Gay Adventist -- An Oxymoron? 

by Inge Anderson 2007

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"How can one be gay and call oneself an Adventist?"

This is the question asked by both Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi in his Endtime Issues #24 and by Samuel Koranteng-Pipim in Adventist Affirm, Volume 14, Number 1. These men and others like them fail to recognize the reality of a homosexual orientation* that feels just as inborn and natural as a heterosexual orientation. If you are not clear on the distinction between a homosexual orientation and homosexual sex, please read on ...

This question brings back memories of the time when I thought that "gay Adventist" was an oxymoron. Since then I, a conservative Adventist Christian who believes that sexual activity was designed by God as a special bond and procreative act within heterosexual marriage, have gained some dear friends who are "gay Christians" and "gay Adventists," and I have changed my thinking.

Part of the problem comes with our definitions. To most gay people, the term gay refers to a homosexual orientation -- a powerful attraction to the same sex, rather than to the opposite sex. If we are willing to call our attraction to the opposite sex a sin, then, I suppose, we should have a right to call the attraction to the same sex a sin. On the other hand, if we cannot control the attraction to persons to whom we are not married and thus believe that the attraction, of itself, is not a sin, I hope we can also recognize that neither is an attraction to the same sex a sin.

God does not condemn us for our attractions -- whether inborn or acquired in our upbringing -- but he expects us to discipline them with the sanctified judgment He gives us. If we do this, we will govern our behavior according to His divine Law of Love and not misrepresent Him by indulging desires out of harmony with that Law.

. . .  as you have done it unto the least. . .

You see, among the "gay Adventists" I know are some of the finest Christians I have known  in my more than sixty years on this planet. They walk with God, and it shows in their treatment of others. They are the ones that pick up the homeless on the streets and feed them and clothe them. They are the ones that lend a listening ear to those who are hurting. They are the ones that dedicate many hours to their church as first elders, Personal Ministries leaders, and Sabbath School teachers. They are the ones that spend much time in personal Bible study and prayer because they know from where their strength to live the Christ-life comes.

Some of us heterosexuals might be able to fudge things a bit. We might be able to lose the Lord in the busy-ness of life, and we might not even notice for a while. But my gay Adventist friends cannot afford to let go of His hand because, as soon as they lose the sense of His presence, their eyes look where they shouldn't, and their fantasy goes where it shouldn't. And then the tempter overwhelms them with discouragement. They walk very close to Him, and it shows.

. . . behavior or orientation? . . .

Due to a lot of misinformation, most conservative Adventists seem to think that homosexuality is merely a chosen behavior. But I know of many gay Adventists who knew they were "different" since they were as young as three years old. It is only as they grew older that they learned that this "difference" had a name. Some on our support lists have never engaged in gay sex. Yet they are attracted to their own sex and are not attracted to the opposite sex.

For one example, please read Carrol Grady's book, My Son, Beloved Stranger. When she wrote the story, as an Adventist minister's wife, she did not have the courage to use her real name and wrote it under the pseudonym of "Kate McLaughlin." She tells a typical story -- one I've heard over and over with many variations. (Also see How Do People Become Gay?)

I know one gay man who married and raised a family. He wanted to be very certain that his son would not turn out like him and suffer as he had. So he made sure to spend time with his son. He made sure that the son played only "boy games" and played with "boy toys," because he had preferred girl games and girl toys as a child. But, despite this father's best efforts, the son was attracted to other men, not to women. In other words, he turned out to be "gay."

Some time in their lives most people with such "different" attractions are faced with a decision of what to do with the almost overwhelming desires for relationships not sanctioned by the society in which they grew up -- a Christian church that fostered the notion that homosexual attractions are in and of themselves sinful and that "God hates fags."

. . . different paths . . .

Many who decide to repress their desires live with a shameful "secret" that produces guilt to darken their spiritual lives. They have a real struggle to feel accepted by God and usually pray in vain to be delivered from this "sin" -- many of them for decades -- just as people have prayed in vain to be delivered from other powerful predispositions. Sometimes God works just such miracles, but most of the time he does not. His usual method of dealing with us is to give us the strength to live the Christ-life despite our unwanted orientations -- though it may cost us tears and trials without number.

The deep-seated assumption by many Adventists that a homosexuality is sin has put a false burden of guilt on gay people. Since they fail to distinguish between the orientation and the sexual activity, these gay people feel rejected for who they are in their inmost being. It is no wonder that many of them finally give up attending conservative churches and turn their backs on a God who did not answer their prayers to turn them into heterosexuals.

Conservative Adventists must take much of the blame for driving these of God's children away from Him -- "forbidding" them to come when God is drawing them to Himself. My own congregation is still suffering the results from failing to deal lovingly with a gay son in their midst. The effects have spread like ripples in a pond and touch all of us in the congregation.

Discouraged with attempts to live heterosexual lives, gay Adventists find a friendlier environment in the gay world of our larger cities. And they find support in an organization that openly supports being "gay" and being "Adventist" and argues that God does not forbid same-gender sex. And the argument is attractive. It is more attractive and makes more logical sense than that God excludes them for being who they are.

The decision to "come out" and assert their right to live a gay life brings a tremendous sense of relief and exhilaration -- a feeling that can persist even through a lot of traumatic confrontations with family and friends. And there's a lot of support for such a "coming out" -- even from perfect strangers. It just feels good not to have to pretend any more. Some even find Adventist churches that seem to agree that the Bible does not specifically condemn same-gender sex.

. . . it's not an easy road . . .

No matter which road they choose, gay Adventists do not have an easy road to follow. It is a road filled with doubts, fears, self-hatred, shunning by their peers, and feelings of being condemned by God, etc. As one of my gay friends pointed out, homosexuality causes people to question their culture, religion, morals and essence of self. It is a struggle to achieve a positive self-identity in an otherwise hostile environment.

Usually, those who choose to stay in Adventist Christian churches face an extremely difficult road. Some struggle with their burden of guilt all their lives -- coming to the Lord again and again to seek forgiveness for that which they have not chosen. Others come to believe that Christ loves them in spite of what the church seems to say. They are acutely conscious of their need of His grace in their lives, and they cling closely to Him. As a result, they reveal a depth of Christian experience that is most often lacking in the average Christian in the pew. Such have been an inspiration to me.

. . . who's to judge? . . .

Gay people who do not act on their orientation walk a much narrower road than the average Christian. However, I am convinced that even a sexually active homosexual is not necessarily a worse sinner than the rest of us. The New Testament spends much more time warning against gossip, disbelief, discord, and legalism than it does in discussing sexual sin of any sort. We might also want to compare Jesus' approach to Mary Magdalene on the one hand and his approach to the Pharisees on the other. For whom did he have words of encouragement, and for whom did he have words of reproof? Should we not follow His example?

Consider such characters as Rahab, Abraham, Jacob, and David. Rahab's faith was honored while she was a prostitute! (There is no reason to believe that she gave up her means of earning a living in order to be saved when Jericho was destroyed.) And whereas God designed marriage to be between one husband and one wife, he did not cast off Abraham, Jacob and David because they had many wives. Abraham was called a "friend of God, Jacob was designated "prince of God, and David is recorded as being "man after God's heart" while they were polygamously married.

Thus it appears that God does not always judge the way we might judge.

. . . Jesus will separate the sheep . . .

I value as dear friends some who are currently in gay relationships or are celibate while they are waiting for God to send them that "special someone." And I am content to leave their judgment to God. They have taught me much about what it means to live the life of Christ on this earth, and I would not presume to judge myself better than they. I believe that the Holy Spirit will lead them gently -- mindful of the hurts of their past -- just as He leads me. I take particular comfort in Ellen White's statement that "...our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits. The contrast will be clear and decided between what they have been and what they are. The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts." (Steps to Christ, p. 58) To me that implies that, as long as we are moving closer to God in our daily lives, we are safe in Him.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus taught that, as we have done to the "least of these" we have done it unto Him. Judged by this standard, some of the sexually active gays I know will enter the kingdom before their conservative Christian judges. May we forbid them not as they seek to come to Him through the doors of our churches.

To answer the question of the title, No, "gay Adventist" is not an oxymoron. There are many of them -- some celibate, some heterosexually married, and some in committed relationships.

* Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost among those who recognize that a person may be same-sex-attracted from birth, because Ellen White refers to "hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil" in her description of the disciples. (Desire of Ages, p. 296)

Ellen White assures us that "Those who put their trust in Christ are not to be enslaved by any hereditary or cultivated habit or tendency. Instead of being held in bondage to the lower nature, they are to rule every appetite and passion. God has not left us to battle with evil in our own finite strength. Whatever may be our inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong, we can overcome through the power that He is ready to impart." (Amazing Grace, p. 246) The emphasis is on ruling our "lower nature" through the power of Christ, but there is no promise of the "lower nature" being eliminated before Christ comes.

Note: If you are a "gay Adventist" reading this essay, consider also the essay, "I'm a Gay Adventist -- So What Are My Options?" If you are concerned that I'm being too "soft on sin," you might want to take a look at "A Balanced View."

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Last modified 03 Jun 2010 02:24 PM