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.

2 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.

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