Originally published by The Washington Post on March 16, 2016
So if I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, does that mean I get to take you out for a drink? ;)
Since reactivating my OkCupid profile two months ago, I’ve received dozens of messages mentioning my religion.
My identity as a Christian is important to me, so I let potential suitors on the Internet know that if they wanted to go to brunch on Sunday, it would have to be after 11 o’clock Mass.
However, most of my potential dates — whether we’re meeting online or off — don’t know what to make of me. They’re more interested in questioning me about my faith or prejudging me because of it, than they are in making those brunch plans.
Conversations fizzle once I mention church and especially if I mention I can’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Holding a dirty martini at a bar I was once asked, “Wait, so are you even allowed to drink that?” Later that evening, the same gentlemen told me that I “seemed so much smarter” before he knew I was a Christian.
I get it: There aren’t many openly Christian LGBT folks in the spotlight. Given that some Christians still denounce homosexuality as a sin, a gay man who’s also a practicing Christian seems to be an inherent contradiction.
However, times are changing. Churches across the country are becoming more affirming of lesbian, gay and bisexual members. Many denominations — such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ — allow gay marriage and queer clergy.
Gay Christians aren’t as much of an anomaly as we once were — especially in such liberal areas as Washington. With over 75 LGBT-affirming churches in the District alone, it should no longer be surprising to find two men holding hands in the pews.
And while there has been a major decline in the number of Americans who openly identify as Christian, according to the Pew Research Center the number of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans who identify as Christian is increasing.
So what does that mean for me? Hopefully it means the next time a guy comes to my place and sees a copy of “Jesus Calling” on my bookshelf, he won’t immediately assume I’m a Log Cabin Republican (I’m not) just because I pray before I go to bed.
I knew I couldn’t be the only one finding it difficult to date while queer and Christian, so I reached out to some LGBTQ Christian activists to see if this was something they encountered as well. Our conversation, lightly edited, is below.
Eliel Cruz is the executive director of Faith in America, as well as the founder of the #faithfullyLGBT movement. Cole Ledford is a human rights activist and creator of the 50 States of Gay project. Brandan Robertson is an author as well as the founder and executive director of Nomad Partnerships, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBT rights among conservative Christians.
Washington Post: Do you use dating apps, and if so, does being a Christian affect your interactions on those platforms?
Ledford: I absolutely use dating apps! In our day and age it has become the go-to means to meet people in your city and honestly it’s just a great time-killer, too. In my Tinder profile, I include “Mark 8:36,” which is my favorite Bible verse. I feel it’s enough to let people know if they are uncomfortable with my Christianity not to message me, but also just to let them know how I identify.
Robertson: Yes, I use a select range of dating apps. I’m looking for people who share the same worldviews, so I read their bios. I’m not looking for someone who wears their faith on their sleeve, I’m just looking for someone who is down with my faith.
Cruz: The reactions to my Christianity on dating apps varies. It also depends if I’m speaking to a woman or a man. [I identify as bisexual.] There is a visceral reaction to gay and bisexual men from hearing I’m a Christian. I’m seen as self-loathing for believing. I don’t typically bring it up if I can [wait] until we get to a first or second date.
WP: Do you feel that once someone you’re interested in finds out you’re a Christian, they try to leverage that in any way?
Robertson: Of course people try to appear religious if you appear religious. Several times I’ve been in situations where people try to use religious language, or something like that. Instead saying, “Hey, let’s get a coffee” all of a sudden people [incorrectly] think I’m going to evangelize them via dating app.
WP: What’s the strangest reaction you’ve gotten from someone once they find out you identify as a Christian?
Ledford: I think so many non-Christians have this flawed view of us based on lunatics like Kim Davis or Ted Cruz, when in reality we simply want to spread a message of love and live a life aligned with our values. When they realize that, it surprises them that we aren’t all in the Westboro Baptist Church.
Cruz: I’ve had gay guys not interested in me after finding out I’m Christian. Or I have gotten a lecture about why LGBT people shouldn’t be people of faith.
Robertson: In general, once people find out I’m in school to become a pastor, they just get really nervous. As if all of a sudden I’m going to start asking them to confess all of their sins. In reality, I’m just wondering if they’re going to pick up the check or am I?
WP: If you are interested in someone, does their religious identity play a role in how you would view the potential relationship?
Robertson: Yes, religious identity plays a role because it’s helpful to be working from a common set of values. I need someone who understands the framework I’m coming from. It’s easier to date someone who knows how to get down to Hillsong than someone who doesn’t know the difference between “Shine Jesus Shine” and [Rihanna singing] “Shine bright like a diamond.”
Cruz: As a Christian, I can’t think of dating someone long-term unless they’re a person of faith. I’ve dated non-believers before, but never saw it as being something that would last forever. I’m not sure how others, whose faith is an integral part of their life, can reconcile dating someone who doesn’t believe in something.
Ledford: In a dream world, of course I would love to marry someone with the same religious identity and ideals as me. But truly, as long as someone’s values and morals are quality, I believe I would be happy with anyone.