The main issue for those who are gay and Christian is whether they are following Jesus, author Michael Brown says in his new book, Can You Be Gay and Christian: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality?
Christians too often have a misplaced emphasis when encountering followers of Jesus who have a same-sex attraction, Brown said Wednesday in a lecture at Family Research Council introducing the book.
"Instead of helping someone come to know Jesus and then grow as a disciple in holiness, in purity and in devotion to the Lord, we put the emphasis on becoming heterosexual, which is not where the emphasis should be," he said.
Brown has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages and literatures from New York University and teaches at a number of seminaries.
In answer to, "can you be gay and Christian?" Brown believes it depends on what is meant by the question.
"If by that you mean, can you be same-sex attracted, recognize those attractions are wrong, renounce them, not act on them, and follow Jesus? Of course," he said.
Recalling what a former lesbian told him once, he said, "God never said, 'Be thou heterosexual for I the Lord God am heterosexual.'" Rather, the Bible says, "Be holy because I the Lord your God, am holy." (Leviticus 19:2, 1 Peter 1:16).
If by "gay and Christian" one is asking whether a person can be a practicing homosexual and a follower of Jesus at the same time, Brown says, "of course not. Scripture is explicit about this."
When asked for clarification during the Q&A, Brown answered that a person with same-sex attraction can still be struggling and following Jesus. The issue is whether that person is undergoing spiritual growth and has a repentant heart.
"It doesn't mean that someone in their ignorance, or their infancy or their early stages of coming to the Lord may be engaging in wrong aspects of life and may not immediately come under conviction. Some are instantly delivered, some are instantly changed, some, for many, many years, are struggling up and down," he said.
Brown wrote the book to respond to the many churches, pastors and theologians who have argued in books and pulpits that homosexuality was not forbidden by God. The book presents counter arguments to those claims.
Though unintentional, Brown said he appreciated the fact that his book came out about the same time as Matthew Vines' God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same Sex Relationships. He hopes the coincidence will encourage more dialogue within the Church on the issue of homosexuality.
Brown also wrote the book to help heterosexual Christians better understand the struggles of their fellow Christians with same-sex attraction.
In conversations on the issue of homosexuality, Brown believes Christians should not have "sound bite answers."
"You can't fool people, people will ultimately know what's in our hearts," he said.
Brown also encourages Christians to listen to the struggles of those with same-sex attraction.
"Some grew up feeling that God hated them, or there was something wrong with them. Some grew up feeling that they could never possibly serve God because they were under God's condemnation," he explained.
Those who argue the Bible is accepting of homosexuality believe that following Jesus means accepting oneself as one is. Jesus did not call his followers to accept themselves, Brown countered, he called them to deny themselves.
Brown recalled a Christian he knew who had same-sex attraction. When asked if it were difficult to remain celibate, the man replied, "No. Jesus requires everything from all of us, and Jesus is enough for all of us."