Excerpt on Sexual Identity and Lifestyle Choice

Visit The Marin Foundation at http://www.themarinfoundation.com

Visit The Marin Foundation at http://www.themarinfoundation.com

I’ve recently been invited to share my perspective on sexual ethics through the patheos.com channel of The Marin Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on building bridges between the LGBTQ community and conservative religious communities. I’ve known about and shared some connections with these folks for the past few years since I returned to Chicago, where their offices are based. The vision of The Marin Foundation is “to theologically, socially and politically see divided communities reconciled with each other through a faith in God and each other,” and that is definitely a cause that matters to me.

My first offering is a series on the dignity of sexual identity from an explicitly evangelical, Christian perspective. I’ve noticed that a lot of discussion about sexual ethics skirts this matter, and I don’t really see a way forward in the absence of better treatment. The first post in this series was distributed yesterday; it looks at the critical difference between sexual identity and lifestyle choice. Here’s an excerpt:

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I have spent most of my adult life as a member of an evangelical church in the United States. For the past four years, I have served as the associate pastor of First Free Church in Chicago, which is affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America. I’m so grateful that God blessed me with the chance to share close relationships with numerous people of varying sexual orientations who spoke honestly about their lives for as long as I can remember. Still, I cannot recall a single, intentional, public engagement by evangelical church leadership on the topic of sexual identity as such until I personally engaged in conversation with others a month or so ago during National Coming Out Day.

I won’t rehearse the details since the territory will be pretty familiar to anyone who has observed the event in the past. My LGBT buddies shared personal vignettes about their respective journeys. A few friends both queer and straight came out for the first time to several of their friends. And while the majority of conversation was enlightening and civil, barbed discussion arose on occasion when people maintaining a mainstream evangelical sexual ethic joined the dialog. As a result, I was reminded of a subtle yet severely detrimental feature of mainstream, evangelical Christianity when it comes to the way we understand and talk about the phenomenon of sexual identity. Namely, we don’t want to think about its existence at all.

As a result, many evangelical Christians are woefully inept at loving gay folks well. Predictably, we don’t love ourselves much better—even when our sexual orientation and behavior lines up perfectly with the best-case scenario recommendation of our sexual ethic since we developed that ethic in the absence of a robust concept of sexual identity. Why do we do keep doing this and what’s at stake? What might change for the better if evangelical Christians took a solid crack at exploring sexual identity directly rather than avoiding the matter or reverting to clichés and subcritical, scriptural misapplications? Here’s the first of a series of posts on this topic and why it makes such a huge difference for our lives and those we have been guided by God to love.

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Join me and the folks at The Marin Foundation right here if you’d like to read more and participate in the conversation.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Guest
    Nov 25, 2013 @ 17:06:01

    Jacob:

    Everyone human has dignity because we are all made in the image of God. No one should be mistreated because of their lifestyle choices. You say a lot but have no relevant scriptures to support your argument. If Jesus was on earth today he would hang with those society rejects like He did during His time on earth. He showed them love but He didn't endorse sinful behaviors. Homosexual lust is the same as heterosexual lust, but the scriptures in the OT and NT call it an abomination. Jesus said woe to you when men call good evil and evil good, that's where society is at today and it's only going to get worse. Be careful that you don't cut out the scriptures that is opposed to popular thought. Homosexuality is a choice, the devil will temp you with it but you decide to give in or not. When a man is tempted with a women does he give in because he's tempted. Follow the word of God, not what's popular.

    Reply

  2. Jacob S. Heiss
    Dec 06, 2013 @ 23:49:47

    First, apologies for my delayed response, as I have just noticed this comment. Having said that, I'm sorry to tell you that your presumption that I am following what is popular rather than the Word of God is misguided, and I absolutely introduce relevant scriptures to support my argument. Moreover, I'm not sure that you even understand my argument since you evidently have concluded that I am endorsing homosexual lust, which is not true.

    I feel that you are close to an abuse of language when you say that "homosexuality is a choice" then say "the devil will tempt you with it but you decide to give in or not." Is the choice here the state of feeling sexually attracted to somebody of the same gender? Because that's not a choice. Is the choice here to act upon a feeling of being attracted to somebody of the same gender in some problematic way that you have neglected to identify in your comment? Because this sounds promising but still leaves me wondering specifically what you find problematic: Talking to a Christian counselor? Seeking input from your pastor? Communicating your feelings to this other person? Behaving in an overtly romantic way with this other person if they reciprocate your feelings? Building a relationship with that other person that is not overtly romantic? Fabulously decorating your home while listening to musical theater after excellently styling your hair?

    I thank you for considering this post and for sharing your perspective, but I honestly don't see any substance to your criticism without a lot of elaboration. It's possible that you are leaping to conclusions before either asking specific questions of me where some clarity is needed or at least considering the whole of this series as it is published. I hope we get to share a deeper conversation on this topic that will be more mutually edifying to each other and more glorifying to God; meanwhile and with the utmost respect, Lord bless.

    Reply

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    Oct 12, 2014 @ 21:56:21

    thanks

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  6. Kelly Wright
    Oct 20, 2014 @ 12:27:46

    Thank you for writing about this, Jacob. I will be reading these and possibly pinging you with questions as they arise.

    Reply

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