I don’t particularly recommend reading the comments on Joshua Gonnerman’s commentary on Dan Savage over at First Things (or at least, if you’re going to read them, I suggest you take your blood pressure medicine first).
For example, “dadfly” responds to Joshua’s statement that “Christians have appealed far too quickly to their traditional moral views to avoid offering support to gay people” with this:
i believe that Jesus has called on me to do many things (and He knows i’ve fallen horribly short many times), but none of them required that i “support” any political faction or special interest group.
When Jesus was called a friend of sinners, it did not mean that He supported sin. Gay people cannot be reduced to a political faction or special interest group. They are, first and foremost, people.
However, there are a few roses amidst the comment box thorns. One comment in particular caught my eye, because it provides a beautiful glimpse of friendship in action.
Thomas Sundaram is a straight friend of Joshua’s from their undergrad days at Thomas Aquinas College. His comment paints a picture of friendship that reminds us not only that he can support Joshua, but also that Joshua has often supported him. Friendship is a way of knowing the whole, three-dimensional, living and breathing human person. We do not befriend traits: we befriend people.
Anyhow, I strongly recommend Sundaram’s comment. It is a great example of spiritual friendship in action. Read the whole thing:
Last summer, the Commission for Doctrine of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document on “Pastoral Ministry to Young People with Same-Sex Attraction” (pdf).
Various positive things could be said about the document. However, I want to draw attention to a fairly serious problem with the document itself, which reflects a much broader problem in the Church’s response to the sexual revolution in general. (To be clear, I am addressing only the manner in which the Bishops present the Church’s teaching: am not questioning the content of the teaching itself.)
I came across this poem written by a Benedictine monk and archbishop named Hrabanus Maurus, addressed to Abbot Grimold of St.Gall.
I think it is a rather beautiful celebration of spiritual friendship.
Then live, my strength, anchor of weary ships,
Safe shore and land at last, thou, for my wreck,
My honour, thou, and my abiding rest,
My city safe for a bewildered heart.
That though the plains and mountains and the sea
Between us are, that which no earth can hold
Still follows thee, and love’s own singing follows,
Longing that all things may be well with thee.
Christ who first gave thee for a friend to me,
Christ keep thee well, where’er thou art, for me.
Earth’s self shall go and the swift wheel of heaven
Perish and pass, before our love shall cease.
Do but remember me, as I do thee,
And God, who brought us on this earth together,
Bring us together to his house of heaven.
From Mediaeval Latin Lyrics [pdf], translated by Helen Waddell, p.109 (Latin original on p. 108).
My follow-up piece is up on First Things. There are a couple of qualms I have about the final form—for which I take full responsibility for having rubber-stamped it too quickly—which I’d like to clarify:
1) I should have spent more time emphasizing that whether one identifies as “gay” or as “struggling with same-sex attraction” depends significantly on one’s experience. I don’t want to negate the experience of those who identify as SSA; that may well be the best approach for them. Some of that is there in this piece, but it should have been clearer.
2) The quote from Melinda Selmys was not in my original draft, and on reflection I’m less sure that I’m comfortable with the role that it plays in the final piece. I would be more comfortable phrasing it thus:
Of all that I have read on the question of homosexuality and the church, nothing compares in pastoral and theological perspicacity to the following excerpt from Oliver O’Donovan’s Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion. O’Donovan is a theological ethicist in the Anglican Church. He writes:
There has been a fair amount of response to my recent piece in First Things. Much of it is positive: the responses by Elizabeth Scalia, by Rod Dreher, and most of all by those who know me are particularly laudatory. There has also been a good deal of negative response, and some of my friends have taken up the task of coming to my defense with a courage that can only be described as heroic (you know who you are). Unfortunately, such tasks tend to be endless, as the problematic attitudes are often very deeply entrenched, and people have expressed frustration over this. While beautiful cracks seem to be appearing, there is still much to be done, and I would be surprised if this problem (or any other problem in the Church or society) is entirely resolved in my lifetime.
Most of my early experiences with discussing LGBT issues in a Christian context came from discussions on the Bridges Across the Divide e-mail lists and web forums.
The following is from “How We Agree,” which was the organization’s charter statement, written by Bob Buehler and the Bridges-Across Working Group in August of 1997. I think it still provides helpful guidelines for how people on either side of the debate can engage in positive and constructive ways.
Over the last decade or so, I have had the chance to interact in one way or another with hundreds of men and women who are striving to be faithful to the traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality. For many of them, this has been a terrible burden, a source of grief, loneliness, and much else besides. Along the way, I have seen many give up on chastity, or give up on faith. I, too, have struggled many times with the question of whether it is worth it, or whether this is a misguided teaching that causes unnecessary suffering.
How should I try to make sense of this?
First Things has published a short piece I wrote on the recent Dan Savage debacle. Note: I did not choose the title!
Update: Elizabeth Scalia (“The Anchoress”) has picked up the article and offered her own commentary.
Update II: Rod Dreher has also responded to the article.
One of the most helpful books for coming to grips with classic Christian theologies of marriage is Christopher Roberts’ Creation and Covenant: The Significance of Sexual Difference in the Moral Theology of Marriage. Prior to writing this book, Roberts was a research assistant to Bill Moyers and worked as a reporter for PBS’ show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. More recently, he has taught ethics at Villanova University.
Roberts’ book is a survey of some of the primary things the Christian tradition has said about the significance of our creation as male and female for the theology of marriage. Beginning with early theologians like Gregory of Nyssa and continuing on to look at Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Karl Barth, Pope John Paul II, and others, Roberts concludes the book with a charitable discussion of some of the “revisionist” arguments for an explicitly Christian theology of gay marriage. Along the way, and particularly at the end, he offers sensitive pastoral reflections on both marriage and celibacy.
In this video, Roberts summarizes the book’s main argument and fields some questions from the audience (1 hr 15 mins).