fact of our existence, we speak volumes against the simplistic statements that get bandied about in the us-and-them arena. We turn on the light and open a window in a room where people have been sweating, pulling at their itching collars and arguing with their projections in the dark.
By virtue of all of this, we have the chance to shape culture in a positive way.
(This article was written by Tom Pugh, founder of The Integrate Project)