“Although Christian discipleship is costly, it need not be lonely.” These words from Ron Belgau at Spiritual Friendship hardly seem surprising: the Church is, after all, a fellowship. There is context, however:
Growing up as a gay teenager, the only messages I heard from the church were negative. Most in our culture—including many Christians—uphold romantic and sexual love as the most important form of love. But God forbade the sexual and romantic love I desired. Was I just to be left out in the cold?
Aelred [of Rievaulx, a 12th-century Cistercian abbot] helped me to see that obedience to Christ offered more to me than just the denial of sex and romance. Christ-centered chaste friendships offered a positive and fulfilling—albeit at times challenging—path to holiness.
Spiritual Friendship is a group blog by gay Christians. Ron’s co-blogger Wesley Hill has dealt with complaints that gay Christian is an oxymoron (like stealing Christian, for example). There is chastity; there is celibacy.
Those two words are unfamiliar in our culture, where sexuality seemingly reigns over all. And can a person really be fulfilled in that way? That’s part of what Spiritual Friendship speaks about. Wesley’s work on Neither Presumption Nor Despair, for example, is brilliant in its depiction of what hope really means.
There is chastity and celibacy; there is also contentiousness throughout our culture. Ron’s post on Understand the Context of the Debate presents some of the most thoughtful reading I’ve seen on this topic. He takes a culturally-aware, missiologically-oriented, biblically-informed stance, while recognizing that this debate is one the biblical authors did not foresee. He closes the post with this:
We should not be afraid to admit that the Bible’s very brief treatment of questions related to homosexuality does not say enough to answer the questions raised by our culture. But we should be confident that if we reflect more deeply on deeper themes connected with the Gospel—creation, providence, marriage, celibacy, sin, redemption, resurrection, etc.—we will find the resources for understanding Paul’s teaching on homosexuality, even though Paul himself does much less than many of us would like to explain the reasons behind the prohibition.
There’s a lot to unpack there. I’ve quoted this bit mostly as a teaser, to entice you to read more of what Ron had to say, for he says it very well. For now I have something else to focus on: the blog’s deep humanity.
This blog has a lot to commend it. The authors know how to write, for one thing: the quality of prose is well above the norm for blogs. That’s just the beginning, though.
There’s a refreshing freedom here, of the sort I’ve never been able to attain to at Thinking Christian. The authors can talk about what it’s like being who they are. They can speak of the church’s negative messages. They can be open about the things they know they are missing. At the same time they can express their deep confidence that Christ will supply real joy.
Some time ago I wrote about Christians’ approach to gayness: that if we are going to say God has placed limits on our actions, then we have to be able to say God can satisfy our needs regardless. By “able to say,” I did not mean just being able to affirm it theologically. I meant also that we have to demonstrate real depth of trust and hope in God ourselves, in the face of our own limitations and pain. The writers of this blog are doing this. They’re doing it with unusual honesty and skill. They’re doing it with unusual relevance.
I’ve added Spiritual Friendship to my regular reading list. It’s not primarily because I’m involved in the debate. Yes, their blog is about being gay and Christian, but I think on a deeper level it’s about being human and Christian — and I have a lot to learn about that.
This post is the first (finally! ) in the 2013 edition of my annual series on new Christian blogs.