Our identity and purpose in Christ Jesus
Singapore, 30 Apr 2006. 11 pm. On a crowded train there were two straights couples hugging and kissing each other. They were engaging in their heterosexual lifestyle which comes to them naturally. The TV drama series "desperate housewife" is so popular because it reflects the actual culture and modern day promiscuity practiced by straight men and women. It is not a lifestyle as if there were choices, it was natural. Both straights and gays engages in lifestyles that are intrinsic to their nature. However, in general, we are much influenced by the world and the lifestyles that we lead whether straight or gay is not consistent with Christianity. Paul had strong condemnation against the Corinth Church which was heavily influenced by the culture of the general population of Corinth rather than their identity in Christ. Sexual immorality and greed extended even to the Christian Church. The mainstream churches 2000 years later, have conveniently shifted the blame to the Gay community and their lifestyles. But the message of Paul was not to the gays, it was to the straight Christian Community engaging in heterosexual immoral lifestyles. However, the King James authors did us a great dis-service by mis-translating key greek words to refer to gays when no other words could be found. Notwithstanding, the message of Paul holds key challenge for the Gay Christian Community in reminding us to have our identity is in Christ rather than our sexual orientation.
The Gay Community in general are focused strongly on their identity as gays because this is how others see us, not as people of sacred worth and individuality but as gays with a promiscuous lifestyle. The community at large condemned us solely because we are gays. The Government has laws against gay sex. Our family and friends despised us for being gay. The mainstream churches condemns us as sinners because of our sexuality. Gay marriages are banned hence we have no way to fulfill our sexual desires in an acceptable manner. When so much over attention, inequality and discrimination is in our orientation, we too focus on our identity as gays. This has resulted in a culture based on sex, one night stands, cruising, saunas, discos, body building, and a common lingo with strong tasteless sexual connotations in our speech. The straight men do also engaged in such lifestyles and culture. But is does not defined them as much as it does the gay population. For Christians in general, it is not to difficult to detach oneself from the straight worldy culture and lifestyles. But for Gay Christians in countries where there is no equality, the challenges are far greater and it is rare to find one that identifies himself with Christ much more than he does with being a Gay person.
At Corinth, the Apostle Paul was shocked at the prevailing straight lifestyles of the Corinthian Christians which includes gross sexual immorality, and greed:-
The modern day bible translators transgressed when they infer that Paul was condemning homosexuality between men when he was against the sexual immorality conducted in opposite sex relationships, an integral part the culture and practices of Corinth but not acceptable as Christians. (1 Cor 6:11). The early Christians have identified with the citizenship of Corinth including the corrupt business practices and the significant pagan cult of Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty symbolized by naked women. Aphrodite, in many of the myths involving her, is characterized as vain, ill-tempered and easily offended. Though she is one of the few gods of the Greek Pantheon to be actually married, she is frequently unfaithful to her husband much alike the show "Desperate Housewives”. Gay guys would have no interest in such womanly beauty and association. Therefore, the King James scholars did great harm in their mistranslations of the Greek words malakos and arsenokoites to described gays instead of straight men who are morally weak for they can't resist the temptations posed by these naked beauties. The Christians in the city were no different and identified with the pagan practices of the city.
As Gay Christians, we are also inclined to identify ourselves with the prevailing Gay culture. It is not that Gays are any more horny that straight guys, but that greater opportunities exist for open relationships with multiple sexual partners as men are generally able to compartmentalized sex and emotional attachment to it. Whilst in a straight relationship, women tends to be the balancing factor looking for the emotional aspects. Therefore, the Christian Right condemnation of Gay lifestyles have some basis, although hypocritically overlooking the far more numerous Prostitution and escorts establishments serving the straight community and their heterosexual lifestyles. The street of Bangkok may have their Gay Ago go bars, but the numbers pale into insignificants when compared to the large number of places catering for straight foreign tourists at the numerous bars.
Although the criticism of the sexual immorality in the gay community by the government and religious leaders are grossly biased, let us not forget the central issue of who we identify with whether we are gays or straight. As Christians, our main identity is with Christ not whether we are straight or gay or with the culture and customs of the city whether they are sexually moral or immoral. For Christians, it is not following the law (of not being to do this or that) but understanding and following God's specific instructions and directions in our lives that matters. (1 Cor 7:19). Every Christian has a destinity and a calling for God's purposes in Christ Jesus. (1 Cor 7:20 ) Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. When we looked to the Gay culture instead of Christ, we will end of missing the calling of God in our lives.
The Christians at Corinth engaged in idolatry , the norm in the City of Corinth resulting in sexual morality. Gay Christians are likewise easily entangled in the prevailing culture of casual sex in the gay community. Apostle Paul, understanding the normal weakness of human nature and man's obsession with sex (whether gay or straight), reminded us that God is faithful and will provide us the way to overcome this temptation so that we would not be tempted beyond what we can endure. Knowing that this lifestyle is common to men and to the prevailing straight and gay culture, as Christians we are part of this world and therefore will face many temptations. Apostle Paul extols us to follow God's way for us to overcome, that is to literally flee from the prevailing immoral culture and practices such as the idol worship at Corinth so as not to be overtaken by them and their resulting vices. As Gay Christians, being gay does not give us extra rights to engage in the norms of the gay culture to the worship the Gay virtual god of men's body such as one night stands just as being straight does not entitle us to the norms of the straight culture of casual sex with prostitutes, remarriage, and affairs.
We are denied by the mainstream Christian churches the right to marry, the very institution which Apostle Paul recommended so that we as men can remain faithful to a single partner and be able to withstand the temptations of multiple affairs common to men. Just as straight men are caught by the beauty of the god Aphrodite of Corinth, we too are attracted by the beauty of Eros. In Greek mythology, Eros was the primordial god responsible for lust, love, and sex; he was also worshipped as a fertility deity. His name is the root of words such as erotic. According to tradition, Eros was principally the patron of male love, while Aphrodite ruled mens' love of women. Thus his statue could be found in the palaestras, one of the principal venues for men to associate with their beloveds, and it was to him that the Spartans sacrificed before battle. In Athens, he shared a very popular cult with Aphrodite, and the fourth day of every month was sacred to him. The mainstream Christian churches have conveniently denied history by assigning the immorality of Corinthians to gays whereas Paul never mentioned Eros of Athens rather his prime concern was the worship of Aphrodite at Corinth by the straight population. The problem of sexual immorality remains a major issue in today' church because we fail to understand the bible as relating to the straight community and not gays concerning this matter. Even Prince Charles, the head of the Anglican Church has remarried hence is an adulterer by Paul's definition and no different from the idol worshippers at Corinth who frequently had affairs.
The issue of Gays and Gay marriages come to the point of ludicrous when highly educated Christian clergy in Singapore could mistake Geylang (the new Corinth of old), a large haven for straight prostitution as a gay issue. In response, some Gay Christians have attempted to use Jesus' love commandments when answering to critics using Paul's letters to the Corinthians. But there is obviously no conflict in the bible. As no one in his right mind would mistake Geylang for Tanjung Pagar, so would few would mistake Corinth (infamous for its prostitution) for Athens unless they have put on their most extreme homophobic and self righteous tainted glasses. The mainstream churches have a serious credibility issue with many of their leaders being divorcees . They have lost their moral right and have no biblical mandate to speak to the gay community. When they preached on homosexuality, they have to, but distort the bible, hence damaging the credibility of the bible and the gospel message.
Gay Christians are a rarity because of the difficulty to identify with Jesus when it is so easy to fall into temptation of the sexual immorality of open sex in gay culture and lifestyles . Without the institution of marriage to support monogamous gay relationships , it would be difficult to identify with Jesus and his call for holiness and keeping our bodies clean that we may be found able to focus on following God's direction in our lives. Even with marriages, the Christian divorce rate in America for straight couples in the mainstream churches is similar to non Christians despite traditional Christian teaching rejects divorce and stresses marital fidelity and family values are central to the religious conservatives' moral agenda. But marriage remains God's plan for our lives for a family and a long term single partner.
The call for Gay Christians today is to have faith that despite the unjust discrimination, and the use of by the Christian religious leaders of lies and gross misinterpretation of the bible, to oppress them. It is a call of faith to believe that there is a way of escape, that God will provide, that we may be able to live a holy life before Him knowing that He created us a Gays not because of a fallen nature but He made us wonderfully for His good purpose. We have to untangle our sexual orientation with our Christian faith although it will be very difficult for the Christian religious right have made it our main identity. But our core identity is in Christ and we continually need to examine our lives to die to ourselves to see what does this mean including not involving in open sex and choosing a Christian partner. We have no reason as Christians to indulge in sexual immorality even though the bible does not refers to Gays specifically on this issue. Therefore, what may seem impossible with men is possible with God, with His grace and grace alone. As gay Christians, we have no option but to walk a life dedicated to Jesus under the most extreme community and psychological oppression and temptation to seek liberal theology to make sense of it all. It is a difficult life but we should not be disappointed with God asking "Why me?" for His grace is sufficient and the test and trials that we go through if faced with the spirit of faith and gratitude will bear much more fruits in building our lives, our character, and bring us closer to walking with Jesus and finding our true identity and purpose in Him.