Little did two millennial men know that when they independently Googled "Christians struggling with homosexuality" in utter desperation that a band of brothers would be forged because of their unwanted sexual desires.
Tom Zuniga, 29, and Elliott Gladwin, 28, who have experienced same-sex attractions since their youth, didn't know each other whatsoever when they first entered that phrase into a search engine in 2008 in their respective homes in states miles apart. But by God's providence they ended up meeting after they stumbled upon a Xanga blogring where several Christian men with the same issue were sharing their stories and struggles.
Those shared stories and the friendships that formed would prove to be more meaningful and healing than either one of them could have ever imagined.
When Xanga went defunct in 2013, the men later reconnected on Your Other Brothers, a website Zuniga and Gladwin launched in November 2015. YOB is comprised of over a dozen writers, and the bloggers on the site are Christian men who experience same-sex attractions — some of them have acted out sexually while others are chaste — to varying degrees. Earlier this year, Gladwin and Zuniga created a podcast by the same name, the first episode of which aired on Aug. 8.
Readers and listeners should be prepared for some of the rawest, most painful stories about their experiences with homosexuality, an extremely touchy subject no doubt. But their journeys are animated by the hope they have in Jesus Christ.
Gladwin and Zuniga told The Christian Post in a recent interview that they want same-sex attracted Christian men to know one thing: You don't have to experience this alone, and we're inviting you into our stories as we take this journey navigating faith, homosexuality, and masculinity together.
And what does the name "Your Other Brothers" mean?
"No. 1, we are saying to other believers out there who struggle with their sexuality, 'We are your other brothers, you're not alone, there are others just like you." Gladwin said. "You have brothers in the faith who are like you. And you may know that they exist, but we're here."
"And No. 2, is to the Church," he added. "We are your other brothers in the faith, there are people like us who deal with these kinds of issues in your churches. And you may not realize this or you may think we're some far off weird people, but we're among you and we're your other brothers."
Theological nuances abound among YOB bloggers, some of whom write under a pseudonym, but all hold fast to the historic Christian view of biblical sexual ethics. They believe the only kind of sex God blesses is that which is expressed in covenant marriage between a man and a woman.
"We felt a burden upon our hearts," Zuniga said. "What are the people out there who Google the same Google search we did, what are they finding?
"And the reality is that they will probably find just a bunch or heated articles or debates from both sides of this issue, and voices yelling at them. But nobody really hearing honest, genuine stories of what it's like to pursue God in light of wrestling with these struggles."
Unafraid to go deep into the waters where few like to wade, YOB writes show great courage as they unpack their deepest secrets, but none of them are out to air their proverbial dirty laundry just for the sake of airing it.
Articles likely to provoke much conversation and reflection have the following titles: "How My Friends Helped Me De-Sexualize Men," "Hungry for Male Touch," and "Marginalized by My Church."
Gladwin, who writes with incredible transparency on YOB, detailed a life-changing moment that occurred when he dared open up to a new male friend about his struggle with same-sex attraction and the friend threw his arms around him "well past the 'normal' hug length."
"It was a bit awkward at first, but it felt so good," Gladwin recounts in a blog on the website. "Then something within me broke, and it broke hard. I started weeping uncontrollably — as if there was a secret well of unshed tears that had been locked for 20 years, deep inside my soul, and the combination to the lock was the security of an unrelenting embrace."
For men who fight homosexual inclinations, Gladwin notes that one can never underestimate the power of a hug from a man given in pure affection. Also posted on the website is a moving Spoken Word video.
Neither Zuniga nor Gladwin is a fan of the revisionist sexual ethics being furthered in some Christian circles and strongly disagree with authors, popular bloggers, and even some intellectual heavyweights who argue that the Christian faith affirms certain kinds of same-sex unions.
"I think their views are completely unfounded biblically," Gladwin said, with regard to sex and marriage. "Look into the language, it's always male and female."
"The problem is that we're projecting our modern understanding into history and upon other cultures. And so that's why people are looking at Jesus and John, or David and Jonathan and saying, 'Oh, look they're homosexual,' when really it is just because we have this wrong lens."
"We need to understand what their true, biblical male intimacy meant, what real covenant relationships look like, what healthy, godly expressions of love look like. Because men are starving for it."
To that end, Zuniga and Gladwin are creating the space to continue sharing stories and explore life with raw honesty. They are not, they emphasize, out to stoke culture warrior sentiment or contribute to the rowdy political or theological debates over these touchy issues.
CP asked the YOB hosts what they want churches that share their views and core convictions about homosexuality to understand about their experiences.
Two things come to mind immediately for Gladwin.
"Men are emotional and need love. We need a good redefinition of biblical manhood and masculinity — men who cry, dance, sing, hug," he said.
Secondly, he added, "I want to ask the Church: What does your faith cost? Because it costs me everything."
"It costs so much to fight against this uphill battle against my flesh. It's hard. And it's daily, and it's hourly. This is hard. But because I believe it is true I do it. And I feel like a lot of Christians don't express their weakness enough and share with others what their faith costs them."
"I am ever aware of what I need to be saved from. But if you don't, how can you share in the sufferings of the Messiah?" he asked.
Zuniga concurred, adding that "churches need to be a space where they can deal with this rather than treating it as 'the Other.'"
And what about the charge that because they have chosen to not act on their same-sex attractions, they are self-loathing, living in denial, or living a lie?
For Gladwin, that is a particularly irritating question because of the double standard of secular society.
"In America, we love and support people when they go against the grain, when they are the underdog, when they go against what comes naturally to them in every sphere except sexuality."
"So, if you're overweight, go on 'The Biggest Loser,' we love that. Yeah, they have this natural inclination to overeat and be lazy, but they are fighting, they are getting up, they're getting on their bike and they are beating their bodies into submission to fight for something of value that they want to go for. And we praise Olympic athletes who sacrifice a normal life to train hard to go after something that is not easy."
"But when it comes to sexuality, our culture encourages people to just embrace whatever sexual urge feels the most natural."
And living for Jesus, he concluded, is worth fighting for.
"One of the biggest lies I believed for years," Zuniga recalls, "is that I was convinced I was the only one who struggled with this."
He has since been convinced otherwise.
Gladwin's and Zuniga's storytelling approach is resonating and they have received heartfelt messages from listeners to their podcast. This one is a typical response: "As you all tell your stories I feel like I'm listening to my own story played back to me. As a community, you guys have been a breath of fresh air."
And building a community of those other brothers on the journey is precisely what YOB is all about. Gladwin and Zuniga have plans to add even more contributions from creative writers to their site in the near future to tell even more stories, and they dream of speaking in churches or anywhere else they will be received.
"It's huge for me when I have a friend tell me that his eyes are now open [and sees] that Christians do deal with this, and he now has this new perspective that he didn't have before. That's affirming for us that we're doing exactly what we need to be doing," Zuniga said.