The Question of Celibacy for Gay and Lesbian People

UPDATE: I am happy to announce that the publisher WB Eerdmans has offered me a book contract! Since some material from my blog series on same-sex relationships will be incorporated into that book, understandably, I had to remove certain posts from the web, including this one on celibacy. However, the response to my blog series was very positive. Many people found that it explained the issues in a way they had not heard before, while also being very accessible to the everyday reader. The working Table of Contents for my upcoming book is below. Stay tuned for updates on when it hits the shelves. This is a book that will change the conversation on same-sex relationships.


  • Preface
  • The Church’s Response to the Gay Community: A Brief History
  • Same-Sex Relations in Ancient Jewish and Christian Thought
  • Key Arguments in Today’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships
  • What Is Ethical? Interpreting the Bible Like Jesus
  • The Question of Celibacy for Gay and Lesbian People
  • Is it Adam’s Fault? Why the Origins of Same-Sex Attraction Matters
  • Imagining a New Response to the Gay Community
  • Appendix A: Fifty Shekels for Rape? Making Sense of Old Testament Laws

6 thoughts on “The Question of Celibacy for Gay and Lesbian People

  1. Karen, I have really enjoyed this series and it has given me a lot of food for thought. I do think there is a natural follow up question– and that is the issue of children in same-sex marriage homes. While no one denies that a gay person can love a child just as well as a straight person, there is something unique brought to a child’s upbringing by having both a mother and a father. Of course society is a broken mess in this department, but should that cause us to forsake this as the ideal? Are you familiar with some of the research that has been done on this topic?

  2. Hi Laurie, thanks for your comment. The question of whether gay couples should be allowed to parent is a separate ethical question from whether gay people should be allowed to marry. I realize there is a potential connection, although not all couples choose to have/raise children).

    I think your question while important, distracts from the question at hand, which is whether life-long celibacy is humane, let alone possible for gay and lesbian people. You have to address that first. So I hope you will truly wrestle with that actual question.

    The topic of sexual ethics is vast. And we definitely need more in-depth, comprehensive conversation on this that includes both straight and gay people. The question of parenting is not just one for gay people. It also raises questions about how heterosexuals have children. For example, should heterosexual couples be allowed to employ IVF? Is it ethical for heterosexual couples to create a child through IVF that uses a donor if that means the child will not be raised by a biological parent? Is it ethical for Christian heterosexual couples to spend thousands of dollars on that procedure rather than spending that money to care for an orphan? Is it ethical to bar gay people from adoption if that means children will not have any family at all (which is, in fact, the reality).

    So, I think we need to have a broader sexual ethic on IVF that includes both straight and gay people. And we need to have a broader ethic around adoption, one that actually takes into consideration the millions of children living on the streets around the world (let alone the half million waiting for adoption in our own country). Basing ethics only on a fantasy ideal world where children are only raised by Christian heterosexual moms and dads in an intact marriage who are biologically related perpetuates violence against children by not addressing what the real needs are in our world today. Children will always be without their parents, even for no other reason than things like cancer, car accidents, etc. So, addressing the moral issues like divorce etc. won’t change the *actual* world we live in and the needs of children.

    Gay couples comprise an extremely small percentage of the population, and not even all of these raise children. Singling out this tiny group is a problem. Far, far more heterosexual people are raising children without both biological parents. Would you suggest single people cannot raise children? What about missionaries like Amy Carmichael? And all the other single women who have cared for orphans?

    Here is a good video of a gay couple who adopted four children. Watch this video and tell me if you think that what these men are doing is unethical. I pose that to you as a serious question. Do you think these men are sinning by raising these kids? And, if you don’t want these men to raise these kids, are you willing to open up your home to raise them instead? If you are not willing to adopt, are you suggesting that it is more ethical for these children to have been left in the foster care system than to be raised by couples like Rob and Reece? And no, they would not have necessarily been adopted by a heterosexual couple. Otherwise we wouldn’t perpetually have thousands of kids on the adoption list in the US that are never adopted.

  3. Thanks of the video, it’s very touching. Of COURSE, I would never say that what this couple did was unethical or sinful. I am all for adoption by anyone–gay, straight, single–who will provide a loving home for a child. I should have been more specific in my question. I am thinking about surrogacy, sperm donor babies, etc.–where a gay couple specifically bring a baby into the world in a home without a father or without a mother. Of course, I know this goes on in the single heterosexual world as well, and I am just as critical of it.

  4. Hi Laurie, one can be opposed to IVF broadly or opposed to donors for IVF or surrogacy without gay couples being singled out by virtue of being gay. IVF wasn’t created for gay people. It was created for straight people. Gay people are simply joining the existing system. So, it is a matter of having consistent sexual ethics across the board, whether straight or gay.

  5. Karen,

    One sign of a powerful rhetorician is the ability to state the other side’s case as accurately and convincingly as possible, without setting up (and tearing down) straw men. You did that so well that I wasn’t quite sure where you stood until near the end. You have given me much to think about, and I wish more people–both conservatives and progressives–would take the pains you have to interact intelligently and compassionately with those who disagree with them. Thank you for researching and writing this blog series.

  6. Thanks Cap! That is about the highest compliment a person can get when striving to be as truthful as possible by honoring the truth that each side brings to the table. Thanks for reading!

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