Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | February 24, 2011

Thinking About Same Sex Attraction

David at “Oh Taste and See: Life as Eucharist and Icon” has some thoughtful comments about same sex attraction. I think the truth is that we know what we think we know, but are unable to express it. Part of our failure of expression is that we have so many different thoughts. Some might suggest that our confusion stems from wanting to be liked while holding an opinion that is unlikable. I think it is more complicated than that, and the situation far more difficult than the dig suggests.

The trouble is that we really haven’t completed our understanding of sin. Yes, we know sin is bad, and that we hate the sin but love the sinner. But do we really? Yes, I mean do we really love the sinner? We say it, but I imagine that in virtually every other case the sinner is more commonly ourselves and we don’t deal with ourselves all that well. Or if the sinner is someone else (thankfully) we can dismiss them both, and we do. “Not my problem”. But those suffering same sex attraction (SSA) won’t be dismissed. And so the matter confronts us with the reality of whether our faith really lives.

I don’t know about you, but SSA is extremely present in and around my life and always has been. And so I think when we follow the traditions, we find ourselves under the contingency of disdain by a society that has already concluded that we are neanderthals, and if we do not voice our judgment, we judge all the same. Our social condemnation is simply pending the revelation of a slip of the tongue “they” know will come. And truth be told, I suspect they’re right. And so I think about this a fair amount, because I think we mean better (honestly we do), but we seem to get tarred and even slip in the tar from time to time.

Semantics is more than just clever word play. I think how we choose to put our words together often tells how our thoughts are put together. And perhaps if we are able to re-arrange our words, our thoughts will follow and fall into an order that will develop within us a way of understanding the love of the sinner while separating ourselves and our experience of him/her from their sin. This is our struggle, and this is simply the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t suppose it is original to suggest, but I wonder that if we begin to look at our scriptures and their place in the Church, we can begin with what they tell us about salvation. After all, salvation is that for which we read the scriptures, and begins with our desire to conform our life to Christ’s life. With this desire, we seek out how to do this, and find the Church indeed has quite a lot to say on how this search may proceed, what feeds the process and what does not. There are those things which conform and those which do not. The list is quite extensive and includes a lot of what all of us do all the time. All of us.

And it is worth noting that there are a lot of commandments in the Old Testament – especially the Ten Commandments – but the list is far more extensive. Mostly we think of the “Do Not’s” but there are plenty of instructions on what we are supposed to do as well… like how to worship and seek forgiveness. New Testament commandments tend towards the “Do” category, but not exclusively either. The role of the state of heart in what we do is clarified, but it is equally critical that what we do has some facility for recall in the likely event we get it wrong. I think the point of Christ’s message is that whatever we do, it is neither possible for it to be “enough” to merit salvation, nor condemnation. We rely on mercy. So why is our every utterance so lightly considered? Why do we not weigh our words with care to assure that in relying on mercy for ourselves, we also give it to others as we can?

Everything we do affects our heart in its state before God. There is not anything that doesn’t matter. If we are to do one thing, it is to conform our will to the will of God through love. Everything else is a distraction. Our love for those who sin is critical to the love of ourselves… for we do love ourselves as creatures of God who give him our love, our lives and our fealty. If SSA is a manifestation of self-love, it may not be that this  is wrong per se – for it corrects some  of the self-hatred so many of us manifest and is something perhaps that SSA folks contribute to us in balance, but what SSA may lack is a deep orientation towards the truly other – the opposite sex, the rest of creation, God, God’s plan for creation in pairs, etc. – that is truly salvic. But this is speculation on my part as to why scripture makes specific mention of SSA as not salvic, and I attach little importance to it.  I attach far more importance to the fact that Scripture itself mentions SSA as an obstacle but is otherwise silent, and this silence is full of the presence of God, not empty. Let us keep it that way by resisting the temptation to fill the silence.

In an era defined by sex and where unsalvic behavior involving sex is often a source of braggadocio, SSA seems a bigger obstacle than most… not all… but most. In this, I have no doubt that this contributes to our participation in this sin… by making it far more difficult, by excusing it, celebrating it, and making all that is sex so in-your-face that the resulting gay movement is almost our own creation… just as every action creates its own re-action. Thus, though it takes some boldness to say so, I think SSA is a measure of our participation in the sin of the world around us. We may not be our brother’s keeper per se, but leaving him as though these were his problems alone, or as though we had no responsibility for a sex-soaked culture and the easily accessible temptations under which he/she has fallen is to ignore our own corruption as though we are too precious. Has soaking our world in sex really made it a better place? more fun for more than a moment? Really? Yes,  we can’t excuse others just because we need to step up to the plate ourselves. Yes, we all have personal responsibility. But ask any seafarer if responsibility stops at the water’s edge and you’ll hear a different story.

In the end, I don’t know how God made anyone. I don’t know that we can ever really say, “God made me this way” or that.   Our understanding of Creation will always remain incomplete. For so many of us  know how have we  recreated ourselves, turned our lives around from this or that, or equally, fallen under this or that. And we find it hard to really blame someone else either for everything we like or don’t, nor is it always healthy (I understand) to see ourselves as wholly responsible for all of the sins of others. We’re just not that important either… though we do play a role. Understanding biology and human development is only one part of the puzzle. We’re not simply a mass of neurons and goo. God makes us his business and leads us on, but how we respond and develop is a complex of digesting our experience of the world around us together with this chemistry in wherever and however we find ourselves. We’re not very good followers.

And someday, whenever it is, when we decide to find ourselves in terms of who we can become in the vision God has for each of us, then we turn to Scripture with a different look. Here we don’t see some list of one or two-word do’s and don’t’s, but a long love letter and a lot of caring instruction. Indeed, it is the whole purpose of the Church to direct how this effort proceeds. The contrast between where Scripture and the Church have a lot to say with where they say almost nothing tells us much about what we need and how to pursue salvation. Our sins are our sins, and dwelling on them just isn’t constructive.

So I think that it is in this context and this alone that  I fail to see how SSA will contribute towards the salvation of all or any of us with one exception.  And that exception is that the insight someone with SSA has into behavior is often deeper than our own once they do in fact make a turn of heart towards God for salvation. And as it is with so many that suffer and struggle with other obvious, open and undeniable issues, their resulting strength and weakness is fed by the way in which their struggles were less hidden both in their identification and in their ultimate triumph. And so the potential for Glory may be all the greater. As we pray for them and all who struggle, let us ask their prayers for our salvation  – and even our Glory – as well.


Responses

  1. Very well said. The issue is that for “persons” repentance is a process of dismantling an entire life of stuff that is “not of God”. We tend to focus on the physical “act” of SSA rather than the entire person. The act of sexual union is only one part of the big picture and it may not be the part that needs to be focused on initially. Like all of us, SSA folks have a mixed bag of intertwined issues and conceptualizing it as virtually just a sexual issue objectifies the human beings involved.

  2. What s-p said.

    I like this post very, very much.

  3. Thanks for your comments. Yeah… what SP said.

  4. We regardless of our sexual predisposition (incidentally the simplification this issue into a heterosexual v homosexual issue is infuriating.. anyone remotely aware of the seedier side of the internet knows that sexuality is quickly becoming a cacophony of disorientations, fetishes, and sub-sub cultures) we don’t know love. And we should stop talking like we do. If heterosexuals knew what love was and ought to be, we would not even be having this conversation. Marriage isn’t a “safe place” for your sexual gratification, it’s for your salvation. Our wives aren’t sex toys (and sex isn’t a tool for our wives to reward or punish their husbands). Shame on us. Shame, until we all come to our senses.

  5. David… thank you for your visit and comment.


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