This is a blog post today from one of their leaders, an Anglican, Wesley Hill who wrote the book Washed and Waiting. This post points out one of the common threads I’ve seen in the thinking of the “gay but chaste” group of thinkers. They’re always telling their interlocutors who have concern over their calling themselves gay, “you don’t understand what being gay means, and if you did, you wouldn’t be troubled by it.” There’s a bit of hubris in it, plus it reveals how they’re trapped in the language of sexual identity, rooted in the destruction of the notion of our innate sexual complementarity.
The blog quotes an evangelical woman who was just hired at Wheaton College (amidst some controversy) to help minister to those with SSA. She describes what she sees a gay orientation as being:
A gay orientation can be understood as an overall draw toward someone of the same sex, which is usually a desire for a deeper level intimacy with those of the same sex. Just like a heterosexual orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for straight sex, a gay orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for gay sex. This longing for intimacy is usually experienced as a desire for nearness, for partnership, for close friendship, rich conversation, and an overall appreciation of beauty. The best way I can describe my experience of “being gay” is that with certain women I feel the “it” factor: that sense of chemistry that longs to share life with them, to know and be known by them, to be drawn outside of myself in self-giving love for them. When I feel all Lesbiany, I experience it as a desire to build a home with a woman that will create an energizing love that spills over into the kind of hospitality that actually provides guests with clean sheets and something other than protein bars. Most women feel that chemistry or longing for other men (even though it can’t be reduced to a desire to have sex with other men), while I usually feel like “bros” with men. This causes me to see the world through a different lens than my straight peers, to exist in the world in a slightly different way. As God has redeemed and transformed me, he’s tapped into those gay parts of me that now overflow into compassion for marginalized people and empathy for social outcasts—he’s used my gay way of being for His glory rather than making me straight.
I find this so strange, and I think this is where Catholic thinking can help. Feeling all “lesbiany” and having that desire go towards essentially nesting with another woman in a domestic partnership is part of what is objectively disordered about same sex attraction. This woman is made for man, and insofar as she feels “all lesbiany” in dissonance with her God given nature, we see one result of the fall of man in our lives. It seems unwise to view as good the privation of the good of experiencing our true sexual nature. I see this as an impediment to growing in relationship with Christ–if we are confused about our nature, and see what God allowed as a privation in our lives as something good, then we can’t see the reasons why Divine Providence allowed it in our lives, and therefore understand why through His good pleasure God wounded us in this particular way, for our good and for our sanctification.
And the last sentence: “he’s used my gay way of being for His glory rather than making me straight” is the result of her ten years involved in sexual orientation change efforts, through the Protestant group Exodus. The bifurcation of sexuality into “straight” and “everything else” is one of the great problems with today’s view of sexual identity. Of course, God made her a certain way, ordered towards her sexual complement. What she means by God not “making her straight” doesn’t mean a change in her objective sexual orientation, but rather her subjective attractions and inclinations coming into alignment with the objective truth of her sexual orientation. God doesn’t always allow this, but this is where we must follow the example of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane: may this cup pass, but even so, Thy will be done. The wrong response is to think and believe ourselves as being some sort of sexual “other,” or “sexual minority,” as many of these authors like to talk about. This is where Courage has wisdom: if we’re going to grow in sanctity and holiness, we must have a certain humility to the truth of our situation. I think that’s very painful for a lot of people, but the virtue of chastity is far more than “being celibate” or “being continent.” The CCC tells us that it is “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” It seems to me that embracing a sexual identity, or sexual orientation that is opposed to the truth of the body will inhibit the true growth of the virtue of chastity in the human person, even if one is sexually continent. I think one focus of our conversation must therefore be on “what is chastity” with regards to homosexuality. Josef Pieper I think can be very helpful here.
Digging more into the blog post I mentioned at the opening, I see obvious evidence that those who call themselves “gay and Christian” are prisoners of today’s culture, and yet they are blind to it.
Wesley Hill quotes another blogger about how we as Christians should view homosexuality today, and in so doing, sums up exactly why I think we need to do battle for a recovery of a cultural understanding of sexual complementarity which goes far deeper than merely the issue of same sex marriage:
[I]f we truly understand the cultural situation in which we find ourselves, we have to accept that being gay/lesbian is a matter of human identity, not a matter of performing (or desiring) certain erotic activities. Thomas Aquinas could properly treat (male) homosexual activity as one amongst many species of lust, because culturally, that was how he and his readers experienced it; we experience our sexual desires as identities—gay, lesbian, or straight [footnote: Or indeed bi, trans, queer, or asexual…]—and so as something far more profound and basic to our sense of self than merely another experience of desire, whether disordered or not.
In the book, The Homosexualization of America, author Dennis Altman writes that the great success of the gay rights movement was to focus the discussion of homosexuality away from behavior, and instead on identity.
Sadly, these Christians who are striving to follow Christ aren’t even aware that they are prisoners of the culture around us, and that their view of homosexuality is the result of those who C. S. Lewis would call “innovators” in the Abolition of Man, where he writes of them, “Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground of imagined value, but because we want him to be such. Having mastered our environment, let us now master ourselves and choose our own destiny.”
This all calls to mind St. Pope John Paul II’s wise words in Veritatis Splendor:
It must certainly be admitted that man always exists in a particular culture, but it must also be admitted that man is not exhaustively defined by that same culture. Moreover, the very progress of cultures demonstrates that there is something in man which transcends those cultures. This “something” is precisely human nature: this nature is itself the measure of culture and the condition ensuring that man does not become the prisoner of any of his cultures, but asserts his personal dignity by living in accordance with the profound truth of his being.
I see these continuing conversations we’re engaged in as one small step in freeing mankind from the prison of today’s culture concerning sexual identity. If the Church doesn’t save the world from the confusion of sexual identity, who will?