Saturday, July 9, 2011

SEX AS GOD INTENDED IT TO BE!


A Reflection On Human Sexuality As Play


John J. McNeill


Introduction


Christian revelation, as it came from Jesus, was one of the most sex-positive and body- positive religions in the history of the world. How, then, in just a few centuries did it become such a body- and sex-negative religion and remain so to this day. In the third century Saint Iraneus wrote: Gloria Dei, Homo Vivens, The Glory of God are Humans fully alive! That included being sexually fully alive. This is perhaps the central paradox of Christian history. As Hegel once wrote: "The Owl of Minerva unfolds her wings only at the falling of dusk." His point was that we can understand a civilization, a period of history or an institution only at its dying stage. It is my belief that Christianity in its present form is dying, along with all the major forms of Patriarchy representing the domination and suppression of the feminine by the masculine. The only way it can be resurrected is to recover and affirm the feminine, which will allow the Church once again to proclaim the body- and sex-positive message revealed by God. In a lecture in Hyde Park a man in his audience called out to G. K. Chesterton, "Don’t you know that after two thousand years Christianity has failed"? "On the contrary," Chesterton replied, "It has not been tried yet!" This certainly is true in the area of sexuality.


How did God intend us humans to use God’s gift of sexuality? There are two primary sources we can use to try to answer that question. The first primary source is Scripture, the Old and the New Testaments. What did God reveal about God’s intentions for human sexuality in Scripture? In the document from the Second Vatican Council, The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, we are warned that we cannot make a simplistic conclusion from the translated words of Scripture without some scholarly knowledge of the background of the passage:

Since God speaks in sacred Scripture through men in a human fashion, the interpreter of sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words. (The Documents of Vatican 11, ed. Walter M. Abbott, S.J. (New York: American Press, 1966).

We are fortunate to live in an age where scriptural scholarship has made that meaning more available to us than any time in the past 2000 years.


Whenever Scripture deals with sexual issues we must use what feminist scholars call "a hermeneutic of suspicion." Very frequently these passages have been mistranslated to meet the prejudice of the translator. We will deal with several such passages.


The second primary source we have to try to discern God’s will for human sexuality is our own experience. At the last supper, Jesus promised to send every one of us his Holy Spirit who would dwell in our hearts and lead us into all truth. Each of us, then, have direct access to the knowledge of God’s will for us through the Spirit dwelling in our hearts. This has lead to the ancient Christian practice of discernment of spirits. This practice presupposes that we have made a commitment to try to live in as close a union with God’s Spirit as possible. God speaks to us through our hearts, that is to say, through our emotions. If we place an action in harmony with Christ’s indwelling Spirit we will experience deep peace and joy. On the contrary, if we place an action that separates us from the indwelling Spirit of God, we will know anxiety and depression. Thus there is a direct feedback to us in all our actions, including our sexual activity, which helps us to discern what is or is not in harmony with the Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts.


Consequently, we have this two-prong approach to help us answer the question what is God’s plan for human sexuality. The first is a search, with the help of scriptural scholars, for what God has revealed through the sacred authors of Scripture about human sexuality. The second is by a prayerful discernment of what the Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts is telling us directly through our experience. Where there is a correlation between what we learn from Scripture about God’s plan and what our personal experience is telling us, then we have the closest we can come to certainty about God’s purpose for our sexuality.


What The Old Testament Says About Human Sexuality.


Most readers of the Bible are not aware that there are two distinct versions of creation in the pages of Genesis which give two very different interpretations of God’s purpose in creating humans as sexual. Both accounts agree in seeing human sexuality as good. "God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good" (Gen 1:31). The first account (Gen: 1 and 2; 4), is from the Priestly tradition and refers to God under the name Eloihm. This tradition reads back into the creation account the special procreative covenant that God made with his chosen people, Israel. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them." (Gen1:27). This statement has led to a century old dispute as to whether the image of God is to be found in the individual as such or can only be found in the male and female united in marriage. (I will deal with this dispute in my chapter dealing with the dialectic between the masculine and the feminine in history.)

This account clearly indicates that the divine purpose in creating sexual differentiation was procreation. The first covenant that God made with humanity was a procreative covenant between God and his chosen people. "And God blessed them and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…" God promised his chosen people that if they kept the procreative covenant, from among their descendents would come the Messiah.

We should keep in mind the pro-fertility bent of the Old Testament authors was due to under-population, with the result that any willful destruction of viable seed such as masturbation was looked on as a serious crime. Masturbation had the same significance and moral weight in the Old Testament as abortion does today. The seed emitted by the male was thought to contain a fully formed human being. The female was understood as a purely passive receptacle for the male seed. Another factor influencing the Old Testament understanding of homosexual activity was the strong Hebrew stress on preserving the family name through progeny. In fact, participation in God’s covenant with the chosen people depended on having children. One of the worst curses that could befall a Jewish male was sterility. In most of the Old Testament there was little or no emphasis on personal immortality. That will change dramatically with Isaiah.


Thus it was the sacred duty of every Jewish male to marry and have as many children as possible. In fact, in Deuteronomy, there is an explicit exclusion from the people of God of any male who became a eunuch. "A man whose testicles have been crushed or whose adult male member has been cut off must not be admitted to the assembly of Yahweh." (Deut: 23:2). It is evident that from a Christian perspective this procreative covenant came to an end with the birth of Jesus, the messiah. In fact, in the Acts of the Apostles, the account of the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch was a clear revelation that all those who are sexually different and cannot procreate have a special place in the new covenant community.


The second account of creation contained in Gen 2:5 and the rest of the chapter attributed to the author who refers to God as Yahweh is much more ancient, dating back to 950 B.C. In this account God’s purpose in creating sexual differentiation is not associated with procreation; rather, the purpose was companionship and a cure for loneliness. "Then the Lord God said: ‘it is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.’ " Or to bring the translation up to date: "It is not good that a human be alone. Every human needs a companion of his or her own kind!" There is no mention in this account of procreation, thus, mutual love and fulfillment is equally a biblical norm for human sexuality. This second norm allowed Christian marriage to take place between two humans incapable of procreation.. Christian tradition tended over the centuries to subordinate this purpose to the procreative purpose, making procreation primary and companionship secondary. It was not until Vatican II in 1966 that the Catholic Church recognized the companionship purpose as coequal with procreation. This purpose can be fulfilled in a gay or lesbian sexual relationship.


Surprisingly, the primary message of the Old Testament concerning human sexuality was an effort to secularize human sexuality i.e. separate our sexuality from divine worship and place it in human hands for human purposes. The pagan religions that were contemporary with Judaism used human sexuality as a part of divine worship. The pagan gods and goddesses were thought of as sexual beings who wanted to be worshipped in sexual ways. Most temples had their sacred prostitutes, male and female. It was believed that by having sex with the sacred prostitute, one gave pleasure to the god or goddesses and would be granted the blessing one requested. The primary expression of this belief was in fertility worship. Orgies were held in the fields to seek the blessing of rain. The maypole around which the celebrants danced was usually a phallic symbol. There is a continuous polemic in the Old Testament by the Yahwist author against this kind of fertility worship. For example, Exodus 32 tells the story of the Israelites turning back to idol worship and fertility rites while Moses is on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from Yahweh. They molded an idol of a golden calf from their jewelry. Notice that the idol they worshiped was an animal. Fertility worship usually involved dehumanizing sexual activity and returning it to the depersonalized animal level, much as Playboy tries to reduce women to animals by having them wear bunny costumes. Their animal identity frees their sex partners of any human restraints. "And so, early the next day they offered holocausts and brought communion sacrifices, then all the people sat down to eat and drink, and afterwards got up to amuse themselves (Exodus 32: 6)." At that moment, Moses descended from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, the first of which read: I am the Lord, your God. You shalt not worship any other God". When Moses saw their fertility rite going on, in fury he smashed the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. Moses then called on the Levitical priesthood to punish the people for idol worship and, we are told, three thousand were killed.


The theme of fertility worship occurs again in the story of Noah and the flood. Peter Ellis in his book The Yahwist: The Bible’s First Theologian offers an interesting and suggestive thesis. The story of the flood is immediately preceded by a reference to the "sons of God lusting after the daughters of men."


The Yahwist’s audience would certainly recognize in the story an illusion to the ludicrous belief of the Canaanite religion that by means of sacred prostitution – sexual intercourse with male and female prostitutes at the Canaanite shrines – it was possible to enter into special relationship with the god or goddess represented by the sacred prostitute.

In the punishment, which flows from the fornication of the sons of God with the daughters of men, the rains come with a vengeance. The floods cover the earth, and everything on its fertile surface is swept away by cleansing waters.


One aspect of the story of the flood throws a strong light on the Jewish people’s attitude toward homosexuality. According to J. Edgar Brun, the ultimate "that" of the wrongness of homosexual activity in Israelites’ eyes can best be discerned in the account of Noah and his sons after the flood (Gen. 9:18-27). The present text states that after the first grape harvest Noah got drunk and was lying naked in his tent. His son Ham came in "and looked at his nakedness." It is obvious by what follows that Ham’s sin involved something more than just a violation of modesty of the eyes. The second part of that story has obviously been expurgated and revised. The Hebrew of the text makes it quite clear that Ham did not merely look at his father but actually did something to him. Yet although Ham was the wrongdoer, Canaan, his son, is the person cursed. Brun believes the story was undoubtedly an anti-Egyptian polemic and searches to reconstruct it with an episode in the Egyptian epic entitled The Contending of Horus and Seth (XL:3-4)


Horus was the posthumous son and heir of the God Osiris, the primordial king and giver of life. He was invited by his uncle Seth to spend a day. Seth’s real motive was not to show him hospitality but to disqualify him from inheriting his father’s royal power. To this end, Seth got Horus drunk; while Horus slept Seth committed an act of sodomy upon him. Since sodomy was inflicted on a defeated enemy and was a symbol of domination, Seth could then claim that he had conquered Horus and demand the kingship in his place.

Brun claims that the original biblical story followed the same line: "By committing sodomy on his father who was the ancestor of all men after the flood…Ham (Egypt) could also claim the right to dominate all mankind". (J Edgar Brun, "Old Testament History and the Development of a Sexual Ethic," The New Morality (Philadelphia: Westminster Press). The revision, which omits any explicit reference to a sexual act and makes Canaan the recipient of Noah’s curse, was prompted by the fact that the Canaanites had become the immediate threat to Israel’s political and religious survival. Brun notes that the Jewish retelling of the story reverses the original judgment of the Egyptian story. Ham (Canaan) who commits the sodomy, instead of winning dominion, is condemned to roam the earth as a nomad and never have any dominion whatsoever.


The Egyptian pharaoh, when he sat on his throne, put his feet on a footstool on which were carved representatives of all the tribes the pharaoh had conquered. The official wording on that footstool for the Pharaoh’s dominion was that "The Pharaoh has anally penetrated his enemies." During their captivity in Egypt, Egyptian soldiers systematically sodomized every adult Jewish male as an expression of contempt, scorn and domination. The same practice of anally sodomizing captives continues today amid nomad tribes in the Near East. The most famous case is that of Lawrence of Arabia.


Brun suggests that the principal reason the Israelites regarded homosexual practices as an abomination was that "They too viewed sodomy as an expression of scorn, where the dignity of the male was a primary consideration, voluntary acts of a homosexual nature could not be tolerated. Both parties would then be undermining the very foundation of a patriarchal society; the one because he uses another as a woman; the other because he allows himself to be used as a women. The dignity of the male is dishonored by both."

This understanding led to the law in The Holiness Code: "If any man uses another man as a woman, let them both be put to death!" Notice that if the sodomy was an act of rape, both the perpetrator and the victim would be executed. It is obvious too that the law is not based on a moral judgment on same sex activity. There is no law condemning same sex acts between two women. And there is no law condemning a sexual act between two men who intend that act to be an expression of love and affection. The next law condemns any woman who has sex with an animal to be put to death. We must remember that all the Patriarchs had harems. King David is recorded as having a thousand wives. There is no condemnation if these women took care of each other’s sexual needs.


This means that the primary reason for the strong condemnation of homosexuality in the Old Testament was the presumption of male superiority and contempt for everything feminine and had nothing to do with a moral judgment against same sex activity. A famous Jewish prayer to be recited daily by every male was: "Thank God I was not born a woman." Consequently, the deepest root of the homophobia of the Old Testament is feminaphobia, a profound fear and contempt of all things feminine. The most important cure for this form of homophobia, which still exists today, is women’s liberation to a full and equal stature with men in human society, a liberation that has been strongly in process for the past fifty years.


Sodomy


In July 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down all sodomy laws on the books in the United States against the protests of most conservative church institutions. The lesbian and gay community responded with relief and gratitude for its liberation from 2000 years of unjust legal persecution. Thus, a secular institution, rather than the Church, finally achieved justice and showed compassion for persecuted gay people. The single most important factor in the Western Christian tradition condemning homosexual practices and leading to two millennia of persecution and suffering of the gay minority was the false interpretation given to the Sodom and Gomorrah story. In Gen 19:4-11. The Institutional Church taught, and people universally believed, on what they held to be excellent authority, that homosexual practices had brought divine vengeance upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and that the repetition such "offenses against nature" had from time to time provoked similar visitations of divine wrath in the form of earthquakes, floods, famine, plagues, war etc, It was taken for granted that the sin for which the seven cities of the plain were destroyed was the habitual indulgence of perverse homosexual practices, especially anal penetration, among men. This gave the civil state the right and obligation to pass laws making all homosexual activities illegal in order to protect the state against God’s just judgment. This was a primary factor in transforming the Christian understanding of God into a god of fear more like Baal than the Christian revelation of a God of love.


What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah and what did God intend to reveal about human sexuality in this story? Two primary themes of the Yahwist author of Genesis are intertwined in this narrative. The first of these themes has to do with the virtue of hospitality and the second has to do with the Yahwist polemic against fertility worship.


For an understanding of the development of the Sodom and Gomorrah story it is important to place it in the context of the legends of a similar character from the same period. Many of these legends tell of a stranger (sometimes a divine being in disguise) who visits a prosperous city and is refused hospitality. He eventually finds lodging, often with poor outcasts. Consequently, he helps his hosts escape before the city and its inhabitants are destroyed. The most famous of these legends is Ovid’s account of Philemon and Baucis. These legends account for the particular form the Sodom story itself assumed during the course of its oral transmission prior to being written down. The conduct which brings judgment upon the offending community is never specifically sexual, but always wickedness in general, and, in particular, pride and inhospitality.


Throughout the Old Testament, Sodom is referred to as a symbol of utter destruction occasioned by sins of such wickedness as to merit exemplary punishment. However nowhere in the Old Testament is that sin identifies explicitly with homosexual behavior, In Ezekiel 26, 40-50, we read: "Behold! this was the sin of your sister Sodom, she and her daughters (there were seven cities of the plain that were destroyed) lived an pride, plenty and thoughtless ease; they supported not the poor and the needy, they grew haughty, and committed abominations before me; so I swept them away, as you have seen."


A confirmation of the interpretation of the primary sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as inhospitality occurs in the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament (Lk, 10:10-13) where Jesus is recorded as discussing the problem of the inhospitable reception of his disciples: "But whenever you come to a town and they do not welcome you, go out into the open streets and say: The very dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off in protest. But understand this: The Kingdom of God is at hand! I tell you, on that day Sodom will fare better than that town!"


Jesus clearly understood the sin of Sodom was inhospitality to the stranger. A negative proof occurs by that fact that wherever so-called homosexual acts are condemned there is never any mention of Sodom and Gomorrah


Prior to the story of Sodom in Genesis, a passage dealing with Abraham, the biblical author insists on the importance of hospitality in winning God’s favor. When the angelic messengers are on their way to deliver judgment on Sodom, they pass Abraham’s tent at an oasis in the desert. The quality of Abraham as a good man worthy of God’s blessing is dramatically established by his hospitable reception of the strangers.


Raising his eyes, he saw three men standing near him. On seeing them, he ran from the door of his tent to meet them, and bowing to the ground said: "Oh Sirs, if perchance I find favor with you, please do not pass by without stopping with your servant. Let a little water be brought to wash your feet, and stretch yourselves out under the tree, while I fetch a bit of food that you may refresh yourselves. Afterwards you may proceed on your way, since you will have paid your servant a visit." (Gen. 18:1-5)


It should be noted that the hospitality to a stranger in the desert could easily be a matter of life and death. Because of Abraham’s hospitality, the angelic strangers bless his wife Sarah with fertility, although she is already ninety years old. The clear message of this passage is that God blesses those who are hospitable to strangers with fertility. Human works of compassion and mercy bring God’s blessing but acts of fertility worship of idols brings with it divine punishment.


This brings us to the second strand of the Sodom story, the condemnation of pagan fertility rites. The quality of Lot, Abraham’s relative in Sodom, as a good man worthy of God’s favor is established in contrast to the other inhabitants of Sodom by his hospitality to the same strangers, in terms strongly reminiscent of the story of the disciples of Emmaus in John’s gospel.


The two angels arrived in Sodom in the evening while Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them he rose to greet them, bowing his face to the ground and saying:" If you please, Sirs, come over to your servant’s house to pass the night and wash your feet." But they said: "No, we will pass the night in the open." He pressed them so strongly, however, that they went over to his house, where he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread for them to eat. (Gen. 19:1-3)


At this point in the narrative the second strand in the story begins, the condemnation of fertility worship. The Sodomites surround Lot’s house and demand that Lot "bring them (Lot’s visitors) out to us that we may know them!" Remember that these strangers are referred to as angelic visitors. We have a strong suggestion here that the Sodomites are involved in fertility rites and wanted to use the angelic visitors as temple prostitutes. That we are not dealing with homosexuality, same sex activity here is made patently clear by Lot’s response to the Sodomites: "Please, my friends, be not so depraved. I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with a man. Let me bring them out to you that you may do with them what you will; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof." (Gen. 19:7-8)


There are two convictions in Lot’s speech. The first is the absolute sacredness of the guest (the law of hospitality) and the absolute dignity of the male sex to the point were the honor and the life of the women of the family are regarded as expendable,


In the account of the crime of Gibeah in the Book of Judges (19: 1-21, 25), the inhabitants of Gibeah make an identical request of the stranger visiting the town. In this instance, however, the stranger releases his female consort to the crowd, and they so misuse her sexually that the stranger finds her dead on the threshold in the morning. At a consequent gathering of the tribes of Israel, the stranger makes clear what the crime of Gibeah was:


"To Gibeah, which belongs to the Benjamin, I came with my consort to spend the night; but the citizens of Gibeah rose against me. Me they intended to kill, and my consort they ravished, so that she died." (Judg.20:4-6)


In the crime of Gibeah, not only was sexual rape involved, but also the design to murder the stranger. As punishment for this crime, Yahweh called on the other tribes of Israel to wipe the tribe of Benjamin off the face of the earth.


The story continues that the angelic visitors protected Lot and the next morning ordered him and his family to leave the city. The prayers for rain were answered by Yahweh with a rain of fire and brimstone which destroyed all life and left the area infertile for ever. When Lot’s wife looks back, she is transformed into a pillar of salt, another symbol of infertility.


The first writings to identify the sin of Sodom with homosexual practices in general – the writings which probably had the most decisive influence on early Christian tradition – were those of Philo, dating from the middle of the first century A.D. and those of Josephus from around the year A.D. 96. The first recorded instance of a homosexual coitus connotation being clearly attributed to the Hebrew word yadha, "to know" in the text from Genesis occurs in Philo’s Quaet. Et Salut. In Genesis V: 31-37where yahda is interpreted as "servile, lawless, and unseemly pederasty." The association of the wickedness of Sodom with the lawlessness of the Gentiles has become identified with the pederasty of Greek culture.


In his work De Abrahamo, Philo reads all the evils of first century Alexandria back into the story of Sodom:

The land of the Sodomites was brimful of innumerable iniquities, particularly such as arise from gluttony and lewdness….The inhabitants owed this extreme license to the never-failing lavishness of their sources of wealth….Incapable of bearing such satiety…they threw off from their necks the law of nature, and applied themselves to deep drinking of strong liquor and dainty feeding and forbidden forms of intercourse. Not only in their mad lust for women did they violate the marriages of their neighbors, but also men mounted males without respect for the sex nature which the active partner shares with the passive, and so when they tried to beget children they were discovered to be incapable of any but a sterile seed. Yet the discovery availed them not, so much stronger was the force of their lust, which mastered them, as little by little they accustomed those who were by nature men to play the part of women, they saddled them with the formidable curse of a female disease. For not only did they emasculate their bodies, but also they worked a further degeneration in their souls, and, as far as in them lay, were corrupting the whole of mankind.

Most of the prevalent myths and prejudices concerning male homosexuality find expression here, such as the myth of effeminacy – the idea that homosexuals must choose to play the active-masculine role or the passive-feminine role, that homosexuals recruit others, that there are specific diseases associated with homosexuality. There is no concept of a homosexual relationship based on the mutual love of the persons. When we turn to the Fathers of the Christian Church, there is no doubt whatever that they accepted without question that the sin of the Sodomites was their particular and inordinate addiction to homosexual practices, particularly pederasty, and it was for this reason that God punished them. In the Apostolic Constitutions we read: Thou shalt not corrupt boys: for this wickedness is contrary to nature and arose from Sodom." The Old Testament authors and Jesus himself identified the primary sin of Sodom with inhospitality to the stranger. We are dealing here with one of the supremely ironic paradoxes of history. For two thousand years in the Christian west, homosexuals have been the victims of inhospitable treatment. Condemned by the Church, they have been the victims of persecution, denial of civil rights, torture and even death. In the name of a mistaken identity of the crime of Sodom and Gomorrah, the true crime has been and continues to be repeated every day.


The Positive Treatment of Same Sex Relations in the Old Testament


Every text that refers to homosexual activity with a judgment of condemnation also refers to aggravating circumstances such as idolatry, sacred prostitution, promiscuity, violent rape, seduction of children and violation of guests’ rights. Nowhere is there a specific text that rejects all homosexual activity as such independent of these circumstances. On the contrary, in a few instances where a loving homosexual relation is presented it is dealt with approval and respect. The most important example of this is the story of David and Jonathon in 1 Samuel. In Chapter 18, we are told: "After David had finished talking to Saul, Jonathan’s soul became closely bound to David’s…. Jonathan made a pact with David to love him as his own soul; he took off the cloak he was wearing and gave it to David, and his armor too, even his sword, his bow and his belt." The Scripture goes on to report that Saul became jealous of David and attempted to kill him. Failing in that attempt, Saul plotted to have David killed in battle. Later in the story when Jonathan came out to visit David in hiding, we read: "The kissed each other and both shed many tears". My Hebrew scholar friends pointed out to me that the Hebrew text says "they released themselves" and could with equal validity be translated, "They ejaculated". The story ends with David’s lament for Jonathan when he learns of his death:

O Jonathan, in your death I am stricken,
I am desolate for you, Jonathan my brother’
Very dear to me you were,
Your love to me more wonderful
Than the love of a woman.

There is no condemnation connected to this beautiful statement of an intense interpersonal love relation.


The second example is taken from the book of Ruth, the story of Ruth and Naomi. When Naomi was forced to leave for a new home she urged her servant Ruth to leave her, but Ruth responded:

Do not press me to leave you and to turn back from your company;
For wherever you go, I shall go.
Wherever you live, I will live.
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Wherever you die, I will die
And there I will be buried.
May Yahweh do this thing to me
And more also,
If ever death should come between us.

This pact of loving friendship between two women has become the primary biblical model for lesbian relations.


The Song of Songs: The primary Revelation in the Old Testament of God’s Intention for Human Sex as Play


No doubt the definitive revelation of how God intended human sexuality to be exercised in the Old Testament is to be found in the story of the two gardens. James Nelson points out in his book, Between Two Gardens: Reflections on Sexuality and Religious Experience, the period in which we live today falls between the time of the Garden of Eden depicted in Genesis 2 and the post-Redemption erotic garden depicted in the Song of Songs. A careful reading of Genesis 2 leaves no doubt that God intended all expressions of human sexuality to be expressions of human play. Play and sexual love have always been closely linked. The ancient Sanskrit term for coitus, kridaratnam, translates literally as "the jewel of all games",


 

In Genesis, before sin entered their world, humans are pictured as perfectly at home in that world, and as completely accepting their bodies and the body’s erotic dimension. There was no body-soul dualism. They had no trouble integrating sex into their loving companionship with each other in the presence of a loving God. But then sin entered their world. As a result of sin humans became ashamed of and alienated from their bodies. They objectified their own and others’ bodies as sexual objects subject to lust and contempt. Sexual activity was transformed from a joy-filled play activity to a form of degradation. Our sex lives ceased to be play, and became permeated with shame, contempt, insecurity and anxiety, and thus became more like work than play. As Nelson points out, the historical roots of sexual alienation are not difficult to find. They emerged as two intertwining dualisms. Spiritualistic dualism (spirit over body, mind over matter), championed by the Neoplatonists, this dualism viewed the immortal spirit as a temporary prisoner in a mortal, corruptible body. The good life and, indeed, salvation requires escape from the flesh into spirit. Sexists or patriarchal dualism (man over woman) which is the twin of spiritualism, involves the systematic subordination of women in interpersonal relations, in institutions, in thought forms and in religious life. But the two dualisms became inextricably intertwined as men assumed to themselves superiority in spirit and reason while identifying women with body, earthiness, irrationality and instability.


As Sebastian Moore points out in his book: Jesus: Liberator of Desire, Adam and Eve are portrayed in Genesis as being ashamed of their mortal bodies and their sexuality. They wanted to disembody themselves and become pure spirits like God. To rescue us from that sin of pride and redeem us, the Word became flesh and God gave us the gift of immortal bodies through resurrection with Christ rather than the human effort to become immortal souls by our own efforts and by disowning the body.

A central part of God’s redemptive plan in Christ was to overcome all alienations and restore the integrity and playfulness of human sexuality. In his book, Song of Love: A Biblical Understanding of Sex, Helmut Gollwitzer points out that a redeemed, wholesome, and playful human sexuality is portrayed beautifully in the biblical text of the Song of Songs. Gollwitzer notes that the love extolled in this text is an illicit love. The lovers are not married and are of different races. (In fact, some scholars argue that there is some reason to suspect that the two lovers are two men in a gay relation. I will deal with this later.)

Look, says the Bible, see these two lovers, how they delight in each other, each pleased with the body of the other. How excited they are as they gaze at the full length of the other’s naked body. How they yearn for night to come so that they can embrace and be united. They are Adam and Eve in paradise, free of shame, in the happiness of sex. This is the way it was intended…. How could you possibly regard this as sinful? Why would you equate sexuality with immorality? Look at how all there senses are brought into play – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching! This sensuality is the morality of their love because it is a love, as God wants it to be, a fully human love, planned for human beings.

There is nothing subhuman or animal about it, no relic of the earthly to be painfully endured, as if we have to strive to become purely spiritual beings. Nothing is so unlike the animal as human sexuality. It is not confined to periods of being in heat, nor does it merely serve the continuation of the species. It is not limited to the specific genital activity of procreation but encompasses the entire person in an act of complete concentration on and attention to the sex partner.


Gollwitzer points out that even if the Song of Songs extols an illicit form of love, outside an extrinsically imposed set of rules, it does not give us carte blanche to engage in a totally unstructured and uninhibited sexuality. There is a structure present in the sexuality of Song of Songs, but it is a structure that is no longer legalistic and repressive, but rather based in the nature of what it means to be human and compatible with the true freedom of the Gospels. That structure is identical with the conditions that make a human action play. At this point then, to understand ideal human sexual activity, we must undertake an analysis of work and play.


The Conditions of Possibility for Human Work and Pay


In the Gospels, liberation is always a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love. Wherever and whenever true human liberation occurs, we can be certain of the presence and the activity of God’s Spirit. Let us reflect on one type of human liberation implied in God’s gift of his spirit of love – liberation from the "work ethic" so that a spirit of play may take its place.


The Work Ethic


One of the deepest values of American culture is the work ethic. The value judgment that accompanies this ethic is that our value as human beings lies in the work we do. We have to earn our value through our work. That work has frequently been understood in the past, in a very narrow sense, as the production of material goods. The logical conclusion of this kind of thinking is that our moral goodness depends on our willingness to commit ourselves to duty for its own sake in the form of difficult and dehumanizing work. Emmanuel Kant, for example, was convinced that our worst distraction from moral duty was the search for pleasure and happiness.


The work ethic is so much a part of our culture and of ourselves that leisure time causes us very real difficulty. The average American feels very guilty when he or she is unemployed or on vacation. Perhaps for a few days they regard their leisure as valuable because it prepares them to return to work with renewed energy and enthusiasm. But any leisure beyond what is strictly necessary produces deep-seated feelings of uselessness, guilt and self-condemnation. A dramatic example is the common experience of retired persons who literally lose their will to live once their regular employment in the community is ended.


Perhaps the most dramatic expression of the work ethic in recent history was the directive sent by the Emperor Joseph of Belgium in the early 1900s to the administrators of the Belgium territory of the Congo. In this directive, he pointed out that the basis of all civilization was, in his opinion, the spirit of work. Consequently, if he were to fulfill his duty of civilizing the Congo, he must teach the natives the spirit of work. He, therefore, ordered that the natives be gathered together into work camps, where they would be assigned daily quotas of work, such as gathering so many pounds of latex or laying so many miles of railroad ties. If anyone failed to execute his or her daily quota, drastic penalties were to be applied, such as the amputation of a hand.


A stark contrast to the emperor’s attitude may be seen in a Pygmy community from the rain forests of Africa who were featured in a recent television documentary. These people rose at dawn and did about an hour’s work, such as gathering fruit, preparing meals and repairing the thatched roofs of their huts, which was all the work they had to do to obtain the necessities of life. All the rest of the day they played. They held ceremonial dances and set up contests to see who could swing the farthest on jungle vines. This people’s philosophy of life, or rather their theology, involved the belief that they were children of a loving divine father who enjoyed their play. Thus, their play was the most important element in their lives. Through joyous play they manifested their gratitude to God for their existence. If one of them was to become anxious and began to collect more bananas than he needed for the day and hoard things and have no time for play, his neighbors would think that he was sick or had lost his faith and trust in their god.


These were the people that the Emperor Joseph thought had to be taught the value of work. But the only way to do so was to destroy their theology, their belief that their God loved them for what they are and not for what they do. One would also have to destroy their psychological health, that is, their confidence in their self-worth. They would have to learn to be anxious about their value as people and feel that they must somehow prove themselves by what they can produce in the way of practical results through hard work to be worthy of God’s love. Human work behavior is always based in anxiety, and all anxiety, as Bishop Fulton Sheen was fond of saying, is a form of atheism.


The work ethic reached its culmination in American culture where it fused with the frontier spirit, Native American pragmatism and American Puritanism. Certainly, this ethic served a purpose as long as the average life span was just above thirty-five and we were busy meeting the challenge of the frontier in our collective effort to build a great industrial nation.. Today, however, the work ethic is running into a number of inherent contradictions. These contradictions, which will become progressively more manifest in time, are all connected with the cybernetic revolution. For the first time in its history, humanity has the means to turn over most of the real work of providing food, clothing and shelter to machines. The vast majority of new jobs today are in the field of human services. The contradiction lies in the fact that our psychology is still caught up in the work ethic, although the amount of work we do and the time devoted to it has been and in all likelihood will continue to be reduced dramatically. In my lifetime, the workweek has been reduced from a ten hour, six-day week to an eight hour, five-day week. Further reduction is resisted strenuously because of the work ethic. In many European nations the workweek has already been reduced to a ten-hour, four day week and vacation time has been increased to two months. We begin work much later in life. We retire much earlier. And we live much longer. As a result, the time we have for leisure and play has greatly increased.


Another contradiction in the work ethic is that it holds up affluence and leisure as goals in order to motivate people to work harder, when the very achievement of these goals leads to a sense of loss of personal value and the ostensible reward becomes more of a curse than a blessing. The practice of giving the retiring employee a gold watch at the time when he will least need it seems ironic indeed.


The greatest flaw in the work ethic is that it deprives us of the ability to live in the present moment and renders us victims of the tyranny of time. When one is working, the activity is not meaningful in itself but only in terms of what comes after… the money earned, the leisure or success or prestige gained. We endure the drudgery of the present in hope of what the future will bring.


One’s whole life can be caught up in this attitude with the result that the quality of life is seriously diminished. The high-school student waits for graduation, the college student waits for graduate school, the graduate student waits for a job, the worker waits for a vacation, the vacationer waits to go back to work, and the veteran worker waits for retirement. Our whole life may be spent waiting for what comes next. Then death intervenes and in a way, it can be said that we never really existed, because we never found time to do something for its own sake, that is to say we never played.


The fundamental theological myth concerning work in Christian culture is found in Genesis, where the first humans are portrayed as living in the Garden of Eden, in paradise. There, like the pygmies in the rain forest, they played in the presence of God. But then they sinned, and the curse visited on them because of that sin was the loss of an awareness of God’s loving presence. They became anxious and were told: "with sweat on your brow shall you eat your bread". (Gen.3:19). In other words, the need to work was a result of their sin.


From this viewpoint the whole history of humanity to the present day can be understood as a progressive effort, based in the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors to liberate us from the curse of work. Today, because of the cybernetic revolution we stand on the threshold of that day of liberation. In any case, work was originally understood as a curse based on sin, but the work ethic distorts the curse into a blessing and tries to keep humanity subject to that curse in an age where liberation has become a distinct possibility.


Another essential aspect of the work ethic is that it leads to the subordination of persons to things. The work ethic demands that we judge our value on the basis of our productivity. Our relations with persons are considered secondary and largely irrelevant. Recent political proposals to reform welfare are frequently based on a dramatic appeal to the American work ethic. The welfare system is being reformed by forcing massive numbers of people back into the job market.


The interesting aspect of the proposed reform is that the mother on welfare, who stays at home and dedicates herself entirely to raising her children, to developing their personalities and serving their needs, is not considered to be making a worthwhile contribution to the community. The proposal that was voted in by a large majority in Congress was that welfare mothers be forced to leave their home in order to work and their children be placed in day care, This same kind of prejudice in the past is evident in the inferior salaries paid to teachers, nurses, social workers, anyone who provides human services but do not work with things.


This subordination of persons to things is built into the very fabric of our society; we often hear of one or another American industry demanding the same sort of loyalty from its employees that one would expect from a member of the family. Yet once the individual can no longer make profitable contribution, industry no longer feels any reciprocal loyalty. In recent years, especially, many people have been laid off just one year before they were eligible for retirement. And Chairmen of the board have been amply rewarded with bonuses for their ruthlessness in such behavior. The only family many businesses resemble is the Eskimo family of old, where the day grandmother’s teeth gave out and she could no longer chew the sealskins, she was put out on an ice shelf and bid a tearful goodbye.


It is instructive to recall the book which was one time the bible of the aspiring young American businessman, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book, in my mind, should rate as the most immoral book ever written. What I understand to be its message is that one should pretend genuine interest in other persons, not for their own sake, but in order to use them. This is precisely the meaning of the word hypocrisy. One practices smiling, saying the right thing and pretending to have the same interests in order to win the other’s confidence and make a sale. One’s object is to selfishly get ahead in life even by deception where necessary. This book was written totally within the context of the work ethic.


Gay and lesbian people are particularly susceptible to becoming victims of the work ethic. Having been taught from childhood that their difference is somehow bad and makes them unworthy of love and acceptance, gay people frequently feel that they must outperform all their peers in order to compensate. Workaholism based on anxiety has been a common disease in the lesbian and gay community.


What Makes Human Activity Play?


What Is Play?


What, then, is the alternative to the work ethic? The opposite of work is not sloth or inactivity; rather, it is play. Play should be understood as a basic form of human activity, irreducible to anything else.


Most analysts of play make the mistake of reducing it to a means to something else, and that ‘something else’ is usually work. This is the case with the type of psychological study that attempts to explain children’s play behavior as an instinctual process whereby they learn to cope with reality, a preparatory behavior to work wherein one develops new skills. Play certainly achieves this, but if this were the child’s conscious intention, that activity would no longer be play.


Because play occupies such an important position in our lives, we would do well to focus our efforts on cultivating the possibility of play within the human community. The first condition necessary for a human activity to be play is that the human activity must be meaningful in itself and not be related to a goal that lies beyond the playful action itself; it must be totally meaningful here and now. A perfect illustration of this quality is the activity of dancing.


This aspect of play also has a close connection with the quality of our interpersonal relationships. If it is impossible for us to live fully in the present moment, then we will never be able to be present fully for anther person. The ability to do so and, consequently, the ability to be fully present for another is probably the primary reason why, when we succeed in playing, we experience such intense joy and fulfillment. Anyone who has met an extraordinary spiritual or saintly person immediately is struck by their ability to be totally present in the here and now to the one they are encountering.


As the German poet, Schiller, put it, "Humans are only fully human when they play". Johan Huizinga, in his classic book Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture, sees play as the fullest expression of our humanity because it is the fullest expression of human freedom. Play is always an expression of personal initiative and of the self, free from all extrinsic constraint. Huizinga builds a good case for the thesis that all human civilization – commerce, science, law and all the arts – has its foundation not in work but in play. Even religious worship at its best should be a form of play. The purpose of all liturgies is "to teach us how to celebrate our existence." Huizinga points out that if play is the foundation of all civilization, to lose the sense of play is to threaten that very foundation.


The gay community has always been a community with an extraordinary freedom to play. Society is keenly aware that creative gay people are represented in the arts – the theater, the plastic arts, music, ballet, film, fashion, out of all proportion to their numbers in the population at large. The incredible loss to the entire human community of creative talent because of the AIDS-related deaths of so many gifted men is painful proof of this thesis.


Some of that freedom to play comes, I believe, from the gay community’s acceptance of its exiled status. Gays are frequently no longer involved in competing. As a result they are much freer to develop an aesthetic sense and to engage in activities for their own sake. Jung attributes the creativity of the gay community to its ability to be in touch with the feminine as well as the masculine aspects of the self.


In order to clarify further what I mean by play, I must make an important distinction. The very same activity may be work or play. Whether or not one is working or playing depends not so much on what one is doing but on the spirit and the conditions under which one does it. The person who is gardening on a weekend may be doing back-breaking work, but still is playing.


This leads us to the next condition necessary for an activity to take the form of play. Play always calls into question the type of interpersonal relation within which the activity takes place. An example would be the relation of two people on the job and the relationship of the same two people on the company bowling team. People involved in the game are playing and enjoying themselves. In a game such as bowling it is interesting to note how giving a handicap can change the nature of the bowlers’ attitude. The purpose of the handicap is to allow even the least skilled player to compete on an equal basis with his or her teammates. In this way the least skilled person achieves a sense of equality and his or her anxiety over success or failure is lessened.


Another key difference between work and play is that the attitude of work is always based on anxiety. Frequently, people in industry strive to increase production by increasing anxiety concerning job security or pay raises. Play, in contrast, can only take place where there is a felt sense of security. Animals, for example, will engage in playful behavior, but only if they are well fed and feel safe from their enemies. Psychologists have observed that a seriously disturbed child will cease to play. The only way that disturbed child can be freed to play once again is to give him or her the felt security of being loved. The unconditional love of the mother frees the infant to play. Conditioned love results in pathology, i.e. to the feeling that one must earn love through work.


Some theologians have argued that adults are free to play only when they become aware that God loves them for their own sake and not for what they do. "What proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners." (Rom. 5:8). Thus the ability to be free to play all of life in the presence of a loving God is a central message of revelation. God, our parent in heaven, through the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ, has freed us from the curse of work and created for us once again the freedom to play.


Thus, the first and most important condition of possibility for play has to do with the type of community within which the activity takes place. There are two basic types of human community: the functional and the personal. In a functional community, the interrelations between persons are not meaningful in themselves but only as a means of productivity of some sort. Authority in a functional community exists in order to coordinate the efforts of the group toward that productivity.


A personal community, such as the family, is quite different. The community is its own end; it is the loving interrelationships between the members that justify the existence of the community. Productivity within the personal community is secondary and has its source in the overflow of the joy and love that unites the members of the community. Authority in a personal community has its primary task to promote dialogue, to bring about personal interaction and mutual affirmation among the members. The personal community is based on the fact that we need each other. We need others to affirm us in our existence, to make us feel that we mean something and that we have value. We need the security of being loved and giving love in return. It is only to the degree that we find ourselves members of a true personal community that we have the necessary security and confidence to be able to play.


The ultimate source of the freedom to play is God’s unconditional love for us, a love that we cannot merit and we do not have to earn. As the good news of God’s love penetrates our hearts, we are freed to be able to love each other unconditionally. It is love that creates the space in which we are free to dance and sing. It is love that frees us to be able to play. Our only appropriate response to this gift of unconditional love and the freedom to play is gratitude.


I will finish this reflection on human play with an anecdote from J.D. Salinger’s Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters. Salinger reports a conversation between the young hero of the novel and his older brother, who has just become champion marble player of all Brooklyn. The younger brother asks: "Seymour, what is the secret of your success?". Seymour ponders awhile and answers "Don’t Aim!" I believe the whole secret of life lies in those two words.


Sex As Play


The structure that Gollwitzer points out is present in the sexual activity in The Song of Songs is identical with the conditions necessary for human play. First of all, play activity must be meaningful in itself and not be related to a result that lies beyond the playful action. Healthy, playful human sex requires that the sex partners treat each other as ends in themselves; a failure to do so reduces one’s partner to a sexual object. To deal with any human as a means rather than an end in him or herself is to degrade and demean that person. The essential immorality of prostitution is not that it involves sex outside of marriage, but that it involves one person using another as an object and that object allowing him or herself to be used.


This is also the essential flaw in the traditional work-related sexual ethics based on procreation. Any sexual act undertaken exclusively for the purpose of procreation both destroys the play value of sex and reduces the partners to workers interested solely in seeking a future product from a present action. It is interesting to note that there is no mention of procreation anywhere in the Song of Songs or in Chapter 2 of Genesis.


As we have seen, the conditions necessary for play to take place are identical with the conditions necessary for love to exist between two persons. The most important of these is that the partners see each other as equals. Whenever patriarchal dualism flourishes and the man sees himself as essentially superior to the woman, a necessary condition for true love and playfulness in the sexual encounter is absent. This inequality of the partners in heterosexists’ relations is a major cause of the breakdown of the family. I believe that this is a key reason why God’s Spirit is leading us into the liberation issue of gay marriage. Gay marriage is usually totally based on the equality if the partners and thus serves as an ideal model for the renewal of heterosexual relations on a healthier basis.


In the Song of Songs, the woman’s equal status with the male is striking. It is not an accident that the book begins with the woman’s passionate words: "Your lips cover me with kisses; your love is better than wine." (1:2) This equality between the partners keeps them from ever pressuring or manipulating each other. Each invites the other to a sexual encounter but profoundly respects the other’s freedom. As Gollwitzer puts it: "The other is always wanted as a person, a partner; not as a thing, a means of sexual gratification. No one is reduced to a mere sexual object. All expressions of affection are appeals to the free emotions of the beloved, voicing the hope that the other will respond with the same love."


Recent psychodynamic theory recognizes that the basic drive of the human psyche in not toward pleasure (as Freud believed) but toward intimacy. The human yearns to move out of isolation into the deepest possible union with fellow humans and ultimately with God. Consequently, the sex-drive is the physical dimension of a human need to escape isolation and alienation for a profound physical and spiritual union. The search for sexual fulfillment is thus one manifestation of a search for union with God. And achieving that intimacy results in intense pleasure, both physical and spiritual. In fact, the Song of Songs makes the claim that in sexual climax there can be an experience of God him, herself. "The flash of it is a flash of fire, it is the breath of Yahweh himself."


I remember an event that took place nearly 65 years ago on my first day in high school. I was a scared lonely thirteen years old, starved for affection. One day I was placing my books in my locker in the basement when suddenly someone, I never knew who, came around the corner and caught me up from behind in a hearty bear hug for a fleeting moment and then disappeared. I shall never forget the profound pleasure I felt in that affectionate and erotic hug. I think I spent the rest of that year putting books in my locker and taking them out again hoping for the return of the mysterious hugger, but to no avail.


There is yet another condition that must be met for a sexual encounter to be playful, namely that one’s partner is loved as a unique individual. The bull does not care which cow it mates with, any cow will do. But humans do care about the uniqueness of their sexual partner. One’s partner is not simply a representative of the opposite sex or the same sex, interchangeable with any other, a mere sex object. Rather, one’s partner is a unique and irreplaceable "thou," one particular person whose place no other can take, this man, this woman, this person alone is loved.


This attitude contrasts sharply with the "playboy" view of sex. Those who subscribe to this view feel free to use – and even abuse – their partner selfishly, without scarcely any sense of responsibility and concern.. The perfect Playboy cartoon shows a man and woman naked in bed together with the man asking the women," Why talk about love at a time like this?" This attitude is perfectly symbolized by the Playboy bunny costume, which, with its tail and ears, is an ideal way to dehumnize and depersonalizes one’s sexual object. Don’t forget that the sexual idol the Israelites worshipped took the form of a golden calf.


Intimacy, both physical and spiritual, is precisely the goal of playful sex. But, as we have seen, in order to have the freedom to play and to overcome self-consciousness, we must have the felt security of being loved. The primary purpose of a relationship of love is to enable the partners to affirm each other continuously through shared activities in an atmosphere of security and trust. Love gives us that freedom.


Those who hold the old-fashioned dualistic view of love tend to posit a sharp division between spiritual love, which is directed toward the person, and the purely physical gratification of the sex drive. In reality, there are not two different kinds of love – all genuine love has its physical aspects. There are, however, two kinds of sex – alpha sex and omega sex -- that need to be distinguished. Alpha sex involves using one’s partner selfishly to obtain one’s own sexual gratification. This kind of sexual activity seldom results in true intimacy and provides no escape from loneliness. On the contrary, it intensifies loneliness. Clients have told me many times that their sense of painful isolation only increased after an all night orgy in a bathhouse.


Omega sex, on the other hand, occurs when there is a complete fusion of sensual and personal love. Each partner is a source of pleasure for the other and each can experience pleasure only by being a source of pleasure for the other. As Gollwitzer puts it: "Self centeredness – I need this person for myself, for my own happiness -- is the power of Eros, whereas the knowledge that I will be happy only through the happiness of my partner is the wisdom of Eros, Eros understands that we get what we want, not only when and if the partner’s needs are also met, but precisely in and through their being met,"


As a psychotherapist, I am intensely aware that I am dealing here with an ideal goal of human sexual growth and maturity. As Nelson notes, most of us find ourselves at some place between the two gardens, aspiring to omega sex but practicing alpha sex., but hopefully growing daily in our ability to integrate our sexual activity into our capacity to love.


I am also aware that many people are psychically so injured that they are incapable of a full human relationship of intimacy and love. Yet these persons have a right to some playful expression of their sexuality and their search for intimacy. I agree with Norman Pittenger that there are only three kinds of sexual activity between consenting adults: good, better and best sex. Apart from rape or child abuse, contrary to traditional Church teaching, it is difficult to sin seriously in a sexual gesture. I am reminded of a joke I heard years ago that contained a certain wisdom. A derelict went into a bar on the Bowery with a parakeet on his shoulder. He said to all the drinkers at the bar: "I’ll go to bed with anyone who guesses the weight of my parakeet!" One man lifted his head from the bar and said: "Two hundred pounds!". "Close enough!" the derelict answered. The humor of the joke is that it speaks to every one of us in our loneliness. Two lonely people, both too wounded at this point in their life to form an intimate relationship, will know a moment of affection and a sharing of sexual pleasure, and this is good.


Gay Sexual Liberation


Like the love of the man and woman in the Song of Songs, all gay sexual love has been illicit, condemned by the law of society and the Church. Because of this, lesbian and gay sexual love has no models or rules to go by. After the Stonewall gay liberation revolution, the gay community undertook an all-out celebration of gay sexuality and a constant exploration of new forms of sexual fulfillment. Since any and all forms of gay sex, even that within a committed monogamous relation, were considered by heterosexist society to be illegal and immoral by their very nature, the gay community was not prepared to recognize any moral or legal restraint on sexual behavior.


Many gays have realized that totally promiscuous sex deprives them of the deep intimacy that is the primary fruit of committed sexual relationships. As a result, in recent years the gay community is seeking recognition from both State and Church of their relationships as a legitimate form of human love worthy of being recognized as a marriage.


The church’s attack on gay marriage as a threat to the family amazes me. As long as one’s gay orientation had to be hidden, many gay men sought to hide their orientation by getting married. The majority of church divorces were based on the gayness of one or the other partner. Gay liberation and the possibility of gay marriage would free thousands of gay men to enter into a gay relation and no longer have to hide their orientation in a false heterosexual marriage. This would strengthen heterosexual marriage and the health and well-being of the entire human community.


In my thirty years of practice I am aware that thousands of gay and lesbian people were the ones who took care of their parents in their old age. Most families were blessed who had a gay son or lesbian daughter. How can the achievement of intimate committed relations be a threat to the family? On the contrary, as I will develop later on, gay marriage may be a resource for a renewal and strengthening of heterosexual relationships..


Sexual Liberation and the AIDS Crisis


The first reaction of the gay community to AIDS during the late 80s and early 90s was a serious reevaluation of efforts toward sexual liberation, the "anything goes" attitude. There is a welcome and new emphasis on prudence and health consciousness in all sexual expression. . There is also a new exploration of the kind of committed relationship that is appropriate to lesbian women and gay men and is not just a repetition of heterosexual models. The majority of lesbians and gay men today as they grow out of adolescence are consciously seeking a lover and the type of committed relationship that makes a love relationship possible.


A danger in the present situation is that many in the gay community could lose the freshness and the joy of their celebration of God’s good gift of sexuality and regress into feelings of shame, guilt, and self-loathing for any expression of their sexuality. And, of course, the conservative homophobic Churches are doing their best to produce this regression among their followers. The possibility of having caring and playful sex still exists if both partners follow the guidelines for safe sex.


As I mentioned in my book, The Church and the Homosexual, a paradoxical result of the AIDS crisis is that it is bringing gay love out of the closet! Before AIDS, the most visible members of the gay community were those who frequented the gay discos, bars and baths. These were the people associated with the so-called gay life-style. Those who were involved in committed, loving relationships for the most part remained closeted in order to protect each other’s jobs, homes and families from the usually dire consequences of public exposure. AIDS has forced many couples to be public about their relationships as they cared for each other in the relatively public space of hospitals. I personally know many priests, ministers and family members who have been astonished by the depth of the love, mutual support, and self-sacrifices that characterize the relationships of many gay couples. This revelation laid the foundation of the present political effort to achieve the legal right for gay marriage.


The Message of the Song of Songs


Every element of the moral, sexual lovemaking portrayed in the Song of Songs can be, and frequently is, present in the sexual relationship of two gay men or two lesbian women who love each other. Consequently, there is no valid reason why their sexual unions should not be accepted, respected and values by the church and by society.


Near the end of the Song of Songs we read:


Set me like a seal on your heart,

Like a seal on your arm.

For love is as strong as Death,

Jealously relentless as Sheol.

The flash of it is a flash of fire

A flame of Yahweh himself’

Love no flood can quench,

No torrent drown.

Were a man to offer all the wealth of his house to buy love,

Contempt is all he would purchase. (8:6-7)


I remember as a youth in Buffalo, New York, a popular saying was that "Sexual love is God’s gift to the poor"! The authors of The Song of Songs believed that a loving experience of sexual pleasure could carry with it an experience of divine presence. This is a restatement of the biblical message that "God is love and if anyone loves they know God!"


A Possible Same Sex Interpretation of the Lovers in the Song of Songs


In his book, Ancient Answers to Modern Gay Problems, Paul R. Johnson gives a plausible interpretation of the Song of Songs as a poem celebrating the love of two men for each other. Johnson points out that in early Hebrew, texts completely lacked written vowel sounds or pointings. The Song of Songs was originally written in consontorial text, that is, words were spelled with only consonants – no vowels. Although the gender of the principal character in the Song is clearly male eighty-five percent of the time, there is a ten percent ambiguity. When the Mascretic scholars set about inscribing the ancient text (already seventeen centuries old) with vowel sounds in the 8th century AD, they, because of their own cultural prejudices, chose to feminize certain terms by inserting vowel signs above, below, or in the consonants which would effectively change the meaning.


Johnson quotes one verse that he thinks is a definitive proof that the text is dealing with male lovers (7:10):

Because of your manliness
Your mouth surrenders to my male love
Direct and gentle into slumbering lips.

Johnson points out all the anomalies that follow from trying to interpret one of the lovers as female:

If this person were female, she would be, according to the original text the most liberated women in all the world… She was not interested in marriage; she was not concerned with conception; she made many trips through the city streets at night searching for her beloved; she slept with the shepherds in their tent; she was a mountain climber; drove a chariot; was a much feared fighter; stalked wild animals; took the lead in the sex act; was a shield bearer; owned personal property, was a great fighter and wrestler; had a large nose, strong neck, and very tiny breasts. This beautiful ten percent woman possessed a huge body, wore a beard and was called a prince.

The time has come for a hermeneutic of suspicion to reclaim this song as originally a gay love song.


 

 

 

Sex in the New Testament


"This is my Body!" Let us hear anew those startling words. Let us see and hear Jesus speaking them over the bread at the last supper: Jesus desiring and willing to be with us in and through his human body until the end of time. If Jesus accepted classical dualism he should have been content to be with us though the gift of his spirit. But Jesus, because of his human love for us, wanted a bodily contact with every human that he loved. Jesus established the new covenant in his body and blood so that for all time the meeting place between God and humanity, the means of communication by which we become one with God and God becomes one with us, will be the flesh and blood of Jesus. Jesus chose to be one in the flesh with every human from now until the end of time. Let us reflect, then on the mystery of the human body, both Christ’s body and our own.


When, as a young man, I made my first trip to Chicago, I remembered being very impressed by a statue by Rodin entitled The Isolation of the Human Spirit. The statue was hewn from a huge block of granite. Emerging from the stone, but still partially trapped in it, were the alternate bodies of men and women. Each figure was straining every muscle trying to reach around to the figures on either side of it, but none could touch more than the fingertips of the others.


Rodin’s statue dramatically expresses the paradox of the human body. It is our body that keeps us apart from each other, allows us to be separate, unique individuals, autonomous and free. Yet the same body is the means by which we communicate and achieve union with the other.


Frequently, we Christians fail to accept our bodies as God intends us to accept them. And failing to accept our own bodies, we frequently fail to accept Christ’s incarnation and the reality of his and our bodily resurrection. Sometimes we fall victims to those ancient heresies that, like Manicheans, see the body with its sexual drive and hungers as evil and a source of sin. We then are tempted to see ourselves as essentially a soul or spirit housed in a body, which we use but with which we are not identified. The corollary of this alienation from our God-given body is the view that human sexuality is something evil, something that can drive us away from God. Death then appears as a welcome release from the prison of the body, and we begin to understand the hereafter in terms of immortality of the soul instead of resurrection of the body.


But all this is not the teaching of Christ. On the contrary, it was Plato and the Greek pagan philosophers who taught the immortality of the soul or mind. They would judge the Christian message of resurrection of the body as pure foolishness. Jesus revealed an immortality that is to be achieved by a miraculous resurrection and transformation of the body.


One of the primary reasons for our denial of our bodies is the difficulty we experience with our sexual drive. As we evolve toward spiritual maturity, each of us must struggle with our sexual drive so that, with God’s grace, it will cease to be a totally selfish destructive force and become instead a power integrated into our personality as a means of communicating love.


We have succeeded in integrating other bodily functions into our personality such as eating, to the point where heaven itself is symbolized as a banquet, and the family dinner has been fully integrated into our social and spiritual life. Just as there are prayers before and after a meal, so too there should be prayers before and after sex. To the extent that this idea shocks us, we may gauge the extent to which we remain alienated from our body and its God-given sexuality.


Every effort we make at communication – a handshake for example or a kiss, using our lips and mouth, not for eating as nature intended, but to produce speech – has a bodily non-genital sexual component. We are not spirits that use a body; we are our bodies. By the same token, sex is not just something we do; it is an inalienable dimension of what we are.


Let us look at the relation between love of God and love of our whole selves, including our body. There is a connection between fear of God and fear of the erotic dimension of our body.


By stating that there is really only one commandment, namely, the commandment to love, Jesus wished to emphasize the special quality of our relationship to God in the new covenant. No longer are we to worship God in a spirit of fear, rather we are to relate to God as adopted children to a loving parent and not as slaves to a master. We must beware, then, of the kind of fear that can crush out the love of God from our hearts and lead us back into a worship of fear, a sort of post-Christian paganism.


Notice that in the first commandment Jesus orders us to love God with all our hearts. In the New Testament the heart is a symbol for the body and its feelings. We are exhorted to let the love of God penetrate our whole being, including the body and all its feelings. This affirms that there is a sensuous and even erotic dimension to our love of God, a dimension so essential to our ability to love as embodied human beings that to deny it would cripple our spiritual life as well.


I am reminded of a sermon Augustine once gave to the first community of celibate women in Hippo. Commenting on the biblical parable of the wise and foolish virgins, Augustine made the point that chastity in itself does not get anyone into heaven. Both the wise and foolish virgins were chaste, but only the wise virgins who had "oil in their lamps" were allowed into the wedding feast when the bridegroom arrived. What, Augustine asked, does oil in their lamps signify? His answer was that the oil in the lamps of the wise virgins signified their ability to express warm human love; whereas the foolish virgins were cold and distant, expecting to get into heaven because of their moralistic perfectionism. Augustine was making the point that there is a pathological as well as a healthy form of chastity. But in the end there is only one way to gain admittance to the heavenly banquet, and that is through the exercise of a warm human love.


Jesus tells us that the second part of his commandment is identical (homoia) to the first, that is, the commandment to love God is the same as the commandment to love our neighbor as our self. That identity is so strong that John feels free to say that if anyone claims to love God and nevertheless hates his neighbor, that person is a liar (1 John 4:20).


For most of us, love of God remains an abstraction, an idea to which nothing real corresponds, unless that love can be incarnated into our lives. Just as Jesus is the incarnation of God’s love for us, so too, most of us come through to a belief and trust in God’s love through our experience of human love – the love of a parent, friend, partner or through a loving community. God loves us through our friends and lovers.


Let us focus for a moment on the third dimension of Jesus’ commandment: Love of self. Jesus tells us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. A certain healthy narcissism is implied here. Love begins with oneself. Many have misinterpreted this commandment as love your neighbor more than yourself!" Some even seem to think it means that you shall love your neighbor and hate yourself. These people replace a healthy narcissism with masochism and believe they are glorifying God through self-rejection and self-hatred. We can extend John’s statement and add that those who claim they love their neighbor and hate themselves are unconscious liars. Any one who interiorized feminaphobia and/or homophobia would be in that category.


The first and greatest commandment presupposes that all three loves – love of self, neighbor and God – are all of a piece. . If one is missing, then the others cannot exist. Which brings us back to our bodies once again. I believe that the most profound and most frequent sin concerning our bodies and their erotic dimension has nothing to do with sexual activity. On the contrary, it has to do with the alienation from our body and its sexual feelings and our effort to reject or repress the erotic dimension of our being, an effort that represents a refusal of God’s good gift of sexuality and a distrust of creation.


All alienation from God’s good creation is the result of sin, and alienation from our bodies is depicted in Scripture as the root of sin. We read in Genesis that the first humans, Adam and Eve, felt perfectly at home with themselves, their bodies and with God until they sinned. It was only then they became alienated from and ashamed of their nakedness. As a consequence of that alienation from their bodies, they also became alienated from each other and from God. Love of neighbor disappeared and Cain even went so far as to slay his brother Abel. Humanity had lost the reality of the loving presence of God.


In a work entitled The Feast of Love, Pope John Paul II, writing from a heterosexist dualistic and patriarchal perspective, sees the sin of Adam and Eve as "lustful activity". After the harmony between God and humanity had been broken, the lower, i.e. the sexual, nature of human beings no longer obeyed the higher. Sebastian Moore, in a masterful critique of this book, points out that three different times the author of Genesis identifies Adam’s and Eve’s sin not as lustful activity, but rather as a willful alienation from their body and its sexual feelings. They wanted to become pure bodyless spirit just as God is by their own efforts


For Adam and Eve, the body became an object over against the self, the source of their mortality and something to be constrained out of fear or to be indulged as a dehumanized source of pleasure. Either way, the alienated body is divorced from the spiritual self. Both these extremes miss the point that God intended sexual wholeness to be a part of our redemption.


If every human being experiences a certain degree of alienation from her or his body and its sexual feelings, how much more alienated can lesbians and gay men become if they accept the Church teaching that their orientation is an "objective disorder," a tendency to evil, and a defect in creation. And how much more difficult is the struggle gay people must undergo to accept themselves and their sexuality with gratitude to God.


In my work as a psychotherapist over many years to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, I became aware how many people, in an effort to repress their gay sexual feelings, crushed out all feelings whatsoever and lived lives devoid of warmth and intimacy. There is also a connection between alienation from the body and the depersonalization of sex. The unloving suppression of the self’s erotic needs frequently leads to a destructive acting out of those needs. This, in my opinion, is the primary mechanism operative in the clergy pedophilia crisis. What we reject in ourselves, we tend to project outward: sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, hatred of women or hatred of men, racism, sexual abuse of children, etc.


It has always been the prophetic role of lesbians and gay men to lead the Church and Western culture toward embracing embodiment, a sense of identity with the body and its sensuousness. We must let our "word become flesh!" This has, as always, been the special message entrusted by God to the lesbian and gay community. We must give up our dualistic, escapist concept of being immortal souls encased in a mortal body that we must use but not identify with. We must learn how to live in, enjoy and celebrate our bodies and their sexuality with gratitude to God.


Paradoxically, Christianity, which historically has been so antisexual in practice, differs from the other world religions in having such a positive attitude toward the human body. Christian revelation contains at least four essential affirmations of the body, including its sexual dimension..


The first is the biblical account of creation, which is the original creation narrative, predating the first chapter by over 500 years. God announces, "It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate" (2:18). The first human couple was thus united by a sexual bond. The same theme is taken up in the Song of Songs, an entire book of the bible given over to a grateful celebration of God’s gift of erotic love.


The second affirmation of the body is the Incarnation. As the Gospel of John tells us, "the Word was made flesh and lived among us" (John 1:14). Jesus was a sexual being; he underwent circumcision. If Jesus accepted and rejoiced in an embodied sexual existence, then we too should let our word become flesh, we should be able to accept and rejoice in our sexual body.


The third affirmation is the establishment of the Eucharist as Jesus’ memorial, "This is my body!" Christ could have chosen to be with us for all time through his spirit alone, but the human Jesus chose to be with us in and through his human body as well. He wanted to stay "in touch."


The fourth is the Resurrection. We do not share the pagan concept of eternal life as a life only of the spirit, with the body serving merely as a temporary shell to be discarded. In some transformed way, our body will be part of our identity for all eternity.


We can get to heaven only in and through our sexual, mortal body. Therefore, we must do battle with and overcome our alienation from our body and its sexuality. This is another dimension of our salvation and one of the healing graces Jesus won for us. Adam and Eve, by wanting to become like God, grew ashamed of their sexual bodies. Jesus, on the other hand, who was the "Word of God", chose to become flesh. And because the Word became flesh, we can allow our word to become flesh; we can overcome all alienation from our body and accept our identity with it. We must trust that the Creator so designed the self’s erotic nature that it is intrinsically aimed, not at an impersonal sexual hedonism, but at personal sexual communion.


Thus, our task is, with the help of God’s grace, to integrate that sexual nature into the power to love – to love ourselves, to love each other and ultimately to love God with our whole being. Even our compulsive, promiscuous sexuality is a flawed search for unity with each other and with God. A word of peace, encouragement and hope to all those who are finding this struggle difficult: the outcome is guaranteed, the grace of God is there, and the day will come when the struggle is over.


Jesus’ great high-priestly prayer for us at the Last Supper was prayer for our unity:


I pray not only for these,

But for those also

Who through their words will believe in me.

May they all be one.

Father, may they be one in us,

As you are in me and I am in you,

So that the world may believe it was you that sent me.

I have given them the glory you gave to me,

That they may be one as we are one.

With me in them and you in me,

May they be so completely one

That the world will realize that it was you who sent me

And that I have loved them as much as you loved me

(John. 17:20-23).


The whole meaning and direction of our spiritual growth is a movement from isolation and alienation into greater unity with each other. At Holy Communion each of us receives the body of Christ, and being one with the body of Christ we become one with each other. This is a symbolic prophesy of the mysterious and joyful transformation of our bodies at the Resurrection, when our bodies will become the perfect means of communication and oneness.


In his book on sexual theology, James Nelson tells us:

That which is greater then you accepts your body, which you often reject.

Your sexual feelings and unfulfilled yearnings are accepted.
You are accepted in your ascetic attempts at self justification or in your hedonistic alienation from the true meaning of your sexuality.
You are accepted in those moments of sexual fantasy which come unbidden and which delight and disturb you.
You are accepted in your femininity and in your masculinity and you have elements of both.
Simply accept the fact that you are accepted as a sexual person.
If that happens to you, you experienced grace.
What Went Wrong?

In the National Catholic Reporter (Oct. 3, 2003) Eugene Cullen Kennedy wrote a remarkable article on the loss of a sacramental sense among the leaders in the Roman Catholic Church. The article was entitled "Healing the Wound: The Sacraments and Human Sexuality". Kennedy claims that the pedophilia crisis in the Church is only the tip of the iceberg of a much more fundamental crisis.

The foundational crisis is the impairment or complete loss by church leaders of the sacramental sense, that feeling for the theological principal of sacramentality, the notion that all reality, both animate and inanimate, is potentially or in fact the bearer of God’s presence and the instrument of God’s saving activity on humanity’s behalf.
Forfeiting this sacramental sense in order to maintain hierarchical control, they shattered the wholeness of creation in general and of the human person in particular. This wrenches sexuality out of human personality as brutally as an Aztec priest’s cutting out the heart of a young girl, both sacrifices of wholeness to the blood appetite of meagerly imagined gods. This gutting of human personality destroys its sacramental integrity, bringing a darkness at noon, the murky light in which the sacramental is devoured by the literal…While men and women search for these lost symbols of healthy life, the subtleties and the subtext of beaten down sexuality manifest themselves both in the abuse of the Body of Christ that marks the fundamental sacramental crisis and in the abuse of children’s bodies that grew, slowly and surely and largely in the dark, out of it. Make healthy sexuality falsely evil and you make clear the way for the true evil of unhealthy sexuality.

Kennedy traces this loss of a sacramental sense back to Augustine. It can be said that Augustine did not so much convert to Christianity as he did infect the early Christian Church with his Manichean distrust of the body and its sexuality. In fact, he taught that God did not originally intend human beings to be sexual and that all sexual arousal, passion and pleasure was a result of original sin. One of the great ironies of Christian history is that what was originally portrayed in Genesis as the sin of Adam and Eve, to become alienated and ashamed of their bodies and desirous to become pure spirits, under Augustine influence became the official policy of the early Christian Church and the healthy holistic understanding that Jesus had of human sexuality was lost for centuries.


This acceptance of dualism, and the understanding that everything sexual was tinged by sin, led to a progressive loss of a holistic understanding of Jesus. Since Jesus could not be touched by sin, the Church was uncomfortable with the human sexual side of Jesus and progressively dehumanized him into pure spirit. In fact, the Jesuit introduction of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the 18th century was an effort to restore full humanity to our understanding of the dehumanized Jesus of the Middle Ages who was so spiritualized that he disappeared into thin air.


It was this same misunderstanding and discomfort with the body and its sexuality that led to the imposition of celibacy on the clergy and the persecution of married clergy and their wives. A constant demand put on celibate clergy to repress and deny their human need for sexual intimacy and no recognition for their need for a healthy psycho-sexual development set the scene for the pedophile crisis.


The sacraments are addressed to us as whole human persons in ways as fundamentally and utterly earthly and human as we are, given not as antidotes for being human but to nourish us, just as we are, in the human condition, in our state as curious, sexual, inventive and loving beings, so that we "may have life and life to the full (John 5)."

Almighty God, our Father and our Mother in heaven, thank you for the gift of our body and its sexuality. Through the Resurrection of your son Jesus, help us to heal our fear of and alienation from our body, help us to trust in the goodness of your creation. Help us to celebrate our sexual existence. Grant us the grace to integrate our sexuality into our drive for union with you for all eternity in heaven. Amen
 

The Gay-Friendly Attitude of Jesus and the Early Christian Community


All of us engaged in the spiritual dimension of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered liberation constantly have had to deal with "Bible thumpers" who make the claim that the gay life-style is clearly condemned in the Bible as an "abomination" contrary to God’s will. In his excellent book, Gay Theology Without Apology, Gary David Comstock makes the point that the Bible, written by men from within a patriarchal culture, is ridden with homophobia.


We can build a legitimate pro-gay sexual ethics based on our experience within the gay community and the direct, unmediated revelation that God’s Spirit makes to us. I agree with Comstock that if it is true that Paul, for example, understands himself as unequivocally condemning homosexuality, then we must conclude that Paul was wrong in this judgment, just as we admit today that Paul was wrong in his acceptance of slavery. But it is my conviction that Paul understood all homosexual activity as acts undertaking by heterosexuals for the sake of lustful indulgence and had no idea of true gay love. The time has come for the Christian community to move beyond Paul’s understanding of homosexuality.


I disagree, however, that we should just hand over the Bible to our enemies as many propose we should in the gay and lesbian liberation community. I will never forget my joy and sense of liberation when I first read John Boswell’s critique of the traditional biblical passages used to condemn homosexuality (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality pp 91-117). I agree with Boswell that it can be established with good scholarship, that nowhere in Scripture, the Old and the New Testament, is there a clear condemnation of a loving relationship between two adult gay men or two lesbians. I do not agree that to undertake such a scholarly task amounts to "apologizing" for those scriptural passages that on the surface appear to condemn homosexuality.


There are clear condemnations in Scripture of certain types of homosexual actions, such as rape, anal penetration of enemies as a sign of hatred, scorn, contempt and domination.

There is also a frequent condemnation of the use of sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular in religious fertility rites, for example, in such episodes as the Golden Calf (Exodus 32), the Flood (Genesis 6-9), and the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 19). It was a widespread belief among the pagans in biblical times that if one gave sexual pleasure to the pagan gods usually through the use of sacred prostitutes, both male and female, they would reward the worshippers with fertility for themselves, their animals and their fields. There is, as we have seen, a continuous polemic in Genesis and Exodus against the use of sex in the worship of God, an attack Paul continues in his attack on idol worshippers in Romans (1:18-22). The clear message in the Old Testament is that sex is in human hands to be used for human purposes.


But what Comstock seems to overlook is the possibility that despite the patriarchal and homophobic culture that Jesus was a part of, he and his followers did not share that prejudice. To be sure, this possibility is easy to overlook because centuries of homophobic redactors and translators have sought to eliminate all traces of this positive attitude.


A good example of this is the history of how the sin of Sodom, which even Jesus himself clearly understood as the sin of inhospitality to strangers (Like 100-12) had been reinterpreted for political reasons as the sin of homosexuality. I have dealt with these negative biblical passages at length in my book The Church and the Homosexual.


We must, then, approach Scripture with what the feminists call "a hermeneutic of suspicion". Our suspicion is that, if there were a gay positive attitude on the part of Jesus and his followers, every effort would be made to bury the evidence. But, despite these efforts, certain gay positive elements remain in the New Testament. The first and remarkable element is the fact that nowhere in the four gospels did Jesus ever say one word of condemnation concerning homosexuality. This silence would be truly surprising if Jesus agreed in considering all homosexual relationships as seriously sinful. He makes very strong statements of condemnation for other human actions that he sees as necessarily contrary to the loving will of his Father in heaven.


The Beloved Disciple


There are, I believe at least three traces of a gay-positive attitude on Jesus’ part in the New Testament. The first is the title that John the Evangelist gives himself "the Disciple whom Jesus loves". " Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them – the one who had leant back close to his chest at the last supper and had said to him, ‘Lord, who is it that will betray you’"(John 21:20-21). Notice what John writes. He does not call himself the disciple who loved Jesus; rather, he claims there was a distinct quality of the love that Jesus had for him that distinguished him from all the other disciples. And the other disciples did not dispute his claim.


John was the one who had the position of honor at Jesus’ right at the last supper, and leaned his head on Jesus’ chest. John was the one who stood at the foot of the cross with the women when all the other men fled in fear. And it was to John’s care that Jesus committed his mother: Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, "Woman, this is your son." And then to the disciple he said, "This is your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her into his home" (John 19:26-27). Again, it is John who is the first after the women to see the empty tomb and believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. Any one of you who have a gay sensibility will be keenly aware of the special nature of the relationship of love that reunites Jesus and John. In his old age, John is reported as telling the early Christian community, "Jesus had only one message! That you should love one another!"


The Gay Centurion and his Beloved Boy


No passages are clearer concerning the gay positive attitude of Jesus than the two accounts of Jesus’ healing of the Roman centurion’s servant as recounted in Matthew (8:5-13) and in Luke (7{1-10).

When he had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went in to Capernaum. A centurion was there who had a servant, a favorite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him saying, "He deserves this of you, because he is well disposed toward our people; he built us our synagogue himself." So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends to say to him, "Sir, do not put yourself to any trouble because I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; and this is why I did not presume to come to you myself; let my boy be cured by you giving your word. For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man, ‘Go’, and he goes; to another, ‘Come here’ and he comes; to my servant, ‘Do this’ and he does it." When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith as great as this!" And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

The words used in the Greek original of these texts for the centurion’s servant are entimos and pais. These words could be translated as "my beloved boy" and would have clearly indicated to Jesus that he was dealing with two men in a loving homosexual relationship. Jesus expressed astonishment at he faith of the centurion and obviously moved by his love for his "beloved boy", heals the young man


A Roman Centurion was not allowed to marry during his period of service. Given the all-male nature of a Roman legion, the slave would have been the one to see to the physical comfort of the centurion himself. Slaves were not infrequently at the beck and call of the sexual pleasure of their master and it was not unusual for the relationship of a slave and master to grow into one of love.


Here we have the most direct encounter of Jesus with someday who would today be pronounced "gay" and Jesus’ reaction was acceptance of the person without judgment and even eagerness to be of assistance to restore the "pais" to health, and by implication to fully restore the loving relationship of the two, making possible the renewal of any sexual activity which they would have enjoyed together prior to the illness.


It is important to note that Jesus does not exempt this gay relationship from the rest of what Jesus taught with regard to moral action, but rather, opens the possibility of bringing gay relationships within the compass of healthy and holy human love blessed by God.

In Matthew, when Jesus saw the Centurion, he saw someone who put the one he loved ahead of himself to the point of seeking the well-being of the pais at considerable cost to the Roman Centurion himself. After all, this proud representative of the military might of Rome had humbled himself out of love to beg a favor from an itinerant Jewish preacher. In Luke, Jesus heard of a Centurion who also put the pais ahead of himself, and, who practices justice and charity in his more general relationship with the Jewish community. These are both signs of all the attributes which Jesus had just presented in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-38) and his definition of the "true Disciple" as one who hears his word and acts on it (Luke 6:47).


Any one who has been active in AIDS ministry is aware how often this totally unselfish gay love is played out in hospitals and clinics and homes all over the country when a gay lover is loyal to his dying companion to the end. According to the Roman law governing the possession of slaves, the Centurion was under no legal obligation to take care of a sick slave. His or her master could legally abandon a sick slave.


There is a final ironic note in the history of this passage. At every communion rite in the Roman Catholic Church, the last words that a communicant prays before receiving Holy Communion are: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." I believe that God has a sense of humor and moved a Church prone to homophobia to use the faith confession of a gay man every time we receive the Lord in the Eucharist.


Jesus’ Family of Choice


Some of the most tender human memories of Jesus described in the four gospels are those that depict him at home with his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus in their home in Bethany. It is obvious that these people were Jesus’ family of choice. "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11:5). The reason for that choice is also obvious. These people had an unconditional love for Jesus and had complete faith and respect for his mission. "Yes, Lord," Martha said, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world."(John11:27).


Jesus evidently did not receive such faith and respect from his biological family. In fact, we are told at one point that they thought he was crazy and intended to kidnap him and bring him home by force. "He went home again, and once more such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard . In fact, we are told that at one point that they thought that he was crazy and intended to kidnap him and bring him home by force."He went home again and once again such a crowd collected that they not even have a meal. When his relatives heard this, they set out to take charge of him, they said,"He is out of his mind".(Mark 3 920-21) All four gospels record Jesus as saying "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?. And stretching out his hands towards his disciples he said:"Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone he does the will of my father in heaven is my bother and sister and mother."(Matt 12:46-50).

We gather from the gospelshatthe house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus was Jesus’ favorite resting place, and he frequently went there to relax and be among friends. But who were the members of Jesus family of choice.. The first was Mary! Scholars no longer agree that this was the same Mary as Mary Magdelain who washed Jesus feet with her tears at the supper at Simon’s house.In Luke, (10: 38-42) we are told the story of Martha inviting Jesus into her home and becoming jealous of Mary "who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking" while she was busy about many things. The most striking passage portraying the deep affection that existed between Jesus and Martha and Mary occurs in the story of the resurrection of Lazarus, their brother, from the dead. "Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him, she threw herself at his feet saying, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." At the sight of her tears, Jesus was greatly distressed, and with a profound sigh he said, "Where have you put him? (John 11: 32-34). There follows the astonishing story of Lazarus who was Jesus’ best friend, being raised from the dead after being buried for three days.


A second anointing just before Jesus’ death is recounted by John (12: 1-3). "Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of a very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was filled with the scent of the ointment."


We should note that Jesus’ family of choice was very far from the traditional Jewish family. First of all, they were a family of three unmarried adults living together. This must have been unusual since Jewish law required that all Jews marry and procreate. Although Martha and Mary are referred to as "sisters" and Lazarus is referred to as their "brother", we should note that frequently in the Bible the words sister and brother are used not to designate a biological relationship but to recognize a deep committed love relationship.


That leaves open the possibility that Jesus’ family of choice was possibly a gay family; that Martha and Mary were lesbians and Lazarus was a gay man. In any case, Jesus’ choice of family was not limited to the conventional and his value judgment had to do with the quality of the love that united the members, rather than their gender or sexual orientation. I am personally convinced that if Jesus were among us today, he might well choose to befriend a loving lesbian or gay couple and seek their company.


Scriptural Charter for the Inclusion of Lesbians and Gays


There is one passage in Scripture that I believe prophetically indicates that the Spirit of God is poured out in a special way on all those gay and lesbian Christians who are sincerely seeking to live their lives according to the teachings of Christ. This is the account of the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch in the Acts of the Apostles (8:26-39)


The Lucan author of this passage had as his purpose to depict the work of the Holy Spirit in the formation of the first Christian community, and how that community differed from its predecessor, the Jewish community. He stresses that people who were considered outcasts by Israel for various reasons were to be included in the new community. One of these groups, symbolized by the Eunuch, includes those who for sexual reasons were excluded from the Old Testament community whose basis was a procreative covenant. "A man whose testicles have been crushed or whose adult male member has been cut off must not be admitted to the assembly of Yahweh" (Deut: 23:2).


However, in Isaiah (56: 3-4), there is an explicit prophesy that, with the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the new covenant, the eunuch, who was formerly excluded from the community of God, will be given a special place in the Lord’s house and an immortal name.

No foreigner adhering to Yahweh should say," Yahweh will utterly exclude me from his people."
No eunuch should say, "Look, I am a dry tree."
For Yahweh says this: To the eunuchs who observe my Sabbaths, and choose to do my good pleasure and cling to my covenant, I shall give them in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters, I shall give then an everlasting name that will never be effaced……...These I shall lead to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all people. Lord Yahweh, who gathers the exiles of Israel declares: There are others I shall gather besides those already gathered.

This prophecy includes the homosexual because the term "eunuch" in the New Testament is used not only to mean those who have been physically castrated, but also in a symbolic sense, for all those who, for any reason, do not marry and bear children. For example, in Matthew 19:12, Jesus, discussing marriage and divorce, says to his disciples: "There are eunuchs born so from their mother’s womb; there are eunuchs made so by human agency, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."


The first category, that of eunuchs who have been so from birth is the closest description we have in the Bible of what we understand today as a person with a homosexual orientation. It should come as no surprise then that one of the first groups of outcasts of Israel which the Holy Spirit includes within the new covenant community is symbolized by the Ethiopian Eunuch, who is treasurer of the court of Queen Candice, the Queen of Ethiopia. The Eunuch, as was his practice, had made a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem and spent his time there in prayer to Yahweh. As he was riding home along the road to Jericho, he was reading Isaiah, who predicts that after the Messiah comes there will be a special place in the house of the Lord for eunuchs who in place of progeny will be given an immortal life in heaven.

He was now on his way home, and as he sat in his chariot he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join the chariot." When Philip ran up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How could I, unless I have someone to guide me?" So he urged Philip to get in and sit at his side, now the passage of Scripture that he was reading was this:
Like a lamb led to the slaughterhouse, like a sheep dumb in front of his shearers. He never opened his mouth. In his humiliation, fair judgment was denied him. Who will ever talk about his descendents, since his life on earth has been cut short?
The Eunuch addressed Philip and said, "Tell me, is the prophet referring to himself or someone else? Starting, therefore, with this text of Scripture, Philip proceeded to explain the good news of Jesus to him.
Further along the road, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "Look there is some water here; is there anything to prevent my being baptized?" He ordered the chariot to stop, then Philip and the Eunuch both went down into the water and he baptized him. But after they had come up out of the water again Philip was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the Eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts: 6: 29-39).

The Eunuch rides into history "full of joy". I like to think of this eunuch as one of the first baptized gay Christians. It is obvious that what we are dealing with here is not just the story of an individual. The symbolism of the passage is quite obvious. The Holy Spirit takes the initiative in leading the new Christian community to include among its members those who were excluded for sexual reasons from the Old Testament community. Now that the Messiah has come there no longer is a need for every member of that community to procreate in the hope of fathering the Messiah.


Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit eventually breaking down all the divisions that separate the human family one from another. Here the Holy Spirit prophetically takes the initiative to break down the division between straights and gays. We have the good fortune that we live in an age when that prophecy is being fulfilled by the gay liberation movement, which is a continuation of the initiative of the Holy Spirit. We can accept the Eunuch of the court of Queen Candice of Ethiopia as our first gay Christian brother in Christ and the apostle Philip as our special patron. And the judgment of the Spirit of God him/herself stands for all time. There is no reason why those who are sexually different cannot be received as fully qualified members into the Christian community.


We can conclude with certainty after recalling these four gay-positive episodes in the New Testament that homosexuality has not been condemned by the Church because Jesus condemned it, but because the Church inherited a condemnation of homosexuality from a secular worldview expressed in many, if not all, cultures, which did not understand homosexuality and feared that which was different. The same question is before us today that was before the apostles: Are we ready to go forward in faith, with the Spirit’s guidance overcoming the death-dealing attitude of the world which has exchanged ‘God’s truth for a lie and has worshiped and served the creature instead of the Creator?’ (Rom: 1:25) Will we let stand fear, hatred and ignorance of lesbian women and gay men who are our sisters and brothers in Christ? Will we deny them the place, which Jesus evidently found for them in his proclamation of the good news? Or will we as faith communities seek to overcome our fears and prejudices, so long influenced by those of this world, to embrace the all-inclusive faith and freedom of the Gospels, which reaches forward to embrace all people without exception.


 

The Masculine-Feminine Dialectic and Its Gay Synthesis


The crisis in the Roman Catholic Church and the Christian Church in general concerning sexual ethics, pedophilia and the role of authority, these and many other issues, are all surface manifestations of a deeper crisis the Church is undergoing. This deeper crisis has to do with the seismic shift going on in Western culture and in the world at large from the masculine to the feminine stage in the archetypal dialectic underlying our civilization. The Catholic Church with its all male celibate priesthood rapidly dying out, it’s insistence on hierarchical and authoritarian rule and denial of any democratic process or dialogue, its homophobia and suppression of woman, is the perfect example of the patriarchal society of old, a perfect manifestation of the now defunct exclusively masculine stage of the dialectic. With only dim awareness of this paradigm shift, the hierarchical Church is fighting tooth and nail to hold on to the old and prevent the coming of the new feminine phase of the dialectic.


My overview here of that dialectic owes a great debt to the book: The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View by Richard Tarnas. I found this book by Tarnas, who is a philosopher and intellectual historian, to be one of the most insightful books in the field. Tarnas deals with the interplay of philosophy, religion and culture in the evolutionary development of Western civilization over the past three thousand years. Tarnas’ insight is that this development has been an exclusive male phenomenon from start to finish.


The masculinity of the Western mind has been pervasive and fundamental in both men and women, affecting every aspect of Western thought, determining the most basic conception of the human being and the human role in the world. All the major languages within which the Western tradition has developed have tended to personify the human species with words that are msculine in gender. It was only within the last thirty years that our culture became consciously aware that the only words we have for all humankind were words that were masculine. In the past, the word "man" was felt to be uniquely capable of indicating a metaphorically singular and personal entity that is also intrinsically collective in character, a universal individual.


Within this cultural context, suppressing the feminine within them, men tended to feel superior to women. Most women, in turn, not being able to repress the feminine, internalized feelings of inferiority and inadequacy that they derived from the culture.


Tarnas makes the point that when gender-biased language is no longer the established norm, the entire cultural worldview will have moved into a new era. The old kind of sentences and phrases, the character of the human self-image, the place of humanity in the cosmos and its nature, the very nature of the human drama, all will have been radically transformed. As the language goes, so goes the worldview and vice versa.


An interesting example of this was the struggle between the American hierarch and the Vatican in recent years to introduce a gender free version of the liturgy. The American bishops through dialogue with Catholic women became very sensitive to the pain exclusive male terms in the liturgy caused women and came up with a gender-free translation of the texts of the liturgy. When they sent these texts to Rome, the feminaphobia of the Vatican led them to suspect a feminist undermining of faith in the male God and they refused to allow the American Bishops to use a gender free liturgy.


The Jungian Archetype


To understand the point that Tarnas is making, we must have some grasp of what is meant by Jung by archetypes. Jung understood archetypes as autonomous patterns of meaning that appear to structure and inhere in both psyche and matter on an unconscious level, thereby in effect dissolving the modern subject-object dichotomy. The relation of the human mind to the world is ultimately not dualistic but participatory. Those a priori unconscious forms that govern the development of the human psyche are in effect the same forms that guide and direct the evolution of the world. As the process of modern subjective philosophy cut the link between the human mind and objective structures of reality:

Jung, under the impact of far more powerful and extensive experience of the human psyche, both his own and others, pushed the Kantian and Freudian perspective all the way until he reached a kind of holy grail of the inner quest: the discovery of the universal archetypes in all their power and rich complexity as the fundamental determining structures of human experience.

The archetypally patterned collective unconscious was the primordial foundation of the psyche itself and at the same time the law of the development of the universe. It first is made visible in the dialectic of the birth process – moving from an initial state of undifferentiated unity to a problematic state of constriction, conflict and contradiction with an accompanying sense of separation, duality and alienation to an unexpected redemptive liberation that both overcomes and fulfills the intervening alienated state – restoring the initial unity but on a new level that preserves the achievements of the whole trajectory.


This archetypal dialectic is experienced simultaneously on an individual level and, often more powerfully, a collective level; so that the movement from primordial unity through alienation to liberating resolution is experienced in terms of the evolution of an entire culture or of humankind as a whole - the birth of Homo Sapiens out of nature, no less than the birth of the individual child from the mother. "Here personal and transpersonal were equally present, inextricably fused, so that ontogeny (the development of an individual organism) not only recapitulated phylogeny (the evolution of a whole kind or type of organism) but in some sense opened unto it."


The archetypal dialectic is experienced on several dimensions: physical, psychological, intellectual and spiritual:


In physical terms it is the dialectic between mother and child of the birth process described above.


In psychological terms, the experience is one of movement from an initial condition of undifferentiated pre-ego consciousness to a state of increasing individuation and separation between self and the world, increasing existential alienation, and finally an experience of ego-death followed by psychological rebirth; this is often completely associated with the biographical experience of moving from the womb of childhood through the labor of maturing as a series of separating and individuating and the contraction of aging to the encounter with death.


On the religious level, especially frequent was the Judeo-Christian symbolic movement from the primordial Garden through the Fall, the exile into separation from divinity, into the world of suffering and mortality, followed by the redemptive crucifixion and resurrection, bringing the reunion of the divine with the human.


Finally, on the philosophical level, the experience is comprehensible as a dialectical evolution from an archetypal structured primordial unity, through an emanation into matter with increasing complexity, multiplicity and individuation., through a state of absolute alienation, followed by a dramatic aufhebung, a synthesis and reunification with self-subsistent Being that both annihilates and fulfills the individual trajectory.


The Masculine and the Feminine


The evolution of the Western mind is marked at every step by a complex interplay of masculine and feminine. There was a significant partial reunion with the feminine corresponding to every great creative watershed of Western culture, for example, the great openness to the feminine in the personality of Jesus. Many of the great saints and founders of religious movements were extraordinarily open to the feminine.


A striking example is described in William Meissner’s book, Ignatius of Loyola: The Psychology of a Saint. Meissner identifies the transformation of Ignatius from a soldier and bon vivant to a mystic, a saint and the founder of a religious order with his experience of the feminine dimension of himself.

To a large extent, the feminine aspect of (Ignatius’) character played the dominant role in his mysticism, reflected in his yearning for love, his intense affectivity, his passivity and submissive yielding to the divine embrace, and the overwhelming experience of copious tears to the point of physical disability. I have suggested that at some level his spiritual absorption may have its psychic roots in the yearning of the abandoned child for its lost mother.

The Internal Masculine Dialectic


Tarnas notes, also, that there is an archetypal polarity within the masculine itself. On the one hand, the masculine principle (again in both men and women) involves what might be called the Promethean impulse: restless, heroic, rebellious and revolutionary, individualistic and innovative, eternally seeking freedom, autonomy, change and the new. On the other hand, there is the Saturnian impulse which is both complement and opposite to the Promethean impulse.: conservative, stabilizing, controlling, dominating, that which seeks to sustain order, contain and repress. This is the juridical-structural- hierarchical side of the masculine that has expressed itself in patriarchy.

The two sides of the masculine – Prometheus and Saturn, son and father – are implications of each other. Each requires, calls forth, and grows into its opposite. On a broad scale the dynamic tension between these two principles can be seen as constituting the dialectic that propels "history" (political, intellectual, spiritual). It is this dialectic that drives the internal drama through out The Passion of the Western Mind, the unceasing dynamic interplay between order and change, authority and rebellion, control and freedom, tradition and innovation, structure and revelation. I am suggesting, however, that this powerful dialectic ultimately propels and is propelled by – as it were, in the service of – yet another overarching dialectic involving the feminine or "life".

Why the Masculine Stage Had To Come First


This development of the masculine archetype with the repression of the feminine did not occur because women are less intelligent than men; nor is it due solely to social constrictions placed on women. The "man" of the Western intellectual tradition can be seen as a socially constructed "false universal", as some feminists claim, the use of which both reflected and helped shape a male-dominated society. With this understanding of male domination, some feminists have as their agenda to deconstruct this "socially constructed false male universal" and assert a socially constructed feminine "she" model in its place, replacing men with women, a father God with a Goddess, the male quest for autonomy and freedom with a feminine quest for symbiosis and merging into the feminine divine matrix.


Rather, we are dealing here with something much more profound and necessary than a mere substitution. It is my belief that we are dealing here with the anima/animus mundi, the Spirit of God, who is working out an evolutionary dialectic. Its past thesis was the development of the masculine archetype, which for mysterious reasons had to be accomplished first; its present and future antithesis will be the working out of a feminine archetype, which will not contradict or repress the masculine. But eventually result in the synthesis of an androgynous fulfillment of all humans, male and female.


I suspect that the historical priority given to the working out of the masculine archetype has something to do with the greater power and closeness to life and nature of the feminine. If the feminine archetype had been worked out first, the masculine development, which is much more fragile, could never have occurred or taken place only with extreme difficulty. Now we can no more simply return to the divine maternal matrix, than an adult can find fulfillment by returning to the mother’s womb.


The "man" of the Western tradition has been a questing hero, a Promethean biological and metaphysical rebel who has constantly sought freedom and progress for himself, and who has thus constantly striven to differentiate himself from and control the matrix out of which he has emerged. The Promethean hero has been present in both men and women. The evolution of the Western mind has been driven by a heroic impulse to forge an autonomous, conscious, rational self by separating it from the primordial unity with nature. The result of that process has been the transcendent self, the independent individual ego, and the self-determining human being in its existential uniqueness, separateness and freedom.


All my previous writings, especially the book Freedom Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians and Everybody Else, have been solidly within that evolutionary process of liberation. The final stage of the masculine liberation into Freedom, Glorious Freedom for both men and women has to do with spiritual liberation into an independent stance vis-à-vis the divine and a separation off from the collective identity with the institutional church.


Freedom of conscience expresses the direct, unmediated access of the Promethean individual to the divine in a free, direct and personal relationship of love. The gay liberation process of "coming out of the closet" is another Promethean journey into autonomy and authenticity. As Maurice Blondel said: "Our God dwells within us, and the only way to become one with that God is to become one with our authentic self!"


The balancing feminine moment has to do with building a loving spiritual community and achieving a deep passionate relationship of personal love with each other and with the divine, a relationship built not on any submersion of our ego and identity into any collective matrix, but built instead on a relationship and a community freely entered into by free, autonomous, independent and self-determining individuals.


The question must be asked: Why has the pervasive masculinity of the Western and spiritual tradition suddenly become so apparent to us over the past few years, while it remained invisible and unconscious to almost every previous generation? It is only through the feminist movement in the last thirty years that we have become conscious of how exclusively masculine, for example, our common prayers and liturgies were. Hegel once made the observation: "The owl of Minerva spreads her wings only at the falling of duck!" Every civilization is unconscious of itself until it reaches its death, and it is only in the dying stages that it becomes fully conscious of what it is all about. True wisdom can be achieved only at the end point. The three thousand year masculine tradition of Western civilization is reaching its apogee; it has been pressed to its utmost one-sided extreme in the consciousness of the late modern mind.


The crisis of modern humanity is an essentially masculine crisis. As we have seen, the evolution of the Western mind has been founded on the repression of the feminine, "on the repression of undifferentiated unitary consciousness, of the participation mystique with nature, a progressive denial of the anima mundi, of the soul of the world, of the community of being, of mystery and ambiguity, of imagination, emotion, instinct, body, nature and women.


Today men and women face the existential crisis of being solitary and mortal conscious egos thrown into an ultimately meaningless and unknowable universe, an environment that is increasingly artificial, mechanistic, fragmented, soulless, and self-destructive. The evolution of the masculine archetype has reached an impasse. If we continue on this one-sided dialectic, the human race faces the real possibility of self-destruction through nuclear warfare or widespread, environmental collapse. Humans are feeling progressively isolated, alienated from their communities, from nature, and from each other. Robert Bellah has explored this alienation in his book, Habits of the Heart. This separation from the feminine necessarily calls forth a longing for a reunion with that which has been lost. There is an enormous felt need to rediscover and honor the feminine in all its dimensions.


Tarnas believes that the resolution of this crisis is already occurring in the tremendous resurgence of the feminine archetype in our culture. He sees this phenomenon as visible in the rise of the feminine, the growing empowerment of women, and the widespread opening up to feminine values by both men and women. He sees further evidence of its emergence in the rapid burgeoning of women’s scholarship and gender-sensitive perspectives in virtually every intellectual discipline, especially in the fields of theology and spirituality. Most of the best theology being written today is coming from the hands of women, to name a few Carter Hayward, Elizabeth Johnson, Rosemary Reuther, etc. It is seen in an increasing sense of unity with the planet and all forms of nature on it, in the increasing awareness of the ecological and the growing reaction against political and corporate policies supporting the domination and exploitation of the environment, in the growing embrace of the human community and the collapse of long-standing political and ideological barriers separating the world’s people, in the deepening recognition of the value and necessity of partnership, pluralism, and the interplay of many perspectives.

The deepest passion of the Western Mind has been to reunite with the ground of its being. The driving impulse of the West’s consciousness has been its dialectical quest not only to realize itself, to forge its new autonomy, but also, to recover its connection with the whole; to come to terms with the great feminine principle in life, to differentiate itself from but then rediscover and reunite with the feminine, with the mystery of life, of nature, of soul. And that reunion can now occur on a new and profoundly different level from that of the primordial unconscious unity, for the long evolution of human consciousness has prepared it to be capable at last of embracing the ground and matrix of its own being, freely and consciously. The telos, the inner direction and goal, of the western mind has been to reconnect with the cosmic in a mature participation mystic, to surrender itself freely and consciously to the embrace of a larger union that preserves human autonomy while also transcending human alienation.

The Role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus


One interesting manifestation of the feminine archetype that Tarnas cites was the papal declaration in 1950 of the Assumptio Mariae, that the body and soul of Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been taken up into heaven at the moment of her death, an anticipation of the ultimate resurrection of all the faithful. The healthy role of Mary in Catholicism has always been to reveal the repressed feminine face of God, the dimension of mercy, love, compassion, tenderness and concern. This became very necessary when the patriarchal image of God the father was one that evoked fear, guilt, and shame, and when Church authority had subordinated compassion to the law. The image of Mary as revealing the maternal dimension of God was expressed beautifully in the popular prayer, the Memorare:

Remember o most gracious Virgin Mary
That never was it known
That anyone who fled to thy protection,
Implored thy help, or sought thy intercession
Was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence,
I fly unto thee, o Virgin of Virgins, my mother,
Before thee I come, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word incarnate
Despise not my petition,
But in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

The symbolism of the Assumption places male and female persons as equal in the domain of heaven.


The Breakdown of the Stereotype of Heterosexual Marriage


Many healthier women today, who are more in touch with both their masculine and feminine dimension, and see themselves as whole persons, are increasingly unwilling to play the role of being the mediators of feminine emotional and compassionate needs of men. They want a man who is a total human person in himself! They are demanding, and rightly so, that we men get deeply in touch with our own feminine dimension. Much of the more positive side of the men’s movement has been seeking to open the male psyche to the feminine values of emotion, intuition, and compassion. Many men, in turn, who are becoming in touch with both the masculine and feminine dimensions of themselves, are refusing to continue to play the role of being the mediators of the masculine needs of women for assertiveness and autonomy. It is this shift in consciousness that has caused the enormous amount of breakdown and divorce when heterosexuals try, with the Church’s encouragement, to follow the traditional patterns of male dominance and female submission --- and refuse to recognize the equality of the sexes. Both genders are being called on to develop the fullness of their own humanity, so that they can approach each other as complete, independent persons and not remain essentially dependent on the other gender for their completion.


The Dark Night of the World


What is evident about this dialectic is that at every stage and on every level – biological, psychological, and spiritual – the prior process must reach an impasse and undergo a profound and terrifying experience of death in order to achieve this reintegration of the repressed feminine. The masculine must undergo an ego death; the Western mind must open itself to a reality whose nature shatters its most essential beliefs about itself and the world. This dialectic advance cannot and will not happen without our cooperation out of our freedom. As Tarnas points out: "This is where the real act of heroism is going to be. What is called for is a courageous act of faith, of imagination, of trust in a larger and more complex reality and an act of unflinching self-discernment."

This is the great challenge of our time, the evolutionary imperative for the masculine to see through and overcome its hubris and one-sidedness, to own its own unconscious shadow, to choose to enter into a fundamental new relationship of mutuality with the feminine in all its forms. The feminine then becomes not that which must be controlled, denied and exploited, but, rather, fully acknowledged, respected and responded to for itself. It is recognized, not as the objective "other", but rather as source, goal, and immanent presence.

During this period in history, both men and women, especially those who are trying to live out the great Christian spiritual tradition, will experience impasse, personal and societal. What is going on escapes our comprehension and our control. This is an aspect of what Saint John of the Cross referred to as "the dark night of the soul", a failure to comprehend in a strong and frequent way that cries out for meaning. As Constance Fitzgerald points out in her essay, "Impasse and the Dark Night," our experience of God and our spirituality must emerge from our concrete, historical situation and must return to that situation to feed and enliven it. There is not only the dark night of the soul but the dark night of the world as well. "What if, by chance, our time in evolution is a dark night time – a time of crisis and transition that must be understood if it is to be part of learning a new vision and harmony for the human species and the planet?"

The psychologists and the theologians, the poets and the mystics, assure us that impasse can be the condition for human growth and transformation, if the experience of impasse is fully appropriated within one’s heart and flesh with consciousness and consent; if the limitations of one’s humanity and human condition are squarely faced and the sorrow of finitude allowed to invade the human spirit with real, existential powerlessness; if the ego does not demand understanding in the name of control and predictability, but is willing to admit the mystery of its own being, and surrender itself to this mystery; if the path into the unknown, into the uncontrolled and unpredictable margins of life, is freely taken when the path of deadly clarity fails.
 

This is Not the Apocalypse


Fundamentalist and other Christians, sensing that we are at the end of an era and that a radical change is taking place, are tempted to think that we have arrived at the age of the apocalypse and the Second Coming. Most apocalyptic writings are tinged with a pathological religious fear. They have more to do with the worship of Baal than the God revealed by Jesus. The truth the fundamentalists sense is the world, as they know and understand it, is coming to an end. I, too, believe that we have come to an end of an era, but this is not a time to run off to a mountain. It is a time to stay in the marketplace and reach out to your neighbor with compassion and genuine love. Then, if the Rapture comes, you will be ready for it. But chances are that human history in God’s providence has a long future still ahead.


Tarnas concludes his book with the statement that the restless inner development and incessantly innovative masculine ordering of reality characteristic of the Western mind has been gradually leading, in an immensely long dialectical movement, toward a reconciliation with the lost feminine unity, toward a profound and many-leveled marriage of the masculine and feminine, a triumphant and healing reunion. "Our time is struggling to bring forth something new in human history. We seem to be witnessing, suffering, the birth labor of a new reality, a new form of human existence, a "child" that would be the fruit of this great archetypal marriage, and that would bear within itself all its antecedents in a new form."

This stupendous Western project should be seen as a necessary and noble part of a great dialectic, and not simply rejected as an imperialistic-chauvinist plot. Not only has this tradition achieved that fundamental differentiation and autonomy of the human, which alone could allow the possibility of such a larger synthesis; it also painstakingly prepared the way for its own self-transcendence. Moreover, this tradition possesses resources, left behind and cut off by its own Promethean advance, that we have scarcely begun to integrate and that, paradoxically, only the opening to the feminine will enable us to integrate. Each perspective, masculine and feminine, is here both affirmed and transcended, recognized as part of a larger whole, for each polarity requires the other for its fulfillment. And their synthesis leads to something beyond itself; it brings an unexpected opening to a larger reality that cannot be grasped before it arrives, because this new reality is itself a creative act.

Judy Grahn, in her brilliant book, Blood, Bread, and Roses, holds a theory identical to that of Tarnas:

The male tradition has the "way" to sally forth in a straight line, and women (led to a great extent by feminists) have successfully followed men out of the strangling subjective matrix of the past. But men’s undeviating path has also led us away from the old truths and over a cliff, with out "the way back." It is the women’s tradition that holds the memory of the way back.
We need all the tools of humankind, arrow and loom, hierarchy and consensus, competition and cooperation, tenderness and ferocity, leisure and discipline. Men and women are not in deadly opposition. They are dancing the steps that give us human culture… I believe the emergence of the Gay community in the twentieth century also signal a crossing, especially with the connection of lesbians to female centrality and "flow".
 

The Lesbian and Homosexual Role in the Great Dialectic


Thirty-five years ago, in 1968, the gay Christian movement began as a visible, organized presence in the human community, with the creation of Metropolitan Community Church, followed two years later by Dignity for gay Catholics, and many other Christian gay groups. In his preface to the French translation of my book on gay spirituality, "Taking a Chance on God", Father Jacque Perroti, a leader in the gay Christian movement in France, speaks of this new era as a declic, a special moment in history, "a revelation of the slow emergence of a positive homosexual identity from the heart of the world. After so many ages of rejection, destruction and intimidation, a wind of freedom began to blow!" I am convinced that gay liberation is a central part of the great dialectic of human liberation that God is working out through Her/His Holy Spirit. I will deal here with the special role that lesbians and gays have to play in that dialectic. Scripture tells us, "Without a vision the people will perish!" Gay people have a special need for a vision of their role in bringing about the reign of God in history to sustain them in the difficult battles that lie ahead.


To my surprise, Tarnas makes no mention of the emergence some thirty-five years ago of a positive gay identity on all levels – social, political, cultural, and spiritual – all over the world. This emergence, I believe, has a teleological purpose in the development of the anima/animus mundi. This presence of a visible lesbian and gay community, for the first time in my knowledge in the past three thousand years, is an integral part of this dialectic and another aspect of the rediscovery of the feminine or, what I prefer to call the balancing of the masculine and feminine in a new synthesis in the human personality.


Clearly, the dominant dialectic of the masculine archetype, with its repression of the feminine, has also included the repression of the homosexual. G. Rattrey Taylor in his book, Sex in History, has pointed out that patriarchal culture combines a subordinationist view of women with a strong repression of homosexual practices; cultures based on a matriarchal principle, on the other hand, tend to combine an enhancement of the status of women with a relative tolerance of male homosexual practices.


The rise of the feminine dialectic in recent years gives us reason to hope that gays and lesbians will be fully accepted in the future human community. At the heart of all male homophobia is a feminaphobia and repression of the feminine. Gay men are seen as a threat to patriarchy because they frequently are in touch with and act in accord with the feminine dimension of themselves. So the evolution of the feminine archetype potentially brings with it gay male liberation. And if it is true, as feminists tell us, that lesbians are persecuted because they are women who refuse to play a subordinate role to men and not because they are lesbian, then they too will experience liberation with the rise of the feminine archetype.


However, even if it were possible to achieve, merely adopting the new feminine archetype and repressing the masculine, would not represent any improvement in the human condition. In such a world, gay men would continue to be oppressed, not because of their openness to the feminine, but because of their maleness, just as in this patriarchal culture lesbians are persecuted not primarily because of their lesbianism but because they are women. And there is the possibility that lesbians would continue to be oppressed because of their openness to the masculine.


A better alternative is the emergence of a visible group that can live out fully both its masculine and feminine dimensions without the need to repress either. We need a group that will model the ideal goal of humanities present evolution; people who can keep their masculine and feminine dimensions in good equilibrium and can bring forth a balanced synthesis of the two. This, I believe, is the providential role of the gay and lesbian political and spiritual groups that through divine providence have come into being over the past thirty-five years, and this is an important aspect of the masculine and feminine dialectic that Tarnas missed. Every dialectical movement toward a higher synthesis, if it is to succeed, must carry the seed of its resolution within itself.


We who are lesbian or gay must have a vision and be clear about what special gifts we bring to this moment in history. Feminists, who insist that lesbians should devote all their energy to women’s liberation and not to gay liberation, are shortsighted, because they fail to understand, or consciously reject, the concept of the dialectic. Instead of a "both/and" understanding of the relation of the masculine archetype to the feminine, they adopt an "either/or" understanding, substituting the development of the feminine archetype and the repression of the masculine.


For example, some feminist theologians believe that it is necessary to drop a belief in Christ and Christianity because Christ is biologically male. Christianity is seen as hopelessly wedded to patriarchy, male privilege, and the repression of the feminine. And of course, every troglodyte pronouncement of the Vatican against the feminist movement (for example, the ordination of women) seems to prove their point. Consequently, they advise lesbians to drop out of gay spiritual organizations such as Dignity, Integrity and MCC and devote themselves exclusively to the women’s liberation movement.

I am convinced that the institution of patriarchy has contaminated Jesus Christ’s message of equality and love, by male privilege, and by the repression of the feminine and homophobia. The time has come to cleanse ourselves and throw off these aberrations. Gay spiritual groups, I believe, are leading the way for the whole Church to bring about this transformation.

Clearly, after three thousand years of oppression, the feminist movement, still in its adolescence, must of necessity contain a rejection of the masculine archetype in order to purify and grasp the feminine in all its richness. We are at the moment when the feminine archetype’s antithetical moment in the dialectic is in ascendance. This is the time for the feminine to assert its equality and dignity, and to achieve its separation from and independence of the masculine.

However, I believe that within the gay community, both of us, gay men and lesbians together, have a role to play in human history, a role that could be seriously jeopardized, if we should begin to conform to an either/or understanding of masculine and feminine archetypes.

A few years ago, my friend and colleague, Mary Hunt, a lesbian theologian, speak about the traditional Christian belief in resurrection of the body and immortality. She agreed with Rosemary Ruether that in feminine consciousness there is no need for individual immortality. Women can be satisfied with the idea that at death they will become symbiotic with the great feminine matrix in the hope that, although their ego-identity is lost, new life will rise from that matrix.

I believe there is a partial truth in this position. Because of their physical participation of birth, many women stay closer to nature and seem more at ease with the natural process of birth, maturing, and death. If they have children, they can be more inclined to find their immortality in their offspring, rather than in their own achievements. Many of us who are male do have something to learn about accepting life’s processes with peace and equanimity from our sisters. But many of us, especially those without children or the possibility of children, are especially open to this message in scripture:

No eunuch should say, Look, I am a dried-up tree.
For Yahweh says this: "To the eunuchs who observe my Sabbaths
And choose to do my good pleasure and cling to my covenant,
I shall give them in my house and within my walls
A monument and a name better than sons and daughters;
I shall give them an everlasting name that will never be effaced."
(Isaiah 56:3-5)

I disagree with Mary Hunt’s belief that this masculine desire for personal immortality is pathological. On the contrary, I believe that men’s and women’s desire to escape the limits of death and aspire to personal immortality is healthy. This desire falls into the category that the philosopher, Maurice Blondel, explored of human needs that are necessary for human fulfillment and impossible by human means alone. Consequently, the desire for immortality opens us up to our need for the power and the grace of the divine.

Winning for us this divine gift of personal immortality was the Promethean task undertaken by Jesus. Perhaps this task does represent a desire present in a more pronounced way in the masculine archetype, and perhaps it can be opposed to the feminine archetypal drive to seek merger into the undifferentiated. This difference could be one reason why the masculine dialectic had to come first. We had to achieve the ultimate levels of freedom and autonomy of the masculine archetype in order to be able to relate to God, not through symbiosis in the divine matrix, but in a free relationship of love. In the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, "Must I again repeat the truth, of universal application, that, if it be properly ordered, union does not confound but differentiates."

The desire for personal immortality is certainly not exclusively confined to men. Every human being who has had the experience of deep personal love can find that desire in his or her own heart. Every love song ever written speaks about being "eternally" yours. Stoic philosophers urged their followers to never fall in love, because lovers always desire immortality for themselves and their lover and such a desire in irrational. We are all called into a personal relationship of love with the divine, and death cannot destroy that personal relationship. On the contrary, our individual personal identity will continue beyond death for all eternity. This triumph over death is a special gift from God, which lies totally beyond our human power. At the same time, this gift responds to a profoundly felt need in the human heart.

A Moment of Regression


Let me illustrate what the role of the gay community is in this dialectic with a recent instance of a momentary failure of this dialectic and a reversion to the exclusively masculine archetype. During the intense debate over lifting the ban on gays in the military in 1993, I was struck by the many similarities between this debate and the debate that went on in Germany in the late twenties concerning the sodomy laws. As I described in my book, The Church and the Homosexual, Hitler’s Nazi party was well aware of the association between non-violence and male homosexuality. In the late 1920s, there was a strong gay rights movement in Germany. The movement succeeded in 1928 in persuading the German government to send a letter to all Germany’s political parties asking for their position on the reform of paragraph 175 of the German criminal code, a sodomy statue. The Nazi reply was as follows:

Munich, 14 May, 1928
Community before Individual
It is not necessary that you and I live, but it is necessary that the German people live. And they can only live if they can fight, for life means fighting, and they can only fight if they maintain their masculinity. They can only maintain their masculinity if they exercise discipline, especially in matters of love….Anyone who even thinks of homosexual love is our enemy. We reject anything that emasculates our people and makes them a plaything of our enemies, for we know that life is a fight, and it is madness to think that men will embrace fraternally. Natural history teaches us the opposite. Might makes right. And the stronger will always win over the weak. Let us see that we once again become the stronger

The Nazi party’s reply began with an either/or proposition, either the individual or the collective. Their fascist choice of the collective over the individual, surprisingly enough, represents a rejection of the Promethean male archetype in favor of the feminine. The political philosophy that lay behind that judgment was a despair of building a democratic community based on the loving commitment of individual citizens. Again we are dealing here with a half-truth: the individual’s rights must always be in balance in relation to the common good. As one wit put it: "The rights of my fist end at the tip of your nose!"


What the Nazi party wanted to gain was a total collapse of all individual rights into the collective need of the people, as they interpreted that need. The essential Christian message concerning the value of the individual is that each one of us has a unique, unmediated relation to the divine: "In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me!" (Matt: 5:45) Every one of us, then, has a value that is greater than that of the species or "the people". "It is better," the Sanhedrin judged, "for one man to die for the people." (John: 18:14). There is a deep lesson here, that we can never legitimately subordinate the intrinsic value of the individual to the collective.


While listening to the debate over gays in the military, I heard over and over again the same message coming from the military as sent by the Nazis. The super macho aggressive male self has to be maintained for the sake of the state. In fact, the Nazi debate was more honest; the issue was not sexual; the issue was love. A deep human love between members of the same sex, this was the Nazi’s enemy. "It is madness to think that men will ever embrace fraternally."


In 1936, Heinrich Himmler issued a decree which said: "Just as we today have gone back to the ancient German view in the question of marriages mixing different races, so too in our judgment of homosexuality – a symptom of degeneracy that could destroy our race – we must return to the guiding Nordic principle, extermination of degenerates." Orders were given that all homosexuals had to wear pink triangles in public. In 1937, the SS newspaper Das Swartze Korps estimated that there were two million homosexuals in Germany and called for their extermination. Himmler gave orders that all known homosexuals were to be sent to level three concentration camps – that is, death camps. As far as we know some two hundred thousand gays were worked to death in these camps.


The fight over the armed forces policies has deep political and social manifestations. I do not want to feed gay paranoia by making us feel that we are vulnerable today as we were at the time of the Nazis in 1928. The feminist liberation movement has begun the process of the dialectic, and gays are in a new, much more advanced place now. In fact, our enemies are much more frightened than we and have gathered all their forces to try to deny the right of marriage to gay people. The enormous anti-gay campaign going on today, fomented by the religious right with the full cooperation of the Vatican, is clear evidence that they are fearful that they are losing the battle. And with good reason; a whole world is disappearing and it necessarily has to disappear. We must be ready, however, for another moment of backlash. We must have a vision of where our movement of gay liberation is going and of what we can do both for ourselves and the rest of humanity, our brothers and sisters, for we are involved in a process of liberating all human beings to the fullness of life. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who is fundamentally at work in gay liberation and in the development of our gay spirituality, which is based first of all on equal love, the love of equals for each other, so that brothers can embrace fraternally and sisters embrace in a sisterly way.


The Special Gifts that Gays Bring to the Dialectic


What are these special gifts, then, that the lesbian and gay spiritual community will bring to the evolutionary process, the great dialectic between the masculine and the feminine? Tarnas makes a very strong point that the process, if it is to succeed, must retain all the gains of the past three thousand years of the development of the masculine thesis, especially the free and autonomous individual self.


In his book, The Archetype and the Collective Unconscious, Jung discusses some positive aspects of male homosexuality that he had become aware of in the course of his clinical work: "This (homosexuality) gives them a great capacity for friendship, which often creates ties of astonishing tenderness between men, and may even rescue friendship between the sexes from its present limbo of the impossible." Our first task, then, is to witness to deep bonds of love that exist between gay men and lesbians and to develop deep bonds of loving friendship between gay men and their lesbian sisters. We must model a kind of love based on equality and respect for each other as equal subjects and no longer based on domination and submission.


Since I do not speak from within a lesbian perspective, I must leave the corresponding observation to my lesbian sister, Mary Hunt. In her book, Fierce Tenderness, she makes the point that women, once they overcome any feelings of inferiority or inadequacy as women, can make an extraordinary contribution toward building human communities based on ties of friendship rooted in equality. Just imagine the strength with which new communities built on such bonds of friendship and equality would have to remedy so many of the desperate problems we face today. Problems spawned by poverty, unemployment, racism, alcohol and drug abuse, depression, the break up of families and crime would not go untended in such communities.


As I reported in The Church and the Homosexual, Pierre-Claude Nappey many years ago posed what I believe is the essential question for understanding homosexuality. The fruitful question is not from whence homosexuals come, but where are they going – or, better, for what purpose do they exist? "The question is not is homosexuality excusable owing to the particular circumstances of the individual concerned, but whether it is an integral part of the much vaster behavior pattern of the collectivity and whether it contributes in some way to its proper functioning."


The particular importance of that question lies in the fact that human sexual activity participates in the radical freedom of the person. Whatever participates in human freedom can only be understood adequately in terms of a teleological goal or purpose, a movement toward some ideal goal. Consequently, it is only by posing the question why, for what purpose, that we can hope to arrive at an adequate understanding of the human phenomenon of gay and lesbian orientation. For only by finding the answer to the teleological question can we detect in what sense homosexuality can be part of the great dialectic between the masculine and the feminine archetypes being worked out in history under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As Nappey observed: "Homosexuality must be seen…. as corresponding to a definite finality. My own feeling is that not only is it possible for homosexuality to be of equal value with heterosexuality in individual cases, but that it has over-all significance and a special role to play in the general economy of human relations, a role that is probably irreplaceable."


I believe that no more urgent task faces gay liberationists than determining that finality. For on its discovery depends both the ability of homosexuals and lesbians to fully accept themselves with true self-love and understanding and the ability of heterosexual society to accept a homosexual minority, not just as objects of pity and tolerance at best, but as their equals, capable of collaborating in the mutual task of building a more humane society.


What, then, is the collective role of the homosexual minority in human society? And under what circumstances can that potential contribution become a reality? We have a clue to that role if we consider the frequently dehumanizing and depersonalizing role that prevailing gender-identity images play in our culture. We can summarize the objectionable stereotypes as follows: Men in our culture are supposed to be strong, tough, assertive, objective, courageous, logical, constructive, independent, unsentimental, unemotional, aggressive, competitive, diligent, disciplined, levelheaded, controlled, practical, promiscuous, and persuasive. Women, in turn, are expected to be weak, passive, irrational, emotional, empty-headed, unassertive, subjective, illogical, dependent, fitful, devoted, self-effacing, impractical, artistic and receptive. Commenting on these stereotypes Dr. Elinor Yaknes observes that gender-identity is "the result of programming. Aside from the different physiology and anatomy…. I cannot think of any property that is uniquely the property of either sex."


If we assume that these heterosexual gender identity images constitute the total mature content of the human personality, serious consequences follow. They result in a tendency to see the human individual, whether male or female as essentially partial and incomplete. No human person is seen as complete in him- or her-self, but as essentially dependent on the opposite sex for her or his completion. The insights that have come from the women’s liberation movement have made us aware of the depersonalized and unequal status of women in our culture. And since heterosexual men receive their identity usually from their relationship with women, they in turn also suffer a depersonalized and partialized self-image.


One of the consequences of identifying with the heterosexual identity images proffered by our culture is that the only type of relationship that remains possible is a type of master-slave relationship, wherein the male seeks to dominate the female and the female seeks to be dominated. This kind of relationship leads to enormous amounts of repressed anger. And since anger is the primary anti-aphrodisiac, most heterosexual marriages in American culture cease being sexually fulfilling after a short period.


It is precisely this understanding of direct personal relationships based on inequality of the sexes that led the young Hegel to despair of solving the problem of human unity on the personal level of interpersonal love. He was led to seek the political solution for true community in the unifying collective concept of "citizen". He felt that it was only by taking your identity from the state and identifying with the depersonalized concept of citizen that humans feel equal to each other. This formed the basis of the Nazi idea of subordinating the individual to the state. Marx for similar reasons turned to class identity, "Member of the Proletariat" to escape the same dilemma.


Richard Mohr in his book, Gay Ideas, suggests, "Male homoerotic relations, if institutionalized in social ritual, provide the most distinctive symbol for democratic values. Democracy, Mohr argues, will be grounded only when male homosexuality is not just tolerated, as something begrudgingly given rights, and not just accepted, as something viewed as an indifferently different life-style, and not just prized, as one admirable thing among many. Democracy will be firmly grounded only when male homosexuality is seen and treated in social ritual as a fundamental social model. Here again we are dealing with a fundamental contribution of homosexuals to the political future of humanity.


Same sex Marriage


As I write these pages, the media are celebrating or decrying the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that gay couples have the right to marry. Once again we must ask why gay marriage, which was unthinkable just a few years ago, should suddenly be at the center of media attention. Once again, I believe that this is providential. Gays have an important gift to make to the human community in modeling out a new and different style of interpersonal relations based on equality and there is a desperate need for this understanding of marriage on the part of all - gay and straight alike.


On the theological level, true Christian love, even married love, can exist only between persons who see themselves as somehow total and equal to each other. Christian love must be love out of fullness and not out of need. It is not only the complementariness of the other sex that attracts but also the fact that, while I sense the complementarity, I can at the same time sense that here is a being who is whole and entire in himself (or herself) and…worthy of standing beside me and entering my life as an equal. The gender stereotypes mentioned above negate any possibility of such a personal relationship for any heterosexual who take them seriously.


John Boswell, a church historian, in his book, Same Sex Marriages, discovered that the Church did not celebrate marriage as a sacrament until 1215. Until then the Church viewed marriage as a civil contract. One bought a wife and the wife was the buyer’s property. There cannot be a sacrament unless a relation of love is involved. It was not until the twelve hundreds and the Romantic Movement that marriage began to be seen as based on a love relation.


However, gay union rituals were universally found in Church documents as early as the fourth century. Boswell argues that these rituals were true marriage ceremonies. Such ritual celebrations of marriage were possible because gay couples saw each other as equal and based their relation on interpersonal love. In other words, nine centuries before heterosexual marriages were declared a sacrament, the church liturgically celebrated same-sex covenants.


Usually in these rituals, the story of the two gay martyrs, Bacchus and Serge, was told. These two men were third century gay lovers and soldiers in the Emperor’s guard. They converted to Christianity. The Emperor ordered them to offer him worship as a god, but they refused saying that they had no God but Jesus. The Emperor, in order to disgrace them, stripped them of their military garb, dressed them as women and marched them through the streets of Rome. They were delighted and sang love songs to each other. The Emperor then ordered them to be imprisoned and had Bacchus tortured to death in front of his lover Serge. Serge was told that he would go to the same death, if he did not repent and offer worship to the Emperor. That night in his cell he began to waver, but Bacchus in glory appeared to him in a dream and told him: "Do not hesitate to go to your death, and I will be your reward in heaven!" In other words, not only did the early Christian Church see same-sex love as holy and worthy of sacramental celebration, they also saw that love as a love that would continue on for all eternity in heaven.


Priest-psychologist Eugene Kennedy points to the same creative role of the homosexual in relation to the heterosexual community. He writes of the beneficial consequences of a greater acceptance of homosexuality in society, so that the process leading to our gender identity and sexual orientation will be based less in fear of nonconformity and more in a challenge to be true to the authentic self.

When humans can face with less fear the complex of feelings and impulses that are part of each person’s sexuality, they will be able to accept and integrate their experience into a less prejudiced and more creative self-identity. That is to say, when persons can be more friendly toward what really goes on inside them, they will feel less pressure to deny or distort their experience of themselves; the achievement of their masculine or feminine identity will be less the acceptance of a rigidly imposed social stereotype and more the attainment of a multi-dimensional truth about themselves. Greater openness to self can only increase our chance of more successful gender identity.

Traditionally, the married relationship between males and females found its support and stability in social roles, custom, and laws, which made relatively secondary the type of direct personal relationships between the parties involved. But all these social supports are rapidly fading away. Clearly, genuine personal love between husband and wife as equals will be necessary to sustain the heterosexual family.


If the homosexual community were allowed to play its role with full acceptance, homosexuals would cease to play their past negative role of undermining marriage relationships into which they have been forced by their desire to escape detection. Nearly half of all divorces approved by Church courts are based in the homosexuality of one or the other partner. Instead, they could be a help in leading society to a new and better understanding of interpersonal love between equals – rather than the role playing of tradition – as the foundation for the marriage relationship.


Over a hundred years ago in a particularly prophetic passage, poet/mystic Ranier Maria Rilke had this to say about the changing role of women:

We are only just now beginning to look upon the relationship of an individual person to a second individual objectively and without prejudice, and our attempts to live such associations have no model before them…. The girl and the woman, in their new, their own unfolding, will but in passing be imitators of masculine ways, good and bad, and repeaters of masculine professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions it will become apparent that women were only going through the confusion and the vicissitudes of these disguises in order to cleanse their own characteristic nature of the distorting influence of the other sex….The humanity of women, born in full time in suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she will have stripped off the conventions of mere femininity in the mutation of her outward status….Some day there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify an opposite to the masculine, but something in itself, something that makes one think, not of any complement or limit, but only of life and existence: the feminine human being. This advance will change the love experience, which is now full of error, will alter it from the ground up, reshape it into a relation that is meant to be of one human being to another, no longer of man to women. And this more human love (that will fulfill itself, infinitely considerate and gentle, and kind, and clear in binding and releasing) will resemble that for which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect, border and salute each other.

The Special Gift of Creators of the Beautiful


The second attribute that Jung assigns to gay men is an aesthetic sensitivity to beauty. "He (the homosexual) may have good taste and an aesthetic sense which are fostered by the presence of a feminine streak." One of the greatest revelations that God is making of herself to the world is through beauty. In the words of Augustine: "Late have I loved you, O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new. Late have I loved you!" I particularly like this name, "Beauty", for God because it is genderless. Gay people are indeed extraordinarily open to beauty. There is no doubt that homosexual men are often freer to develop aesthetic values than heterosexual men. These men, living out the heterosexual stereotype cannot be open to beauty and are fearful and ashamed if they show any sensitive response to beauty. Yet one of the most powerful revelations that God makes of herself is through beauty.


Gay men, then, have important roles to play in guiding humanity to a deeper appreciation of aesthetic values. (This is the theme of the television program Queer Eyes for the Straight Guy.) There is an extraordinary amount of glory given to God by the creation of beauty that comes from the gay community. One of the great tragedies of the AIDS epidemic is that so many of our talented gay brothers have been dying before they completed their life’s work.


The Gift of Compassionate Service


The third attribute that Jung assigns to gay men is: "He may be supremely gifted as a teacher because of his almost feminine insight and tact!’ The attraction of many if not most gay men to service roles, where they have been particularly successful, has gone relatively unnoticed by our culture, since in the past men in these roles were obliged to remain hidden in the closet. The gift of compassion is one of the gifts gay men receive almost simultaneously with their gayness. This is a gift that gay men should be especially grateful for. Everywhere I go, if I find a tactful, insightful, sensitive man engaged in compassionate human service, working as teacher, as minister, with the sick, the retarded, the blind, the disabled or children, more often than not, he is gay.


Preservers of Tradition


Another positive effect that homosexuality can have on men, according to Jung, is their "feeling for history" and their relative tendency "to be conservative in the best sense and cherish the values of the past." Since the majority of traditional values have their basis in the heterosexual family structure, Jung’s observation seems rather paradoxical. In fact, to the radical right the homosexual appears as a threat to the family structure and, as a consequence, a threat to all those values traditionally associated with it.. However, most of those traditional values represent customs, mores, and taboos imposed from without to which the majority gives uncritical conformity. Forced by their sexual orientation to live for the most part outside those structures, self-accepting gay people are thrown back on themselves and their own experience in order to reestablish those values which merit their acceptance. Almost in direct proportion as they are cut off from traditional patterns, they must seek out and recreate the real values which these patterns were meant to convey and must preserve them by their personal commitment.


The Gift of Spiritual Leadership


Jung’s final, surprising observation concerning the positive aspects of homosexuality has to do with the religious and spiritual development of humanity. "He (the gay person) is endowed with a wealth of religious feelings which help him bring the "ecclesia spiritualis" into reality, and a spiritual receptivity which makes him responsive to revelation." If we take this observation of Jung seriously then there is no serious question about the worthiness of gay men to be ordained ministers.


The spiritual process gay men go through of accepting their exile status in this world and giving up the myth that we can find our ultimate meaning exclusively in this world can result in great spiritual freedom. This freedom can help gay men to live fearlessly and authentically in this world. By deepening their spiritual life, they can turn what many see as the curse of gayness or the curse of being a social outcast into spiritual gold.


Matthew Kelty, a Trappist monk and spiritual advisor to Thomas Merton, speaks of this aspect of gayness in his book, Flute Song Solo: Reflections of a Trappist Hermit:

Sometimes I wish I were more like others. I am aware of a difference; some insight into things; some capacity for the poetic and the spiritual, which, if not exceptional – and it is not – is still strong enough to set me off from others. Nor do I hesitate to say that this has some relationship with homosexuality. For though I have never practiced it, I am aware of an orientation that is as much in that direction as the other; further, that given the knowledge, the opportunity, the circumstances, I could easily as not, have gone in that direction. But people of my kind are often so placed, the reason, as I have worked it out, that they are more closely related to the "anima" than is usual…. What such people yearn for is solace in their solitude and an understanding of their fate, their destiny…. The man with a strong anima will always experience some inadequacy until he comes to turn with his inner spirit and establishes communion, no small achievement. Until then he cannot act truly as a complete person, since he is not one. He will then be unable to relate in depth to others. The unhappy experience of many is that they are unable to relate to others, not aware that their problem is a lack of communication with themselves. The blind comfort the blind, but they cannot open each other’s eyes…. Perhaps a healthy culture would enable them so gifted by God or nature (i.e. homosexuals) to realize their call and respond to it in a fruitful way.

What then must gay people do to transform their curse into a blessing? If we find time each day to spend in God’s presence in prayer, we will develop a living affectionate, personal relationship with God. We will then be able to recognize all the broken events in our lives – the losses, the pain and the grief - as connected and given meaning by the great events of God’s redemptive work in Jesus. If we pray daily then God will give us the grace to be fully prepared for death. But if we enter freely into the presence of God every day, how easy it should be, for those of us who have already mourned and let go of the myth of finding our meaning by belonging to this world, to enter once and for all into the presence of divine love at the moment of death. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, Come!


Conclusion


The Holy Spirit is working deeply in the history of the world to bring about the reign of God. This reign includes the establishment of justice and peace in history itself, in this world. To participate in this dialectical process, we are at a critical moment when both men and women must incorporate and open themselves up to the feminine archetype in a very real synthesis with the positive accomplishments reaped from the three thousand year history of the development of the masculine archetype.


In his letters, Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit working in the world to help us overcome all divisions that separate us from each other, and, therefore, cut us off from the fullness of ourselves (Gal: 3:28). The only way I can become fully one with myself is to be one with all humanity without exception, no racial exceptions, no gender exceptions, no exception because of sexual orientation. Don’t forget that Jesus’ name for himself was "son of man" or, as we would say today, "son of humanity"


Paul names three great divisions that remain to be overcome through the reconciling work of the Holy Spirit. The first is the overcoming of the master/slave division, including the overcoming of slavery of all kinds, the fullness of political freedom for all humans. This task is still going on.


The second division Paul mentions is the division between Jew and Greek; by that he symbolizes all divisions based on race, nationality, ethnicity, and religion. The Holy Spirit will work in the world to undo all these divisions so that we will all understand each other as brothers and sisters of every human being that exists and not feel any separation because of racial, religious, or ethnic difference.


The final division that must be overcome is the difference between male and female. We must become equals and become one with our brothers and sisters outside ourselves. And in so doing, we can become one with the feminine and the masculine in ourselves.


Overcoming those divisions is a very slow historical process that has been going on over centuries. But today, I believe, the gay liberation movement has emerged out of the heart of the world to play a decisive role in overcoming this final division. Again, let us remember that Scripture says that the stone that was rejected will become the corner stone. Gay spiritual communities are being called by God to play that "cornerstone" role. The only way, however, that we can play that role is to overcome our fears and have the courage to come out of the closet. Gays must model in a very public way their ability to balance the masculine and feminine dimension within themselves, their ability to put together genuine human love for each other with a deep spiritual life, and their deep awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life. They must become, therefore, "candles on the hilltop" for everyone to see.


This cornerstone role is a real challenge. But you can be certain that, if you are lesbian or gay, the Holy Spirit is calling you to take some steps in that direction, to be more open about your gayness, and to be more open about the depths of your spiritual life. We must seek God’s help because a cornerstone, after all, is a small but essential part of a building, the entirety of which is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit waits on our freedom to invite her in to make use of our gifts and talents in bringing about the reign of God, a reign of justice and peace, a reign where God’s glory is achieved through the fullness of life that all humans share, gay and straight alike. "The glory of God are humans fully alive."

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