Editor’s note: Justin Lee is the Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network and author of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate.
By Justin Lee, Special to CNN
(CNN)--In high school, I was a Christian know-it-all.
My nickname was "God boy," and I was known for regularly preaching at my friends about social issues of the day.
RICHARD'S THOUGHTS--As a Roman Catholic Christian who is same-sex attracted (SSA) and celibate by choice, I appreciate Justin Lee so very much. He has captured the essence of the issue here, which is the attitude of so many Christians of all stripes on this topic. We do not have to agree with Justin's theology in order to realize that he, like many of us, has searched so deeply and diligently within ourselves after realizing our attractions, and yet felt far less than free to talk about them even with otherwise trusted family or friends. And that is sad. Actually closer to a tragedy, as it is why many over the years who are sexual minorities have ended up committing suicide. And the LGBT suicide rate, particularly among youth, is high indeed. So whatever your view I ask you to read his words here as well as his book, and his heart. It accurately tells the story of most of us who are either actively LGBT or who may be celibate but struggling with SSA. The battle is a tough one and does not, other than a miraculous intervention from God, ever go away for most of us. I realized my attractions when I was 11 or 12, never acting on them, married a lovely Christian woman at age 23, and finally became divorced 12 years later after realizing I was more alone being married than I was as a single person. All my "choice" to live as a straight person did was hurt people, such as her, who I genuinely cared for but could not ever be "in love" with.
I am now 57 and believe that celibacy for those of us with SSA was and is the Christian ideal, and am living it out as best I know how. But the feelings and attractions are still there, and they are not aimed primarily towards women, but men. That is my reality, and I am not willing to hide that or disappear into the closet once again. There is enough junk in there already.
And it is why I am cautiously optimistic, not so much for me, but for those 30 years younger than me who cannot conceive of living life alone forever, about the passage of the same-sex "marriage" bill here in MN. I do not support the concept of alternative "marriage" from a religious standpoint as such, as my Church teaches and I accept that marriage is a Sacrament, and thus between a man and a woman. And I wish here to be clear on that point.
But from a secular view, and a justice view (which indirectly is in fact based upon my religion in fact) I support it carefully but definitely. Without such protections we could easily go back to the days when gays and lesbians have been beaten in the streets and no one takes the time to notice (which still by the way happens at times). And which happened to me even as a non-sexually active boy who just did not "fit in" as one of the guys during the late 1960s and early 70s. And with the amount of anger on both sides these days, I fear that scenario happening again and again if we do not settle this issue soon and fully.
As a Catholic Christian I know that this, too, (the unkind and bigoted attitude towards lesbians and gays) is an "intrinsic evil" of its own, and the bigger question is which of the two choices best protects society from it and the discrimination which springs from that fountain of hatred. We are directed by the Church to choose that which is "least evil" or least immoral in these types of situations, and that choice is often not an easy one to discern.
To me, and I speak only for me, I believe allowing for, as MN has wisely chosen to call it, "civil marriage" between those of the same gender is a genuine step in the right direction. And I am not "less Catholic" for seeing it as such. I would have preferred, and still would, if we had been able to collaborate and settle differences by some other types of reciprocal benefits instead, allowing for hospital visitation and protection from job or housing discrimination and such, but too much is left to chance in such a compromise, plus neither side (in my view) seriously took the time to lay out this option on the table, and it is now very late in the game to do so.
And a separate but "nearly equal" civil union would almost surely only prolong the agony, because in a year or two the fight for what many call "marriage equality" would be right back on the table--and in the Legislature or Courts. So with that caveat in mind I am glad it appears to be poised to pass tomorrow.
What we now must do is learn to live together. And that means really interact, not just pretend to "tolerate" from a distance. And that goes both for Church and society. The Church does not need to (nor should they) change long-standing doctrinal stances to do so, but many, and I do mean many, within her may need to look within and at least attempt to understand why the LGBT community has wanted this societal change so desperately in the first place. It is time to wash one another's feet, rather than throwing holy water at our opponents.
In any case that is my view, both as a Roman Catholic lay person and an American citizen. There are dangers and they still need to be dealt with. Religious liberty must not go be thrown by the wayside in the quest of "equality for all." Issues of who gets to decide when publicly funded same-sex couple adoptions are done through religious organizations is a thorny one with very few rose petals left on it. Or whether a building owned by a church must rent out their facilities to those same couples for wedding or other types of receptions is too at issue. Who or what a "religious organization" in the first place is also at stake.
An excellent piece sent to me by a dear friend goes into detail about this from a very different but important viewpoint, and I link it here:
There are genuine legal dangers here, and I do not minimize them. But should they stop this bill and its ultimate passage? I do not believe so, if for no other reason than the simple question of "do the protections outweigh the risks?" And I think that they do.
With all of this said, I think it is time to work together, and that will never begin to occur until this is passed and both groups move forward from the hostility and defensiveness of the last 10 or more years. I believe, and hope sincerely, that the potential problems which may indeed arise going forward do not outweigh the benefits. All of us need protection in this great nation and world. And Minnesota is taking necessary steps to bring that about.
The articles listed above show a timeline in this debate, which ironically started in MN when Jack Baker and Michael McConnell decided to get "married" (and nearly got by with it) in the early 1970s when LGBT "Pride" was in its infancy, and then an article about this same long-standing couple who could, finally if they choose, become legally married here this summer after over 40 years together. I wonder if they will?
Last but not least, and more important than all other considerations listed by either Justin Lee or myself, is a simple one: I am in love with Chris Kluwe. Well almost anyway...but to say I respect and admire his tenacity, as a straight man in a heterosexual marriage, for his willingness to stand for all of us, gay or straight, actively LGBT or SSA and celibate, has given me an undying admiration for him.
Besides he's SOOOO hot...I am celibate, but (at least so far anyway) have not gone blind. Deal with it.