Sunday, June 10, 2007

Thoughts On Celibacy, Part 3: The Church

I am very sorry for how late this post is. I had intended to get it done last week, but it turned out that staff training at the summer camp I'm working at was way more intense than I thought it would be. I haven't had much time to myself, and though they do have wireless here, it is very, very slow.

Another reason this post is late is because I really wasn't sure what it should be on. When I started this series, it fit into three neat little categories: the calling, the life, and the church. They were all difficult to write about, because to tell you all about my beliefs regarding them, I had to do a lot of reflection and figure out exactly what I did believe. Even then, I was left with new questions and ideas. I hoped to address some of them in the comments, but since I'm at camp I really don't have time to reply to all the wonderful comments that people have left, even though I'd love to.

This post is about celibacy and how it relates to the church. It's the most difficult of the three topics to pin down, because the church is not a simple entity that has black and white opinions about all topics. It's a massive group of independent (and imperfect) individuals with diverse backgrounds and personality types. Naturally, reactions to and opinions about celibacy are going to vary from congregation to congregation, and even from person to person.

While some people will react strongly against a person actively choosing celibacy (since they see marriage and sex as a duty, not an option), others will openly respect and support those choosing this life. Catholics come to mind when I mention the latter, but they are not the only Christians who support celibate individuals. They just seem to have more of a defined stance on the issue.

That is not to say Evangelicals don't support celibacy. Like I said in the last post, we probably all know Christians who have active roles in their local churches and have never married. They may not have deliberately chosen celibacy, but nonetheless the fact that they are unmarried does not make them any less than the other members. Perhaps in some congregations it would, but like I said, the church is not a perfect cohesive group.

In regards to homosexuals like me who are choosing celibacy, the situation is a little different. Regular concerns about openness are thrown into the mix, and one has to wonder if a straight celibate individual is more accepted than a gay one. Personally, I have no idea. Many would say that sexual orientation shouldn't matter at all to someone pursuing celibacy, and to that I would agree. But one of the best parts about the church is that it should be a place where we can openly talk about our struggles, our feelings, our desires, and our temptations.

The key word in the there is "should," of course. By no means is the church perfect, and even people who don't struggle sexually can have a hard time bringing their concerns to a congregation, especially if that congregation is made of Christians who also don't share for fear of what the others might think. In my view, telling Christians about struggles I have maintaining chastity is no different than a married man telling about his struggles to maintain a healthy marriage.

It's important, I suppose, to remember that the church is made up of individuals, and I am a part of it. If I want ideas, attitudes, and opinions to shift, the best way to do it is to be as open about myself as possible. If I feel that God is leading me down this road, then I can feel confident in the fact that He won't lead me poorly. My life can be a living apologetic. Sure, some may doubt my intentions. They may think that I'm doing this simply because I'm afraid of what society thinks of homosexuality. On the other side of the spectrum, they might think that I'm doing it because I don't have enough faith that God can "change" my orientation. Neither is true. I don't care what society thinks, and I think God can do anything.

However, there is always the question of what He actually will do, and what He wants for each of our lives. If God wants me to marry a woman and start a family, then I'm sure He will make that happen. If not, then I will follow Him anyway. One of the biggest themes of the Bible is that obedience to God has never led anyone astray. For me, part of that obedience means celibacy. Some don't get it. The church may not get it. But God gets it, and I rejoice in that fact.

If you would like to share you experiences concerning celibacy and the church, please do so. If I have time to reply, I definitely will. Other than that, my first group of campers comes today, and I am very excited about working with them. Wish me luck, and God bless!

Thoughts on Celibacy, Part 1: The Calling

Thoughts on Celibacy, Part 2: The Life

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