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Before flying off to my Peace Corps service in Turkmenistan, I was required to participate in a pre-departure staging, a mini-conference where I attended training sessions and met my fellow volunteers for the first time. On our first night, we played a short ice-breaker game where we had to write down five self-descriptive adjectives, then introduce ourselves to 5 random people with each of those adjectives. We had to find a random person and introduce ourselves like this:

“Hello, my name is X, and I am insert-adjective.

After a few harmless introductions, I finally met “Eve”(not real name), to whom I was about to introduce myself as “religious”. It was one of the more risky adjectives as I knew it was likely to either immediately alienate or connect us, but what the heck, no use in hiding who you are right? The conversation went like this:

Eve: Hi, my name is Eve, and I’m queer!

Me: (inside- Oh $*^&(! I chose the wrong (*&(@^#* adjective!)

Oh! Um, um…um….! My name is Russ, and I’m…religious.

Awkward silence. Taken aback by the frankness of our answers, we tried in vain to cover up the awkwardness by sputtering a few niceties about things like the weather, but in the end, excused ourselves and ran for the shelter of anonymity among the other volunteers. Eve and I took giant leaps of faith by voluntarily offering deeply personal pieces of information about ourselves, but midway we suddenly realized that we were leaping in opposite directions.

My brief exchange with Eve was the first among many future interactions with gay/lesbian Peace Corps volunteers. Even though I hailed from the most diverse state in the US, California, I didn’t have much experience with lesbians and gays. As an Asian American who grew up in a conservative Christian community, I represented a very small slice of the American Diversity Pie that did not demand much intermixing. My views on homosexuality were largely based on what I saw on TV (Will and Grace), heard in church (“it’s wrong.”), and learned from a human sex ed class (xxx).

In the Peace Corps, however, I was actually dealing with lesbian and gay people in the flesh, and I had to learn how to work, interact, and ‘be myself’ around them. Admittedly, in the beginning I felt the uneasiness and nervousness that comes naturally when you meet people for the first time, except this time, there was such a deficit of experience that I really didn’t know what to talk about or how to act – “So…how’s the lesbian life treating you?” “Hmm, that is a nice tote bag you have there, wish I had one myself”. Over time, however, I followed the traditional storybook path from ignorance-to-enlightenment, learning to look past their sexuality and focus on the person. More importantly, I met gays that didn’t fit the stereotypical mold of a limp-wristed, well-dressed lisper, nor did I ever encounter a butch, shaved-head, inked-up lesbian.

Outside of Peace Corps, I read up on the lesbian and gay experiences through articles and blogs, paying close attention to gay Christian bloggers in particular. Through their writings I could feel the shame and utter fear of their adolescent and young adult years. Many of them harbored suicidal thoughts, endured bullying, and trembled at the very thought of revealing themselves to their parents, knowing that such knowledge would destroy them. I also read stories about self-realization, which actually turned out less to be less of an “aha! I’m gay!” epiphany, but reflected a gradual self-reflection. These stories coupled with my new friendships with my homosexual friends helped me round out my own preconceived notions of homosexuality.

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Now that I’ve been back in the States for some time now and have mixed myself back into my small slice of Asian American Christian pie, I find myself questioning some of the views I once held about homosexuality:

What does the Bible really say about it?

Can one be gay and Christian at the same time?

Does one choose homosexuality or does homosexuality choose you?

Can one truly “repent” from his sexual orientation?

These troublesome questions surfaced during my college years, but I never seriously examined them as my immediate social circle did not demand critical self-evaluation in this area. My friends either took a hardline stance against it, basing their positions on the solid rock of the Word, or just didn’t care. In church, I had never heard much more than a brief mention of homosexuality from the church pulpit, and when I did, it was usually a dismissive condemnation or a galvanizing call to action to support Proposition 8. Unmolested by intrusions from the rest of the world, I let my unchallenged mind err on the side of caution, taking my authorities’ categorical denunciations of homosexuality for truth – the Bible said it was wrong, and that was that.

However, after greater exposure to gays and lesbians in the Peace Corps, and after deeper online research, these questions took on a new sense of urgency and personal importance.

My time in the Peace Corps has lead me to a frightening question, one that I still struggle with spiritually and mentally, and one that might have life-changing, paradigm-altering consequences: If I find that the Bible does indeed unequivocally condemn homosexuality as a sin, would I then choose to continue to believe and accept the authority of the Bible, categorizing and denouncing the orientation as sin, despite my knowledge, reason, and personal experiences with my homosexual friends? And if I decided to mentally accept homosexuality as a normal, acceptable orientation, would that mean I would have to toss out my most treasured source of knowledge, guidance, and wisdom: the Bible?

Through personal observation and research, I’ve concluded that homosexuality is not a choice, but an orientation. I’ve heard and read enough stories about formerly closeted people who have endured suicidal thoughts, ridicule, disownment, and harmful “reverse-orientation” therapy sessions to determine that sexuality results more from innate character than from personal decision. If this is the case, why would God condemn a person for something that he cannot control? Why would God set a double standard for human love, allowing satisfaction for one man but denying fulfillment for another?

Take two Christian men, Bob, a heterosexual, and Joe, a homosexual, both faithful and sincere in their love of God and earnest in their desire to please Him. Bob, with a natural sexual desire towards women, abstains from any sexual act until marriage, after which he is allowed to behave sexually towards his wife. This is considered right and proper and within God’s blessing.

Joe, however, with his natural sexual desire for men, must refrain from acting upon those longings for the rest of his life. His ideas for wholesome love, consummated by marriage, are by default deemed as unholy by Biblical decree. While God blesses the natural aspirations for love of one man, he curses the yearnings of another for no reason but by arbitrary decree. Some christians have argued that someone with gay/lesbian tendencies should lead a holy life of singleness, sustained by the love of God – a blessing, according to Paul. This is a possible consideration, and yet I wonder, if the situation were reversed, how many of us could endure such ‘blessings’?

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2 Comments

  1. Knowing you, I don’t doubt the amount of research and observing you have done, but is it objective? I don’t know personally, but I do know that just like there are those who may not choose to be who they are, there are also those who do choose this lifestyle for various reasons. Can we actually say this is innate or is it simply a culmination of experiences we obtained early in life that perhaps don’t stand out individually, but build us into the person we have come to be? We see people react a certain way because of the things that happened in their childhood.

    As for saying why would God condemn a person for something they cannot control, do not forget that all sin leads to death. To say that homosexuality is someone’s only sin would be preposterous. Even if someone, who has homosexual tendencies, resisted the urge to act their entire life it would still amount to nothing unless they accepted Jesus because they have surely sinned elsewhere in their life. Regardless of whether you are hetero or homosexual, all will die and forever be separated from God, but all can find redemption through Jesus.

    It is true that those with “natural” sexual desires for someone of the same sex should never give in. James says in James 1:2-4 (NIV), “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Is it easy to persevere? By all means no, but if it were easy would it really be persevering? Yet as you mentioned that those who are homosexual must endure and persevere for the rest of their lives without being able to satiate their longings. Yet if one who is a homosexual truly believes in God’s promises, who is to say that God will not reward them and meet their needs? However this person must be striving after God and not their own desires.

    God uses our struggles to grow us into people He wants us to be so that we can effectively make a difference in someone’s life or many people’s lives.

    I met a guy who was dealt a terrible hand by the world’s standards, but he has taken that and used it to glorify God. His name is Josh Burger. I encourage you to listen to his testimony here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8X1-2CWOfE. This is a guy who has suffered, gotten angry at God, but ultimately has turned to Him. God has now used Josh to affect not only those around him, but is using him to help those in other parts of the world. I do not doubt there are days when he gets angry, sad, depressed, or all of the above about his situation and what he cannot do, but he is sustained by God and finds joy in seeking after Him and following His will.

    Life is by no means easy and for some it just seems to keep spiraling downward. However, despite all this if you continue to have faith that God will deliver you from this and trust in Him, He will bless you. It just may not be in the way you expect it.

  2. It’s true–on most days, God’s love is enough for me and sustains me, and my vision is clear enough that I can see how much he loves me and how much he’s given me. But there are some days when I don’t feel like his love is enough; there are times when I want a relationship I can’t have. And those are the days that I hate myself, the days I wish I wasn’t alive.


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