One of the key Scriptural sources for the theology of celibacy is Matthew 19:12:
There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it. (RSV)
Most Christian thinking about celibacy has focused on the clause about eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Within both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, a celibate vocation is understood as a choice to give up marriage for the sake of service to God.
Because Christians who think about celibacy at all focus almost exclusively on voluntary celibacy, many gay and lesbian people object to the prohibition on gay sex in the Christian tradition on the grounds that it imposes involuntary celibacy on people who are exclusively attracted to their own sex.
But this stems, at least in part, from focusing on only a third of what Jesus has to say here. In this post, I want to think a little bit about the relevance of the other two clauses: those who were born eunuchs and those who were made eunuchs by men.
(since apparently today is my day for Rocky Horror references.)
Anyway, I spoke in Denver at Theology on Tap! This is a quick summary of what I said. Count yourselves lucky to get it in writing btw—I am still learning how to make this presentation SHORTER and borderline coherent. A lot of this is stuff you all have heard many times from me, but people expressed interest in having a post about it. Sorry for length.
There may be video and/or a Denver Post story later so I will post that as I receive it.
Rachel Held Evans recently put up a blog post expressing frustration with the overly politicized approach to homosexuality taken by many conservative Christians.
When I speak at Christian colleges, I often take time to chat with students in the cafeteria. When I ask them what issues are most important to them, they consistently report that they are frustrated by how the Church has treated their gay and lesbian friends. Some of these students would say they most identify with what groups like the Gay Christian Network term “Side A” (they believe homosexual relationships have the same value as heterosexual relations in the sight of God). Others better identify with “Side B” (they believe only male/female relationship in marriage is God’s intent for sexuality). But every single student I have spoken with believes that the Church has mishandled its response to homosexuality.
Most have close gay and lesbian friends.
Why talk about spiritual friendship? Many Christians think that growth in our spiritual life should lead us to love all people equally, and look with suspicion on an exclusive, particular love like friendship. Since friendship is going to be an important theme on this blog, I want to address this concern.
Both C. S. Lewis and John Henry Newman talked about how particular friendships can be an especially important school for learning to love people in general, and it is this insight which I want to explore in this post.
Christians like conversion stories.
The plot of a conversion story usually goes something like this: we hear various bits of pre-conversion debauchery—and the better conversion stories usually include some juicy violations of the Sixth Commandment (or Seventh Commandment, for those who follow the Philonic, rather than the Augustinian numbering of the Ten Commandments).
As a result of these sins, the potential convert encounters a crisis:
The Moment of Crisis