Side B Christians and Christian Holiness: Virtue Formation in a Community of Sexual Minorities

When considering God’s vision for what it means to be human, sexuality is at the fore of much contemporary discussion, especially in our ecclesial contexts. Questions revolve around what it looks like to honor God in virtuous living as embodied sexual beings. Within these complex and often convoluted conversations, “queer” and/or “same-sex attracted” people are often disregarded as incapable of modeling Christian holiness and are consequently jettisoned from the dialogue on what it means to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). In some cases, sexual minorities are even used as a foil, being contrasted with a “virtuous Christian”. Interestingly, there is a community of sexual minorities that is often overlooked. While some queer Christians affirm same-sex marriage and homosexual sex (Side A), there are other queer/SSA Christians who identify as Side B, meaning they hold to a “traditional Christian sexual ethic” which understands Scripture as prohibiting same-sex marriage and homosexual sex. Side B Christians lead lives of faithfulness to their convictions in the forms of lifelong celibacy, mixed orientation marriage, and/or brotherhood and sisterhood communities. These ways of being in the world fall outside of what is often considered normative, particularly in evangelical spaces. Thus, many Side B Christians live in a liminal space of sorts for a multiplicity of reasons. On the one hand, unlike their Side A counterparts, Side B folks do not fit neatly into the categories or expectations of the LGBTQ community at large and are often misunderstood. On the other hand, Side B Christians are often equally marginalized in evangelical communities despite a commitment to a sexual ethic consistent with most evangelical Christians.

This paper explores the Side B movement and the distinct contribution of Side B Christians to conversations germane to the nexus of theological anthropology and virtue formation. This paper argues that Side B Christians chart a path unto Christian holiness that is distinct from other groups within the church and is perhaps provoking for the larger community of faith in this regard. This paper discusses distinctive markers of the Side B Christian community such as: a peculiar relationship with self-denial and the cost of discipleship, a practice of self-reflection from necessity, a commitment to Scripture’s eschatological vision of relationships beyond marriage, an emphasis on community in the face of American individualism, and a keen ordering of identity salience. This paper explores how these markers embodied by many Side B Christians serve as constituents for Christian holiness and what it means to be human.

This paper seeks to contribute to the field of theology, specifically at the intersection of theological anthropology, sexuality, and virtue formation by highlighting this oft-overlooked community of sexual minorities and their contributions in Christian virtue formation. This paper considers potential heteronormative biases and blind spots within the evangelical church and argues that Side B Christians offer a unique lens through which we understand what it means to embody Christian virtue.

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