Excited to see my sweet friend of over twenty years, we followed her two year old as she wandered into one of the spare rooms to play. Sitting down on the floor with May’s little girl we began to chat as if no time had passed. It was at least a year or so since the last time we were face to face. In that time apart, I had published my book. I was anxiously awaiting my friend’s feedback as we were watching her little one show mommy the teddy bear she found.
Getting feedback on your life story is an interesting experience. Usually, it’s a lot of “wow I didn’t know that” or a more common response from my friends is “you actually wrote a book”. I love hearing the perspective of all of my friends and acquaintances from all different walks of life. I asked most of my friends who I wrote about in the book to choose their own name so to keep their identity private. “May” was the name my friend chose which I felt was fitting of her being blonde and beautiful. Since May was featured in the book I was guaranteed at least one reader.
We visited for a while and then she studiously looked at me.
“Liz can I ask you a question?”
And without hesitation, perhaps knowing by some sort of divine revelation or maybe the fact that when you know your friends so well you know what they are going to say before they say it, I answered her before she asked.
I said “am I still attracted to women?”
Her eyes got sort of big.
“Yes” I said.
“But I understand and have a clarity about that now.”
I could see in her expression that she probably was thinking “what the heck Liz! You’re still the same! This Christian transformation stuff is a huge load of…”
Doing my best to explain my worldview regarding the reality of temptations, I eventually just let the conversation drift to other things. It was going to take some time to unpack and a friendly reunion was probably not the best place for my intense biblical conversation. At least not that afternoon…
Am I a gay Christian?
That term may be new to some readers but it is a very real and hotly debated subject amongst the Christian and non Christian community. As leaders in the gay Christian movement search to define cultural questions about sexuality and faith in Christ. Without going into the volumes of information or limiting the discussion, there are two camps that have developed from this discussion.
Some have referred to them as Side A and Side B.
In short, Side A believes that homosexual activity is not sinful. Many in Side A believe that God blesses monogamous gay relationships and that they fall within biblical standards. Side B in contrast believe that any and all homosexual activity is not accepted by God and does not fall within biblical standards. Many in Side B believe that although God loves those who experience same sex attraction, acting upon it is not according to His desire. Some in Side B also ascribe celibacy as the only means of pleasing God in regards to those with same sex attraction.
Also within both camps (as well as within the very diverse LGBT community) some people believe that sexual orientation is fixed and others believe it is fluid. Confusingly, within this debate, both sides use the term “gay Christian” to identify as someone who believes their orientation is designed by God or the term “gay Christian” is used to identify someone who is only attracted to the same sex even if they don’t believe acting upon this attraction is God’s will.
So back to my previous statement, I do not identify as a gay Christian even though I have and still do face same sex attraction. One response that I appreciate from those who read this may be the question, am I suppressing my true self? That perhaps I may be some sort of pressure cooker ready to explode under the right conditions. Readers may be wondering if I am in some sort of agonizing self-denial. Like a chocolate addict in the middle of Willy Wonka’s factory, who is not permitted to jump into the river of pure chocolate milk. That God is standing there with a whistle waiting for me to be overcome by my chubby little passions, so he can pull me out and then angrily have to send in the Umpa Lumpas in to sterilize the whole thing. (These illustrations may be related to the healthy eating regimen I’m on so please bare with me).
I have written about the process of coming to understand my own journey regarding same sex attraction in my book “The God of My Parents” and in my previous blog which you can read here. I realize that there are many differing experiences of people in both camps Side A and Side B. Without demeaning or belittling those experiences I believe that not only is homosexual activity outside of God’s acceptance, but that the transformation of sexual identity is the mark of a spirit filled life with God. I do not subscribe to the idea of identifying myself as a gay Christian because I don’t attribute my temptations as being part of my new identity in Christ.
When I am faced with same sex attraction it is more of a road sign, that if followed would lead to another city, rather than dwelling in the city itself. For some who are seeking Jesus in their process the road sign of temptation says “next exit” and for some it says “forty four miles”. In life when my heart is warring to find rest in God’s perfect love sometimes my heart bumps up against that familiar road sign pointing. I can face that sign when I’m struggling for self value, for the acceptance of others, and even during those hard times in my marriage. Even though that distant city of my old identity seems to be farther and farther away as time passes, the road sign of temptation still exists. In spite of the present reality of temptation, even more present and real is the awareness of a loving God who is standing right beside me ready to care for my heart if I let Him.
In my next blog I will talk more about the gay Christian movement and where I believe church leadership can be most effective.
Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.
Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.