In this past week’s sermon (see synopsis here), I noted how we’ve often failed to live into 1 Corinthians 13 when we approach people that seem to be living outside of God’s design for human sexuality. In particular, I noted how we have dehumanized, ostracized, and condemned people who experience same-sex attraction. As I described that situation, I also noted that I was going to post some hopeful stories on the blog this week. Well, here I am to do just that.
In some ways, this post is a follow-up to a post from October 3rd that focused on some ‘celibate voices worth celebrating’ (link). In that post, I highlighted people who experience same-sex attraction and, in the face of deep conviction about God’s design for marriage, have chosen to remain celibate. In this post, I want to highlight two women who likewise experience same-sex attraction and likewise experience convictions regarding tradition views of marriage, but have felt led in a direction besides celibacy.
The first is Rachel Gilson. She currently lives in Boston and works for Cru (the former Campus Crusade for Christ — see here). Gilson started following Jesus during her freshman year at Yale. You can read about her story in many places, including her blog. She gets very real about her experience:
I became a Christian much to my own surprise. It was as if the sun of the gospel had evaporated my atheism in an instant. But as time went on, one reality remained like a stubborn puddle: I was sexually attracted to women. I still am. So many questions pressed for attention. How could something that felt so right be condemned as wrong? Why would God prohibit acting on these desires for love? Would I ever have sex again?
Rachel eventually captured her experience in a book: Born Again This Way (link — as you can see, it has rave reviews. Maybe you should read it?). In Christian circles, she is a leading writer and speaker about sexuality. You can find numerous articles on sexuality from her at Christianity Today (link), various interviews/talks on YouTube (link), and a great podcast interview with her on Theology in the Raw (link).
One of the most remarkable parts of Rachel’s story is she eventually married a man. She tells that story in an article at Living Out entitled “My Surprising Marriage” (link). This is not an isolated situation. There are actually lots of people that experience mixed-orientation marriages (a term worth knowing). People like Rachel are leading voices in helping churches to help people find hope when they feel there is none. I wonder what we have to learn from her?
Another prominent voice in this world is that of Jackie Hill Perry. She is a poet, writer, and hip hop artist. When she came of age as a teenager, she found that she was attracted to women. She lived a life of sexual promiscuity and struggled with drug and pornography addiction until her conversion to Christianity in 2008. She has since then found that God has transformed her desires. As highlighted above in Gilson’s story, not all people experience this transformation of sexual desire (in fact, very few do), but this is what Jackie Hill Perry has experienced. She captured that experience in her book, Gay Girl Good God. (link — if you thought Gilson had good reviews, see Perry’s)
Perry originally gained notoriety for her spoken word performances (example). She has since then become a prominent speaker and author. In addition to her memoir, she recently published a book about God’s holiness—Holier Than Thou (link). In it, she emphasizes that God’s holiness is worth fearing, but also worth trusting: He is holier than us and knows what’s best for our lives. She is also one of the primary voices in a 12-part, video-based discipleship curriculum called Christian Sexuality (link).
But again, one of the unique aspects of Perry’s life is her marriage. In our culture, the prevailing narrative is that someone with Perry’s homosexual inclinations has no option but to indulge those inclinations in same-sex marriage. But perhaps God has a better design? Perry would certainly say so. You can find her and Preston’s story in many places, including this marriage podcast — link.
I hope you’ll follow the links provided here. In the process, you can not only read about Jackie and Rachel, but also learn that their stories are not as rare as you think. These are but a few stories of people who have found hope in God’s design, but not necessarily in celibacy. Any church that adheres to the historic Christian view of marriage has to provide hospitality & hope.