A Prodigal Son

After identifying himself as gay for five years, singer/songwriter Brian Bates talks about why he left the faith—and what brought him back.
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Look at the celebrity news of the last several months: Lindsay Lohan is dating a woman. Celebrities continue to support gay marriage. A former artist in the Christian music industry, Katy Perry, has released a song about kissing a girl. And two singers with professed Christian beliefs, Ray Boltz and Clay Aiken, have come out of the closet.

What does this all mean if you believe the biblical understanding of relationships and sex?

To help find answers, managing editor Todd Hertz talked with someone who identified himself as gay for five years—Christian singer/songwriter Brian Bates. In this web exclusive interview, Brian tells his story and shares the lessons he learned about interacting with others who don't share the Bible's view on sex.

When did you first think, I might be gay?

I didn't think about calling myself gay until I was 18, but things happened before then that set the stage. To start with, I had two big brothers who were more stereotypically masculine than me. I was smaller and more of the sensitive type. As an adult, I can look back and say, "Well, sure, there are boys who like football and there are boys who are creative—they are all God-created men." But, unfortunately, gender stereotypes are still alive. If you don't fit into the right category, you think something must be wrong. I kept wondering, Where do I fit in? How can I be like other guys?

College was the first time I met young men who identified themselves as gay. All of a sudden, I thought, Oh, that's why I didn't fit in! I am gay! It was sort of like this big light bulb went on in my life. I was welcomed into that community, and identifying myself as gay resolved all these unanswered questions for me.

What was your faith like as a teen?

I grew up Catholic and then we moved to a more evangelical church environment.

Growing up in a Christian home, I had the traditional understanding that homosexuality was not an option. I never had a fire and brimstone belief that said if I chose to be gay, I'd go to hell. My understanding was more that it just wasn't God's design.

This decision in college was a huge moral conflict because I had to choose between what I believed in my heart and what I thought was my identity. Identifying myself as gay won out because I thought, Well, if this is who I am, how can I not be gay? How can I choose to not be myself?

I bought the cultural lie of "This is who I am" rather than "This is what I struggle with because things in my life have created confusion." I bought the lie that this was who I am.

Did your faith change at that point?

Yes. I never thought, Well, maybe God's OK with this. I knew God's black-and-white truth. I knew that being gay wasn't his best for me. I felt I had to either preserve my faith in God or—if I was going to embrace an identity as a gay man—leave my faith behind. It felt like a big either-or. I simply had to walk away from God to pursue this. In hindsight, I look back at it as kind of like the prodigal son. I'm wholly a son of God. He always loved me. But I thought, You know what God? I just need to go do my own thing for a while. I know you don't approve. I just gotta go do this.

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