David Morrison is Sed Contra's author and the author of Beyond Gay. He is a Roman Catholic by choice and the Founder and Moderator of Courage Online, an internet support group for men and women living with same sex attraction who desire to do so chastely.
Well, at the risk of rushing in where angels fear to tread there is more news from the Southern Decadance event in New Orleans. The New Orleans' Times Picayune has a story (brief registration required to read it) about a protest led by a someone who tends to view Catholics and people living with any same sex attraction with the same disdain, if not outright hostility.
He believes that only righteous confrontation brings success, whether in the parking lot of a Metairie bookstore, where he once led the torching of a batch of gay magazines, or in a Westwego beauty salon, where police once arrested him for haranguing the ladies about their Catholicism.
In a way this situation, and it is played out in different locations around the country at different times, feels about as scripted as a traditional Kabuki drama.
Scene One, self-identified gay population, some of whom fully subscribe to the libertine school of sexual behavior, arrives in town. Scene Two, "revelry" commences as in Southern Decadance and some folks on the scene who take a dim view of sex in the streets get upset. Scene Three, they protest, demand authorities "do something," and don't make any distictions between living with same sex attraction and actually practicising same sex acts. Scene Four, activists decry "homophobia", pointing to the protests and outrageous comments of protesters. End of play, most everyone goes home feeling righteous about their position in the whole thing.
Except, of course, for the folks who experience same sex attraction but who 1) do not feel at all comfortable with the sexual behavior in the streets but 2) don't need to be condemned for experiencing same sex attraction. Those folks get to go home feeling confused and longing for an oasis where maybe they can not be at the "eye" of any storms for a while.
We, including myself, need to find better ways of talking about these issues.
The air in Chicago today felt fantastic! My buddy David said that temperatures in the city hovered in the mid 90's through yesterday, but this evening it's cool enough that I am probably going to have to wear long pants.
We spent a good chunk of the afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago where, aside from seeing some really tremendously great works of art, I also saw something that gave me pause. What do you all think of Saints' relics being in museums? On the one hand, if a person can have the relics of a saint in his or her personal possession, why not a secular museum having them? But is there, or should there be, an assumption that a person holding those relics would be expected to respect them and to venerate them? Can a secular museum be expected to do so?
Some relics of St. Catherine and St. John the Baptist were encased on display alongside things like household items and formal dishes under the heading "Decorative arts" - as though there were no difference between a reliquary containing a relic of saint and an attractively painted vase or even a chamber pot. The reliquaries themselves were beautiful works of art, but aren't we called as Catholics to view such things not only for their appearance but for the reality they contain? Would attractive containers for Torah scrolls be expected to hold their Torahs in a secular setting, or wouldn't the proper home for those scrolls, or relics, be in a place where they might be respected for the religious objects they are? David|link|
Away From The Home Keys
I am visiting some of the Courageous in Chicago and will be away from regular blogging until Monday evening.
In her thesis, Hamill stakes claims more reminiscent of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Party than Pat Robertson and the religious right. Citing ancient precedents of land tenure rights and debt forgiveness, she says the Bible mandates a "minimum opportunity" for the poor. Lest anyone miss the point, she goes on to argue that "minimum opportunity" in contemporary America consists of a decent public education. Lest anyone miss that point, Hamill demonstrates that Alabama public schools fall so woefully short of adequacy that only a drastic increase in funds could fulfill the state's moral obligation.
The novel combination of Hamill's left-wing argument and Beeson's right-wing reputation earned front-page coverage in Alabama newspapers. Her ironclad research, including 21 pages of data tables, won praise from editorial boards. And in a state that raises the least tax revenue per capita, Hamill's thesis -- reprinted as a book titled The Least of These: Fair Taxes and the Moral Duty of Christians -- somehow ended up as a rationale for politicians to imagine and initiate the unthinkable.
Southern Decadance, the last stop of the Summer Gay Party Circuit (a term drawn from both gay and mainstream press notices) is currently underway in New Orleans. Undoubtedly local residents will be pleased to know that the organizers of this event have warned participants not to have sex in the streets.
The 2003 campaign is bold in its concept to catch the attention of both visitors and locals alike to end public sex, in particular. It simply states "Southern Decadence Wrist Bands" (with a pair of hand cuffs below), followed by "Public Sex=10 Days in Jail!" The design for the campaign was the brain child of New Orleans Human Relations Commission Executive Director Larry Bagneris, Jr. Ambush graphic designer Chris Hall made it a reality.
The GLBT community in New Orleans does not condone nor encourage public sex in the streets.
Visitors and locals are also asked to assist with this problem, by asking other visitors and locals, not to participate in public sex or urination in the streets. Please take these functions inside, and whatever you do, play safe. Revelers could be arrested and spend their entire Labor Day Weekend in jail. Legal fees could well exceed $200 per offense.
What could have given any of these lovers of privacy the idea that sex in the streets would be even a possibility? Maybe some of the event listed here?
But its good to remember that gay sex is really all about same sex love. Gimme a break. David|link|
Some Thoughts on the Nature of Love
Late last April I traveled to Boston College to appear on a two man panel with Andrew Sullivan addressing the Church's teachings on Same Sex Attraction. Boston College Magazine later condensed some of the thoughts I presented into an essay which can be found here. For what they are worth.
P.S. I take no credit nor blame for the title of the essay. It's their magazine, they can title the pieces as they like, though I did point out that the title is inaccurate. David|link|
A Couple of Good Texts
The Catholic New World, the diocesan paper for the Archdiocese of Chicago, has a good article on reaction among some Chicago Catholics to the recent document on same sex marriage.
The article ended thus:
The document was received more coolly at St. Peter the Apostle parish in Montreal’s gay village in the city center, an area that is the second-poorest of the metropolitan area. Some 250-300 Catholics—mainly gay men, some lesbians—come from all over the island to worship.
On Aug. 3, the Sunday after the Vatican issued its document urging politicians to work against legal recognition of same-sex unions, the only sign of protest in the church was a minute of silence, when the organ music stopped abruptly after Communion. Pastoral worker Gerard Laverdure described the momentary silence as a “way of showing our protest at recent events.”
If I had been there I imagine I would have appreciated the silence after communion; the post-reception flood of organ at many parishes is a pet peeve of mine.
This is a very sensitive issue because sexuality is such an intimate and important part of us. I realize that there are people in this congregation today who have a homosexual orientation. There are even more people here whose immediate family is touched by homosexuality. In my own case, my first cousin Mike is homosexual. I'm not revealing any family secrets. Mike is very open about it all. And he's a wonderful person. And that is where we have to begin in talking about homosexuality. We must respect the human dignity of all persons regardless of sexual orientation. God loves homosexuals and heterosexuals equally. We don't know why some people have a sexual attraction for the same sex. It's still a mystery. But it is not a choice. A homosexual orientation in itself is neither morally good nor bad. And to make fun of people because of such an orientation, to call them names is a serious offense against charity. And to physically intimidate them or attack homosexuals is a grave sin. As the Catechism says, homosexuals "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." (2358)
And yet the Church does teach that homosexual acts are sinful. Why? It's a matter of the meaning of sex. The Catholic Church teaches that sex is a great good and a divine gift, but as such has a specific purpose and design. In Catholic thought we can't speak coherently about sexuality without reference to marriage. They go together because human sexuality is a vital way for human beings to co-create with God. We can actually help to form new persons through our sexuality. To those who participate in this procreation of humanity it can seem little short of miraculous. And the children created by our sexual acts also need to be raised, nurtured and educated. Those are central purposes of both marriage and the family.
Obviously Homosexuality is not uniquely contrary to Catholic sexual morality. There are many heterosexual challenges to Catholic sexual morality as well, but I speak of homosexuality in particular today because it has become so topical.
But I think it's important to stress that neither God nor the Catholic Church rejects homosexuals. Rather, just as with heterosexuals who sin sexually, the Church loves the sinner, but hates the sin. All homosexuals, like all single heterosexuals, are called to live chastely without sexual relations for the sake of their own happiness. Although it's difficult for sexually active homosexuals to believe, the goal of the teaching of the Church is actually their happiness. Almost all of us, heterosexual and homosexual alike, have sexual desires of one kind or another that can not be acted upon if we are to remain happy because such desires are spiritually destructive and go against God's plan for us and the human race. But it is also true that if any of us falls into temptation God has given us the sacrament of Reconciliation. God is merciful. He loves us all and will always accept us back when we stray, if we would only turn to Him.
Sexual activity is not a requirement for a happy, and fulfilling life. After all, given the Catholic understanding of human sexuality, sexual expression is a gift from God, given to some but not to others for a specific reason. It is not a right. But that idea goes against the very grain of our entire culture. Our culture sees sex as a purely private matter. It is a form of pleasure individuals give to one another with a malleable meaning. It can be a sign of love, or maybe a form of relaxation or recreation. But it is not seen as a divine gift with objective purposes and boundaries.
From the gay perspective, for a homosexual NOT to be sexually active is to be untrue to oneself. And a homosexual who follows the Church's teachings and lives chastely is denying who he or she really is, because for gay homosexuals sexual activity lies at the very center of their self-identity. Therefore, the logic of the gay rights movement requires not mere legal toleration of homosexual acts, but their acceptance as normal, beautiful—morally and legally equivalent to heterosexual acts; and homosexual unions as true marriages.
That idea is behind the growing tension in our society surrounding homosexuality. I don't think if the Texas legislature had voted to de-criminalize homosexual acts that there would have been much outcry. The point can be argued, but adultery, fornication, etc, are all legally tolerated. But when the whole society is asked, or forced, to change the very definition of marriage itself there is a line crossed that must result in Christians' resistance. We must respect and love ALL persons with homosexual orientations, but we must also resist a gay ideology contrary to the gospel.
"This saying is hard; who can accept it?" To return to our gospel today, we learn from it that Jesus' teaching will challenge and offend His disciples—us. Jesus reveals in the second reading from Ephesians that He loves His disciples, the Church, as much as a husband loves His bride. That image should comfort those who feel Christ's message is harsh. But Christ does expect fidelity from His bride. He does not run after those who leave Him, offering to change His teaching if they will only stay. He insists, rather, we make a choice as Joshua insisted to the chosen people 1,000 years before. "If it does not please you to serve the Lord," Joshua said, "decide today whom you will serve." We, too, must make that choice.
You know, its really weird, but its like everybody out here has been bitten by the civics bug or something. My friend Cathy, who sells real estate in Southern California, Orange County in fact, was talking to me yesterday on her cell phone in between sips of her soy milk mocha triple sized latte. She told me that she doesn't know what to make of the relatively sudden, very (in her opinion) un-Californian burst of interest in the upcoming recall election. It's really all people are talking about out here.
I have learned to take Cathy's observations about life on the ground in California seriously. As long as you were not looking to buy anything, she has stipulated, she believes real estate agents are among the best observers of an area's different economic and cultural trends. We are the some of the folks who see both the tapestry and what's on the back of the tapestry, she says. We see all the missed stiches, bad knots and fuck ups.
She attributed the elevated level of interest to a couple of factors. First, she said, the shortened time frame for the campaigning is extremely popular. I have even heard more than person ask sort of wistfully, why couldn't we do every election like this?, Cathy said, In addition, many people she has talked to feel empowered by having as many choices as they appear to have. People like it that there is no primary, she said. People perceive that they have more choices. They like it that Democrats are fighting Democrats and Republicans and Republicans are fighting Democrats and other Republicans. They like the free for all.
But the overarching different in this election is just the level of interest in it. Politics out here has been ho hum for years, she said. All this is new. David|link|
A while back several readers wrote to argue that I was overreacting to the Lawrence decision and that there would be no pressure to change State laws against sex in public. Well, someone is pressuring the police to stop enforcing the ban against sex in public. I could be wrong, of course, but I don't believe there is a clamor for allowing heterosex in public...
Prosecutors also bring "crime against nature" charges against people who have sex in public, which other state laws don't specifically prohibit. A charge of indecent exposure would not necessarily apply because it's a crime to be naked in public only if the individual is seen by a member of the opposite sex.
John A. Maxfield, legal adviser to the Wake County sheriff, and Dawn Bryant, Raleigh's police attorney, have told officers that they can continue to charge people with a "crime against nature" as long as the activity occurs in a public place. "We're following constitutional law," Bryant said. "The Supreme Court's decision only applies to private conduct." Prosecutors in Brunswick County, for example, recently dismissed charges against three men for sexual activities at a party in a private residence. They are pursuing charges against six men accused of having oral sex in a public park near a school.
"The only thing we want," Brunswick County assistant district attorney Connie Jordan said, "is for them not to have sex next to where kids are getting on a bus."
No figures were available on the number of people charged with a "crime against nature" in North Carolina since the Supreme Court ruling on June 26, In the first six months of this year, more than 400 people were charged with either violating the law or soliciting to break the law.
Flack said the crux of the matter dividing the two churches lies in church authority: Unlike the Catholic Church, where authority flows down from Rome, the Anglican Communion is a loose association of 38 national provinces which, in practical terms, do as they wish.
Williams' views carry weight because he is the Anglican spiritual leader, but he has no power.
"The Archbishop of Canterbury can shout until he's blue in the face, but there will be churches who disagree with him,'' Flack said.
That, Wilkins says, poses a serious problem for the Vatican, which wants a partner in the ecumenical dialogue that can deliver on any agreements reached.
"Who's going to keep the agreement if you've got a completely disparate union?'' Wilkins asked.
Anglican - Roman Catholic Relations Seen On Last Legs Following Robinson Decision
Flack said the crux of the matter dividing the two churches lies in church authority: Unlike the Catholic Church, where authority flows down from Rome, the Anglican Communion is a loose association of 38 national provinces which, in practical terms, do as they wish.
Williams' views carry weight because he is the Anglican spiritual leader, but he has no power.
"The Archbishop of Canterbury can shout until he's blue in the face, but there will be churches who disagree with him,'' Flack said.
That, Wilkins says, poses a serious problem for the Vatican, which wants a partner in the ecumenical dialogue that can deliver on any agreements reached.
"Who's going to keep the agreement if you've got a completely disparate union?'' Wilkins asked.
One of the Courageous wrote and submitted this and I thought it deserved a wider audience. Pledges to protect privacy prevent me from sharing his name and email openly here, but if he gives me permission I will share it with folks who write me for it.
I grew up on a lake and to me swimming was just something that I naturally knew how to do. It was like breathing -- effortless. My cousin Mark grew up in the city, for him swimming was a struggle. Actually, it was more like well choreographed chaos. We were both five. On sunny days when he was visiting we would walk down to the lake and descend into the water. Mark wore a "lifejacket," one of those dull orange contraptions that rode up around your neck as soon as you were launched. This had the effect of pointing your head upward so that the arms flapped at your sides while you went absolutely nowhere -- just bobbed helplessly while your aunt Rose and uncle Bert convulsed in laughter watching you from the shore. It gave one the impression of a stuffed pepper that was on the verge of exploding in the pressure cooker.
The Lord bless Mark. He was a real trooper. He was bound and determined to swim like the rest of us, unaided by an orange straightjacket that doubled as a flotation devise. After he floundered about for a time, he would propel himself back to where he could touch bottom. He would carefully remove the fasteners from his lifejacket and then ease it off his shoulders. Standing waist deep in the water he would stare down the tiny waves and get this weird yet very determined look on his face -- I believe it was a self taught form of Zen-drowning -- and he would fling himself forward into the deep. Well, it wasn't actually deep at all, just a few feet, but to Mark it was a bottomless ocean. Mark had faced his fear and he was in the process of conquering it. To the rest of us it looked like the crazed and frenetic movements of a madman -- all foam and spray, splash and suds. His arms were doing the breast stroke at the speed of light as he made grunting gasping sounds that told all who could hear that he was a real swimmer. I would always stay just out of reach with only my eyes just out of the water -- the remainder of my 5 year old body submerged like a human crocodile -- watching the prey struggle and tire itself out -- waiting to pounce.
Mind you, all of his struggling occurred with his feet planted firmly on the bedrock floor of the lake. He was never really in over his head. He was never really in danger. Eventually, my dad, not the most patient of men, would go down into the water and retrieve my cousin before he exhausted himself. As soon as he was on dry land he would exclaim, "Did you all see me swim!?" Afraid that he would jump back in if they replied negatively, they all acknowledged that he swam better than Ester Williams. He and I did not get the joke but the adults thought it was a real hoot.
There was a young man that worked around our property during the summer. His name was John. John was amazingly kind and patient with us little guys. One day he decided that he would teach Mark to swim. Well, I was skeptical. I had seen my cousin struggle for the whole vacation and only create a minor typhoon with all his effort -- he could not swim. Swimming was something you were born with the ability to do -- nobody taught me. Anyway, John took Mark out over his head and told him to begin paddling. Mark, naturally, began his high speed churning stroke -- which got him nowhere -- but John was not put off. He would tell Mark that he would not let anything happen to him. He held Mark under the abdomen and waist, floating him on the surface of the water. He began moving his about like a tiny toy motor boat all while Mark slowly gave up the flailing and began doing the doggy paddle and kicking his little legs off. I guess he felt safe with John -- that he knew John was in control.
John took Mark out with him into the deep water at least twice a day for a week. On the last day, John took Mark out to the same place they had gone each previous lesson and he held Mark in the same way. This time, however, as Mark doggy paddled and kicked his little feet -- John lowered his hands away from Marks body. Mark never even noticed. I did. There was John standing in the water, his arms crossed at the chest -- and there was Mark swimming in little circles around him like a shark with delusions of grandeur. As John swam back to shore my cousin accompanied him. Mark had learned to swim.
I think John acted toward Mark a lot like God wants to act toward us if we let him -- If we would just stop flailing about and trust him take us out into the deep water -- he will teach us to swim. We have but to place ourselves in his loving hands and to know that he has to take his hands away to allow us to exercise our freedom to grow.
Writing the Weekly Standardof August 25, Diane Knippers authored The Anglican Mainstream: It's Not Where Americans Might Think for which unfortunately a subscription is required to view. It's a good overview of the Robinson controversy, and includes some voices from some of the people most impacted in the developing world by this decision.
The Anglican bishop of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa, Mouneer Anis, leads a vulnurable religious minority. They "cannot comprehend a decision to elect as bishop a man who has forsaken his wife and the vows he made her in order to live in a sexual relationship with another man," he wrote. "We feel profoundly let down, as this decision will unquestionably damage our interfaith relations with our Muslim friends among whom we live. It will also have a negative impact on our relations with the Orthodox and Catholic churches in our area, which continue to hold fast to the apostolic faith. We will definitely be seen by them as heretical. We had not expected this to be done to us by brothers and sisters who are in communion with us. We had expected that they would think of us before taking such a grave step."
Already, Muslim observers have drawn their own conclusions about the disregard of Western liberals for fellow Christians elsewhere. Writing in the Arab News on August 10, commentator Amir Mohammed Al-Faisal said that the Episcopal General Convention "is another example....of how Westerners give themselves the right to change even Christian scriptures to suit their whims, and in the process trample all over the religious sensibilities of other Christians who are are unfortunate enough not to have been born in the West.
"So we learn an important lesson on the respect Westerners have for religion and how they deal with any religion that does not conform to their 'liberal' ideology. After all, does the non-Westerner Jesus (peace be upon him) know more about Christianity than an American or British Bishop? If this is how they deal with their own religion, thing what they will try (are already trying) to do with other religions such as Islam."
This discernment is inevitably required of those in the West who minister amongst gay people. Yet it cannot be undertaken without reference to the wider Christian Church. A worldwide Communion cannot ‘act locally’ without ‘thinking globally’. Those outside the Western context must learn from those involved in ministry to gay people, listening to and struggling with the difficult questions raised by such a pastoral and missionary context; but the latter too must be open to critique. In particular, concerned voices are raised from the global South where leaders, theologically well-trained, sense a deep challenge to gospel ethics and the identity of the Church. They also face the missionary challenge of upholding a credible witness in the face of opposition (often from Islam).
This global perspective casts a fresh light on one of the key texts in this debate—Romans 1. Paul’s words are primarily an analysis not of individuals and personal psychology, but rather of cultural and societal disintegration To those living in poorer parts of the globe, this makes perfect sense. Is it a coincidence that the gay movement has arisen in a Western culture that is post-Christian, highly sexualized and, to them, politically and economically imperialist? There is here an uncomfortable correlation between what Paul saw in the ancient Roman Empire and what they sense in the modern West—oppression and exploitation on the frontiers, but moral innovation at the centre. From such a perspective, some ‘Western’ responses to those experiencing same-sex attraction seem, however sincere, to be driven by a consumerist mentality providing ‘whatever sells best’. Those of us living within Western culture need to hear such uncomfortable questions raised from outside.
People of God having to make difficult decisions in the face of uncertain or unknown circumstances is on of the biggest themes of the Mass readings from this Sunday.
In the reading from Joshua, the people of God that Joshua assembles are offered a pretty stark choice; the gods their fathers worshiped in Egypt, the gods that people around them worship now, or God Himself. But as for me and my house, Joshua said, we will serve the Lord. In the second reading, St. Paul invites married couples to choose what may be the hardest path human beings can take, that of being married to one another in the Lord, subservient to one another, loving one another unto death. This is a great mystery, St. Paul wrote, and he could not foreseen even a tiny portion of it. And the Gospel today contains Christ's question and Peter's confession on the part of all the disciples which remained after Christ had taught them about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Lord, to whom should we go, Peter asks, on behalf of us all.
From the three I would like to start with St. Paul's urging to married couples. Last night, my friend the Rightwing Film Geek, my roommate and I went to see The Secret Lives of Dentists, a film which, despite its title, is really all about marriage. Victor, the Rightwing Film Geek, has already weblogged about with more intelligence and erudition here, so I will let you read his thoughts. I will only add that I have already urged my mom and stepdad to see the film, and plan to urge my sister and her fiance to see it.
There can be a tendency, particularly now, when the traditional understandings of the foundations of marriage are being challenged, to overly idealize or denigrate the institution. For lack of a better metaphor, one side of the debate about marriage seems all to ready to cast married folks onto pedestals and have them stand ready to have the plaster applied. While another crowd would drag the institution through the gutter, charging that its only about contracts and economics etc.
But St. Paul and the Secret Lives understand that the reality is in between. Marriage is really about a man and a woman, who might sometimes reek of the gutter, working together to build something which will one day be worthy of a pedestal, even if it never makes it there.
In St. Paul wives are advised to be subject to their husbands as the Church is subject to Christ, and husbands are urged to love their wives as much as the love their own lives and be prepared to lay their lives down for their wives as Christ laid His life down for us. Can anyone bear a full and accurate witness to hard this must be? I know from my long friendship with my roommate, how hard it can be to lay down the selfishness etc for the sake of showing Christ, how much harder would it be if he were a she and we had all the gulf of gender, attitude, and miscommunication to cross in addition to the measure of responsibility that would come from being parents!
In the Secret Lives of Dentists, a husband and father of three daughters gets a pretty good idea that his wife is having an affair, and that she may not love him any longer. That she, in effect, will have to choose what life she wishes to lead and that life might not include him. The film is about the dynamic of that decision on her part, on one level, but its also much more about what he must go through as part of that. The film personified the mocking voices in his head, "why do you do this, what do you do this for?" And showed in very complete detail just...the struggle raising kids can be, the roughly 3 year old who can't stop calling for her dad, the bickering older girls, a whole five day sequence in which the entire family falls ill with stomach flu. The message of St. Paul and the movie is that marriage is not for wimps, its not for taking lightly, its not a once for all time commitment but one which must be affirmed, like our walk with Christ, every day or even more than once a day. Every engaged couple should see this movie.
The second theme comes from the Gospel this morning, where St. John writes after this [His teaching about having to eat His flesh and drink His blood] many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. As Father Pollard this morning pointed out, these were not folks who had just come upon Jesus the day before, or the week before. These were folks who had been with Him for a while, who had likely seen Him work many miracles in their midst and yet who, when the push came to the hard teaching, could not or would not stay.
Every one of has, in his or her heart, the capacitate to be one of three types of people in this Gospel incident. We can be like the people who had come to know Jesus a bit, admired Jesus, respected Jesus and even fervently hoped and pulled for Jesus yet who, when Christ says something to us that we can not understand or will not accept, will leave Jesus. We can be like Judas, the one who, whether couldn't or wouldn't, didn't believe Jesus or accept His teaching and yet who continued to act as though he did. Or we can be like Peter and the other disciples: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.
In today's Gospel, in every part of the Gospel, in every part of our lives, really, Christ asks us just as He asked Peter and the rest over and over again. Will you also go away? And from us every day Christ expects an answer, one offered not only with our lips but through our very lives.
Mike Airhart has questioned the churchman's invoking the slippery slope argument in the previous item, and at the risk of being accused of bludgeoning a point, I couldn't be more certain that Mike needs to wake up and smell some java.
In the September/October Issue of the Utne Reader there is an article by Utne contributing editor Jacqueline White. Titled Where No Woman (or Man) Has Gone Before, the article introduces those of us laggards to the frontiers of gender, 2003 style. Unfortunately the article is not online yet, but I promise to provide a link should the piece appear on the Utne site before this item makes it off my front page.
After pointing out the relatively new popularity of strap-on dildos among women, both self-defined lesbians and heterosexuals as well as recent moves at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, to introduce transgender language in constitutions and a "gender blind" dorm onto campus, White writes:
Welcome to the new gender rules - of the anything goes variety. Evidently, the need to separate the sexes, for whatever reason, is not longer the imperative it once was. Even more striking, the notion that men and women are essentially distinct is also undergoing revision.
Increasing numbers of transgender folks would seem to directly challenge our culture's pervasive male-female duality, but the long-held expectation that they go all the way - taking hormones and getting surgery to pass as the opposite gender - actually reinforced the belief that only two gender options are viable. But lately more transpeople have been setting up camp in the intedeterminate, often androgynous zone between genders, sometimes because surgery is too expensive and unsatisfactory, other times because it simply feels more comfortable to them.
The spectrum of gender expression is on display where young queers gather, whether its for Gender Crash spoken word performances in Boston or GenderBLUR cabarets in Minneapolis. Drag queens and kings are still strutting their stuff, exploring the sometimes stereotypical poles of femininity and masculinity, but other performers are asking "What does it mean to be myself, even if who I am looks like someone no one has seen before?....There are more ways to play it than the available pronouns. Try s/he. Try bigendered. Try man with a vagina.
Now, I don't want to make too, too much of this. Youth is always going to have its, pardon the pun, cutting edge; and one advantage of not actually going under the knife is that what's spared the blade can be used after all, presumably when some maturity kicks in. But still I cannot help but think there is something deeply confused here.
First of all, I know our modern age is is supposed to be terrified and repulsed by the notion that biology is destiny, but I gotta ask where biology is in all this. A woman might strap one on, a woman might dress as butch as a some of the dudes I work out with and act in a way that makes you squint and ask yourself if that person is a woman or a man. But unless she takes some sort of hormones, whose possibly cancerous consequences I don't even want to contemplate, isn't the fact that she's a woman going to reassert itself every month?
Second, since when have we gotten to where we hate our bodies so much? Admittedly, in the years I have spent living with a degree of same sex attraction, and knowing others who do as well, I have noticed a good deal of ambivalence about masculinity and a somewhat ongoing question about what it means to be a man. But I have never really seen folks, on as large as a sale as Ms. White seems to portray, who are so apparently....unhappy being either a man or a woman.
You know, I just cannot help but think that somehow, somewhere, whoever it is who inspired Arius and the other folks who fought the Church so hard over the assertion that Christ was fully human as fully God must be laughing with delight about now. Folks, the human body is a GOOD. God created us with bodies, male and female bodies, and called that creation GOOD. God Himself became a man with a fully Human Male Body because it was and is a GOOD, just as human female bodies are good too.
Slippery slope? I just had to write the above paragraph. If we start sliding any faster the scenery is going to start to blur.
Mary Murphy, city councillor for Hulme, told him: "I am a Catholic and a lesbian. I am sick to death of people like you standing up and telling me how wrong I am. "The Bible was written by people like you - a dinosaur who teaches people to bully and discriminate."
This is more of the same tired old line that if someone does not approve of gay sex they must "hate" the people who perform it and advocate it. Really, its just too immature!
If you are going to go have lesbian sex and you are set upon it then, please, have at it. But don't demand that the rest of society or a Christistian tradition stretching back hundreds of years of Anglicanism and thousands of years overall must pat you on the head and tell you what a good girl (or boy) you have been. David|link|
Friday, August 22, 2003
What Are Our Greatest Commandments?
In the Gospel for today's Mass we read of the Pharisees, having heard that Christ has put to route the Sadducees, the theological liberals of His day, turn up with a sneaky question (one of several the Gospel records). One, a lawyer, asked Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And Christ said to him and the assembled Pharisees, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.
This is surely one of the biggies in Christian life. Who among us can really claim to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds? All of us, weakened by the effects of the Fall, subject to the pulls and pressures of the world, harassed to a great or lesser degree by doubts, reserve little corners of our hearts and minds and maybe our souls (though I really do hope not) as ours. We designate places or histories or topics or memories as so private, or important, or even insignificant (we lie to ourselves) that we will not expose them to the light of Christ - and thus fail in the commandment.
But we can always make progress toward fulfilling the Greatest Commandment. We can adopt in our lives the habits, the practices, the strategies that will help us gradually let go of those little things, those corners or ours selves, that we block so fiercely from His love. We can partake in the sacraments, the visible and audible and sensory manifestations of God's love for us, the outward signs of inward reality that we are His brother and sisters in God the Father. We can seek the reality that we might not yet have been able to reach.
Or we cannot.
The wonderful thing about the Church's teaching on same sex attraction is that she recognizes that all those approaches to seeking to participate in the Great Commandment are available to me, as a man who lives with a degree of same sex attraction, as they are to anyone else. My brothers and sisters in the pews at Mass this morning, for all I know, face far greater temptations and battles with far more unacceptable failings - battles that for all I know they have sometimes lost even as they have often won - or at least won enough times to keep coming back to Him, the One who loves us no matter our failings. But there we are, all of us together, many of us blinking a little, shrugging, stretching the sleep away, and seeking to meet our King along the road, to let Him love us and bless us and feed us as we head out into our days.
Discipleship in Christ is for everybody who would take His name! Except for the folks who decide to opt out and would rather just keep some corners of themselves walled off from Him.
In just over a month, the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries will have its 2003 Annual conference, at a resort in Palm Springs, California. This is an association of ministries which, their name implies, are explicitly charged by the bishops of their dioceses, with bringing the Gospel to men and women who self-define as gay or lesbian among their flocks. A glance at the agenda and speakers summaries don't inspire confidence that this is being done.
For example, on the agenda, the group will have Mass once, on Saturday, with no Mass on Sunday, merely a "closing ritual." By contrast at the Courage conferences offer Masses every day. And the opportunities to pray with one another, and for one another. Heck, one of the first things folks do at the Courage conferences is set aside one of the available chapels for conference attendees to adore Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and folks sign up for hours through the night to take part.
The NACDLGM conference will have speakers who expound on topics like The gay/lesbian presence in church serves as an important source for theological reflection: that God created gay and lesbian people to reflect the richness of God’s own loving. Christ is mentioned explicit in one of the group's break out session descriptions. Chastity and discipleship and a personal relationship with God, not at all.
I could be wrong of course. The online Conference description might not really reflect what the event will be about, or it might not reflect its soul, but the overall impression is of an event designed not to help its members draw closer to the Greatest Commandment, but instead to be reassured or even strengthened in their walling off parts of themselves from God.
If this is accurate it is a shame and more than a shame and more than a scandal, it is a tragedy. Anytime someone sets themselves up as offering something akin to Christ - but which is not Christ - they hand out stones instead of bread and snakes instead of fish.
And like all discipleship issues, this is not just of sexual disobedience. If this group was an association of Ministries to people who self-defined as misers, the message would be same. Writing in the fourth century, St. Ambrose of Milan laid out briefly in a letter the challenges which can block a man's heart from Christ:
It is not then everyone who can say, "The Lord is my portion." The covetous man cannot, for covetousness draws near and says: Thou art my portion, I have thee in subjection, thou hast served me, thou hast sold thyself to me with that gold, by that possession thou hast adjudged thyself to me. The luxurious man says not: Christ is my portion, for luxury comes and says: Thou art my portion, I made thee mine in that banquet, I caught thee in the net of that feast, I hold thee by the bond of thy gluttony. Dost thou not know that thy table was more valued by thee than thy life? I refute thee by thine own judgment, deny if thou canst, but thou canst not. And in fine thou hast reserved nothing for thy life, thou hast spent it all for thy table. The adulterer cannot say: "The Lord is my portion;" for lust comes and says: I am thy portion, thou didst bind thyself to me in the love of that maiden, by a night with that harlot thou hast come under my laws and into my power. The traitor cannot say: "Christ is my portion," for at once the wickedness of his sin rushes on him and says: He is deceiving Thee, Lord Jesus, he is mine.
Please forgive this post which seem, to me at least, to tread dangerously close to the blogsin of navel gazing, but the email this morning has let me know that I can't assume that I have been understood.
It's ironic, but I am getting flak from the correspondents whom I sense are to my right and to my left about the distinctions I make between "same sex attraction" and "gay."
Some left-leaning correspondents charge that too often I equate gay with sex and thus boil down something with a lot of different dimensions to one thing. Some right-leaning correspondents allege that by using "same sex attraction" I am merely acting as a spin doctor for self-defined gay activists and are soft selling the issue. I would to address a clarification to both.
First, to the left-leaning correspondents. I agree that there can be a lot of dimensions to a person's experience of same sex attraction and that those dimensions can have different impacts on different parts of their lives and personalities. But by using the word gay, as in the phrase "I am gay" I would be steamrolling a lot of those differences into one stock phrase and taking the focus off the fact of my humanity as a creation of God.
There is a world of difference between saying "I live with a degree of same sex attraction," in much the same way as I live with a tendency to many different things, some good and some ill, and saying "I AM gay" or "I AM" any of those different facets or parts of myself. "Gay" is simply too reductionist, and in our evolution to this position I and other folks have found it simply a hassle to keep having to overcome and explain our opposition to the weight of cultural baggage that the word carries. If the word 'gay' should mean more than sex than maybe some of your objections might be better directed to a gay culture which, in the perceptions of many self-identified proponents, remains preoccupied with sex.
To the right-leaning correspondents I would say much the same thing. Shoving everyone who experiences same sex attraction into a category you can label "gay" and dismiss, or oppose, or whatever you like does an injustice to their humanity and ignores the very real people who are living out a same sex attraction in lives that are far deeper than the label might seem to imply. It also tends to go against Catholic teaching which makes a distinction between experiencing same sex attraction and acting upon it in a sexual way.
This might be a perspective that only people living with SSA can bring to the discussion, the perspective of those who see themselves in ways other than as icons of an issue and that's why the distinctions matter. David|link|
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
More On The "Ex-gay" Questions
In a an email Mike Airhart, the primary blogger from Ex-Gay Watch, has written to assure me that he is making changes to the blog to introduce more nuancing into his categorization.
I realize, however, that I am going to have to address the 'ex-gay' question again.
Mike's target at the web-log appears to be the type of 'Ex-gay" ministry and advocate who does not seem to recognize that not everyone will see the degree of same sex attraction they experience diminish or that, if they do, that is liable to be a work accomplished more slowly than quickly.
At the risk of offending some of Sed Contra's Protestant readers, I lay the responsibility for the roots of this attitude on the stereotypically Protestant approach to conversion and salvation, some of which, in my experience has not only desperately wanted to hear that a person's SSA has diminished entirely but that the person's fellowship in the community is contingent on that disappearance.
In short, the Roman Church's recognition that there is a difference between merely experiencing same sex attraction (even as it is recognized as an objective disorder) and actually acting out on those attractions is not universally shared in the Church Universal.
One sad result of this has been to put an enormous degree of pressure on the Christian in some congregations who while they would never act upon the attractions might experience some degree of SSA and who must either claim the attractions have disappeared if they are known or hide them deeply if they are not.
The result of this have been a number of ministries which appear to have either claimed to guarantee a complete diminishing of SSA, or a number of people who have claimed such and then been found to have been premature or mistaken in their claims.
Needless to say, as I believe this distinction between experiencing attraction and acting out is one to be one of strongest elements of the Catholic faith on this topic I lament that not all branches of Christianity share her more nuanced understanding of both the person who experiences SSA and the path to heaven all Christians must walk. David|link|
Careful readers Sed Contra will by now, I hope, have understood that I have been explicit about not adopting the ex-gay label. I don't self-identify as gay and I don't self-identify as 'ex-gay.' I do relate that, over the years as I have sought a life of Christian discipleship, the degree of same sex attraction I experience has diminished. I have never claimed to be free of all SSA, nor defined myself as such.
The folks over at Ex-Gay Watch however, appear to have not have gotten the message. At their blog they have labeled me as 'ex-gay' and, on the whole seem very shocked at the notion that same sex attraction might not be cast in stone forever and ever, Amen. Not to mention, I guess, that someone might experience same sex attraction, acknowledge it even, and still 1) decline to act on it or 2) self-define by it or 3) affirm people it the pursuit of homosex.
By their definition an ex-smoker who still wants a cigarette after dinner remains a smoker. If this is really their position it is not credible or accurate, in my opinion, and while I admittedly did not peruse their web-log in depth, the comments I did read failed to rise above the level of school boy catcalls.
The issue is not what tempts people, it's how we live. Nowadays people who live with a degree of same sex attraction have more freedom than ever before to decide for themselves how they address those attractions and how they will choose to define themselves. Gay activists can no longer credibly claim to speak for everybody who lives with a degree of SSA, and we don't have to make our lives fit their definitions. I understand this can be inconvenient to a gay activist agenda which needs someone to demonize as much as some Christians need to self-identified gays to demonize. But at some point somebody has to start offering the perspective of the people behind the icons and whose lives are much more than the "issue." David|link|
Harper's Index: July 3003
Mark Shea over a Catholic and Enjoying It has had a few readers who have been advocating Monarchy in the USA. I think he should know that, according to the July Harper's Index, they are the heirs to at least one Founding Father's argument.
Harper's Index: July 2003
Hours Alexander Hamilton spent in 1787 arguing at the Constitutional Convention that America should have a king : 5
Other interesting snippets:
Percentage by which a British flag maker's sales of U.S. flags in March exceeded those a year earlier : 25
Percentage by which its sales of Iraqi flags did : 10,000
Estimated number of foreign human-rights violators living in the United States : 1,000
Percentage of Americans who said at the end of April that their nation commanded less respect abroad than a year ago : 41
Percentage who said that the Iraq war will have been worthwhile even if Saddam Hussein is never captured or killed : 53
Percentage who said it will have been worthwhile even if weapons of mass destruction are never found : 60
Number of Serbian Orthodox churches burned down since the end of NATO's 1999 Operation Allied Force : 134
Amount by which the number of government jobs in the U.S. exceeds the number of manufacturing jobs : 5,129,000
Amount of the $106,185 price of a Hummer H1 that businesses may deduct under the proposed Bush tax plan : $88,722
Number of terrorism indictments brought since September 2001 by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey : 62
Number of them brought against Middle Eastern students for paying others to take their English proficiency tests : 60
Number of Wisconsin accounting students given take-home tests to accommodate an Enron whistle-blower's April speech : 78
Number later found to have cheated : 40
Year in which Washington, D.C., neighbors of a WWI-era chemical-weapons test site were told it was cleaned up : 1995
Tons of toxic soil that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has removed from the site since 2001 : 10,660
Estimated percentage of U.S. workers who were "creative professionals" in 1900, 1980, and 2000, respectively : 10, 19, 30
Weekly wage above which new federal regulations forbid the payment of overtime in jobs requiring "talent" : $425
Estimated amount spent on lap dances in Las Vegas each year : $25,000,000
Percentage of married U.S. couples that are raising children : 46
Percentage of unmarried, cohabiting U.S. couples that are : 41
Vote in April by which the North Dakota Senate upheld the state's 1890 ban on cohabitation by unmarried couples : 26–21
Ratio of New York City's minimum fine for smoking tobacco in a bar to its minimum fine for possessing marijuana : 2:1
Number of Grateful Dead concerts attended by columnist Ann Coulter : 67
Somewhat lost in the coverage of the tragic bombing of the United Nations' headquarters in Baghdad has been attention to the latest horrific bombing of a city bus in Israel. This time it was the Jerusalem Number 2 bus, which winds its way from the Western or Wailing Wall through the city including Jerusalem's Mea Shearim orthodox neighborhood. The bus was packed. Many were killed, and among those a significant number of children.
Israel has begun building a security fence along the borders with the West Bank areas where most of these suicide bombers come from. It will be similar to the fence that already exists between Israel's southern border and the Gaza strip. Fence backers have noted that the Gaza strip fence has effectively prevented suicide bombers getting into the country from Gaza to blow themselves and as many Israelis as possible into pieces and Israel clearly hopes a similar fence will prevent bombers from places like Nablus, Jenin and even Bethlehem from getting in.
The White House has been putting pressure on Israel to back off the fence issue, but I think we should stand down and let them build it. I am as much of a one world idealist as the next guy, or maybe more than most, but what Israel has been asked to endure is simply impossible without doing something - and since the Israelis refuse to simply drown themselves in the sea a fence appears to be only real option. Yes, it will cut Palestinians off from their jobs in Israel, but as it seems the Palestinians do not find that a sufficiently compelling reason to stop the Jihadists from blowing up busses, I am not sure its reasonable to ask the Israelis to care more about that than about protecting themselves.
The U.S. would have not have tolerated folks coming across our borders with Mexico of Canada to blow up our citizens even once, and we would not have let it happen more than once. Let them build the fence. David|link|
It's not about sex, really!
Some things are just too funny to let pass. Gay.com is selling pleasure wipes, the first scented adult wipe, soon to be indispensable for your bedside table.
Pleasure Wipes are the perfect choice to help you feel confident (before sex) and fresh (after sex.) The sleek, re-sealable tub fits nicely in your nightstand, too.
Twenty-five of these things come per "sleek re-sealable tub" and you can buy them in scents of vanilla or mango. (Mango? My mangos in the morning don't usually smell like much.) And they are marked down now too. Originally they would have run you about a buck per pleasurable wipe, but you can have each one for a mere 50 cents.
A couple thoughts spring to mind.
First, someone has too much money on their hands. Supposing you really needed something like this on your nightstand, surely one of the many products marketed for use with infants could suffice.
Second, if sex is something that you are having to freshen up for, of after, in bed there is probably something wrong (no surprise there, I guess).
Be aware, the page that offers this little product also offers various type of sexually suggestive items, along with a DVD of the first season of Will & Grace that a viewer may not want to view.
Sed Contra readers know that I am no fan of television and rarely watch it, but the other night I was drawn to a recent episode of the Amazing Race, that allegedly reality based program where different teams of two people each race each other around the globe from clue to clue and task to task in search of, what else, money.
Now as a premise for a show this is maybe not so bad. It could be a twenty-first century version of the classic Around the World in Eight Days. But alas, the producers of the show could not pass up the chance to label each competing duo and a pair of same sex best friends, an engaged couple and a couple of self-identified gay males (doesn't every television show demand at least one token self-identified gay male or lesbian?) are the ones that were left in the part of the show I saw. And yes, underneath every identification of the gay couple, and in the announcer's voice over, the word married or "married couple" were used.
After watching the end of a segment where the term married couple seemed to be used about four times in two minutes my best friend turned to me and asked "are they trying to convince us, or themselves?"
Indeed, there is something almost pathetically puerile about the repeated assertion that these two guys who serve as the means to each other's ends in bed should be considered married. As though by dint of mere repetition they could make this true. Well, sorry guys, magical enchantment never turned lead into gold and repeating over and over "I will be tall, I will be tall, I will be tall" never gave me the height I needed to stuff basketballs into hoops.
Marriage is more than just the labels we mutter over the heads of the two (or more) people who want to call themselves married, and no amount of wishing will make any difference. One thousand bishops for 1000 years could appear every night from solemn convocation to declare gay sex to be ok - and it still wouldn't be ok, and since the whole gay marriage drive is a push to make that happen I predict there is going to have be a whole lot of wishing going on for a long time. David|link|
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
All Things Are Possible With God
Today's Mass readings, and tomorrow's, always cheer me because they remind me that God's approaches and God's values are not our approaches or necessarily our values.
In yesterday's Gospel, by way of a reminder, Christ and the disciples encountered a Rich Young Man, who had expressed interest in following Christ until Christ revealed to him just what discipleship was going to mean. If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, Christ said (Gospel of St. Matthew, 19:21), And the Gospel records that the man went away sorrowing, for he had great possessions.
Now that the man has gone, in today's Gospel, Christ tells his disciples that it will be nearly impossible for a wealthy man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven of his own strength, but that with God all things are possible.
The Fathers of the Church have noted that the the wealthy, and there are a lot of different ways one can be wealthy, need such measures of grace because wealth so often carries its own illusion of self-sufficiency.
Whether we are wealthy in talent, good looks, physcial health, or treasure it can be easy to succumb to the lie our wealth whispers to us, the fable that we don't need to reach out to God, we don't need Him at all. The world is our oyster, we tell ourselves, and its kingdoms can seem to stretch out before us. Without the measure of God grace, sometimes in the forms of having our illusions of power shattered, we can waste our lives seeking after that which really doesn't satisfy, the ends that truly are just dead ends.
That reality contrasts nicely with Gideon's call. When the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon to tell him to go and save Israel from the hands of her oppressors, Gideon does not reply "here I am Lord, send me." Gideon essentially responds, with "you must mean somebody, anybody, else." Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family, Gideon says. More or less, you can't mean me, I am a dunce.
But God did mean Gideon. Both to save Israel, that time, and to remind us that when we do respond to Grace and put aside whatever it is that would keep us from Him, keep us captive in our own little isolated world where, we tell ourselves, we can be King, He will work through us to our good and the good of those we love.
St. John Eudes, whose birth into eternal life the Church remembers today, put the nature of our live in Christ, the live He shares with us when we let Him, in part this way:
You belong to the Son of God, but more than that, you ought to be in him as the members are in the head. All that is in you must be incorporated into him. You must receive life from him and be ruled by him. There will be no true life for you except in him, for he is the one source of true life. Apart from him you will find only death and destruction. Let him be the only source of your movements, of the actions and the strength of your life. He must be both the source and the purpose of your life, so that you may fulfill these words: None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live, we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die, we die as his servants. Both in life and death we are the Lord’s. That is why Christ died and came to life again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
The rest of this reading can be found here, at Universalis.com. If that link does not lead to it, look up the Office of Readings for August 19 and you will find it there.
It's funny sometimes the different things God will use to get through to us. Lately, a lot of my reading has been absorbed by a book called Bangkok 8, a police mystery novel written by an Englishman named John Burdett.
In the story so far, I have not finished it yet, a young Thai police officer named Sonchai Jitpleecheep, has lost his best friend and long time police partner in the wake of a particularly grisly murder involving an American Marine. Sonchai's investigations into the deaths of the Marine and his friend, sometimes with the American authorities, sometimes in opposition to them, just oozes the atmosphere of another world, another attitude, another culture. It has captured my imagination, at least for now.
God comes into the nexus between the book and I because, it turns out, Sonchai is a Buddhist, and not just a nominal Buddhist, but one who takes Buddhism seriously although he has not sought ordination as his friend had planned to do. He and his friend came into Buddhism in the wake of having murdered a drug dealer in their neighborhood as teenagers:
After we murdered the yaa baa dealer our mothers secured us an interview with the abbot of a forest monastery in the far north, who told us that we were lowest form of live in the ten thousand universes. Pichai had thrust the broken bottle into the jugular of humanity, and therefore of the Buddha himself, while I giggled. After six months of mosquitoes and meditation, remorse had gouged our hearts. Six months after that the abbot told us we were going to mend our karma by becoming cops. His youngest brother was a police colonel named Vikorn, chief of District 8. Corruption was forbidden to us, however. If we wanted to escape the murderers' hell we would have to be honest cops. More, we would have to be arhat cops. The abbot is undoubtedly an arhat himself, a fully realized man who voluntarily pauses on the shore of nirvana, postponing his total release in order to teach his wisdom to wretches like us. He knows everything. Pichai is with him now, while I am stranded here in the pollution called life on earth. I must try harder with my meditation.
Now the attraction is not to Buddhism itself, although I agree with Peter Kreeft's observation that Buddhism might have the best diagnosis of the human condition available, after the Fall (a Christian concept), even as its proposed remedy for the problem is incomplete. Rather the appeal Sonchai has for me is in the balance he must strike over and over again between life in a Thai culture spinning, in many ways, out of control and his own commitment to values bigger than himself. For example there is this:
Random-access memory: an island in the Andaman Sea reserved for nature and forbidden to everyone except high ranking cops with luxury yachts; more girls than I could count, their perfect young bodies permanently sparkling with droplets from incessant diving off the swimming platform (the girls really had fun that trip); Pichai and I uncomfortable and aloof, taking a lot of flak: to refuse bribes was bad enough, to refuse free sex was downright seditious.
To the overwhelming majority of people in Sonchai's world, Buddhism is merely an idea or, at best, a series of ideals. Just as, in many ways, Christianity is in mine. Functionally, to paraphrase (I think) Kirkegard, if the whole culture is Christian, or Buddhist, then no-one is - and both Sonchai and I must make our ways through our respective cultures and times balancing that reality. Even though he is merely a fictional creation, and one from another culture and faith, I have sensed in Sonchai a kindred spirit - one that God is using to speak to my soul.
One of the things that frustrates me about writing this web log has been the extent to which I have allowed writing it to change my focus. Writing a web log in the way that I have has meant that I have become that much more inclined to define myself as reacting to things, reacting to news from other places, other people, other events.
Doing so has meant taking my attention off of what I call Living With Intention. Living with Intention means living a life of discipleship in Christ not in reaction to what might be going on in other places or with other people, but instead in a proactive way, focusing on taking the beams out of my own eyes and trying to work steadily toward becoming the man Christ intended (and intends) I should be.
So, I think I am going to try to bring Sed Contra back to some of the focus I have wanted it to have. I am toying with the idea of moving it and renaming it, but I haven't made any decisions yet. David|link|
Monday, August 18, 2003
Dr. Robert Spitzer on NPR
National Public Radio this morning is teasing a story and interview with Robert Spitzer which they have scheduled for this evening's edition of All Things Considered. Spitzer was one of the key people involved in the controversial 1973 removal of homosexuality (same sex attraction) from the diagnostic manual for mental illnesses used by psychiatric care givers.
In 2001, however, Spitzer delivered a presentation of research into 200 men who had sought counseling as an approach to reducing the degree of SSA they experienced and reported good results and success from their point of view. (More information here.)
Presumably, the story tonight will focus on both these items, the first from the perspective of 30 years later and, the second, from the perspective of the new information. I say presumably because in this media phase of "everything gay is great!," the teaser did not mention homosexuality, "gay" or "same sex attraction" at all.... David|link|
Friday, August 15, 2003
Arnold's Newest Buddy
National Public Radio is reporting tonight that entertainment reporters and political reporters have been dancing on edge of fisticuffs in their eagerness to talk to Arnold, the man who has been alleged to hold the Governor's Office of California in one admittedly meaty paw.
Despite his wealth, however, Buffet is something of a miser. Unlike Gates, who has put billions of dollars into his foundation, Buffet’s foundation is a repository of a meager $22 million. Where Buffet eclipses Gates is in his fanatical commitment to population control.
Indeed, Buffet’s foundation is known for funding projects that other foundations, even those similarly inclined to limit human numbers, will not touch. The controversial abortion drug, RU-486, was in part funded by Buffet, who provided $2 million to the Population Council, the chief U.S. promoter of the deadly drug’s legalization.
Another $2 million went to Family Health International for the development of quinacrine hydrochloride pills, which once inserted into a woman’s uterus causes a severe chemical burn that scars shut her fallopian tubes, thus rendering her sterile. Quinacrine sterilization has become a favored method of sterilizing minorities by the Vietnamese government, not known for its strict observance of human rights.
Melbourne GP and gay rights activist Ruth McNair confirms the phenomenon of "reproductive tourism" is an emerging trend in gay communities around Australia.
Dr McNair said she was acquainted with three male couples in Melbourne who had become fathers by paying US mothers "tens of thousands of dollars" to have babies with sperm donated by one partner in the relationship.
In her practice, the Carlton Clinic, she had counselled several gay men "desperate to be parents and to have a primary parenting role". Although much rarer, some lesbians are also examining overseas surrogacy as a path to parenthood.
Yesterday evening I had hoped that by this morning I would be able to put into more coherent language exactly why today's recognition of Mary's Assumption into heaven speaks to me. But alas, my thoughts today remain as lumpy as poorly mashed potatoes and so I am just going to throw these two thoughts out there.
The Solemnity of Mary's Assumption has importance to contemporary Christians because it offers the Church a chance to speak on two things that She doesn't speak about nearly enough these days.
First, the meaning and the importance of God creating us with Bodies, as incarnate spirits, not as (to paraphrase, I think, Peter Kreeft) mere ghosts (spirits) driving around in machines (our bodies).
Second, the reality in our faith that heaven includes a bodily resurrection; that we are not going to just enter into a heaven which is nothing more than another spiritual plane of existence, but we will have bodies in heaven and that the bodies will not just be our own familiar bodies but Glorified Bodies. Bodies that are a heck of lot closer to what God looked upon when He looked upon Adam and Eve and proclaimed their creation Good.
Contrary to popular misapprenhension, it has not been orthodox Christianity over the centuries that has expressed disdain for, and even hostility to, the body. People who have departed from orthodox Christianity have done that. Heretics from Arius forward have been the ones to suggest that Christ could not be fully Human as well as Fully God, in a large part, because that would mean He had a genuinely human body and that genuinely human body was part of Who He Was. As a baby He would have needed to nurse. He would have needed to be toilet trained and taught to speak and educated. What a Scandal!
And in so many ways we can understand that scandal, and enter into it if we are not careful. It's easy to dislike or bodies. They frustrate us because they fail. They age. They lose their superficial beauty, elasticity, healing power. At forty I don't recover from sprains and illnesses like I did twenty years ago. How could a Good God have created me with these flaws, subject to disease and death?
(The answer of course was that He didn't, we introduced disease and death into the picture, but we are looking at things from outside the Faith, so to speak).
Now there is a tendency in this day and age to assume that a Christian defense of the body must center on sex - and that is a very important aspect of the discussion for sure. An awful lot of what passes offers itself as sexual liberation and innovation these days are nothing more than old fashioned disregard for (and even hatred of) the body dressed up in 21st century drag. But the issues of how we understand the human body are so much bigger than sex.
If the human body is not integral to why and how we are human then why isn't it wrong to simply make little clones of ourselves to use as sources of body parts? Why is it wrong to match human cells with rabbit cells or those of other species? Why not create groups of humans deliberately debilitated so that they can perform the tasks our culture finds distasteful or inconvenient? On the calendar we will move twenty years past George Orwell's 1984 next year. But in terms of real events we draw closer to the challenge the book presents every day.
The Assumption answers that question in much the same way as Christ's Resurrection answers the claims of death. Just as when Christ's Resurrection showed us that death has no claim on a human body, Mary's Assumption shows us that God will include our very human bodies in the move to heaven. Christ's divinity, by necessity, must always color His humanity and how we view His humanity. But Mary is not divine. She really is the Help of Christians because she is truly is one of us. Yes, a recipient of Grace earlier than everyone else, but still a human person who still had to make a decision, in her body, for or against God, for or against her own (and our) salvation.
As we and our culture tilts more wildly every day towards cutting our bodies out of our humanity and cutting ourselves off from any real hope of heaven, it is essential the Church return again and again to two of the messages from Mary's Assumption. First, that our bodies are an essential and good part of our humanity and, second, that God loves us and wants us to be with Him, bodies and all.
THIRTY YEARS ago, in the early days of gay liberation, most of us assumed we were being asked to live and let live. But throughout the Western world, tolerance has become remarkably intolerant, and diversity demands ruthless conformity. In New Zealand, an appeals court upheld a nationwide ban on importing a Christian video Gay Rights/Special Rights: Inside The Homosexual Agenda.
In Saskatchewan, The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix was fined by the Human Rights Commission for publishing an advertisement quoting biblical passages on homosexuality. Fining publishers of the Bible surely can't be far off. The coerciveness of the most "liberal" cultures in the Western world is not a pretty sight.
Whatever happened to "live and let live?" If I can live with the occasional rustle from the undergrowth as I'm strolling through a condom-strewn park or a come-hither look from George Michael in the men's room, why can't gays live with the occasional expression of disapproval?
And he is even willing to concede the need to walk across parks (and beaches, and picnic areas, and woods, and trails) strewn with condoms. I am more of a mind to go with the residents of the Hamptons.
So The Outage Did Not Originate With Terrorists...
But is anyone else feeling any more vulnerable and, for lack of a better word, smaller than they did yesterday? Also, if this did not originate with a terror attack, if you were a terrorist wouldn't it give you all sorts of ideas?
Tomorrow (August 15) is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, or at least it is in the Western Church. I hope everyone has a chance, or makes the chance or accepts the grace of a chance to get to Mass today.
I have some thoughts about this, some ideas about how this Feast might speak to us especially in our time and circumstances, but alas those thought remain like the shoelaces on my running shoes, ragged and still far from tied down. I hope to have them more in order tomorrow. But, until then, I will leave you with some thoughts from a homily of last year's Feast of the Assumption from Father Brendan Freeman, Abbot of the Cistercian community of New Melleray:
Today we celebrate the culmination of Mary's existence, her assumption into Heaven. She is the first and only one to be united with her glorified body. In these days when we all struggle with what is called the humanness of the Church and with our own humanness, it is good to celebrate this feast of Mary whose humanness is fully redeemed. We need this encouragement. St. Bernard calls Mary a star. If we get discouraged on our journey he tells us to look to the star and call upon Mary. By looking at her glorified body in Heaven, we are reminded that our own redemption is at hand. Redemption means our sins are not final. All these ugly things we read about, all the evil of the culture of death is not final if there is repentance and forgiveness. Today's feast is about redemption, about the final outcome of human life, about hope and the reversal of sin and death. As Paul tells us this morning "the last of the enemies to be done away with is death."(1 Cor 15:26) Christ made death our last sacrament as it were. It has a visible and an invisible moment. Visibly our physical life comes to an end, but in the act of dying we give our whole existence back to God and this can be the most personal action of our whole time on earth, a total surrender that begins our new life in Christ. Mary has made that surrender and is the first of the redeemed.
Charles, an occasional correspondent who runs the Same Sex Attraction Morality League writes a lengthy analysis of the Lawrence decision and other items from the spate of homosexually related news that crowds the headlines these days. In part:
I would remind gay activists and Justice Kennedy, however, that traditional religious believers and even those with same sex attraction who embrace chastity on religious principle or who voluntarily seek to change their sexual orientation also have the right to find the meaning of life in their faith and not in their sexual desires. They are as much entitled to respect and toleration as are practicing homosexuals. (Indeed, if there were ever an unpopular minority class deserving of the Supreme Court's heightened solicitude and protection, it is the ever-demonized "ex-gays.") We traditional religious believers can benefit from the freedom of a truly libertarian social order, particularly amid a hostile society and under a hostile government that does not share our beliefs.
Well, the Courage Conference for 2003 has ended and Courage Online has had the usual bursts of chatter among folks who attended the Conference and those who wish they could have, etc.
Rather than just leave it and the organization as appearing to be something mysterious and strange, I thought I would post up, with first names only for privacy's sake, some of the remarks from Conference attendees:
Jim wrote: Hi all, I just got home from the conference. I just want to say that I had an absolutely amazing time. It was no nice to meet so many people around whom I could feel completely comfortable. I learned a lot about ssa, myself, and other things. The thing I'm most thankful for though is all the people I had the chance to meet. If you haven't yet been to a conference, I pray you will find a way to be there next year. Hope to see everyone in Illinois!!!! God bless...
Bob writes: The speakers that impressed me the most was of course Father Groeschel and also Christopher West and his talk on "Theology of the Body & Homosexuality" in which he explains in language we all could understand John Paul II's "Gospel of the Body". For those of you who are not familiar with this theology I don't have time to go into detail here but I suggest you read his book "Theology of the Body explained". Finally I think the highlight of these conferences is the testimonies of the courage members themselves (including fri. morning speakers Vince & Maria). Robert and Toni's testimony on Sat. truly was an example of God's infinite mercy for us all and
reduced me to tears several times...
Robert wrote: What I thought would be rage was actually a collection of broken people trying to understand how to love themselves and their family members who had chosen to be in the lifestyle. Most of the people I spoke with were Catholics (except for one who held a collection of disconnected Eastern and Western religious beliefs). The Catholics appeared misled by unorthodox ideas about the true meaning of love, the appropriate expression of that love, and even who Jesus Christ was! One person was trying to claim that Jesus never prohibited homosexuality explicitly because He was
shaped by the culture of the time—-otherwise he would have mentioned it as being acceptable.
Aside from the fact that Christ is the Son of God, it’s pretty clear that Jesus didn’t care one bit about offending peoples’ cultural sensibilities. Nor did he care about challenging power. Can you say “Pharisees”? Jesus was as radical as the world has seen and is yet to see, and that’s because he is God. So if He were ready to sanction something that had theretofore been unacceptable in Judaism, I think He would have taken the opportunity.
Please pray for these people, and that they be granted the gift of faith by God. They’ve been misled by evil and I can say that while I saw a glimmer in their eyes of the truth—-a sure sign of hope—-it was clear to me that the flame has been suppressed and hidden at the bottom of their souls. David|link|
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
The Business of Kids
Kids exist for a lot of reasons. Dealing with them teaches us a lot about how God would deal with us, if we would just let Him. Watching them play and learn and explore makes us remember, even if only through the frosted glass of memory, what is was like once to be innocent, carefree and good and to possess a purity of intention that only little kids appear to be able to muster with sincerity. Even when they frustrate us or frighten us, they move ever more steadily into our hearts until we get to the point where we cannot imagine loving any other person quite as much as we love these little new people.
I am not a father, a loss that could be among the greatest sorrows of my life if I dwelled on it, so I don't. But I am a godfather. Twenty-two months ago tomorrow two of my best friends, Mike and Dian, got their first glimpse of their first child, a baby girl they named Brinnaria Penelope Dian. And they honored me enormously, and changed my life forever, when they asked me to take a special responsibility to help shepherd her to Christ and then to heaven. Nothing else in my 38 years of life to that point meant as much or has brought as much change and I can't imagine anything else will - unless they ask me to serve the same function for another one and I should be so blessed.
What is it about little kids? Is Brinnaria cute? Absolutely. She has her parents' features, of course, and blond hair long in the back, and an absolutely engaging personality. But, hey, all parents would say much the same thing about their kids. I recognize I am inclined to bias.
For lack of a better word, in a mysterious way, her presence in my life grounds me and makes me not just desire but actively seek, work at, strive for, becoming a better man.
How, well let me count the most obvious. If I am honest I must credit being a significant part of Brinnaria's life and planning for when she gets older and wanting to be there when she gets older with making me lose almost 100 pounds (a few more and the goal will be met) and wearing my seatbelt when I drive and calling my insurance agent to see if I could add a bit more coverage at a reasonable price. Having Brinnaria in my life has made me start (at last, my mother might say) growing up.
Sure, I knew the weight was a problem. My doctor had been warning me every physical to take it off - and I had even broken a beach chair once because I was too heavy. But it wasn't until I lifted Brinnaria up to blow raspberry noises into her belly button, which always makes her giggle and squeal, and I flashed to the reality that if I didn't change my ways I might not ever see her again in this life, just when she might need methat I invested the time, money, sweat and energy into getting fit.
And it didn't stop there. After Brinnaria came on the scene I began praying more, praying for her, for her folks, for her future and I began working harder to help build the kind of world and culture where she can flourish and be happy. The bottom line is that while I might be Brinnaria's Godfather, Brinnaria is the one who may be most likely to spur me to heaven. Through letting me participate in her life, Mike and Dian have given me a place in my life to be a Dad.
And of course there is always something new. Mike and Dian expect their second also, they think, a girl, to arrive this coming November, and its hard to believe there could be anyone more excited by the pending arrival than Brinnaria. As her mom has made room in her closet for the infant things, Brinnaria has taken an almost proprietary, clinical interest in how the new baby is doing. When I visited the family this past Sunday, she showed me some of the toys I had not seen in months and gravely announced "for the baby" when pointing at them.
I know people without kids in their lives sometimes hate hearing about them, and I know I could be just as inclined to gush as anybody else if I had any kids of my own. But as the business of kids is sanctifying their parents I am blessed and grateful to have a small share in the work of at least one. Amen. David|link|
What Is Love?
Father Johansen, over at ThrownBack, has a post up about the Episcopal Church in the US' decision to consecrate Gene Robinson is more or less what can be expected when a body of Christians begins to make decisions according to the alleged wisdom of the contemporary culture and not according to the wisdom of Christ and the 2000 years of Christian tradition so far.
But as interesting as Father's post is, I want to focus on something else. Father includes in his post a quote from bishop-elect Robinson which I share below:
I believe that God gave us the gift of sexuality so that we might express with our bodies the love that's in our hearts,'' he announced to his fellow bishops. ''I just need to tell you that I experience that with my partner. In the time that we have, I can't go into all the theology around it, but what I can tell you is that in my relationship with my partner, I am able to express the deep love that's in my heart, and in his unfailing and unquestioning love of me, I experience just a little bit of the kind of never-ending, never-failing love that God has for me. So it's sacramental for me.
Father Johansen rightly noted that Robinson's description revolves around sexuality as expressive of his feelings for his "partner". This is the sort of talk one might expect from a self-absorbed nineteen year old, but not from someone professing to be a serious thinker, or even a mature person, not to mention a serious Christian.
But what I find difficult to understand is how confused we have become "love" and claims to "love." The late Leo Buscaglia, a noted lecturer and popular "expert" on love, told in a lecture once about the work he had begun with a young girl, aged 10 or so, whose Mother had experienced repeated psychotic episodes.
He told of walking into the room that they were using for sessions once to find the girl holding her favorite doll by the arm and slamming the toy against the wall. Each time the doll hit the wall the young girl said "I love you." So what he witnessed was this young girl slamming her favorite doll against the wall saying over and over again, each time. "I love you, I love you, I love you."
Peter Kreeft, noted philosophy professor and lecturer and likewise a convert to Catholicism has written that the more important something is, the more counterfeits it has. Love, he has observed, which is perhaps the most important thing in the universe short of God has many counterfeits.
The man the leadership of the ECUSA has asked worldwide Anglicans to accept as a bishop is pleads that he loves his partner and that his sexually active relationship with this other man should be viewed through a lenses of love. But if love is going to be the pleading, isn't it reasonable to have a good (or at least a better) idea of what love is? Shouldn't our ideas of love carry with them some basics, bottom floor expectations, so to speak, that say for example that if I claim to love someone I don't intentionally cause them harm? That if I genuinely love someone I don't make them a means to reaching some goal I have, whether that goal be economic, social or sexual? Leave aside the tediously debated texts from Leviticus and Romans. I don't believe same sex sexual acts can pass the test of being genuinely loving. There is research published in peer reviewed journals that documents, in sharp detail, just what the price of this allegedly "loving" behavior is - a price that stems from this behavior in and of itself.
Love is rough. A hell of a lot of a lot grander and rougher and more dangerous and costly than something which should (or even could) be used to justify given sexual behavior. At a minimum I think love means seeking the good of the beloved over one's own good. Christ's standard is that the greatest love is that the lover lays down his life for those he loves. The man the ECUSA has chosen to recognize as bishop, a leader in Christ's name, cannot even bring himself, out of "love" to refrain from having sex with the man he claims to "love." I think Episcopalians, and all Christians, are right to ask what that's about. David|link|
I obviously haven't seen the film, so maybe I should hold my fire, but I can't say I'm impressed with the ADL's arguments, as presented in its press release. Any reasonably faithful adaptation of the Gospels will show Jesus's blood being sought by the Jewish authorities and the Jerusalem mob. Whatever the subtle details of what body did what at what hour, where the accounts do differ in minor ways, all four Gospels are united in proclaiming what the ADL is clearly constructing in its first, second and fifth bullets as anti-Semitism. If the argument is that any portrayal of any Jew demanding Jesus' blood is anti-Semitic, then Christianity as such is anti-Semitic. At this point, I throw up my hands and go home, concluding that ADL wants Christians to apologize ourselves out of existence.
Relationships Australia spokesman Jack Carney said men's shorter life spans, and their pursuit of much younger women, meant women in their twilight years were often forced to turn to other women for love and companionship.
Mr Carney said the government-funded support group encouraged older women to explore lesbian relationships, which were seen as more nurturing and emotionally supportive. Older women were even pooling their resources to buy property and making pacts to form couples if they did not find a male partner by a certain age, he said.
"As they get over 60, opportunities to get a man diminish substantially. Men marry younger women and they die about eight years younger, so there is a real male shortage," Mr Carney said.
There are so many....comments that need to be made about this piece that its almost dizzying. Ok, where to start.
First, the phenomenon of same sex attraction in men and women is significantly different - not just in terms of each individual man or woman, but also in terms of broad generality. This should not surprise anyone since men and women are different. Why should anyone assume they experience SSA in the same way?
Second, while Mark Shea's headline made it appear that this somehow laid to rest the nature versus nurture debate. But I am not sure it does. All that is really being discussed here is the degree of self-identification. Same sex attractions themselves likely still arise from a matrix of different sources that might include some genetic factor (or that might not, I am not a geneticist and the geneticists don't agree). What is clear is that women have generally been perceived to have an easier time moving from self-identified lesbianism to self-identified heterosexuality and back again. The phenomenon of "collegiate lesbianism" otherwise known as "lesbian until graduation" has been fairly well documented.
Third, this organization makes a grievous assumption that if two people of the same sex share a long term friendship, then there must be a sexual element involved. Even the one Australian official who is quoted refusing to make that assumption, still assumed it in some cases.
"You notice it more where women are sharing houses, but I never ask exactly what the nature of their arrangements are, but it wouldn't surprise me (if they were in same-sex relationships). Loneliness can be a terrible thing when you are older," she said.
Notice the link? If a person feels lonely, the obvious solution is a sexually attracted/active friendship. Clearly, lonely people are assumed to have no other ground upon which they might establish an emotionally fulfilling and supportive friendship than sex.
The kicker, Australians, is that the agency that spills these attitudes are supported by your own tax dollars. Cheers, mate!