A Word About Sexual Orientation

One of the big topics of my blog is the question of sexual identity, and how the Church must resist the language of “sexual orientations” or of the confusion of “sexual identities.” Rather, what the Church must be in this confused world is salt and light that points to the truth that all men and women are made in an objective way, ordered both body and soul towards their sexual opposite.
I haven’t been able to keep up much on my blog, but I do correspond with some folks from time to time on topics related to my blog. I just finished up an email I sent to a few folks about a recent post at Spiritual Friendship that troubles me, and so I decided to paste it below:

I’m sending this to those who might be interested in the question of sexual identity and anthropology, as seen through the lens of those who call themselves a “gay celibate Christian.”

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?

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12 thoughts on “A Word About Sexual Orientation

  1. Hmmm….this recent hire at Wheaton (and the administration at Wheaton) would do well to listen to their alumnus Christopher Yuan, one of the most compelling voices in the Evangelical world on living with same-sex attraction: “I don’t say that I am straight, nor do I say that I’m gay….There must be a paradigm shift….My identity, as a child of the living God, must be in Christ alone.”

  2. This current discussion brought to mind an old 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie appropriately titled “Predator”……brief synopsis; extraterrestrial alien landed in a Central American jungle…..cloaked as to “blend in”with the environment…..pursued human skulls as trophies……laid waste to the indigenous human species unaware of the evil that lurked within………

    Flash forward to the era of the new evangelization and Apostolate of Courage!….I think we can all read between the “movie scripting” in the pseudo Roman Catholic ministries dedicated to SSA many of us attempted to become a part of……but walked away asking our “mentors” ……”Whaat da hell awre you?”……..

    We all intuitively knew what trophies they were looking to walk away with……….Thanks again Dan for uncovering VERITAS and all it’s hidden treasures!

  3. You certainly couldn’t be more right in the debate on “Spiritual Friendships.” It’s a very misguided group that sows deeper seeds of confusion ultimately leading more away from the purity of truth.
    As this group gains more momentum in their realm of disordered “Falsitatis” sexual reality and “identity” of “bio-theology” living in the flesh more and more instead of the Spirit, their ultimate goal of selfish desires becomes more apparent.

    “Eros” is the exclusive gift given by God to a man and a woman attempting to conceive a child. As disordered human nature will continue to inhabit the earth until the end of time, Asking God everyday in prayer for the Grace of Agape is one way to bring everything into proper perspective and focus on our highest calling which is selfless Love of God and neighbor…….prayer, petition, thanksgiving………every day, every day, every day……

    HE most certainly told us to “ask and you will receive, knock and the door will be opened”……just remember to be the leper that returns to give thanks when’s HE showers you with this Divine Grace.

      • God Bless You Dan…….The Good Lord picked the right man for this job of VERITAS…..one heckuva beautiful word…..I love to read Paul David’s comments on your Love of this Divine Virtue. In New Orleans there is a large old Dominican Chuch named St Anthony of Padua in the Mid-City section of town on Canal Street. Emblazoned across the wall above the Dominican emblem and the ornate Baldacchino is (in Gold Letters) the Latin word “VERITAS”

        St Anthony of Padua is the Intercessory Patron Saint of regaining lost Virtue in New Orleans’ culture. During Hurricane Katrina the water rose to the very top of the very last step before entering the church. Small miracle, but not one inch of the carpet had to be replaced, or was soaked. I attended the noon Mass there daily, I knew the Pastor well, he was from Columbia…….

        We shared a small joke between us……”Not even a Hurricane the size of Australia could blow away ‘the TRUTH’…” ……and so it is with “Letters to Christopher”……Congrats, and once again Merry Christmas!!!!!! I wish you many more!

  4. Of all things…….a sparrow…….scriptural, no doubt.
    Challenge a young man too much, he may buckle under the pressure….
    Encourage him…..he’ll grow……but, pray he remembers the lessons you taught him…..

      • Today’s Homily on EWTN not only reinforces the short film “what is that” but, I am sure through an act of Divine Providence gives guidance to future Fathers on how to approach the innocence of their newborn sons on their way to becoming true men of God…………coincidence?……never…..the Spirit moves where it wills…through the simple to the most complex of all HIS creatures…..HE is God, we are not!

  5. That film ties in well with “Hey parents! don’t give up hope!” Dan’s reconciliation with his parents! Well done! I’ll have to watch the Homily tonight on EWTN it sounds interesting.

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