As I finished the school year and started to prepare for the summer months I was able to quickly read a book a dear friend of mine recommended. Single Gay Christian by Gregory Coles.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a testimony about growing up with same-sex attraction in the Evangelical Christian world.
Gregory Coles tells his story about growing up in the Evangelical Christian world while gay. It is a story very similar to mine. His conclusion and where he is at are very familiar to me. The three words of his title, "Single," "Gay," "Christian," could all apply to me with just as much accuracy as they apply to him - except that I don't use the term "gay."
The title of the book contains the only objection I have to the book. The term "gay" itself is one that I do not use and I do not believe anyone else should use it, either.
Perhaps it can be used to draw attention to a subject or to communicate clearly to a particular audience. Sam Allberry used the word "gay" in Is God anti-gay? to accomplish just this. He wanted his book title to clearly address head-on the objection raised against God by so many in our culture. So he, of course, used the culturally understood word to address that question.
What Sam Allberry does not do is to describe himself - at least not casually or publicly - as a "gay Christian." That's what Gregory Coles does.
And that is what I object to.
Of course I just read 120 pages of this book and spend my first moments in discussing it by addressing the one objection I have.
Here's what I don't object to:
Gregory Coles tells his honest story about growing up in Indonesia during the 90's. The son of missionary parents, he realized that he wasn't experiencing the same struggle that all of the other middle-school boys were experiencing. The idea that "Every Young Man's Battle" didn't really address his battle is something that I also shared.
His humorous articulation of this realization barely covers over the darkness of all of the questions he raised as he began to realize his attractions for men.
Yet I am almost immediately back to my objection already. Because at the conclusion of these realizations, Gregory Coles began to whisper to himself the words "I'm gay." over and over again on his bed.
That's my objection. I don't believe the words "I'm gay" are true or wise.
Back to the good stuff! The unconscious acting role that Gregory Coles played throughout college is told powerfully. Most of his friends - even his girlfriend - didn't guess that he was "gay." The chameleon role wasn't masking all of his personality traits, it only hid one aspect of his life.
I feel this was very true of me, also. I was always me, but I felt - without obvious motive at the time - the need to conceal this aspect of my life.
Gregory Coles tells hilarious stories about how he "came out" to friends and relatives. Many of those stories are heartwarming. None of them ended in any horrific reactions. At least he doesn't tell us of any reactions of rejection or reviling.
That is a great thing. I hope there were not horror stories which he decided to leave untold. Sadly, I imagine he's experienced them now that he's "out" publicly with this book (Published in 2017).
Gregory Coles describes his relationship with Jesus Christ in beautiful terms. The love he has for the Lord is clear in his writing. That he is so honest about his own experiences, humorous, and includes great quotes from Scripture in his book make it well worth the read.
Now I'll address the one thing I object to.
That objection is on the cover. It's overt.
It's the use of the term "gay" with all of its meaning. I disagree with using that term the way Gregory Coles uses it, and I'll do my best to briefly explain why I disagree here. I've written about the terms we use to describe one another before. I used general principles to answer that question. General Principles for Addressing One Another: 1. Be Gracious in Speech. 2. Use the person's name. 3. Don't impose your own preferred labels. 4. Uphold their humanity above acquired or incidental traits. 5. (For Christians) Remind one another of our identity in Christ as pre-eminent. My general principles don't rule out, absolutely, the use of the term "gay." If it fails in anything, it fails in general principles number 4 and number 5. I don't use it myself and here is why:
The term gay seems to be a lie of immense ontological proportions.
Ontology = the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.
When we discuss ontological questions we are discussing categories within the nature of being. The terms "gay and straight" split humanity into distinct ontological categories. Those categories, in my opinion and to the best of my belief, have no support in Scripture or experience.
My nature is not different from that of my brothers and sisters because of my sexuality. My sexuality is different, my nature is the same.
I am sexually attracted to men. Who I am has not changed. I am not "gay."
If "gay" and "straight" were simple descriptors of experience (i.e. to be gay is to be sexually attracted to the same sex) then I wouldn't have a problem with the words.
But that is not what the words mean.
Here's a quote from Gregory Coles that proves that being gay describes more than merely experienced attractions:
Is it too dangerous, too unorthodox, to believe that I am uniquely designed to reflect the glory of God? That my orientation, before the fall, was meant to be a gift in appreciating the beauty of my own sex as I celebrated the friendship of the opposite sex? That perhaps even within God's flawless original design there might have been eunuchs, people called to live lives of holy singleness?
Whatever his answer to this hypothetical question is, it demonstrates a belief that "orientation" is more than attractions. It describes a distinctive nature which could have (and would have) existed prior to the fall of man.
I don't believe there are such ontological categories of humanity. We are not made with a nature distinct from one another based on what our callings are.
I am a male image bearer of the Holy God - I am called to holiness within singleness.
My brothers are male image bearers of the Holy God - called to holiness within their marriages.
My nature is not distinct from theirs because our callings are distinct (in some degree).
Gregory Coles decided to call himself a "gay Christian" to himself for many years while calling himself nothing at all to others. He rejected the term "same-sex attracted Christian" because of the baggage from the ex-gay movement.
My strong recommendation to everyone, whether you're attracted to men or women or both or neither, is to call yourselves by this name: Image Bearer of the Holy God.
Our ontology is Made in His Image. Let's reject the ontological terms of gay, straight, bi, etc.
Let us embrace our calling (whether it be Single or Married), our identity in Christ (Christian), and our nature as male and female image bearers of the Holy God.
Instead of calling myself a "Single Gay Christian," I will call myself a "Single Image Bearer of the Holy God Christian." It doesn't roll off the tongue quite so easily, but the ontological truth is here.