**This is a personal opinion piece and does not represent the views of all Rogues. You can see the introductory article for this series here: The Gay Debate and the first article here: LGBT Affirmation**
Honoring Gay Celibacy
In 2007, J.K. Rowling rocked the literary world with the comment that Harry Potter character Albus Dumbledore is… gay.
Fans of the series were surprised and some even had a bit of a fit. They didn’t see a whole lot of hints in the books. One fan commented, “I wonder why? … I can’t see him in that way.” Rowling’s honest reply is one most Millennials would relate to: “Maybe because gay people just look like… people?”
Gay people just look like people because they are people. Their sin is no more serious than others’, including yours, including mine. They are made in God’s image, just like us. They can love Jesus, just like us. Often, just like us, they are learning to conform to His ways. And they have parts of their lives not yet surrendered to God – just like us.
They are no different from the rest of fallen humanity, including all sinful Christians. Yet people of faith often treat them different, and that unnerves many of us. Christians can conclude homosexual activity is sinful without abandoning love and grace for sinners. We sin as well and shouldn’t be casting the last stone, let alone the first.
Loving gays is easy for Christians who disregard the homosexual prohibitions in Scripture, the “affirmation view.” But maybe they should take these passages more seriously? On the other hand, condemning gays is easy for Christians who disregard all the love, mercy, grace, forgiveness passages in Scripture, fixating on the “traditional view.” Maybe they should take the loving character of God more seriously?
So what does a middle of the road approach look like?The “affirm it” crowd needs to have the faith to take God at his Word, in humble obedience; yet the “ban it” crowd needs to learn how to do all things in love. Is there a middle?
Many people, including gay Christians (Washington Post – Gay Christians Choosing Celibacy), see the “celibacy view” as that middle ground. This view argues the sinful behavior is the problem; not the sinful desire, which is no different from any other temptation to sin.
The road of celibacy is seen by some as an unfair compromise – too far on the side of the “ban it” crowd. It might be true, as life is unfair. But I feel it only seems like a concession because Christians have largely failed to honor celibacy as the gift the Apostle Paul honors it as.
This is odd, since Jesus himself was a celibate. As was Paul. And Paul openly advocated it for all Christians who are able (1 Cor 7:6-8).
And Christian traditions have a good handle on this – Catholics prize celibacy. They honor celibates, they recognize the sacrifice being made by those who give up hopes of family and desires for earthly intimacy and pleasure in order to focus on the Lord’s work. Not only do they honor such people, they’ve created position for them – from priests to monks to nuns, celibates are honored and empowered to do great things for the Lord.
Protestant churches, not so much. Most of us singles can testify to how we’ve been looked down on, criticized, and treated as second class Christians, viewed as somehow incomplete until we get married. Celibacy is seen as brokenness instead of admired as sacrifice.
There is nothing wrong with single people. And in my not so humble opinion, no position in the Body of Christ excepting martyrs should be treasured and honored as that of celibates who make the lifelong sacrifice to pursue the Lord’s work. Preachers get paid for their sacrifices. Elders get honored for their service. It’s time to treat celibate singles, gay or otherwise, with a measure of respect and gratitude for what they give up to advance the Kingdom.
I often wonder if we truly cared for single people, treasured the contributions of the celibate, and made a place for them in all ministries: would gays be able and empowered to find a place to both follow God’s Word while experiencing the love of God’s people? Would less walk away from the church hurting if we fostered a place for them?
What fascinates me most about Dumbledore is this – it took us by surprise because he is celibate. We thought he wanted to teach ungrateful teen witches and wizards – then suddenly the light is turned on. We discover his deep down desires are for something he gave up instead, to focus on and pursue the higher calling of teaching the next generation.
He isn’t married. He doesn’t date. He doesn’t flirt with other male characters. (Here’s looking at you, Snape.) He isn’t in a relationship with a close male confidant, doesn’t flout his flair, and doesn’t parade it around. He’s made a enormous sacrifice in sidelining his personal love life in order to pursue a better world for others.
In the words of Andrew Slack,
“After she outed Dumbledore, Rowling said that she viewed the whole series as a prolonged treatise on tolerance. Dumbledore is the personification of this… Dumbledore was a champion for the rights of werewolves, giants, house elves, muggle-borns, centaurs, merpeople – even alternative marriage. When it came time to decide whether the marriage between Lupin the werewolf and Tonks the full-blooded witch could be considered natural, Professor Minerva McGonagall said, ‘Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world.'”
Just as Dumbledore lived in celibacy to focus on advancing goodness and love in the world, many gay Christians find celibacy is a way to reconcile their fervent desire to obey God’s Word while not denying who they are at their core. They can keep their identity while finding useful purpose in the Kingdom.
They don’t have to pray away the gay or pretend to be straight – yet they also don’t have to live out the urges nature has given them. They can be part of a higher calling, a fuller purpose, a meaningful service – and one that churches could prize if they would open their eyes and look for ways to love the millions of gays in their communities instead of constantly attacking the flesh and blood Paul warned is not our enemy.
As a final note, sometimes people ask how to tell whether they fall into the “traditional view” or the “celibate view.”
The major difference is that the traditional view tends to believe it is wrong to even identify as gay, whereas the celibate view argues it is only wrong to engage in homosexual activity – to act out the gay feelings, attractions, and identity a person has. For a good litmus test, what is your knee-jerk reaction to this scenario:
A 23-year-old guy comes up to you at church and says, “I’m gay, I’m attracted to guys – but I’m non-practicing, I don’t act out those impulses. Would it be okay to volunteer with your youth group?”
If your instinct is, “Not my kids!” then you’re a traditionalist – you feel deep down that the desire is as sinful as the action and you hold it against people, withholding trust and respect and limiting their service to the Lord till they somehow fix themselves. Consider if your perspective needs to change.
If you don’t have a problem with it, you’re on the celibacy side. You understand everyone is tempted to sinful desires – but you believe that people can serve God with self-control and righteousness no matter what their sin struggles are. It’s time for churches to begin celebrating the celibate servants among them – and in so doing, we’ll create an honorable place for the millions of gays who love Jesus but hate the churches that hated them first.