It’s hard to get a firm grasp on the supposed conflict between the evangelical concept of “finding one’s identity in Christ” and claiming a gay identity. Although the two concepts share the term “identity,” it means something different in each context. In this post, I’ll examine identity in terms of its primary meaning in from an evangelical perspective, dealing primarily with self-image and self-worth, and in my second post I’ll examine identity from an LGBTQ perspective, dealing with self-definition and social realities.
“Finding one’s identity in Christ” can best be defined as how one regards God as a significant other. While in everyday English we use the term “significant other” to talk about our romantic partners, it has a broader meaning. A significant other is any person whose opinions or beliefs help shape your self-image and self-worth. Anyone whose opinion about you is important or relevant — regardless of whether it’s true or accurate — is one of your significant others. “Finding your identity in Christ” means regarding God as the supreme, overriding significant other — the Person whose evaluation of your worth and identity eclipses everyone else’s.
This simply isn’t what a gay person is talking about when they talk about claiming a gay identity. Coming out as gay, or identifying as a “gay Christian,” is not equivalent to denying God’s role as supreme significant other. Indeed, coming out can be a crucial step in finding one’s identity in Christ, because an openly gay Christian has come to the correct understanding of God’s opinion of them, that God loves and values them regardless of their orientation. “Identifying as gay” does not, in and of itself, equate to elevating one’s orientation above God in how it contributes to a person’s self-worth.
Someone might say that they are “proud” of their orientation. But we understand that there is a difference between being proud of something and being prideful. The same distinction applies here. Just because someone says they are “proud” of their orientation or identity does not make them automatically guilty of sin. Someone can draw a false sense of self-worth from being gay, sure — but this isn’t any more or less likely than someone drawing a false sense of self-worth from any other personal characteristic: beauty, intelligence, popularity, etc.
Using the terminology “gay identity” or “identifying as gay” does not, by definition, contradict the evangelical concept of finding identity in Christ, i.e., regarding God as the supreme significant other. Don’t let the overlapping terminology cloud what’s really at issue.