This week, I'm engaging a bit of a different perspective on the blog: An example of a non-affirming Christian who, through her book, Chasing Happy, is attempting to engage the gay and Christian communities from a Christian perspective.
Ann Lee Miller, an evangelical Christian, has written a novel centered on a bisexual Christian who seeks to understand his new life in Arizona. Throughout the work, Miller engages the topic in a way that seeks to genuinely love LGBTQ individuals, while maintaining a posture of learning for the religious theological questions that are surrounding the Christian church.
In my conversations with her, Miller was acutely aware that her story doesn't capture the majority of the realities for sexual minorities. Instead, she decided to focus on the realities of those closest to her life. Personally, I'm thrilled to see the discussion of gay Christian tensions addressed in such a unique manner!
Here's some of what Miller had to say:
Chasing Happy, set in two towns I’ve called home—Gilbert, Arizona, and New Smyrna Beach, Florida—took three years to write. The story springs from a deep well of emotion that early readers say they sense in Ash’s tale.
A young man in my life struggled with same sex attraction* throughout his teens. He dabbled in gay porn and felt he’d disappointed God.
Another man, long married to a woman, also struggled with this issue. He, too, was a deeply spiritual man.
I hurt for these guys and the battles they fought to obey the Bible. I ached for the guilt and shame they felt when they failed—all played out in solitary or anonymous secrecy. I admired them for bothering to fight what they believed was sin. Society all around them shifted and said they didn’t have to struggle anymore.
I prayed for them. Everyday. For years.
And because I invent imaginary people and write their stories, Ash was born. I believe in my gut that God birthed his story in me to do good.
Though I studied a stack of books on homosexuality and interviewed a slate of gay men, I’m an unlikely candidate to write a book about a guy who wrestles with same sex attraction. I am female. As early in my teens as I can remember, I had boys stamped across my pupils. I do not have a best friend or family member who is gay. I think I got the job because I’m pretty good at listening to God and I empathize with my friends who face this issue.
I care because my lovely lesbian next door neighbors are wounded and broken in so many of the same ways I am. If Jesus lived on my street, He would love to hang out with them like I do.
In the end, we are all just fractured people trying to find our way.
Not one of the men I interviewed for Chasing Happy, if given the choice, would have chosen to be attracted to his own sex. Most of them participated in the gay lifestyle. They talked about being ostracized or estranged from religious loved ones, feeling rejected by the churches they had been raised in or belonged to. They hungered for faith, but it slipped through their fingers. Some of them threw themselves into humanitarian causes instead. The men longed for an intimate, committed emotional relationship, something scarce among gay males. While they did not regret choosing to act on their same sex attraction, I sensed men who had walked away from a wreck dazed, their personal damages yet unassessed—even years after coming out.
They are lovable, likable guys, people I want for friends. Pieces of each of them inhabit the gay characters of Chasing Happy.
A number of my single girlfriends live with their boyfriends—also considered sin in the Bible. I still care about them—like the men I interviewed—even if I don’t believe they’ve chosen a healthy lifestyle. I see God as a daddy who loves people with a pure heart. His rules are to protect us, not to prohibit pleasure. I don’t pretend to know how that works out for those with same sex attraction.
I have not walked a mile attracted to women. I cannot fathom how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to change one’s sexual orientation. Nor would I choose celibacy. How can I not have compassion for people whose choices appear so much more arduous than mine?
*For those not familiar with the jargon of a non-affirming ideologies, the term "same sex attraction" is often used to identify those that affirming individuals would simply call "gay." There is debate as to the use of this term and its effectiveness in the larger matter of gay Christian inclusion.
About Ann Lee Miller
Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her blogging memoir at AnnLeeMiller.com. Over 100,000 copies of Miller’s debut novel, Kicking Eternity, have been downloaded from Amazon.