Over the next 3 days, my dear friend Nathan is going to share his story and his journey with us as a gay man and a Christian.
Geez… I don’t really know how to write this without giving you my life story. I don’t know how to write this without telling you I was always attracted to guys growing up. don’t know how to write this without telling you that I have had girlfriends thinking my thoughts would eventually fade… that I have read books… that I have talked to pastors… that I have had to sit and talk with many friends about my future as a gay person in the body of christ… that I have lived in two polar opposite places in America… that I have spent most of my life from around 7 to a few years ago thinking something was tragically wrong with the way I was made.
Age 12 to 21, you would find me in private asking God to change me, to make my attraction to men go away. It’s basically the same story you have probably heard if you are familiar with conversations around this topic. I spent 4 years after I came out believing it was wrong for me to be in a gay relationship if I wanted to keep walking with God. I not only believed this but spoke at bible studies about it. I wrote letters to large groups of my christian friends talking about my struggle with being obedient to Christ while being a gay person. During this time in my life, I found people like Wesley Hill. He wrote a wonderful book called “Washed and Waiting.” He is a celibate gay christian. He helped me for the first time see the gay part of me as a gift that God could use, but I could never enjoy the intimate companionship of marriage. He argued that people of LGBTQ community needed to have deep rooted friendships with in the church to meet their emotional needs. He talked about how this was an area the church struggled with in general with all single people. Jesus was single from what we know. Paul was single. The problem for me was that it was a sweeping curse of celibacy to all people that were in the LGBTQ community. Paul made celibacy seem more like a gift that he celebrated not necessarily something that was forced upon groups of people.
I always thought it was beautiful that I could actually marry Christ one day as a part of the church. He is my bridegroom, and I am the beloved. To me that is a queer thought. A strange thought. A beautiful thought. A life changing thought. I wondered why I could not live this as a reality here on earth. No one in the churches I attended or talked deeply about my life with, told me that other christians existed within the body that believed I could enjoy that companionship with another person. I would find this out on my own when I went to live in New York City to take painting classes. I attended a small church called St. Josephs. I noticed within the congregation a few gay couples. After leaving, I emailed my religion professor from the University, and asked her if gay christians could really exist? That experience and email started the journey of me seeing myself fully embraced by God. Fully welcome. Fully celebrated. Not just part or parts of me, but the whole. My professor encouraged me to read different books by different people rather than the ones only written by celibate gay christians. She introduced me to James Alison. I have spent many a night chewing on his words, weeping as I felt this spirit within me stirred, but confused as ever at the undoing of some things I held so deeply as truth about myself.
I would later read a book by Gene Robinson. He was one of the Bishops for the Episcopal church. He is openly gay. He married and is now unfortunately divorced. (This doesnt really help a case for gay marriage, but his honesty and story did help me process through some aspects of moving forward even if people close to you do not support you.) He was so brave at letting God be his strength and refuge as so many people left that church, sent him hate mail, threatened his life etc. I have read books by Mark Achtemeier and Matthew Vines. I remember watching Matthew Vines’ sermon on youtube before he ever had the book deal. Both of these men talk more about the six passages that theologians talk about when discussing the issue. I will attach some links if you are interested more with that. I was always reading articles on both sides trying to figure out what I thought intellectually on the issue. I was also biased, because I wanted a relationship. I wanted someone to share life with me. Then one day crying on my knees in prayer, “God is for you not against you” kept going through my head. God is for you not against you. So I moved forward in faith that God would keep me and that if I was going down the wrong path that he would lead me back. I found that both sides could justify what they believed God wanted for the LGBTQ community. Another professor showed me articles that were written by pastors during the civil rights movement. Some argued that slavery and segregation were what God wanted and others condemned interracial marriage. These articles opened my eyes to how you could not really argue with these people, because they were certain they were right. I found that the conservative side never really admitted that they could potentially be wrong on the LGBTQ issue. They were definitely wrong with their justification of slavery and segregation. I also found this among real life friends. They were always certain they had the right interpretation of scripture and perception of my life. I will be the first to tell you that I may be wrong. That we all may be wrong. I hope that is not the case though. I hope that I am bringing God glory with my life and not myself. I hope that what I see is a progression in scripture of God using unexpected ways and relationships in order to reveal himself to humanity.
Jonathan Kent Adams is an artist from Yazoo, Mississippi. He studied painting under Mary Beth Mckenzie in New York, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Mississippi. Other than that he enjoys being a barista at Highpoint Coffee, candles, heaters, red wine, music, and conversations about what make us beautiful. In his words, “I guess most importantly… I’m child of God and so are you.”