Christians and Coming Out

coming out

by John Ellis

Although I am blatantly and unoriginally co-opting my title from this article, my “coming out” is quite a bit different from her “coming out.”[1] My “coming out” is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while, but haven’t out of a fear of man. You see, in the eyes of our pluralist society, I am guilty of an unpardonable sin and lifestyle. I am a conservative Christian who believes that the God of the Bible is the author of all things, including sexuality. I believe that God designed sex to be enjoyed between one man and one woman and only within the bounds of marriage. That makes me one of the few acceptable targets for open bullying and discrimination; those who share my beliefs, are finding that their opinions, even the ones unrelated to sexuality, are increasingly not welcome in the public square.

Over the last year, I’ve been trying to carve out space as a music critic, and I’m afraid that by outing myself as someone who believes in the traditional, orthodox Christian view of sexuality, I will jeopardize my standing with publications, bands, and publicists/record labels. In a marketplace that seeks the dollars of young people who have little to zero patience for someone with my beliefs, will bands see me as too toxic to have even a professional relationship with? Will the websites that I write for sever ties with me because they believe that their readership won’t stomach my beliefs, whether or not I insert those beliefs into my articles? Those fears, along with the run-of-the-mill fear that I will be mocked online, compared to Bull Connor, and branded with a virtual “B” for bigot, have caused me to shy away from publicly supporting my brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering the slings and arrows of an enlightened society. I have assuaged my conscience by telling myself that there is very little need for me to jump into the fray. I told myself that my skills would be best utilized for the Kingdom in regards to “in-house” issues[2] and for promoting a robust enjoyment of God’s good gifts of beer, music, and other aesthetic pleasures. And, besides, sexual identity is an issue that requires more nuance than online discussions are able to provide, right? But, no more. I am choosing to finally join my fellow Believers in solidarity and, more importantly, make it clear that I represent and serve a King who is sovereign over sexuality.

Why now, though? What’s changed? Well, last week, a small liberal arts college located in Due West, SC found itself in the midst of an online maelstrom. A year ago, two Erskine College volleyball players were featured in a story published on Outsports, an online publication that covers LGBT athletes and the gay sports movement[3]. A few weeks ago, and unrelated, Erskine College released a statement seeking to provide clarity in regards to the school’s position on sexuality. The statement simply affirms the traditional view of sexuality that has been held by most churches, religious organizations, and Christians throughout history. In fact, as far as I can tell, the statement isn’t binding on the students of Erskine. The two volleyball players were not punished. That, of course, didn’t stop several media outlets from running the headline, “Christian College Bans Gays!” Predictably, the online discussion headed south from there.

Comments ranged from “Christofacism is ugly, stop embracing bigotry,” to “Nice work, assholes,” and “This is why I hate theists. Religion MUST be abolished.”[4] It made very little difference that Erskine released a statement declaring that the two students had not been kicked out of the school and are, in fact, free to continue playing sports at Erskine. The pluralist thought police had already rendered the judgment that Erskine is a detriment to our society and has no place in the public square. Shrink away and disappear, Christians who affirm a traditional, Biblical view of sexuality, you’re no longer allowed a voice, and your opinion, if not approved by us, must be kept completely to yourself.

Besides being confronted with my own cowardice, the controversy surrounding Erskine has brought into sharp relief how quickly the public discourse and perceptions are degrading when the issue touches on Christians who hold to conservative, traditional views of Biblical sexuality. Those two issues undergird a two-fold objective for my “coming out.”

Over the last few years, I’ve resisted the growing refrain coming from conservative Christian circles claiming that the pendulum has swung too far and that Christians who affirm a traditional, Biblical position of sexuality are being ostracized and demonized. I’m not sure if my dismissal of fellow Believer’s concerns was naïve optimism on my part or sticking my head in the sand out of fear – possibly a little of both. It was easy for me to roll my eyes at colleges derecognizing Christian campus organizations over the issue of those distinctly Christian organizations requiring their leadership to affirm a faith statement. After all, that can cut both ways, right? Well, not so fast; examples, like what’s happened at Erskine, are beginning to demonstrate that it doesn’t cut both ways. Those examples, and others, have begun to pour into my warm, comfortable hole, forcing me to pull my head out of the quickly suffocating, ideologically driven sand. With blinking eyes, I’ve finally been confronted with the reality that there is a barbed wire fence with signs declaring “Conservative Christians Keep Out!!!” being quickly erected around the public square. I don’t want to wake up one day and find myself on the wrong side of that barrier.

Once that barrier is completely erected, it’s not going to matter (and it doesn’t appear to matter now as evidenced by what’s happened to Erskine) that if I owned a business, I would have zero issue with hiring a LGBT applicant to work in that business. It won’t/doesn’t matter that I will happily have a LGBT individual in my home for dinner, and enjoy good food, good drink, and good discussion with that individual. It won’t/doesn’t matter that I will recommend music based on the quality of the music irrespective of the musician’s sexuality. Since I affirm, publicly now, that I believe that sex was designed by God to be enjoyed by one man and one woman within marriage, I run the risk of being deemed by the thought police to be a social pariah and an extreme danger to a pluralistic society. My beliefs, regardless of my actions, are too dangerous to be allowed.

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe that the majority of Americans are at the same point as the self-appointed thought police. I believe that the majority of Americans, even if they disagree with me, will share a meal with me; will hire me to work in their business if I’m the most qualified applicant; will be able to separate my beliefs about sexuality from my opinions about music. But I’m afraid that that’s quickly changing, and if we don’t start pushing back against the pluralist thought police, we’ll soon find that certain people won’t be allowed to participate in public square dialogue at all.

Conservative Christians need to begin voicing their concern about what’s happening to the public square. We need to begin, with Holy Spirit given humility, to let the thought police know that it’s not ok to bully someone because of their religious beliefs; that it’s not ok to exclude individuals from the public square just because they have certain beliefs about sexuality. It’s time for Christians, including myself, to get in the game before it’s too late.

More important for me than pushing back against discrimination at the hands of the pluralist thought police is coming out about my identity. I’m a Christian and my identity is in Christ. My position before the Sovereign God of the Bible is determined solely by the fact that I am in Christ. King Jesus lived the perfect life that I can’t, paid the punishment for my sins on the cross, and was raised from the dead, defeating death and justifying His claim as the Son of God and the Savior and rightful King over all of creation. Recognizing that I am a sinner, by God given faith, I bowed my knee to King Jesus and sought the forgiveness and redemption that only He can offer and am now in Christ. Once again, my identity is in Christ.

My identity in Christ is intimately tied up with the reality that Jesus is my King; that Jesus, as God, is sovereign over all. The Gospel of Matthew records an anecdote about a lawyer asking Jesus, as a test, what the greatest commandment is. King Jesus answers him with “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”[5] That command is part of my identity. Recognizing that that command has been the cause of confusion, especially in regards to the issue of sexual identity, it needs to be understood that we humans don’t get to define “love” for God. God defines what love is and what it looks like; His Word is clear that love does not mean affirming those things that God has declared unrighteous. My identity, who I am, does not allow me to affirm a definition of sexuality that contradicts God’s definition of sexuality.

I recognize that for some of my friends, this revelation may be shocking and hard to process. For those friends, please realize that I’m the same person that you liked and enjoyed hanging out with prior to my coming out. I’m still the same person, and our relationship doesn’t have to change.

Here’s the thing, you don’t have to understand who I am and you don’t have to agree with me. But you do not get to exclude me from the public square because you disagree with my beliefs. And you do not get to ask me to change my identity because it makes you uncomfortable.

[1] Not to disparage the humility and courage with which Ana Marie Cox wrote her article. And also not to say that I agree with everything that she wrote. In fairness, if, and that’s a BIG if, she ever reads this, no doubt she will disagree with most of what I write in this article.

[2] Issues really only relevant to those inside the church – e.g. the abv of first century wine, Christians and marijuana, and music used for worship services – things non-believers probably have very little interest in.

[3] For the record, “the gay sports movement” is not a phrase I invented.

[4] If you think I simply cherry-picked the worst, Google “Erskine bans homosexuals.” You’ll be able to find many comments that are even worse.

[5] Matthew 22:37, ESV.


7 thoughts on “Christians and Coming Out

  1. Good Comments, John. You touched on something that God’s been working on my heart recently, pushing back against the so-called social norm. I hope I can share more later about it once things start rolling on my end. Even if I don’t always totally agree with you on things, this is definitely one area I say, Right on.

    Liked by 1 person

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