Last Friday the Washington Post ran an article entitled, “The ex-gay Christianity movement is making a quiet comeback. The effects on LGBTQ youth could be devastating.” A family member texted my fiancée and me to warn us that the article mentioned us—an already-stressed couple eight days out from our wedding.
“Several lesser-known leaders are ostensibly part of the second wave of ex-gay Christianity, even if they do not identify with it. This includes people like Matt Moore, a writer who was highlighted in a piece that was originally published in 2013 (later updated in 2016) reporting that he had an active profile on the gay dating app Grindr. He said he was looking for men instead of sex, repented of his ways and was recently engaged to Talitha Piper, daughter of popular conservative Christian pastor John Piper.”
I’ve been silent in the public sphere for a year and a half. And honestly, I’ve kept my mouth shut in large part to avoid stuff like this. I don’t want to be mentioned in the press. I don’t want my story told by those who don’t really know it and who definitely do not know me. I don’t want my past failures to be resurrected and gloried in by those who long to see God’s people fall on their faces.
But this past week has taught me that covering my mouth isn’t going to keep other people from saying what they want about my life. Someone close to me recently said, “As long as there’s an internet, this will be a thorn in your side”—the this being my public humiliation in 2013. And they’re right. My rebellion against Christ in 2013 is well-documented. It’s not going anywhere. By some, I will always be known as that ex-gay Christian blogger who was on a gay dating app. This is a longterm consequence of my sin that I must deal with honestly and humbly.
Humility requires that I not consider myself the primary victim of this article. Humility requires that I not seek above all else to restore my “good name.” Humility requires that I not expend energy trying to paint my past actions in a more favorable light than others have painted them. Humility requires that I not seek to make myself look better than Jonathan Merritt described me in the Washington Post, because the truth is that the public doesn’t know the half of how sinful I am. So I will not seek to vindicate myself.
I will, however, defend the truth of the gospel. No longer will I sit silently in the corner like a coward, hoping nobody sees or talks about me, while a false Christ and different gospel are perpetuated by people like Merritt. I will magnify the name of the true Christ and, without shame, proclaim the powerful, sin-covering, sin-shattering, soul-preserving effects of his grace.
To this end, I offer two thoughts in response to the Washington Post article.
- The way this Washington Post article was written, especially as it related to me, insinuated that if a Christian commits a sin or even a series of sins, that failure casts an unalterable judgment of FAKE, FALLEN, HYPOCRITE over the entirety of that Christian’s life. The way I read it was, “Look at Matt Moore pretending like he’s happy he’s getting married; but we know he’s a fake because he was on Grindr six years ago!” Please hear me: A Christian’s sin, no matter how grievous or public or recent, does not invalidate the realness of that Christian’s past or future repentance and experiences of grace. Yes, hypocrisy has a price. It may ruin our reputations or disqualify us from certain types of ministry or wreak havoc in a thousand other ways. And if it’s persisted in without resistance or remorse, it could reveal that our hearts are still dead and enslaved to sin. But for the one who longs and wills to repent, sin does not disqualify them from a right relationship with God through Christ or from a future of increasingly-holy-yet-still-imperfect living for Jesus. Jesus paid the price for our hypocrisies and innumerable failures so that we could press on in faith despite our failures. Though our sins once possessed power to condemn us to a hopeless future, Jesus removed this damning power when he was damned in our place. He does not ask people to save themselves by becoming sinless and perfect; He invites them into a salvation in which he himself is sinless perfection for his people. What Jesus requires is faith—faith that continues to look to him as the all-satisfying solution to our every need; faith that believes his blood speaks a better word than our sin; faith that gets back up and keeps pursuing him even after it has been trampled for a moment, or even for a season, by our sinful flesh; faith that says, “I’ve totally blown it, but I still want to walk with God.” So yes, I fell publicly six years ago. And yes, I’m marrying the love of my life this week: Miss Talitha Ruth Piper. Because God extends a real gospel of real grace to failures who trust in him.
- Merritt states in the title of his article that “the effects on LGBTQ youth could be devastating” yet does not mention these youths until the last sentence of the article. It’s evident by the actual substance of his piece that Jonathan’s intent was to attack, embarrass, and attempt to portray as foolish people like Rosaria Butterfield, Jackie Hill-Perry, and myself, all of whom once embraced our same-sex inclinations, yet, after coming to know the Christ of the Bible, renounced our former ways and have sought to submit our sexualities to the lordship of Christ. Jonathan: thank you for giving us the opportunity to “rejoice and be glad” “when others revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11-12). And to the briefly-mentioned youth who are supposedly endangered by the gospel that Rosaria, Jackie, and myself have embraced: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus himself says the way that leads to life is hard—but it is the way that leads to life, not death. It is the way that leads to deep satisfaction of the soul, not anguish. It is the way that leads to never-ceasing joy in God, not devastation. Do not heed the false words of people like Merritt. Heed the words of Jesus, who loves you and calls you to what really is best for you.
Photo by Alysium Photo