A Happy Convergence

Sometimes it really does seem that Providence arranges remarkable and helpful convergences.

This week, just after I’d read these hope-giving lines from Eve Tushnet’s reflections on her role in the whole “gay Catholic” conversation and the upcoming Revoice conference —

We’re constantly being told that same-sex sexual desire is disordered, which I accept, as I accept all that is taught by Holy Mother Church. But when people (or ducks) try to tell you how to order your desires, they always try to get you to keep the expression of desire the same, but change the object. This is the “become straight” option, if “option” is the word I want. There is another way for desire to become ordered: same object, different expression. People who long for same-sex love and intimacy should maybe be encouraged to learn how to do that, since it is good, and holy, and beautiful.

— I happened to get an email from a friend that pointed me to a letter written by the great Evangelical Anglican preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1836) to his friend Mary Elliott. This letter, it seemed to me, dovetailed beautifully with Eve’s blog post. Here is an excerpt from the letter, written the year before Simeon’s death:

In your letter of this morning you express a fear that you may love your dear Mother or a friend too much; and I am anxious to correct that idea without loss of time; first, because it is a source of disquiet to the conscience, and next because it is an error which almost universally prevails in the Church of God. That we may show our love improperly I readily grant; but that we can love one another too much I utterly deny, provided only it be in subserviency to the love of God. I think I have explained to you that word fervently (‘see that ye love one another with a pure Heart’): its precise meaning is intensely. No two words in any two languages more exactly agree than ‘intensely’ does with the original. If then our love be with a pure heart, this alone were sufficient to establish the point. . . .

Christianity does not encourage apathy; it is to regulate, not to eradicate, our affections. It admits of their full operation, but tempers them as to their measure and sanctifies them to the Lord. I have often been comforted by knowing that Lazarus and his sisters were peculiarly beloved of their Lord, and that John was an object of His more than ordinary attachment; and from hence you will see that, if I have written this for your instruction, I have had an eye also to my own vindication, if I should appear to err in the discharge of the most delightful of all duties.

If you’ve never been told by your fellow Christians that the personal object of your desire—not just what you might want to do sinfully with that person, but rather the personal object him- or herself—is wrong for you to have, period, then this might not resonate with you as much as it does with me. But for those of us who have been told that, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways—for those of us who have been told that the way to godliness is by removing ourselves altogether from the kinds of friendships in which we might be tempted—it comes as healing balm when you’re told instead, “Christianity… is to regulate, not to eradicate, our affections.”

It’s not a sin for men to love men, or women to love women. On the contrary.

9 thoughts on “A Happy Convergence

  1. I really don’t get this carping on the difficulties of a celibate life. If your god is so benevolent that he never sends you trials you can’t deal with, what on earth are you complaining about?

    According to you, god says you musn’t have sex with anyone you can love romantically. Yet sex is an indispensible part of romantic, intimate relationships between humans. It helps to form and maintain the pair bond. If you can’t have sex, you can’t have a romantic, intimate relationship with someone. You can’t feel the closeness needed to transform you from mere friends into a committed couple if you don’t have an intimate knowledge of each others’ bodies and physical responses.

    You can still have friendships of course. But friends don’t moon over each other, pretend to be soulmates or live in each others’ pockets. Friends go home at the end of the day, or they go to their own bedroom and close the door, leaving you alone. Who then do you cling to in the deep of the night when you need warmth and comfort?

    What you want can only be obtained from a sexual partner, but according to you god forbids you from having one. If he is true to his word about never sending you trials you can’t bear, then you must have no need for the comfort of a spouse. All this weeping and wailing about how hard it is to be celibate must therefore nothing more than a spoiled child’s ploy for attention.

    Only if god is not true to his word and has sent you a trial you truly can’t bear can your situation elicit sympathy. Not much though. You worship a god so cruel and vicious that he tortures you while demanding absolute obedience and surrounding you with temptation?

    Washed and waiting? Plucked and roasted, more like.

    • “Friends go home at the end of the day, or they go to their own bedroom and close the door, leaving you alone.”

      What does that say about your understanding of friendship?

    • That’s an awfully elaborate yet very specific set of social constructs you’ve bought into, don’t you think Holger?

      • Well Holger is basically describing the very recent social construct of “romantic love” wherein sexual activity is the privileged (indeed, exclusive) route to emotional intimacy and psychological bonding. Of course, there are all sorts of “couples” bonded in the world for whom intimate knowledge of each other’s sexual responses have nothing to do with it. That’s just one script, and one written relatively recently, and one which honestly hasn’t been terribly functional for either heterosexuals or homosexuals.

  2. Hi Wes! First time commenting on SF, I really wanted to be eloquent and well-spoken when I finally said something, but I just decided I didn’t want to put it off any longer: THANK YOU THANK YOU for speaking, for writing, for helping to educate me on what life means when you are gay and celibate. I have been reading this blog since I first read “Washed and Waiting” a couple years ago. You (and Eve and Ron and everyone here) have challenged and deepened my understanding of scripture on this topic, and I am so thankful.

    Eve had me pondering what it means for a gay celibate Christian to give and receive love, and I was also reading through Ron’s website with all his detailed reasons for choosing celibacy, and at the same time I was reading through 1 Corinthians. So 1 Corinthians 4:6 stuck out at me this time around, where Paul shares this saying “Do not go beyond what is written.” I’m not an NT scholar like you are and realize the context is different, but it struck me when I realized the New Testament prohibits gay sex, and lust, but as far as I have found does not put further prohibitions in this area. God doesn’t prohibit love, and that’s the first time I put it together. Practically, I don’t know what that means in everyday life, but it seemed freeing somehow!

    Anyway I just love you guys, I wish I could just hang out with all of you, but I will settle for praying for the Revoice Conference in St. Louis next month. I’m from Missouri and rather bummed that I cannot go to it as I need to care for my little kiddos. I hope it is a time of great blessing for you!

  3. Pingback: Revoice Reviewed: Wesley Hill's abuse of Charles Simeon of Cambridge - Warhorn Media

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