Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Evangelical Churches: Homosexuality and Celibacy

Part Two.
The Holy Trinity

Further, let’s keep in mind just what it is we are calling homosexual men and women to do: live a life of celibacy for Jesus. It must be remembered that celibacy is not a death sentence, but we should consider what this looks like in real life, and not just as a theoretical solution.

How much support for single/celibate people do our congregations offer? I have met few Protestants who have any notion of celibacy as a legitimate vocation, a way of living for Jesus in response to his call. Indeed, marriage is considered the norm, and singleness (rather than the cultivation of celibacy) is a de facto state, seen as second-best or even a curse. I don’t think that’s valid, and frankly neither should you.

If you’re going to prescribe it, get a theology for it.

In addition, the responsible community must in turn build a life together in which in which a vocation to celibacy (for hetrosexuals or homosexuals) can be seen as a normal and healthy way of life for Christian disciples, with its own gifts and insights to offer the community just as the married life does.

If in the context of your own community, a vocation to celibacy for heterosexuals is considered a life of loneliness, isolation and the absence of meaningful family ties, how in the world can you offer it to people out there in the world as part of your Good News? I think most churches know this to be the case, which is precisely why they would never insist that heterosexual divorcees pursue it.

If you’re going to prescribe it, take some responsibility for the consequences.

17 comments:

J Hearne said...

I must agree for the most part, Kyle. I'm going to link to this article from my blog for what it is worth. I like the thoughts.

Monk-in-Training said...

I had not considered the connection to hetrosexual divorcees quite as powerfully linked as you did. Very thougt provoking and at the same time illuminating. I think things may change if more people considered the subject in this way.

Kyle said...

Thanks, guys.

Ben Finger said...

Hey Kyle there is an excellent book called Celebrating the Single Life by Adrian Van Kaam and Susan Muto. Susan Muto is a brilliant catholic laity who has chosen to live the single life. I think you would find much agreement with the things that she writes. And its definnitely a good read.

Hope Oxford is treating you well man. By the way keep up the excellent work you are doing on here.

Ben Finger said...

Also I am curious in your view of exploring sexuality whether you do take a divided view of sexuality (i.e., hetereosexual, bisexual, & homosexual) or a broken holistic view (we are all sexually broken/misaligned).

If the latter is taken, is celibacy the option for individuals with homosexual inclinations? If we are all sexually broken, then is it not partly the responsiblity of the church for us to walk hand and hand as we move from sexual brokeness to wholeness?

Aaron said...

i wonder what this practical framework that supports the single celibate lifestyle would look like. any thoughts or ideas folks?

i would reply to ben f's last comment in that i sort of equate our sexuality with that of a physical abnormality. correct my thinking if it's misguided, just a theory.

perhaps there is this standard by which God intended creation, one man and woman united sexually. let's equate this to a human limb for example. now some limbs are quite intact, unbroken, and strong, the standard by which we judge other limbs. however, sometimes these limbs are broken; and just as we nurse them back to health, such we provide the framework for healing of a homosexual who has become such as a result of early childhood/adolescent trauma (abuse, neglect, etc.)

yet, perhaps there are some who are born with a deformed or missing limb. so we provide a framework for them to live as comfortably as possible without use of the limb. sometimes it remains like that for their entire lifetime, and sometimes God miraculously intervenes. maybe we could view homosexuality in this light. that perhaps some are born with this wrong bent, but we dont discard them as we dont discard the invalid. we pray for God's miraculous healing or we make amends for them to live in community as rightly as possible.

Aaron said...

p.s. it looks like the trinity is about to play a card game up there. i wonder if they like euchre[ist]. haha, sorry, thats horrible!

Kyle said...

Ben, as you'll see, I answered your question in new comment under the previous post.

Aaron, that is the worst joke ever. You deserve a cookie.

I also don't disagree with your doctrinal formulation, and helping everyone to live in the Christian Community as rightly as possible in the context of Christian ethics is the answer.

To do that (for homosexuals, divorcees, and people who have an honest to god vocation to it), celibacy needs to be understood and upheld as a normal, positive way of life rather than something second-best or strange. The whole white picket fence, 2.5 kids is awfully bourgeois, anyway. :0)

The people in singles ministry want the married people to quit thinking they're freaks. Unfortunately, the people in singles ministry are often freaks, which is awkward at best.

I think that ceasing to pretend that everyone's called to marriage would be a good start, and many things would move on from there.

+ Alan said...

Yeah, only 2.5 kids! What the hell? These people are wimps! If you're gonna have some kids, have some kids! :)

Kyle, seems we're stuck on this marriage thing, do you see that possibly marriage is the more normative state? Perhaps that's a bad word. I mean, it would seem from Scripture and Tradition, that the married state is the, let's say, the "majority" state. Perhaps it's because of creation and the sexual nature of our bodily construction - built for the job so to say - that there are fewer people called to the celibate/single life.

It's an inherently harder life because of, practically speaking, the fact that you have the "machinery" and are being called to not use it. Course, you could pull an Origen, but I wouldn't suggest it. I dont' think it's as simple as saying one is called to this and another is called to that and Grace follows the call. I believe Grace does come with any vocation, but we still have to choose to use that Grace, to work and live in it, in order for it to be effective in aiding us in our vocation.

Saying "majority" or "norm" could possibly be taken to mean "superior" - anything can be taken to mean lots of things, but one's perceptions do not define what is being perceived. I don't mean it that way. Honestly, as we were talking about the Roman Catholic tradition earlier - in that world, there is really a bent towards believing that the celibate life is the superior one. The thought is sometimes even stated, that if one is called to this life, this is, in so many words, the call to the REEALLY holy life. Poor old weak married people with their sex and kids being all distracted - poor things. We'll watch over them, we celibate chosen few.

Now, that attitude is as wrong as the opposite. I hold neither view. I do believe that the married state is the more normative - that more are called to it. All that means is what I said, that more are called to it because of our makeup. I'm with you on the equality of each call - that the legitimacy of the single/celibate life as a vocation is and should be held up as absolutely on par with and as legitimate as the married/sex-having life. (note: if you're married and don't have sex, you may have missed your call). Oh, same if you're single and do have sex of course. Or perhaps, like I said, you are not availing yourself to the Grace given for the call in either case.

I have gone on and on haven't I. I'm an explainer - sue me. Things need explaining far more than they are. Peace.

Kyle said...

I can get behind that. An opposite extreme is never an appropriate corrective, after all.

Ben Finger said...

Just a random thought... if the percentage of individuals who enjoy, prefer, and/or are inclined to samesex sex is true, then would it not seem difficult then to say or suggest that that many individuals are called to a life of celibacy? Also what of when such individuals marry someone of the opposite sex for the purpose of reproduction and/or companionship? Is such a marriage in valid? To what extent does love have to deal with marriage?

Kyle said...

The problem with a de facto call to celibacy is that it defines in a negative sense something that Scripture describes in a positive sense: marriage and celibacy are gifts, not sentences.

I don't think I'm going to try asking what makes any marriage valid at this point...

Ben Finger said...

To receive a gift often times carries the thought that the individual once lacked or was lacking. How can this be anything beyond de facto? One is either married or not? Now the only other option I see between marriage & celibacy is that one of fornication. Which in our religious thought does not seem to be a valid option? So what are we to do to excape then this as defacto? To escape this in negative terms? If the only choice plausible for a divorcee and a person with same-sex inclinations is celibacy, then how does move us past living imprisonment?

Robbie said...

Should homosexuals who have gotten married ever divorce? Just throwin' one out there.

drgprbtz

#Debi said...

OK, I hope someone reads this at this late date (i.e.; Alan)--what does it mean to "pull an Origen"? Whatever it is, it doesn't sound pleasant...

Ben Finger said...

Origen? He thought his manhood was a stumbling block so he cut it off.

#Debi said...

Kinda what I thought it was... yeah, not pleasant...