The following blog is written by Pieter Valk. Pieter is the executive director of Equip, which is a Nashville based organization that helps the church to love sexual minorities.
Not the person who birthed you. M.O.M.s = mixed orientation marriages, an opposite-sex marriage where at least one of the individuals experiences same-sex attraction (SSA).
Most people have very strong feelings about MOMs, and for good reason. In the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, churches encouraged everyone who experienced SSA to marry someone of the opposite sex, hoping it would “fix” their homosexuality. The SSA person usually kept his or her orientation a secret, and same-sex desires seemed to go away during the early years of marriage. Success!? But then SSA returned with great strength (or never went away), and the SSA spouse ran off with a same-sex lover, claiming they had been living a lie and leaving a devastated spouse and children in their wake. In response, the pendulum swung to the other extreme and pastors advised SSA Christians that celibacy was the only option.
There are problems with both of these extremes.
Pressuring everyone into a MOM is clearly destructive. A MOM doesn’t work for everyone, and as can be found elsewhere on this blog and across Christian thought, celibacy is a beautiful vocation available to both gay and straight people.
But we also shouldn’t discredit MOMs wholesale. We only hear about the ones that fail, but there are ways to steward a MOM well if two people are called to such a marriage. The SSA person should share with the other party long before engagement and recognize that SSA will probably always be part of the marriage. You cannot promise someone else that your SSA won’t return, and you must give that other person this information when deciding whether to continue the relationship. People in MOMs should talk about the SSA both inside and outside of the marriage, with other MOMs and with straight couples. Often, individuals in MOMs find that the challenges they face have more to do with universal marriage challenges than with the person’s SSA, but they have to share with heterosexual couples to know this! Interestingly, secular sex therapists have defined the recipe for marital and sexual satisfaction as the following: emotional intimacy and vulnerability plus commitment leads to marital satisfaction. These professionals recognize that sexual attraction is not necessary for any couple to have a healthy, long-term relationship.
So what can our churches do to better support MOMs? Well first, don’t pressure anyone into them. Talk about celibacy and MOMs as equally good options for those who experience same-sex attraction. Make sure teens who experience same-sex attraction know God could call them to that. And normalize them—recognize that they exist and will be beautiful for some. Amplify the stories of MOMs in your church, if they are willing to share, and show both the beauty and brokenness. Encourage MOMs in your congregation to share with their pastor and/or small group. To read the stories of Christian mixed-orientation marriage, check out this post: https://spiritualfriendship.org/2014/06/04/marriage-roundup/