Nuance (a follow-up post)

I’ve wanted to do a follow up post to my blog from a month ago. I’m sure you know the one. It received way more attention than I’d ever imagined. I’ve been surprised by the response and haven’t really known how to comment on it. I wrote it with a very specific purpose: to answer a question people I know have been asking me. Whenever we put out a very narrowly focused statement, there are a ton of things that we don’t say. That’s the nature of nuance, right? It’s easy to have such a vision of what we are trying to accomplish in a moment that we aren’t looking at the whole picture. That was true of my post, as well as the Nashville Statement as a whole. Just because I believe the Nashville Statement is something we need, doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we need.

I have been incredibly grateful for the gracious comments from many and honestly challenged by others. In light of those responses, I’d like to provide some clarity. I don’t particularly see myself as an authority on any of these issues and would rather just keep my thoughts to myself most of the time. But I also know that Jesus has given me this story and somewhat unique perspective, so I am trying my best to use it for his glory. I’ve never wanted my life to be used as a template for how anyone else should live. In my previous marriage we were always very clear to say that we didn’t think marriage was a prescriptive solution for every gay individual. Honestly, in the majority of cases I don’t think it’s advisable. But now even more so in my divorce, I don’t mean to imply that “if you follow any of the same path Brian did, you’ll eventually walk away from faith.” I don’t mean to imply that at all. I realize what happened to me was a specific situation and doesn’t mean that everyone who takes similar steps will end up at the same destination. But I do think we serve as a warning. And I do mean “we.” As Brian changed his views, I reluctantly came along. It got to a place where I found myself in sin and didn’t feel a wit of guilt over it because I was so busy emphasizing grace over truth. The warning is this (and is there for everyone): our hearts are desperately wicked and are insatiable in their desire to justify our sin.

I’d also like to address the fact that some of the dearest people in my life came from that time. I think like Jonah, we can still do ministry in the midst of running from God’s calling. And for me, that ministry was hospitality, even as my heart was often hard towards God. Those people who came into my home became family and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I don’t mean to say that looking back I regret everything that came from that time. I don’t. I just regret the fact that I allowed my heart to drift and wander in that time. I absolutely was doing the best I could with the information I had, but in hindsight feel that maybe the steps we took weren’t the wisest. I think we made a lot of choices in the guise of “becoming healthier.” While Jesus absolutely longs for our flourishing and to conquer unhealthy patterns and self-conceptions, there is a danger to define “healthy” however we darn well please. Looking back, I believe we would have done well to seek health and wholeness through oneness with Christ rather than in pursuing it however we saw fit. Brian progressively felt like he was getting healthier the farther he walked away from Jesus. There’s something very wrong with that definition of healthy.

I’d also like to address the language issue concerning identity. I referenced in my post the fault in embracing being a gay Christian. Let me clarify what I meant. I think language is tricky and people have to use the language they are comfortable with. I don’t think it’s wrong necessarily to describe one’s self as gay. It’s the emphasis on the word preceding “Christian” that I find dangerous. It’s the weight and prioritization of one’s sexuality over identity in Christ that I find particularly dangerous. But in my mind gay simply means being attracted to the same sex. If people would rather use same sex attracted, fine. Doesn’t make a difference to me. As long as all our sexuality — gay or straight — is under submission to Christ.

I’d also like to make a few remarks on what I feel was left out of the Nashville statement. I really wish divorce was mentioned or that a similar statement gave clarification on it. There are a ton of grey to not-so-grey-but-often-ignored areas in divorce and remarriage that I think would have fit well into this discussion on sexual ethics. I also wish there had been a mention of the hurts the church has inflicted on the LGBT community. Or a strong statement against bullying or mention of the high suicide rate in these communities. I believe they had a really narrow goal in writing the statement — addressing very specific questions that are being asked across the national stage at the moment. So, I give the writers and signers of the statement room and time to respond to some of those omissions. Likewise, I have not stopped thinking about all the things I wanted to add to my blog post since I hit publish. My narrow focus was to clear the air about some of my previously held views and to express my gratefulness for a clear, Bible-based theology on some of these issues. But, that is not all I want to say. There are so many other questions that circle my head and churn in my stomach. Questions that the church still needs to find an answer for. I hope to address some of those issues here.

Does the church regularly injure people in the name of good theology? Yes. It is a very sad thing that this statement, as biblically based as it is, will be used to commit all kinds of atrocities. We have yet figured out how to mingle truth and grace in a way that uplifts, offers hope, and removes the stigma of particular sins. I am no more or no less of a sinner than anyone else. I desperately need God’s grace to cover over my sins, sexual and otherwise, just like every other person on earth. We might all need nuanced help depending on our proclivities, but we all need Jesus and we are all needed parts of the Body.

Has the church failed in many cases, providing condemnation instead of hope to those who struggle with sexual issues? Yes. I have personally been a victim of gossip, misunderstanding, and ostracization just by my association to my former husband. I cannot imagine how much deeper the wounds go for others. The statistics don’t lie about the amount of LGBT individuals coming from a church background who attempt suicide or other self-harm. It is astounding. It should break our hearts as much as sin does. There may be no “third way” when it comes to our theology but there HAS to be another way when it comes to our practice. I think the church has been immobilized by fear and confusion, not knowing how to interact with people instead of just debating issues. We need to do better.

Do we have a long way to go when it comes to offering hope and a sustainable, godly alternative to intimacy when it comes to those who are pursuing celibacy? Yes. I know a lot of people who struggle with same sex attraction. Many who over the years have moved towards affirming positions, some in the midst of trying to figure out what their future holds, and very few who are finding support in their churches for remaining single. Marriage and the family are often worshiped in the church. It is the holy grail, isolating those who cannot marry for various reasons, are not married for a period of time, or find themselves with their marriages ending. LGBT do a lot of things incredibly well, never more so than in creating community. No, in creating family. The church would do well to follow their example

So, those are just a few of my thoughts that have stemmed from conversations over the past month. There are so many nooks and crannies in this issue and in my story, they cannot be outlined in one or two blog posts. But hopefully this provides some clarity. And as always, I’m happy to talk with anyone in person about any of these things. Thank you again for the response to my original post and for showing me grace. I am truly grateful.