Avoiding Hypocrisy as the Church

Hey! Long time no me-doing-anything-remotely-related-to-maintaining-this-blog. Hope you’ve been well. I recently contributed to a series on sexuality and the church over at OnFaith, focusing on ways his current church community is modeling a traditional sexual ethic that avoids much of the hypocrisy found in more conservative churches. Some excerpts:

When I joined, I simply became a part of that redemptive movement. This is an enormous blessing, because — believe it or not — I really want to proclaim the gospel through ministry and advocacy. (And, as a white dude brimming with privilege, learning how to do this in a way that doesn’t reinforce inequality can be a challenge!) I want to be a Christian, and I want my church to urge the congregants on in our shared vocation of pursuing justice for the marginalized (which includes a sizable portion of the church population itself).

Often lgbt+ Christians are treated as if we have one job this side of Jesus’ return: don’t have gay sex. But, as Eve Tushnet so quotably stated, “You can’t have a vocation of no,” of only avoiding something. We need something to live for, and let me say that Christianity never makes more sense to me than when I am witnessing or participating in a Christian community that is unified toward imitating and proclaiming Jesus’ liberative gospel.

And:

It continues to amaze me how hard celibate lgbt+ people have to work to find space in churches that claim a more traditional sexual ethic. The social burdens experienced by sexual minorities in these communities vary widely, but usually include increased scrutiny and suspicion, painful comments from congregants who may or may not know about one’s sexuality, reduced ministry possibilities (e.g. I was once stripped of an internship and prevented from helping with a youth group because I was attracted to men), insanely exhausting language policing,**** and at times, the general ache of being single in a culture that over-valorizes marriage and romance to the detriment of the church’s calling to be family.

I’m not sure how churches decided that the best ‘defense’ of the traditional sexual ethic is to place excessive burdens on those trying to abide by it and then fail to provide the support structures that would make such an ethic intelligible and healthy . . . but, well, here we are.

I believe the traditional sexual ethic is beautiful and good — I try to live according to it for a reason! — but I also believe that the way churches have approached the topic of human sexuality has largely failed to do any justice to the scope and nuance of the doctrine and has, in fact, done injustice to countless people who should have found a home and family within the church, and this requires sincere repentance.

Read the Whole Article at FaithStreet.

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A Step into the Open

The first time I came out to anybody, my hands were shaking.

I was sitting in a dark room, accompanied only by the sound of my increasingly panicked breathing, typing out the e-novella of pain and triumph, confession and terror that would change my world the instant I hit “Send.” I doubt if I have ever experienced, simultaneously, such fear or such boldness since that night.

That was four years ago.

Things are a bit different now. I am writing this in a gently sunlit room to the swirling melodies of an electronic indiepop playlist I’ve had on repeat for a few days, and I’m at rest. And the only reason my hands are unstable is that I haven’t had coffee in a while and my body would like to kindly inform me that I’m about to shrivel up and die from withdrawal. I didn’t even like coffee four years ago.

For those of you who don’t know me, I should probably introduce myself; for those of you who do know me, a little reintroduction may be helpful:

Hey. I’m Matt Jones, 23, from Portland, Oregon, which means that rain simultaneously depresses and excites me and that I’m so pale I could die naked in a snow-drift and nobody would find me until Spring. This is why I avoid Canada. Anyway. I am a Wheaton College graduate, a Fuller Seminary student, and if Hogwarts were real I’d be in Ravenclaw. I love poetry and magical realism, I’m addicted to tennis/ping-pong/badminton/soccer (Real Madrid and Manchester City), and I slightly prefer staring up from the shadows of a mountain to hiking it, but both are great ways to spend a Saturday. (For those of you from the Midwest, read this.) I’ve spent some time traveling and volunteering and would consider a Guatemalan orphanage to be my second home. I am passionate about social justice, can hardly sing, try to live out a grounded ethic of nonviolence and peacemaking, generally struggle to embody any of my own ideals of faith and life in Christ (by, in, and for whom I exist and find joy), and I’m attracted to men.

For some people, only four of those words really matter. Usually it’s not the Ravenclaw part.

The instant myopia that can result from the statement “I’m attracted to men” is one of the reasons I considered not writing this post. Wiser people than I advised me against making myself captive to the chains of people’s preconceived notions of what it means to be a guy attracted to other guys. It goes without saying that the current social climate regarding homosexuality is a little bit volatile – so why throw myself into it? Why put myself out there?

Why can’t I just be content to keep this between close friends and family? Certainly strangers don’t need to be involved, and certainly there doesn’t need to be another blog. What is, ultimately, the point?

I hope to address those questions more specifically in a separate post, but I figured it was probably a good idea to, you know, “come out” first and then discuss the pros and cons of the process, otherwise everybody would be all freaking out in suspense over how the series would end.

But before I wrap this up I guess I should probably give a brief sketch of how I understand and interact with my sexuality. So:

I’m trying in my own imperfect way to live with integrity, wisdom, and nuance. For me, this means first and foremost processing what I know to be true about myself in light of what I believe has authority over me – in my case my relationship with Christ and the Church. However, I don’t think such a hermeneutic is as one-track as some people make it out to be. Thus, although I have chosen to pursue a life of full and dynamic celibacy, I spend about as much time explaining why I think my brothers and sisters who possess and even practice an affirming theology can still be Christians as I do explaining why I’m not a self-hating homophobe. Thanks to the cultural furor, I am generally unsuccessful in both endeavors.

This isn’t something shameful for me – I don’t think my homosexuality compromises my humanity, masculinity, close relationships, or faith-witness (in fact I think it brings something beautiful to all of them), and thus I see no reason to hide it or lie about it. I can’t ignore the testimonies of a few people who claim to have made some sort of shift in their sexual orientation through “therapy,” and I don’t want to silence them or disparage their stories, but I find the practice of trying to make someone switch from “gay” to “straight” (via reparative therapy or some forms of “biblical counseling”) to be misguided and harmful in almost every conceivable way, damaging to the gospel and those involved. Therefore, I generally condemn it. If the only hope the church thinks it can offer non-straight people is the possibility of heterosexuality, then it offers no hope at all.

That said, I’m also not particularly interested in trying to construct a personality or “identity” around my sexuality. It’s an important part of my human experience and I am who I am because of it, but it’s just one strand in the web of my existence and it’s not even the most interesting one.

So, yea, that’s that. It’s a lot to process, and I realize some of you may be confused, concerned, upset, or various combinations of those (upfused, for instance), and that’s fine. I am more than happy to dialogue or whatever via email or Facebook. But it may be helpful to wait a bit, as I will continue to blog about various things that may answer some of the more common questions. Or, if you just can’t wait, you can check out a blog I wrote pseudonymously throughout the last year. I grew a lot over the months, so maybe start with the most recent material. My name was Jordan.

I hope you all are well.

Peace,

Matt

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