allyship, essays, faith, guest post, queer

Raising Affirming Kids When You Weren’t Raised That Way

I’m honored to introduce you to my friend and former coworker Bekah McNeel. Bekah is an author, journalist, and podcaster (check out our episode together here!) who works tirelessly for those on the margins to have their voices heard and to bring about real change through the power of storytelling. I asked her if she would be willing to share with us her perspective on raising kids in affirming theology and modeling allyship as a parent. Read her wisdom here and then read her book, Bringing Up Kids When Church Lets You Down: A Guide for Parents Questioning Their Faith, which covers many more topics relevant to this community. 


By Bekah McNeel 

I knew before I had kids that we would be an affirming family. My own childhood in the Presbyterian Church (PCA) had not made room for queer family, friends, and neighbors, but my heart always had. Dutiful, obedient, and fearful, I regurgitated the arguments when pressed, but in my heart, I always felt a tug, a tinge of sadness, a little gap growing between the dogma I’d accepted, and what I knew love required.

Even before I reconciled the law and the Spirit in myself, I knew I would not be able to put my children in the same position—to make them choose between loving others and defending doctrine or social positions. It wasn’t just the LGBTQIA community I wanted them to freely love, but people of color and people of different faiths. In big and little ways, I’d heard the Bible weaponized against people who were not like me, if not against their personhood, at least against their social well-being. 

My journey toward affirmation—full-throated, unequivocal affirmation—is also the story of how I am raising affirming kids. I document that journey more broadly in my book, Bringing Up Kids When Church Lets You Down (Eerdmans, 2022), but in this post, I wanted to get more specific about the stepping stones that have carried my children and me forward on the issue of gender and sexuality in particular. I’m not comfortable saying this is THE way to do it, or the way YOU should do it, because how we raise kids and manage our own deconstruction/affirmation depends on the cards in the hand we were dealt, spiritually speaking. 

These stepping stones have helped me as I navigate the streams of parenthood and deconstructing a queerphobic religious tradition. They do not form a linear step-by-step pathway from nonaffirming to affirming. Like rocks in the river, my family hops back and forth between them when new dimensions of sexuality and gender challenge us, and we learn what it means to be more affirming, more loving. The stepping stones are always there to revisit when old fears and “whatabouts” pop up, as they often do for those whose formative spiritual experience was stringently nonaffirming.

I hope these stepping stones provide some help, a place to land for a moment, for others navigating the stream. 

Stepping Stone One: Relationships

No matter how affirming we become, the most meaningful stepping stone will always be relationships with people who are not like us. When I first tried to deal with the gap between love and dogma—my early 20s—my motivation was to keep my queer friends and family in my life and welcome more relationships with Christians and non-Christians. 

By “keep in my life” I do not mean that I refrained from formally breaking a relationship once a friend had come out, as though my friendship was a status that I alone could give or revoke. Intimacy is a two-way street, and for someone to want to stay in my life in a meaningful way, I have to treat them how they want to be treated. “Keeping in my life” meant continuing to offer a safe, loving, reciprocal relationship. Engaging their stories and dilemmas and longings with curiosity and solidarity. If I got weird and theologically rigid every time my cousin wanted to talk about a boyfriend, he would feel alienated, and soon would not want to share life. 

I have had to repent of the times in my early 20s when I was compelled by my ministry job to “speak truth”—usually to younger women in the ministry. I’d bought the lie that to love them meant to guide them back to orthodoxy. It makes me sad to remember those conversations, because I know they must have felt like rejection. Even in the moment, my heart would ache not over “their sin” but over the pain I myself was inflicting. I grieve the fact that I did it anyway.

But outside the ministry job, in places where people weren’t asking me to reconcile my beliefs and my relationships, things were changing quickly.

At 26, I married someone who worked in a normal office, not a church, and realized how ensconced I had been in my homophobic community and how little room that had made in my life for anything but straight people. Choosing schools, neighborhoods, and activities in the general population—places not defined by homophobia and hell-avoidance—increased the religious, racial, and sexual diversity of our friend group and continued to shine light into the darkness of the breach between love and doctrine. We continue to pursue that kind of diverse, open community with our kids, welcoming people whose beliefs and families look different from ours, and let our love for those people lead us to the next stepping stone.

Stepping Stone Two: Spirit

As a child and young adult, I’d been taught that belief was the most important thing, the criteria by which I would be judged. But given how mysterious and ironic Jesus often was, and seeing how corrupted my beliefs had been by cultural, social, and political positions, I found my church’s version of orthodoxy harder and harder to defend, especially when it showed up in the world like exclusion and cruelty. It felt like pouring water on the Spirit—the Spirit that was celebrating with those who celebrated, weeping with those who wept. I felt joy and harmony when I would follow the Spirit’s expansive internal guidance to weddings, voting, protest, and vocal support for LGBTQIA rights. As Cornel West said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” 

If pressed throughout my late 20s and early 30s, I could not say that my position was biblical or orthodox, though I was reading and exploring affirming theology. But the fact that I was choosing to own and live affirmation anyway was important. It placed love in the lead, instead of subjecting it to arguments and intellectual debate. It’s really important to be clear on this: it is not the same as being “accepting but not affirming.” It was the decision to be affirming without waiting for the knots tied by my church upbringing to fully untangle. It was a deeper decision to stop putting boundaries around love, and to walk away from the trash definition of love that still allows the church to exile queer people and people who disagree with it. This would end up reshaping my entire theology, but at the time it just freed me to love my queer friends and family publicly without caveat or distortion.

We do this with our kids as well, ask first “what does love look like?” They know sometimes it means protest, sometimes it means celebration, sometimes it means standing up for others. They don’t need us to defend this biblically, because they have never known a Christianity that would not affirm queer identity. But to do a good job of advocating and affirming with those who do believe God is opposed, it helps to have words to explain, which nudges me to another stepping stone.

Stepping Stone Three: Words 

To fully love my friends and family, I would have to find the words for an affirming theology, because the people trying to deny their rights, their healthcare, and their inclusion in the family of God like to argue. 

I also want to give my kids some good doctrine, something to lean on when they encounter the still-prevalent homophobia of our society. They’ll have good examples and data from their life, but I want them to have a faith that aligns with that.

So I did the work. I started by trying to argue the few “clobber verses” used by Christians to exclude queer identity and love from the family of God. It can totally be done—plenty of biblical scholars have done it. But for me, the clobber verses weren’t my only collision with biblical inerrancy, and the final untethering of my mind, the unwinding of those knots tied so tightly in childhood, would not come until I had reached a different understanding of how Scripture actually works, what the Bible actually is, and the role of the Holy Spirit in applying ancient words to modern times. 

I’m more comfortable saying, now, that the writers of Scripture were doing their best to understand God and to live as God’s people. They were telling stories and catching glimpses that are helpful to us today as we do the same. But they didn’t always go as big and inclusive with God’s kingdom or God’s values as they would in the future (Hello, Gentiles! Hello, women! Goodbye, slavery!). I understand the role of canonization better, what is lost in the institutionalization of religion. 

So when I am talking to myself, that part of me that still brings up old arguments; this is the doctrine we discuss. When I talk to either “concerned” evangelicals in my life or to my own kids, I don’t have the burden of biblical inerrancy hanging over my head. With those who want to argue, this quickly changes the debate—and frankly, makes them more concerned for my soul than my social positions. With my kids, it opens up more conversation, another stepping stone, one specific to raising kids. While the other stepping stones help me deal with my internal work, and then my public-facing affirmation, the fourth stepping stone is specific to the work of formation, something parents are called to do with their children. 

Stepping Stone Four: Conversations

When I was a kid, anything other than cisgender, heterosexual identity was sinful. Simple. No discussion necessary. But when you do away with that simplistic write-off, things get more complicated. We have to help our kids work out their own identity, understand the world they live in, and process the differences between people as something that is not “good vs. bad” but beautifully complex. 

Some have argued that if they grow up not hearing anything bad about queer identity, then kids will be automatically affirming, and they won’t struggle to come out themselves if they are queer. I think we have to be explicit, because the world is explicit. I think kids process differences in not-always-prosocial ways and they need guidance. But that doesn’t mean they need “the talk.” I think it means lots of little conversations in the context of our hops back and forth between the other stepping stones: relationships, Spirit, and words. 

At dinner one evening, my cousin and his husband welcomed questions from my kids about how a family worked with two dads. There was no question of whether it was okay, but there were practical questions. Was it possible to have babies? How did they know whose shoes were whose? My cousins, who have been together for decades, consented to answer these questions in the genuinely curious spirit they were asked and were gracious when my kids acted like kids. We coached them as well, helping them understand the difference between curiosity and judgment. It was uncomfortable, but there was love there to get us through.

 When our friend came out as nonbinary, we talked to our kids about the mechanics of their identity, the pronouns, the ways gender might be expressed. We did this before our friend joined us on a family vacation, knowing that it was most loving if we did the explaining ahead of time. It was confusing at first for the kids. But since we have taught God as neither male nor female, there was no question of right and wrong. Just adjustments.

Learning these things in the context of relationships—not as abstract “some people”—has been helpful, because they are learning more about people they already love. We also discuss the queer characters in books and movies and ensure that we are doing our part at home to answer questions that could be hurtful or uncomfortable for the people in our lives. We also try to be wise when our kids need to understand that not everyone loves the LGBTQIA community. If they don’t understand this, they will not be able to be in true solidarity with people whose rights are still very much contested. (We live in Texas, so I mean, like REALLY contested.) 

But there’s a difference between bringing our kids into a doctrinal debate—to deconstruct something that was never constructed for them in the first place—and preparing them to advocate for love in their unjust world. 

When I’m talking to my kids about the rainbow flag in our neighbor’s yard, I’m really not concerned with what arsenokoitai means. We talk about all the people we know and love who are represented by that flag. But when my daughter wanted to wear a “free sister hugs” shirt with a rainbow flag on it to a Christian event, I went ahead and told her that there would be people there who might ask her questions or challenge her. I let her decide if she wanted to take on the advocacy that day and offered to help her figure out what she would say in response, starting with love. 


Thanks, Bekah! More resources for parents can be found on my Queer Christian resources list.

essays, faith

Voice of the box

Last week when I wrote here about Barbara Brown Taylor’s EF podcast episode, I had no idea that this week’s episode was also going to be so relevant to that post, so we’re doing this two weeks in a row. I used the metaphor of a child’s toy that comes with shapes that correspond to holes in a box. So did Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes in her 2019 Evolving Faith conference talk featured in this week’s episode! It was a perfect part 2 to that topic. She follows up on that moment of recognition and grief over how tired we are of “being good instead of being alive” with a crucial question:

Who told you that you had to fit?

She describes herself as “an ill-fitting Christian. A square peg trying to fit into a round hole, each of the angles representing the diverse religious traditions that shaped my understanding of the Divine.”

Sounds familiar!

But the key is that she doesn’t end there. As Sarah and Jeff discuss at the end of the episode, Jeff says, “For some of us coming to a message like Chanequa’s, the grief of this is that we once did fit and we once really did belong. But for others of us, we’ve never fit and we’ve never belonged, perhaps because of some indelible aspect of our identity. And then there are the folks who have had both experiences.”

I’ve been both and more. In some ways, I used to hold the same views or labels or things in common with others, and we both moved apart. In other situations, they didn’t know or didn’t understand the full extent of my differences because I tried to force myself to fit as part of something bigger. Agreeing to disagree on things that I just didn’t want to be alone in. Not wanting to cause drama or conflict, not wanting to rock the boat or be The Problem. So many times, I didn’t push back or dare to share my real self because it would have risked the relationships I was desperate to hold on to. I chose to lose parts of myself, to silence myself into goodness and compliance, rather than shatter under the ache of grief, exclusion, loneliness, fear, and depression. The catch, of course, is that those were just magnified later with the more I lost and the more people I convinced I was someone I wasn’t to earn their approval.

In still other ways, I’ve had to pick my battles to keep collaborating and doing work together with people who held different views than I did. I believed in the overall cause or shared values or was left without a better-fitting team when no one else was doing the work, so I had to fit into what I had available to me to get the job done. To some degree, these things are healthy and just part of living peacefully together in a society or group.

But there are some parts of me that were never going to fit and I wasn’t welcome to try. Some parts that others don’t even let you in the door if they know about. Today, at this moment, my inclination is “good riddance. I wouldn’t want to be part of their number anyway if they think like that.” But inside, a smaller, quiet, wounded voice says, “Yes, but wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t think that way? Wouldn’t it have been lovely if there weren’t these barriers for entry or exclusionary signs at the door and they wanted all of the facets of you, not just the ones they identify with?”

Jeff goes on to hit on a (literally therapeutic) point for me: Chanequa “knows the goodness of those facets. She is rooted in their richness. And I wonder whether the knowledge of that goodness, that rootedness, is what could open you up to new possibilities for relationship. You’re not looking for affirmation or acceptance or approval in the way that perhaps you might have before because you don’t need it.”

Sarah adds: “You’re abiding in your belovedness.”

It feels like a bit of a cruel trick that the answer to finding the connection and belonging we are wired to desire is to stop working so hard to get them. To know all the parts of you are already good while also not needing that knowledge imparted constantly through others’ validation. Again, as an Enneagram 3, I am quite good at (there’s that word again!) being good enough, holding up that measuring stick to myself, trying to see if I fit into a shape in the box and, as Chanequa says, wondering how much of myself I lose when I do so. Achieving and approval seeking and looking for affirmation have a reason behind them, and that reason isn’t vanity or ego or selfishness. It’s loneliness. It’s “fitlessness” as Chanequa calls it. It’s that search for belovedness and belonging.

So to hear and know that what it takes is to stop, to be still, to not need it, to accept ourselves and belong to our whole stories… that is both beautifully freeing and incredibly discouraging. I am powerless to engineer belonging. My belovedness doesn’t give me a way of certainty and control outside of vulnerable concepts like trust and faith. Even writing it, part of me doesn’t really believe it. Surely, what I need is a better strategy, to just say and do the right thing to achieve the right numbers so others will see me and love me and invite me into belonging? No?

The implication between the lines of “who told you that you have to fit?” is “the voices telling you this are likely not voices you should heed.” The key here being that we don’t only grieve the ways we have lost our belonging or been denied it altogether, but that we see the goodness in our various parts. We must hear a different voice that tells us who we are, where we belong, to whom we are beloved—as our whole selves, without shame and fear and masking our unwelcome angles.

Abiding in authenticity, with all the good, beautiful, beloved angles of our shape.

essays, faith

So far, so good

The new season of the Evolving Faith podcast debuted this week! I’m so excited for you all to see what this community has up its sleeve for this year. We start off with a bang from the ever-wise Barbara Brown Taylor, revisiting her talk from the 2019 EF conference.

She has this quote in there:

I’m thinking about how tired a tame Christian can get. Tired of self-censoring, tired of swallowing the questions that matter most, tired of putting more energy into being good than being alive.

That line in particular hit me hard. Thus far in my life, I have ultimately been preoccupied with that goodness. Not just the goodness in a sense of being right or moral, the way an Enneagram 1 might, but in the sense of the Enneagram 3. Is this good? Is it meeting your expectations? Is this okay? Am I doing it right? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Is this what you want from me? Is this what we’re scripted to do and be and say? At the root of these is the question of worthiness and earning, achieving belonging by measuring up, adhering those ever-shifting standards of what is expected and required and demanded by a society that rewards those who win at its games.

And some of the games, a few, I can be so good at. I play until I am exhausted. So tired, as Taylor says, of all my energy going into my efforts to hold back and to not be obnoxious or too much, to silence myself.

I do, sometimes, need to silence myself. To exhibit tact and self-control, an overlooked fruit of the spirit. I do need to listen more and center myself less, to plug in to empathy and pass the mic. But I don’t think that’s what this is about.

This is the goodness-instead-of-being-fully-alive decision point. The part where we choose to grit our teeth and nod along, prioritizing approval over authenticity. To “lop off any part of ourselves that falls outside the lines,” as Taylor says in her talk. We try to force belonging and it becomes fitting in, fitting into the box at any cost, even when we have to leave some parts behind.

Of course, there will always be some parts of ourselves that get more airtime in certain spaces or relationships. But what is it costing us when we have to hide entire parts of who we are in our churches, homes, families, friendships, workplaces, and communities because the standard of goodness is a different shape than the shape we occupy?

We are tired. So tired. It’s not always our choice, and for that, we grieve. We grieve for when it is the only choice, and for when it is the best bad option available to us. We grieve for when others can’t see our belovedness and for when we can’t bring ourselves to face it in the mirror.

Taylor says grief sets us on a path to “embrace the full terrain of living.” Fullness beyond goodness. Fullness beyond looking around for confirmation we’re doing it right. Fullness beyond holding back in fear and inauthenticity for the sake of fitting a hole in a box like a child’s toy, made for simple shapes to be granted entry. Stars in the star spot, big hearts in the big heart spot, even ordinary squares in the spot for ordinary squares. And perhaps we’re something else entirely, not simple or familiar to those making the rules of the box.

Or, for a more lively metaphor: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could thrive like wildflowers, decadently ourselves in whatever ways we have the capacity, instead of pruning ourselves back into neat little rows of acceptability and shame and control and the kind of goodness set by those trying to sell us our belovedness in numbers?

There are the numbers of control all around us, from our bodies to our bank accounts, from our square footage to our rank on the ladder, from follower count to test scores. No wonder we are so, so tired. Measuring tape at every turn, held up to determine the size of our lives, whether our shape fits the box’s hole, whether the dimensions we are growing in are acceptable.

You’re not crazy. It’s not just in your head. It’s not all your fault. And sometimes you may not have a choice. But together we can dream of the fields across the terrain where we can throw on our brightest colors, grow in abundance, thrive, and put our energies into being our full selves, fully alive and free.

wildflowers
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com
essays, faith, Mental health, queer

For those whose bodies are policy issues

Today, there is much discussion on embodiment, what it means to show up in a space as your full self, and to be present in your body wherever you are. The topic du jour, in particular, is church attendance. Can we experience the “real” church online?

This got me thinking about how if you’re going to talk about embodied presence, you need to be aware of what it means for someone to show up in their marginalized body, whether in a physical or online space. The risks it takes and the emotional cost it demands.

Continue reading “For those whose bodies are policy issues”
essays, faith

Homesick

Homesickness is a funny kind of illness. It sort of hurts all over. In your throat when someone asks the wrong question at the wrong time. In your lungs when a reminder of what you’ve lost takes your breath away. In your core when there’s the gut-punch of knowing what you long for may never come to pass. There’s a desperation to it, when hope and grief intertwine into an ache.

Someday, we know, someday, as our seasonal songs tell us: “The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.” Another tells us, “Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother! And in his name all oppression shall cease!”

Luke 21:25-36 tells us to be on guard, for your redemption is drawing near. But we wait, we long for the time when all shall be made right, when there will be no more tears or death, no more oppression, or haves and have-nots, no more pandemics or natural disasters or injustice… when the upside-down Kingdom of God comes on earth as it is in heaven.

We wait. We hope. We long, with the deep groaning of the Spirit within us when words fail. It hurts, God. Life hurts so much.

Sometimes what hurts is that we know we don’t belong here, not forever. We were made for the Garden, for full communion with God, but here on earth? It’s easy to wonder if God is real at all. And if he is, what are we doing down here? Sometimes we look around and we see so much wrong with the world and feel so disconnected from the people in it, we might feel like we’re almost aliens, that we don’t belong here.

I know what it feels like to be deeply rooted in a place that just doesn’t feel like home. I know what it is like to be new in town, to not know a single soul in my city, over and over as I have moved across the country. I know what it’s like to be Too Much or Not Enough, to feel like an outsider. As a queer woman, I know what it’s like to wonder if I’m the only one or if there is someone out there like me, to be different in a room where everyone else fits in, to have people disagree with unchangeable parts of my identity. To be told I don’t belong and never will.

Those places don’t feel like home. Those places can make the world not feel like home.

These old places promise they will feel like home if only we change who we are, if only we turn away from God’s call on our lives to be more palatable, to be their definition of successful or holy or perfect. Drunk on our own power and consumed with the worries of this life.

It is a lie. The harder we try to be something we’re not, the more the ache grows.

And yet! And yet, we’re not idle in our waiting for the coming of our Lord. Our homesickness doesn’t freeze us into inaction. We move forward, serving and befriending, loving and being loved. Creating a makeshift home for the homesick.

We stand as greeters at the exits from those aching places, instead ushering all who long for true belonging out into the wilderness, outside the strict boxes for what constitutes “fitting in.” If you are done contorting yourself to fit in, if your homesickness is eating at you, longing for a better world, come. Come to the tables in the wilderness and join the preparations for the feast of anticipation.

And so we wait, homesick for a place we have always known but never been, filled with the ache of longing, but lonely no longer in the communion of saints before us and with us and to come. We are not alone in our waiting.

Our hearts may break as we look to the empty skies, and we cry “How long, Oh Lord?” but our homesickness, our grief intertwined with hope for a coming day, doesn’t keep us from calling out to our fellow misfit neighbors to wait with us in the wild places, the places we can belong as our true selves, in a hint of the freedom and glory that is to come. We are called into belovedness, into Kingdom-belonging. Take a stand and raise your heads! Our redemption, our King, is drawing near. 

This was originally written for Redlands United Methodist Church, November 28, 2021.

faith, Poetry

The Remodel

Photo by Kelly L on Pexels.com

Deconstruction not as in Derrida

But baseboards pulled gently,

Carefully, finished by small hands

Decades long past



Cabinet doors stacked on the floor

You never know what you’ll reuse

Standing back, hands on hips

Deep in imagining


Burn the shoebox of him

and loss and the road not taken

Except the teddy bear

You place to the side.


 

Fill up the bags of clothes and sheets

Cry as you pull in to the shelter

Hand over the memories

Hoping it will help 


a fresh start

To begin

That’s what we need

To tear it all down and click Refresh

Deconstruct every assumption

The sofa’s never been over there

What if we let some light in

Build a shelf for the keepsakes


Some porcelain smashed and an exhale

Some wrapped to store away

No longer on display

But part of you all the same


Grateful for what brought you here

But not caged by it

Hammers to demolish

and to drive the tiny nail


20-odd years and it’s time for change

Ideas and patterns

The fabric that holds you,

Shades in the colors of life


Each brick and paving stone 

Handled one by one

Reconsidered and examined

To determine its place


What if, what could be

What has been here all this time

And you didn’t even know it

Growing resilient new life


Who would have thought

Destruction could be this

This beautiful, this curious, 

This wonder-full

After, when you’re covered in sheetrock

And you’ve cried it out 

And the tarps cover the floor

It begins. Hope.

Stand up from the bathroom floor

And you see it in the reflection

What if… What if that were there

Pieces fall into place


One day, home looks familiar again

Different, so much different

But more you, somehow, 

More who you’ve always been.

You’ve become. 

Now that it’s in motion, unraveled

It keeps going

Evolving


Deconstructing and reconstructing

Not as in podiums and dusty studied texts

But as a heart pumps blood,

As the soul beckons you home. 

faith, queer, resources

A prayer for a misused name/pronoun

By Rev Naomi Miller, Church of the Apostles, Guelph. Thank you, Rev. Miller, for letting me share this here!

Image description: As we celebrate Pride Month, it may be that someone you know and love has asked you to address them by a new name, or to speak about them using different pronouns. These changes in language can be difficult–especially because so much of our relational language is gendered. Mistakes happen. And trying (again) matters. God so often calls people by name. And throughout scripture, names have special significance. To call someone by the correct name is an act of love, as is using correct pronouns. When we get it wrong, advice from transgender advocates is: Don’t make it about you and how hard it is to change. Just apologize, correct, and carry on. Then practice, and get it right next time.

O God,

You know me by my name.

You know <name> by <pronoun> name.

Let the words I use when I speak to <name> and about <pronoun> show my love for <pronoun>.

asexuality, essays, faith, queer

Side A. Celibate. Asexual. Queer.

Asexuality is not the same as celibacy. Lots of asexual people do have sex. Asexuality is about attraction, not behavior.

I am also celibate. I consider this a calling in the sense that God made me sex-averse intentionally and for a reason.

Not all asexual people are sex-averse.

My understanding of this vocation is different from those who typically get the microphone in regards to celibacy, talking about a traditional understanding of what gay people must do with their sexuality to be “orthodox.”

I’m Side A. How does this work?

Celibacy should be for those who are personally called to it. It should not be in any way related to your orientation. Straight, bi, pan, queer, ace, gay, whatever… you can be called to celibacy.

Important: This also has nothing to do with anyone else. It’s you and only you.

Side A theology doesn’t reserve any specific restrictions on any orientation. We are all one in Christ Jesus and each individual part of Christ’s body has its own calling. This is why I’m all over the podcast land as a celibate ace telling you to create your own sexual ethic.

Can you be Side A and celibate? YES. There is no sexual liberation without the choice not to have it. Side A doesn’t mean you personally feel called to have sex. It means the Bible is fully affirming of queer relationships and identities including the choice to have sex. Or not!

If anyone tells you you have to be Side B if you’re called to celibacy, here is your sign that that’s a lie. It’s about belief and biblical interpretation. Not behavior.

Stuff like this is why the church needs asexual leadership. We have the vocabulary for this. We need more Christian aces affirmed and heard. We need the church to understand the difference between attraction, behavior, desire, and vocation. Aces can lead. We’re worthy and called.

Remember: We aren’t new. Just erased. Just today I ran across a blog on a queer Christian website acknowledging asexuality as a queer orientation. It was written 21 years ago. We’ve been here. You just haven’t been listening or haven’t had the opportunity because of gatekeeping.

We’re in your churches. We may not know the label (though that’s changing as awareness grows), but we’re there. We might be partnered. But some of us are happily single, and we might be celibate and/or sex-averse. And we have words to describe that array of sexuality and desire.

Give aces a voice and you’ll discover so many keys to this beautiful diversity of God’s kingdom. We can help those called to celibacy and unite in our common goals. We can support singles who need help accepting their vocation to singleness.

We also face queerphobia, often recycled arguments used against bi or pan or gay and lesbian people are used against us, right here on this website every damn day and in churches and elsewhere.

Asexuality is so difficult to see because it is not only against traditional understandings of sexuality (heteronormativity) but also against the assumptions that we can sub in different genders into that traditional understanding (all have sexual attraction = allonormativity).

Asexuality is compatible with the Bible (and so is celibacy) but runs counter to “traditional Christian teaching” that emphasizes being created for heterosexual marriage, aka a lifelong sexual relationship, implying that God gives everyone attraction. So while asexuality and celibacy aren’t the same, we do have shared history.

Theology that only says same-sex marriage is ok without seeing vocational singleness and/or celibacy as holy too is missing it just as much as those who demand celibacy is the only “orthodox” answer for queerness. Both are missing the parallel diversity the ace community provides.

(Meaning that for centuries, asexuality has had to work out whether it is only for those not interested in the acts of sex, behavior, or for anyone without attraction, regardless of behavior. We landed on the latter in recent years. More on this elsewhere.)

So do I need Side A theology for my “pet sins”? Am I just capitulating to the culture to sleep with whoever I want? Am I Side A because celibacy is too hard? Am I going along with sexual trends of “the world”? Nope. I’m ace, single, and celibate. But I’m Side A because I’ve seen the good fruit when everyone is allowed to live out their own unique, God-given identities and vocations and behavior. Asexuality is a form of queerness that reveals anything is possible when we discard the narrow roles normativity would place on us.

So don’t devalue my calling by claiming it’s tied to orientation. Don’t perpetuate myths about asexuals by claiming it’s just “not having sex” or the same as celibacy. That’s not it. But aces and celibate people do have a lot of overlap and goals in common. It’s time to work together, fully affirming each other’s callings.

More on asexuality here.