The Virtue of Celibacy
A fantastic little post has just gone up on Stand Firm, where one of the regular commentors shares his experience of same-sex attraction:
I struggled at first, but I felt the call to celibacy early on. And does celibacy work? It does for me! I haven’t had sexual relations with another man since 1990, and I’m as happy and blessed as I can be.
Do I still experience same-sex attraction? Yes, in so far as I experience any at all, and that isn’t much. When I am tempted, the thought that comes to me is not so much, “Oh, I am in danger of falling!” It is more like: “Now, wouldn’t indulging in that sort of nonsense just be an utterly ridiculous thing for a grown man to do?”
That’s usually all it takes, although celibacy has helped to deepen my prayer life, and that’s a good thing. But the old lust doesn’t burn like a consuming fire the way it once did. I have passed through the refiner’s fire instead while God forges me into a new creature in Christ. How incredibly liberating!
My special burden of the heart is for those who came to Christ but, upon discovering that prayer alone wasn’t going to “make the gay go away,” decided to give up. They either abandon Christianity altogether or respond to the siren song of theological revisionism and persuade themselves that Holy Scripture doesn’t really mean what it says, so perhaps they’re free to remain sexually active after all. In both cases, what a tragedy! Satan laughs while poor miserable sinners give in to despair.
Some of these folks have been told, and quite wrongly so, that their new identity in Christ will simply not allow for same sex attraction to be part of their lives anymore. The Church needs to be very careful with this. Again – and I cannot emphasize this enough – by all means explore the possibilities available. But if you discover that same sex attraction persists, that is never a justification for throwing in the towel. No matter how “intrinsically disordered” you feel (and in fact may be) there is still hope, and a chaste way of life is not an impossible dream.
As for being called to celibacy, I didn’t decide to pursue it because I just happen to be remarkably adept at it, or because it was the means through which I managed to pull myself up by my own boot straps. Apart from God’s grace, and left to my own devices, I wouldn’t last five minutes. But that’s the thing. In the Christian life none of us is left to his own devices and God’s grace is readily available to us all.
There are two very important points made here. Firstly that celibacy is not some kind of extreme denial of self but rather a virte that all who are not married are called to. Secondly, that because so often those who struggle with same-sex attraction are so often fed the lie that they need to become straight to be better, that when such a change does not occur they reject the traditional moral.
Â Good post. And am glad it’s about *real* celibacy rather than the (all too common, especially in evangelical churches) everything-except-penetration-as-long-as-it’s-heterosexual kind. Â I think you can certainly date and be abstinant but I wouldn’t describe such relationships as celibate.
Firstly that celibacy is not some kind of extreme denial of self but rather a virte that all who are not married are called to.
I think this is not emphasized enough. Too many people call celibacy “a calling” (implying special talent or a special mission/appointment).
Of course, coincidentally, none of them ever feel that they are “called to” it.
Great post.Â It’s always encouraging to hear from people with that particular perspective.Â It seems a little too uncommon.