The conversation with Shane continues as I ask him about sexual purity.
W: In our ‘Bridging the Gap’ DVD we had the opportunity to speak with Ron and Justin who are good friends, but who hold differing views on the sanctity of same-sex sexual relationships. Ron, traditional in his views and committed to celibacy as a gay man, was commending Justin, affirming in his views and open to a committed gay relationship, for his standards and values related to sexual purity. Ron commented that Justin has taken a lot of heat from others in the gay community for holding the belief that people should wait to engage in sexual intimacy until entering a covenanted relationship.
I think this is a message that needs a voice for this generation of young gay Christians. I also think it is a message that the church community at-large needs to hear – that there are gay Christians who are upholding traditional values and boundaries around sexual involvement prior to marriage.
For you, this is not a theoretical idea, but something that you lived out during your relationship and engagement to Dave. You waited for marriage. I understand you’ve also had a lot of conversations with other young gay Christians about this idea of sexual purity and waiting until marriage. Would you share with us a bit more about your personal journey, what you are hearing from other gay Christians on this subject, and what you would want the church to hear about the commitments of gay Christians to sexual purity?
S: Great to keep the conversation going…
The Biblical understanding of marriage is very confusing because, as people often point out, marriage in the Biblical world was very different than in our world. We see polygamy all throughout the Old Testament. We have levirate marriage (where if a man dies childless his brother is required to marry his brother’s wife) and the law where a rape victim is forced to marry the rapist. Predominantly marriage in the Bible seems more about property and producing offspring than it is about love and affection. Advocates for same-sex marriage love to point out these examples when encountering those who advocate for “traditional marriage” or “Biblical marriage” making the point that what we think of as traditional marriage is not necessarily all that close to marriage in the Biblical world. As a result many gay people simply throw out the whole idea of marriage.
Although the definition of marriage in the Bible may be unclear one of the principles that is expressed throughout the whole Bible story is the idea of sex connecting two individuals. This is the concept which is referred to as “one flesh.” It appears in Genesis, in the words of Jesus and in the teachings of Paul. I believe that regardless of the intentions of the individuals involved, sex creates a bond between two people. As the character Julie says in the movie Vanilla Sky “When you have sex with a person, your body makes a promise, whether you recognize it or not.”
Interestingly enough, when I was a student I went to a seminar about sex put on by the Jewish Students Association. The Rabbi told us that the Jewish worldview doesn’t have an understanding of premarital sex because by having sex they believed two individuals were married.
Since sex creates a bond between two people, I believe the best context for sex is within the confines of a permanent relationship, a context that will last and support the bond created.
Relationships are really hard and I think they are more likely to last if they have support from one’s community. For that reason I think it’s important to declare your decision publicly. I compare a wedding to a baptism. It’s a public declaration of a private decision. You may have decided in private that you are going to commit to this person for life but in a wedding ceremony you make that commitment public. The community acknowledges the promises that are being made and commits to supporting the couple.
Of course it would be great if we always had our government’s support (which we do in Canada) or our church’s support. But even when that is not possible I think you can gather the people in your life who do support you (which is your community) and make a public declaration in front of them. It’s actually really frustrating that our society has made weddings into these huge ordeals that are overwhelming to plan. I think it stands in the way of many people getting married.
When I was dating Dave I went looking for a male couple where both individuals were virgins when they got married. I was looking for role models. In my search I heard answers like “I’ve heard of this one couple….” but no one could actually connect me with real live people. This was a bit scary because I kind of felt like we were going where no one has gone before.
I do believe that part of the problem is an issue of support. Many same-sex couples don’t receive the same level of support their their heterosexual counterparts do. Our relationships aren’t valued and often face a lot of opposition. Sometimes it feels as if people rejoice when our relationships fail.
I know of one guy who told me about his dating experience as a teen. He was dating a guy but he was not out to his family or to many in his community. Therefore when he and his boyfriend were together they wouldn’t go out in public but rather spent a lot of time just the two of them hanging out in his attic. Spending almost all of their time alone together with hormones raging it was no wonder they couldn’t wait to have sex until they were married.
So does sex happen before marriage? Yes. Does it ruin a person forever? No. The church’s emphasis on virginity is often unhelpful. Sex happens sometimes even when we didn’t intend for it to. However we are not limited by our pasts. That is definitely an idea that I believe comes through clear in the gospel. We can always choose from this point on to save sex for marriage.
Waiting to have sex until marriage is possible. Don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t. I know it’s rare in the gay community but there are some of us who are waiting or have waited until marriage. Dave and I did manage to wait and so far things are going good. We’ve only been married 3 months so I guess time will tell. We are venturing out in faith trusting that God knows what’s best for us.
W: Thanks Shane for sharing your thoughts. Your story and your experience of working through the dating, engagement and marriage journey with high value accorded to sexual purity is one that needs to be heard. And I hope that we will meet some folks in the comment section who will give voice to their convictions and values on this particular question. I think it is far too easy for the Christian community to make assumptions about sexual minorities not having high moral standards around their sexual behaviour. Your story demonstrates that such assumptions need to be re-examined. -WG