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October 21, 2004

Comments

mythago

Amazing, and beautiful.

joe

It has been a long time since I've opened a Bible, so long I don't know if I can recall enough to comment. I don’t remember any relationships of the homosexual sort being mentioned in a positive light, and would like to know if there are any. The husband/wife, father/son, etc. relationships abound, and usually are spoken of positively. I really don’t think God shuns male to male or female to female bonding, maybe even to extremes I might feel uncomfortable. However, I do believe He never meant these relationships to delve into a homosexual nature. I do not think sexual relationships are meant to be the-be-all-end-all of marriage and think this is plainly clear scripturally.

Interestingly, God has made us co-creators in his creation. Creation being the powerful thing that it is, I would guess God had some planes on how to protect the misuse of this power. Marriage, as a prerequisite seems to be one. I don’t think marriage is to be inclusive of homosexual relationship, as far as God is concerned, mainly because it lacks a creative power— it takes the spiritually sacred power and confounds it. Does this mean sex is the ends to a heterosexual union? NO. I would say creation is closer to that, yet I guess that never really ends.

What I believe this preacher has done is taken his “liberal” world view and pasted it to a sexual ethic within his beliefs—he has fooled himself into thinking it is an enlightened view God would maintain. Again, he has used God’s all encompassing grace and love and attached it to what he believes is just and acceptable in God’s eyes. However, if one were to let God speak on the matter, there arises a different result.

mythago

God has spoken on the matter, joe. If you have a direct line to God that is contradictory, please, clue us in.

Chip

Hugo,

Above all else that I see here, the biggest flaw with the sermon is that there is no sense of original sin in it. To say that "Our body's feelings, our body's erogenous dimensions, our fantasies, our masculinity and femininity, our heterosexuality, our homosexuality, our sexual irresponsibilities as well as our yearnings for sexual integrity—all of this is graciously accepted by divine love" is, in essence, to deny original sin. It implies that our sexuality has not been corrupted by the fall of humanity.

One of the biggest disagreements that I see among the orthodox and progressives comes in what we consider to be "sin." Each side agrees that certain actions are sinful (although they may disagree on which actions are sinful), but most progressives seemingly (judging from what I've read and my discussions with them) don't agree with the orthodox that we have a sinful nature, and that sin affects all aspects of our humanity. Generalizations are dangerous, but it seems to me that to progressives, humanity is essentially good, with acts of sin disrupting our goodness and causing us to need to repent. To the orthodox, humanity is essentially fallen, and sin is as natural to us as breathing and affects us all in a myriad of ways.

As you well know, Hugo, how we stand here affects our Christology, as well as our views of salvation and our need for redemption. And so we end up having two (or more) very different views of Christian essentials.

Both sides agree that God loves us in spite of our sinfulness; that's not an issue. God's grace does accept us just as we are! But that grace never leaves us as we are either. And I know you wouldn't disagree with that, but that's another area of major difference between our camps, because that touches upon exactly what is sinful. And, to go back to the priest's point, while God does love us, our "irresponsibilities" are not "accepted" by God -- forgiven when we truly repent, yes, but not simply "accepted." God is too holy for that.

Peace of Christ,
Chip

mythago

It implies that our sexuality has not been corrupted by the fall of humanity.

I don't think so, Chip. The sermon wasn't about how all sexuality is OK all the time, because it's perfect. But the alternative is to argue that sexuality itself is corrupt and, as the early Christians claimed, that celibacy is the highest goal for all--with marriage being a grudgingly-accepted alternative for those who would otherwise sin.

joe

i was trying not to be snide, mythago.

John Sloas

Hugo--
I still can't go where you have gone on this issue, but I'm trying to be open-minded. Thanks for making me think.

Also...I don't mind that you don't "defend absolutely everything." I'd rather have you "liberated" in your writing.

Also...gosh, I miss Pasadena. Peace to you.

Hugo

Hi John! Glad to see you back!

Trey

I found the sermon to be powerful, moving, and close to right.

"Without self acceptance one cannot possibly live responsibly."

Amen.

Amanda

It defies common sense to think that God gave us sexuality and then condemned us for it. But then again, that sort of illogic is exactly why I cannot believe in any sort of religion.

The sermon is beautiful, by the way. It warms my heart to see that people who find meaning in religion can find a church that provides it without condemning them for being how God made them.

And, Joe, I think the descriptions of the love between David and Jonathan are some of the more romantic pages of the Bible. ;)

Stephen

Interesting to note those qualities we find virtuous these days: open-minded, sensitive, seeing the grey, etc. What about fidelity, obedience, self-denial? Yes, I know these are not mutually exclusive qualities but we certainly weigh our assesment heavily toward those behaviors and attitudes which do not require much of us in the way of sacrifice.

I am an Episcopalian by temperment and yet wonder if bringing a particularly Episcopal sensibility to the discussion of sexuality isn't simply a way to affirm my personality, rather than get at what is true so we can be obedient. (And, as an Episcopalian, I understand how that final clause will make many squirm -- which is my point.)

Steve

Lee

I admit to being a squish when it comes to same-sex unions in the Church (I'm much more sanguine about same-sex civil unions), but I'm more than a little troubled by the theology that seems to be behind this sermon. That "God accepts us as we are" is true (though I would prefer to say that "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us" so that we don't lose sight of what it cost God), but when uncoupled from the call to discipleship it becomes cheap grace. God may love us as we are, but he doesn't *leave* us as we are. "When Christ calls a man he bids him come die" and all that.

Hugo

Oh, I think there is plenty of room for homosexuality and discipleship together. If there is one thing that my own life has taught me, it is that marriage is an act of discipleship! Staying obedient to one's vows to another, regardless of that other's sex, is sometimes easy -- and other times, an act of heroic and Christ-like self-denial.

Lee

Hugo -

I don't doubt that for a moment. But there is a logical leap in moving from "God accepts us" to "God accepts whatever it is we feel like doing." I'm not saying that expressions of same-sex attraction are per se incompatible with Christian teaching (the jury's still out on that as far as I'm concerned). But it seems to me that revisionists often treat the mere existence of a deep-seated orientation as conclusive, whereas I think that a lot more theolgical (and Scriptural!) argument is required before overturning the Church's traditional sexual ethic.

Amanda

Obedience is always one of those virtues preached to me by those who want me to obey. Funny, that.

John

You have to obey somebody sometime....:-)

Hugo

Lee -- and if conservatives just hang tight in ECUSA, we'll get them there yet! ;-)

John

Not with the standard of theology I've seen from the liberal wing so far, you won't. I shall await ECUSA's requested position paper on the Authority of Scripture with interest. Train wrecks have a certain fascination, after all....;-)

David Morrison

As a Christian man who has lived with a knowledge of his same sex attraction since he was 13, I found this sermon patronizing and insulting and if I had been Episcopalian at the time it would have pushed me out of the communion all that much faster.

Since when does a pastor of a parish in the latter part of the twentieth century get to decide, unchallenged, that the way Christians have understood biblical prohibitions on homosexual sex for 2000 years are simply wrong, just because he says so?

Since when does a Christian denomination have to buy into the thinking that we can be boiled down to our sexual inclinations and temptations, as though that's all we are?

I used self define as gay, an activist in fact and I understand that way of thinking, but after much prayer and reflection I concluded that to define myself as gay and then use that as a justification for having sex cannot be reconciled with genuine discipleship to Christ and authentic Christianity or authentic love for that matter.

Why? First of all because doing so ignores the reality that we have God-given bodies, that were given to us for a purpose and that there is more to that purpose than merely the means to sexual pleasure, whether ours or someone else's. All this talk about how our sexuality is God given is bunk in my opinion if it doesn't also take into account the reality that, in the case of male sexuality at least, the results of my sexual expression are meant for more than being wiped up, swallowed or sent out with sewage.

Second, it further ties in the bizarre notion that somehow one has to have sexual expression to have love. I would have news for the good pastor, my former lover and I have lived as good and solid and chaste friends now for 11 years and we haven't had to have sex to have the strongest friendship of my life. Imagine that.

In fact, I stopped having sex with my partner after I realized how much I loved him for who he is, a man created in the image and likeness of God with a eternal destiny and a soul and body deserving of respect, not being a means to my finding sexual gratification.

Third, it assumes, a priori that people living with same sex attraction cannot live chastely and shouldn't even be asked. Sorry, but that's bunk and it's wrong and it essentially says to me and to thousands of others that we lack the free will and self-discipline to make moral decisions and live by them. We are not animals, we are human beings, and we can hear from Christ "go and sin no more" and really do it.

Fourth, it sets limits and requirements on God. In other words, we stop seeking to measure our lives and actions by God's standards and instead decide we will only worship a God that meets our standards. If we decide in advance that we only worship a God who approves of gay sex, where does it leave us if it turns out He really doesn't?

Finally, it completely caves in to the predominate culture. Cheap grace, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in the opening line of the Call To Discipleship, is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. This "sermon" had nothing in it but grace so cheap it stopped being grace at all.

Hugo, I know no one feels the need to really think about these things in much of the ECUSA these days, which is one reason I am deeply relieved to have heeded the call to leave when I did, but if you ever see this priest again please tell him that endorsing what people do in bed is not necessarily loving, nor does it honor Christ, nor does it help anyone to heaven.

When the Prodigal Son came to his senses and realized he lived with the pigs he was a good deal luckier than he likely knew. He, at least, still remembered the way home and didn't have pastors like this one going out of their way to burn down the bridges and tear up the maps.

bonsai

OK, try walking in someone else's shoes for a moment.

Your family, your peers, and the church all say that homosexuality is dirty, that people who have this orientation are not quite as trustworthy or deserving as straight people, that the act is a sin. You see this as you grow up, realize you might "be that way", and that you can't let anyone know until you mull things over. After all, you know God doesn't love you now, and if people knew, goodbye to them too. And maybe other parts of you are broken and dirty, not just the sexuality part.

For some, their sexuality is too demanding to suppress, and they come out at a young age, at whatever cost.

For others, their sexuality is not so strong. They can be celibate for a while and hope that they forget about these inclinations. Other people still like them, but they feel insecure - would they abandon me if they knew? They play the role so long they forget their true feelings. And God still doesn't love them.

And these deniers lose the capacity to love others. They are like pine seedlings grown in a tiny pot - they end up as bonsai, stunted little plants artistically arranged to please the viewer, but certainly not the plant itself. Every once in a while someone takes them out of the pot and trims the roots a bit, then puts them back in the same pot. The stunted tree has stunted all of its branches, not just sexuality, but charity, joy, creativity, a spiritual life. It might drop its leaves one by one. It might die abruptly at an untoward change in weather, not having the innate vitality of a natural tree. Even if it gets into a bigger pot at some point, it may never reach the size and vitality it was meant to have.

Think twice before demanding celibacy from those who may not have the gift for it. Reflect on what it might mean to never be held close. In our culture, unrelated-adult non-romantic physical contact is not common. Could you give up touching another human being for the rest of your life?

I am trying to come out at age 48, never having had a sexual relationship. I am coming out because it is the alternative to suicide.

David Morrison

Bonsai, and who said anything about never touching anyone? My best friend and I hug all the time - and more than hug, we look after one another and care for one another and we have all the good stuff that genuine authentic relationships are supposed to have, the honesty, loyalty, respect, caring, accountability, authenticity, tenderness...all of it.

And you know something, even though we had "great" sex when we had it. We made most of our progress to where we are after we stopped having sex.

That whole line about having to have sex in order to be really intimate with someone else. That's bunk, a flat out misconception. What human beings really need for intimacy is risk and that's much harder.

Yes, if someone chooses they can try to live chastely in isolation and without loving anyone else or letting themselves be loved. But in my opinon their chances of success drop and they make the road much harder on themselves. Chastity is actually much more easily and freely lived out in community than it is in isolation.

bonsai

David, you had sex with your friend/lover, then you stopped having sex. It isn't so surprising that you still hug in a nonsexual context. You didn't form a standard asexual friendship and then start hugging. You do that to a straight person of the same gender, they get uncomfortable, at least in the white US culture that I grew up in. You do that to a straight person of the opposite gender, they get the wrong idea.

I am a little surprised at how "huggie" gay folk are to friends for whom they clearly have no sexual intentions. This isn't bar stuff, this is meet-and-greet at non-alcohol, non-cruising spots like picnics. The boundaries are way different. You probably don't perceive it anymore.

But the point is, the gift of life-long chastity is rare, and not linked to orientation. You've had your shot at the sexual stage of life, and perhaps have the gift to move on to some other stage of life. For those like me, chastity has been more like quarantine of an infected animal. There is no gift, and there is no God there. You have to be human to want God.

Hugo

Bonsai and David, your exchange humbles me. Wow. Thank you both.

Amanda

You have to submit sometimes--doesn't make it a virtue.

Independence is a true virtue, and unlike the virtue of obedience pushed on women endlessly, it's a hard-won battle. At every corner, women are told to reject obedience is to reject men, love, life itself.

My guess is that few men have fought that type of battle in their lives. That women conquer it everyday is a sign of unending strength and real virtue. Usually, though, it's taken as evidence of wickedness, which shows the real priorities of most religions.

mythago

But then again, that sort of illogic is exactly why I cannot believe in any sort of religion.

You must not know many religions if you think accepting that sort of illogic is required in all of them.

the results of my sexual expression are meant for more than being wiped up, swallowed or sent out with sewage

I like to think "the results of my sexual expression" are more than the stains on the sheets, myself. Sex is not just about the physical products left over afterward.

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