At the request of Jeremy Erickson, I’ve decided to rework a post that I wrote a while ago on my own blog. At the time I was responding to a minor internet skirmish that erupted when Josh Gonnerman posted his First Things article about being gay and Catholic. Critics claimed, not always in entirely charitable terms, that gayness was not compatible with the Catholic faith.
The foundation of their argument will probably be familiar to a lot of the readers here at Spiritual Friendship: being gay involves identifying with a form of lustful disorder, and every Christian should devote themselves heart and soul to stamping out every last trace of lust from their heart in order to be worthy of Christ.
I think that this kind of rhetoric is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be gay. Homosexuality as defined by the Catechism refers solely to same-sex lust. But gayness is not the same thing. Being gay is not reduceable to having, or desiring to have, homosexual sex. It is a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one’s own gender. Most people who identify as chaste, gay Christians, are referring to involuntary currents of homoeroticism and gender-queerness that run through the personality. Some Christians appear to believe that these currents are so fundamentally disordered that the only proper response to them is one of outright warfare, that the personality must have surgery performed on it in order to eliminate every vestige of queerness in order that it might be rendered fit for salvation.
I think that there are two serious problems with this approach. First, people who engage in this kind of argument seem to think that the question of to be, or not to be same-sex attracted is an open question in the lives of gay people. This point is obvious to those of us with SSA, but apparently not to everyone else: for a homosexual person, same-sex attraction is a given. We can have a heated debate about whether or not people ought to have these attractions, just as we can have a lively argument about whether or not men ought to have spontaneous erections (a subject that has produced considerable discursive excitement over the centuries, mostly amongst ivory tower academics), but the fact is that for all practical purposes the question is settled – no amount of theological speculation has ever proved capable of preventing “concupiscent movements of the flesh,” nor can any amount of moralistic diatribe prevent homosexual persons from having homoerotic desires.
Secondly, hard-line traditionalists tend to assume that same-sex attraction is fundamentally objectively disordered in all of its aspects. The Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops, in their recent document on Youth with Same-Sex Attractions, were very careful to explicitly spell out the fact that homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered in so far as they concern the desire to have same-sex genital relations. That is, in so far as same-sex attractions are concupiscent, they are objectively disordered: a nice little tautology which only stands in need of clarification because it is counterintuitive to contemporary secular culture. What this means is that same-sex attractions, in so far as they are not concupiscent, are not disordered: another tautology, but one that is equally counterintuitive to many moral conservatives.
To understand the difference between concupiscent desire, and ordered desire, let’s follow John Paul II’s lead and return to the Beginning. I’d like to analyse, specifically, Genesis 3:6: “The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was enticing for the wisdom that it could give.” Surely this is a case of disordered desire, right? Eve wants what she’s not supposed to have, and as a result of that desire, she sins.
Sed contra, Eve at this moment is still in a state of Original Innocence. She does not have concupiscence clouding her judgement. What she sees at the moment is objectively true: the fruit really is good to eat, it really is pleasing to the eye, and it really is desirable for the wisdom that it could give. What is false is her conclusion, that because of these properties, it is justifiable for her to take and eat what has been denied to her by God.
I’d like to apply the same hermeneutic to same-sex attraction. When I look at a woman, and see that she is beautiful, that she is desirable, that she is enticing, I’m seeing something that is objectively true: she is objectively a manifestation of the imago dei, she is objectively attractive, and it is objectively legitimate for me to desire to be united with her in the vast communio personarum which is constituted by the Church and by the whole human race. My desire is not disordered in and of itself: it becomes disordered when I direct it, or allow it direct itself, towards something which is forbidden. If it leads me to fantasize about homosexual acts, or to think of the woman as a sex object, then it becomes disordered, that is ordered towards an end which is not in conformity with Truth and with the dignity of the person. But what if I make the act of will to redirect that desire, to use it as an opportunity to give glory to God for the beauty which He has made manifest in that particular woman? Or to meditate on my desire for the one-flesh union of the entire humanum in the Eucharist where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, slave nor free, woman nor man? Or as an opportunity to contemplate the relationship between the doctrines of the Communion of Saints and of the resurrection of the Body? What if, by an act of will, I take that desire and order it towards its proper end: towards the Good, the Beautiful and the True?
This is what I mean when I speak of sublimation, and it relates to what Joshua and other gay Christians mean when they speak of being both gay and chaste. It means that the word “gay” is being used to refer to the fact that some of us are more easily able to experience the goodness and beauty of the body in the bodies our own sex than we are in the bodies of the opposite sex. Obviously that leaves us open to homosexual temptation, just as the ability of most men and women to more easily appreciate bodily beauty in the opposite sex leaves them open to heterosexual temptations (to pre-marital sex, to adultery, to pornography, to sexual fantasy, etc.) Obviously in so far as it leads to homosexual temptation, it is disordered. But the word “gay” can refer to the orientation of that initial erotic impulse, regardless of whether it develops towards disordered lust, or towards an appreciation of Christ playing “lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not His.” Which is why, in my submission, gay chastity is a calling, not a myth.
Ummmmm, this is one of the most brilliant arguments ever. Bam! And so we *toast,* to the end of undue shame and self-loathing. Thank you!
Thanks. This is an awesome piece.
I do have one question, though. At the end of the fourth paragraph, you recite the term “homoerotic desires.” I was wondering if the term “desire” isn’t too strong. I can’t really think of a better word, but I feel like it’s too strong.
On another older thread, I used this analogy. If I go to the grocery store on Saturday morning, there are invariably some number of attractive men and attractive women walking the aisles with me. Because I’m gay, attractive guys invariably–if not almost involuntarily–catch my gaze, while the attractive women usually don’t. I don’t go out of my way to check these guys out. I don’t mentally undress them. And I don’t image having sex with them. I just notice that they are attractive reflections of God’s beauty. It’s just that I’m more inclined to see that beauty in the male form than in the female form. And it’s not wholly different from the feeling I have when I observe a well-crafted painting, watch a well-performed play, or read a well-written novel. We certainly wouldn’t refer to this recognition of beauty as “desire” when the object of it is a book or a painting. If I desire the book or the painting, it’s because I want to own it and take possession of it. Why then would we use “desire” differently when the object of our appreciation is another person? Is there any reason why I should admit to “desiring” someone, even when I have no interest in doing anything other than mentally acknowledging that he’s attractive?
I think that there are multiple levels of desire that are possible in homoeroticism — and that some of them, like you say, are really expressed better by words like “appreciation” than desire as such. I have the same experience that you have except as a girl: give me a random crowd of people and I will automatically notice the attractive women. Only if I notice that I’m noticing only the women and ask myself “Are there any good looking men here?” will I realize that some of the guys are aesthetically attractive. But usually sexual desire doesn’t come into it one way or another.
That said, there are also occasions when I experience actual desire. Just noticing that girls are pretty doesn’t seem to require any kind of sublimation because it doesn’t seem to constitute an inclination to do anything but appreciate — and I just can’t believe that chastely appreciating the beauty of another human being is sinful. But sometimes there’s a kind of beauty that is somehow arresting, that becomes a distraction, and that starts veering off in the direction of temptation. This beauty seems to demand some sort of more elaborate emotional response. It seems to be “desire” in the sense of longing — the same sort of desire, actually, that sometimes I do have for a book when I don’t just want to own a copy but I want to be possessed by it, to live within its pages. I think it’s a danger of any aesthetic experience that the more it draws you into an experience of the sublime, the more it risks becoming an idol. Anyways, I do think that the more intense kinds of homoerotic desire can be ordered towards the good, though it’s a more complicated interior process.
I agree entirely. I do think it makes some sense to distill sexual orientation to its most benign manifestations–manifestations that may not even include desire. In that way it’s clear that we’re referring to something quite different from what the Catechism is condemning.
Still, I’m not sure that it’s accurate to say that homosexual lust is inherently disordered, i.e., that it is utterly devoid of common grace. It suggests that the only manifestation of my sexual orientation is to have gay sex. While that’s certainly a temptation I face, there are still any number of ways in which being gay causes me to see the world differently and to appreciate its beauty in ways that may not be as readily apparent to someone else. And those insights have little, if anything, to do with anal sex.
Yes, yes, yes!
I am often quite split between the interpretation of homosexuality that you’re putting forward here and the interpretation that you are countering. I honestly don’t know what to think, despite the fact that I’ve thought about these things a great deal. I have a profound appreciation for the Plato/Shakespeare/Gerard-Manley-Hopkins school of thought whereby same-sex attraction can be ordered toward goodness and holiness, even while same-sex sexual activity cannot. Still, I have doubts about the whole thing.
The question, for me, is what lies beyond repression. I’m quite sure that repression is the wrong road, but it *seems* possible to wholly reject same-sex desire without repressing. That is, it seems possible for me to admit to myself and others that I’m attracted to men, to be comfortable with that attraction, but also to believe that *no* good can come of me encouraging that attraction. It is possible to admit to myself that I love watching men diving, or dancing in ballet, but to say that for me watching these activities is *merely* the occasion of sin — even though others (who don’t have my same-sex desire) might be able to chastely watch.
Why do I say this? Because, for me at least, every time I have told myself that there’s nothing wrong with *my* “chastely” appreciating male beauty, I find myself spending time doing so, and (for me) this leads me to sin. It’s hard for me to believe that the attraction I experience for men is healthy, though, if nearly every way I engage that attraction quickly becomes unhealthy.
Now perhaps there is something else that lies beyond repression, a way for me to both accept my same-sex desires and appropriate them into healthy experiences, but I haven’t found this way. For me, the big question with respect to same-sex attraction (for men, not for women) is whether there really ARE men out there who have healthy experiences of what you seem to be calling “homoerotic sublimation”. I’m not sure that there are. Quite honestly, I read through Spiritual Friendship hoping against hope that what we write here is true, but then I wish I could somehow find out how often the male writers here use porn, because the proof is in the pudding.
If this sort of sublimation actually works in combating sin, I’m all about sublimation. But if it doesn’t work in combating sin, this entire project is a monument of hubris and self-justification — it is doing what we have been accused of, baptizing one temptation as somehow dignified and holy in itself.
“By their fruits you shall know them.” What are our fruits?
For me, the “healthy experiences” generally involve forming actual friendships with people. You can’t really do that when you’re watching male diving or male ballet.
Now, if you’re really into diving or ballet, it could be a different story. In that case, it’s more likely that you’ll focus on the sport and not be distracted by the toned bodies. But if you’re going out of your way merely to increase your opportunities to appreciate the male form, then it’s going to be harder to pull off the sublimation. For the same reasons, straight guys probably shouldn’t be watching women’s beach volleyball.
But for me, Bobby, having close friendship with a man doesn’t involve anything like sublimation — unless, I suppose, I’m desperately attracted to that man (which doesn’t really happen that much). Having a close friendship with a man is a normal part of manhood, “heterosexual” or “homosexual”. There’s nothing gay about intimacy.
So when I read “sublimation”, I think immediately about the deep visceral power that masculinity in its representational aspect (its look, smell, et cetera) has on me. That’s what needs to be appropriated in some non-sexual way. And that’s what I doubt can be appropriated in any non-sexual way.
As for your beach volleyball comment, the idea is not that I “increase opportunities to appreciate the male form”, but rather that I stop avoiding them entirely. But if my attraction were sublimated, then such avoidance would be silly, because looking at the human body would not be a near occasion of sin for me.
I may have some reservations about the possibilities for sublimation, at least in the way that you’re referring to it. I was thinking about mere appreciation of the mail form, e.g., when I pass by an attractive guy at the store, the gym, etc. This sort of thing rarely, if ever, induces a visceral response in me. If I were to keep checking the guy out, a visceral response may eventually arise. When those responses arise, I generally withdraw from the situation. I’m not convinced that I could redeem such experiences: I could probably only redeem them if I’m able to connect socially with that person and develop a friendship in which the guy’s physical appeal is secondary to my reasons for interacting with him. In that sense, it would remain at a “mere appreciation” level.
That being said, I don’t have the same reactions to masculinity that you do.
Good to chat with you. 🙂
I guess my concern is this. You said earlier, very eloquently, and very in keeping with Melinda’s post: “Still, I’m not sure that it’s accurate to say that homosexual lust is inherently disordered, i.e., that it is utterly devoid of common grace. It suggests that the only manifestation of my sexual orientation is to have gay sex. While that’s certainly a temptation I face, there are still any number of ways in which being gay causes me to see the world differently and to appreciate its beauty in ways that may not be as readily apparent to someone else.”
Now it seems to me that we’ve established above, between the two of us, that attraction between men can be a very good thing — it contributes to friendship, which is a great good. However, I don’t see what *sexual* attraction adds to this attraction. How is the sexual aspect of the attraction causing you or I to “appreciate beauty in ways that may not be as readily apparent to someone else”?
I think it’s obvious that this question about sexuality calls for an answer about sexuality, not an answer about (for example) the way two men can form an intimate friendship — which has nothing to do with sexuality, since I am intimate friends with straight men. So when I think of sublimating a *sexual* attraction, I think that this does pertain to the attraction to male bodies, to scents, to masculinity per se. And I don’t see anything redeeming about this aspect of the attraction, though I’m open to someone showing me something redeeming about it.
As for some sort of non-sexual attraction to particular men, in part because of their physical characteristics, I take it for granted that heterosexual men have such non-sexual attractions too. Indeed, they often admit as much (though our bizarre cultural norms make such an admission uncomfortable).
Thanks for this — it’s a really thoughtful response. Obviously I can’t speak to the male experience. I can call on authorities who claim to have had success with sublimation, but we can’t really call Socrates to the stand and ask him whether he was lusting after statuary whenever he wasn’t contemplating pure Beauty.
I think that what you bring to the fore here is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. I think it’s similar in a lot of ways to the question of whether straight people can have chaste, intimate opposite-sex friendships. Some people will look at you like you’re hopelessly naive and insist that it’s sheer madness to think that a married man could sit up with an emotionally close female friend drinking until the wee hours without it becoming an occasion of sin. Obviously those people are talking about their own experience of temptation: they’re aware that if they were in that situation it would be very spiritually dangerous. Other people think it’s equally obvious that two close opposite-sex friends who aren’t sexually attracted to one another could do any amount of bar-hopping, road-tripping, or even sleeping in the same room without any chance of hanky-panky. These people are also talking from their own experience.
Both groups are right. It all depends on how prone you are to temptation. As far as I can tell, some people who experience same-sex attraction experience it as an overwhelming and nearly constant temptation to lust. Others experience it mostly as background noise with occasional obstacles that need to be negotiated. I’ve met both men and women in both camps.
“Others experience it mostly as background noise with occasional obstacles that need to be negotiated.”
I guess my problem is that I’ve never met a man who deals with it like this. Nor, I’m quite sure, have most of the Austin-Ruse types who think that we’re barking up the wrong tree here at Spiritual Friendship.
The thing is, though, that I *have* met men who — online, at least — discuss their same-sex attraction and give the impression that it’s not that big of a deal, in terms of leading them to sin. I myself have discussed my own situation this way. And it didn’t feel duplicitous at the time, because I was honestly stating my convictions. I hadn’t lived out those convictions, though, because my own forays into unapologetically being attracted to men led me, personally, into sin.
It’s a delicate thing. Surely even people who appropriate homoerotic feelings well (if such a thing is possible) still fall into sin, on occasion. And obviously repression is not the way to go. But I myself sometimes wonder if the best path isn’t to weave a road between the Scylla of repression and the Charybdis of homoerotic sublimation, by accepting fully that I am attracted to men but rejecting that this attraction is anything more than (like any other temptation) a path to my perdition.
Or maybe, as you imply, that could be the answer for me, but not for others.
Maybe those who experience “mostly as background noise with occasional obstacles that need to be negotiated.” are less inclined to talk about it?
I hope you don’t mind me chiming in here, Daniel and Melinda — it seems to me from reading these comments that part of this problem is universal to all orientations. Could this simply be chalked up to a spectrum of attractionality, for lack of a better term? For instance, some situations that present no temptation to others are near occasions of sin for me, not just because everyone is different, but because I seem to have a very sensitive involuntary tripwire for attraction. Many of my female friends (of any orientation) simply don’t have such a quick-trigger mechanism as they observe a room or watch a movie.
Thank you both for this discussion! 🙂
I think your right about the spectrum of attractionality, and I certainly sometimes feel at the far end of that spectrum. But I’m far from alone in that, among men, given the ubiquity of porn in gay male culture.
At times, though, I feel like my attraction to men is toxic in a certain self-destructive way that — despite all its prettiness and appeal and all the profound beauty of God’s gift of masculinity — despite all this, it’s toxic in a way that will do nothing but destroy me, if I let it. And then there are these wonderful Christians who acknowledge the appeal in my attractions, who acknowledge that the object of my attractions is a good, but who seem to say that (a) it is not good for me to sexually pursue these attractions despite the fact that (b) it is good for me to experience these attractions. I want to believe it, in part because it flatters me.
But, given my experience of my own attractions and their consequences, it feels a bit like someone saying that Meth is a bad drug to take, but that a person’s desiring Meth can be an important and gifted aspect of their personality. How exactly is someone supposed to do that dance, to accept the desire as a good part of oneself, but somehow reject it as a basis for ACTION?
So I guess I wonder if the dance is only possible for those who, unlike myself, are at the less-sexually-intense end of the spectrum. For me, I don’t know how to learn the dance steps.
Daniel, I agree with you! As a person fairly far down toward the attractionally-intense end of the spectrum myself, I definitely feel the difficulty as well. And I also struggle with the “goodness” aspect of that attraction. I sometimes feel too that it’s best not even to go down that road, yet at the same time, I don’t want to be the perpetual weaker brother whose self-control and conscience are atrophied with disuse. Can a person with hair-trigger attractionality be strengthened to appreciate the beauty and goodness of those around him/her while not being led to sin? That’s a tough question, for sure, and one I don’t know the answer to.
I can really relate to this with other aspects of my spirituality. For example, I can really see the appeal in the spirituality of intense physical mortification — and reading the lives of Saints who practiced that I get a sense that for some of them at least this was a way of sublimating intense melancholia and even perhaps masochism, and of redirecting it back towards Christ. I can’t do that. First, because I would go overboard and destroy myself, second because the risks associated with entertaining that part of my personality are just way too high, and third because it’s not compatible with my vocation. Perhaps at some point in the distant future I will be able to sublimate my self-destructive streak into a spirituality of mortification, but right now it’s really important to try to just avoid it, not entertain it, avoid doing things that bring it to the fore, and resist it if it rears its head.
It reminds me of Christ’s two different sayings: on the one hand, He says “Let the tares grow up with the wheat,” and on the other He says, “If your eye offends you, pluck it out.” I think part of wisdom is learning to discern which of these sayings is appropriate for different situations in different seasons of the spiritual life.
This discussion has been helpful for me and makes me think that I may want to put my earlier comments in more context. I tend to be on the unresponsive end of the spectrum. While my attractions are generally aligned toward men rather than women, those attractions are not intense. It is remarkably rare that I experience any kind of intense attractions (2-3 times a year, at most).
Three possibly-helpful points (and this is a reply to Daniel, not sure how to make it post in the right place):
1. Yes, I strongly agree that there needs to be a place for people who don’t “do” sublimation of their spirituality. I’ve used the language of two options, sublimation and sacrifice; both of those are beautiful ways of serving God through our sexuality. Sacrifice, pouring one’s desire out over the feet of Christ like the oil of the penitent woman, is going to be the best path for a lot of people. Maybe most, I’m not sure. And all of us will have to do it sometimes.
(On a parochial note, I don’t think sublimation vs. sacrifice should be a dividing line here–I don’t make the rules (thank goodness), but I don’t think you have to be interested in sublimation in order to be a part of the “project” of Spiritual Friendship.)
2. I’m wary of drawing a sharp line between sexual attraction and other kinds, because a) it can be really hard to tell!, b) therefore trying to tease out the complexities of our desires can lead to navel-gazing and unhelpful self-scrutiny/scrupulousness. But this may be my own issues coming out & a more precise approach may be fruitful for other people.
3. The meth analogy is an interesting one for me because–and I want to underline that not all people in recovery feel this way!!–I personally do find that my alcoholism plays a complex role in my spirituality. I think I abused alcohol for a million reasons, but some of them were genuinely spiritual longings–for ecstasy, surrender, even in some sense for humiliation. I see how those longings play out now in my relationship with God: the prayers which really speak to me, the metaphors which help me understand my spiritual life, etc. So honoring the good parts of what I was seeking in drunkenness is actually really important to me. Again, lots of people in recovery would not characterize their spiritual lives this way, but that suggests to me the need for a diversity of approach.
Anyway, hope at least some of that was helpful.
Hi Eve! Nice to meet you!
At the risk of outing myself as a Plato scholar, let me make a comment or two about sublimation in Plato. There are two takes on the Platonic love (in the Symposium and the Phaedrus) with relation to sublimation. The first interpretation is that one’s erotic love for the beautiful boy is sublimated by discourses and conversations, but that the erotic love still remains at the end of the ladder of love, only drowned out by more intellectual passions.
The second interpretation — this is Frisbee Sheffield’s and Charles Kahn’s interpretation, among others — is that the desire for sex is always utterly disattached and unconnected to the desire for knowledge. Plato thinks of the recognition of the boy’s beauty as completely different from the desire to relate to the boy sexually. It is this (intellectual) recognition of beauty that starts you on the ladder of love, not any sexual or presexual feeling whatsoever. Sheffield’s idea, then, is that Platonic love isn’t Platonic — at least not in the semi-Freudian sublimated sexual sense of “Platonic”.
As a Plato scholar, I subscribe to this second interpretation. And I think Plato might be right. Erotic love can’t be sublimated, only accepted or rejected.
That said, I think that the desires that inspire us to eroticism are very much deep and important forces in our soul. These forces can be rightly or wrongly directed. When they are rightly directed, they result in families and poems and artwork and close friendships and all the things that make life worth living (or, in Plato’s terms, all the things through which we participate in the immortal). When they are wrongly directed, they result in deep and powerful and dignified (after all, we are humans!) desires for things like Meth and alcohol and eating binges and pornography and illicit sex. I totally resonate, Eve, with your discussion of how your craving for alcohol was a spiritual craving. My craving for erotic same-sex materials is one that I also experience as deeply spiritual, so much so that I was profoundly hurt by Bobby’s suggestion above that it could be compared to straight men watching beach volleyball. (I’m bi, actually, but I weirdly consider the part of me that wants to watch women’s volleyball “base”, and the part of me that wants to look at naked men “refined”. Isn’t that just totally bizarre?)
So I think EVERY perversion deserves to be dignified, in some sense. God has dignified every perversion, since He has allowed his little images (us) to be captured by perversity. But that doesn’t mean that perversions are any less perverse. I guess the question is whether homosexuality is a blessing in itself — whether it is constituted by a genuine participation in the immortal — or only a blessing for the grace it yields (like perversions). And this is the question that I believe it is too early to answer. I want to see the fruits, in my own life and in others.
Either way, the broader Christian world has done, and is doing, a violence to gay Christians, because we Christians generally refuse to allow a person to be openly broken (or openly different), without rushing in with our clumsy hands to fix them. We think that God’s deficiencies will somehow be made up for by our urgency to tell someone (for instance) that “you should not call yourself gay.”
But as for anything *intrinsically* redeeming in the homoerotic impulse in general, I am beginning to be a skeptic, despite my intense love for Spiritual Friendship (the uncapitalized version, too!).
I would actually ask you to seriously consider the idea of tolerance as a form of violence- that not rushing in, is indeed actively choosing to do harm to the other.
“(On a parochial note, I don’t think sublimation vs. sacrifice should be a dividing line here–I don’t make the rules (thank goodness), but I don’t think you have to be interested in sublimation in order to be a part of the “project” of Spiritual Friendship.)”
Good point, by the way. Sorry if I implied there was any secret handshake you needed to know to be a part of the club! I know I’m glad to be welcome here, even if I’m not so sure about clubs that would accept me as a member!
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I have loved this conversation here! I am a celibate gay Christian, and as Laura put it above, I too am quite far down the spectrum towards the “attractionally-intense” end. It is rather eye-opening for me to read your comment, Bobby, that you maybe experience 2-3 intense attractions a year! Believe me, I often wish I could say the same, but I often experience intense sexual attractions towards other men on a daily basis. I’m really glad this discussion has taken place because it lets me see that while many of us are fighting this battle for the sake of loving Christ, there is still much diversity in what this looks like even among ourselves.
Another reason this has really been encouraging for me is that I cannot count how many times I have in some way tried to justify in my own mind things that I know deep down are sin. I’m not saying at all that there is something intrinsically wrong with attempting to sublimate a homosexual desire into something that can be glorifying to God, but I have come to see that for me personally, I have to be extremely careful when I start to have such thoughts, because, as he often does, that is a perfect place for Satan to jump in and begin to twist things in my mind, and before long I find myself knee-deep in porn, lustful fantasies, etc.
And I’ll actually take this moment to confess that in the area of lust, I have not been doing too well lately. I was reflecting on 2 Corinthians 12:18 earlier tonight (“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”). As I was praying to God and confessing my recent sins, He reminded me through this passage that I basically needed to stop trying to come up with excuses for my sins, and rely on God’s power to help me flee from sexual temptation. I definitely know that for me, based on my experiences, trying to justify looking at a man by dwelling on his beauty is simply setting myself up for failure. My reading tonight and then coming across this article on Spiritual Friendship has actually been quite encouraging, and I just wanted to say thanks to all my brothers and sisters in Christ for helping me in these questions by honestly and lovingly participating in this conversation (those who’s experiences are alike and different from mine have been equally edifying). God bless!
Interesting to read the different attraction experiences of Bobby and Josh. I, myself, don’t even tend to be attracted to other men unless I feel I have connected with them in some way. Like, if I see you doing something really nice or you exude a sort of bashfulness or gentleness of spirit as a man I am likely to begin to see your more attractive features and be attracted to you as time goes (but not always – sometimes I just appreciate you; it is very odd). I didn’t realize I was gay until I was 28 years old and had fallen in love with another man for the first time. Until then, I was part certain I was some kind of asexual.
Still haven’t found anyone with experiences similar to my own. It really is a spectrum. Part of why I find the one size fits all approach of many on the right and the left to be so stifling. Seems like homosexuality is either all bad and can never be a good thing or all good and can never be acting out or sexual addiction.
“Some Christians appear to believe that these currents are so fundamentally disordered that the only proper response to them is one of outright warfare, that the personality must have surgery performed on it in order to eliminate every vestige of queerness in order that it might be rendered fit for salvation.”
Not just homosexuality- but every disorder. Heaven can’t be heaven without perfect souls. And that is what purgatory is for- purging away the disordered desires of this life.
To paraphrase the bus driver in CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce, if you live up to the challenge, ‘Twas only Purgatory, if you remain in the Desire for eternity, it’s Hell- because those desires of the flesh are never going to be fulfilled without the flesh, and when the final resurrection comes, the flesh will be resurrected without those disorders.
As regards homosexuality, I suggest another mental hypothetical test. If the object of desire asks you to be best man, or maid of honor, at their heterosexual Catholic wedding, can you honestly fulfill the duties of such, and be truly happy for the couple that has found a way to live within God’s clear heterosexual plan to bring upon them the blessings of children?
If so, then your desire is not disordered- it is truly love, for you wish what is best for the object of your desire enough to give the desire away to a human being who can fulfill what is best.
If not, if instead you’d go to the wedding and when the minister asks “Does anyone object to this union?” you speak up and cannot hold your peace and insist that because of YOUR desire, that other person must also be gay- then your desire is disordered, and you need to reconcile it with God.
Of course in your hypothetical I would be willing to let the person I love go if the love was not returned and be the best man at his wedding. I have never demand that anyone conform their life to my personal romantic desires since love is a two way street. Where it becomes problematic is falling in love with another who shares your love in kind. I fell in love, years back. It was selfless, every bit as much as it was for a heterosexual who might have experienced it. I worried for him, prayed for him, looked out for his best interests where I could, and so on. It didn’t work out, in the end, as the closeness scared him but I am open to meeting someone special and sharing my life with them. Have yet to hear a very good reason to consider that a disorder, really.
“When I look at a woman, and see that she is beautiful, that she is desirable, that she is enticing, I’m seeing something that is objectively true: she is objectively a manifestation of the imago dei…”
Are ugly women not manifestations of the imago dei? Or if you don’t like that: of two women who are identical except with respect to physical attractiveness, is the one who is physically attractive more a manifestation of the imago dei?
What about Grace? You guys need to seriously considere Grace…
Matthew 7:11 KJV
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
I encourage you to ask Our Father for Grace as that’s the only real way I know to deal with temptation or sin. Really it is the only real way to make anything sublime.
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