The ‘Coming Out’ of Julie Rodgers

I’ve followed Julie Rodgers for quite a while. She blogged for Spiritual Friendship between August, 2013 and October, 2014. Before that she spent a decade with Exodus International and was the keynote speaker at the final Exodus Freedom Conference in 2013. She also served in the Chaplain’s Office at Wheaton College, counselling students who were struggling with sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

On July 13, Julie resigned from Wheaton and put up a blog post that was mostly an impassioned statement about the damage done by conservative Christians to LGBT people—particularly youth—instead of finding ways to help them. She also came out in support of same-sex marriages. Her career has been a gradual movement away from a more traditional Christian approach to sexual issues and marriage toward a more gay-affirming position that culminated last week in her public endorsement of gay marriage.

Rodgers said her newly discovered sentiments are part of a developing perspective: “Though I’ve been slow to admit it to myself, I’ve quietly supported same-sex relationships for a while now…I’ve celebrated their commitment to one another and supported them as they’ve lost so many Christian friends they loved.”

She also took this opportunity to take a rather emotional stab at Christians who don’t agree with her position: “The fire I’ve come under (publicly and privately) as I’ve sought to live into the traditional ethic causes me to question whether this is about genuinely held beliefs or straight up homophobia. I say this with nothing but sadness: the kind of discrimination my friends and I have experienced as celibate gays makes me lean toward the latter.”

So for Rodgers, it is homophobia, not genuinely held beliefs, that has caused Christians—and the Christian church—to react negatively to homosexuality and, consequently, to same-sex relationships. It’s nothing but discrimination. And it’s just unloving to require people who experience same-sex attraction to remain celibate.

I have a few thoughts about this:

1. Julie Rodgers has nothing new to say, but pretty much regurgitates all the gay christian talking points that are starting to become wearisome. Her instant support from Matthew Vines and the Reformation Project puts her among the crowd whose unbiblical perspectives have been effectively refuted. She’s a little late to the gay-affirming game.

2. In her post Rodgers presents celibacy as the only option for same-sex attracted Christians. While that is the reality for some, it is also a reality that some same-sex attracted Christians have entered into opposite sex marriages despite being predominantly attracted to the same sex. This is a very practical and biblical option that she doesn’t even consider. Celibacy is not the only way that God calls Christians who struggle with homosexuality into the way of holiness.

3. Rodgers also objects that to deny same-sex attracted Christians the recourse to same-sex marriage is to consign them to a life without joy or happiness. This drives them away into either the welcoming embrace of the LGBT community or into the clutches of depression and despair. To offer celibacy as the only option for same-sex attracted Christians who cannot enter into opposite-sex marriage is cruel and unloving—a very unchristian thing to be.

Now it is true that celibacy is a difficult road. We should feel compassion for anyone who longs for marital union but cannot find it. If our approach to individuals who experience only same-sex attraction is merely to debate their views, then we do not weep with those who weep.

But the view of celibacy offered by Rodgers and others in her camp overlooks one very important—and obvious—consideration: Jesus Christ himself was a celibate man, but he was also the happiest man who ever lived. The argument that biblical faithfulness to God’s design for marriage will deny Christians with exclusive SSA the opportunity to be truly happy is simply ridiculous in light of Christ’s own example. Jesus did not marry. Jesus did not father children. Jesus laid down by himself at night. He did not have a spouse to share life with. Single people who feel strange because they aren’t married need to remember that Jesus lived that same life, and lived it well.

4. Rodgers also laments—in Matthew Vines fashion—the loneliness same-sex attracted Christians who can’t marry are destined to. But again the example of Christ is being overlooked here. He was a single man, but he wasn’t inevitably a lonely man because of it. He drew disciples to himself. He ministered to the needy and hopeless. He had close friends. And by his blood he created a family, the church, guaranteeing that all who come to him will never live alone, but will enter into a community of love and support and fellowship.

As Owen Strachan has put it so well: “This is the truth: a single man crucified for loving sinners has not only welcomed them as friends, but has joined them in marital covenant (Eph. 5:22-33). He is the head, the husband, and we follow him, the bride. All believers who are unmarried in this life will not remain so. Every day their feet hit the floor, they are one step closer to eternity, to full union with their Savior, to the furious unleashing of love that cannot be stopped and will never end. If Jesus, the son of God, could live all his days as a single person, we know that such a life must indeed be enchanted.”

5. This all leads to a related and final thought. For Rodgers and her affirming cohorts, love is something that cannot be experienced unless you are in a romantic relationship or married. Traditional Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality offers only judgmentalism and loneliness. The LGBT culture—both in its secular and its ecclesiastical versions—offers affirmation, community, and relationship. We need this love to flourish.

But this is an illusive version of human flourishing. To say that love is not complete unless one is married or in a relationship is really quite shortsighted, because it has lost sight of Christ as the one who gives ultimate meaning to life. Jesus was a single man who shared no marital intimacy or knew none of the joys of marriage.  But he knew the greatest love there is, the love of the Father, and he offers that same love to people just like you and me, sinners all, whose sins he bore on the cross.

This is what Julie—along with the entire affirming crowd—has missed. And thus they have nothing substantial to offer.

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