Faith and Fetish: Conservative Christianity’s Obsession with Gay Sex

Faith and Fetish: Conservative Christianity’s Obsession with Gay Sex

Sex is not a dirty word. Or at least, that’s what they taught me in junior high. My homeschooled evangelical self hadn’t given much thought to the forbidden topic. It just kind of went without saying that sex was something only a married man and woman could enjoy, and no one—I mean no one—ever brought it up. But I remember feeling so relieved when I received clarification that sex is not a dirty word; it’s only what people do with sex that’s wrong.

I had gotten the sex talk a few years previously. “Humans make babies this way,” they told me. “It’s great, but whatever you do, never have sex before you’re married.” But junior high was also the time when other kids started asking me if I was “an ass or tits kinda guy.” I could only laugh it off; these kids have no idea. Then I graduated to “big boy” Sunday school with the rest of the teenagers, and it was important that the guys always sit on the front row, and the girls behind. Don’t touch the opposite sex. And don’t be gay.

It’s no secret that society rejects its queer: 92% of LGBTQ+ youth in America describe hearing negative messages about their identity. Yet despite the rigid anti-gay stance of evangelical Christianity, the facts tell us that being religious and being queer are not mutually exclusive. Of self-identifying LGBTQ+ adults, almost 60% identified as religious, 48% of those identifying as Christian of some sort according to a 2013 study. My story corroborates these facts: my entire life I had to hide my true (bisexual) self from the world for fear of rejection.

I remember hearing many sermons about the Levitical abomination: the Old Testament Law forbade one having “sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman” (Leviticus 18:22). This prohibition forms part of a laundry list of sexual deviances practiced by the Caananites, a pagan, Semitic-speaking people group of the ancient near East. Yet there was no room for love when the pulpit proclaimed hellfire and brimstone for the “detestable” homosexuals. One couldn’t possibly love Jesus and also love a person of their same sex or gender. Gay people were not allowed to exist in my church—they had committed the unforgivable sin about which no one could bring themselves to speak. Secretly, however, the church was obsessed with gay sex.

We normally think of fetishes in a sexual context, but they’re equally as prevalent within evangelicalism, especially when it comes to same-sex relationships. When Obergefell vs. Hodges legalized gay marriage nationwide, the pastor at my church decided to preach on the impossibility of same-sex love in a Christian economy. The hyper-obsession with the “unclean, unnatural” (words actually used in his sermon) sexual act overrode any notion that a human being could fall in love with someone of their same sex or gender. Evangelical obsession with the act of sex outside a heterosexual relationship gives it undue power in church circles to demonize, mistreat, and excommunicate gay Christians.

Humans have sex for all kinds of reasons—same-gender sex included—but fetishizing the gay act fails to take into account the science which tells us that humans are sexually oriented towards a multiplicity of desires along a spectrum. And it also fails to consider the biblical narrative as a whole. Evangelicals also turn to Romans 1 to justify their discriminatory behavior towards the “sin” of gay identity: in the context of idol worship (the same context within which Leviticus operates), the bible describes varying sexual practices including same-sex sexual encounters as “reprobate” (Romans 1:17-19). The church in this manner justifies their exclusion of gay people from their communities and from God’s love by overly emphasizing the freakishness of gay sex.

But just a few chapters over, after re-hashing the old law, Paul makes practical application for New Testament times, saying that “whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10). There is a marked difference between lust and love—the Bible condemns only one of these things.

But when the act of two same gendered people having sex is fetishized and abhorred as the most deviant perversion of human sexuality, the parties involved cease to be regarded as human and become execrated objects to be disposed of. Gay people are thrown away from their communities for being honest with the world about their capacity for love. It is understandable that different churches take different stances on same-sex relationships, but it is inexcusable that any entity claiming the name of Christ would treat their gay brothers and sisters in such a reprehensible way.

Human relationships are beautiful yet messy: we are built for companionship and community yet often fail to fulfill our duty to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is true no matter one’s sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Being a Christian is not about not being gay—it’s about letting love change our broken hearts and our cutthroat world. It is time to abandon our fetish with the sex life of the other and focus our energy instead on loving all of God’s children—gay, straight, and everything in between.

Camilo Castro.JPG

About the author: Camilo is an artist from Houston, Texas. You can find him at the water's edge with a mug of coffee in hand.

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