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Why gay Christians are turning to celibacy

Why gay Christians are turning to celibacy

Embracing celibacy as an appropriate religious calling to be a God-abiding LGBTI Christian is now on the rise.

No joke.

Progress has been made on federal and state levels in the US concerning LGBTI civil rights but many churches, especially in certain religious conservative circles, are far behind.

For example, at their 221st General Assembly this June, the Presbyterian Church removed the provision (Amendment 10-A) prohibiting the ordination of sexually active unmarried Presbyterians as church officers. The ratification came with a scolding and heterosexist caveat – church officers must be either celibate (allowing for celibate LGBTIs to be ordained) or be active with a member of the opposite gender.

While such a proviso on how church officers are to be sexually active or celibate is laughable to anyone living in present time, the governing body of the Presbyterian Church isn’t kidding.

And neither are many church conservatives – both straight and, surprisingly, LGBTI.

For those heterosexual Christians who embrace the theological qualifier ‘to love the sinner but hate the sin’ homosexuality is merely on the laundry list of transgressions.

But for LGBTI Christian conservatives the debate has literally taken sides. LGBTI Christian bloggers refer to themselves in shorthand as ‘Side A’ Christians and ‘Side B’ Christians. ‘Side A’ Christians support marriage equality and queer sexual orientations whereas ‘Side B’ support an hardline Biblical literalism.

Last year, the ‘ex-gay’ ministries would have had both Side A and Side B Christians in their folds. But in 2013, Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, announced the closing of the organization.

At the 2012 Exodus International annual conference Chambers stated: ‘I do not believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included…

‘For someone to put out a shingle and say, “I can cure homosexuality” – that to me is as bizarre as someone saying they can cure any other common temptation or struggle that anyone faces on Planet Earth.’

Chambers, married man with two adopted children, is a purported ex-gay convert himself.

What appeared as a seismic shift, or a closing chapter in the harmful history of ex-gay ministries was neither. His new modus operandi – that has both monetary and ideological backing – is to peddle the theological rhetoric of celibacy. And it’s working.

Just this year the 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) released its revised 2014 Code of Ethics replacing reparative therapies with celibacy.

‘Counselors acknowledge the client’s fundamental right to self-determination and further understand that deeply held religious values and beliefs may conflict with same-sex attraction and/or behavior, resulting in anxiety, depression, stress, and inner turmoil,’ the revised code says.

However, just six years ago, the American Psychological Association put out an official position paper stating: ‘The longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.’

The negative health outcomes both emotional and psychological these ‘conversion’ programs exact are untold. They include depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, sexual dysfunction, avoidance of intimacy, loss of faith and spirituality, and the reinforcement of internalized homophobia and self-hatred, to name a few.

There are, however, still groups, usually motivated by religion-based homophobic therapies and ministries, who are hell-bent on the idea that lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer Americans can and should be made straight.

These groups proselytize ex-gay rhetoric as both their Christian and patriotic duty.

But truth be told, as Chambers recognizes, these conversions from being ‘homosexual’ to ‘heterosexual’ don’t ‘cure’. And these therapies attempt to put lesbian, gay and bi people on the road to outwardly live a straight life.

Case in point: John Paulk, ‘ex-gay’ poster boy, who appeared in HRC’s 2000 photo album with a one-word caption: ‘Gotcha!’

In his public apology for spewing the lies of Exodus International, Paulk has decided to finally stay out of the closet, hoping the LGBTI community will not only forgive him, but will also allow him to make restitution to the community.

‘I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals – especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated.

‘I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued. I have worked at giving generously to the gay community in Portland where I work and live.

‘I am working hard to be authentic and genuine in all of my relationships,’ Paulk stated in the 2013 April/May issue of Proud Queer (PQ) Monthly.

Religion’s Latin root ‘religio’ means to bind. And it has served as a legitimate power in binding people’s shared hatred – especially when it comes LGBTIs sexual orientation.

Christians – both straight and LGBTI – intolerant of the wide spectrum of sexual expressions must reconcile their phobia with Jesus’s mandate ‘…to love one another’ in order to experience the deepest desire and expression of spiritual communion. How we express that love sexually is not mandated to be heterosexual.

But now, with more and more ex-gay ministries not only losing potential clients and political leverage, but also losing the monies reparative therapies generate, there is a gradually shift from ‘curing’ one’s LGBTI sexual orientation to abstinence from it.

In other words, the theological message that homosexuality is an abomination to God and is a sin remain intact, but more emphasis is now placed on celibacy.