July 14, 2015 by J. Truett Glen
Although it wasn’t my desire to write another blog post about my experiences at Q Conference concerning homosexuality, I’m convicted to address the changing position of Q Conference speaker, and Wheaton College staff member, Julie Rodgers. Today Julie posted a statement on her blog concerning her changing views on same-sex relationships. She stated: “Though I’ve been slow to admit it to myself, I’ve quietly supported same-sex relationships for a while now.” This grieves me. I was hoping that Julie would stand firm in her convictions concerning the Word of God, and continue to be a compassionate voice speaking truth to those who are lost. I was hoping that she would continue to stand with the revealed Word of Christ on this matter like she did in conversation with Matthew Vines at the Q Conference in Boston this past spring. Apparently, she is no longer holding to those convictions.
I’ve written before that her language of considering herself a “gay-Christian” is ontologically problematic. When you always address yourself, and others like you, according to your particular propensity towards sin, you’re laying the foundation for constant identity issues. It’s one thing to recognize one’s self as the sinner, but another thing entirely to positively identify one’s self as a ‘porn-loving Christian.’ My flesh/old-man/old-nature does love porn. I’m highly attracted to the human female form and the way it makes me feel, but I refuse to carry that designation of ‘porn-lover’ with me as I speak of who I am in Christ. Does that mean I’m done struggling, NO WAY! But it does mean that I recognize the damaging lie of pursuing what my flesh desires outside of the boundaries that God has set for me. I have the indwelling Spirit in me, guiding me into a righteousness that corresponds to Christ’s testimony. John chapter 16 does a good job of letting us know the Spirit’s role. The Spirit’s role is not to guide us into an ever-changing dialectical worldview that continued to nullify past boundaries presented in the Bible.
Another identity lie that I hear in Julie’s argument is the lie that in order to be fulfilled as a human being, I must have at least the ability to pursue a sexually intimate relationship with someone I’m attracted to. She wrote the following concerning character formation through relationships:
“Some might find that in friendship, which is wonderful. But most will find it in a spouse because that’s the context we have for making such serious commitments and staying true to them once life happens. When we make those kinds of promises to one another, we need a community to surround us to support us for the long haul. Communities with a traditional sexual ethic have, more often than not, dismissed sexual minorities the moment they moved in this direction. Rather than working out what it would look like for them to stay connected to the church and process all the questions in community, they’ve forced gays to go it alone.”
I have a couple of concerns with Julie’s language above. She seems to be suggesting that the temporal, physical marriage covenant IS the context that we as humans have for making “serious commitments and staying true to them.” If that’s the case, then I would be concerned for the spiritual maturity and earthly ministry of Christ, Timothy, Mother Teresa, Henri Nouwen (who is said to have struggled with same sex attraction), and every celibate Roman Catholic priest that ever lived. It seems silly for me to mention at this point that the Apostle Paul gave a long argument in his letter to the Corinthians for the spiritual, relational, and emotional benefits of remaining celibate. I can’t make a better case than that. To suggest that a Christian needs a covenanted sexually intimate relationship in order to grow into true Christ-likeness is to speak a misleading false narrative of what it means to be a Christian.
Julie makes another misstep in her interpretation of the Christian life when she suggests that living a faithful life of pursing Christ “will mean laying their lives down for [same-sex] spouses and staying true to that promise to the end.” Julie uses language reminiscent of Christ’s statement in John 15 that the greatest love a person can give is to lay down one’s life for a friend. What is problematic is the fact that Christ Jesus goes on to say directly after that statement that, “you are my friend if you do what I command.” He’s asking us to lay down our lives for him; for his boundaries and his way of life. When we lay down our lives for Jesus, we will also lay down our lives for one another. The best friend I can be to my brother or sister in Christ, whether she is my wife or not, is to submit to the rule of Jesus Christ.
It seems evident to me that what individuals like Rachel Held Evans (who supports Julie in her changing position) and Julie Rodgers have tried to do is create subcategories of ‘Christ-followers’ that conform to their own struggles. Rachel struggled with doubt, so she validates the idea of a “doubt-filled believer.” Julie struggles with same-sex attraction, so she validates the idea of a ‘gay-Christian.’ I understand this is a strategy used to try and build resonance with a peer group, but it doesn’t actually build unity in the body of Christ, it undermines it. When someone attaches their Christian identity to a particular weakness and then tries to suggest that that weakness is actually a fruit of the Spirit, it becomes difficult for those believers who follow the Christ of inspired scripture to find unity with them.
I’ll discuss another issue I have trouble with in Julie’s post later in the week, but let me just say that she also says some important statements about the churches role in coming alongside those who desire to remain faithful to pursue Christ’s standard for holiness and wholeness. For wholeness is not about finding a soul mate, but rather about being sanctified through the work of the Spirit. Let us answer the call of supporting our brothers and sisters on their journey no matter what weaknesses they display or sin they struggle with. Whether a Christian calls themselves gay or not, if they acknowledging their sin nature and pursue a Christ honoring life with their body, I’ll gladly share my life and struggles with them as they struggle. A good example of this is my friend and brother, Christopher Yuan. Read his recent article for a Christ honoring celibate life.