Today, the topic of discussion is why I choose to include the word "celibate" into the label. After all, doesn't saying that I am Christian already express the same thing? Why add another word that makes the label even longer?
The fact is, there are lots of people who claim the label of Christian while believing that God blesses same-sex sexual unions. So no, simply saying that I am a Christian does not communicate how I choose to express my sexuality. (Click here to see for yourself how big this particular debate is.) I need another word to be explicit. So what am I trying to be explicit about with the word "celibate?"
In my view, I hope that the word celibate can communicate two things. It already communicates the first thing, and I hope that one day, when people hear the word celibate they will also think about the second thing. Here are those two things, in order.
Number one, I think the word celibate already communicates a sense of not being okay with what I am desiring. I have written elsewhere that I believe that same-sex desires, unless fought against, lead into willful sinning. This is because I believe that the Bible is clear that God created man and woman for each other (Gen. 1:27; Gen. 2:21-25), and that the marriage union between a husband and a wife (not husband and husband, or wife and wife) is a picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32). This basic understanding of the complimentarily of the sexes from creation is why Paul can condemn homosexual practice (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9) so forcefully. It isn't simply a cultural issue, or something related to temple prostitutes or whatever. Man is for woman, and woman is for man.
At the same time, due to the fall I also experience exclusive attractions to other males. Not woman...like, at all. So what do I do with those attractions? I fight them! I submit myself to what I believe the Bible teaches, and say no to my desires for sexual intimacy with other guys. For me, this means being celibate. I don't want sex with women physically, and I can't have sex with men morally. So no sex.
However, as Eve Tushnet has so wisely stated, "You can’t have a vocation of not-gay-marrying and not-having-sex. You can’t have a vocation of No." This leads to the second thing that I hope the term celibate will come to mean someday.
In being celibate, I am not only saying no to my physical desires but I am also saying yes to expressing my desires in appropriate ways in Christian community. Perfect example: Just today I read this quote from Wesley Hill:
Notice the dichotomy: single and lonely, or partnered and able to experience love. But what if those aren’t our only choices? What if that’s a false dichotomy? What if, instead, celibacy could be seen as an occasion for love? What if choosing sexual abstinence doesn’t automatically equate to choosing isolation and repression? What if joining a parish community as a single person could be seen as a choice for close-knit familial bonds?"
Obviously this isn't easy, and I wish I had more and better examples for how to make this work practically. But it has been true experientially for me. Close Christian community and kinship bonds have been the tangible love of Jesus that he has used to make celibacy possible for me. I hope and pray that this is true to greater and fuller degrees for everyone pursuing celibacy.
So, summary. The word "celibate" communicates (I hope) that I am NOT expressing my desires in sinful homosexual acts, but that I AM expressing my desires in healthy ways within Christian community.
Alright, the next post is the big one...why I chose to use the word "gay".