Previously, I made my observations and expressed my concerns about the current state of the Side B Movement and the trajectory of its rapid evolution. I received feedback asking for elaboration on the meaning of some terminology and the Side B outlook on it. And it struck me that these are perhaps the things that make the beehive buzz.
“The Side B Movement … is largely synonymous with Celibate Gay Christianity”
Yes and no. It’s complicated. Generally and increasingly, yes. But not exhaustively. I don’t regard the Side B Movement to be the same thing as a group like Spiritual Friendship for instance. In the short and rapidly paced history of things, the Side B Movement has some relationship with Spiritual Friendship. But Side B is going placed that SF hasn’t gone and isn’t going. I have the sense that Side B has presently purchased or co-opted the “Celibate Gay Christian” brand name from SF. And I think it’s a matter of deserved recognition and respect to distinguish men and women at Spiritual Friendship and their efforts.
In the marketplace of movements, the majority shares in the “Gay Christianity” brand are held by the affirming theologically revisionist camp. In the older Side A vs Side B dialogue and framework, Side A had and still holds the larger numbers. ‘Celibate’ was the modifier that folks like those at Spiritual Friendship chose in their efforts at careful articulation of language and a presentation of their concept and framework. The next and newer Side B wave isn’t as careful and conservative in its language and self-conception.
There’s a reason it’s called semi-Pelagianism instead of semi-Augustinianism.
– Reformed Proverb
The underlying driving motivation of the evolution of Side B is Side A Lite in my opinion.
Would Side B like the label or wish to own the idea that they’re Side A Lite?
I highly doubt they would. The folks on the leading edge of Side B probably don’t want to think of themselves as Side A Lite. But Side B has an excessively minimalist definition of traditional sex ethics, and it doesn’t have the same perspective as I have on how far gone from a robust traditional Christian sexual ethic it is. In some ways, Side A Lite seems to like the fact that it’s a murky place but doesn’t think of it as a mess. I get the impression that it’s regarded as a place of freedom, creativity, and dignified diversity. And I see that made possible by a low view of scriptural inspiration and the accompanying theological revisionism and progressivism that come into play. They do so by thinning or emptying out a traditional biblical anthropology with its emphasis on corrupting sinfulness.
Many Side B folks seem to be comfortable being experienced as affirming by Side A folks or expressing how they’re comfortable having fellowship with Side A and Side B equally. This goes hand-in-hand with the perception and the confessions of Side B folks that they don’t regard the Side A position as spiritually perilous and devastating. This adds all the more to Side A Lite being an apropos characterization.
“Side Y and Side X aren’t the self-conceptions of the people categorized in those groups; they’re the conceptions which Side B projects upon those they classify as Side Y and Side X.”
If you ask me, the way Side B often makes distinctions between itself and Side Y or Side X and between Side Y and Side X, it’s sometimes just a metric for how annoyed Side B folks get or how hurt they feel with what you tell them they can or can’t do or how they should or shouldn’t express themselves. When it’s not that, it’s merely a charitable disagreement about those same do’s and don’ts.
Side Y means Christians who are willing to acknowledge and speak (usually publicly or in a less guarded or closed off fashion) about the fact they experience same-sex attraction or homoerotic and homosexual desires. But they don’t adopt a gay identity, whether a public presentation or a private self-conception. Again, “traditionally” for Side B, Side Y is about an unwillingness to describe oneself as gay. But more and more, it’s not a matter of one’s willingness to use stipulated language in conversation; it’s an insistence or urgency about whether or not to adopt a “gay” brand identity as a prominent feature of your public self-presentation. Side B does that. Side Y does not. Because Side Y doesn’t operate according to the extent it desires to embrace a gay self-conception, a Side Y individual doesn’t think about himself or herself in the way a Side B individual thinks about a Side Y individual.
Frequently, Side X functionally means those Christians experiencing same-sex attraction who annoy and upset Side B people. Side X means Rosaria Butterfield, Christopher Yuan, and so forth. And Side X means any number of ultraconservative Christians who oppose the Side B construction and trajectory.
To Side B folks, Side X means people unwilling to candidly vulnerably talk about the fact that they still experience same-sex attraction. It tends to amount to Side B folks disliking the fact that Side X folks won’t talk in the way Side B folks desire to hear. To Side B folks, Side X also means folks who insist everyone says “same-sex attraction” because any talk about being “gay” or more so the self-conception of identifying as “gay” is sinful. Or it’s X for Side X folks, because it’s the new ex-gay meaning advocacy for conversion therapy or promotion of efforts at orientation change. It’s supposedly also a category for those who claim or give the impression they are no longer same-sex attracted. I personally suspect that’s a misunderstanding or self-deceit on the part of Side B folks in some cases.
So Side X is a catch-all for a lot of things. A lot of things that Side B folks don’t like. And a lot of things that have genuinely hurt Side B folks in the past. There’s no denying that.
I don’t see many of those who are categorized as Side X as being Ex-Gay 2.0, a rebirth of the debacle that was Exodus International. Can you find plenty of Christians who talk as though homosexuals should or will become functioning heterosexuals as a part of their genuine repentance and conversion to the Faith? Yes, you can find those. And they’re a sect that’s quite out of touch with what we know about the anthropology of this matter along with the anthropology the Scriptures give us about this matter. And they always have been out of touch in these ways.
More and more for younger people who are Side B, “gay” language is about how you see yourself. But for the wider culture, and especially for an older generation, being gay has much more to do with how you live. So for folks like Rosaria Butterfield and Christopher Yuan who lived for a time in their lives in active rebellion against God and carried it out in sexual immorality, it’s a very different experience from how they were living then to how they’re living now. It’s not confused and angst-ridden Christian teenagers who are regularly lamenting an urge for gay intimacy that they’ve never experienced and aren’t allowed to experience. There’s no sense of what they’ve escaped and renounced, only a sense of what they’re experiencing.
More and more, it seems that a ritual of the Side B Movement is wearing one’s weighty homosexual burden as an odd badge of honor or special privilege due to victimhood or grievance status. (And if you want to know what I have to say about our need to crucify our self-conceptions as perpetual victims, read here.) It’s not intended that way, but it comes across that way. It’s a felt need to signal about the unique burden. But someone who won’t do that and insists that it’s inappropriate for Christians to make such public displays of acedia about it will get categorized as Side X.
So, a trajectory from the old Side B to the new Side B is a growing matter of the Side B folks finding and expressing solidarity in the shared sexual self-perception with those who are Side A. It’s the solidarity of shared sexuality that Side X and Side Y Christians don’t want and find distantly secondary and rather fleeting compared to the solidarity they have with fellow Christians as fellow members of one Body and one Faith.