Thursday, May 5, 2016

Some Excerpts From Brent at 'Odd Man Out'

Brent Bailey's wisdom on the subject of being gay and a Christ follower continues to fascinate me. From his blog post on "Loving Men", I would like to share some of his wisdom here and comment. If you disagree, it's OK. It is some edgy stuff. It might throw some of you straight guys into panic mode. Don't be afraid. It's possible for me to love you without being in love with you and I think that's Brent's point (at the risk of putting words in his mouth).

So how does a gay guy love a straight guy or another gay guy without it leading to desire? Is that possible? Maybe...maybe not. Brent says this,

"I remain persuaded—even as the witness of other gay and lesbian Christians raises urgent, pressing doubts—that there are certain expressions of my love for men from which I should refrain, namely, the expressions involving bodies and souls mingling in physical intimacy. What has changed is the possibility that my orientation might not drive me inevitably toward sin but that it could serve as an avenue for my life to manifest the love of Jesus in tangible, ongoing ways with others, a love that isn’t self-obsessed but that serves, forgives, and endures the other. Or, as Eve Tushnet put it, “[My orientation is] inextricable from who I am and how I live in the world. Therefore I can’t help but think it’s inextricable from my vocation.” God has used my queerness for immeasurable good in my life, especially since I came out, and my orientation seems to be a key element in the relationships and ministry to which God will call me in the years ahead."

And then there is this...

"I said that the way I try to love men now is “confusing but profoundly satisfying,” and I meant it, especially the “confusing” part. This is unfamiliar terrain for me and for the friends in my life—some of whom I’ve felt attracted to, some of whom are gay themselves, some of whom have great legs, you get the picture—and the art of embracing my affections for certain men as an impetus to love them while remaining conscious of the inherent peril is a dance whose steps I’m still learning. Loving men as someone who is gay and celibate demands more honesty and self-awareness than I usually have the courage to conjure up. Even when I do manage to accomplish some measure of honesty or self-awareness, the content of my honesty is elusive and amorphous. My friends aren’t surrogate boyfriends or husbands, and whereas I do share deep intimacy with them, it’s undoubtedly different from the intimacy spouses share. There are misunderstandings, and the stakes of those misunderstandings are high, because my friends and I are sexual creatures with skin in the game. It’s risky like love inevitably must be, because the things I feel aren’t always admirable, so confession and forgiveness necessarily abound. Nevertheless, I meant the “satisfying” part, too. Interactions charged with an electric rush can give way to intimacy, fear can cave under delight, and the love I possess, which I interpret as an imprint of the one who created me, can find its objects."

And finally...

" One friend, whom I love as family, chose his words deliberately: “You handle friendship like a vocation.” The kind of conversations about sexuality I find myself having now move in this direction: about life together with friends, about honesty and confession and forgiveness, about the variety of vocations that might lead to our flourishing in God. If nothing else seems certain to me, it feels possible now in a way it didn’t before that the love of Jesus might be manifested in my life, with all my friends but perhaps especially so in the friendships I’ll share with men. “Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus says in John 15, and I don’t think the act of laying “down one’s life for one’s friends” excludes the friendships that the spark of sexual chemistry kindles."

This is, to me, some beautiful stuff. It is a way of riding the tension and still being able to accomplish what Jesus intended. For most of my life, I have avoided close friendships with men. There are very few that I have deliberately interacted with because of fear. If I am befriending them, is it because I find something attractive about them? Will it lead to lust? Why do I want to be friends with this man?

Strangely, it has worked the same way with potential gay friends. I have stood back because I have feared a conflict of interest with my faith.

In the name of spiritual purity, I have missed out on friendships that could have been life changing. I have avoided relationship and taken on loneliness as a virtue to avoid the possibility of sin.

Ya know what? That does not work. I have found that I am completely capable of of lust and desire, even when I am completely alone. So why am I depriving myself of relationships and friendships which might be useful in my pursuit of Christ and to everyone concerned?

I will not do this anymore. If I risk a bit of temptation, if I delight in a new friendship that makes me blush a bit, so be it. I will ride the tension right to the edge to gain intimate non-physical friendship with my brothers in the faith.

So guys, if I smile at you and look you in the eye, don't panic. I'm harmless. I might just need a friend. OK? You might need a friend too. I, surprisingly, understand all the 'man baggage' that your wives may not grasp. We can talk...seriously. I do not have leprosy. I have another perspective. I am your Brother in the body of Christ.