The Gift of Homosexuality
Some interesting stuff by Chris Damian over on Spiritual Friendship.
TheÂ CatechismÂ teaches that, while all people are equal in dignity, God also makes differences among people. â€œThese differences belong to Godâ€™s plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular â€˜talentsâ€™ share the benefits with those who need them. These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods.â€
I have not always appreciated the ways in which God has made me different. For a long time, I used to pray that God would make me stop being gay. It gave me particular struggles. It made discernment difficult. It was painful. All I could see was adisordered and broken part of myselfÂ that Iâ€™d rather do away with. I had failed to grasp the truth that,Â as C. S. Lewis once put it, â€œevery disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will â€˜turn the necessity to glorious gain.â€™â€
Part of being gay is learning how to purify particular impure desires. But this is only a small part ofÂ what being gay means to me. Somewhere, beyond theÂ mere â€œdisorder,â€ I began to realize that God had given me gifts that many of my â€œstraightâ€ friends didnâ€™t have in quite the same way: a particular kind of empathy, an acute understanding of othersâ€™ personal sufferings and loneliness, intense loyalty, a strong desire for emotional intimacy, a unique appreciation for certain forms of beauty.
I came to discover that I loved my friends, especially my male friends, in ways that were different from my â€œstraightâ€ friends. I came to realize that being gay comes with particular kind of love, a love that can be dangerous if disordered, but that can also be very life-giving if ordered well.
Advising gay youth can be very difficult, because adolescents are in a difficult stage of life. For some adolescents,Â same-sex-attraction can be transitory, but for many, like me, it sticks around. So if a high school student came up to me and told me he thought he was gay,Â I hope Iâ€™d tell himÂ something like: â€œWell, this might be hard for you. But know that everything God offers you is a gift. Seek to draw yourself more fully into the Church and to discernÂ how this might be a giftÂ in your lifeÂ and in othersâ€™ lives.â€
This is not at all to say, â€œDo whatever you want with this gift.â€ But it is to take note of the fact that, as one of my professors once put it, the resurrected Christ is the disabled Christ. Heâ€™s the Christ with wounds in His body. Christâ€™s wounds are disabilities, but they are not â€œmere disabilities.â€ They are the signs and sources of our redemption. They are Godâ€™s greatest gift. And Godâ€™s desires to take our ownÂ disabilities, and turn them into redeemedÂ giftsÂ as well.
Is being homosexual a gift in the conservative Christian paradigm? I think it is – it makes you aware of your own frailty and teaches you things about relying on God that you would never have learnt otherwise. But is it a gift for the Church? And if so, how?
Well, the most obvious way it might be viewed a gift to the church is that it gives the church people uniquely qualified to come alongside those who struggle in this area, as Chris describes in the second-to-last paragraph you quoted above. This is similar to the way people who have been freed from various addictions (drugs, alcohol) are often uniquely qualified to minister to and empathise with those still stuck in those or similar addictions, and thus enrich the church’s outreach to those outside its walls.
Well, yes, certainly it is all to the good if those who are still struggling to surmount obstacles in the way of accepting their natural sexuality can receive helpful advice from others in the church who have already succeeded in that quest. The analogy with recovery from various addictions, however, is a rather inept one.
“accepting their natural sexuality”
*Sigh* – I find these kinds of statements so depressing even after you’ve been on this site for months. What is this natural sexuality? How does it develop? What is “natural” about it? How do you know it’s natural?
If you stripped away your presuppositions we might get a bit further.
FWIW, the analogy of recovery from addiction is, for some people, an extremely powerful way of understanding their walk away from a homosexual identity.
Peter, I admit that the word â€œnaturalâ€ can be ambiguous in meaning, but even so, it never seems to cause any misunderstanding if I speak, for example, of my natural hair colour, by which, of course, I mean my given hair colour â€œas isâ€, without any dyeing, tinting or other tinkering. No-one ever queries my use of the word â€œnaturalâ€ in this context, asks me how my hair colour develops or demands to know what is â€œnaturalâ€ about it. It is in a similar sense that I speak of a personâ€™s natural sexuality, and one doesnâ€™t need to know how it develops â€“ and no-one does actually know for certain, whatever they are inclined to believe â€“ in order to accept it.
As someone who has succeeded in breaking free from a long-standing addiction to nicotine, I know that to acquire this addiction I had to DO something: I had to start smoking. I also know that my sexuality is quite a different kind of thing: I did not acquire it by doing anything; it appeared quite unbidden, as sexuality normally does, and long before I did anything about it. It is for that reason that I describe any attempt to draw an analogy between the two as inept.
Iâ€™m not sure precisely what is meant by a â€œwalk away from a homosexual identityâ€. I suspect that its meaning is a considerably elastic one, thus making it a far safer thing for ex-gay advocates to promise than a change in sexual orientation.
Guglielmo, I think you have misunderstood how I meant the gift to the church. I am talking about learning to overcome the temptation to act in ways contrary to God’s word. I suspect that this is exactly the opposite of what you mean by “struggling to surmount obstacles in the way of accepting their natural sexuality” …
I also don’t see how the analogy with ministry to those struggling with various addictions is inept. After all, I was not making a moral comparison but merely suggesting that in both cases those who have struggled with something are uniquely placed to help others struggling with the same or a similar situation.
As the word rather suggests, “homosexuality” is sexual in nature. If you’re sexually attracted to your own gender, you’re homosexual. If you’re not, you’re not. No more complicated than that.
Bizarrely, thanks to its belief that lesbian and gay sex is sinful, the “conservative Christian paradigm” tries to strip out sexuality from a sexual orientation. Hence broadening the definition of “gay” way beyond “gets the hots for people of the same gender.” (In this, it mirrors the radical advocates of Queer Theory, who get furious with LGBT folks for “selling out.” How often two extremes end up meeting.)
If suppressing your sexuality for life is a “gift,” why do we not see more straight Christians donning an eternal silver ring? How about all the Anglican bishops who sing the praises of this “gift” sign up for it themselves? Tom, Justin, John, what y’all say? How about some bright-eyed seminarians join the party?
Celibacy for all Anglican clergy, gay or straight — let’s get a campaign going!
You need to decide whether what you are critiquing is celibacy or chastity.
I’m “critiquing” a lifelong ban on lesbians and gay men expressing their sexuality, whatever you want to call it.
So are you upset with a call to celibacy or a call to chastity?
I’ve explained what I don’t agree with. The rules should be changed to allow gay people to marry and enjoy loving, homosexual relationships.
Apply “celibacy” and “chastity” as appropriate. (Both terms have different shades of meaning, and can be used interchangably: what d’you mean by them?)
It’s chastity then. You don’t like the call to chastity?
Just the opposite: I don’t believe that chastity should be imposed on those who don’t feel the call.
So to be clear – chastity shouldn’t be asked of anybody in the church?
James I’m sorry ‘If you’re sexually attracted to your own gender, you’re homosexual. If you’re not, you’re not. No more complicated than that.’ is simply not correct.
For example someone who is predominantly attracted to people of the opposite gender but is nevertheless also attracted to their own gender could hardly be described as homosexual. Nor would those who are equally attracted to both genders be called homosexual, they are bisexual. Even someone who is predominantly attracted to their own gender but is also attracted to the opposite gender may also describe themselves as bisexual.
If someone’s attracted to both genders, I agree, they’re bi.
A bit confused. Any time conservatives try to have a discussion about sexuality in terms of sexual attraction/sexual acts gay rights groups get offended and accuse them of dehumanising them by suggesting that their whole identity is about sex, not love.
Homosexuality is a sexual attraction, which may be loving, or may not. Yes, complaints come when love is excluded. Excluding sex in no more realistic.
I don’t think conservatives exclude love because they don’t think it exists in gay relationships. I think they don’t talk about it because it’s not the bit that they object to.
I began to realize that God had given me gifts that many of my â€œstraightâ€ friends didnâ€™t have in quite the same way: a particular kind of empathy, an acute understanding of othersâ€™ personal sufferings and loneliness, intense loyalty, a strong desire for emotional intimacy, a unique appreciation for certain forms of beauty.
In other words, gay humans have an emotional identity that can be distinguished from that of ‘straight’ humans.
Chris again advances the idea of a distinctive emotional identity that unique to being gay: ‘I came to realize that being gay comes with particular kind of love, a love that can be dangerous if disordered, but that can also be very life-giving if ordered well.’
Really? And what of bisexuals? Are they somewhere between gay and straight on the empathy scale?
The fact is that Chris is simply applying positive stereotypes to his sexual orientation identity. The reality is that we are all far more emotionally complex than can be encompassed by broad assertions about sexual identity.
Conflicted. Unwanted same-sex attraction (ssa) was/is for me the thorn in my flesh
that drew/draws me to meet the powerful grace of God found in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 12:8,9). Still, like St. Paul, after I stopped asking for a swift and quick removal, I found empowerment for holy living. This then led to development of unexpected features of my personhood, which I never imagined would grow in me (e.g. husbanding, fathering & pastoring). Seems if homosexuality is asserted as a god-given gift, then it might be hard to let ssa transform into something new. I came to view ssa, in part, as the ‘lizard of lust’ CS Lewis writes about in The Great Divorce. What
grew in me, and continues to grow, is like the silver white stallion the lizard morphed into.
I get what you are saying, Mario, and agree that it makes sense in terms of viewing ssa as a personal gift. But Peter was asking about people with ssa being a gift to the church, and as I said above, I do believe that people with ssa who have learned to handle these in a Scriptural way can be a gift to the church in ministering to others who are still struggling and unsure of how to handle their ssa. And of course it is not limited to ssa, but applies equally to various addictions (at the risk of offending Guglielmo again). Here in Austria a ministry to help men overcome internet porn addiction was started by a brother who had struggled with and overcome this himself. Numerous ministries to drug addicts and alcoholics were begun and are being run by former addicts who have, with the help of God, overcome their addiction and want to share that blessings with those who are still struggling. I am sure none of these view the addiction they have overcome as a “gift” in the way Chris Damian descriibes, but these folks are definitely a gift to the church and an enrichment to its ministry.
Let’s get back on track. I’m interested how *in the conservative paradigm* the wound of homosexuality is in any sense a gift to the church. If you want to argue that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality then you’re on the wrong thread and there are plenty of other open posts on this site where you can have a go.
From this point I’ll delete all comments that aren’t on topic.
I did warm to this guy. I think his is a well-trodden path with countless generations, especially of religious, putting aside their sexual proclivities to serve God and their communities having taken a vow of chastity. I do think that self-denial of any sort brings out other aspects of a person’s character for the better.