Review: "Life On Side B" Podcast
Life on Side B is a podcast that looks at the lives of same-sex attracted Christians who believe in the traditional sexual ethic of the Christian faith.
The podcast provides a unique window into what it is really like to be a Side B Christian. The language of ‘Side B’ and ‘Side A’ refers to same-sex attracted Christians and their different views on how God sees gay relationships. ‘Side A’ describes Christians who believe God affirms gay relationships, whereas ‘Side B’ refers to Christians who believe God has designed sexual and romantic relationships to be only between a man and a woman, and therefore live according to that view. This could be through celibacy or a mixed-orientation marriage. These labels came from the ‘Q’ Christian Fellowship (formerly known as “The Gay Christian Network”) as a way to differentiate how people see themselves. As you can imagine, there is a lot of debate about whether these labels are helpful or a stumbling block.
Those opposed to using labels would say they are confining and may also legitimise sin. Some would say ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’ are not two equally valid sides of the same coin, and that God is clear on what He thinks about same-sex relationships and so we should be too.
Whether you see ‘Side B’ as helpful or unhelpful language, these questions of identity and how we relate to God and others are big topics discussed on the Life on Side B podcast.
Each episode explores the joys, beauty and challenges that come with living in this counter-cultural way by interviewing a diverse selection of men and women on their experiences of faith and sexuality. How can we find community in church life? What is it like to be in a mixed-orientation marriage? How can singleness be life-giving? How do we define ourselves when it comes to gender identity? These themes and more are explored on the podcast each month.
The podcast is hosted by Josh Proctor, a former ‘Side A’ pastor, who left his same-sex relationship to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. The real strength of this podcast comes from the testimonies of people who know what it is like to follow Jesus in both a world and church culture that often doesn’t feel like a safe place to discuss these experiences. One of the most significant challenges I have faced is living with this tension between a culture that is moving away from a biblical ethic, and a church that elevates homosexuality as the worst sin. Where do I fit in, and how do I live this out?
This is exactly what makes Life on Side B so relevant and relatable. It is rare to hear stories of Christians who have had similar experiences to mine. Since discovering the podcast, I now no longer feel alone, and that’s something to celebrate!
Although the fresh image and branding of the podcast are aimed at a more youthful US audience, I love how the content itself connects across all ages and nationalities. (There is even a Spanish episode).
In episode one, we meet Meg, who talks about what it is like pursuing God together as she lives in a celibate community. Her thoughts about God’s design for friendships and intimacy challenges us to rethink what family means and how we can become a house of hospitality for those who struggle to find belonging.
Episodes four and five provide a fascinating insight into what it’s like to be the straight spouse and the Side B husband in a mixed-orientation marriage. Lisa and Dean’s story reminded me how sometimes God calls us to live distinctive lives that might not always look conventional to society but can be a powerful signpost towards Him. In episode fourteen, Bekah talks about her experience of adoption and fostering as a Side B, middle-aged single parent. How does she explain her story to her children? In a society confused by gender and sexuality, questions of how we bring up children who are navigating these conversations have never been so relevant and needed.
For all its grace-filled openness in letting listeners make up their own mind about the stories, instead of telling people what to think; Life on Side B’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness.
In several episodes exploring celibate partnerships and gender dysphoria, I found the hosts could have presented a more biblical perspective. I think if you are new to this conversation and haven’t worked out what you believe, there is a danger you could be misled into thinking there are grey areas, when in fact God has given us clear black and white teaching in the Bible. Future episodes exploring parts of the Bible that some find uncomfortable would do well to help listeners be more discerning, as well as providing a pastoral resource for friends and pastors in understanding and knowing how to support same-sex attracted people.
Overall, the Life on Side B podcast brings a refreshing voice to the church, encouraging you how to thrive, not just survive, as a Side B Christian. I highly recommend adding it to your next playlist.
This review was originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Summer 2020 edition of Ascend