I will begin by saying that it is fair for Sarah and Lindsey at A Queer Calling to point out the many places in which they address issues relevant to non-celibate members of the LGBTQ community. I made no reference to these, for which I apologize. I was and am aware of their support in the arenas they list.
The discussion so far:
- The original: Our Celibate Gay Agenda
- My response: Stories are Never Just Stories: a response to “Our Celibate Gay Agenda”
- Their response: Shifting the Conversation Is Not Silence: A Response to Maria McDowell
I am also aware and deeply appreciative of Sarah and Lindsey’s hospitality through our personal communications, and am glad that A Queer Calling does all it can to be hospitable in an inhospitable environment. I am 100% sure I would be welcome at their table with them, in their home. I would be delighted to swap stories and enter with them into their daily prayer life. Until that prayer life broadened to include their parish. At that point, the hospitality of their home broadens to include the hospitality of their larger household, their ekklesia. Whether we like it or not, their priest may be required by the rule of his church to include or exclude me based on whether or not I am sexually active. Since I do not know their church or their priest, the invitation to pray with them corporately will inevitable be fraught with anxiety and grief: will I or will I not be allowed to eat with my friends at their ecclesial table?
This is why comparing the moral question of whether or not gay sex as always sinful (not just a discrete act of intercourse which would require the kind of delving they want to avoid) to declawing of cats is trivializing: we do not deny the table of Christ, the medicine of immortality, the Eucharist, based on what we do or do not do to a cat’s claws (my cats have claws, and they go outside. Sorry birds). As long as churches have strictures on sexual behavior there will be questions about such behavior. Indeed, some of these strictures are good: incest, pedophilia, coercive sex (in or out of marriage), polygyny. These are all areas of life that where what it means to support a person is inextricably tied to what we think and what we say regarding his or her beliefs and decisions. Not all of us are in a role which requires us to be privy to such details, or to make decisions regarding them, but it is not difficult to imagine such situations.
More importantly, Sarah and Lindsey have made their personal decision public. It is the public declaration of a private practice that makes their blog such an important contribution, in large part because it transgresses the very neat lines we hope to draw around biological sex, sexual activity, and affinity for the other. But their public declaration also makes them safer, at least in a context where it is sexual intercourse not only orientation and affinity that excludes. I say ‘safer’ because while they may eat at their eucharistic table (I assume), they may also be ostracized in every other way by a community who has no idea whether to invite them separately or together to the church potluck or a ministry meeting.
What strikes me is the individualism reflected in framing sex as a personal decision, hardly something unique to A Queer Calling. Sexual behavior is a personal decision, private and not to be asked about. This is the mantra of our age, both within and without churches. Aside from the fact that this does not reflect the history of Judeo-Christian morality in which sex is very much a public and corporate concern, framing it this way avoids the corporate impact of supposedly private decisions. While I wish (very much!) that LGBTQ lives were not reduced to the single question of gay sex, the fact is that my ability to share the eucharist with Sarah and Lindsey is, at this time and this place, utterly dependent on this question. The eucharist is a corporate event, the event which reveals that the corporeal is already social. The gatekeepers to this event, for some of us, are clergy who themselves represent and speak for the body as a whole. When a clergy-person decides to include or exclude, she or he is doing so on behalf of all of us. There is nothing personal, that is, individualistic, in this practice. It is a corporate decision which shapes who we are as ecclesial beings. According to the Orthodox theologians Alexander Schmemann and John Zizioulas (who are often perceived to be in quite different camps), our being as individuals starts with our ecclesial, eucharistic selves. How we treat people at our table, and whether we allow them to eat with us or not, says a great deal about who we think they are as persons, and perhaps even whether they should be persons as they are, or whether we think they even are persons.
Thus my grief and anger at silence. Silence on this pesky question of gay sex is complicity with the status quo. In churches of a supposedly liberal sexual ethic, this complicity results in confusion about, scorn towards and inadequate support of intentional celibates (gay or straight). In churches with conservative sexual ethics, there is sometimes simply not room to be anything other than straight. These are both problematic situations. The irony is that I suspect liberal churches can be educated. Indeed, reconsidering family and community to include and provide support for a much wider range of relationships than the fantasy of a nuclear family has been a hallmark of Queer theology. Affirming celibacy that does not also reject sexually-active persons is a small jump given the vibrant work of queer theorists (see, for instance, a short but interesting interview of Sarah Cornwall). The very ‘liberality’ of such churches allows us all to eat at the table which is, I think, a precursor to understanding one another and our differing vocations. The jump for sexually conservative churches (and I should register here that using the terms liberal or conservative is fairly vague, and perhaps simply a cipher for accepting or rejecting of gay sex, and does not remotely reflect a sufficient scope for sexual ethics) is much larger since the definition of a sexually conservative ethic seems to be all about gay sex.
When Sarah and Lindsey ask, at the end of the original post, “Have you ever considered the possibility that the discussion … could be making celibates less and less welcome” it seems to me that they are asking for solidarity, a way that all of us can engage in the conversation such that it supports all our various vocations. They are asking that all of us waging this battle stand with them in their effort to be known and loved as celibate LGBTQ Christians. But solidarity must go both ways, and wishing that stories were just stories in a world where stories are used to include and exclude is not solidarity. Solidarity is corporate, and our participation in organizations which corporately exclude limits our solidarity. This is true whether we are buying coffee or chocolate that was traded fairly, wearing clothes manufactured by children, or participating in a eucharist at which our friends cannot join. Sometimes, these compromised participations seem, even are, unavoidable. I simply don’t believe that it is possible to live without compromise, and we each must choose our battles, weighing the pros and cons of our decisions. When non-celibate, committed LGBTQ Christians are excluded and those who see the fruits of the Spirit in their life together say nothing, offer no public support, we are making a compromise.
The fact remains that silence on this issue allows some of us to be excluded and others included. Sarah and Lindsey are rightfully asking that their vocation, and their need to be known and loved, be supported by the wider LGBTQ community. But they are also asking for this in the context of acceptance in their own church community. Side-stepping a conversation on the crucial issues which make or break the participation of non-celibate LGBTQ persons by comparing it to declawing cats, or reducing it to an private decision (on which they are very public) does not offer to others what they are asking of others. Being asked for solidarity without receiving the kind of support non-celibate LGBTQ Christians need in order to be welcome is hard to swallow. It is not a mutual exchange, and that is difficult to bear.
Given the cost of speaking out, the divisiveness of the issue, I don’t know what offering solidarity on the part of A Queer Calling might mean (I hardly think that starting every post with an affirmation of one position or another is necessary or even interesting. As a matter of fact, it would bore me) given the cost that comes with solidarity. I do think it requires honestly facing the reality that stories about LGBTQ lives are not simply stories but ways of welcoming or excluding. As Amaryah Shay reminds us, the third way is often an illusion that minimizes the destructiveness of one position over another.
So, I am not asking that A Queer Calling become a champion for non-celibate LGBTQ christians. I am not even asking that my many silent friends who see no harm and perhaps great good in committed, non-celibate, same-sex relationships speak up in their churches. I am not asking that my clergy friends who are horrified at the ways same-sex persons are treated jeopardize their jobs by speaking up or even communicating known sexually active and committed LGBTQ persons. There is a permanent cost to speaking up that may be too much to bear at this time.
What I ask is that we do not pretend that we are not always engaged in a compromise, and that compromise has consequences. At minimum, we should grieve a situation which seems to pit distinctly different ways of knowing and loving diverse persons against one another, such that it is very difficult for to publicly affirm the position of the other because the cost of such solidarity to our daily lives might just be too high.
IMHO, Sarah and Lindsey may be chaste, but based on what little I know, they are not celibate in the way the Roman Catholic Church demands of its priests. They are committed to each other. That kind of emotional intimacy and commitment is inconsistent with Roman Catholic celibacy. They may not be having sex, but I haven’t heard anything about obedience to the local ordinary. If the Bishop orders Sarah to another city/country to perform missionary work/whatever, will she leave Lindsey behind?
Abstinence from sex is in a package with poverty and obedience.
2.1 Anyone (not just Sarah and Lindsey) who wants to claim that celibacy has some spiritual value has to explain the ABSENCE of Roman Catholic priests who were willing to be martyred during World War II. I doubt Kolbe was the only one, but he’s the only one I know of http://www.auschwitz.dk/Kolbe.htm
Forget about dying for Jews, Roman Catholic priests were not even willing to die for Polish Catholics, who Hitler was also murdering.
If Sarah and Lindsey think not having sex helps their relationship with each other, and with God, who am I to judge?
When I read about them asking the community to support them, I got off.
If I accept their claim that their sacrifice brings them closer to God, wouldn’t my support necessarily reduce the level of sacrifice they claim they want?
Fasting is a much more generally accepted and practiced way to get in touch with our need for God, the fragility of our existence. I don’t see Catholics going around asking for others to support them in their fasting.
The people I want to support live in Ferguson, Missouri, in Gaza,……
John, I am glad that you like the post. However, your response disturbs me. Perhaps it is difficult for you to “net” anything other than disdain for sex out of the symbolism celibacy because you make rather spurious connections:
MOST disturbing to me however, is your assertion that somehow their claim to the virtue of sacrifice means that we should not ease their suffering. Not only do they make no such claim, I have no tolerance for arguments that we, as Christians, should somehow increase the sacrifice or suffering of another. The church is NOT in the business of creating suffering, it should be in the business of alleviating it, of preventing it, or if necessary, sharing it. When the church inflicts suffering, it is not being church.
I am glad you want to support those in Ferguson and Gaza. I hope you can also support neighbors whose beliefs hit closer to home for you, especially those who piss you off, like Sarah and Lindsey.
This has been a great set of posts, Maria, and a good response to John. I also find partnered celibacy confusing, as a Roman Catholic, because the celibates I know best (sisters and priests) do not get to choose the particular individual(s) with which they live in community, and often have no guarantee of sharing a life together – the priests in particular seem to be constantly in flux. This strikes me as very different from Sarah and Lindsay, whose celibacy involves commitment to each other specifically, as a family unit. Can you explain more, or point us towards some reading, about this Orthodox practice of married celibacy that you mentioned?
Married celibates in the Orthodox tradition tend to be bishops, not monastics. St. Gregory the Elder (father of St. Gregory of Nazianzus) and St. Gregory of Nyssa (A friend of the Nazianzen) were married, celibate (for some or all of their marriage, it is not really clear), and bishops. Here is a few resources I found with a quick google search, quality NOT guaranteed:
Monasticism in Orthodoxy is almost entirely some form of cenobitic monasticism, community monasticism, even when punctuated by isolation in the desert. Orthodoxy has no requirements that either monastics or clergy move on a regular basis. A large part of the point of cenobetic monasticism is a shared life together. This is in part because Orthodoxy is heavily oriented around shared eucharistic prayer which is not possible alone. Orthodox monasticism has generally seen no reason to move people from community to community, which if I understand correctly, was implemented as something of a safeguard against excessive attachment in the RC tradition.
John, Maria has already pointed out many of the items we were going to mention. We would also like to remind everyone that we do not state our Christian tradition anywhere on our blog. We use examples from many different Christian traditions to make various points. It does not make sense to us why you are claiming that we are not truly celibate simply because our model of celibacy is not the same as that which is present in the Roman Catholic priesthood. We have never claimed to be Catholic, and we are certainly not priests of any kind. If you have specific questions for us about how we understand our celibacy, you are free to visit our blog and ask. You do not have to agree with us, and you do not have to support us. But we do find it troubling when people make questionable assertions and speculations about us in the comments sections of other blogs without contacting us (via comments or contact form) to ask our thoughts on these matters.
I have subscribed, several times, to the blogs of celibate gay Christians. First it was “Spiritual Friendship,” and then “A Queer Calling.” I am gay and single, and have considered the religious life myself (and may eventually do it, in fact); I think celibacy is a perfectly fine vocation, IOW. The question I always come to, though, is: what does celibacy have to do with homosexuality?
Why is “gay” part of this at all, IOW? Why not just a blog for all sorts and conditions celibate people, if celibacy is what’s at issue? I mean, isn’t there something quite odd about making sexual attraction primary on a blog devoted to celibacy?
I always end up unsubscribing from these blogs. I unsubscribed from “Spiritual Friendship” primarily because of an article about “Natural Law” that encouraged the advocacy of civil disobedience against laws which violate it; the argument in force was that God’s law is higher than man’s law. This article was, I believe, discussing abortion – but it’s not too hard to come to the conclusion that the same rule ought to apply to same-sex marriage. Right?
And I just unsubscribed from “A Queer Calling,” because I honestly don’t understand what it’s driving at.
I would, though, happily read a blog that discussed the vocation of celibacy. There are many reasons people choose it, as Sarah and Lindsey have – but the fact of the matter is, as you say, that the church coerces it. It’s the intersection of these two things that is, to me, problematic, and that needs examining.
I think that the value of something like what A Queer Calling is attempting to do is precisely in its exploration of ‘non-traditional’ celibacy. Celibacy has long been a spiritual practice of many religions, not only Christianity. It is not always an expression of repression or viewing sex as dirty, unacceptable, etc. (though it is often exactly that). The fact that it doesn’t look like we are trained to expect may serve to challenge our notions of sexual desire, partnership, commitment, etc.
That A Queer Calling is also about homosexuality has some value, in my opinion, in debunking the notion that sexual orientation is ALL about sexual intercourse. It may allow us to talk about other aspects of being in relationship, about the need for both church and society to broaden its understanding of what constitutes a family and how to support them.
As for your parenthetical comment, I don’t assume that such a blog needs to be directed towards those who disagree with celibacy. It can easily be directed towards those who assume that if two people choose to commit to one another and form a family, they must be having sex. For those who believe that same-sex relationships necessarily involve intercourse and view such intercourse as evil, then Sarah and Lindsey’s choice is a challenge as well.
Maria, I’ve always assumed that celibacy, in the form it takes in the religious life anyway, is simply a necessity for the way of life itself. It’s a “giving up of everything” – personal possessions as well as personal relationships – in order to seek after God alone, and intensively. Or, to put oneself at the service of the world itself, which people in relationship and/or with children cannot do – at least not in the same kind of way. And of course, some wonderful things have resulted from that kind of singular focus over the centuries; monastics and religious have left us some of the best religious writing that’s ever been produced. And many have been prodigious servants to others.
But also, and importantly, I see the religious life as a way for people who aren’t called to marriage or relationship to nevertheless have a place in the church and the world: to have a vocation. To me, the religious life is one of the more wonderful things about the church; it’s a clear means of demonstrating that everybody has a place. In fact, I think we could do with something like it today, given that so many people live alone now, which is not particularly good for most people as far as we know.
I’ve never thought of it as being primarily a commentary on the unacceptability of sex itself.
So I suppose that’s why we are seeing this differently. Thanks for responding.
Barbara, given that I agree with what you are saying above, with the caveat that I don’t think celibacy is necessarily exclusive to religious, I am confused about what we are seeing differently. No clarification necessary, but I am not sure how your view of the religious life and celibacy’s role in it plays into our particular views. I think you have characterized very well some of the roles of the religious life.
(I also wonder why there’s a felt need for blogs like this in the West. American Catholics, for instance, support same-sex marriage at a rate higher than the general public does! It’s up around 75% or something – so why would such a blog be needed? One apparently doesn’t need to justify living with, or loving, a same-sex partner at all.
So then, the blogs must be aimed at people who disapprove of celibacy. And then the question comes around again: why not just a blog for celibate people generally, if that’s what’s at issue? I don’t understand the “Queer” aspect of “A Queer Calling.”
“Spiritual Friendship” seems to me to be a plain defense of church teaching – and thus aggressively an argument against the “liberal.” That’s the feeling I got over there, quite often, in the comments. So to me it’s no wonder there’s no support for same-sex couples at that one. Still, I don’t understand the focus on homosexuality.)
Hi Barbara. We are sorry to hear that you’ve chosen to unsubscribe from our blog. We do see our blog as being about celibate vocations, but also about LGBT issues, spirituality, and celibacy within the context of partnership. We tend to write on whatever is on our minds at a given time, and we are always open to topic suggestions from readers. If you have a suggestion for a topic you would like to see us cover, but we haven’t yet, we would be more than glad to consider that topic. We don’t just write for ourselves. We write for the benefit of others who are exploring celibacy, particularly LGBT people like us. If our topics aren’t seeming relevant to you, we would be more than glad to converse with you about what you would like to explore regarding issues of celibacy.
Hi Sarah and Lindsey: Thanks for responding, too.
I think my problem actually is that I just don’t want to think or argue about the “gay stuff” anymore! I’ve been doing it for 30+ years now and I’m just frankly sick to death of it. I’m a relative newcomer to religion – and also an Anglican, Episcopal variety; and we’ve been arguing about this for years now, too, and I think I’ve just completely had it with of the religion/gay wars. I want to talk and think about something else.
It may simply be this at the heart of my reaction to your blog. It’s not you, IOW – it’s me. 😉
I’ll try to come over soon and take you up on your generous offer – and thanks for that.
I found it hard to understand what was meant by “celibate”. The Catholic understanding of celibate is unmarried; a celibate may or may not be sexually abstinent. But that is not the sense here. And neither is it really just sexual abstinence. It seems to have more in common with shared life in a religious order, although between 2 people living together who seem to share a romantic attraction.
It seems to me that what “A Queer Calling” is talking about is a vocational calling to:
My question is : what does sexual abstinence bring to such a vocation lived between two people who, presumably, are in love ? Is the sexual abstinence merely what one couple has discerned is right for them ? Or does it offer something deeper and more generally relevant to “radical hospitality, vulnerability, a shared spiritual life, and commitment” ? Or could that “radical hospitality, vulnerability, a shared spiritual life, and commitment” be equally validly lived by a couple who were not sexually abstinent ?
Apologies if I ought to have posted this at “A Queer Calling”.
I think these are great questions and perhaps Sarah and Lindsey will answer here, or on A Queer Calling.
Hi Chris. Glad to address your questions. We’ve touched on many of these either in posts or comments on those posts, primarily in the “Celibacy and Vocation” section of our index. We’ll give a brief reply here, but do want to continue delving more deeply into these issues in our future posts. We don’t have all the answers for everything, and that’s part of the joy of blogging: interacting with and learning from other people’s questions and experiences. If we’re writing about something, it’s not only to share our perspective but also to hear alternative ideas and explore those. So with that, we’ll do our best to give brief responses here to each of your questions:
“What does sexual abstinence bring to such a vocation lived between two people who, presumably, are in love?” The example that first comes to mind is that our decision to be sexually abstinent has taught us a great deal about exactly how and in what ways we love each other. It has also enabled us to love a number of other people who come into our lives. We are not suggesting that people who are sexually active can’t also love others, but there is a level of exclusivity present in many sexually active relationships that is not present in ours.
“Is the sexual abstinence merely what one couple has discerned is right for them?” In our case, it is something we’ve discerned for ourselves with lots of help and support from spiritual directors. It’s a personal decision we’ve made without coercion. That said, no private decision is completely without impact on others. We’ll talk more about that in our next response to Maria.
“Or does it offer something deeper and more generally relevant to “radical hospitality, vulnerability, a shared spiritual life, and commitment”? Or could that “radical hospitality, vulnerability, a shared spiritual life, and commitment” be equally validly lived by a couple who were not sexually abstinent?” Because of the differences between our relationship and many others–one of those being sexual abstinence–we are able to live hospitality, vulnerability, a shared spiritual life, and commitment differently than non-celibate people. That doesn’t mean celibacy is superior or inferior to marriage as a way of life. We believe that both marriage and celibacy involve aspects of all four elements we discussed in our Defining Celibacy post. And that’s a good thing because all vocations are supposed to manifest the Kingdom of God. But the way each of those elements come into play is probably different between celibates and non-celibates in most cases.
We should also point out that our Defining Celibacy post was intended as a working definition. We do not know everything about celibacy, but we rejoice in experiences where God opens up new insights to us about who he is calling us to be.
I am intrigued.
Without divulging too personal details (not about sex, about names and places, etc.), can you say more about how your celibacy has allowed you to be less exclusive that many sexually active relationships? What do you think contributes to the difference in levels of exclusivity? How do you find that your love differs either from the love of sexually active folk, or how you would be able to love if you were sexually active?
Similarly, what differences do you see in how we your ability to “live hospitality, vulnerability, a shared spiritual life, and commitment” from non-celibate?
I ask these because the four aspects that you define as part of (but not exhaustive of) celibacy seem to me to be essential parts of a Christian life, lived and expressed in various ways. Given that we do think of celibacy as abstinence from intercourse (which you note in Defining Celibacy), how does this aspect contribute to the four other aspects differently? Is this something in particular to you as individual persons, something you think is better across the board (certainly christianity has a LONG history of thinking this way but I suspect you don’t)., etc.
Feel free to answer on your blog, we can just keep linking back and forth.
Maria, we’re not sure if we clicked on the right “reply” link, but we could write an entire blog post (likely more than one!) on the questions you’re asking. I think it might be a good idea for us to do that, and probably in a separate piece from our next response to your response in the post above. We’ll give these a priority slot on our to-do list.
Hi Maria. Our post for today touches on parts of what you’ve asked here. We’re going to write another one soon that addresses some other parts of it: http://aqueercalling.com/2014/09/01/boundaries-and-celibate-partnership/
We welcome everyone to continue the discussion with us on our blog too. We’re a bit behind on comment responses at the moment but are catching up on those today.
Hi Sarah and Lindsey,
Thanks for your generous replies.
I was interested in your comment about “a level of exclusivity present in many sexually active relationships that is not present in ours.”
Do you mean that, for example in marriage, even in sexually abstinent marriage, the spouses make an exclusive monogamous lifetime comittment to each other, and therefore the relationship is deeper, more intimate, and in a good sense, involves a level of exclusivity ?
I wonder if deep love and intimacy necessarily takes on such a degree of exclusivity ? Even in the spiritual sense of a person’s deep, intimate and loving relationship with God ? Or think of the relationship of the persons of the Holy Trinity to each other compared to their relationships with created creatures ?
Or do you think that it’s the sex itself that leads to the exclusivity ? Perhaps thinking in terms of the unitive meaning of sex as described by the 2nd Vatican Council ? That sex tends to bind a couple more closely, intimately, and exclusively.
I infered from your blog that you were in a romantic love relationship and I was interested in your description of yourselves as “family”. Am I right in infering that you see yourselves as sharing a deeper, closer, more intimate, and perhaps more exclusive relationship than that between, say sisters in a religious order typically would ?
I was also interested that, if I read your blog correctly, you were open to the possibility of one day raising children. The traditional Christian understanding of marriage has often been expressed in terms of the good of having children, which however puts some limits on how much time and resources one has available for the wider community. Children require the kind of long term comittment that I expect goes with a level of exclusivity. It is then argued that religious orders, and celibate priests, are able to give more time to others because they aren’t in an exclusive relationship. Do see an aspect of that ability to give more to others in your discerned vocation ? How do you think riaisng children would afect that ?
Thanks again for sharing with us and reminding us of the very rich and varied kinds of intimite relationships and sorry for asking so many questions !
Hi Chris. We really want to get back to this, but haven’t had time to do so yet. We will probably do that this evening or tomorrow.
Hi Chris. Sorry it’s taken us a bit longer than we thought to get back to you. We addressed some of this in our post for today, which we’ve provided a link to in another comment above. We’ll try to give quick responses to your other questions, and we’ll definitely consider writing posts on our own blog about some of these.
We don’t think marriages are “more intimate” than our relationship. We see ourselves as having different kinds of intimacy than married couples have. There are some similarities (see that post I was referring to).
Deep love and intimacy certainly don’t have to take on high degrees of exclusivity. As we see it, many of our past non-celibate relationships were much more emotionally and spiritually exclusive than they needed to be. What’s considered socially acceptable or taboo has a lot of influence on how many married couples behave toward people other than their spouses. In some ways, being in a celibate partnership gives us more freedom where those social expectations are concerned.
We think sex should be exclusive between partners in a marriage, but other aspects of the relationship may or may not need to be exclusive. A lot of that has to do with what makes both parties comfortable or uncomfortable.
We’re not too keen on using the word “romantic” to describe our relationship. We’re closer to each other emotionally than monastics typically would be to one another. So yes, our relationship is probably a bit more exclusive than what two people would experience in a monastery.
On the issue of children: it’s a big question mark for us. In one sense, inviting children into our family would bring about serious changes to how we live our vocation. We would also have to do a lot of thinking about how we would explain/describe/conceive of our “family.” We’re not completely closed off to the possibility of adoption or (more likely) foster parenting. There are children in the world who have no one to love them at all, and it’s not unheard of for celibates to care for children who are without parents. Another part of this is that Lindsey has never felt inclined toward parenthood at all, but Sarah always has. That’s a continual struggle for us, and we spend a lot of time praying about it.
Hope that addresses at least some of what you asked.
This raises a question I have often had of homosexuality, both celibate and non-celibate.
To me, sexual lust is primarily a desire for children. I don’t feel it towards anybody I wouldn’t want to have a child with at all; and I repress it towards anybody other than my wife because our relationship IS exclusive towards having children.
I do intellectually understand that this has become, post sexual revolution, an extreme minority position, but it wasn’t that long ago that the popular alternative for lust was “the desire to have children”.
One reason homosexuality was seen as disordered in previous times is it was seen as competing with the natural heterosexual inclination to have children.
Lindsay has never wanted children, Sarah clearly has the desire for children. By what definition of love does Lindsay have to require Sarah to give up pregnancy and being a mother for her? Wouldn’t it be more loving for Lindsay to give up her exclusive relationship with Sarah, while not giving up the friendship, and help Sarah to find a heterosexual relationship in which the desire for children can be fulfilled?
Historically, sexual lust has hardly been understood as primarily a desire for children. Rather, allowing intercourse only for the purpose of children has been a way of controlling sexual desire which is perceived as out of control, destructive, etc. Eastern Orthodoxy has, with some exceptions, NOT perceived sex as negative. Rather, the pleasure of sexual intercourse is a good that is shared between married persons, and may, but not necessarily, lead to children. This teaching is not so explicit in Roman Catholicism, the tradition from which I assume you come. It is fortunate for you that you experience desire only in relation to having children, and are able to suppress the desire to impregnate women other than your wife.
As for the selfishness of Sarah and Lindsay, it seems that all relationships require give and take. Since children are NOT the only good of coupled relationships, I presume they are working that out amongst themselves, weighing all the goods of their relationship, not only the good of parenthood. If they together decide not to have children, but Sarah cannot bear this decision, then perhaps they will separate and Sarah will raise a child with another woman (perhaps another man, but I believe she is clear that she is a lesbian). That you do not think same-sex couples can raise children is an entirely different issue than whether they choose to do so together.
Hi Theodore. Sarah here. The fact that I desire motherhood does not mean that I desire marriage. I don’t want to be married, and could never, ever imagine myself in a heterosexual marriage. I am confident that such an arrangement would make me miserable. There’s also the fact that my call to celibacy is far stronger than my desire for motherhood. No, it would not be kinder for Lindsey to help me find a husband. Lindsey is not being selfish or preventing me from becoming a mother. In fact, since Lindsey and I have been together, I’ve been thinking more deeply about other ways I could direct my desire for children. For example, I look forward to the day when my sister and brother-in-law tell me I’m going to be an aunt. Lindsey already has a nephew. There’s a lot we can do to provide support for our siblings and other people raising children.
I love being an aunt. And a god-mother. And a step-mother (well, the last has been harder than the others, but still well-worth it).
This article was spot on – while I do find great value in what Sarah and Lindsey post, and it’s always interesting, I do find it also a bit lonely. It is humbling to lend support when you’re not really sure you have it back – but that is the life of any LGBTQ person who has friends who disagree with how you choose to live. Or worse, it feels like that time you’re discussing lgtbq issues/rights with a friend who hasn’t made their position clear. It’s like trying to address every issue from every angle, but without pissing them off or being condescending because they might already agree with you.
Mostly, I read what Sarah and Lindsey have to say, but I don’t engage very often because I don’t know what kind of baseline understanding we might have of each other. I don’t want to lend support to a certain idea if it’s based on a premise I don’t agree with, but I also don’t want to not criticize an idea when it looks like it might be based on something I do agree with…I am interested in seeing how their blog progresses and tries to dig into deeper issues without making a further statement on the topic.
Thanks for your feedback. Our blog is very much an experiment in trying to hold a different sort of conversation. We have no idea how it’s going to progress. We find ourselves surprised by it pretty regularly. But we’re glad to have you around as a reader, whether you choose to comment or not.
Hi Maria. We’ve written our next response, and you can find that here: http://aqueercalling.com/2014/08/29/the-meaning-of-support-a-second-response-to-maria-mcdowell/
Everybody coming to the Eucharistic table is a sinner. The question isn’t gay or straight, the question is, do you acknowledge your sin and are you willing to let the Eucharist turn you away from your sin?
I’d say, that those turned away by priests (divorced and remarried heterosexuals run into it also) are being turned away not for being or acting, but for a lack of repentance.
And that, can happen to anybody. For me, it happens over failing to fast before Mass (for my chosen mortal sin is gluttony).
Yes. But the question is, when a committed, even married, non-celibate same sex couple is turned away because they are non-celibate, should they repent? Being turned away can happen to anybody. That does not mean it should.
That is a question that has a definite answer for Roman Catholicism, and an incredibly nebulous one for just about any other strain of Christianity. Martin Luther imported the idea of Scripture Alone from Islam precisely to give Christians the freedom to decide such issues for themselves.
But here’s a question, flip it around. When you have a priest bound by tradition and law to a certain opinion, aren’t you imposing your religion upon him to insist that he change to accommodate you?
Now that civil gay marriage is an established fact (as if there was ever any question, the slippery slope of the sexual revolution is long indeed and gay marriage is neither at the top or the bottom of that slope) and the federal judges have begun to move forward on polygamy, it becomes even less possible to define ANY human behavior as sinful. The entire concept of sin is one that our secular culture is trying extremely hard to destroy; so pity the poor priest, because the end game of all of this is the destruction of the entire way of life known as Christianity.
“Should repent” would require a concept that sin is something to be repented from, and let’s face it, Americans collectively no longer believe sin is a problem.
I think I am asking the priest, and the institution which he represents, to take seriously that wherever are the fruits of the Spirit, there is God. This is not about accommodation but recognizing and participating in the work of God.
I see no fruits of the spirit in homosexuality at all. I see only selfish lust. Somebody experiencing that selfish lust can practice a fruit of the holy spirit by denying being selfish and actually working for what is best for their partner; but most Side A Christian homosexuals see that as evil, thus the hatred of anybody who asks a homosexual to repent.
The priest who asks the homosexual to repent before coming to the Eucharist, or for that matter who asks the glutton to repent before coming to the Eucharist (to name my favorite sin) is only asking the repentance that he’s asking of anybody else. It is only because Side A homosexuals have a pathological hatred of the concept of repentance, that there is any issue at all.
That you fail to see the fruits of the Spirit in same-sex relationships is a matter of your vision, not the reality of those relationships. As for your sweeping generalization that non-celibate homosexuals “have a pathological hatred of the concept of repentance,” I invite you to read Fragile Repentances. You may decide that in this post I am lying in order to preserve your view of same-sex persons, but again, that is a matter of your vision, not reality.
Theodore, we think you aren’t being fair to Maria and Side A gay couples in general. Same-sex relationships, sexually active or otherwise, are not simply about lust. Even if you believe that same sex sexual activity is sinful, it’s certainly incorrect to say that people in such relationships bear no fruits of the spirit.
Ted, for someone who claims to be exclusively heterosexual, you seem to know a lot about homosexuals. What’s a “Side A” homosexual? How do Christian homosexuals differ from other kinds of homosexuals?
Thanks in advance.
It’s still astonishing to me that anybody can believe and then outright claim that “once civil gay marriage is an established fact …. it becomes even less possible to define ANY human behavior as sinful.”
Really? I mean, really? You can’t think of ANY human behavior that might be defined as “sinful”? Pride? Dishonesty? Sloth? Anger? Theft? Rape? Assault? Murder? All of that goes by the wayside, once same-sex couples make a lifetime commitment of mutual care for one another?
I believe that it’s this kind of overstatement that makes what the church has to say less and less credible every year. Why would anybody be attracted such an illogical-sounding organization? What would such a group have to offer anybody?
Yes. Just Yes.
Homosexuality celebrates Pride, have you never heard of a Gay Pride Parade?
But beyond that, no, it isn’t homosexuality alone. It is the common argument since the 1950s that to judge anybody to be in sin is wrong, and therefore the ENTIRE concept of sin is wrong. Homosexuality is the latest iteration- war, murder in the forms of abortion and euthanasia, no-fault divorce, theft of wages, the list goes on and on. The slippery slope is long, and gay marriage is neither at the top nor the bottom, and we’re already moving on to polygamy.
The whole intent is denial of sin. And if there is no sin, there’s no need for repentance.
At least you don’t think that homosexuality is the cause of all of this. Usually feminism is, but you have the grace not to say that either. As for not judging in sin, there is not a woman on this blog, and very few readers that I know of, that is not fully willing to judge the actions of abusers of any stripe, color, or office. Or those who practice or defend forms of oppression of women, persons of color, “the list goes on and on.” The problem is, we are not repenting of the one thing you want us to repent of, the support of loving homosexual relationships. As a result, we are incapable of all repentance. To prove that I believe in both repentance and judgement, let me be clear: your characterization of all homosexuals for sins well beyond what they may actually be sinning, your deliberate misunderstandings, this is sin Theodore.
As you mentioned in your comment on “Fragile Repentences,” you prefer not to read this blog anymore. I am sure that will be best for us as your comments are not contributing to a constructive conversation. It might not be best for you however.
2nd reply, because I do not believe my first reply will be allowed out of moderation (and shouldn’t be, it is in opposition to the feminist criteria of this blog). Let me only say that to me, no, homosexuality isn’t the beginning of this slippery slope, and it won’t be the end. I will now leave the conversation.
We hardly hide those who disapprove of the “feminist criteria of this blog”.
Ted, above you wrote: “To me, sexual lust is primarily a desire for children. I don’t feel it towards anybody I wouldn’t want to have a child with at all; and I repress it towards anybody other than my wife because our relationship IS exclusive towards having children.”
So, after you wife can no longer bear children, you’ll stop having sex with her?
John, I am not sure Ted is going to respond as he has stated he does not believe he should be reading this blog (see his comment on Fragile Repentances).
His comment over at A Queer Calling suggests the answer is/could be yes: http://aqueercalling.com/2014/08/11/shifting-the-conversation-is-not-silence-a-response-to-maria-mcdowell/
It’s a shame he has abandoned the conversation here, as it sounds like he and his wife could provide a unique contribution to WIT’s series on real-life NFP experiences.