I’m a member of a gay Christian organization in Hong Kong. Thanks to the queer theologies, I can now be sure that homosexuality is not a sin. Nevertheless, I’m now faced with another conflict. Is casual sex a sin? Can Christians go to gay saunas? What about bars/ discos/ public toilets/ gay beach? Can we go to see those sex shows in Bangkok? What about hiring a male prostitute there? Can we see porno magazines/ videos? Can I have sex with a friend or a group of friends just for fun? Where should the boundary be drawn? I’m actually quite worried, because some people in our organization are now buying into the new queer theologies proposed by people like Carter Heyward and Mary Hunt. According to those theories, they are actually embracing all sexual behaviors (including group sex/ relationship, incest, prostitution and sex with animals). In straight churches, they tend to have a set of values to follow, but here in our community, we have nothing to follow, however, somehow I believe that this doesn’t mean that we can do whatever our desires lead us. Am I right? So, what should I do and not do as a gay Christian? Looking forward to your reply.
Well my goodness you certainly have written a letter that when getting answers to these questions could cause the “shot heard around the world”. Please understand I am not making light of your questions. However, the questions you raise have been a source of debate, arguments, church splits and all sorts of nastiness for centuries. The gay community is no different in having solid answers to what you raise. However, under the ever watchful eye of the editor of this webzine, I shall try to give you some basis for formulating your own theology.
Is casual sex a sin?
In all honesty, it depends on what you mean by causal sex. Partners who have been together for years have causal sex at times. However, I assume you mean sexual encounters with people who you never intend to have a relationship with. There are some practical things to look at here. First, the question needs to be asked: Is this a causal sex encounter on the part of both parties? I say that because people seem to forget that the act of sex is more than just physical but involves powerful emotions as well. Do we when we have “casual sex” want to take on the responsibility for the other person’s feelings and what that sex act means. For example, the person you meet and think is hot, may believe falsely that the only way to get a partner in life is to go to bed with a person and show them how good they are sexually. Now I would think there is a pretty good chance they will not share that rather personal thought. Of course, now you have a problem. So you go to bed, have sex, it is good, and they are in love. That doesn’t sound very moral or ethical to me.
I would submit to you that in order to have “casual sex” it would take a great deal more honesty than one would want to share in a strictly sexual meeting.
How about this scenario: you meet someone and decide to have sex because they assure you they are not looking for anything but sex and physical pleasure. OK you say this is honest, ah but wait a second, they are in fact sexually addicted. They are having sex with anything that moves and is breathing (in most cases). They will certainly not acknowledge this challenge to a stranger and in many cases may not be yet aware of how serious their problem is. You then by participating in this act have enabled them to continue their downward slide.
So it seems to me that “casual sex” has far more disadvantages than advantages. So is it a sin? I would venture to say that 99.999999% of the time it is. Sex involves two sets of emotions, two people, and to participate in a way that is not abusive or simply exercising your own needs sex must go far beyond being casual.
Can Christians go to gay saunas? What about bars/ discos/ public toilets/ gay beach?
We may be dealing with English translation problem here. I’m going assume when you say sauna that you are referring to what is known here in America as a Bath House. On a personal level I have many problems with going to a bath. First, no matter how you slice the cake the first and foremost reason for going is to have sex. I think everything that I said concerning casual sex applies here. Further, I believe there is an even more dangerous problem — the spread of disease. Bath houses by their very nature are not about having one sexual encounter, but rather many many encounters are the rule. Each encounter increases the risk of getting something that is hardly a good payoff for a few moments of fun. Remember, even if you practice safe sex, condoms break and mistakes are made.
Public toilets? I am sorry but public sex is illegal and ought to be. Is it a sin? Yes! It is a disgusting, gross and selfish form of sexual conduct. Further, you are subjecting people to a public sex act that they may not want to see or be a part of.
I see nothing wrong in going to bars and discos. These are places of entertainment and dancing. In our community they are sometimes the only place in which we can meet safely and without fear of being bashed.
Unfortunately, they can also be a source of real trouble — drugs, alcohol to excess, gossiping and misunderstandings. One must be very sure and confident of themselves and have the ability to say no to those things which would be harmful to you.
I don’t know about gay beaches. If they are a place only to have sex then I think all that I have said before applies. On they other hand they can serve a good purpose in that they become another gathering point for meeting other gays and relaxing.
Can we go to see those sex shows in Bangkok?
OK, this is where I can see myself getting into trouble. However, I don’t think going to watch adult entertainment is a mortal sin. It is in fact entertainment but let us consider that many of the entertainers are being used, and abused. If we stop to consider just these two things I suppose it takes all the fun out of it.
Which really brings me to the foundation of your question. Once we understand and accept that we are gay it does not change the fact that we have a responsibility to do those things that bring honor and glory to God.
While there are many and varied forms of sexual practice, it must be remembered that it involves someone else other than yourself. We are taught within the Christian belief to hold our sisters and brothers in the highest respect and that our bodies are the temples of God.
When we begin to justify having sex anywhere, anytime and with anybody it makes me wonder about that person’s self worth. The act of sex, in my mind is an extension of deep feelings that you have for another person. It is a very intimate physical expression of how you feel about that person. How can this be casual or strictly for self- gratification?
If one is willing to share their body with anyone, anytime you have to ask what they really think of themselves. Maybe the question, “Is it a sin?” needs to be asked in a different way — “Does what I am about to do bring honor and glory to God and does it treat the other person as a child of God?”
I dare say, if we asked that question more often we would find that the gay community does in fact have values that they can follow.
Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever and Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994, have been in a committed partnership since the early 1980s and have been legally married since 2015.