Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Update About Feelings

Sorry I haven't been around to respond to all the different posts about my last article. My computer got full of viruses over the weekend and I had to wait until Monday to get it fixed. Now, not only am I virus free, but I have Firefox instead of Internet Explorer, and I like it!

I really think it's funny how concerned everyone seemed to be about my last post. Just to be clear, it's not like I was feeling all of those feelings right at that moment. Goodness, I didn't even think someone could feel all those things at once! They'd explode, right? My point was that I am human like anyone else and the stoic front I have on my blog is just that: a front. I have a lot of the same emotions that other guys who struggle with homosexuality write about more often, and I just wanted to make sure that my lack of vulnerability in that area wasn't taken to mean that I don't struggle with those feelings. I do; I just have a hard time sharing them.

Now, I think the response to this post has been something unexpected. Like Wendy said, I have gotten a lot of unsolicited advice. That's not to say the advice wasn't appreciated. I just wasn't prepared for it (though let's be honest... I'm not usually prepared for what people write on this thing). I guess I want to take an entire post to talk about these comments instead of just writing another comment in the thread. I think they touch upon some key issues in my journey and my relationship to God, so here goes.

Not to be divisive, but I'll start with the comments from people who are more-or-less on my side of the "gay and Christian" issue. For one, I know writing about these emotions seemed a little pointless. No one assumes celibacy is easy and I guess if you're also going for it, then you know better than anyone else. I think something can be said for actually talking about the struggles out loud, though, instead of just letting everyone assume you're struggling even when you don't talk about it. Also, I think any Christian (or faithful member of any religion) can understand that the emotions I feel regarding God's prohibitions on gay sex aren't unique. Any Christian who wants something that God has clearly said "no" to has the same feelings to a certain degree.

It's tough. It requires prayer, and it requires strength to keep your head above water sometimes (not our strength, but God's). That's the point. Faith isn't easy. It's hard. It's work. It requires constantly going to God with our emotions and desires and asking Him to get them in line with His, and it requires faith that He will do that even if years have gone by and nothing has changed. We look for the things not seen, and we can wander in the metaphorical desert for years without ever seeing them. And we may even die without ever reaching the level of peace and contentment that we desire, but that does not mean God isn't good or that He isn't there. That's what faith is about.

And the whole point about sharing emotions is just so that we don't have to wander in that desert alone. We can share our joys and our triumphs with others. We should be able to, at least. The Church has a long way to go in terms of vulnerability and authentic relationships.

Now, for people on the other side of the coin. Thank you for commenting, as always. I guess for newer people like Devlin and Jack (who by the way not only represents the UNC system but also HRL employees!) I think I should clarify my position. I believe, in line with the Bible and the majority of Christian traditions, that gay sex is a sin. No worse than any other sin in terms of God's judgment, and no worse than any other sexual sin (including fornication and adultery) in terms of its effects in the here and now. As such, I am celibate. I will be celibate for my entire life unless I meet a woman with whom I have the ability to fulfill a husband's marital duties (and I consider such an encounter a very remote possibility). Yes, this is hard, but like I said, faith is hard.

This is a decision I made on my own. My family supports it but they would also love and support me if I decided to go the opposite direction. Granted, the decision I made was to follow God. I didn't exactly choose this particular path, but it's been outlined for me by God through His Word, and I am not one to question that, but to simply follow. Trust me, following goes against my very nature. I'm usually a very stubborn person and people don't influence my decisions often. But God does, and He's not a person.

I also don't think I'm killing off a portion of me by being celibate. Note that I said celibate, not single. I don't intend to be an old lonely gay celibate man, like Devlin said. I intend to have a community of friends and believers, and even family (remember, I'd like to adopt) by my side. If God wills it and if I have the strength to do it, I'd even like to do what I know other celibate same-sex attracted men have done, and that is make a lifelong companionship with a similar man. Not a marriage, of course, and not even a romantic relationship. Just a very close friendship... the kind that we've lost sight of in our culture. That's a hard thing to do, of course. I don't know where I'd find such a guy but I do believe it could happen, and if I have the strength to do it without sacrificing my other beliefs, I will. Because I believe you are right. It is not good to be alone.

Heck, I don't even know why it has to be a man. I'm willing to enter into that kind of chaste and holy friendship with anyone, man or woman, gay or straight, as long as they love the Lord and put that relationship first. I don't know if I'll be blessed with such a relationship, but I don't know a lot of things, and I have to learn to trust God to take care of them, and I have to obey Him either way.

Well... that's about it. Thank you all for your comments. I really appreciate them. I know that there are things I could do to make me happier sometimes. I could get a boyfriend and not worry about this stuff. I'm sure that would make me happy. But faith isn't about being happy, either. The fact that I struggle also doesn't mean that, like Kurt said, I'm on my way to being an "ex-gay survivor" (and I hate that term by the way, because if being ex-gay is the kind of thing you survive, what does that make me? A corpse?) Even if I was happy... if I did abandon my convictions, I'd feel like I was leaving something very important behind, and that feeling overshadows all.

22 comments:

David said...

Isn't it annoying when people say things like 'God didn't tell you to do this - you told you to do this'? Like you haven't thought about it or arrived at your beliefs with an empty head. It squashes all potential for what could have been an enlightening conversation because it cares not about truth, or people, but taking those people over to MY side (where they'll be happier anyway - trust me I know this with my all-knowing mind).

It's the same as going the other way - that (say) I am a man who knows the 'clear will of God' 'deep down in my heart' and has just rejected it to 'feed the lusts of my flesh'. (Nothing could be further from the truth).

I hope I've never treated you that way. It's patronizing. Its foolish and self-deceiving to pretend to peer into people's hearts or declare God's heart. Only my closest friends can dare to reveal part of my heart to me that I am not aware of, and then only gently and humbly, and certainly not some dude (or gal) I've never met online.

So essentially, no te preocupe, discuss honestly without presuming special divine knowledge, and everyone goes home happily and perhaps with something to ponder. The lack of these attributes is why I don't often discuss these things anymore.

I ramble when I'm typing with two fingers...

Cheers, Jay.

David said...

(PS: Or when I do, as recently, I resort to damnably bad cynicism regarding both sides. Did I mention I've been rambling?)

Jay said...

Thank you, David. I don't think you've ever treated me that way, though if I've treated you (or anyone) in such a fashion I also ask for forgiveness.

I know when I say things like "my beliefs line up with the Bible" it makes it sound like I'm judging those whose beliefs are different from mine. I think it's important to remember that I don't expect other people to take on my beliefs. It's a personal decision that requires a lot of thought, patience, and questioning.

Frankly, it's hard to hold tightly to what I believe without alienating others, and I hope that it's possible. I just try to do my best to respect everyone, and understand that we are all on different paths and journeys.

kurt_t said...

I didn't say you were on your way to being an "ex-gay survivor." I said your post sounded like an ex-gay survivor narrative. The despair, the anxiety, the resentment, the feelings of alienation. That's what ex-gay survivor narratives sound like to me. It was an observation. Not advice, not a criticism, not an attempt at prognosis. Just an observation.

KS said...

I think your blog is great. I have been a 'closet' reader for a couple months now. I have enjoyed your realness and ability to put words to deep feelings. Keep on blogging!

Mallory said...

Hi Jay,
I am a straight male, and I have been watching all the hoopla around the exgay religious celibacy thing for quite a while now. I have gay friends and love them, and their sexuality has always been alright by me. Live and let live and don't hurt anybody, that is my motto of which I live by.
I don’t subscribe to any religion, just haven’t had the draw. I have had the privilege of being an outside observer and would like to throw in my 3 cents. One thing I have noticed is the extreme negative judgement of religious clergy, from the Pope on down towards gays. And to be honest, because I see the love in gay couples’ relationships, I get annoyed at religious steeped straight people trying to dictate how gay people should express their natural sexual selves. They seem to walk with the God club firmly in hand. So in defense of actively sexual gay beings, as opposed to inactive (celibate) / disabled sexual gays, there are a couple of points I would like to make. One, there are many sexually active gay people who do not have an issue with their sexual activity, at all. The ones that do seem to have issues coupled with religious doctrine and/or negative programming from those around them. Two, those who are abused by such actions seem to have a lifetime of struggle if they don’t get unbiased help or grow out of it naturally. Not problems with their sexuality perse, but with the fear that has been programmed into them about their sexuality.
I think it is easy to see how being bullied, or chastised by "friends", or any number of situations could cause issues to embed around self esteem and sexual expression. On the other hand, I find the sexual abuse from religious doctrine much more subtle, passive aggressive, and just as debilitating if not more, than an onslaught in a school yard. With bullies in a school yard, at least one can see them and hopefully deal it out. With religion, one is dealing with an invisible “god”, and therefore, there can beset a myriad of imaginings, i.e. “I think god said this, but no maybe he said that or really meant this or that”. And if you are programmed to the max, there is NO getting around God unlike the bullies in the school yard.
This takes me to my next, and I think, most important point. If the Bible were to be written in present time, with all the homophobia in the clergy on down, I think we can pretty much assume homosexuality would be far more forbidden in a new bible, than even the past writings indicate in the old Bible. Now today mind you, they may not get away with it with the computer age afoot, but nonetheless, the intent would be the same, to diminish, and destroy any hint of homosexual behavior.
My main point however, is how can one truly think that this sort of thinking did not go on 2K years ago, with no computer age? Hence “cooking the books” biblically in man made homophobic fear would seem not just highly likely, but statistically inevitable. So what you may believe and be implanted with from your Bible and bible teachers, is most likely nothing more than the meanderings we find today, pure hate towards gays and their expression, from religious rulers. From Dobson to Nicolosi, those could be the Bible writers of today, and you as a gay male would not get one foot in the door. Do you think that 2K years ago, the guys were any different regarding this subject? They were all male, all straight so we assume, middle eastern on top of it, and from all indications from the present, and the tone in the biblical text, very homophobic with no basis to draw their conclusions. Would you trust a "Nicolosi" to channel God about gay sex for you? I think not. In essence, an insane expression from seemingly intelligent beings.
To add the final nail to the coffin, all they had to do was add the god card to it. This rampant god card usurpment by humans has always been a devious way to control at the soul core. And every religion does it.
Let me point out that there is corruption in every corner of mankind’s mental meanderings, from government to business to family to relationships on down, and religion is no exception. The current lies betrayal and deceit that go on in religious fear factories is paramount. If one thinks that it didn’t exist 2K years ago, well, then I would tell that person to take off the rose colored glasses, sit down, and drink a very large glass of water. What I am saying here regarding yourself and those who would have you hang your toucans and your love life in the closet for good, is be real clear that you are not being duped. Channeling god is one thing but can be very illusive inaccurate and socially biased. Clear fact proofed study can also be part of the mix and well worth the investment.
Now considering the computer age, this brings up one more point. If one does make the decision to stay gay celibate, wouldn't that mean stop waking off to gay porn? I mean, if it's a sin to have gay sex, I would think it's just as big a sin to promote it by paying for and watching movies with guys getting down. Though not physically, one is having sexual interaction with the guys on the screen, your just one of the guys in the corner watching. You say you watch porn, how often do you watch it? And how does this fit in with celibacy? And if you don't watch porn, can you masturbate>? And if you do, can you watch pictures in your mind of guys having sex? Is celibacy the entire giving up of all sex drive and expression, or is it selective? I hope you don't take this as too personal, but I'd like to get a good solid sense of the guidelines for gay celibacy as I find it rather fascinating. (now that I am throwing in my 3 cents which I never planned to do) Could you give a solid outline of how gay celibacy in the church handles these subjects, and how you apply this in your life of celibacy today?
I have no stake in what decisions you make, no agenda so to speak. But it is very clear you are not happy with some very crucial parts of your life. If I knew you as a friend, I wouldn't think of deserting you depending on your decision to be active or inactive regarding sex. I'd just shake my head and smile, knowing straight people do not have these same struggles, and neither should gay people. It really disgusts me when a preacher professes to love a gay celibate, then drops them like a hot potatoe when not, and claims they were seemingly there for a gay's best interest. As I say, live and let live, If you can't eat at the same table, and congregate no matter what, well I think you get the picture. It's the conditional love game. Nasty stuff in my book.
In closing there is a very cool doc film online called Zeitgeist. You can google it and take a look, it’s very educational in an in-your-face kinda way.
You’ve got to be boy in blender at times. I hope I didn’t add to it. You deserve to be clear and happy. And for God’s sake (no pun intended) go have a beer and relax and laugh a little.
Cheers!
Mal
PS I wrote this post before your current post today.

Ophir said...

I've started reading Moby Dick and your post reminded me of part of the minister's sermon in Chapter 9:
"if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists." Nothing really original or not already obvious to those of faith, but nicely stated nonetheless (and that's not even one of the standouts of the sermon, that might be: "In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers." or maybe it's just the cynical mood I'm in today).

Perhaps because I'm soon going to go to sleep when most people will be waking up, I didn't quite understand all this about a "lifelong companion". Why should it not be a romantic relationship? Why should he not be your boyfried? A romantic relatioship does not have to be sexual. Many straight couples do not have sex before marriage and even after marriage, especially in old age, many do not have particularly exciting sex lives, if at all. No one would say theirs isn't a romantic relationship, distinct from friendship, even if it's not sexual. From what I can tell you are not called upon to be celibate as though you're entering the priesthood. There is simply a prohibition on homosexual sex. I don't mean for this to sound like more unsolicited advice, I'm just not sure what exactly your understanding of scripture in this regard is and why you think you can't be in a romantic, but celibate, relatioship. If I understand your description of "lifelong companionship" as you do, I think I can offer an easier monosyllabic term, one which you yourself used: friend.

Jay said...

Kurt: Well, observations usually have implications behind them, and I think you once said a previous post of mine ("Conservaliberal") sounded like a "pre-ex-ex-gay" piece. I guess taking that all into account, I could get the impression that you're seeing that in my future.

But concerning despair, alienation, resentment, etc... those are just human feelings. I think any Christian goes through them, no matter what their path is.

KS: Thanks so much! Please stop by again!

Mallory: Well, you certainly had a lot to say, didn't you? ;-)

Thanks for all of your concern, and I like your "live and let live" attitude (it's the same one I take). However, I don't like it when the faith that I hold dear is referred to as "programming," or the Scripture that I believe is God-breathed is painted as the homophobic rants of dead Middle-Eastern men. The argument about the characters of the Bible's authors is a pointless one with me, since I believe it was Divinely inspired, and thus immune to cultural or generational shifts in terms of its moral teachings.

Also, if you want a portrait of what celibacy means to me, then here it is. No sex, no porn, no masturbation, no lust. It's the same for any unmarried Christian, regardless of his or her affections. Can I fulfill that perfect standard? Not always. I stumble fairly often (and do my brothers and sisters). That does not mean it's unworthy to try.

And if you have any questions about my background and "programming," just read more of my blog. I can assure you that I was not influenced into this position by my family, friends, or church. It's something I've come to on my own.

And God had quite a big part too. :)

Ophir: Thanks for the Moby Dick quote. I love it.

Also, concerning romantic relationships, I think you misunderstood me. I was saying that the kind of relationship I needed to be happy did not necessarily have to be a romantic relationship. I wasn't excluding romance. I was just saying that at the very least, I would like a close companion and friend, but it did not have to be a boyfriend or husband (or even a man). It would simply have to be close, and it would also have to be chaste. Is that more clear now?

grace said...

Just bringing a graceful [[[[hug]]]] to my blog baby!
;)
love ya muchly,
pam

bryan said...

Jay, wow. That was an amazing reply.

I think it's important that everyone realizes that different people are going to disagree over different areas of doctrine. That's just the way it's going to be and that's the way it's always going to be. I'm reminded of the chapter where Paul discusses people who didn't feel comfortable eating certain foods. Paul basically said that the best thing to do for those who did feel comfortable eating that food was to not be a stumbling block to others. Basically, let them do what they want and don't encourage them to do something that goes against their conscience.

If somebody wants to be celibate, that's a serious commitment and I think such a commitment should be respected, even if we don't agree with the exact reasons why they do it. A similar example would be my Muslim friends who don't eat during Ramadan. I don't tell them that they should just forget about that because I don't believe in Ramadan and they should just eat whatever. That wouldn't be right for me to do. In the same way, I think if someone - gay, straight, male or female - has chosen to become celibate, then we shouldn't try to convince them that they should go against their commitments. There is absolutely nothing intrinsically wrong with being celibate. If Jay ever decides to stop being celibate, that will be a decision that he will make himself. And if he decides to press on with his commitment, then I think we should respect him for that. It takes a lot of strength to do what Jay is doing.

"Frankly, it's hard to hold tightly to what I believe without alienating others, and I hope that it's possible." I understand exactly what you're saying, and trust me, it's not any easier being on the other side of the issue. This is an issue that any person who holds a belief of any kind is going to face. But I've learned that tolerance isn't saying everybody is right, tolerance is saying everybody is deserving of respect. And that respect needs to be evident in your thoughts, words, and actions towards those you disagree with. I must admit that I struggle with this myself, but I'm trying hard to do better. I respect you greatly Jay, because I think that you do exactly that a lot of the time. You're doing a good job Jay. :)

Anyway, Jay, much love. :) And oh, that lifelong companion thing... that's not just good for celibate people, that's good for everyone. ;) But of course, you already knew that.

bryan said...

And btw, Jay, I've heard that comment about the ex-gay thing before from Mike Ensley. I think it's a really good point actually, even though I myself don't have a problem with the phrase, I think it's important to hear other people's opinions. But it made me think. Would you call yourself ex-gay? I'm pretty sure you wouldn't based on what you've written. I'm just wondering why that makes you think if you survive being ex-gay that you are a corpse, because I understand it if Mike Ensley says it (I believe he called himself a zombie, lol.) but when you say it, it makes me confused.

Hope you understand my point. lol.

Jay said...

Grace: And here's a *hug* in return. :)

Bryan: Thanks for your very encouraging comment. I suppose I don't mind the "ex-gay" label. Even though I would never say anything along the lines of "I left homosexuality," I do share a lot of the same beliefs and, most importantly, lifestyles of ex-gay men and women.

Mainly, a lot of them end up celibate for the same reasons that I end up celibate. So even though I prefer "guy who struggles with homosexuality" or "gay celibate" or "Side B Christian" (for those who hang around GCN), I'll accept "ex-gay" if people would like to see me that way.

Oh, and I borrowed that line from Disputed Mutability, though I remember Mike Ensley using it too, now that you mention it.

aujaharris said...

Jay,

I hope I didn't offend you with my opinion-- you are clearly more open minded than some of the people who post here. I was only trying to share that there are many Gay Christians out there who are happily partnered, who love God and manage to live a very normal life without the struggles of being an "ex-gay". I am sorry that offends others who write on your website but thats the way it is. I wish you nothing but many blessings in life regardless of the path you choose with respect to celibacy. Peace, Jack

Jay said...

Jack: You didn't offend me, and I don't think you offended anyone in this thread, either. In fact, I think I'm the only person who's posted in this thread that believes homosexuality is a sin. So, in that regard, my mind is much more closed than everyone else here.

Of course, you wouldn't know that, since I've been building these blog relationships for a few years now, and you're relatively new. Though you are more than welcome to join in, just the same. :)

I understand that there are gay Christians who do what you say. I know, love, and respect many of them in my day-to-day life, despite our disagreements. It's not a new idea to me. Check the archives; I've been around for a bit, and it's not like I haven't been told this before.

Now, I hope that I was able to get across the idea that I'm not doing this for my own happiness, but in order to glorify God by obeying His commandments. I know I could be happily partnered and live a "very normal life" (though let's be honest, "normal" doesn't really exist). That's not the point of faith, though. And I didn't take on celibacy in order to be happy.

So if anyone was offended, it was by the quaint notion that simply telling me there were happy gay people out there would somehow change my mind, even though I've known that for years and have never based my arguments around happiness. I'm not saying that's what you were trying to do, but that's kind of how it came across.

So I hope you continue to engage in discussion here, but please read some of the archives and get a better sense of who I am and who my readers are. My blog tells my story, and it's wise to go back to the older chapters in order to keep up. :)

MR said...

Jay,

You said in your post, "But faith isn't about being happy, either." and "I've known that for years and have never based my arguments around happiness." above in the last comment.

I suspect by "happiness" you meant temporary pleasure. If that is what you meant, I agree 100%. I would say that faith IS about eternal happiness with God. I would also argue that glorifying God in the greatest possible way will actually bring you the greatest possible happiness in the long run - eternally. Of course, there will be a lot of pain first here on Earth.

You have read CS Lewis. You know what I am trying to say.

aujaharris said...

Jay,

Thanks for your comments. BELIEVE ME I NEVER thought you were doing this because you wanted to! I would have NEVER thought that! I have read through some of your blog and have not found how you got to this point in your Christian Journey. From what I have read it doesn't sound like you were raised in a Fundamentalist Christian Family? Or do I have this wrong? If you can point me to a blog entry that describes that I would appreciate that. Are you going to the RA Drive In Conference? I am planning to take our group. Would love to say hi.

Jay said...

MR: Yeah. When I say "happiness" I mean earthly happiness, which is of course by definition temporary. I'm not trying to say that God doesn't want us to enjoy our lives while we're here, but at the same time the heart of Christianity is denying oneself for Christ, and that doesn't always lead to years of peace and contentment on earth. At least, it shouldn't.

Jack: I was raised in a liberal (but by no means unfaithful) Christian family. My parents are very open-minded artists and would accept me no matter what. In fact, they do. They accept my conservatism and my decision to be chaste, even though they don't necessarily think I have to put myself through this.

But I do, and I want to. You have to understand, I do want to do this, even though it doesn't make me happy all the time. I want to please God, and by nature pleasing God doesn't always please me, because my nature is most often at odds with God's. That's called "sin," and I do my best to rid sin from my life even though it's an uphill battle.

And yes, I will most likely go to the conference. However, this is an anonymous blog and I'd like to keep it that way. Hope you have a great time with your group.

bryan said...

Jay, I wouldn't say believing gay sex is wrong makes you any more close-minded than saying slavery is wrong. Saying something is unacceptable is not equal to being close-minded and saying something is acceptable is not equal to being open-minded. Close-mindedness is an attitude. It does not describe a set of beliefs. For example, the Amish. The Amish have their own set of beliefs that they hold very dearly and they are stalwart in their views. But they don't say, if you want to come visit us, you have to act the way we do or if you don't believe like us, we're going to try to persecute you. That would be close-minded. (Note that I'm not trying to start an argument about the Amish way of life, I'm just using it as an example, lol.)

bryan said...

Oh and btw, Jay, based on how I define terms, I wouldn't say you were ex-gay. To me, ex-gay means someone who actively seeks to defeat their homosexual attractions. (And if I were really honest, I would admit that I view ex-gays as really being a particular class of gays, since my definition of gay would be anyone who is predominately or totally same-sex attracted and honest ex-gays admit all the time that they are still same-sex attracted. And that's all I'm going to say about that, don't want to go off on too big of a tangent. ;) )

If you are fine with the simple fact of being gay, even if you are Side B, I don't think that would make you ex-gay, since you don't try to defeat the attractions themselves. But of course, different people will define it differently, but that's what I think.

aujaharris said...

Jay,

Thanks for the clarification. I am still wondering how you reached this decision about celibacy. I am truly interested in knowing how people reach such a decision. Or is that something you don't want to share? Either way is cool just curious. How do your gay friends respond to your choice of celibacy? and do you explain to them why you have chosen this? I think its important to have dialogue about this sort of thing. I was also reading some of your past posts and correct me if I am wrong but you seem to have a dislike for the more stereotypical gay culture. While I myself am sometimes frustrated with the "gay culture" I also recognize the fact that many gays and lesbians find support and fellowship by identifying with that. Not all gay men, for example, are heterosexually challenged-- a term I really loath and find very pretentious. So give the flamboyant gay kids a little slack please :)

As far as the conference is concerned I respect your decision not to meet people from the blog but why do you prefer to remain anonymous? Are you not out to others?

aujaharris said...

PS Sorry for all the questions just trying to catch up. :)

phantomsojourner said...

I, too, can find myself rather frequently getting frustrated over my feelings. Being an "adherent" to the pro-celibacy position, I nevertheless whine and complain sometimes about how "unfair" such a situation can be. Oh well, just like you said, it is in those situations that prayer is most definitely advantageous: prayer, that is, and patience!