Tender Matters

Ben Shahn. Man. 1946 MoMA

Ben Shahn – “Man.” 1946 MoMA

It has been said that one should contribute to a conversation only if you can add something new or different to the dialogue. I have spent the past four years listening and querying others about their journey of faith and homosexuality, expanding the depth of breadth of my circles. I’m to a point I feel I can share what I’m finding and what I see and know. So I’ll begin here.

In the Spring of 2011 I published a book: A Bigger World Yet; Faith Brotherhood and Same-Sex Needs, (see the book tab for details). The book was the culmination of a ten year process of gathering stories and data, and the text basically presents that friendships are central to getting same-sex needs met, the core of who we are is grounded in God not sexual impulses, active homosexuality is not the best for a Christ follower, and that all men struggle with what it is to be a man in our age. I intentionally steered away from the term “gay” and instead used more neutral terms like “high-same-sex needs” (I know, a term that is bulky at best). The book was self published, as I had several Christian publishers communicate to me that they were going away from this difficult issue and/or that my book was not far enough in one camp or the other for their readers. So much for moderation… Since the book went to press I have received many kind notes from men who found it helpful, honest and life-giving.

And the conversation has continued in the past four years, and quickly.   Homosexuality is the hot topic in Christian communities as gay marriage becomes a reality in States, and more and more Christ followers have felt freedom simply to proclaim a gay identity outright. Perhaps I’ve steered away from writing about this topic for fear that this its artistic suicide, and people talk with such finitude and certainty regarding homosexuality, while I with all I know at 48 am wary to declare universal truths on the matter. I also do really care about what others think, and feel a level of responsibility and obligation of sorts to those whom I’ve had the privilege to mentor, lead and walk with over the years.

Several days back in the span of twenty four hours, I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine on the East Coast who after heading up a ministry for years and being married for over 30 is now divorced, openly gay and in a relationship with a man, and I had a good chat on the phone with a friend in his early forties in Arizona who’s getting married this August to a lovely woman after being very sexually active with other men in his teens and twenties. Both men call themselves Christians, love Jesus, and both are doing what they feel is “right.”

What I don’t see happening at large is openness to a diversity of stories regarding homosexuality and faith. There are a variety of experiences and choices men make as they try to live out what is good, right and true. One side does not exclude the multiplicity of other stories being lived out. With the conversation with both of these friends, I realized that I have been blessed to know a broad spectrum of men who have made a variety of choices with their same-sex desires. In the name of “having a voice” some individuals getting media attention seem to feel they need to exclude others whose story they feel may threaten their own. That is not honest, good or kind.

So within the category of “Tender Matters” my objective is to write with candor and transparency about my own path as it continues beyond A Bigger World Yet, and the narratives of the amazing array of men and women I call my friends. I’ll keep you posted.

Ben Shahn – “Self Portrait Among Churchgoers” (1907)

Ben Shahn – “Self Portrait Among Churchgoers”  1907

About abiggerworldyet

Visual Artist Brother Sojourner College Professor Christ follower
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2 Responses to Tender Matters

  1. Looking forward to hearing more from you on this subject again!

  2. lomagirl says:

    About 15 years ago I came up with the idea for a book that never came to fruition- the title- “Asking and Telling: Stories of Faith (subtitle not thought out completely.) The idea was to have gay people of divergent faith practices/experiences write about those and collect it in a book. Alas, I never followed through. It sounds like other people are, though.

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