Loneliness, Singleness and the Church Family

Some values evident in the original church family have been lost over the years in western culture


Rebecca McLaughlin, in her book, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion, made an observation that inspires my article today. I make references to many people, often the same people over and over again, who inspire my thoughts. I am indebted to the many serious Christian thinkers who have plowed ground that make it easy for me to walk the paths after them.

About a third of the way into the ninth chapter (Isn’t Christianity Homophobic?), she talks about loneliness and singles in the church. She strikes some real gold – some nuggets lost in our modern culture. I’m afraid that we have developed traditions over the years in the west that have plowed under values that once informed the early church.

A tradition of rugged individualism and self determination that is, perhaps, unrivaled anywhere in the world, is inbred into our American culture. Our suburban lifestyle is uniquely American, with our manicured lawns separated from our neighbors by fences and hedges. These are, perhaps, the gentrified vestiges of the farmstead claims staked by American pioneers against world, enemies and neighbors alike.

We circle the wagons today around the family unit, which has increasingly come under “attack” from secular constructs of village-raised children and re-imagined, more inclusive family structures to fit changing societal mores. These things changes have caused conservatives and Christians to double down on the traditional, American family construct.

Traditional, though, is normative, and norms change. Not more than 150 years ago families looked different than they do today. In fact, they looked a little more like the modern family than the average person might realize.

From not long after the first generations of New World immigrants came ashore, families and communities of families began to migrate, drifting south, west and sometimes north, clearing areas for homesteads. The ever changing family compositions can be traced from one decennial census to the next. Not may households remained static from one census to another.

My father, who researches genealogies, shines some historical light on the norms of the frontier movement in writing books about those migrations. From census to census to census, the story is told.

Family units were ever changing in combination of husbands, wives, children (both minors and adults). Family often included a grandparent, niece or nephew, neighbor or border. Children were born; children died; children moved away and moved back. Spouses died. They we replaced by new spouses or neighbors who helped with the children and then became spouses… or not.

One of the main challenges of doing genealogical research through the 19th Century is in determining the relationships of all the people in those from one decennial census to another and tracing the changes from decade to decade.

The Industrial Revolution began to change the composition of family units into more static and defined structures that eventually became the “traditional” American family.

What we assume to be the traditional family unit today is of relatively recent vintage. The Little House on the Prairie is more of a sentimental, re-imagining of the way it was than history. Even then, we get a hint of the interdependence of community that was much more intimate than our anemic sense of community today. This is true even with greater distance separating homesteads than a thin veil of fences and hedges distinguishing suburban lots.

The distance that separates people in modern western life, however, might as well be miles. We live as if we don’t need our neighbors, and we largely don’t even know them. Those fences and hedges might as be walls.

In that sense, the observation that McLaughlin makes reveals the back-filled soil of modern western culture that covers an ancient value that has been plowed under in the process of all those years of western development.

Continue reading “Loneliness, Singleness and the Church Family”

The Innate Sin within Us

We are all innately sinful. That is what the story of the fall teaches us.


I find something incredibly refreshing in the stories of gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ. Dr. Rosario Butterfield, David Bennett, Sam Alberry and others have had truly inspirational journeys in their Christian faith. I find unique comfort and encouragement in their stories.

With that said, I’m going to be unusually candid in this piece: I’m a heterosexual male. But that is not the candid part. I have struggled all my Christian life with heterosexual lust. That’s the candid part.

By the time I became a believer and committed myself to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in my very late teens and early twenties, I was very much a product of a society that objectifies sex, obsesses about sex and worships sex.

But, to be honest, I am not just a product of my environment. Attraction to women is innate in me. All of my life, as far back as I can remember, I have been attracted to girls. My first crushes are some of my earliest memories going back to even to preschool and kindergarten.

When I became a Christian, I began to recognize that the extent of the attraction, and the extent to which I fed the attraction, was unhealthy. In fact, it was sinful at the core. Jesus says if we even look at a woman lustfully, we have sinned.

The sin of sexual lust was ingrained deep within me. I can’t wholly blame the environment in which I grew up for the sinful lust that grew within me, though it was provoked and fed by that environment. The root of that sin grew deeply and innately from the core of my being.

I can only imagine a similar experience with same sex attraction. I understand Lady Gaga’s song, Born This Way, though I didn’t always understand it. While my heterosexual attraction is accepted and even celebrated in the world in which I grew up, my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have had to labor under a general societal distaste and disdain for their same sex attraction.

When I first heard the assertion that people are born with same sex attraction, I didn’t believe it. It defied biology. It didn’t make common sense to me. I figured it is a deviation from the way things are supposed to be. It’s nuts and bolts.

I have come to realize that maybe people really are “born that way” – like me having an innate attraction to girls as far back as I can remember. I didn’t choose it. It is the way it is.

The thing is that any unhealthy attraction that is over-indulged and idolized is sin. Any inner urging that invites me to think and act contrary to conscience and what I know and understand to be God’s desire for me, if I indulge it or act on it, is sinful. I fight the struggle every day.

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Homosexuality and the Church

What we need is for the church to have the conversation on homosexuality better.


I am a big fan of Justin Brierley’s podcast, Unbelievable! on Premiere Christian Radio in the UK. The theme of the podcast is to interview persons with different viewpoints on a variety of subjects that usually focus on some aspect of faith. Often the interviewees include a person of faith and a person of no faith. Sometimes, the interviewees are people of different faiths. The podcast that aired on November 24, 2018, included two Christians on different sides of the debate about homosexuality: How should gay Christians express their sexuality?

David Bennett “grew up in an agnostic/atheist home” but became a “conservative” Christian, while Justin Lee represents the mirror image of David’s experience. Justin grew up in “a very devoutly Christian home”.

Justin relates that he understood that being a Christian meant “taking a loving but principled stand against homosexuality” and that “being gay is a sinful choice”. He felt it was his obligation as a Christian to speak out and encourage people not to be gay. He believed that God would “lead people out of homosexuality”. He believed that homosexuality was a choice, which is what his Southern Baptist church taught.

But then, Justin came to realize that he was same sex attracted himself. In spite of praying and believing that God would change him, his feelings didn’t change. He struggled with that realization until he came to believe that same sex attraction is not a sin. Though Justin is still single, he now engages in ministry to the gay and lesbian community who he says have been left adrift by the greater Christian community.

These two men, both same sex attracted, have come from opposite shores, crossed in between, and take different positions in respect to homosexuality and faith. They engage in a very thoughtful, honest and thought-provoking conversation with Justin Brierley in the podcast.

You can hear the whole thing by clicking on the link in the first paragraph above. Meanwhile, I will summarize their divergent experiences that cross over from opposite shores below.

Continue reading “Homosexuality and the Church”