Better to Marry than to Burn
Life lessons of a loving gay Christian
The Christian bible teaches that it is better to marry than burn with erotic desires. Does this warning apply to gays as well as straights?
This article discusses the validity of trusting the Christian bible, as declared by Evangelical Protestants. Additionally, I present the notion that the warning for straight Christians is equally appropriate for gay Christians. Finally, I propose that this is yet one more biblical passage that supports gay marriages.
Let’s get started.
Trustworthiness of the Christian Bible
If you, the reader, are an Evangelical Christian, you certainly agree that God inspired the Protestant bible. Furthermore, you maintain that the biblical text is the only reliable source for proper theology and human behavior. Thus, you consider your bible to be inerrant and infallible. Furthermore, you believe that there are no verses in the bible that contradict other verses. Additionally, you hold that your bible is “plain and simple” — such that even a non-scholarly person can understand the bible’s truths. Finally, you dedicate your life to studying your bible and orienting your beliefs and practices around your bible’s tenets.
Such is fine by me. I, too, was an Evangelical Christian for 40 years. I absolutely respect your belief in the trustworthiness of the Protestant bible. Rather than debate certain bible verses, my challenge to Evangelicals is to be consistent in your practices.
“Integrity” means that all is as it should be; there is harmony between one’s beliefs and actions. Also, “what is good for the goose [i.e., you, the straight Evangelical] is good for the gander [the gay man]. Thus, this article exposes some universally applicable verses to all people. So, for all of the literalist evangelical readers, I believe these two verses should have a universal application:
If a person is unmarried, it is better to be married than to burn.” (1 Corinthians 7:8–9)
Many Evangelical Protestants view these verses as plain and simple to understand — applicable to all people across every culture and era of time.
So, let’s you and I find agreement in the “simple” understanding of those verses. First, the verses serve as a warning (i.e., bad stuff will happen to those who do not heed the advice). Second, the protagonist is all people (across culture and time) who are single (i.e., never married; once married but now are divorced; widowed).
And according to these verses, what is the “warning?” The threat is that single people will “burn.”
I suspect we all believe that the word “burn” does not imply that our physical body will be burnt by actual fire and flames. And I presume that virtually every reader is familiar with experiencing a strong desire to engage in something that is sexually erotic. Many people describe this form of lust as a magnetic pull toward engaging in the erotic — so intense that we must “give in” or we will be consumed with anxious preoccupation.
So, what (according to these verses) is our “rescue” from the excessive pull toward the erotic?
Assume the author of these verses is indeed the Apostle Paul. Furthermore, let’s assume that Paul is writing to the Christians (Jews and Gentiles alike)in Corinth. This “super apostle” (i.e., Paul) is imparting his wisdom — since he too is single and has experienced “burning.”
And Paul is admonishing his single readers to overcome their burning by becoming married.
Straight versus Gay
Bible historians often conclude that the concept of “being gay” (i.e., a natural, immutable longing for a homoromantic relationship) was not widely known in the civilization of Corinth. However, Paul would have been very familiar with a Corinthian culture wherein men engaged in anal intercourse with male prostitutes inside Corinth’s pagan temple. Corinth was under the control of Rome (and its pagan practices). Paul would have furthermore known that Roman men of stature would commonly copulate with multiple women and “straight” men — a sign of their power and virility. Finally, since Greek morals highly influenced Corinthians, Paul commonly witnessed older Greek men taking pubescent boys as their sex slaves.
So what is my point? Paul was very familiar with men having anal intercourse with temple prostitutes, plus “men of power” abusing other adult and pubescent males. Thus, Paul would condemn the abusive, horrific practices of “men lying with men” (i.e., abusive homoerotic activity) — while not addressing homoromantic relationships.
Paul would also presume a belief that humans have a “carnal” (fleshly, hedonistic) bent. Additionally, Paul states that such tendency is overcome by being in step with the Holy Spirit’s nudging to engage in virtuous activities. Finally, Paul taught that such virtues are recognized by their fruit, including love and self-control.
Additionally, Paul would not be aware of today’s category of humans known as “gay Christians.” My hunch, though, is that if Paul were mindful of gay (i.e., men with only a homoromantic capability) Christian men of Corinth who “burned,” then Paul’s advice would be universal to straights and (today’s) gays alike. I believe Paul would encourage today’s gay Christians to “marry” rather than “burn.”
Support for Gay Marriages
Paul was aware of pagan men who engaged in homosexual anal intercourse without any romantic purposes. And Paul was even familiar with such men who had learned to cease their homoerotic sexual behaviors (but not their sexual orientation). I believe such men were actually “straight” men who formerly engaged in homoerotic anal intercourse, but had ceased such behavior once they have become Christians.
Logically, then, what advice do you believe Paul would give to the straight Christian men who had formerly engaged in homoerotic anal intercourse? I propose that Paul would give these Christians the same warning that he gave to straight Christians who were struggling with heterosexual lust. Specifically, Paul would encourage both types of men to marry rather than burn with erotic desires. Thus, Paul’s advice would be identical for all.
Well, then, what was Jesus’ advice regarding gay men (i.e., men who had no sexual attraction to women — because they were “born that way”)? Jesus affirmed that for them, “it is better not to marry” a woman (Matthew 19:8–12a).
If gay men who have no sexual attraction to women should not marry women, then it would be better for them to be celibate, right? Jesus acknowledges celibacy as a legitimate choice — but only for those who “have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12c).
Jesus’ teachings seem to indicate that some men are born with an incapability to be sexually aroused by women. Furthermore, Jesus states that it is best for such men to never marry a woman. Finally, Jesus does not declare that all gay men should be celibate.
So, where does that leave the gay Christian man who is romantically in love with another gay Christian man?
Could Paul’s declaration that “it is better to marry than to burn” have applicability to straights and gays alike? I conclude “yes” — as long as the gay man is not specifically called to celibacy. And not all gay men are called to celibacy.
Unless a single man is asexual, it is normal for him to burn with erotic passions. This premise would be true for straight and gay men alike. Jesus is quoted as saying that some males are born without the capability to be aroused by females. And Jesus tells us that such men should not marry a woman if they have no erotic desires toward her. Furthermore, some men (straight or gay) have renounced marriage as an act of celibacy. However, celibacy is not the option for all men (straight or gay).
A final note to those of you who are Evangelical Protestants. You typically believe your Protestant bible is inspired by God, infallible, non-contra dictional, and applicable across culture and time. It just might be the case that you eventually come to the same conclusion as me:
It is better for a gay man to marry another gay man than burn.
Dr. Mike Rosebush is the founder/author of GAYoda and writer for Backyard Church. He has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor with nine years of counseling and mentoring thousands of gay Christian men. A short synopsis of Dr. Rosebush’s life can be found at I Lived the Most Unusual Gay Christian Life Ever. Please read the complete set of his articles here. You may contact Dr. Rosebush at firstname.lastname@example.org.