Yesterday, the “pan-denominational” and evangelical news website Christian Post yesterday posted an interview with a Florida deacon named Dean who states that he has same-sex attractions but is not gay. Read as a cultural text, the article reveals the assumptions that underlie much conservative Christian thinking about homosexuality.
Dean recounts a relationship with a man that became “stale and unfulfilling,” which he left in pursuit of a relationship with God. He and the reporter appear to believe that such relationships are mutually exclusive: “[he] realized that he also had no integrity as a gay man who was part of the church.” The use of the word “realized” (as opposed to the more objective “concluded” or “decided”) makes it clear which side the reporter is on–natural, given his employer and audience. Dean appears to have concluded that it was not a bad relationship but his sexual orientation (oops, “lifestyle”) that was keeping him from a fulfilling religious life. Conservative Christian culture will have prepared him to believe this and will affirm his conclusions as long as he moves in those circles.
Here is how the article describes a member of this man’s support group: “Another was in a gay relationship, but today is devoted to his church’s ministry to the poor.” In this sentence, the cultural assumptions lie in the conjunction “but.” “But” implies that caring for the poor and being in a gay relationship are mutually exclusive. It goes without saying here that they are not.
And, of course, the very phrase “gay lifestyle,” to which this article resorts numerous times, underscores the conservative Christian belief that being gay is a chosen way of life. It is not.
Many of the gay men Dean has met over the years, he says, were involved in church life during their youth, and they often feel a sense of loss over not being a part of a church community any longer.
Here Dean conflates correlation with causation, as do so many conservative Christians who argue that gay kids kill themselves because of their innate gayness, not because they’re being harassed and tormented by bigots. Why aren’t Dean’s gay contacts part of that church community? Because they’re expected to “realize” that they have “no integrity” as gay churchgoers. Au contraire. I suggest that these gentlemen have decided to embrace integrity over fear and even over their former communities.
Dean offers some advice which, when taken out of context, would seem to be good advice for would-be religious LGBT people:
“Do you know God can be a part of your life? And no matter what you are doing, no matter what kind of sinfulness you’re in, no matter how trapped you feel, God wants you to be in a relationship with Him,” said Dean.
But only if you’re not gay. If you are, you must lie to yourself and pretend that you’ve chosen gayness.
Dean has chosen to be celibate, and everyone is entitled to struggle with their conscience and make their own choices, as long as those choices don’t harm others. But Dean’s choice to help perpetuate destructive myths about homosexuality by calling himself “ex-gay” and agreeing to an article of this kind will add to the ongoing enormous harm being done to gay people, particularly those who value their religions.