Imago Dei: Dan Baker Part Two

Dan’s interview is the second in my Imago Dei series. I’m interviewing the people who many people in our society demonize. Dan is a married homosexual, and a professing Christian. You can check out part one of Dan’s interview here, and my first interview in this series with Dr. Mustafa Khattab, a Muslim imam here.

  Let’s just pick up where we left off…

The best example was when I was engaged to a woman years ago. 

I wasn't going to ask you about that...

When I was planning to marry a woman, I thought I knew what love was. In hindsight, having found love with my husband, I can say that what I was feeling then wasn’t love. When you are confused about what sexuality is you look to the people around you and try to mimic what you see. The same way I was always trying to change my voice or hand gestures. When you are gay and ashamed you live on a stage where you are constantly acting. The line between what is real and what is acting is so blurred. So you lie to yourself and say this is right.

The main reason I brought up that past relationship is because it’s important for the church to understand that denying, or ignoring, or avoiding homosexuality doesn’t just hurt the gay person, It hurts other as well. So many gay men and women end up in marriages that create havoc in their lives because we think getting married is a way to hide, change, or be godly.

Right after that relationship ended I just got in my car and started driving and ended up in Texas. That’s when I finally said out loud, “I’m gay. I’m done. I’m gay. I’m gay. I’m gay.” I remember driving and calling my parents, and telling them. We didn’t talk for like a year. It was all kind of crazy, but after that I was done. This isn’t going to work. At that point, I was like I don’t care if I’m going to hell. I don’t care if I’m not a Christian. I don’t care, I’m just done fighting.

But of course, there were more fights to come after that, but that was when I started to really begin to accept that I’m gay. But even in accepting the reality that I’m gay, and there’s nothing I can do about it, I still hated myself for it. I still thought it was wrong; and over time, I thought maybe I’m just supposed to be celibate and never have sex and never have a companion.

 I threw myself into planting churches thinking that would fix me, but of course it didn’t because like I said from the beginning our sexuality is very tied to our identity as human beings. I think eventually, I was traveling through Central America reading Lance Armstrong’s first autobiography about how he battled cancer. I remember thinking I really identified with him in his battle with cancer. Then it hit me. I’ve been living my whole life like I’ve got cancer, and the truth is I’m not sick. I’ve been wasting my time pretending like I’ve got cancer, and I’m not sick. There’s nothing wrong with me. I think that was a turning point.

Once that hit me, my behavior immediately started to change. I no longer had to go out and get wasted to the point where I wouldn’t remember anything. It was amazing to see the transformation. Over the past four years there’s been a shift in my thinking.

 I started to read the Bible through different eyes. At the time when I was traveling and reading Lance Armstrong’s biography, I wasn’t reading the Bible. I wasn’t listening to Tim Keller or John Piper. I remember specifically saying to myself, “I’m not going to put anymore voices in my head” because every thought I had was either Tim Keller, or John Piper, or my dad, or my mom, or Boojie, or Steve Brown, or Ravi Zacharias—all these people I filled my mind with. When I would think about the consequences of my actions and ask myself what do I think? or what do I feel? I would hear other people’s voices.

This is what you should think: or this is how it should go: this is correct theology:  this is systematic theology: or you should filter everything through this. But I remember after that, you could call it an awakening, I heard own my voice in my head for the first time. It was kind of weird. It was the first time I heard me, and it really started to change the way I thought about life, the way I read the Bible, and the way I view the Holy Spirit.

I went back and started re-reading things, and I realized that this whole idea of biblical manhood and womanhood-- marriage. It’s not that clear in the way that I was indoctrinated to believe.  For example, when I went back and read Matthew chapter 19, which is the one time Jesus talks about marriage, He talks about a man and his wife and how they become one flesh. But then, right after that, he starts having a discussion with his disciples.

They’re like, “that’s bulls**t who wants to get married if you can only be with one woman? Jesus, you let Moses divorce people.”

And He’s like, “You know that’s because they were sinners.”

But I don’t think he said it in a harsh tone. I think he probably said it lovingly. They didn’t understand what marriage really was.

The disciples at the end of all this wisdom they say, “Who wants to get married? Who would want to do that? Like that’s f**king crazy!” Then he goes on to talk about eunuchs.  He says some eunuchs are made by God, and some are made by man, but this is something a lot of people don’t understand, so don’t worry about it. This began to set a precedent in my mind, that Jesus isn’t all that concerned about sexuality in the end.

 Then you look at Paul. Paul talks about marriage where the man is the head and the wife is submitting to the head and Christ is the head of the church. We’ve created a whole theology and an entire doctrine based on this one passage of Paul: who wasn’t married. But basically even Paul after he goes on and on he says, “this is a profound mystery”-- it’s not something clear!

So I began to think that if every time Jesus or Paul talks about marriage in the New Testament, the way I understood marriage, and biblical manhood and womanhood, they immediately follow it with this is a mystery, this isn’t completely clear; that began to kind of make me wonder. I thought about how Adam and Eve had a perfect marriage, and then after the fall everything’s broken. I thought about how through Christ we’re redeemed and we become something new. Then I began to think that what if becoming something new doesn’t mean becoming the same.

There’s a progression in the gospel narrative where we’re not going back to the garden of Eden, we’re going to a new heaven and a new earth.  Those things started affecting the way I read scripture, and the way I thought about myself and my sexuality.

 When Jesus left the earth, he left because we were missing the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Holy Spirit was the only way to bring people in the faith closer to Him and His Father. One thing that is very clear is that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, longsuffering, and self-control. I began to wonder, what if my sexuality or my homosexual marriage, what if it does produce those fruits?

Then maybe the Holy Spirit is talking to me in a way that he’s not talking to other people. Maybe other people should listen to me since I have more experience with it than they do. In other words, a heterosexual male can give me theology but if God is redeeming homosexuals than perhaps we should listen to the homosexuals in regards to this topic.

 I think that gave me a lot of freedom, and in that freedom, I met my current husband. Current husband, that sounds like I’ve had more than one. I met my husband about four years ago, and we got married in December 2015. I remember thinking, I don’t know if this is a physical marriage. I don’t know if this is what my parents experience in marriage because I’m not heterosexual.

I’m homosexual and I can’t understand completely what a heterosexual marriage is like. I’m never going to because I can’t completely understand what a heterosexual male is like, I can’t understand what a heterosexual woman is like. I’m somewhere in between. A heterosexual man and a heterosexual woman are never going to understand what I’m like completely.

My parents are very concerned about this marriage idea. They have a great marriage. In the end, I remember saying, “I don’t know if what we’re doing legally before the government is the same thing that you did before God, but I’m willing to take this leap of faith and see if my marriage will produce fruits of the spirit.”

 I said: “I challenge you, because Jesus said you’ll know them by their fruit. If my love and commitment to Gin, our vows to each other before the government doesn’t produce fruit in our lives then by all means you can be justified in your position. But if our marriage produces fruit of the Spirit if we are growing and producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, long suffering, and self-control then wonder if perhaps the Holy Spirit is talking to me in a way that you should listen to. As opposed to listening to the way tradition has taught you.”

 From that I think it really put a lot of things in perspective for not only me but also my parents. You know a lot of people say, “you just changed your theology to match your desires.” I say maybe that’s true, but if it’s producing fruits of the Spirit, I’m not going to complain.

You can tell me my doctrine is off or my theology isn’t systematic enough, but in all honesty, I’ve become much less concerned about the doctrine and the right answers. I’m much more concerned about if I’m becoming a loving, generous kind, patient, self-controlled person. I am trusting God that I can question this tradition, and if I’m wrong then the fruits of the Spirit will dissipate.  If I’m growing in the fruit of the Spirit, then I’m going to trust that more than I’m going to trust a traditional view of the theology of marriage.

 For heterosexual couples, I think it’s a beautiful theology and narrative of marriage that really works for a lot of people. And, like I said, I don’t know if my marriage is like that or not. But what I can say is that my commitment—you don’t have to call this marriage, I don’t care what you call it-- with my partner is producing in me fruit of the Spirit. Because of that I am confident, I don’t know, I guess that God celebrates diversity too.