A scattered “reader’s response” from a “New Homophile”

Austin Ruse has published  a piece on us in Crisis Magazine. While he has critiques, the main point of the piece is to just say, “Here, look at this strange phenomenon! Check out the eccentric and often brilliant Eve Tushnet, progenitor of the whole crew! [Eve, the Mother of All...?] Check out the Momma Bear, Elizabeth Scalia! Here’s a kinda weird, kinda wonderful bunch of people to look at!”

I must admit, I’m a bit amused by the piece. It almost makes us seem like some exotic tribe, with Ruse as the diligent anthropologist setting out to record and explain our practices. Of course, it is old school anthropology, the kind where you didn’t ask the people you were studying what they were on about, but just developed your own explanations, which you relayed to people who were more distant than you, and coined names for them yourself (though “New Homophiles” does roll off the tongue nicely!). As a result, he misses some things, like Ron Belgau and Wesley Hill, the editors of this blog, whose contributions to the First Thoughts blog at First Things are significantly more prolific than my contributions to On the Square over there. He also tends to portray us as much more homogeneous than we are. Still, I appreciate his basic interest in our project, and  look forward with interest to his promised forthcoming piece on our gay critics.

In the mean time, when the anthropologist relays the practices of the indigenous populations, something is invariably lost. Let me speak as one of the natives (and only one of them, not a definitive spokesman for the whole tribe) and try to articulate some of the nuance which, it seems to me, is missing.

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Sarah Coakley on desire

God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’, the long-awaited first volume of Sarah Coakley’s theologie totale was finally published last month, and my copy has arrived. Coakley’s broad project is to find resources in the ascetic traditions of Christianity to help to deal with contemporary concerns about sex and gender. In her Prelude, she writes about the understanding of desire in contemporary culture and the theological tradition; I include some selections, which I hope will be of interest to our readers:

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There’s more to life

This post just came across my Facebook news feed; I offer it as a playful reminder that, while we here at Spiritual Friendship talk about sexuality a lot, there’s more to life than being gay! The nature of this website means that sexuality and “allied fields” are mostly what we talk about here, but there’s much more out there! Those who denounce us for calling ourselves gay or queer or what have you are over-making their case, certainly; but there is a certain basic truth that underlies their argument. It is true that our fundamental identity must come from Christ; it’s just that Christ is not the only name by which we may call ourselves.

With that being said, gay is just one word that describes Stephen Lovegrove. Attraction to guys is just one characteristic that describes me. And my sexual orientation is a very small part of my multi-faceted, complicated, and spectacular life. So I write today to say, there’s more to life than being gay.

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Some tools of chaste living: Turning toward God

I recently started a series of posts about graced realities which I have found to be helpful in the pursuit of chastity, defined deeply as the mastery through grace of internal sexual desires and passions, and their ordering according to the will of God. When people are married in the Church, they undergo marriage counseling; when people enter religious life, they have a period of intensive formation. Yet for people in the most difficult situation within which to pursue chastity, cut off from both marriage and the support of a religious community, there is little discussion of how to make this sustainable in a lifelong way. In previous posts, I discussed friendship, stress management, and ascesis.

In my previous posts this week, I have talked a bit about things which I have found helpful in striving to live chastely despite the relative lack of support structures of a celibate life lived outside a religious order.

In my last post, I want to explore the fundamental concern for direction in life and a turn towards God which the Christian tradition has inherited from Neoplatonic philosophy.

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Some tools of chaste living: Ascesis

I recently started a series of posts about graced realities which I have found to be helpful in the pursuit of chastity, defined deeply as the mastery through grace of internal sexual desires and passions, and their ordering according to the will of God. When people are married in the Church, they undergo marriage counseling; when people enter religious life, they have a period of intensive formation. Yet for people in the most difficult situation within which to pursue chastity, cut off from both marriage and the support of a religious community, there is little discussion of how to make this sustainable in a lifelong way. In previous posts, I discussed friendship and stress management.

The third graced reality I would like to discuss is ascesis. We can sometimes think about asceticism in terms of a denigration of the physical, or an advanced practice which belongs only to monks and hermits. In fact, the heart of asceticism is an attempt to imbue a life with structure and to train us in the graced exercise of a certain measure of control over our desires, and it is something which we can practice even in little ways, whatever life we are living. The task is of course significantly more daunting when it comes to chastity, for (in the case of a gay person), there is no fulfillment of libidinal desires which conforms to the divine will.

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Some tools of chaste living: Stress management

I recently started a series of posts about graced realities which I have found to be helpful in the pursuit of chastity, defined deeply as the mastery through grace of internal sexual desires and passions, and their ordering according to the will of God. When people are married in the Church, they undergo marriage counseling; when people enter religious life, they have a period of intensive formation. Yet for people in the most difficult situation within which to pursue chastity, cut off from both marriage and the support of a religious community, there is little discussion of how to make this sustainable in a lifelong way. In a previous post, I discussed friendship.

My second post in the series is on a much more mundane subject, but one which, in my experience, is real enough and relevant enough to warrant a place in this project: stress management. As I have progressed in the academic life, I have learned that this progression results in more and more things that need my attention. Put simply, a PhD student reaches a point where he or she is never “done;” there are always more projects that needs tending to, and any time spent doing something else becomes time stolen from academic work. Like Lady Violet on Downton Abbey, we too can ask “What is a weekend,” though for entirely different reasons! This is the nature of a vocation: it permeates a person’s entire existence, and provides it with structure. The vocation overpowers us, but also invigorates us. I expect this to grow truer after I graduate and, God willing, get a position at a college or university.

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Some tools of chaste living: Friendship

I recently started a series of posts about graced realities which I have found to helpful in the pursuit of chastity, defined deeply as the mastery through grace of internal sexual desires and passions, and their ordering according to the will of God. When people are married in the Church, they undergo marriage counseling; when people enter religious life, they have a period of intensive formation. Yet for people in the most difficult situation within which to pursue chastity, cut off from both marriage and the support of a religious community, there is little discussion of how to make this sustainable in a lifelong way.

To regular readers (or indeed, readers who saw the URL!), it may come as no surprise that the first graced reality I will talk about is friendship. In the little book from which this blog takes its name, St. Aelred of Rievaulx defines friendship as “that virtue through which by a covenant of sweetest love our very spirits are united, and from many are made one.” Like other contributors to this blog, I find St. Aelred’s vision of spiritual friendship, rooted in in a shared life in Christ and drawing the friends into communion with Christ as two souls knit into one to be deeply sustaining.

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Some Tools of Chaste Living: Introduction

A dear friend recently asked me: how do you pursue chastity in a celibate state? I realized that I have never really written much on this question, though it is deeply significant to the whole project of helping to integrate gay people into a Church deeply committed to a traditional sexual ethic. Meanwhile, another friend has recently charged that we offer a false hope of a life which is ultimately unsustainable. As these questions come more to the front in my mind, it becomes clearer to me that there needs to be more discussion of how we hope to live chastely.

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Disorder Revisited

Aaron Taylor recently wrote a critique of the use (or abuse) of the category of “disorder” in relation to homosexual acts here at Spiritual Friendship. To my mind, the most important of his observations was the following:

First, the claim that homosexual acts are disordered obviously entails the judgment that the inclination to those acts is disordered. However, this is usually heard as the Church calling the sexuality of gays and lesbians disordered in toto. Given that the Church teaches that sexuality “affects all aspects of the human person,” it is almost impossible for the layman to distinguish this from the claim that the entire personalities of gay people are disordered.

It seems to me that the core problem that this term has when it comes to the relation between the Catholic Church and the gay community is the oft-repeated inaccuracy that the Church teaches that gay people are disordered. When someone says this, I think it touches a good deal more directly on the “homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered” than on the “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (though, as Aaron notes, the two are linked.)

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On Matthew Vines

Many of our readers have probably heard of Matthew Vines, who released a video earlier this year arguing for a revisionist understanding of Scripture on the morality of same-sex sexual activity. The video has gained a lot of attention—over 400,000 views—and he has also recently been profiled in the NYT.

Today, in First Things: On the Square, I offer a response, which can be found here.

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