Closet Cases

The other day, Dear Prudence's advice column on Slate.com featured a letter from a woman who, after 30 years of marriage, discovered her husband was gay. Here's how she found out the first time:
"My husband received a text message from a man saying that he was going to use him as a cover so he could visit another man in a neighboring town. This made me suspicious, so I looked in his wallet and found a visitor's pass to a gay men's health club. Then I found a gay porn DVD and Viagra in his gym bag. On his computer were gay Web sites. My husband had an excuse for everything. He said a man he works out with had given him the DVDs and the pass, and he didn't even know what they were. The Viagra was so he could be 'ready' for me. He didn't know how the gay Web site cookies got on his computer."
She wanted to believe her marriage was not a shame, so she believed her husband. Then this happened:
"Last weekend, I came home unexpectedly and found him masturbating to gay porn. He said he wanted to see some porn, and this was the only thing he had because he didn't know where to get anything else."
Now, I don't blame the husband for being defensive, for coming up with the first excuse imaginable. But there really is no way out of that situation. If you're masturbating to gay porn, that's empirical evidence you want to have sex with men. Case closed, man.

While the excuses are undoubtedly hilarious, this woman's story is not. Can you imagine realizing the last 30 years of your life were a lie? As Prudence points out, the marriage was not necessarily a sham...the husband may have struggled with homosexual impulses in early years, and probably still loves his wife (though engaging in illicit sex, homosexual or otherwise, behind your wife's back certainly isn't loving behavior).

This made me wonder about the church. Growing up, it seemed the estimates for homosexuality ranged around 10% of the American population (or at least that's what conservatives would argue against). A Gallup poll in 2002 asked Americans their opinion about the percentage of homosexuals in the US, and the number was much higher.

Without getting into the idiocy of polling speculation on others, I'm guessing the second number is high.

Whatever the numbers, there are obviously plenty of churchgoers who cannot be honest about who they are attracted to, and it's difficult to blame them. They face losing their families and church support. Then there's the issue of sexuality as a whole: we all have to control our sexual impulses to some extent.

A solution is easier said than done, but it's clear Christians need to become more comfortable with the issue of homosexuality. This doesn't necessarily mean permitting it and dismissing Bible verses on the subject. But it does mean rethinking how homosexuality is discussed and establishing communication and support.


  1. Kinsey came up with the 10%, but nobody mentions that he got most of his research subjects from prison. I'm guessing that skewed the data a bit.

    But I agree:


    In my Human Sexuality class yesterday the subject of Ted Haggard came up. We all agreed that if he had embezzled a couple million, he might be "restored" to the ministry by now. Whether you think it's a sin or not, you must admit that Evangelicals lose their minds (and often their hearts) over this issue.

  2. I completly agree Jordan.

    I recently had my best friend of the past 15 years come out to me (I wasn't exactly shocked, but his ex girlfriend of the last two years was.) I go to a pretty "emergent" church so when my childhood friend immediatley started dating my openly gay friend who I met at the church, no one really said much of anything. My other friends and myself just talked about what we should "do" when they weren't around, and were awkward around them when they were. We probably missed out on a lot of opportunities for discourse and honest discussion about what it means to be gay and be in the church.

    It's a fine line to walk between "condeming" homosexuality and "loving" sinners, when the "offenders" in question are very dear and close to your heart, not just nameless gays.

    James? thoughts?

  3. Yep, I've been on this for years. It has always bothered me the way we have treated gays. In fact, I recently had a horrifying experience when I recalled something I did (joined a group of people applauding when we found out that Rock Hudson had just died). I think God brought that memory back to remind me how seriously He regards all sin, and rejoicing in the death of a gay man because he's gay is most definitely sin. And I have seen this behavior in the church more often than out of the church.

    The above is obviously not an endorsement of homosexuality. The most unloving thing we can do is pretend someone who's in sin isn't sinning. And percentages don't make it any more or less a sin. But this issue is the prime example of Jesus' "beam in your eye" statement.

  4. it's interesting that we should be having this conversation right now, because the past several posts on my personal blog www.raincitypastor.blogspot.com
    are about this very subject. We had a public debate last week over the issue of whether the church should sanction gay unions. The conversation was charitable, respectful, and edifying. It's time to bring the conversation out of the closet.

  5. Richard: You don't think the conversation is out of the closet? I think it has been discussed ad nasuem over the last 4-5 years, especially.

  6. I recall an Anthropology professor of mine noting that 10% of the population since man began has likely been gay. "If this is so, one must wonder what role they have, how does it benefit the species then? If it takes a Village to raise a child, then there must be a role there."

    I live in the heart of the gay community and have seen the hurt and hate, the awkward and the prejudice. I've never quite understood why Christians treat/react to issues of sexuality with such disgust and venom while issues of health (Can we say obesity and food addictions) aren't even blinked at while churches are filled with overweight, food-addicted people; not to mention the greed epidemic, or the shame epidemic. Why such venom when there is so little said about the subject in scripture? (while there is so much else said about the other things and we dismiss/deflect them)

    What if Christians actually engaged their own sexuality and not just HOMO-sexuality with more grace and God-perspective? how would that change things?

  7. Jordan, excellent. This reminds me of a paper I wrote in college (Christian College) entitled 'Coming out of the Judgmental Closet.' And then from that I led a four week adult Sunday school class in my very conservative mid-western town and the people wouldn't shut up. They wanted/needed to talk about this more than they knew.

    We definitely need to adopt a different kind of vocabulary about this issue.

  8. I have been consumed with this issue for the past two weeks. And struggled with it for much longer.

    I do not understand a Church that is love and honesty and forgiveness and healing, but cannot be honest about this issue. If we're honest about everything else, or supposed to be-- why this one thing?

    I am praying for light to shine into the darkness of our dismissive and/or secretive attitudes. There cannot be healing without the Light.

  9. Jordan,

    Don't go to Dear Prudence for advice! Your BWC family will pitch in.

    Talk to us.

  10. nope... it's not out of the closet. I could tell you lots of stories of gay people who would like to go to church, seek God, experience fellowship, but who feel, even here in Seattle, that places where one can find safety and a high view of the Bible are nearly mutually exclusive. Emergent Christians might talk about this amongst themselves, ironically not talk about it by calling for a moratorium on the subject. The gay Christian network might talk about it amongst themselves. But where are the people who view the subject differently coming together to talk about it, out in the open, in a spirit of love? I'd argue that such conversations are exremley rare.

  11. I appreciate all the thoughtful discussion on this subject.

    It also makes me feel guilty, since really I just wanted to post that line about the guy watching gay porn because he couldn't find anything else.

  12. Richard, I didn't realize you were talking about the inability of gays to find a place where they can attend church. I'd say that Scripture is pretty clear that if someone is in serious sin, specifically sexual sin, then the other church members are to not keep their mouths shut about it.

    I am confused about what you mean, i guess. Are you hoping that Christians will let sexually active gays attend church, maybe lead a little, teach Sunday school, etc., and pretend that nothing is amiss?

    I would like some elaboration. For the record, I agree that Christians are wrong when they raise gay sex above other sexual sin as somehow worse than those others. But if we agree that all sexual sin is on the same level, then this passage would leave no room for just allowing people who are practicing such things to attend church like nothing's wrong:

    1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife.
    v.2 You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
    v.5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
    v.6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?

  13. I wrote a chapter on this very matter in Where's Your Jesus Now? albeit, I'm not at all sure that comparing one's sexuality to liver & onions or hot fudge sundaes is theologically sound.