Christians ever identified themselves by inner desires? Don’t we all experience a multitude of desires we deal with besides sexual ones? As a single female Christian, it never occurred to me to identify myself related to any sexual desires. I am not alone. Among Christians, there are life-long single men and women, widowed men and women, divorced men and women, who have obeyed God’s commandments while remaining celibate during periods of their lives. Furthermore, they never identified themselves by any desires they experienced during those same periods of their lives.
Dear Dr. Johnson:
I read your USA Today article, “I’m a gay, celibate pastor of a conservative church.” Here’s a trick for de-scalation.” My first thought was why would a Christian–—and a pastor at that–—take an issue controversially engaged and involving believers of a specific church and denomination out to the world–—a world that generally mocks Christianity and Christians? A second thought came immediately–— that this is not “de-escalation,” is it? If anything, it’s a bold escalation bringing an unbelieving world into the church’s business.
Perhaps it’s time someone other than a married man or woman address you due to our mutually-deprived lives in accordance with God’s righteous laws–—deprived but not unfulfilled or unfruitful. To begin with, you state you’ve been investigated by church authorities . . . because of your sexual orientation.” As this issue is long-standing and quite public, you appear to miss the focus, that is, your promotion of “gay Christian identity” more so than your inner conflict. You appear to insist on identifying yourself by desires. Since when in Christianity’s history have Christians ever identified themselves by inner desires? Don’t we all experience a multitude of desires we deal with besides sexual ones? As a single female Christian at 80 years of age, it never occurred to me to identify myself related to any sexual desires. I am not alone. Among Christians, there are life-long single men and women, widowed men and women, divorced men and women, who have obeyed God’s commandments while remaining celibate during periods of their lives. Furthermore, they never identified themselves by any desires they experienced during those same periods of their lives.
Specifically, why would any believer choose to self-identify oneself with a biblically-communicated deviant desire? Both Plato and Aquinas taught: “It is sexual vice, among all vices, that has the greatest tendency to destroy rationality. Sexual desire can seriously cloud the intellect even in the best of circumstances, but when its objects are contra naturam, indulgence makes the very idea of an objective, natural order of things hateful.”
Further on in the article, you confess: “I’ve found myself at times curled up in a ball on my office floor weeping.” You do not define or describe exactly on what basis you wept. Was it because you struggle with your desires? Was it because you feel persecuted? Was it perhaps a combination of both? What it reveals is that you weren’t “gay.” You were, in fact, “miserable.” I haven’t curled up in a ball, but I know what it is to weep before the Lord. They were times of recognizing sinfulness in diverse areas of my life and God’s many, many mercies and acts of grace in my life for which I knew I didn’t deserve. We all need to humbly weep over any sinful desires, e.g., lust for power, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life, and more.
Now permit me to specifically address your insistence on identifying yourself as “gay.” The word “gay” is essentially a euphemism, isn’t it? It’s “a mild or pleasant word used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive,” according to the dictionary. In other words, it’s a cover-up word. It’s used instead of “deviancy,” “homosexual,” “lesbian,” or even “sodomite.” It softens something that is biblically very offensive to God. I can’t remember anyone being willing to call himself/herself a “deviant Christian,” a “homosexual Christian,” a “lesbian Christian,” or “a sodomite Christian.” Would you be more honest to use any one of the genuine words for what you are claiming? If you chose the actual word for the sin and sinful temptation you struggle with, would you choose to so identify yourself then as such a believer first, and secondly as a minister of the Gospel? Those terms sound terrible, don’t they? Well, truth reveals the awfulness of sin and temptation.
I’m sorry if someone or others have hurt you unkindly and unnecessarily. Many of us have been hurt by fellow believers. At the same time, we have to do some soul-searching in order to ensure we did not do or say anything that deserved honest, loving, rebuke. As a pastor, you must be aware that there are many diverse sexually immoral desires even believers struggle against. So far, none of those are employed to identify one’s Christian faith. Do you really want that door opened? If alleged “gay” Christians insist on being so identified, wouldn’t the rest of us feel the need to identify ourselves otherwise? Do Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican priests need to outwardly identify their sexuality? Wouldn’t that become a quagmire for the church?
For millennia, there have been single or bachelor pastors/priests. It did not provoke unwarranted curiosity. Hopefully, the majority practiced celibacy, not as a sacrifice but as an act of obedience and love for God’s holy law. The same is true for non-clerical men and women who devoted themselves to God’s holy and righteous moral standards.
Back to bringing the world into this ecclesiastical issue: Wasn’t it unwise to do so? Would the Holy Spirit lead you to put fellow believers and your fellow elders into a position to be further mocked and scorned by the world? Was love the driving force or a desire for affirmation and sympathy by the many unbelieving “gays” and others who will take your article and run with it to hurt Christians who humbly seek to follow God’s commands?
A shepherd’s vocation is to protect the sheep—not to expose them to danger or derision. It’s not too late for you to rethink and relinquish identifying your faith by an immoral and sinful desire.
I’m just a single Christian woman who has lived a long life accepting all the limitations and proscriptions our most compassionate God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—communicated to the unmarried knowing they represent His love. But I’ve never felt any need to identify my faith by any desires, especially any morally sinful desires.
Sincerely in Christ,
Helen Louise Herndon
Helen Louise Herndon is a member of Central Presbyterian Church (EPC) in St. Louis, Missouri. She is freelance writer and served as a missionary to the Arab/Muslim world in France and North Africa.