Life Choices

It’s been a while (almost, not quite, a year); so apologies. Recent interactions with friends and SF comment threads have prompted thoughts on life choices revolving around mixed-orientation relationships.

Consider two friends of mine.

Friend A is not a Christian, and has no moral qualms about being in a relationship with another man. He is currently dating a gay, but contemplating ending the relationship. He loves his boyfriend, but also feels a filial obligation to continue his family line, to honor the wishes of his traditionalist Asian parents. He considers himself bisexual, having dated girls in the past, so deems it possible; and knows that meeting a girl, marrying, starting a family, and bearing grandchildren would be his way of honoring his parents. He does not fear the prospects of, once getting married to a woman, no longer being able to enjoy intimacies with other men. Yet his friends—all liberal, American, individualistic—tell him to tend to his own needs and wants. Given his own Asian upbringing and Eastern-minded sensibilities, however, he feels a deep need—even desire—to give back to his parents. He faces a difficult decision ahead. Should he end things with his current boyfriend? Friend A is torn.

Friend B is a Christian, who recently ended a serious relationship with a woman. The idea of marriage and raising a family—and the normalcy that comes with these things—had always been attractive, yet try as he might, he ultimately could not commit to being with someone he felt no sexual desire or compelling love for. Being an orthodox conservative Christian, he does have reservations about being with another man. His closest friends—also Christian and conservative—urge him to remain strong in the moral convictions he once stood firmly by. Yet he finds himself thinking this is his only option for ever finding relational intimacy with another person in this lifetime: to find a man he can love. His fear of lifelong loneliness is very real. Should he pursue love in a male partner? Friend B is torn.

Both Friends A and B are gay Asian American males. Despite their many differences—different religions, moral convictions, sexual fluidity, relationship experiences, peer group, motivating fears and desires—what they share in common is the necessity of making hard life decisions about their relationships while facing tensions concerning their sexuality. This is a burden to which few others can relate. Friend A’s friends cannot understand why his sexual preferences must come second to his family duties. Friend B’s friends cannot accept his resolution to seek forbidden love in light of his faith. To outsiders, such divisions must appear almost illusory. Can’t one have it all: faith, family, and fraternizing? (Or substitute the other f-word. No, not the four-lettered obscenity; the slur.)

Life forces you to decide. You only get to walk down one path. This is less a lesson of the “straight and narrow path”, than it is of “serving either God or Mammon”; less a matter of striking the right work-life balance, than of seeking human touch vs. the Midas touch; less a dilemma of navigating Sophie’s world, than of making Sophie’s choice. One simply cannot have it all.

I await news from Friends A and B. Whatever each ends up deciding, I know it will come with the solemnity of letting go of something that is precious to them. For those relinquishments, I grieve.

 

A Primer on SSA-Christianity Issues

I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of introductory resources for those of you trying to better understand the variety of social, moral and psychological issues surrounding the issue of homosexuality and Christianity. The list, while far from comprehensive, is meant to be representative in its emphasis of the post-ex-gay discussion from recent years.

1. Start with Christopher Yuan’s notes. They’re clear, concise, and accessible. He’s got a crazy testimony. He’s smart, Chinese American, and a gifted speaker.

Christopher Yuan
– notes on nature vs. nurture
– notes on hermeneutics and biblical ethics
– testimony video (ABC, bilingual, former med student & drug dealer)
– testimony book (co-written with his mother)
– speaking engagements

2. To better understand the issue of biblical ethics and how it impacts everyday life for gay Christians, I’d check out some of the more recent, “new school” writers who like to take to social media to write punchy, bite-sized yet nuanced pieces. Representing liberal Side A, Justin Lee is founder of the Gay Christian Network (forum). Representing conservative Side B, Microsoft employee-turned-philosopher Ron Belgau is co-editor of Spiritual Friendship (blog).

 Hermeneutics and biblical ethics (new)
– Justin Lee, Side A essay – summarizes Torn
– Ron Belgau, Side B essay
– Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian (book and reply to Timothy Keller)
– Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting (book)

3. The Spiritual Friendship blog is perhaps the best online resource. Its contributors, all Side B conservatives, like to discuss the importance of genuine friendship for gay Christians who wish to live a fulfilling life of celibacy, while downplaying things like orientation change so commonly emphasized by ex-gay groups (Exodus International, NARTH). Some better posts:

Spiritual Friendship
Ron Belgau
testimony
– growing up gay
– meaning of “gay”
– unclarity of “gay”
meaning of “sexual orientation”
clarifying “sexual orientation”
– criticism of Jones & Yarhouse orientation change study
– reply to Vines
– language of rights
– language of the heart (Pope Francis video)
Wesley Hill
– against proof-texting
– vowed friendships
coming out
sanctification and homosexuality
Others
celibate gay Christians
good in being gay
– gay couples at church
expecting orientation change
study on mixed-orientation couples

4. The online medium, unlike traditional book publications, keeps things up-to-date, and, I do believe, makes it easier for people to share an authentic perspective on these issues in a way that’s relevant and personable. The downside is that it’s rarely scholarly. For more academic work, you can look at some of these.

Hermeneutics and biblical ethics (old)
– Robert Gagnon, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (book) – condensed, short, well-researched (but beware: Gagnon’s “clinical”, often defensive tone can be a turnoff)
– Robert Gagnon & Dan O. Via, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (book) – dense, thick
– The “Homosexuality” Debate: overview of books from 1990s-2000s (site) – missing some yet older Side A classics (e.g. Mel White, John Boswell)
– a mathematician’s detailed perspective (link)
– more links to scholarly works (links)

5. For psychological literature on issues of etiology (root causes) and conversion therapy (reorientation), some resources are:

Reorientation / conversion therapy
– Mark Yarhouse, Sexuality and Sex Therapy (book) – pastoral counseling
– Mark Yarhouse, Homosexuality and the Christian (book)
– Lisa Diamond on female sexual fluidity (video)
– Joseph Nicolosi (NARTH co-founder) on conversion therapy (website)
– Vice News on conversion therapy (video) – one-sided, but contains real footage from the Journey into Manhood retreat hosted by People Can Change
– Christianity Today on shutdown of Exodus International (links)
– Josh Weed: a success case of mixed-orientation relationships (blog)