Chapter 9: The Case for Celibacy

This is post ten in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8

Much of what I want to say in response to this chapter I have said before.

Both LGBTQ+ persons and straight persons may be called to celibacy. It is our responsibility as the church to encourage them, love them, and care for them—as whole persons already, our siblings in Christ, our dearly beloved friends. But, as Boone says, “the vow of celibacy must begin in one’s identity,” which is not earned or chosen (121). This is exactly why we cannot force our gay friends to be celibate. If they are not called, if it is not part of their identity, then it is not the life for them. We aren’t going around insisting that certain people are called to professional ministry, why would we insist that people are called to celibacy? Calling and identity are deeply personal.

In this chapter, Boone follows Mark Yarhouse in saying that there are two “scripts that compete for dominance in a same sex attracted life: the gay script and the identity in Christ script” (123). Essentially he is arguing that a gay Christian must be sure she is more Christian than gay, and to do so by “center[ing] your identity around other aspects of your experience” besides sexuality. While indeed our belonging to Christ is at the core of our identity, it’s absurd to demand LGBTQ+ Christians to compartmentalize their lives in this way. Humans are sexual beings, and our sexuality is integrated throughout our lives and experiences. Further, nowhere in this book does Boone demand the same of heterosexual Christians. He apparently assumes that heterosexual Christians automatically have this Christ-first kind of compartmentalized identity all figured out. Surely this is not the case.

Indeed, the thrust of this chapter is for LGBTQ+ Christians to deny themselves in favor of a hegemonic, heteronormative narrative of identity that is unfair and untenable.

I’d like to again point you to this article, “Gay Celibacy is the New Ex-Gay Therapy,” in which lesbian and former chaplain at Wheaton College Julie Rodgers says, "No matter how graciously it’s framed, that message [of celibacy] tends to contribute to feelings of shame and alienation for gay Christians. It leaves folks feeling like love and acceptance are contingent upon them not-gay-marrying and not-falling-in-gay-love. When that’s the case … it’s hard to believe we’re actually wanted in our churches. It’s hard to believe the God who loves us actually likes us."

If the people we are endeavoring to love feel unwanted, we are not loving them.