Over at Christianity Today, I’ve got a review up of our own Eve Tushnet’s new book Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith.
The first part of the review is my very personal story of stumbling upon Eve’s blog—now hosted by Patheos—several years ago:
Sometime in 2007 I discovered Eve Tushnet’s writing. I can’t recall exactly how I found her non-flashy, off-the-beaten-path blog, tagged with the teasing moniker “Conservatism reborn in twisted sisterhood,” but somehow I landed there, following a trail of hyperlinks. I used to read her posts in the morning, while sipping coffee, huddled over my laptop in my cell-like flat in England, when I was just starting graduate school.
Tushnet is a gay Catholic writer who embraces her church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. By the time I learned about her, I’d been admitting to myself for a few years that I was gay, though I hadn’t told many other people yet. I was still too frightened and unsure of what kind of welcome (or lack thereof) I’d receive. You know those novels and movies about the yearning, aching twentysomethings who are trying to disentangle and sort out their erotic and religious longings, while dreading loneliness and rejection above all else? That was me. Imagine Charles Ryder from Brideshead Revisited, all angsty and insecure, but with a small-town-USA upbringing, and you’ll get the picture. I needed a lifeline. I was hungry to know I wasn’t alone.
Later, I try to describe how important Eve’s blog posts became for me:
[O]ver the next several years, I read them in the same way my young married friends read parenting books or my athletic friends pore over healthcare guides: I read not merely for entertainment and delight—although there was plenty of that to be had—but for answers and for hope. I latched on to her sentences and paragraphs, like someone pinning frequently-consulted articles or maps on the refrigerator door or the dashboard in the car.
I hope you’ll read Eve’s book, and I try to say more about why in my review. But for now, here, I thought I would simply share some of the flashes of insight Eve has given me. An old mentor of mine used to say that books are often forgotten, but paragraphs and sentences can change lives. How true. Take this one, for instance:
The closet also offers a lot of temptations to sin… There’s the temptation to cut yourself off from other people so they don’t get too close—to avoid friendship, and avoid help. Being in the closet makes it harder to act rightly. To the extent that being out involves humiliation and lost opportunities (although it is also extraordinarily freeing and opens a lot of doors you may not have realized existed) I would say that sometimes you have to journey through what Spenser called “the Gracious Valley of Humiliation.”
Or this one:
[C]an’t we accept that lesbianism is more than a desire for particular acts? And so homosexuality is one possible interpretation of a form of longing which can manifest as artistic vocation, as friendship, as service, as any number of ways of pouring out love.
Your chastity and your unstinting fidelity to Christ are so much bigger and more beautiful than any one theological framework. So yeah, don’t have gay sex; but you can think about that sacrifice and challenge in a whole lot of different ways, including ways which might shock your local priest.
I think very often we seek (or should seek!) to transform what Maggie Gallagher once called “You’re mine because I love you” relationships into “I love you because you’re mine” ones. My actual experience of friendship very strongly suggests a need and desire for friendships to become, over time, understood as given.
Or, finally, this:
We are often told, including by many Christians, that the church asks gay people to lead an empty life devoid of love, or forces us to choose between human love in this life and God’s love in the afterlife. These false choices break hearts and spirits. Gay Catholics, even the celibate ones, can love and be loved, both by Christ who loves everyone and by the particular humans on whose shoulders we lean. Not only faith but hope and love are open to us, too.
I’m not going to say that Eve’s posts, when I discovered them, were some kind of magic bullet that rescued me from the confusion of those next few years in my life. I will say, though, at the risk of sounding maudlin, that they became one of the primary ways I found hope in my ongoing journey as a celibate, gay Christian. They became instruments of grace, a validation of my questions and a witness to the possibility of faithfulness and joy.
I hope you’ll read Eve’s book. Here’s more about why.
I’m so happy this is running in CT! Your description of reading Eve’s posts in search of answers and hope was a “me too!” moment if I’ve ever had one. I did the same thing with posts from Brent Bailey, Julie Rodgers, and you as well. So thank you (and all the contributors here at SF) for being the “Eve Tushnet” for so many of us.
I finished Eve’s book a week and a half ago and found it to be immensely helpful and powerful. Though not directly about the gay, this excerpt has stuck with me:
“The most important thing about your life isn’t its secret shames, even though that’s often how we feel. And the most important verdict on your life isn’t your own. The way your life looks objectively is the way it looks to God: the life of his beloved child. Try to picture yourself, right now, through God’s eyes. Try to see yourself with the eyes of love. Then remove everything from that image that discourages you: the disappointment you may be imagining, or the “yes, I love you, but” sorrow, or the stern “tough love” glare. When all of that is gone, what is left is clear and steady, a look that gazes directly into your eyes rather than looking down on you. That is the God who knows you, understands you, and loves you even–especially–when you were least capable of loving yourself. That is the Christian God.”