The Gay Adventist Dilemma

Gay Adventists in the year 2009 find themselves in a peculiar and unprecedented dilemma. For perhaps the first time in our church’s history, many Adventists seem genuinely interested in and willing to discuss issues related to homosexuality, even in polite company. Politically, the marriage equality movement is finally gaining momentum following recent developments in Iowa, Vermont, and Maine (way to take one for the team, California). And culturally, it is now, or soon will be, more offensive to be called “homophobic” than it is to be labeled “homosexual.” All this, it would seem, must surely come as good news to the majority of gay Adventists.

Yet these gains haven’t come without a cost. The increased attention towards homosexuality has cast some much-needed light into the darkest corners of our church, but the light has also served to obscure as much as it has illuminated. Since coming out at Pacific Union College, I’ve learned a few things about the current perception of gays within the Adventist church.

Perhaps the most important lesson that I’ve learned is that the majority of straight Adventists have no idea about the true reality of being a gay Adventist. The word “gay” is as likely to conjure up mental images of rainbow flags, white knots, and protest signs as it is to invoke a picture with any real connection to the gay Adventist’s everyday experiences.

Even apart from the political slant that homosexuality has taken on recently, gay Adventists must contend with the assumptions, biases, and stereotypes that have become ingrained into our subculture. I’ve had people to whom I’ve come out respond as if I had just told them I joined a political action committee. I’ve had people assume I have no interest in any relationships more long-term than random promiscuity or that being gay means that I must necessarily have abandoned the hope of having a relationship with God. I’ve had people imply that, simply because I’ve recognized certain desires within myself, I should automatically have a perfect answer for every verse in the Bible related to homosexuality. These are only the assumptions that have been verbalized to me; I can only imagine what has been left unsaid.

Coming out in the Adventist church means opening yourself up to a (mostly) untapped reservoir of biases, assumptions, and even hatred that has accumulated over time. It should come as no surprise, then, that the majority of gay Adventists remain in the closet, either unprepared or unwilling to carry the social and political baggage that has been handed to them. Most gay Adventists would prefer to avoid the peculiarities of the “gay situation” altogether and just retreat into the more universal joys and pains of loving another human being. And herein lies the question that nearly all gay Adventists ask, the question at the heart of the Gay Adventist Dilemma: Can’t I just love the person that I love without having to be "gay"?

The ironic twist to this story is that the people whom gay Adventists often fear the most - committed, conservative Adventists - are the very ones who should be able to relate to the Gay Adventist Dilemma the most. In the modern world, nearly all Adventists have had to contend with the worst biases, assumptions, and, yes, even hatred that people have developed towards conservative Christians in general: that they’re judgmental, prejudiced, homophobic, unreasonable, self-righteous, hypocritical, fanatical, uneducated, and out of touch with reality. To profess one’s faith publicly rarely invites questions about a relationship with Christ; more often, Adventists are labeled with assumptions and stereotypes about any number of things (from Intelligent Design and stem cell research to same-sex marriage and the war in Iraq), none of which have the least bit to do with the personal relationship with Jesus that remains at the core of being an Adventist. Coming up against these obstacles, it’s no wonder that many Adventists prefer to stay within the confines of their own subculture rather than venture out into the world at large. The central question of the Gay Adventist Dilemma is beginning to bear a strikingly similarity to that of the more universal Adventist Dilemma: “Can’t I just have my relationship with Jesus without all the baggage that goes along with it?” The answer to both of these questions is, frankly, no. These frustrations are nothing new, and they’re not likely to go away anytime soon. Out of these shared frustrations, however, shines the hope of reconciliation. We’re not so different after all, non-Adventist gays and we Adventists. We both hold a relationship (or at least the hope of one) at the core of our identity. We’ve both had to swim upstream against the unfair stereotypes and mistaken assumptions that others have placed upon us. We’re both called to stand up for what we believe in by living our lives with more than mere apathetic indifference. The Gay Adventist Dilemma is little more than a repackaging of the Adventist Dilemma in different (perhaps slightly more fashionable) clothing. We’re more alike than we are different, and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we’ll be able to put away the assumptions that continue to hinder us all and learn to appreciate one another for exactly what we both are: human beings, marred by faults but redeemed by grace, and ultimately nothing less than the very children of God.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1634

Zero replies? This silence speaks might just volume of the current climate regarding homosexuality in the SDA church. All in the same breath, no one seems to be listening and no one seems to be talking. This is not a welcoming community in which I might feel at home as a gay SDA.

Does anyone care about (knowing) me? I care about knowing you. What more could one ask than to be known, be loved and to be understood. After all, the great commission was not meant just for straight christians. Creation and the Sabbath were not “made for man” minus gays. The blood of Jesus did not spill for straights alone. We all have much more in common than what might meet the queer/straight eye.

I want to know:

  1. Who Jesus is and what does He want me to do?
  2. Why I don’t feel at home in my church when I sense that I should?
  3. Why SDA ministry is missing more than just a few links?

In the bawdy but wise words of the late Joan Rivers, “Can we talk?”

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yes we can talk…we can talk about how, unbelievably, there still persists the notion in our church that a gay orientation is chosen, when there are at least five well-known lines of evidence that point to biological underpinnings…in the first place, the Xq28 gene on the X chromosome and a stretch of DNA on chromosome 8 show a characteristic pattern in gay men…in the second place, there are brain anatomical similarities between gay men and straight women…in the third place, there is a statistically significant association between left-handedness and a gay orientation in gay men…in the fourth place, there is strong evidence for an increasing maternal immune response to male antigens in successive pregnancies with male fetuses, which explains why, in many cases, gay men have one or more older straight brothers…and in the fifth, most compelling, place, the relatively infrequent transmission of sexually antagonistic epi-marks between generations, in which epi-marks that protected the mother from excess androgen, while a fetus, is passed to her male fetus, resulting occasionally in the development of a male child with his mother’s sense of sexual attraction (and vice versa in the case of epi-marks passed from a father to a female fetus), which explains how gay children can be born to straight parents…

but we can also talk about the fact that there also persists in our church the notion that biology trumps revelation, and that clear proscriptions against homosexuality in both testaments of the bible are irrelevant because we now know that a gay person isn’t choosing his sexual orientation…in this connection, it is evident that a lack of understanding of what it means to be born with a fallen human nature is the real culprit…that is, the bible is very clear that no humans since pre-fall adam and eve, with the sole exception of jesus, have a biological nature that is in full harmony with all the proscriptions in the bible against sin…aside from our general tone deafness to all things spiritual, for some people, their biological antagonism towards revelation may lie along one specific line, and for others, it may lie along another…in this view, a gay orientation is simply one subset of this general antagonism towards biblical proscriptions against sin…that is, a gay person is naturally antagonistic towards biblical proscriptions against homosexuality in the same way that another person may be naturally antagonistic towards biblical proscriptions against something else…egw, in many places, refers to this biological antagonism towards biblical proscriptions as hereditary or inherited tendencies to sin…what this really means is that we aren’t sinners merely because we choose to sin…we’re actually sinners, and alienated from god, because of the genetic package we receive at conception, before we choose to sin…and of course, none of this is fair…but it is part of the full tragedy of our starting point that inspiration very clearly describes…and needless to say, the solution involves much more than a particular code of behavior…

jonathan’s article was written around 7 yrs ago, and quite a lot has happened since then in various conversation centers in our church…i don’t think it’s unusual now to attend sabbath school classes, prayer meetings, or campmeeting forums in which the subject of homosexuality takes center stage (it’s quite predictable that speakers and organizers who want to seem cutting edge will choose this subject)…my own feeling is that much of the impasse we see now will persist for a time, since everyone believes they are an expert on homosexuality and what the bible teaches about sin…but i have seen a slow upturn in real understanding in a few places…i think the development of the full consequences of the various views in our church will eventually enable all concerned to understand this issue and make informed decisions…slowly, but surely, we are making progress…

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The article is now showing up here, but it’s from 2009 when commenting was on a different platform. Usually a lack of comments indicates it may be an “old” article newly transferred here by the current system. One can verify the original date by clicking the link to the website article at the bottom of the post:

However, restarting discussions on important issues is never out of place.

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What happened to the post after @hopeful ? Raptured or ruptured?


Removed for violation of Spectrum commenting guidelines. -Website Editor

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Thanks Jeremy. Thoughtful and intriguing. I am drawn to your optimism. Progress is good to see. Being part of the (tarnished) fringe however, is still being part of the shining whole (movement). God (is polishing and will one day) save the fringe!

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Jeremy, this evening I reread your response to my plea “Can we talk?” referencing “The Gay Adventist Dilemma”. You are wise, I think, in scratching at the notion of general “antagonism towards revelation of proscriptions against sin”. If homosexuality may in part be a manifestation of the genetic/biological cards which each one of us is dealt at birth, and so is, say, heterosexual infidelity (both as garden variety antagonisms towards revelation of the proscription against sin); then why are homosexuals often shunned/hated/feared (by the church and/or society) and infidels often forgiven/welcomed/restored (or simply relocated to a distant unknowing territory) by the church and/or society? Maybe, “identity vs. intent?” Maybe, “a matter of taste?” Maybe, “clean-sin vs. dirty-sin?” I simply don’t know.

Calling “sin (of any flavor) by it’s right name” has never been much of a stretch for the saints in the SDA church. However, calling grace anything but by it’s right name has has seemed to me to be a tawdry and stubborn yet not terribly uncommon blemish on the SDA social gospel as well. I have seen gays lavished by shoddy grace more than they can bear and more than I can bear to recall. And watched as they scurried from the shadow of saints bent on their perdition.

If Jesus died for all (gays and straights), then I see a bit of common (holy) ground. Making our way to that place painstakingly together will not be at all that easy. But then again, neither was a crucifixion. If I know His love, I have His grace. And I am ready share it. Gay or straight is not the issue. Not when we find find ourselves in Him. His love. His Grace. Our unity. I then think that it is Jesus hemself who wills to be the One to tend to each of our differences.

Who can afford to resist that grace which circumscribes such holy common ground?

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mark, i don’t mean to suggest that there necessarily is, in our chuch, overt or explicit antagonism towards the proscriptions against homosexuality that we see in inspiration…i think what is operating, particularly with uninitiated straights who have no idea what it means to be gay, but also with gays who want the church to review its beliefs, is the working assumption that proscriptions against a biological condition are so intrinsically unfair and unloving that they cannot possibly represent truth, or anything remotely connected to god’s will…compounding the difficulty, of course, is the intuitive although erroneous tendency to place pentateuch proscriptions in an obviously obsolete context, such as the proscriptions against wearing mixed-cloth clothing, or stoning rebellious children…

but as i’ve indicated, i believe this approach underestimates both what the bible teaches about our inherited starting point, which is obviously genetically diverse and must include anything sinful that has a biological component, and what it means to overcome…and in terms of what it means to overcome, there is the further lack of clarity with whether overcoming is a purely forensic transaction in heaven, or whether there is an actual, objectively measurable cessation of yielding to what the bible defines to be sin here on earth, and if so, whether it’s modified at least somewhat in the case of sin that has a clear biological component…

all of this confusion, i believe, is what is being sorted out now in our church, at least from what i’m seeing…i tend to urge, whenever i feel i can do so without being misunderstood, leniency rather than regimented demands for compliance…i do feel that the phenomenon of homosexuality, given its relatively pronounced association in our culture with civil rights, requires more rather than less understanding, and more rather than less time to work through on a personal as well as corporate level…i see no need to rush resolution on something so complex…it is enough if there is an intent and discernible progress towards resolution, in my view…

i agree completely with your observation that heterosexual sin tends to be viewed in a less hostile light in our church, but this can be explained both in terms of the ease with which heterosexuals can picture their own involvement in hetersexual sin, but also a possible underlying fear that if they don’t overtly loathe homosexual sin, they’ll become irretrievably homosexual themselves…i know a pastor’s wife, from many yrs ago, who actually said to me that she planned to shield her young son from what i was scheduled to speak on because she was afraid that hearing a rationale for homosexuality would influence him to become gay…of course it goes without saying that at least some hostility towards homosexuality also stems from the reality that there is latent attraction towards homosexuality that certain individuals are choosing to leave unacknowledged…

i also agree completely that a true understanding of and experience in the grace of christ is the answer, not only for the divide between gays and straights, but for all misunderstandings in our church…it is certainly true that jesus adapts himself in order to tend to each person’s individual differences…i have to say that i sense i am somewhat more sanguine than you are, and that my view, increasingly, is that most church people do want to do the right thing, regardless of the ideology they hail from (indeed, i think it is accurate to say that ideology, at least to some extent, is chosen as part of the quest to do the right thing)…and i do sense that that want to do the right thing is propelling us towards progress that may or may not culminate in my life time…but i can’t say i feel the necessity for being completely understood by my church, or anyone in it…for me, it is enough to know and feel, at all times, that god understands me, and that i am never alone…

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Jeremy,

I miss your uncommon reason. I am drawn with a common bond. I am connected more and more to the grace of His incredible love.

Mark

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What I don’t like is that certain Adventist preachers conflate being gay with being sinful. SDA Dr. Tim Jennings has some very insightful videos on this subject of being gay. Jesus was able to see the person in everyone first. Compassion. Not judgement and condemnation.

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