Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Homosexuality and the Church

(This blog post is for a short assignment in Systematic Theology; as such, comments have been turned off)

Almost four years ago, Luke Timothy Johnson and Eve Tushnet wrote two thoughtful and heartfelt articles regarding homosexuality and the Church (SOURCE) -- while, for both of them, "the Church" refers to the Roman Catholic Church, many of their observations are pertinent to the questions often raised across all Christian confessional lines.

Johnson has established himself as a highly competent commentator on the Scriptures and a contender for fidelity to them as Holy Writ--a welcome voice in a day of all-too-rampant skepticism with regard to Scriptural inspiration. He states quite frankly that "we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good." What surprised me, however, was the turn he took at that point; he did indeed declare that the unions can and should be blessed in the Church. I was unaware that his daughter had "come out of the closet" herself; thus, he has something substantial at stake in addressing the issue at hand: His relationship with his own daughter. He claims that, just as we have used our experiences with real life human beings to justify multiple marriages and the abolition of slavery (in opposition to certain passages of Scripture), so same-sex relationships also are able to be reevaluated--and should, he thinks, in light of our loved ones' experiences with same-sex attraction.

Tushnet, herself a Catholic who struggles with same-sex attraction, counters and states that Johnson's technique "places far too much trust in personal experience. He views our experience as both more transparent and less fallible than it is." This seems ironic, for the person who seems to have the most at stake in the debate is quite "unimpressed with the attempts to resolve the conflict by negating the teaching" of Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian tradition on the subject of same-sex attraction. Her main premise for rejecting same-sex unions is the same as that of the New Testament in its discourse on certificates of divorce: "From the beginning it was not so." This theology of the body places the archetypal images of man and woman, in mutual, interdependent longing for one another, as the ultimate icon of human union and interaction. As to those who would cite same-sex couples' loving, committed relationships as also mutually interdependent with longing for one another--a male is no less male for longing for a male than for longing for a female, they might say--she states, kindly but succinctly, that "The sacrifices you want to make aren’t always the only sacrifices God wants" and that, like the rich young ruler who had done all he felt he could, same-sex attracted people may be asked to give up even more by Christ. This, to me, seems to be a good start towards defending traditional, biblical teaching on the subject, with a tone that can not but be sympathetic to those who need, "not to stop loving your partner but to express that love without sex."

My own experience with friends who have same-sex attraction began somewhat stereotypically, in the high school theater department. It continued through college at Oral Roberts University, which has an infamous reputation for having a significant percentage of alumnae who have come after graduation about the same-sex attraction they had felt during their years in school. During these times, I met with several people who asked me how homosexuality could be sinful when it was natural. I gave two answers:

1) My own inclination was and is to look at natural law: Strictly speaking, it is not natural, anatomically speaking. One of the primary reasons for a male and a female to have been created in the first place was to be fruitful and multiply--something impossible for same-sex couples. We have been created for procreation (among other things, but quite emphatically this as well) and this role as giver of life is a blessed participation in the life of God for man. Infertile couples, of course, are the exception to the rule, but the rule stands.

2) All of us, according to Judeo-Christian teaching, have been born into sins (Ps. 51 (50 LXX):5). Our bodies are full of passion, movement, urges, desires, many of which we did not ask for and do not fully understand. Though not overtly and immediately destructive, same-sex attraction shares this characteristic with alcoholism, depression, and, yes, heterosexual sex addiction. While a desire may come unbidden and seem very enticing, we would say that it comes from a place that is not κατα φυσειν, according to nature, and thus the thoughts that lead to all of the actions mentioned here must not be indulged but rather redirected in massive, life-long struggle shared by all who, for one reason or another, are not given the outlet of erotic expression or some other method of engaging their desires as they would like. This helped those I spoke with who were struggling with same-sex attraction; they could see, at least, that they were not the lone rejects of God in the eyes of the Church; while I was saying that there was a struggle ahead for them, the issue that they were dealing with was no more "heinous" an issue than any other sin of appetite.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

March for Life 2011

A blessed pre-lenten Sunday to all. This post is a few weeks in coming, I know; took a lazy Sunday afternoon to make enough room for it.

Upon arrival at the National Mall, this was handed to us by a Byzantine Catholic group: A beautiful recension of the Virgin of the Sign. I'm always encouraged by the relatively young, somber witness given by the Catholic pro-lifers at the March. Gone are the joking and giggling one usually sees in many of the non-Catholic youth groups (whether church or school or both is unclear). Present instead is the awareness of the loss of life that is consonant with that leaping Presence in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. We passed a quite large and imposing display from AbortionNO.org (WARNING: the link contains, as did the display, graphic images and video of actual abortions), wherein a man with a megaphone gravely, yet not hysterically, spoke to a crowd that, in view of the display, was quite subdued. He said that, as propaganda and sensationalistic photography had been used in ages past to uncover some of the most atrocious crimes against humanity ever committed (slavery, war, the Holocaust), so the use of graphic, bloody imagery to make abortion's truly reprehensible nature apparent was not only permissible, but necessary. I will say that I am for this sort of information being used as much as possible in appropriate venues, and that a march such as this is indeed an appropriate event. We are to be reminded of the nature of the issue at hand. The quiet marchers were then (of course?) interrupted by a teenage boy who was (of course) surrounded by a gaggle of teenage girls and who, delighting in the "OMG-he's-sooo-crazy!" attention it got him, yelled out with a smirk, "When I say 'Pro,'" you say 'Life!' Pro! (Life!) Pro! (Life!)"

It was at such moments that some of the objections raised by some SVS-ers (who, of course, stayed home) began to gain a bit of credibility.

And our involvement in the march was cause for some controversy on campus. To SVS's credit, we were not forced to attend, and campus emails were free to be sent to all regarding this or that take on abortion in general, and the appropriateness of the march in particular. Concern rose, not about whether life in the womb was sacred, but rather regarding everything from aligning ourselves politically with certain parties (a point with which I can sympathize, though silly political jargon seems to be at a minimum in the crowd, and non-existent from the pre-march speakers--the event is decidedly not about a candidate but about an issue; it went on during Bush and Reagan years, as well) to the separation of Church and State. This last reason is one I find absolutely bizarre; those questioning our involvement in the march would have no problem with Dr. King's use of political action towards addressing what he saw as a moral atrocity, regardless of whether or not legislating morality with regard to racial discrimination would "win the hearts and minds" of those determined to perpetuate the inequality of that time. Likewise, I imagine they would have no qualms about abolitionists seeking to make the War Between the States solely about the moral cause of emancipation and do away with the institution of slavery, in spite of the disruption of the way of life of those southern whites who'd only known that system. Why they would balk at doing away with the wholesale slaughter of thousands of human beings every day citing reasons of 1) voting along one's religious context, 2) alienating and endangering women due to lack of follow-up and support plans, or 3) seeing other means of contraception (another issue in and of itself) as being profitable towards substantially lowering the abortion rate without actually making it legally (and, thus, morally, in many peoples' minds) detrimental to those persuing it (as would the murder of any other human being) seems to me to be the height of inconsistency.

The reason I scratch my head so regarding objections to speaking out via public policy is this: This really does come down to whether or not we believe one's faith is objectively true enough to apply to everybody. If murder is wrong for me, it's wrong for everyone. If abortion has been declared an abomination by the Lord and consistently forbidden by the Church, it is because it is wrong.

Many people disagree categorically. Understood. But it is my conviction that the people who hold abortion to be anything less than the sinful termination of a human life to be in serious delusion. Clear thinking, in my mind, needs to be upheld in this country regarding the slaughter of innocents, and needs to be done so regardless of peoples' reactions. This is not about winning hearts and minds here; this is, ultimately, about preventing murder, to as great a degree as possible. Can this couple with contraceptive measures and education? Certainly it can, and probably should, though the latter should not be seen to be a suitable replacement for the former.

My accusation of delusion is most likely an ironic one for those adamant about keeping abortion legal, for they probably think the same of me. Understood. And irrelevant. The march shows a substantial swath of American public believes the equation of abortion with murder to be absolutely true and to apply to all people. This issue in particular ceases to be merely about the feelings, the "hearts and minds" of our fellow Americans; the lives at stake are not yet able to vote and MUST be protected, even over the screamed objections of those who would vote to tear them apart.

Life--and, for us, the image of God--begins at conception. Refusing to act to protect this life states that people have the right to murder someone as long as they don't believe it to be murder. Justifying this is no defense of individual rights, as such an act tramples on other individuals' gift of life (Our chancellor is adamant, and rightly so, that is is not a "right to live").


  • Until someone is willing to say that a man who shoots and kills another man should not be prosecuted and arrested,
  • Until he's willing to say that said man should not have his freedom restricted by not being able to murder a fellow human being,
  • Until he's willing to call said murder a constitutional right,

then that someone's support for the "freedom to choose" is, to me, the height of hypocrisy. I do not see the intervention on behalf of the government with regards to murderers as outside the scope of its influence; consequently, I neither see its outlawing of abortion as undue intrusion into the lives of the citizenry. Rather I see it as protection of those who most need protection, the most defenseless -- and that, if nothing else, is something government is beholden to do. In all cases.

Regardless, the talk remains, and to facilitate said dialogue, SVS will have a forum on March 26, 2011 to discuss these issues--and no doubt others (LINK). Prayers that civility and openness to the Holy Spirit will prevail.

Finally, an idea of the extent of the march...and the degree of neglect it receives from mainstream media.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Ten Thousand Exits by The Purple Hulls

From one of my YouTube subscriptions...this is what comes from siblings in E. TX who are made to play from childhood. Now that's some good pickin', right thar...