Collect


Postcommunion for Trinity Sunday

O eternal God, who hast given unto us to acknowledge the holy and eternal Trinity to be likewise one undivided Unity: mercifully grant that we, who have now received thy holy Sacraments, may thereby be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tactics of a Perplexed Celibate

ATTENTION, THE INTERNET. THIS IS MY ONE HUNDREDTH POST ON MUDBLOOD CATHOLIC.


Though I suppose Pinky Pie blowing a noisemaker would've been more appropriate. 
But whatever, Fluttershy is my favorite and always will be. #bronies4eva

Now that I've mentally scarred you by coming out as something even weirder than a gay anarchist Catholic, on to my actual topic.

A commenter on my latest Raw Tact post posed me a very significant question. I've discussed before my failures vis-a-vis chastity, though I've tried not to bore anyone with the gory details (to be more honest, I've been scared to embarrass myself and maybe gross out a lot of my readership; plus, it just doesn't seem necessary). His remarks ran, in part, as follows:
You say, "What I am trying to do at the moment is see if I can find my way into some sort of self-restructuring." I think this is good! I'd just be careful, and forgive me for being a bit skeptical. 
Can you identify for us ... any concrete ways in which you are actually trying to restructure, any sort of logic regarding why you hope certain causes would lead to certain effects, or any experimentation you are implementing with new approaches (this might require spiritual risk taking!) to see just what sort of effects occur?
Because if your attempt at restructuring is just continuing to try to "enforce the law" by sheer repressive power, and the reason it is restructuring, not war, is merely because you hope some structural transformation will suddenly occur out of nowhere ... (perhaps, you imagine, God will give it to you like a miracle as a result of your Semi-Pelagian attempt?) ... I have to predict with moral certitude that this will not work, and indeed it seems rather disingenuous to call this a restructuring ... rather than a repressive approach.
I agree with this wholeheartedly. There are, in my view, only a few things as dangerous and destructive as a spirituality that has "zeal without knowledge," whether it lacks knowledge through naivety, carelessness, having been deceived, or deliberate self-blinding.


Lack of zeal is not a problem with anyone in this picture.

So how exactly does one try to be chaste without merely repressing? I used to think that as long as I acknowledged that I felt these feelings, I wasn't repressing. But even so, my only recourse at the time was to try and steel myself against doing it (whatever constituted "it" at that moment), and, if I lost that fight, going to Confession later. And that wasn't wrong. But it also wasn't helpful, fundamentally, for the same reason that mere indulgence doesn't get rid of temptation: neither mere refusal nor mere assent deals with the root of the matter.

And what is the root of the matter? ... Oy.

The trouble about discussing sexuality -- and this is not peculiar to gay sexuality -- is that it involves you in nearly everything. There's a sense in which sexuality is the crossroads of our being: every level of our self is involved in it at once. The biological elements are the ones we're perhaps most apt to think of; but it even the psychological elements are more complex than I think we give them credit for, and the ties between sexuality and the spirit are profound indeed. When we think, not only of the sacramentality of marriage as discussed in the New Testament, but of the fact that it is from sexuality that new life comes, so that sexuality is one of the chief modes in which we bear the image of God* ... well, we're in deep waters, for bad or good.

Being gay doesn't make any of this less true. That's part of what makes it so hard (you in the back, quit giggling). The common Catholic tactic of implying that giving up sex shouldn't be such a big deal to someone who isn't selfishly hedonistic, betrays a woefully shallow outlook on sex and sexuality. Yes, there are other modes of experiencing and expressing love; yes, we don't "need" sex the way we need food and drink; that isn't the point. The need to love and be loved as a specifically incarnate being, the need to give of oneself, and the need to create, are real needs of the human person; and erotic love -- truly or falsely -- holds out the promise of all three. (Remember, the fact that gay sex won't in fact result in children doesn't make the psychological significance of our sex drives any different.) Just saying "Nah" is not an adequate reply, and even less so when telling somebody else that should be their reaction.


"We literally made this. But that's boring. Have you watched any good TV lately?"

So, as a gay Christian, what am I doing or trying, other than saying "Nah"?

Well, speaking of boring, prayer and the sacraments are prerequisites for any serious attempt at the spiritual life. God is remarkably prosaic. His own earthly life was so prosaic that the Gospel writers had almost nothing to tell of it: some neat things around when He was born (which was surely as dirty and messy an affair as any birth in first-century Palestine, and more so from taking place in a reeking animals' stall), a curious little episode when He was twelve, and nothing else between infancy and the age of thirty. Likewise, the practice of prayer and taking part in the sacraments have a very unspectacular appearance. But they are of the essence. Prayer is our lungs; the Eucharist is our heart; Confession is our immune system.


Hey, the Word made flesh and dwelling among us is important. Who knew.

However, these are not enough by themselves; not that God doesn't dispense great graces to us in them, but that wrapping those graces in a napkin and burying them, instead of investing them, will not earn us any profit to bring back to Him.** Going back to the bodily analogy, God provides all the organs of the body, as well as the food, but you still have to eat the food or it won't nourish you.

Now, I'm going to say something all of my gay readers who've made any attempt at the traditional lifestyle, whether as celibates or as ex-gays, have heard till they're sick of it: you need solid friendships. But I have to qualify that in two ways. 

First of all, a lot of the authors I've read seem to imply that, once you have some solid friendships under your belt, you stop being lonely and don't want a partner any more. To that, I have to respectfully cry bullshit. Loneliness is a feature of all human life, and, yes, being the single one in a group of predominantly married friends can exacerbate that instead of helping. You need friends because intimate friendship is something that every person needs to be a healthy person, not because they act collectively as some kind of surrogate spouse. (For that matter, spouses seeking emotional support exclusively from each other is a great way to ruin a marriage; but that's another topic.) The reason this universal need comes up at all is that friendship is weirdly scarce in our culture, and that cultural lack, which makes marriages harder than they have to be, can make celibacy borderline impossible.

Second, I'm not saying, like a lot of ex-gay theorists, that these friendships are how you gain male (or female) affirmation and learn your gender role through imitating worthy models and all that. I mean, if you feel the need for that, fine; I certainly have; and I'm not above imitating friends that I think are worthy of imitation coughJoeyPrevercough. But that applies to both sexes coughMelindaSelmyscough, and anyway, friendship is not primarily about finding role models. That's what role models are for, actually.


Um ... not quite what I meant.

So, prayer, sacraments, friendship. But I was doing all that last time, and, as my priestly interlocutor pointed out, old methods do not bring about new results. Anything else?

I haven't got a lot, honestly. I admit I'm partly hoping that I've grown enough -- and that maybe my sex drive has calmed down enough -- that I can do without a boyfriend now. I don't know; but it seems like the only way to find out is to give it a try. At this point, I don't feel I've been trying long enough to have a confident answer.

A lot of people would jump in here and argue that powering through is absolutely the way to go; just keep trying, and God will give the grace to succeed. I've written about that mindset before, and, without being too harsh, I can't help feeling that it smacks of Job's comforters. God gives everyone the grace necessary to come to Him -- not necessarily the grace to be perfect. Only one person was ever immaculately conceived; and Jesus did have the foresight to institute the sacrament of Confession.


"Father, I wore those weird shoes with the individual toes."
"This problem is beyond me, my child."

However, with those caveats in place, I would bring up creativity. I take creativity to be one of our fundamental human impulses, of which our sex drive is a biological expression. Now, the fact that our sex drives happen to be misdirected doesn't mean our creativity will necessarily be distorted, and, when we consider the massive amount of magnificent art from homosexual artists, I think we can safely say that it isn't true in practice, either. My own opinion is that every celibate, gay or not, needs some type of creative outlet. For a straight, married person, sex can be at least part of the outlet for the creative urge; for someone who's trying to be celibate, that's not possible, and so the whole creative impulse must, if possible, be given expression in a non-sexual way. A repressed desire, especially one linked to so many levels of our being at once, will manifest itself sooner or later, and if it is refused legitimate satisfactions it will find others.

But sexuality involves more than just the urge to make; it also involves the more specific urge to beget -- to be a mother or a father. The fight of the LGBT movement for adoption rights is not just about making a political point about equality; I think it is linked to this far deeper desire.

And begetting? -- for me specifically, being a father, somehow? How should that need be satisfied?


"Cocaine."

I'm not sure. There is such a thing as spiritual fatherhood, of course; priests, among others, have that. St. Paul speaks of having fathered St. Timothy in the Lord, and I don't think he means exclusively having been the one to baptize him. But what spiritual fatherhood is, especially outside a priestly context, I just don't know. I suspect that without it, I probably won't be able to manage chastity, long term; or if by some chance I do, it'll have a partially empty feeling -- as of spending a great deal of energy to accomplish something that was challenging but not, in itself, very important. But I simply don't know. I haven't found out yet what the solution is, or what the problem will be like if it goes unsolved.

*I think I first ran into this point in an essay of Dorothy Sayers': it is a remarkable fact that if you look at the first account of creation, the only salient characteristic of God that we are told about before being told that we are made in His image, is that He makes things. We do not make out of nothing like He does -- all our creation is organization and reorganization of things that already existed (at least in terms of what it is made of) -- yet we too are makers; and not only of things that are useful. We often make for the sheer delight of making. That sex, which is the means of begetting a new life, should therefore be among the highest of pleasures is therefore deeply consonant with the Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation, and perhaps even more reflective of the specifically Christian doctrine of the begetting of the Son as the perfect expression of the love and being of the Father. But all this is way too much to deal with in a footnote.

**So to speak, since of course it is all His, both in principle and in fact -- He has a right to everything, and everything is in fact sustained in existence by His will. But I am the bolder to speak this way on the grounds that He did Himself.

29 comments:

  1. I'm a straight woman, but I recognized a LOT of my own reactions to the "pat" answers given to me when I was single. I was "on my own" as an adult for 12 years-- long enough that people started assuming I was a lesbian, actually-- and I remember how exasperated I was about being told to just pray the Rosary a lot, etc. and that would "fix" my problems. (I've now been married 11 years, and I'm still exasperated by pat answers-- but pat answers about making a loving home with a husband who, oh yeah, has PTSD, and a mother in law who, oh yeah, has dementia.)

    The thing is, these sorts of problems don't have a single answer, one and done. Not yours, not mine. God's plan in our lives is made of incredibly detailed, moment by moment actions, not some big grand gesture. Much more like the universe we live in today has been crafted molecule by molecule, over billions of years. What you and I need is a moment by moment contact with the divine, in intimacy, so that we can hear the small, still voice saying, "Here is the way! Walk in it!" as we turn to the right or the left (Isaiah 30:21). Funny thing: those pat answers... suddenly aren't so pat. For example, the Rosary, if approached as a disciplined and repeated meditation on what has been done for us rather than a magic charm to make the bad feelings go away, might just be what the doctor ordered. Or maybe not; maybe some other way suits your soul better. But you won't succeed-- won't survive-- if you don't have something like it.

    One last comment: I was reading Luke chapter 6 today, and in specific 6:27-38 about loving your enemies and refraining from judgment. It struck me that we should also strive to apply this to our "internal" enemies as well. We should love our frailties as God loves them, even when they "do us wrong"; and we should love them with deeds and without expecting a reward for doing so. (By love, I mean doing what is truly right by them, not simply indulging them in wrongness, of course.) For that is truly how God loves us, in our entirety. Likewise, we can't judge our own case rightly, and we shouldn't try.

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  2. Why can't gay love also reflect God? I think the Bible's few injunctions against it reflect more an unenlightened culture and society than a revelation of God. The gospels had nothing to say against it, for example. And even JPII's "On Love and Responsibility," when taken to its core abstraction (that marriage, the sacrament, reflects God's love for man), does not necessarily conclude that gay love cannot also reflect trinitarian love, though perhaps not in the same, life-giving, and sacramental way.

    After all, if man loving woman = God loving man/the Church, why can't God (man) love God (man) as He so obviously does in trinitarian theology? Or man (woman) love man (woman--nothing confusing or sexist about that :P) as is so obviously called for in the gospels?

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    1. Well, a great deal depends on what we mean by gay love.

      If we mean simply the love of two men or two women who happen to be homosexual, I don't think it's always likelier to be harmful than any other sort of love. But if we're using it as a euphemism for sex, which is related to love but distinct from it, then we run into other difficulties -- at any rate if we accept the traditional doctrine of Christianity and/or the authority of the Catholic Church. Obviously, if we don't, the conversation is rather different.

      Now, the "clobber passages" are certainly few in number; they're not in my opinion unclear, but the extreme infrequency with which the topic is raised does suggest to me that, contrary to some fanatical opinions, gay sex is not the worst thing since Satan, and does not need to be one of our moral preoccupations. We might, for example, devote our attention more to pride or to the love of money, on Scriptural grounds. But I don't think it wise to dismiss something as unimportant, simply because there are grounds for thinking it less important than certain fanatics do; things that have been exaggerated don't lose their legitimate significance just because people have been hysterical about them.

      Indeed, I think one of our characteristic cultural flaws is a sort of reductionism, a desire to simplify all morality to some one thing, and ignore the remainder. But that doesn't really work, for the same reason that concentrating on just one important nutrient in a diet doesn't work: breadth and balance are necessary, for the body and the soul alike. And it is precisely in the details of life that the central principles of morality are worked out.

      Now, you could in principle construct a detailed moral system that didn't involve the idea that gay sex is wrong. But both the Bible and the consistent tradition of the Church are in the way. To me, if we dismiss those things as relics of an unenlightened culture, it seems more like an argument against Christianity than in favor of a sexually progressive version of Christianity.

      I have an odd feeling that I'm talking past your point somehow, though. Could you elaborate a bit?

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    2. Well I don't think you have to throw out Christianity if you decide to concede that homosexuality (the practice thereof) is not inherently immoral. Like you said yourself, it is hardly *the* pressing point of Christian theology. In fact, it is not even a point in the gospels at all.

      What I am more curious about is how you read the assertion made by Theology of the Body and On Love and Responsibility (full disclosure--I have not read the original texts in their entirety, but am very familiar with the teachings as explained to lay people) that marriage the sacrament reflects God's love for man *uniquely* and is a sacrament and *therefore* gay love (in sexual practice, again) is wrong, full stop. To me, there is a flaw in logic there. It doesn't naturally follow that gay love is wrong because straight love is so great.

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    3. I don't think it's unimportant, which is precisely why I'm raising the question.

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    4. While I don't understand it fully -- I haven't finished Theology of the Body either -- Bl. John Paul's understanding of marriage as an image of Divine love goes further than simply the affection of the parties. I agree that no exaltation of heterosexual love does, or could, show homosexual love to be at all inferior, not even if we confine ourselves to the sexual act.

      So far as my theological understanding goes, the *specific mode* in which marriage reflects Divine love is one that is meant to involve the whole human person, including fertility -- fertility being one of the major means by which we resemble our Creator, since by it we make conscious beings, often in our own image. A gay couple, however virtuous, can't share their fertility with each other, not due to some accidental property (like fertility problems) that could be fixed in principle, but by the very nature of their bodies. That is the philosophical underpinning of the Church's teaching -- and also why she defines straight relationships that don't even intend to share their fertility with one another as not meeting the definition of a sacramental marriage.

      Now, it doesn't follow from any of that, and I don't believe, that gay people are in some way inferior to straight people. From a Catholic perspective, since gay sex isn't ever the right thing to do on our premises, being gay (and therefore wanting gay sex) is a disadvantage; but only in the same sense that, say, deafness is a disadvantage. I mean there's no moral inferiority attached to it. (Which, sadly, is not to say that there aren't plenty of Catholic homophobes, some of whom justify their sinful contempt of their fellow creatures with a veneer of theology.)

      I would go even further and say that it doesn't follow that homosexual affections contain some moral evil that heterosexual affections are free of. Yes, erotic love generally includes a desire for sex with the object of love; but I view this as one of the effects of this love, not its essence, and I am unwilling to condemn something merely because it has a temptation attached to it. You might as well condemn having a job because of the risk of greed. One cannot live in the world without temptation -- something I dare say Christians in general could agree on whether we agree on a theology of sex or not.

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    5. I don't have the impression that Catholics believe gays to be inferior, but that they believe gayness in action (sounds weird, go with it) to be immoral. That is the conclusion that confuses me. The lack of fertility doesn't do it for me as an explanation. I fail to see the evil in it, or the logic in the argument. I just don't see where erotic gayness is bad and erotic straightness is good. Where one is temptation always and one is sometimes okay to act on.

      But it's not your responsibility to make me see it--it might not be there to be seen...

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    6. I think your summary of the Catholic attitude is a decent one, personally. Apart from the Catholic Church, I probably wouldn't accept the absence of fertility as an adequate reason, either; but of course where that line or reasoning takes us is the authority of the Church herself, which is an important but distinct conversation (for which we probably haven't space here -- though if you feel like picking it up you're welcome to e-mail me).

      The normal Catholic line of argument, which I don't find completely satisfying though I do think it has some merit, is that procreation is one of the primary purposes of sex; not the only one, true, but one of the chief ones (the other being sacramental union between the parties). This view is the weightier from a traditional perspective in that it is the only one that has been consistently acknowledged by all orthodox Catholics throughout Christian history, whatever else they also believed about sex. One reason this argument makes so little appeal today is that, for a number of reasons, our mindset as a culture has very largely shifted from what we might call end-based ethics -- in which an act was judged largely on the basis of whether it was directed toward an appropriate end (and, moreover, that ends were built into the nature of acts, rather than imbued solely by the agent) -- to an ethic of harm versus harmlessness; in other words, if what a person is doing does not hurt or interfere with other people, the obvious thing to do (from this perspective) is to allow it. Melinda Selmys is currently doing a series on her blog about the relation of Catholic sexual theology to this outlook, and doing it better justice from a philosophical perspective than I could.

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    7. ~Now, you could in principle construct a detailed moral system that didn't involve the idea that gay sex is wrong. But both the Bible and the consistent tradition of the Church are in the way. To me, if we dismiss those things as relics of an unenlightened culture, it seems more like an argument against Christianity than in favor of a sexually progressive version of Christianity.~


      I find this so interesting, because it hinges on this fantasy of 'eternal truths'. That sexual relationships and gender relations have never changed or altered from what the Bible wrote, over 2,000 years ago.

      The only conceivable way to defend that, the idea that there is no space to breathe, no room to interpret the world as we can know and understand it today(as the ancestors of our religious traditions were not entirely able to)- is to outright deny the monumental ways in which marriage has changed to embrace gender equality for women, the complete shift relating to women's rights, and essentially about 1,800 years of slavery that your Christian religious traditions didn't object to until their adherents realized, through the collective human experience over the course of history, that all of the above was DEAD. WRONG.

      And so, it changed. Like that. Period. End of discussion. No longer the way it was when your Jesus walked the earth, or Paul wrote his letters.

      I see, though, how comforting this sort of circular thinking allows a person to feel. Critical thinking need not bend it, human observation may not alter it(even if it has before, we'll make an exception to not do that THIS TIME), and I imagine there is great comfort for scared, hurt, and emotionally scarred people in it.

      But it's still not true. Much of what we do today completely contradicts Biblical teachings, for no purpose other than modifying to a world we understand better as a species than we did before.

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    8. I'm not saying that no kind of development in understanding is possible. Nor do I think that no objectively right developments have taken place. But in such cases, from studying both the Bible and the history of the Church, I agree with Bl. Newman's view: that the truth was at the very least implicit from the beginning, and could be drawn out from premises present in the tradition itself. The history of the Church and of our society is long and subtle, and in fact there has been less development than people suppose -- more fluctuation than development, in some areas -- but I don't want to get sidetracked.

      The problem I find with making such a case for homosexuality is that I don't find a way of getting that conclusion out of the premises, so to speak, even implicitly; and the sources whom I've read who claim to do so, don't satisfy me intellectually. I don't think they're irrational or insincere -- I just think that their arguments are not persuasive enough for me to lay down my conviction of the authority of the Church.

      As for eternal truths, how on earth could we describe any change as progress unless we believed in them? Let's take the example of slavery. All of us (I imagine and hope) agree that slavery is wrong; some of our ancestors did, and some didn't, but a majority of them thought it was tolerable, or at any rate something that would have to be tolerated. Now that most people, or rather, most people we know, don't think that way, we describe the rejection of slavery as an advance. But how can we describe it as an advance unless we take for granted that our view of slavery is the right one, and that our ancestors were objectively wrong? How can a change be an improvement unless it brings us closer to a constant ideal? If there are no eternal truths -- as that slavery is wrong -- then calling our own day advanced or enlightened doesn't mean anything, because there isn't any direction or light to be had; it's mere change. Change that we prefer, perhaps, but no more meaningful than a preference for raspberry jam over apricot.

      This does leave us considerable space to discuss what the eternal, objective truths are, and indeed to disagree a great deal about them. But if they simply aren't there, there is nothing to discuss but our personal preferences; and in that case there is no right except whoever is willing to shout the loudest.

      I admit that I do find the idea of eternal truths comforting. I do take great comfort in the idea that, for example, the brutal treatment of gays in Russia or Iran or Uganda are objectively wrong and ought to stop, and that the world would be a better place if they did, rather than regarding it as a private (or even a societal) taste. But if I'm wrong, I'm wrong; being neurotic alongside the wrongness doesn't seem relevant to me.

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    9. ~Change that we prefer, perhaps, but no more meaningful than a preference for raspberry jam over apricot.~

      I don't mean to try and slam you by chastising you for making a bad slavery comparison, but come on man? Figuring out the harms of slavery is like preferring a change from raspberry jam to an apricot? I think there's more to it, and more to the people that pushed for abolition, than just their changing preferences.

      It's objectively reliable to say that it is wrong, and bad for society, for people to OWN people as property. Slavery hurts people. Innocent people. Whose only crime was the color of their skin, their perceived inferiority, and their inability to defend themselves. Realizing that was bogus, and that all religious teachings supporting or tacitly giving some sort of approval to it also were bogus, is not a change in preference- it's an advancement in human intelligence.

      This is not the same thing as changing a liturgy from Latin to English.

      And you are right- the abuse of gay and lesbians in country's that institutionalize their antigay beliefs should stop, because it hurts people, families, and children. We can agree on that.

      What I won't agree on is finding some sort of decency, or merit badge, in a person who proudly embraces the core animus driving the very oppression he is complaining about. That is some crocodile tears.

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    10. Of course there was more to it than a change in their preferences; that's precisely my point. The objective truth about right and wrong can be known, however imperfectly, and therefore we can draw closer to it. But we must first establish what the objective truth is and why.

      If by oppression you mean simply the belief that gay sex is wrong, I don't find that a very helpful use of language. If you're referring to the harsh laws and pogroms that I brought up, then it is true that the people who practice such injustice believe that gay sex is wrong, and that many of them are Christians; but it doesn't follow 1) that all Christians who espouse that view draw the conclusion that gays deserve to be persecuted, or 2) that those who do are reasoning correctly from their premises. I dare say most of us believe that lying is (at least usually) wrong; but if there were a group of people who proposed to jail or brutalize people who tell lies, would that change our minds on the subject? Any position can be taken to an extreme, and I think it a disservice to the discussion to treat the traditional view as though no form of it but the extreme form does, or could, exist.

      To go back to the slavery example (which I employed in the first place because you mentioned it, and I was too lazy to come up with an alternative). Slavery hurts people. Well, what if (as in the ancient world) slavery weren't premised on racism? What if (as the primitive Church, with modest success, demanded of her members) all masters treated their slaves humanely? Surely even in such an ameliorated situation, slavery would still be wrong. We deduce this from our view of human nature: namely, that human beings have an intrinsic right to be free, rather than "owned" (of course, in reality, no one can own anyone else, even if the legal system recognizes it). But we first have to have that view of human nature, and reasons why we believe it. If we are going to reject the traditional view that gay sex is wrong -- or, for that matter, if we're going to support it -- we must first state a coherent view of human nature, and of sexuality in particular. Just throwing around accusations of oppression and groupthink won't suffice.

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  3. One of the things I've been trying when I'm frustrated by recurring sins is to beg God to take the temptation away, beg Him to give me the desire to do what I know I should be doing, to make it easier on me. Sometimes He does help in this way.

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  4. Your celibacy isn't the equivalent of just going ' Nah. '

    It's a direct acceptance that something special about a biological predetermination, your orientation, is 'wrong' and that you need to 'not be that way'.

    You can spin it however you want, but I see it for what it is. A car stuck with its wheels in the mud, spewing the same stuff, and insisting that it's not wrecked.

    Your celibacy is completely tied to a antigay and self-deprecating belief system, made by straight people for straight people, that completely disregards our reality.

    Such a thing to give in to.

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    1. Well, I can hardly ask you to evaluate it from my perspective. But I want to re-emphasize, given your remarks about needing to not be this way, that I don't at all take an ex-gay perspective -- I would hate to leave that impression. I have written before about my repudiation of ex-gay theories and practices. I doubt that that would satisfy you, but I hope it is at least some small area of common ground between us.

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    2. What is actually different about ex-gay theology and what you prescribe?

      The point of each is 'don't BE gay'. Whether you accept that you changed it, or that your forcing yourself to never have the familial companionship you might want, or whether you are forcing yourself to be mock married to a heterosexual partner, etc., the point of all of those practices is the same exact thing.

      Don't be gay. Being gay is bad.

      I have absolutely no distinction between people like you, or people like Alan Chambers, and the types that do holding therapy.

      You all believe the same exact thing. You're trying to do the same exact thing. There's a core indignity that links all of you to the same belief- the only thing that's different is how you express it.

      The difference is bells and whistles, Gabriel. It's the same exact movement.

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    3. I'm sorry, but I don't agree.

      The most obvious distinction I'd point to between my own outlook and that of the ex-gay movement is that I oppose conversion therapy, and have done for years. I have no more truck with NARTH or the Restored Hope Network than I do with Westboro Baptist Church. I consider such therapies harmful and dangerous, or even at their best, a pointless waste of time; and even when I was open to the idea, their theories struck me as dogmatic and ridiculous. (They still do.)

      If by "be gay" you mean "have gay sex," then I guess I'd say "don't be gay"; but I don't find that a useful way of using the phrase "be gay." Normally, today, it refers to orientation rather than behavior; and surely a man is just as gay (or straight) when he's asleep or filing his taxes or listening to music, as he is when he's having sex of whatever kind.

      I don't consider being gay to be reducible to having sex, and I don't consider being gay in the sense of being homosexually oriented to be sinful. I don't consider myself any less gay for being celibate, and I don't consider myself bad for being gay, either.

      You are of course free to reject my outlook as much as theirs, but I don't think it's to your or anybody's advantage to treat them as though they were the same. Even if your sole purpose in reading this blog were to oppose the views of those who take basically the same view I do, it'd be more effective to deconstruct this view on its own premises, showing its inconsistencies with itself, or plain reason, or both. That kind of refutation is profitable to everyone.

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    4. You are reducting gay intimacy to sex, having and building a family with a man you love to being nothing more than a rump in the hay. That's not at all what I meant by 'being gay', or as you might put it 'being a homosexual'. Love, family, and intimacy doesn't whittle down to our genitals.

      Of course, I reject your insistence that you don't think its bad to 'be gay' or 'be a homosexual'. I've seen grand statements from many people like you that you don't believe it's "wrong" to be gay, except you then deconstruct your own homosexuality in such a negative manner that you *can't* fall in love, that you *can't* have a natural family, that you are *mandated* to be without a very natural type of intimacy, because the intimacy you are oriented to is *wrong*. If, however, you were able to be one of our amazing heterosexual peers then you could have the happy, walking in the sunset, patriarchy sponsored 'family'.

      I see good sexuality vs. bad sexuality, so bad you can't be your natural self.

      Of course, you could disprove that and assert that it's okay to be gay, there's nothing wrong with it, and loving relationships are alright between two persons of the same gender. But you don't believe that- and I don't mean to mock you with that statement- I used it to highlight that you clearly have a negative internalization of what homosexuality is, and what your own homosexuality means to you. Unless you are celibate or mock married to an opposite gendered person your homosexuality is not "okay".

      Instead of making grand declarations about your internalized gay beliefs, why don't you tell me instead how you can deconstruct your sexuality to come to the above determinations, and not do so in a way that views your, and my, sexuality negatively or 'badly'?

      At the end of it I think the answer you are really trying to espouse is that there is nothing *wrong* with being a gay person much like there is nothing wrong with being autistic, or having cerebral palsey. Some people are physically born with a predetermined and disordered sexuality. Sucks to be them, but just like diabled people are okay- that lot in life is 'A-OKAY' also!

      That's what I get from reading you.

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    5. Where on earth do you get the idea that I reduce gay intimacy to sex? I absolutely don't think they're the same thing. I admit I didn't bring this up specifically in this post, since it wasn't directly relevant (though it is of course related); I admit, too, that it would be quite unreasonable to ask you to read through my entire blog; nonetheless, I have contradicted the conflation of intimacy with sex in plain English, several times. Indeed, I have gone out of my way to state that I see nothing wrong with gay romance, and that my moral problems arise only about the sexual act.

      If you are inducing what I believe based on my similarities to other people, I can only ask that you judge me based on what I say, rather than on what other people say. I decline to be held accountable for whatever other gay Christians (whether they call themselves that or not) believe is true. Hand me a statement from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and sure, I'll regard myself as beholden to that; otherwise, I prefer to do my own talking.

      In that vein, I shall repeat in black and white that I do not consider gay romances intrinsically wrong. I feel personally called to celibacy, but that is precisely personal -- it isn't deduced from my orientation.

      For that matter, I don't consider straight romances intrinsically right. Due to my views of the sexual act, I think it's a lot easier to be straight (though, as they're the majority of the population, I'd think so anyway, because it's always easier to be in the majority whether it's a moral question or not). But I take for granted that all human sexuality is flawed and imperfect -- not because sex is dirty (it isn't), but because we're flawed and imperfect beings. I don't regard any area of our being as ideal, though I don't denigrate it on that account. In sum, I don't see good sexuality versus bad sexuality at all; I see sexuality that shows problems and shortcomings in a wide variety of ways, some more difficult and others less. (The analogy to disabilities is, in my opinion, a moderately serviceable one, because of course no reasonable person would despise a disabled person for being disabled.)

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    6. This conversation has just taken a very interesting turn, namely, Gabriel's distinction between legitimate gay romances and celibacy.

      I had been thinking of "companionate marriages," which are legitimate force divorced people whose marriages have not been annulled. It seems to me that something similar would be legitimate for gay people. (Whether they may enter into a civil marriage is another question, to which I don't claim to have an answer.) It seems to me that in such a gay romance, the extent to which physical expressions of affection would be legitimate depends on the individuals. One indication might be the sorts of things that straight friends commonly do, such as hugs. But it might go farther than that, to include kisses, one leaning on the other's chest — all sorts of things which don't involve direct contact with genitals. But some would find an occasion of sin where others don't. I'm guessing that Gabriel would see something of this sort as a gay romance that wasn't wrong.

      But I would have thought that such a relationship was not only chaste, but celibate, since it does not involve marriage. Gabriel seems to be saying that having a life partner is contradictory to celibacy, that celibacy implies solitary life (maybe group living is okay, but "particular friendships" would definitely be out.

      Although it is not very likely that I will find an intimate romantic companion with whom I could live chastely, I had always thought that if I did so, I'd still be considered celibate.

      The dictionary defines celibacy as being in an unmarried state, with refraining from sex given as a second definition. It would seem that a gay romance which was not wrong would fit that definition. OTOH, the Code of Canon Law sees celibacy as something which enables people to give themselves more freely and completely to Christ and to the service of God and humanity. A gay romance might not technically violate the dictionary definition of celibacy, but it might frustrate its purpose for clerics and religious. What about for other unmarried people?

      I think that we need to understand the distinctions between continence, celibacy, and chastity

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    7. I think the key to forming intimate, chaste same-sex friendships is to learn to sublimate the sexual desire into spiritual love. It is a challenge, but a goal to aspire to.

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    8. Thought of you when I saw this.
      https://twitter.com/bpbailey/status/402272050381086720
      Just one more view of a multifaceted reality.

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  5. "So how exactly does one try to be chaste without merely repressing?" Repressing isn't inherently a bad thing. If it's all you can do, then it's the thing to do. To get beyond that level, the virtue of chastity must become habitual, which requires avoiding unchastity.

    Don't confuse chastity with freedom from temptation to unchastity. Saying "Nah," is important: it IS chastity when one is tempted.

    So, how to lessen the strength, and frequency, of temptation. Obviously avoidance of occasions of sin is important. As you, and everybody else on our side says, friendships are very important to provide the intimacy people crave. (As for spouses needing intimate friendship outside their marriage — I think there's something missing in the marriage if that's the case.)

    "I admit I'm partly hoping that I've grown enough -- and that maybe my sex drive has calmed down enough -- that I can do without a boyfriend now." While I join you in that hope, what struck me powerfully about this line is the taking for granted that one might be unable to do without a boyfriend. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think so. When I was of high school and college age (late 1950's, early 60's), it would never have occurred to me that I might be unable to do without a boyfriend. (Nor has it since.) I think there has been a major cultural shift, in which it has come to be taken for granted that everybody needs to be sexually active. That's not what you're saying, but it's the context in which your mindset was formed. For me, and I believe for a lot of gay guys of my age, having a boyfriend was never on the table. We weren't to have sex with other men, so we couldn't possibly need to.

    FWIW here's how that all worked out for me. Of course, I was strongly attracted to various guys over the years, beginning before I even realized that there was a sexual relationship to it. I've wanted to be friends with them, and in some cases have succeeded, although circumstances eventually put us out of contact. With one I even felt close enough to come out to him. But for almost all of my 70 years, I have not had anything like an intimate friendship. So am I not a healthy person? Perhaps "it's not for me to say," but I don't think so. If I'm right, the reason is perhaps not creativity, as you've defined it, but something similar in its function in my life — call it involvement. I've been active in my town's government in elective office for many years, then on an appointive advisory board. I've been in a yacht club where I serve on the committee that manages the sailboat races. With professional help, I cared for my mother in her final years of dementia. I've been very involved in my church, mainly at the parish level, but more recently at the diocesan level as well. Since my retirement and after my mother's death, I've increasingly attended symphony concerts and plays. I'm not saying I'm the healthiest person in the world. And perhaps if I had realized earlier than I did that it's okay to be gay, I'd actually have been able to form some chaste intimate friendships (I'm still open to the possibility). Nevertheless, I think that involvement in activities which I've found personally satisfying ("extended creativity," if you will) has enabled me to have a reasonably happy life without overt homosexual activity.

    So my advice is that you accept that you will be tempted; plow through if you have to; realize that you will probably sin through human frailty; but never accept the idea that you need to sin.

    God bless you.

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  6. What about divorced heterosexual catholics (faithful ones, that is) who cannot get an annulment? The only way they would be free to seek sexual relationships would be the death of their spouse, something one is not free to pray for.

    While I pray for you every day, the attitude conveyed here might make it difficult for me to have a strong friendship with you. Where is there any sense of being greatful for what you have?

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    1. Well, I'm not sure I understand what you're driving at in the first question. I mean, certainly it's a very unhappy situation, and one that I sympathize with as much as I can -- never having been heterosexual, married, or divorced, I know my sympathy doesn't go terribly far, but for whatever it may be worth. Are you asking what tactics I think would be wise in that sort of situation?

      I thank you warmly for your prayers. As to feeling grateful -- that is a great weakness of mine. My sense of gratitude, though not as underdeveloped as it used to be, is still not nearly what it ought to be. Now, I found out years ago that gratitude isn't something that can be forced; so I no longer try to strongarm myself into feeling grateful when I don't, even if I know it would be appropriate -- I just try to acknowledge what I wish I felt, and make some gesture (or something more) of gratitude, if only for fairness' sake.

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  7. I think that when contrasting heterosexual and homosexual celibacy, the scenario I mentioned should be considered. It is not true that every current celibate heterosexual can hope for a sexual partner.

    Another reason was was Naturgesetz's statement "As for spouses needing intimate friendship outside their marriage — I think there's something missing in the marriage if that's the case." That may (or not) be so, but the hard truth is that a great many marriages (including my parents' marriage) are deficient. But, one is not automatically free to seek a new marriage. Intimate, chaste friendships seem to be the best solution.

    Another unfortunate reason was because I improperly thought you were excessively dramatizing your life situation as uniquely unfair. I have read more of your story, and now marvel at what you have achieved considering what you have faced in your life. I sincerely apologize for my failure to respect you adequately.

    I am predominantly same-sex attracted, and this is the first time I have admitted this. I am 26, live with my parents, and have never dated. My heart does not ache for a partner, however. So, I do not entirely understand everything your are experiencing.

    I feel like my life has not really started and I do not have a developed solution. l plan to keep deepening my faith and expressing love spiritually and this has helped so far.

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    1. Ah, I think I grasp your meaning a bit better now. (I am genuinely grateful for the apology, by the way, which is generous of you; but please rest assured that I didn't feel you were being disrespectful in the first place.)

      I see what you mean about heterosexuality not being a guarantee of getting a sexual partner, or even a romantic one. That is quite true; our lot is not altogether unique. One or two other heterosexual unpartnered friends have said as much to me, and it is certainly a place where I can understand them better. I do think that being gay has its own peculiar qualities not present in straight trials, and it is largely about that that I try to write -- but the occasional reminder of our shared experiences, alongside our distinct ones, is very useful. To quote Tim Minchin, "What I'm trying to say is, you're not special ... I mean, you're special, but you fall within a bell curve ..."

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    2. Not every heterosexual person that's celibate hopes for a partner- but the difference between gay celibacy, spurned by religion, and straight celibacy motivated by religious or spiritual teachings, is that the heterosexuals can change. On a dime. No questions asked, no questioned needed.

      Your theology and personal beliefs are absolutely confining, you are made broken and commanded to be whole. It's not the same experience, it sure has similarities, but they are so intrinsically different in their origin, and personal motivations. One is actually an option, the other is a chosen mandate- with no room to breathe.

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    3. Actually, divorced Catholics who cannot obtain an annulment cannot change on a dime. They cannot remarry unless their former spouse dies, something one is not free to pray for.

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