Since writing my book on Same-Sex Marriage, I have been reading almost every book I can get my hands on related to homosexuality and the church. While there are some great books, there has been a huge need for a book that addresses the “plausibility” problem. I recently came across the book Same-Sex Attraction and the Church by Ed Shaw, and was pleasantly surprised that it dealt with this exact issue with clarity and insight. In my view, this book is one of the top five most important books for Christians to read on the subject. Pastor Ed was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy!
SEAN MCDOWELL: What motivated you to write a book on same-sex attraction and the church?
ED SHAW: Keeping meeting and hearing about younger same-sex attracted Christians walking away from bible-believing churches. Churches who were rightly stating “No!” to same-sex sexual activity and marriage but not giving their same-sex attracted sisters and brothers an attractively plausible alternative of life-to-the-full as a celibate child of God. We’ve too often asked same-sex attracted Christians like me to live life on a starvation diet – starved of the dignity, equality and intimacy that belongs to all who are members of Christ’s family. That leaves many evangelical churches today with a huge plausibility problem that my book seeks to solve.
MCDOWELL: You describe certain "kitchen floor moments." What are they and how have you dealt with them.
SHAW: My description of them in the book seems to have been something that a lot of people (whatever their sexuality) have empathised with! Those moments in life when you just want to sit on your kitchen floor and weep – and those moments when you actually do. For me those moments have often been bound up in the suffering that has come my way as I seek to live a celibate life as a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction.
What helps me when I’m on the floor is that my Lord Jesus knows what it’s like to be down there (Mark 14:35-36) and that his call to take up my cross and follow him (Mark 10:34-38) was always going to involve experiencing some of what he experienced. But it will be worth it – both in here and now and in the world to come (Mark 10:29-31).
MCDOWELL: The narrative today is that celibacy is bad for you. Yet you say differently. Why?
SHAW: Because the bible’s narrative makes it very clear that celibacy can be good for you and those around you: it’s central character is a young single man who was celibate and demonstrated the single life in all its fullness into a context in which that was even more counter-cultural than today. You might have heard of him – his name was Jesus Christ. Following in his footsteps there came a single middle-aged man who used the advantages of his celibate life to plant churches across the Mediterranean and who urged others to embrace those advantages too (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). You will have heard of him too – his name was Paul. Neither of them were emotionally repressed or lonely, both experienced intimate friendships and had numerous spiritual children, neither of them could have achieved all they did without being single and both of them sacrificed much but gained all that they most desired in the process. Their footsteps have been followed by numerous other self-sacrificial single women and men who have transformed the world through their Christ-like celibacy. I want to be part of that counter-cultural movement – for my own sake and for the life of the world.
MCDOWELL: You say that Christians should be quite comfortable with the idea of people being born gay? Please explain!
SHAW: Because the biblical doctrine of original sin makes it clear that there are many patterns of thought and action that have come very naturally to me - and have felt very right to me - but have actually been very bad for me and those I live with. I use the example of stubbornness in the book (a family trait) and speculate that my same-sex attraction is very similar pattern. Which should increase your empathy for me (and others like me) but not your loving desire for me to repent of both my stubbornness and any sexual sin.
MCDOWELL: There are some great suggestions in your book for the church to address this issue. What's one key thing the church really needs to get right?
SHAW: We need our churches to be genuine families – where all find spiritual parents, siblings and children. Where all are cared for and have people who depend on them for care. We often need to repent of an idolatry of the biological family that has stopped us doing this and talk with everyone in our churches about how we can be a counter-cultural, spiritual family in our particular context.
Ed Shaw is the pastor of Emmanuel City Centre in Bristol, England, and he’s part of the editorial team at www.livingout.org.