Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My letter to gay Christians

Yesterday over at Rod Dreher's blog, I wrote a rather long comment addressed to two gay male commenters who expressed frustration at the way they've been treated by Christians.  I want to share that comment here, but I'm changing and editing it slightly to remove some personal elements both to the gentlemen in question and referencing myself, and to make it more of a broad, general message to gay Christian men and women who are still struggling with the idea that the Church sees them as beloved sons and daughters of God and yet asks them to embrace the same Cross of sexual morality that she asks all of us to carry.

The revised letter to gay Christians begins below:

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Dear gay Christian brothers and sisters,

It is an uncomfortable truth that for us heterosexual Christians there are many things we have so often gotten wrong in our conversations with our gay brothers and sisters, and for that, I’m deeply sorry.

As a serious Catholic I can’t tell you that I don’t accept the Church’s teachings regarding the immorality of gay sex, because I do accept the Church’s teachings in this area, just as I accept her teachings against porn use, self-pleasuring, fornication, adultery, contraception, IVF and other immoral means of conception, and remarriage after divorce (all of which apply equally to us heterosexuals). The reality is that the Church’s teachings about sexual virtue which include celibacy for the unmarried, lifelong fidelity for the married, and chastity–properly understood–for all is not merely a list of sins and prohibitions, but at its heart a deep and fundamental understanding of the reality about the nature and purpose of human sexuality, the sexual complementarity of a man and a woman in marriage, and the powerful sign of the nuptial relationship between Christ and His Church which our human relationships point to despite their imperfections.

But another important facet of the Church’s teaching regarding homosexuality is that merely being gay or attracted to one’s own sex is not itself sinful, is a trial, can be a difficult cross to bear, and in no way excuses treating anyone who is gay like anything less than what he or she really is: a human being created in the image and likeness of God whose immortal soul is called to the same earthly mission (to know, love, and serve God in this life) and same eternal destiny (to be happy with Him forever in Heaven) as the rest of us are. You are priceless in His eyes; can you be any less in mine?
Now I know that the problem here for you may be that you can’t see how I can say that and yet insist that gay sexual expressions are always objectively sinful. To me, it’s simple: merely loving someone can’t remove the innate morality or immorality of an action, and that’s just as true for the man who hates his wife but loves his mistress as it is for anyone else who violates sexual morality in the name of love. Real love doesn’t jeopardize the soul of the beloved.

But there’s something deeply wrong with our age in that we tend to see genital expression as the only thing that matters, the only way love can really be shown or experienced, the only way that love can be real, and that’s such a sadly reductive, even empty way to view human beings. I think it’s one reason why we see such rampant divorce rates, such a rise in the number of people who casually live together for a few years, even generating children together, before moving on to the next new person, in the loneliness of the porn habit, in the ugliness of prostitution–so many people are convinced that they can’t be happy, or even really loved, without sex, and the irony here is that it is love, not sex, that has decreased.

When I read the writings of gay people and especially of gay fellow Christians, what I hear there is a kind of fear: a fear that you (all of you) cannot be loved outside of the gay community–that is, that you will only be loved by the rest of us if you hide who you are, or pretend to change, or otherwise give up on something that, like it or not, is a part of who you are.


To the extent that our gay brothers and sisters have given up on any sense of being loved outside of gay relationships, we Christians have a lot to answer for. My Church’s teachings may be quite nuanced (if anybody bothers to read them) but I know other Christian churches do not make the distinction between the orientation and the actions, and burden young gay men and women with the idea that God is against them or even hates them for being attracted to their own gender. Since some of these same churches have no problem at all with remarriage after divorce or the use of contraception I suggest they might want to deal with the huge protruding ocular plank of their own before seeking out specks in the eyes of others.

The truth is that God loves you as you are *and* that He wants you to adopt the same moral code He wants everybody to adopt. It’s admittedly going to be pretty hard in your cases if or when you recognize the call to embrace that particular cross, but you’re not alone: it’s hard for the married couple who hate each other, for the lonely single guy who has nothing but a couple of meaningless hookups to remember as he grows old, for the elderly widow or widower, for the *young* widow or widower, for the young wife and mother whose husband ran off with a floozie, for the man whose wife has early-onset Alzheimer’s which began two years before he was supposed to retire…and so on. If, instead of viewing each other with deep suspicion, we could walk in solidarity like real Christians, supporting each other in our trials and crosses instead of shrugging and suggesting everybody just put his or her cross down and get busy doing whatever feels good, imagine the power of the love that would be built up by such a thing.

One final thing: there’s this poisonous attitude among some Christians that gay sins are much, much worse than any other kind, and that this justifies treating gay people unkindly. The worst kinds of sin are those that come from pride, not from lust. And even to the prideful we’re supposed to show mercy. If it’s reductive to think of human beings in terms of their sex lives, how much more reductive is it to think of them primarily as their sins? You are not your sins, whatever those might be, any more than I am mine, and we all, whether we know it or not, live amid the rays of Divine Mercy.

Your sister in Christ,

Erin Manning

3 comments:

Muscovite said...

Just to be clear, the unmarried are called to continence, not just to celibacy (which is the state of being unmarried). Everyone--single and married, the lay and those in holy orders and those in religious life--is called to chastity.

Red Cardigan said...

Muscovite, aren't all those called to celibacy also called to continence?

Muscovite said...

Yes, of course. But "celibacy" is (in the eyes of the Church) abstaining from marriage, so when you said, "...the Church's teachings about sexual virtue which include celibacy for the unmarried..." it didn't make much sense to me and I thought you might have meant "continence."