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Is There a Christian Way to Be Gay?

Eve Tushnet’s Gay and Catholic is something like a how-to book in the vein of Augustine’s Confessions: part autobiography, part theology, part roadmap to a better way of being. Tushnet, a veteran essayist with bylines in First Things, The American Conservative, The Atlantic, and elsewhere, is a fascinating interlocutor with as much knowledge of the Christian theology of friendship as of punk anarchist collectives and all the classics of 1990s queer teen culture. A convert to Catholicism from a secular Jewish liberal upbringing, Tushnet is candid about her past without slipping into salaciousness. Her book documents her alcoholism, some elements of her romantic history, and the challenges of conversion and celibacy, but it isn’t a tell-all. Line by line, it reads like a long letter from a steady-minded mentor to a friend in need.

Tushnet sets out to “offer ways to create a celibate queer life that is better than the one I used to have,” which alerts readers at the outset that the book is something of a journey. But Tushnet’s autobiography takes up only the first few chapters and is revisited in asides from there on out; the journey, then, is more of an “adventure” in theologian Stanley Hauerwas’s sense—concerned with the daily heroism of Christian life—than a straightforward tale of personal triumph over adversity. As an interlocutor, Tushnet is entertaining and lucid, confident but comfortably self-effacing, with a fondness for her former self in all her awkward adolescent stages.

Her fondness for her former self is part of what makes Tushnet’s book so unexpectedly revolutionary. It would be one thing for a lesbian Catholic to write a remorseful tale of reform, but Tushnet isn’t particularly interested in apologizing to readers for what has come before. On the contrary, she is disenchanted with gay “origin stories” and their tendency to ascribe lesbian desire to childhood sexual abuse. She came out young and helped found a gay/straight alliance in high school, and she writes warmly of the belonging and fellowship she found in gay culture and gay relationships.

“One reason I continue to ‘identify as’ gay is that gay communities were places I learned to be less self-centered,” she explains, later commenting that “being in love with women has usually made me a better person.” The total effect is twofold: to carve out a space for same-sex-attracted Christians (not just the “formerly” or “ex-”) and also to establish a specifically lesbian Christian identity.


There have been very few widely published works on lesbian Christians. Bernadette Brooten’s Love Between Women offers a historiography of lesbianism in Christian thought that illuminates the ways in which same-sex attraction among women was received in early Christianity, but most similar accounts place gay men and lesbian women in the same category. Yet for a Christian intent on a solidly traditional reading of gender, this doesn’t make much sense: if men and women differ ontologically, then a woman’s desire for a woman is not like a woman’s desire for a man, nor is it like a man’s desire for a woman or a man’s desire for a man. It is, rather, a thing unto itself, marked by the uniqueness of femininity and feminine desire. If that is the case, then Tushnet’s account challenges those who would build a space for celibate lesbian Catholics to give special pastoral care to the distinctions between lesbians, gays, and those with less definite sexualities.

And Tushnet’s view of sexuality does seem to differ markedly from theories that have been proposed in the wake of a certain LGBT ascendancy in American politics. Michael W. Hannon’s March 2014 First Things essay “Against Heterosexuality” [1] argued for the destruction of categories of “sexuality” in Christianity altogether, supposing them mostly modern, insubstantial, poorly predictive, and counter to good pastoral practice. Tushnet appears to be in the opposite corner: “I don’t particularly struggle with my orientation,” she notes in a section on the diverse modes of gay Christian life. Her take is much more in accord with other celibate queer Christian writers, like the incomparable Wesley Hill, whose 2010 book Washed and Waiting she recommends. Traditionalists who would prefer to dissolve the question of gay Christians in Church life by collapsing the problem of sexuality altogether, then, will find little comfort with Tushnet.

Tushnet’s reparative measure might also be more revolutionary than it initially seems. She argues, pace historian Alan Bray’s 2003 account of friendship in the Christian tradition, The Friend, that Christians should consider a return to a more medieval conception of friendship, one complete with vows and affirmation ceremonies for dedicated companions. Taken seriously, Tushnet imagines, institutionally affirmed friendship could answer the emotional needs of those who would otherwise be engaged in same-sex romantic relationships or desperately lonely. Her historical analysis tracks Bray’s work closely, and it includes moving excerpts from courtly accounts of friendly love and commitment, as well as some monastic and liturgical remarks upon close companions.

Yet Tushnet doesn’t leave her meditation of friendship on a rosily sentimental note. It’s all well and good, one imagines, to propose a more prominent position for friendship in modern Christian life—but what this would really look like is fraught and complicated, which Tushnet acknowledges. Could an avowed pair of same-sex friends with acknowledged homosexual feelings cohabitate without giving the appearance of scandal? Tushnet hesitates: “the danger,” she admits, “is real.” Could these tightly intimate friendships coalesce into sexually realized relationships? It could happen, but for Tushnet “the preventative measure of avoiding intimate same-sex friendship entirely is even worse.” This itself might strike some—including Exodus International’s Alan Chambers, cited by Tushnet—as a bridge too far.

And these are only the moral hazards. Tushnet recognizes that there are practical concerns as well. A Christian who is same-sex attracted might have a traditional, opposite-sex marriage as well. Won’t avowed friendships infringe upon one friend’s marital or familial obligations at times? Probably, Tushnet submits, advising empathy and noting that medieval ballads concerning committed friends often reported conflicts in that vein—many of which did not turn out in the favor of the wife and children. And what of institutions that typically make concessions for marital and familial duties, like family medical leave and hospital admittance privileges? Should those, too, extend to avowed friends? This is less clear, though Tushnet points out that the stewardship of friends is a common theme both in HIV/AIDS literature and literature on wounded veterans.

Lastly, and perhaps most troubling, is the question of whether or not opposite-sex friendships should be avowed, meaning that a husband could be committed to both a wife and some other woman in a slightly different sense. Tushnet is emphatic that this should not happen: “vowed friendship between people who could take marriage vows seems to me to carry stronger possibilities of sexualization than if the vows are only for pairs who could not marry in the Church.” But this reasoning can seem a bit thin: a married man can’t take marriage vows in the Church; he already has. Further, basing approval of avowed friendships on the likelihood that they will tend toward sexualization seems to reinforce the fears Tushnet seeks to allay. thisarticleappeared-janfeb15 [2]

Risks aside, the gravity of the situation itself does come out in favor of Tushnet’s response, especially in the absence of a better one. With the disbanding of formerly prominent “ex-gay” ministries like Exodus International and the banning of ex-gay ministries for teens in states like California and New Jersey, the strategy once glossed as “pray the gay away” appears to be on its way to the dustbin of history. Without an alternative approach like Tushnet’s, faithful Christians with same-sex feelings might be at a loss altogether, and so, too, would the rest of the Church, which cannot afford to abandon a single sheep. Tushnet’s solution of avowed friendship, even untested, can at least claim a rich traditional grounding and all of the well-established benefits of friendship itself.

Following her historical and theological meditation on friendship, Tushnet spends the remainder of her book feeling out real-life models of faithful gay Christianity. She takes a variety of approaches: the narrative of her own life and experience appears frequently, alongside a thorough interview of gay Christian Tim Otto, and a trio of appendices of resources and frequently asked questions. This is a mixture of textual genres that might jar some readers, but insofar as one could ever imagine a handbook for how to live as a gay Catholic, it’s difficult to suppose one much different from this. Life is multivalent, people are different, situations shift, and questions abound: Tushnet’s dexterity with examples and freedom with form allows her to cover a remarkable swathe of territory.

There are probably two camps that will find Tushnet’s book unpersuasive. On one hand, there are those staunchly committed to traditional teachings on sexuality, who will view the avowed friendships Tushnet promotes with a certain suspicion. Tushnet writes glowingly—and beautifully—of sublimation, the process by which one converts a certain impulse into another. Others might question its efficacy, along with its virtue: cultural documentation of “the friend zone” is enough to suggest that not all friendships born of desire are capable of remaining healthy. On the other hand, Christians with a more liberal take on sexual teaching might find Tushnet’s proposal of avowed friendship as pipe-dreamily sterile and repressive, especially since it offers no account of how sexual desire is to be properly sublimated, solved, or suspended.

Tushnet may find herself carving out a complex middle between two hostile camps, but she is cognizant of this and clearly up to the task: “I realize I’m the poster child for a poster nobody wants on their wall,” she remarks. But if it’s the only poster illustrating a workable solution, then it’s one we are all obligated to tack up.

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig writes about Christianity, ethics, and policy for Salon, The Atlantic, and The Week.

36 Comments (Open | Close)

36 Comments To "Is There a Christian Way to Be Gay?"

#1 Comment By chs On February 5, 2015 @ 9:38 am

I agree with what C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter to Sheldon Van Auken where he stated that “the physical satisfaction of homosexual desire was sin . . . leaving the homosexual no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying.” In terms of why the homosexual was born that way he noted that that was not as important as the fact that “the works of God should be made manifest in him” when he was healed. Lewis’ correlation was that homosexuality is a “tribulation” like any other and that “every disability conceals a vocation if only we can find it, which will ‘turn the necessity to glorious gain.’ He felt they should avoid the carnal act, accept their cross and seek God’s divine guidance.

#2 Comment By Kurt Gayle On February 5, 2015 @ 10:52 am

“Is There a Christian Way to Be Gay?”

By way of answering that question, take as an example a heterosexual man or woman who as a single young adult becomes sexually promiscuous. Such a person enjoys having sex with many different partners. But at some point they become faithful Christians and subsequently get married. In other words, they go from being sexually promiscuous to being sexually monogamous Christians.

After they become Christians and get married, they find that they still think about the joys of the days when they had sex with many different partners. Even so, their Christian faith is strong and they have no intention of ever betraying their faith or their marriage partners.

If someone asked me the question “Is there a Christian way to be promiscuous?” I would say “no.” I would say “no” because even though a monogamous Christian might often think about the joys of their former sexual promiscuity, the important fact is that they no longer engage in acts of sexual promiscuity. Although they may still have strong desires for promiscuous sex, they keep their desires in check. Again, they do not act on their promiscuous desires because they are faithful Christians and they want to remain faithful to their marriage partners.

Looking back at the original question “Is There a Christian Way to Be Gay?: A person who formerly enjoyed gay sex – but who has since become a Christian and stopped acting on their gay sexual desires – is a Christian. Period. They know, and others may know, and God knows, that they still think fondly of the days when they enjoyed gay sex – and that they may still feel strong desires for gay sex. But they do not act on those desires, because they are faithful Christians.

“Is There a Christian Way to Be Gay?”


#3 Comment By frater On February 5, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

Is she really the poster child nobody wants? Rather her ideas sound very much like those expressed and contained in those infamous same-sex paragraphs of the midterm relatio of the last Synod.

And of course, the comparison between her and St. Augustine stops, at best, in the form of the text, given that St. Augustine submitted himself to God and the Church, and didn’t try to incorporate his former life (the ladies, the Manicheans, etc.) into the Church.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 5, 2015 @ 5:17 pm

I am going to respond with a simple, no.

There is no evidence anyone is born to engage in homosexual behavior. Second, the doctrine of Christian faith clearly forbids it as it does other behaviors.

There is no way to condone as a part of one’s Christian walk. The problem with CS Lewis’s comments if correct is that heterosexual behavior has a frame in which it is acceptable, homosexuality does not.

I certainly hope to be alleviated of my singleness one day, but until as I am celibate — so does anyone whose desire is for someone of the same sex.

It matters not how sweet, now nice, how charitable, hos intelligent, well liked, well written, popular, or whatever list of admirable human qualities one wants to list.

One cannot engage in this behavior wantonly and then claim a life in Christ. They must always be in a state of repentance over it until they cease it.

Miss Tushnet makes very reasoned and compassionate narratives, but they are all for not if her goal is an attempt to justify the behavior.

#5 Comment By Jim R. On February 5, 2015 @ 6:15 pm

Kurt Gayle, your entire argument invalid because you base it upon a flawed premise. You equate homosexuality with sexual promiscuity, and that’s just as fallacious as doing the same with heterosexuality.

Homosexuality, at its most fundamental level, is same-sex attraction and has nothing to necessarily with actual sexual practice. You ignorance of that fact leads you to completely mishandle the issue; but sadly, your ignorance is shared by my many (most?) Christians. But know that it is entirely possible to be gay (to be a homosexual; that is, to have same-sex attraction) without ever acting upon that attraction by engaging in gay sex. Likewise, it is also possible to be gay and be sexually promiscuous with the opposite sex! Point being, sexual orientation ought always to be considered separate and apart from sexual practice, as the two are not inherently synonymous.

So, to answer the question: “Is there a Christian way to be gay?” I say, “Of course! Just as there is a Christian way to be straight. The question concerns sexual orientation, not sexual practice.”

#6 Comment By Adam Palma On February 5, 2015 @ 6:20 pm

Vowed friendship strikes me as odd, even unnatural. Friendship, unlike marriage, is supposed to be promiscuous, not exclusive. Maybe what’s needed for unmarried people are religious communities. Maybe we need a revival of the religious orders, including secular third orders.

#7 Comment By Callie On February 5, 2015 @ 6:23 pm

We are in over our heads. Language reveals the problem: is “gay” an adjective, applied to person/man, or is it a noun (“many gays believe…”), a definitive identity or a type? Bruenig’s article, by asking “Is there a Christian way to be gay?” skirts the issue. In my estimation, we reduce human beings when we refer to them as “gays”; their “orientation” fails to differentiate them as a different class of humans. Their sexual impulses are one small part of who they are, and Christians and society at large capitulated way too soon in agreeing to call them or identify them that way. The inconsistency: when convenient, persons experiencing same-sex attraction want to be identified, or even want to self-identify, by their genders (traditional or newly-constructed) and sexual preferences. But when someone labels them or discriminates based on sexual “orientation”, it is a hate crime. This constant back and forth is irrational. Since we have no genetic proof of homosexuality but have ample genetic proof of gender, why don’t we keep things simple, refer to people as people, and sit tight while all this dust settles? The “truth will out.” And in the meantime, practicing the faith involves celibacy for all but the married male/female couple. No exceptions. No further “identification” needed.

#8 Comment By Adam Palma On February 5, 2015 @ 6:30 pm

I believe Eve is fully committed to her faith, but her line of thinking about sexuality seems to be formed by the queer theory school of thought. I’m much more comfortable with the way the “theology of the body” identifies the human person as male and female, and doesn’t seperate people out into a multitude of genders and orientations based on subjective self-determination.

#9 Comment By grumpy realist On February 5, 2015 @ 6:47 pm

So, Kurt, if there isn’t a Christian way to be gay, what are gay Christians supposed to do? Convert to a different religion? Commit suicide? Pretend that they aren’t gay?

I realize that it would be very convenient for the Catholic Church if all gays would just magically disappear, but that’s not going to happen.

#10 Comment By Bobby On February 5, 2015 @ 7:37 pm


Your comment illustrates a type of disingenuousness that is nothing more than masked bigotry. These kinds of cheeky responses are so tired

I think it’s rather clear that Tushnet–along with the culture as a whole–uses the term “gay” to refer to one’s sexual orientation, not one’s sexual activity. After all, the majority of people who engage in same-sex sex are not gay.

#11 Comment By JonF On February 5, 2015 @ 8:03 pm


The lady is practicing celibacy for crying out loud. What else do you expect of her? Sounds to me you just don’t like gay people, and never mind whether they are sexually active or living in accord with the Church’s dictates on that.
That is not a Christian attitude.

#12 Comment By Damoj On February 5, 2015 @ 11:59 pm

Well, I’m a biblical literalist so I always adhere closely to Corinthians 1: 6-9, which says plain as day: “ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι βασιλείαν Θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσι; μὴ πλανᾶσθε· οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται”

Oh wait… since Paul used a neologistic term rather than the existent Greek word that would fit closest with the definition of homosexuality , how could people in England hundreds of years later with limited knowledge of the greek possibly translate and contextualize it correctly?

Hint: they couldn’t, but what they could do was take their own pre-christian prejudices and try to legitimize them. The closest meaning is probably “pederast” or “temple prostitute”, but it hardly surprises me that a nation which accepts divorce and remarriage (which is to say, adultery that is forbidden in explicit and clear terms) is anxious to find others to exclude from the faith.

#13 Comment By Jim Russell On February 6, 2015 @ 8:43 am

****But if it’s the only poster illustrating a workable solution, then it’s one we are all obligated to tack up.*****

But, then again, it’s NOT the “only poster illustrating a workable solution.” Indeed, amid the many good points found in Eve’s book, there are many deeply flawed assertions to be found there, too. One such flaw is the attempt to extrapolate a form of contemporary gay “couplehood” from the historical examples Eve calls “vowed friendship.” Her reasoning on this issue is not only “thin” but is also not based on a sufficiently “Catholic” concept of “eros.” Friendship, unlike a properly ordered “eros,” is not something ordered toward “exclusivity.” Much confused and imprecise thinking remains in the pages of this book, right alongside some otherwise strong personal narrative. Eve’s solution is ultimately not the “only” (or by any means the “best”)solution to the numerous pastoral issues associated with same-sex attraction today.

#14 Comment By Alan On February 6, 2015 @ 9:18 am

Is there a Christian way to be gay? The question is rigged because orientation is a modern construct, a template to align oneself with this or that group based on one’s proclivity for this or that kind of fornication. You may as well ask if there is a Christian way to fornicate. The Church teaches dying to self, not defining yourself through your desires.

This idea of celibate homosexuals, or celibate heterosexuals for that matter, is not only playing with fire but it stands scriptural celibacy on its head, because celibates are those who choose to be eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, not those who sound their own horn.

Think of St. Anthony, who had no sooner passed the test of the temptation by a young woman, before being tempted by the appearance of a young man. Leave your modernity and your orientations and your fornications behind, and come to Christ with nothing.

#15 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 6, 2015 @ 9:36 am

” . . . they couldn’t, but what they could do was take their own pre-christian prejudices and try to legitimize them.”

I think I will skip the ‘my scholars are better than your scholars.’

Let’s suffice to say that there are Biblical scholars in languages and social anthropology and archeology who have concluded that old and new testament scripture state that the writers and speakers were stating what Christ and the Father have concluded about same sex expression — verboten.

Unfortunately, for you the bible lists prostitution along side homosexual conduct as distinct whether it’s men lying with men or women lying with women — there are enough qualified greek scholars to have concluded the same that mutes any suggestion of mere theological bias.

Well, you have it almost correct about divorce and remarriage. The cause for divorce according to scripture is very narrow. But there is no evidence tat the Christian community accepts divorce in the manner you suggest. But as with homosexual conduct, it must be acknowledged and repented of.

I am unclear what you mean by “pre-Christian ” prejudices, but I think the closest translation for homosexual conduct before Christ is “men lying with men” and “women lying with women” as if married. There’s not much prejudice d in that understanding, it is the literal translation.

Regardless of the sin, Christianity calls for a person to walk without sin. That means a Christian cannot walk knowingly in a manner that is verboten, regardless of whether that sin is stealing or fornication.

I avoid Miss Tushnet’s articles because they still advocate for some manner of acceptance of this dynamic. Yet she fully acknowledges in my view that one cannot actually practice this behavior as a Christian. Which means one must be celibate if they desire sex with members of the same or marry someone of the opposite sex and carry the burden of that desire as one’s thorn in the flesh.

I have been thinking about the phrase, “pre-Christian” prejudices, depending in what community or society one is referencing, pre-Christians beliefs might have very sell adopted homosexual practice as acceptable. And a read of the new testament makes it clear they have a new nature and those beliefs are to be put away — your suggestion about pre-Christian prejudices is dubious considering the Roman Empire an its practices.

#16 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 6, 2015 @ 9:41 am

” . . .what are gay Christians supposed to do?”

I think Miss Tushnet is providing the answer. Though in my mind My problem is that she still advocates that this lifestyle can be embraced as a Christian ethic — there I bock.

#17 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 6, 2015 @ 12:44 pm

The answer is yes, of course.

Jesus has a way for all of us, none excluded. Also for homosexuals.

We are all sinners, and sins of the flesh aren’t for sure the most severe.

Divorce and marital infidelity (typical heterosexual sins) are for sure much more serious.

The sins of the intellect, such as advocating same-sex marriage – or actually “marrying” a person of the same sex in a church, are by far the most serious.


The most credible critical interpretation of the word arsenokoitai in the pauline text (both from a linguistic and philological standpoint) is “those [men] who lie with other men”.

It is worth noting that the concept of “homosexuality” (ie people born with homosexual tendencies) is a modern one. In the antiquity, the focus was on the behavior, not on the tendencies.

The word must be also interpreted in its rethorical context. The verse puts together the sexually unrestrained: “fornicators” (heterosexual incontinence) with “effeminate” and “those who lie with men” (homosexual incontinence). The following verse puts together those who are unrestrained with money: the greedy, the thieves and the swindlers.

#18 Comment By Daniel Coxon On February 6, 2015 @ 12:56 pm

To answer the question “no” is to say “Jesus died for all our sins, except the ones I find particularly repugnant.”
Can one be a Christian prostitute? Ask Mary Magdalene.

The amount of time and energy devoted to this topic is beyond inordinant. How much time does Jesus spend berating homosexuals in The Gospel?

#19 Comment By Boris On February 6, 2015 @ 1:06 pm

An unfortunate conversation. Gay people have been systematically murdered and shunned for years by Christians, and by many other groups. Who would ever want to be Christian and gay?

#20 Comment By Francis On February 6, 2015 @ 1:32 pm

“There is no evidence anyone is born to engage in homosexual behavior.”

I would say that you should do some research but types like you only accept the “science” that supports their own narrow-minded views.

For the rest, compelling (and interesting) evidence supports a biological basis for homosexuality and further science, evolutionary (oops that dirty word) biology, provides explanations as to why such behaviors amongst a small segment of society is a benefit to society.

There are even physical characteristics that strongly correlate to sexual orientation.

But most important, I have never know a gay person who ever expressed to me any strong attraction to the opposite sex and most gay persons I know never had any attraction to the opposite sex.

This country was not founded upon the bible, Christianity or religious law. It was founded on beliefs in rational thinking something that is seriously lacking in this country at the moment regarding many issues.

#21 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 6, 2015 @ 2:34 pm

Is there a Christian way to be–a corporate CEO?

I’ll address that question at the end of this post, but first some preliminary.

Much of this discussion assumes an interpretation of Christianity in which same-sex relations are always inherently sinful. (Other interpretations exist, of course, but are often decried as heterodox–I’ll ignore those for this topic).

Given that, the choices for a person who is gay–primarily attracted to same-sex partners–are as follows:

1) Celibacy.
2) Heterosexual marriage, to a partner he or she is not physically attracted to. (Such relationships often involve same-sex infidelity on the side, and are often consummated in times and places where open homosexuality–or even extended single status–is stigmatized).
3) A promiscuous lifestyle–multiple partners, swinging sin, no serious commitment.
4) A monogamous relationship with a same sex partner, likely involving cohabitation, outside of (sacramental) marriage–civil marriage may or may not be involved.

Heterosexuals have the same four choices, essentially, except #2 is fulfilling to them.

According to dogma of many Christian sects, choices 1 and 2 are acceptable, choices 3 and 4 are sinful. For straights, #2 provides a religiously-acceptable way of having a satisfying physical relationship, for gays there is no such choice in this framework. (I would argue that #2 is unwise for gays, for many reasons, but as noted above social pressures often encourage it).

Here’s where it gets interesting: Many people act as though #4 is worse than #3–for the reason that #3 involves a series of discrete instances of sin (a one night stand here, a hookup there, confession in the morning and Mass in the afternoon), whereas cohabitation puts one, essentially, in a constant state of sin, regardless of what happens on any particular evening.

The sin of cohabitation (or unrecognized marriages–such as remarriage after divorce for Catholics) is unusual in that it is a “stateful” sin: If a man is living with a boyfriend, or a Catholic man is married to a divorcee–inquiry ends there: It is presumed that they are having sex on a regular basis, and that they are thus perpetually sinful: even if they are older folks that are down to once a month, the relationship (as opposed to the sex act itself) is objected to. The only way to escape this state is to end the relationship (or the physical parts thereof). In some circles–same-sex civil marriage is considered worse than same-sex cohabitation, as it further enshrines a relationship held as sinful. One would think that sowing ones oats would be worse than monogamy, but in the reckoning of many, it seems the opposite is true.

Cohabitation is unusual in that it is one of the few “stateful” sins out there. Which brings me back to my question at the top: Is there a Christian way to be a corporate CEO?

If there is a standing presumption that cohabitating persons are engaging in frequent, regular, and unapologetic fornication–why isn’t there a parallel presumption that senior executives are not engaging in frequent, regular, and unapologetic acts of greed, exploitation, vainglory, and other things more frequently condemned by Christ than illicit sex?

#22 Comment By Matt On February 6, 2015 @ 2:45 pm

Being a Christian entails some degree of rejection of sin, which certainly means a rejection of “being gay”, a culturally loaded concept that isn’t just about who you fool around with.

If you believe that there is an “orientation” that people have that defines their sexual attractions, then the mere possessing of such an orientation wouldn’t disqualify a person from being a Christian. But you can’t have an attitude that homosexuality is perfectly normal, cause according to Christianity it just ain’t. In the best case it’s a pitiable state.

#23 Comment By Be Christian On February 6, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

The Christian way to be gay is to be Christian, obviously.

There is no law, scriptural quote, or anything else preventing a homosexual from being Christian. If a homosexual is not Christian it is by choice, not because of the Bible, the Word, or any church injunction.

#24 Comment By Gary On February 6, 2015 @ 3:01 pm

Now, for me, this is the correct approach to LGBT within the Church. As a practicing Catholic, I understand the difference between the sinner and the sin. Being gay is not inherent to sin, but, the sexual act committed between two gay people is in fact, a sin. God, being the Creator of life, all life, specifically addresses this in Genesis in both chapter 1 and 2. Gays have set themselves apart from heterosexuals by virtue of no life giving qualities derived from the relationship. It is also true that a marriage where artificial birth control is used is depriving the life giving qualities of the relationship, thus, they are in sin. Of course, the Catholic Church refuses to address this issue in any meaningful way, which paves the way for additional sin such as receiving Holy Communion, but I digress.
I applaud Ms. Tushnet for the courage to remain celibate and gay and whole, within the Church. She shows the way for all who are attracted to the same sex, yet, can have a full and holy life within the Church. Sadly, most gays will refute her lifestyle and continue to thwart God’s will of giving life through a proper and holy relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

#25 Comment By Francis On February 6, 2015 @ 3:42 pm


Thank you for your detailed post, which touched on my points I did not have the time to make.

Once before, I mentioned that I was lambasted for suggesting that Pope Francis was going to surprise many, not only for his position on homosexuals. Even to my surprise, his movement on this issue was faster than I predicted.

Clearly, his goal toward a “unified” and modern position regarding human sexuality that will one day, and I hope sooner than later, treats a same-sex union as equal to that of a heterosexual union and one condoned by the Catholic Church in the same way that same-sex unions are condones and performed by other Christian Denominations.

Thus, sex inside of a condoned union, be is heterosexual or homosexual is respected as “moral” while sex outside of any union, heterosexual or homosexual, is considered “immoral.”

Really, this topic has become amusing. At least 80% of heterosexuals have had sex before marriage and this number has not changed much over the last 60-70 years. If the “bible” is the guideline, these people should be equally condemned.

Regrading your comment on CEO morality, clearly sexual morality is used to red-herring the masses from this country’s other deep moral failings.

Hopefully, when Pope Francis speaks before Congress, he pulls the Harper Valley PTA it deserves, and more.

#26 Comment By Jeffrey S. On February 6, 2015 @ 5:12 pm

A well written review that carefully and honestly summarizes Tushnet’s views. However, I think Kurt Gayle has Eve’s number and if I may be so bold, so does the incomparable Lydia McGrew:


The only hope for gays is to die to their sin in Christ and reject their “gay” identity.

#27 Comment By GregJ On February 7, 2015 @ 6:08 am

Some of the comments above regarding the rejection of homosexual orientation, or of the endorsement that once Christian and by definition; celibate, that one ceases to be “gay”, reminds me of the tongue-in-cheek headline in response to Troy Aikman’s assertion that, “being gay was not his lifestyle choice”, to which the headline read, “Aikman says he has chosen not to have sex with men.” I’ve witnesses these types of assertions before; a well meaning co-religionists telling me that I really shouldn’t call myself “gay”, as I was committed to chastity and obedience to the Church and so, wasn’t really gay anymore. To a priest in the conversation, I cheekily said, “Is that how it works, Father? You were ordained and magically ceased being heterosexual?” He bravely offered that celibacy did no such thing. Of course it doesn’t. One is Christian AND gay…if one is homosexual in orientation and a Christian. It’s that simple. And it IS profoundly different than heterosexual Christians who simply did not get married, as one comment stated. They as yet, may get married. For the homosexual Christian, adhering to the faith means that if one by chance, meets someone that is as attracted to the idea of having a relationship with you as you are of them, of entertaining the possibility that you may be the one they can build a happy and fulfilling life with, you must say “no”, break your own heart…again, and go back to your life of solitude. It can be a very difficult cross to bear. I suppose the closest comparison is with divorced and faithful Catholics who must endure similar heartaches. For us, (unlike what so many, called to religious vocations experience.), celibacy is not a gift, but a terrible burden, compounded by the prohibition of having close, openly gay friends and socializing with them, (the occasion of sin.), of having truly heterosexual Christian friends, (One need only read some of the comments above to see the obvious obstacle to that.), and being told that we are unfit for religious vocations, teaching, adopting children, being too “high profile” in their respective religious communities, etc. Best to just keep one’s head down, NEVER talk about being gay, and live quietly and alone. It is why most will eventually leave the Church and try and find a more fulfilling life here on earth.

#28 Comment By Kurt Gayle On February 7, 2015 @ 8:03 am

Ms. Tushnet’s book tries to “offer ways to create a celibate queer life that is better than the one I used to have…”

Book reviewer Bruenig cites Tushnet’s attempts “to carve out a space for same-sex-attracted Christians (not just the ‘formerly’ or ‘ex-‘) and also to establish a specifically lesbian Christian identity.”

Ms. Tushnet’s approach might work with some of the mainstream Protestant denominations – Episcopalians come to mind – but not so much with Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, or fundamentalist Protestants.

Becoming a Christian is not a negotiation.

#29 Comment By JonF On February 7, 2015 @ 8:14 am

re: Being a Christian entails some degree of rejection of sin, which certainly means a rejection of “being gay”

So in other words it’s not about what one does but who one is. Ms Tushnet is living a celibate life which ought to be all that is required even under the strictest interpretation of traditional Christian moral norms in the matter. But because she refuses to lie about who she is and hide in a closet so people like you can pretend people like her do not exist you still condemn her.

And you wonder why the word “homophobia” was coined and why your side of the culture war gets charged with bigotry.

Re: Being a Christian entails some degree of rejection of sin, which certainly means a rejection of “being gay”, a culturally loaded concept that isn’t just about who you fool around with.

So what else is the broad scold’s tar brush out to stain here? Women wearing flannel and working on cars? Guys who dress snazzily and like to dance?

#30 Comment By Bobby On February 7, 2015 @ 9:40 am


I’m not sure that anyone defines “gay” so narrowly. In fact, under the APA’s current definition, the term simply refers to the fact that one experiences aesthetic, emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to persons of the same sex to a degree in excess of the culture’s script for normative masculinity or femininity.

In that sense, heterosexuality is just as much a modernist concept. It simply states that one’s experiences lie within the culture’s script for normative masculinity or femininity.

Despite the efforts of certain fundamentalist groups (eg, Gospel Coalition, Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), Christians have never recognized a singular ideal for masculinity or femininity. The push to do so has originated only in the past 30-40 years.

So, if you want to reduce the number of people who identify as gay, let up on the gender-role policing.

#31 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 7, 2015 @ 2:14 pm

I think that Ms. Tushnet must be praised because she resumes a neglected topic: friendship.

Friendship is one of the things most devalued in our post-modern times. Friendship doesn’t fit into the dominant pansexualist view, so it is interpreted, and reviled, as repressed sexual attraction.
Pansexualism, together with the neodarwinist scientism rampant in contemporary sociology and psichology, entails a purely benthamian view of human relationships, which are valluable only if they provide an utility to one’s ego.

(This has actually developed in a benthamian view of the human being, where human existence has value – “dignity” – only in relation to the utility it brings to some group of people)

Of course, as all the post-modern views, also the one about friendship is wrong and self-serving. Imbecility – the concept most useful to interpret post-modernism, applies also in this case (imbecility in its etymological sense, i.e., sine baculo, that is, without a walking stick).
The special lameness that originated the current theory of friendship is the baseness of the academic environment. The moral climate of academia is such that betraying or reviling friends is common. So it’s just normal for such a kind of people to conceive the convenient theory that friendhsip doesn’t exist, it is only lust in disguise.

This silly theory notwithsdanding, friendship has a great value if one leads a celibate life, and not as a sublimation of sex and not only for companionship, but because the intellectual, spiritual and emotional affinity of friendship is more fulfilling of the sexual satisfaction and companionship of sex-based relationship. Real friendship is more enduring and durable of purely sexual relationships.

So Tushnet’s view on vowed friendship is not unfounded. Whoever has an understanding of true conjugal love, knows that such love has many similarities with committed friendship, although they are two different things (and here I warn the clever post-modernists: keep your smarts for other things: the similarities have nothing to do with sex).
Therefore Eve Tushnet’s stance – at least as I understand from this review, while I wait to learn more from the actual book – makes real sense.
Also because, let’s be honest, sex is overrated.

#32 Comment By Damoj On February 8, 2015 @ 1:47 am

It’s still amazing to me that people quote the King James Bible and insist on absolute literalism of a translation.

Attempting to reduce the essence of christianity into a list of rules is a way to avoid the difficultly of living up to the demands of “loving others as you love yourself.” By reducing christianity into cultural practice and taboos, the meaning of the faith is lost, and the full ramifications of that are profoundly unknown.

Since love one another as if they were you is to be the whole of the law and apart from the (old) law sin lies dead, anyone who shows indifference to other christians and tries to exclude them from the christian community is committing the same sin as the early judaizers. Trying to split the community over peripheral cultural practices that can be expressed benignly is not a christian attitude, even if you try to find scraps of scripture that seem to offer convenient support for the values you were raised with.

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc On February 8, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

“Can one be a Christian prostitute? Ask Mary Magdalene.”

First, there is no evidence that Mary was a prostitute. None.

Second and I think this addresses most of the objections. For people whose belief system is rooted in scripture, there just is not much room for debate. One cannot knowing engage in sinful conduct and claim that God condones it. That turns God against himself and I think it is clear that is not the case.

Third, “I would say that you should do some research but types like you only accept the “science” that supports their own narrow-minded views.”

I am unsure what ‘narrow mindedness: has to do with it. either there is evidence that it is biological or there is not. To date, no evidence exists. In other words, there is not a scintilla of evidence that this is a natural rooted state, initiated by one’s biology. If anything the evidence contradicts the matter. What is more fascinating is the research which recounts that men in their later years, reverts to traditional relationships with women. And that research are the findings of those who supported the biologic stable steady state theory.

And what is more telling is your response. You make a personal attack as opposed to providing the body of research to support what you claim to be true.

And if such evidence could be found, my position would remain the same because, the question is centered on Christian faith, as opposed to any other existentialist view. So for the Christian, in my view — narrow minded or not — one cannot engage in any sinful activity and claim it is condoned by Christ. Your comments about evolutionary dynamic of such behavior is speculative narrative, at best, no evidence supports it. It is always interesting when someone makes the claim that a suggested possibility is in fact scientific fact. You are in fact making up the science the researchers are not claiming.

Your last comment makes no sense. We are not talking about the secular treatment of this behavioral choice. We are talking about it in relation to Christ.


“There are even physical characteristics that strongly correlate to sexual orientation.”

Birds breath air
Humans breath air
Birds are humans

There is a correlation that both species breath air other than being animals one does not lead to the other.

Suggestion is not proof — its one of many possible dynamics none of which are related by evidence. And fails utterly in a cause and effect dynamic.

#34 Comment By NGPM On February 10, 2015 @ 7:50 pm

From what I have gathered, the discourse of Ms. Tushnet fails to add anything constructively original to this ongoing firestorm for the simple reason that she refuses to rise above the obfuscationism of the Queer Theory lobby: the terms “gay” and “homosexual” are not clearly defined at the outset.

Consequently, “gay” can mean anything from “sexually attracted to members of the same sex” to “having experimented sexually to members of the same sex” to “identifying openly as having a mostly or exclusively same-sex-oriented sexual complex and as a member of the [loosely] defined ‘community’ thereof, affirming the healthiness of these attractions (and possibly of the impulse to act on them).”

This is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, it allows for easy straw men to be set up by the simple strategy of double-entendre. The minute anyone objects to the notion of “gay and Christian” in the latter sense mentioned above, opponents will seize upon this opportunity to denounce Christians for excluding a whole subset of people who can be defined in the first or second sense. (On the other hand, “gay rights” activists should be aware that playing the obfuscationist card is a very risky business indeed – it builds their case on what is in the long term an untenable foundation of sand.)

Second, by avoiding clear definitions, we can avoid pondering and sorting out the truly objectionable from the benign. But then we come up against a hopeless contradiction: if in Christianity sexual activity between two members of the same sex is forbidden, how can and why would any truly benign activity attempt to usurp the qualifier, “homoSEXUAL”?

Lastly, while Ms. Tushnet does (to her great credit) seem to have come a long way in her intellectual, spiritual and emotional journey, her advocacy for a renewal of Adelphopoiesis on the basis of meeting “emotional needs” parallel to those met by matrimony is a non-starter.

For one thing, Christians have never taught that marriage is *primarily* meant to serve individual emotional needs. For another, Adelphopoiesis no less than marriage often had political implications in a world in which precarity was widespread and fraternal and familial alliances were closely related to or synonymous with, by necessity, diplomatic, economic and military alliances.

Finally, Catholics, Orthodox and other Apostolic Christians have never regarded Adelphopoiesis even in its small-s sacramental form as a big-S Sacrament per se, unlike marriage. It lacks the same intrinsically and literally vital character.

So to simplify: can someone with uncured same-sex attractions be a good, practicing Christian? Absolutely. Can one who has committed the sin of sodomy or it’s related species of lust, even after conversion, find forgiveness and healing? YES, YES and YES! No matter how many times one stumbles? ****YES!!!!****

But… is there any justification within a Christian paradigm to attempting to paint “gay” to “straight” as “black” is to “white,” even accepting the loosest definition of the former? No. Not so long as we accept the traditional Church understanding of the primary purpose of human sexuality, and the fact that homosexual acts preclude the real primary purpose both literally and in symbolic form.

#35 Comment By Deb On February 13, 2015 @ 7:02 pm

You can be Christian and do anything you want, after all Christianity is just one of the religions practiced today, like Catholic,Jewish,and Methodist,Church of G-d,Church of Christ. All are denominations… by man , Not G-d…There is only one true way… Yeshua told us the way,but when you accept that way, live like him, No Sin.repentance, and sexual sin is against G-d,Your body is the temple of G-d.and Yeshua told everyone he healed ,everyone he helped, what?? to “GO AND SIN NO MORE!

#36 Comment By Ron Pavellas On December 11, 2018 @ 2:31 am

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
I agree with Daniel Coxon: “The amount of time and energy devoted to this topic is beyond inordinate.”
All this conversation demonstrates to me how fundamentalism under any religious flag leads to a negation of life.