Every once in a while, I encounter a fellow Christian who is completely taken back by my assertion that I am both gay and Christian. It’s pretty rare that the conversation immediately goes to, “Great! Got a boyfriend?” Usually, I have to explain that Romans is all about Idolatry, Leviticus is not relevant for today’s society, and that Sodom was not destroyed because of the gays. I’m pretty used to that by now. The conversation usually ends with the person telling me that they’ll pray for me.
In Christian lingo, “I’ll pray for you” is pretty much the same thing as the Southern saying, “Bless your heart.” Oh, you poor thing. You’re beyond help.
But hey, let’s assume that my brother or sister in Christ is really, truly going to pray for me. Honestly. They will. Fantastic. Thank you. I mean it. But… and you knew this was coming…what exactly are you praying for? That’s a bit more of a smart bomb of a question.
Let’s see. Are you praying for me to turn straight? For me to be sexually attracted to women? That’s interesting. I tried that. In fact, I prayed that way for more than 15 years. Every night. On tear-stained pillowcases. Over. And over. And over again.
Like most young, gay Christian men, I struggled with my identity as a Christian because of that gay thing. Naturally, I did the one thing I knew that could work. I became… SUPERCHRISTIAN!™
I prayed, I worked, I joined, spent a little time on a worship team, led some pretty amazing projects, became friends with pastors all over town. I did graphic design work for anything Jesus-related I could find. Christian coffee house. March for Jesus. Church. I built church websites. Made quite the name for myself, really.
I buried myself so much into my work as a SuperChristian™ that I didn’t have time to think. I gave 100% of every moment of every day to the cause, and it was perfect. I built an impenetrable shell of faith that could never, ever be cracked.
Even when I had roommates — fellow Christian young men who were in my life as friends — I was “on stage” at every moment. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be everything they were. To go to the big revival movements (remember Brownsville? Yeah. I wanted that more than anything. Thankfully, I never went).
I would imagine that those who knew me then — remember my passion for Christ, my zeal that I wore on my sleeves. They’re the ones who I truly believe that are praying for me, because they knew of the things that I was able to accomplish by the grace of God.
They remember the work I put into building newsletters and stories I wrote for spiritual guidance (I still stand by nearly everything I wrote in those pieces). They remember my Living Water magazines. They remember my passion for bringing Christians together in unity. They remember the time where I was able to bring more than 30 churches together to pray for our city after it was wrecked by a tornado in 1999. That event was one of the most incredible moments of my life.
What they don’t know — and couldn’t know — is just how much I was running from my own internal war. Everything I did, was to fill time in the day so that I couldn’t think about the fact that I am sexually attracted to other men. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more. I drenched pillow after pillow with my own tears crying out to God to take away this burden — likening myself to the Apostle Paul.
Finally, he gave me an answer. “No.” And brought into my life a man who has been as perfect a match for me as anyone could be. Amazingly, Curtis still puts up with my crap after more than a decade.
Having said all that, maybe they are praying for me to kick Curtis to the curb, pretend to suddenly become a heterosexual man, think about sex with women — without actually HAVING sex, that is — until I marry one — and lie to her and any future children about my true sexual orientation? Because that’s worked out so well all the other countless thousands of times people have tried it? No thanks.
I know it sounds snarky. But the reality of the matter is that we cannot change our sexual orientation. Sure, we can have “straight sex” if we’re put in the situation, but all that means is that the plumbing works. Some churches and pastors parade “people in their church” who “left the gay lifestyle” (whatever that is) and are now “married with children.” Read the next two sentences slowly and carefully. They are still gay. They are simply lying to themselves and everyone around them like I did for so long.
Will they be celebrated when they finally divorce or get caught in bed with the object of their true desire? I sincerely doubt it. It’s a time bomb waiting to happen, and I don’t envy anyone in that situation. But i’ve seen it happen time and time again.
Maybe, just maybe, they’re praying for me to become a Christian. To that, I say thank you very, very much. And no, I’m not being facetious. Not even a little bit. I’m serious. Thank you. In fact, your prayers were answered more than 30 years ago when I gave my life to Christ. And He hasn’t let go yet. Neither have I.
If you, dear reader, are indeed praying for me to become converted, let me ask you this: Is it possible that you’re really praying for me to think like you do, believe exactly as you do, and live according to your self-imposed legal code? No? Are you sure? Take a look around you. We don’t join a church because it’s in the neighborhood. Those days are long gone. We shop around to find the one that we like the best, and that we agree with the most. Then we join the club and become just like the rest of that crowd.
Frankly, most of us aren’t looking for a church of many nations. We want OUR church to convert many nations to OUR view and OUR way of thinking. It’s nothing new. The history of the Western church is about converting cultures more than souls. We just do it with spiffier new tech these days. As it is, many of today’s churches are far more concerned with assimilating new converts than actually making disciples. Come on, guys, it’s a church, not the Borg.
We know that prayer is not what really changes things, it’s the God that answers those prayers who makes those changes. He is the one who touches hearts and minds. He is the one who created the universe, and He is the one who gave us the responsibility of loving each other and treating each other with respect.
If you’re going to pray, pray for me to have the grace to not respond in anger to the hateful remarks that are directed at me. Pray for me to have the grace to press forward in my quest for justice, fairness, and equality. Pray for me to press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. And finally, pray for me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, who is forever the author and perfecter of my faith.
If you can’t pray for those things for me, then, well… I’ll pray for you.
DAVID W. SHELTON is a graphic designer, blogger, writer, activist, and author of The Rainbow Kingdom: Christianity & The Homosexual Reconciled. He lives in Clarksville, TN with his better half and their many, many pets.