On this blog, I write a lot about how both sides can have more gracious dialogue in the debates about homosexuality and Christianity, but I don’t often spend time making arguments for my own personal view. (Anyone can argue for a position; showing grace to your opponents is harder.)
So for those of you who have always wanted to hear me make a passionate argument for my side, drawing on history and Scripture—followed by a passionate but gracious rebuttal from the other side—here’s your chance, because last week I made that argument in a way I’ve never made it before.
Background info: My friend Ron Belgau and I often speak together on Christian college campuses. We’re both gay (same-sex attracted) Christians, but we have opposing views on marriage and the morality of same-sex sex.
Usually, we speak for two nights: one night about how we agree, and one night about how we disagree. Last week at Seattle Pacific University, though, we tried something new: We condensed it all into one presentation.
Because of the change, I decided to present my view a little differently, combining Scriptural analysis with historical perspective and cramming it all into a short period of time. I’ve made some of these arguments before, but never all together in rapid succession.
I didn’t know how it would go over, but I think it went really well. In fact, I think the entire presentation was awesome. You should totally watch it.
So here it is: Two friends making an audience (and each other) laugh, talking about Christian grace in the midst of the gay debate, telling stories, and passionately debating each other about whether churches should support same-sex marriage. This is loving dialogue in action.
For your reference, the presentation went like this:
After that, we took Q&A from the audience.
If you’ve heard me do a presentation like this before, you can skip ahead to marker 47:47 to see the new stuff; you’ll get to start with the last tip, which helps to set up the “disagree” portion of the presentation. (If you’ve never heard me speak and haven’t read my book, though, I strongly suggest watching from the beginning. I know it’s tempting to jump to the disagreement, but trust me: A lot of the best parts are near the beginning!)
Enjoy! And please share!
If you would like to have a presentation at your church, school, or group, contact GCN at 919-786-0000.
As a first-time author, there are a few special moments that you never forget. They’re moments that feel surreal because you’ve always thought of them as things that only happen to big, important authors, and you don’t think of yourself that way. So when they happen to you, it’s like…
So far, I’ve had four such moments. I feel so privileged, because some authors never get to experience any of these:
1. The day you first get to hold an actual, physical copy of your book. This is becoming rarer as more books come out in electronic versions only. I’m especially lucky because I got to have a hardcover version of my book, which is, like, the coolest thing ever. Here’s video evidence of me being a complete dork the first time I got to see it.
This will forever rank as one of the most awesome days of my life.
2. Your first book signing. “Wait… you want my signature? Me?” My first signing was before the official release, at BookExpo America. I got to sign next to Jay Bakker, Shane Hipps, and Brian McLaren, who is one of the most gracious authors I’ve ever met. I wish I could be as friendly as he is.
Also, this video was so much fun to make.
3. Seeing your book on a shelf in an actual bookstore. I used to say that if I ever wrote a book, I would always want to go in every major bookstore I passed to see if they had my book in stock. Do I still do that? Yes. Yes I do.
(Hey, there it is, between Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer!)
4. Recording your own audiobook. Very few authors get the opportunity to record an audio version of their books. When my publisher asked me to, I was on cloud nine. And, I’m not gonna lie, every time someone tells me they listened to the audiobook and liked it better than the print version because of the emotion in my voice, well, that just makes my day a million times better.
Also, I meant to write a blog post about the experience! I need to do that.
And this week I added a fifth:
5. The first time your book gets translated into another language. My book is now available in Dutch! This. Is. Amazing. There’s now a version of my own book that I can’t read because I don’t speak the language. Do you know how amazing that is? (Hint: It’s pretty darn amazing.)
To commemorate the occasion, I made my first Vine of all the versions of my book.
Dorky, but kinda fun, right? Or maybe just dorky.
Actually, there’s one more cool author experience I should mention, because it transcends all the others: Hearing from all of you. Although I don’t always have time to respond, I do read the wonderful messages you all send me—on the blog, on social media, in private messages—and they mean so much. I wrote this book (and this blog) to make a difference, and every time I hear from someone that I’ve done that, it thrills me to the core.
So thank you. Thanks for your support, for your encouragement, and for letting me share this amazing journey with you. You all rock.
Even if I never write another book, this has been by far the most amazing author experience I could ever have imagined.
The first time I heard of “homosexuals,” I was completely confused.
I was a sheltered Christian kid and I’d never heard the term, so I asked a more worldly friend about it.
As my friend explained it, homosexuals were men who put their you-know-what in another man’s you-know-where, which was probably the grossest thing I’d ever heard.
“BUT WHY?!” I wanted to know. Why would anyone want to do such a thing?
“I have no earthly idea,” my friend replied.
For many years, that’s what I thought homosexuality was. I thought gay men were perverts who weren’t content with God’s design—and had therefore decided to push the sexual envelope by engaging in male-male sex. (Why? I didn’t know. Maybe for the sexual thrill? Or to rebel against God? I wasn’t sure.)
In my mind, “homosexuality” was some form of bizarre, kinky sex for crazy people.
But then something happened.
When I’d hit puberty and all my friends had started to feel attraction to girls, I hadn’t. I had started to feel attraction to guys instead. For years I’d denied it to myself or written it off as a phase, but finally, I had to face the truth: that in spite of my strong faith and the fact that I was dating girls, I had never been attracted to women, no matter how hard I tried.
It took me many years and many prayerful, tearful nights to admit that my brain is wired differently from most guys’. What they feel for girls, I feel for guys. And what they feel for guys, I feel for girls. I can be great friends with a woman, but I can’t fall in love with her. A close female friend feels like a sister, not a lover.
And that’s when I realized:
So that’s what people mean when they say they’re “gay.”
It’s not about sex at all.
It’s about what you feel inside. It’s about how you relate to other people. It’s about who you’re attracted to—not just physically, but romantically and emotionally. It’s about who you could—or couldn’t—fall in love with.
And this is why people fight so much about homosexuality.
As I’ve written before, “homosexuality” isn’t a helpful word, because it’s far too vague. If you believe, as I did, that homosexuality is something people do—a sex act—then a lot of stuff about gay people seems silly or senseless. Of course you wouldn’t compare a sex act to marriage. Of course you wouldn’t talk about a sex act around children or in polite company. Of course you wouldn’t ask for public endorsement of a sex act.
This is how I saw the gay rights movement for many years: It made no sense to me, because I thought homosexuality was about a sex act. And lots of people still do. You can tell because of the comparisons they make—comparing it to sexually abusing animals or children, for instance—and because of the questions they ask, like, “Why can’t you just keep it in the bedroom?”
They’re not trying to be mean. They’re really, genuinely baffled by it all. Just like I was.
But here’s the truth: I’m gay, and my life isn’t about sex. Some of my gay friends are having sex, and some aren’t. What we have in common isn’t sex; it’s that our brains are wired differently from our straight friends’ brains. We didn’t ask for it. Some of us fought for years—even decades—to try to become attracted to the opposite sex. Others accepted themselves early on. All of us are faced with the same situation: We can fall in love with the same sex, but not the opposite sex. We could choose to be celibate, but we can’t choose to be straight.
Is it any surprise, then, that most gay people—like most straight people—want to fall in love and have a romantic relationship with someone? Is it any surprise that physical intimacy, including sex, is usually a part of that relationship?
“But Justin,” some Christians say to me, “maybe you didn’t choose your feelings, but can’t you just treat them as a temptation and abstain? I chose to abstain from sex until I got married.”
Well, yes, I can, but that’s exactly my point. Even if I abstain from sex for my entire life, I’m still gay, and I’m still alone. That’s not actually a solution to anything; it only seems like one if you think this is all about sex.
As a gay Christian, I have a lot of questions about my future: What if I fall in love some day? What if I don’t? If I end up alone—by choice or by chance—what happens to me if I get sick and there’s no one to take care of me? And if I do fall in love with a guy and decide to build a life with him, I’m pretty confident that 99% of the questions and challenges I’ll face will have nothing to do with sex. Relationships are hard, no matter who you are. So if your only concern about my life is whether I’m having sex, it sure doesn’t seem like you’re thinking very much about me as a person.
Yes, sex and sexuality are part of life. But now I understand something I didn’t understand before: Gay, straight, or bi, a person’s “sexual orientation” isn’t just a sexual orientation. It’s how you’re wired: sexually, yes, but also emotionally, romantically, relationally.
Homosexuality isn’t about a sex act any more than heterosexuality is. Some gay people never even have sex, and those who do, don’t all have it the same way. But we’re all human, we all feel loneliness, and we all crave love.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people out there who think homosexuality is a sex act. As long as that misconception exists, they’ll keep right on being baffled by my calling myself a gay Christian, and my gay friends will keep right on being frustrated at what seems like a total lack of human compassion.
And me, I’ll just keep right on saying, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
She whispers support and I scream judgment; you see, Easter is for me and my plank-eyed soul.
— Raspberry Jam, “Easter”
This is from a post I made only three weeks ago about Christians showing love to gay people.
Wow, Tumblr. Thanks.
I just got an email from Tumblr that my blog is trending.
So to all my new readers out there, hello!
Let’s catch you up.
My name is Justin Lee. This is me:
Fun facts about me:
So why is my blog trending? Well, here are a few things I wrote that have been popular.
You love gay people? That’s great. Prove it. - This is one of the most popular things I’ve written. I wrote it to my fellow Christians about how they can treat gay people better, even if they don’t necessarily approve of homosexuality. It’s been going viral in LGBT circles and in conservative Christian circles. So… that’s cool.
My mom just died. Here’s what you should say. - Ever wonder how to respond to someone who’s grieving? This is my advice.
Want to understand your gay family member? Go see Frozen. - Despite what some people say, Frozen doesn’t have a “gay agenda.” But when it first came out, I posted this about how I relate to it as a gay man, and it went viral.
Is it a choice? No. Does that matter? Absolutely. - This was popular after a big debate erupted online about whether gay people choose to be gay.
Sick of Christianity? This one’s for you. - Sometimes I get frustrated with the human side of the church. But this explains why I’m a Christian.
Check out my Tumblr main page for more of my favorite posts, check out my book TORN, and welcome to the blog!
CNN.com asked me for my feelings as a gay Christian about the death of Fred Phelps, the notoriously anti-gay preacher famous for the phrase “God hates fags.”
Here’s what I said.
The words and actions of Fred Phelps have hurt countless people. As a Christian, I’m angry about that, and I’m angry about how he tarnished the reputation of the faith I love so much.
But as a Christian, I also believe in showing love to my enemies and treating people with grace even when they don’t deserve it. So I don’t view Fred Phelps’ death or the suffering of his family as a cause for celebration. Instead, I pray for his soul and his family just as I pray for those he harmed.
It’s easy for me to love someone who treats me kindly. It’s hard for me to love Fred Phelps. To me, that’s the whole point of grace.
Here’s the article in which they quoted my reaction along with others’:
Should we celebrate Fred Phelps’ death?
We all know the feeling: You’ve just read a great blog entry or news article or Facebook post, and then you start reading the comments on it, and you suddenly wish you hadn’t.
Because it’s all fun and games until you come to that one comment that makes you go:
There’s even a Twitter account called “Don’t Read the Comments,” which is good advice almost all of the time.
But sometimes you can’t avoid the comments—especially if it’s your blog or article or Facebook page. So since a lot of you have been asking me about this lately, here are my personal tips for responding to internet comments that make you want to throw something.
1. Force yourself to stay outwardly calm, even if you don’t feel calm.
People always ask me how I stay calm in the face of angry or hurtful comments. The truth? I’m not impervious to harsh words; I feel them just like anyone would, and I get angry, hurt, and upset just like anyone else.
But I’m in a public position where I get attacked a lot, so I’ve practiced staying outwardly calm and taking time to think, breathe, and pray before I respond. What’s amazing is that staying calm on the outside actually helps me feel calmer on the inside. Try it.
2. Try to understand the other person’s point of view.
This one is tough, but it’s so worth it.
Put aside your own frustration for a moment to try to see things through their eyes. Think: Why did they post this? What’s their motivation? What are they feeling? If it helps, close your eyes, imagine that you’re them, and imagine what you’re going through that would cause you to write what they wrote.
Did they, perhaps, misunderstand the point? If so, maybe you could explain it another way.
Or might the thread have touched on a subject that has emotional baggage for them? If so, maybe you just need to forgive their overreaction.
Remember, everyone sees themselves as the protagonist of their own story. That means that in this person’s eyes, their comment makes perfect sense. If you can figure out why, you can respond with grace.
3. Consider your own emotional baggage.
Stop and think for a moment: Why did their post make you so angry? It might not just be the other person; some of it might be your own baggage.
My grandfather was shot and killed when I was a baby, so I get emotional on the subject of guns. Does that disqualify me from having opinions on the subject? Of course not. But when I find myself getting angry in conversations about guns, I need to remind myself that this subject has baggage for me that it doesn’t have for the other person, and they’re not responsible for my emotions.
Otherwise, I might wind up sounding like the crazy ranting guy when someone accidentally pushes my buttons—or misinterpreting others as trying to stir things up when they’re not.
4. No matter what they say, always treat the other person with respect—even if they didn’t treat you with respect.
Yes, we all like to imagine our snarky revenge, but in real life, treating people respectfully is always the right thing to do.
And if that’s not enough reason, here’s another: On the internet, other people are always watching. You may not ever be able to win over that frustrating commenter, but by responding with kindness, you’ll influence countless others who see you demonstrating grace.
5. Be willing to apologize, even if you don’t think you should have to.
Have you ever been in an internet argument where someone accuses you of saying something inappropriate or offensive, when they’re clearly the offensive one, and you’ve been a model of restraint and civility?
In situations like that, it’s easy to become defensive and make things worse—especially when you feel like you’re being misinterpreted. But you know what? Just offering an apology makes things so much better, and it costs you nothing other than your pride.
6. Don’t post while you’re angry. Ever.
Make it a hard and fast rule in your life: When you feel your blood pressure rising, step away from the keyboard. You can come back to it once you’ve calmed down.
If a post has gotten under your skin too much for you to put aside your frustration, just ignore it and let someone else respond or let it go entirely.
In the heat of the moment, it can feel like terrible things will happen if this jerk’s wrong comment goes unchecked. But however important that comment seems at the time, nothing you post in anger is going to make the situation any better. Seriously.
7. Remember to respond to positive comments, not just negative ones.
If the only comments that get responses are the negative ones, they’ll take up a disproportionate amount of space, and you’ll be sending the message that people have to make waves in order to get noticed.
Besides, responding to positive comments makes you and the other commenters feel good. Give positive comments more attention and let the negative ones wither and die from lack of interest.
8. Don’t feed the trolls.
Sometimes, someone is just looking for a chance to stir up controversy and make people angry for their own amusement.
If you try once to engage respectfully with someone and they don’t respond kindly back, just let them have the last word and move on. Winning the argument isn’t worth poisoning the comment thread for everyone else.
Besides, you’ve got better things to do.
So… how do you handle frustrating internet comments? Let me know in the comments! (And be nice!)
Anonymous asked: Hi! You've probably gotten this question before, but I didn't see it on the FAQ. I see in your photo that you don't have hair or eyebrows. As a leukemia patient, this entrigues me- do you have alopecia? Or is it by choice? Thanks!
I do have alopecia! Good catch!
For my other readers, I should explain that alopecia areata is a genetic autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. I first lost my hair when I was four, and it’s come and gone throughout my life. I usually keep my head shaved, because it makes my life simpler. :)
Also, it means I can pretend to be Patrick Stewart when I order a cup of Earl Grey. ;)
queermormons asked: I can't believe I wasn't following you before. Your blog is fantastic.
Why thank you! I’m glad you’re following now. :)