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Sexuality and Christian belief (Was: Homosexuality and the Bible)

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Douthat's analysis is balanced and judicious.

 

The one point I question is his perception of continuity between the reporter's question about Msgr. Ricca and the comments in question, since Pope Francis differentiates the two: "But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing.  That is the first question.  Then you spoke of the gay lobby…" His comments about homosexuality are in relation to the question of a "gay lobby" in the Vatican, not Msgr. Ricca or homosexuality and the priesthood generally.

 

Here's another good piece by Vaticanista John Thavis:

 

 

Amid the media attention that inevitably followed, it’s important to note that although the pope was responding to a question about an alleged “gay lobby” in the Vatican, his comment was not specifically about gay priests.

Some media have portrayed the pope as saying he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation, which would seem to call into question the Vatican’s 2005 document that ruled out ordination for men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” Based on the pope’s actual words, I think that’s a stretch.

In fact, what the pope said – as he himself pointed out – is essentially affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that gay men and women “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

What the pope didn't discuss with journalists was the catechism’s line that the homosexual inclination is itself “disordered.” That was the basis for the Vatican’s ban on gay priests. Francis didn’t disown that particular teaching, he just didn't mention it.

It’s an important shift in emphasis. And Pope Francis is clearly trying to reach out to those who have been alienated by the church’s statements about homosexuality in recent years.

 

As a non-Catholic, I take a less cynical approach to the buzz. Seems to me like a very hopeful, positive development for gay priests (and there are many) and for homosexual Christians, of all denominational stripes.  

On the flipside, it's hard not to smell conservative's fear when bloggers like Akin have to immediately issue a 1,500-word, multi-point clarification on what the Pope *really* meant in his off-the-cuff remark to reporters.

 

Nah. Jimmy's post was not occasioned by the pope's comments in themselves, but by the overheated media reportage — obvious fodder for an apologetical response from a professional apologist.

 

The bottom line is Jimmy wrote the post because the topic is hot and he knew it would be widely read, not because he (or anyone else) was "afraid."

 

(That's not to say some conservatives aren't afraid. I'm aware of at least one person who is. But Jimmy wasn't writing especially for that person, or people like that.)

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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John Thavis wrote:

: What the pope didn't discuss with journalists was the catechism’s line that the homosexual inclination is itself “disordered.” That was the basis for the Vatican’s ban on gay priests.

Well, maybe. But the quote from Benedict XVI that Douthat quotes tells a slightly different story:

Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation. Otherwise, celibacy itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation. It would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of pretext for bringing people into the priesthood who don’t want to get married anyway …

This argument wouldn't work for Orthodox -- or, indeed, Eastern Rite Catholics -- who don't require celibacy of their priests in the first place.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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: What the pope didn't discuss with journalists was the catechism’s line that the homosexual inclination is itself “disordered.” That was the basis for the Vatican’s ban on gay priests.

Well, maybe. But the quote from Benedict XVI that Douthat quotes tells a slightly different story:

 

I don't know that it's different at all, just more precise. The disordered character of the homosexual inclination is certainly the basis for Benedict's stance. But it is true that he opposes it particularly to the celibate discipline of the Western Church, not the priesthood per se.

 

Meanwhile, via Eye of the Tiber ("Breaking Catholic News So You Don't Have To"):

 

Pope Francis Declares Homosexuality Obligatory For All Catholics, New York Times Reports

 

New York, NY––During an interview given while walking from his airplane arriving from Brazil to the 1983 Ford Escort awaiting to take him to the Vatican, His Holiness Pope Francis declared the new ex-cathedra Catholic dogma that all members of the Catholic Church must become homosexual, the New York Times reported. This declaration is said by the New York Times to have sent shock waves through the Catholic world, and delighted the enormously powerful “Gay Lobby,” said by the Times to control the interior workings of the Holy See. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge, and would it not be judgmental for me to not require all Catholics to walk in his footsteps?” the Holy Father reportedly told the New York Times. This comes in stark contrast to the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who, according to the New York Times, said that “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, it is the duty of every Catholic to judge him.”

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Twitter showdown between Rachel Held Evans and James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College over the Chimes piece discussing LGBT students at Calvin. 


"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Yikes!  Who put the bee in James K.A. Smith's bonnet?  It's so great that Calvin is doing this.

Right? I don't know much about the guy, but he comes off like a surly old man.


"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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There's a lot more to their exchange than the Storify link. Here and here, and here, for starters.

 

And there's even more context if you wade through Jamie and Rachel's back-and-forth. While I like both of them, for different reasons, I do understand where he's coming from. My alma mater/employer's student newspaper ran a series of articles on sexuality a few weeks ago which—in my opinion—were pretty mature and thoughtful. A local "underground" newspaper ran a pretty negative feature on them based solely on assumptions about Christians and sexuality. As someone on part of an institutional culture, it was insanely frustrating to read the response from the outside (and all of the ensuing internet comments from Joe Public) that didn't get what was happening, even if the underground paper "had the student's back."

 

Still, the maxim about "arguing on the Internet means you've already lost" applies here.

Edited by Jason Panella

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I hear you, Jason. I guess Smith thought she was meddling in Calvin affairs-- and maybe she was to a degree. But I think it's important to note that Rachel (the "outsider") began her tweets with praise to Calvin for the article and only later told the editor in chief she had "his back" (the phrase that seemed to spark the volatile exchange and implied the possibility of some sort of administrative backlash against him.) Apparently, Rachel is going to speaking at Calvin in a few weeks, so she's clearly not antagonistic to the school. Looking at some of the tweets from students, it appears a lot of people "have his (Struyk's) back" too. 

 

I'm not sure where Calvin admins officially stand on all this, but I think Smith reacted poorly. Not just with Rachel, but with others too. The one legitimate, pointed question posed to him remains unanswered which was "What does supporting LGBT students mean to you?" The phrase is tossed around casually these days, but what exactly does that mean? 

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I hear you, Jason. I guess Smith thought she was meddling in Calvin affairs-- and maybe she was to a degree. But I think it's important to note that Rachel (the "outsider") began her tweets with praise to Calvin for the article and only later told the editor in chief she had "his back" (the phrase that seemed to spark the volatile exchange and implied the possibility of some sort of administrative backlash against him.) Apparently, Rachel is going to speaking at Calvin in a few weeks, so she's clearly not antagonistic to the school. Looking at some of the tweets from students, it appears a lot of people "have his (Struyk's) back" too. 

 

From what Smith has tweeted (and from what the original article implied), the paper had the administration's blessing. So the assumption that the man was going to smack around those in question was, well, an assumption. And yeah, I cringed at some of Jamie's responses (or lack of). But at least I understand why he's responding the way he is.

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Twitter showdown between Rachel Held Evans and James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College over the Chimes piece discussing LGBT students at Calvin.

There's a lot more to their exchange than the Storify link. Here and here, and here, for starters.

Calling it an "exchange" is an exaggeration. The whole thing is contentless. Smith seems unjustified to me, but do I really know the context? No. It appears as if he overreacted to Evans and then others overreacted to his overreaction. But he didn't explain himself and those criticizing him didn't explain themselves ... because they are using Twitter.

I can see how you put this here because of the subject it occurred around. But after the "exchange" has now happened, no actual thinking about the subject appears to have happened. It would almost go better here.

 

Still, the maxim about "arguing on the Internet means you've already lost" applies here.

... a maxim that applies always whenever exemplified on Twitter.

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Twitter showdown between Rachel Held Evans and James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College over the Chimes piece discussing LGBT students at Calvin.

There's a lot more to their exchange than the Storify link. Here and here, and here, for starters.

Calling it an "exchange" is an exaggeration. The whole thing is contentless. Smith seems unjustified to me, but do I really know the context? No. It appears as if he overreacted to Evans and then others overreacted to his overreaction. But he didn't explain himself and those criticizing him didn't explain themselves ... because they are using Twitter.

I can see how you put this here because of the subject it occurred around. But after the "exchange" has now happened, no actual thinking about the subject appears to have happened. It would almost go better here.

 

I think Twitter is like having a quickie. Abbreviated exchanges can still be valuable, and even necessary sometimes, no?   

It seems that while Evans and Smith have dropped the "discussion", others have picked it up and the topic does seem to be gaining considerable traction among Calvin students-- so despite the severe limitations of Twitter communication, not such a bad thing. I'll never understand why a college professor would have a Twitter account, let alone drop snarky remarks about visiting speakers, etc 


"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Just to add to the chorus here, I'm kind of surprised by Smith's digs at Evans, some of which he's made well before this. It's a bit weird to see someone who is a professional philosopher engaging with a pop writer/blogger in this way -- but it also gets at the whole question of what an Evangelical public intellectual is, which I've been trying to figure out for a while. There seem to be a lot of different iterations.

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Conor Friedersdorf--who has been very generous with both sides of the same-sex marriage debate (and remains so in this article) makes an argument that I've been making in private for yearsGay Marriage Is the Best Traditionalists Could've Hoped For:

 

What I question is another aspect of traditionalist pessimism on this issue. In 1993, The Nation published an article claiming that gay people were being forced "to invent a complete cosmology" in the course of their struggle for equal rights, and that in doing so, "it’s just possible that a small and despised sexual minority will change America forever" by transforming sexual identity for everyone. Twenty years later, Rod Dreher agreed. "Same-sex marriage strikes the decisive blow against the old order," he wrote. "The Nation’s triumphalist rhetoric from two decades ago is not overripe; the radicals appreciated what was at stake far better than did many—especially bourgeois apologists for same-sex marriage as a conservative phenomenon. Gay marriage will indeed change America forever, in ways that are only now becoming visible. For better or for worse, it will make ours a far less Christian culture. It already is doing exactly that.​"
 
I disagree. I think that "the radicals" lost.
 
[snip]
 
That story is more plausible to me than the one where traditional marriage survived–despite centuries of changes driven by the Enlightenment–until gays came along and struck the decisive blow against the old order by successfully joining it. If traditionalists stay focused on denying civil marriage to gays, they'll waste their time on a battle they can't win. If they persuade themselves that same-sex nuptials have struck the decisive blow against marriage, they'll stop trying to influence the institution entirely. But if traditionalists pick their battles, it is conceivable to me that a decade or two hence, even as same-sex marriage is legal everywhere in the United States, there could also be a significant increase in the number of religious people who embrace the orthodox parts of their respective marriage traditions and a significant decrease in the society-wide divorce rate.
 
Precisely so. If I recall, when Andrew Sullivan made a plea for same-sex marriage in the 90s, he was eviscerated by gay rights activists for trying to force gay people into the same mold as straight couples; the idea was that queer activism [i use the phrase in the academic, not the pejorative sense] is supposed to challenge traditional models of morality and so liberate everyone from the Judeo-Christian model of sexuality (as this--NSFW--documentary puts it, gay liberation is everyone's liberation). But same-sex marriage does precisely the opposite of challenging traditional or bourgeois norms: it might not be "one man, one woman, one lifetime," but it's certainly "two people, one lifetime"--with marriage being seen as the ideal or preferable state of being--the "good life."
 
I support same-sex marriage, but I have no illusions that it's a radical change in sexual morality, and I think that the path that Friedersdorf lays out here is not only the direction that traditionalists should take--I think, with the increasing normalization of bourgeois same-sex relationships, it's the direction that traditionalists will inevitably take. It would certainly mirror traditionalist responses to other huge social changes of the past century or so.

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NBooth wrote:
: If I recall, when Andrew Sullivan made a plea for same-sex marriage in the 90s, he was eviscerated by gay rights activists for trying to force gay people into the same mold as straight couples . . .

 

I remember reading Sullivan's Virtually Normal when a review copy of the paperback edition arrived at the student-newspaper office (somewhere during my time as editor there, between 1995 and 1997), and it made a big impression on me. I also remember reading an article in Harper's around that time which said that Sullivan and others who were calling for gay marriage were all male, and that lesbians were *not* calling for it as strongly because women knew how controlling and patriarchal the institution was, or something like that.

 

: But same-sex marriage does precisely the opposite of challenging traditional or bourgeois norms: it might not be "one man, one woman, one lifetime," but it's certainly "two people, one lifetime"--with marriage being seen as the ideal or preferable state of being--the "good life."

 

Unless you're Dan Savage, in which case you openly hope that the existence of gay marriage will make it easier for straight couples to have more "open" marriages.

 

: I think, with the increasing normalization of bourgeois same-sex relationships, it's the direction that traditionalists will inevitably take.

 

Echoes of David Brooks, who wrote several years ago that conservatives should *expect* gay couples to get married. Which I suppose is precisely the sort of attitude that the radicals of the 1990s feared.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Two years into my completely gay marriage, I agree with NBooth that same-sex marriage is not a radical change in sexual morality.  But I certainly don't feel that it's a capitulation to bourgeois norms.

 

Quite the opposite: marriage to me has always been radical, and that's what attracted me to it.  (The same is true of heterosexual marriage, of course.)

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Quite the opposite: marriage to me has always been radical, and that's what attracted me to it.  (The same is true of heterosexual marriage, of course.)

 

Amen to that.

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Two years into my completely gay marriage, I agree with NBooth that same-sex marriage is not a radical change in sexual morality.  But I certainly don't feel that it's a capitulation to bourgeois norms.

 

Quite the opposite: marriage to me has always been radical, and that's what attracted me to it.  (The same is true of heterosexual marriage, of course.)

Amen and congrats! This thread came to mind a few weeks ago after the SCOTUS decision, along with thoughts of the handful of gay A&F contributors, past and present... It's wonderful to read the early posts in this thread and think of how far we have come

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I feel like I should mention that when I used the phrase "bourgeois same-sex relationships," I didn't mean "bourgeois" in a pejorative sense (though, admittedly, it's a loaded word). Nor did I mean to denigrate marriage as an institution for either gay or straight couples--I'm single, myself, and have the lifelong bachelor's typical distrust of the institution, but that's neither here nor there. I simply meant that the increased visibility of non-politically-or-sexually-radical gay couples will inevitably lead to the expectation that all gay couples should be married. [And that is more in the nature of an observation than a recommendation]

Edited by NBooth

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Oh, to be clear, I wasn't offended! I just think that both narratives offered by Friedersdorf: "the radicals lost" vs "traditional marriage survived until gays came along" seem tied to a curiously dated, limited notion of radicalism.

 

Marriage is about "the good life" but I think what "marriage as sacrament" points to about the good life is pretty out of step with the vision of the good life offered to us by consumer society.

 

"What marriage offers - and what fidelity is meant to protect - is the possibility of moments when what we have chosen and what we desire are the same. Such a convergence obviously cannot be continuous. No relationship can continue very long at its highest emotional pitch. But fidelity prepares us for the return of these moments, which give us the highest joy we can know; that of union, communion, atonement (in the root sense of at-one-ment)..."

 

This is basically the opposite of consumer capitalism.  Hence, marriage is inherently, radically anticapitalist.

Edited by Holy Moly!

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Exactly. I almost quoted Berry above but figured someone else had. 

 

The essays on marriage in Economy, Freedom, Sex & Community are highly readable & re-readable.

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Can't remember if I ever linked to this back when it was on my blog. If not here it is now. An essay on Homosexuality and the Bible written by my friend Rebecca.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/justin-hanvey/a-biblical-defense-of-lgbtqa-relationships-in-both-orientation-and-action-though/10153187202316854


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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In the wake of the Orlando massacre, Matthew Vine (whose exegesis I question but whose heart I trust) has an article at Time titled What Christians Must Do in the Wake of Orlando:

 

Quote

What we need to hear is this: God loves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people unconditionally. You love us and are committed to making the church the sanctuary it always should have been for us. Sadly, I have never heard a pastor who opposes same-sex marriage give a sermon declaring God’s love for LGBT people without including caveats about his or her opposition to same-sex relationships.

If there were ever a time to give that sermon—and to give it with genuine humility, compassion and an openness to learn and grow—now is the time. Churches will be marked in the LGBT community for years to come by how they respond to us in this moment. Please do all you can to let that mark be one of unconditional love.

 

On a personal level (and I don't know where else to put this but here; Facebook is too, um, public a forum), this tragedy has had a strange impact on me that I can't quite quantify or analyze. Part of it is just sadness at the loss of so many lives. Part of it, though, is anger at people like Ted Cruz, Franklin Graham, and all the other Evangelical lights--political or religious--who have the utter gall to act as if this mass murder was a purely Islamic thing when they've been saying things like this. I... I just can't respond without obscenities, to be honest. 

I've mostly avoided this thread--partly because I already know what will be said on both sides of the discussion, since I've lived on both sides of it, and partly for other reasons that aren't really germane. I don't know the "right" answer to the problems confronting Christianity and LGBTQ experiences. I know I'm steadfastly unconvinced by well-meaning attempts to read the Bible as if it wasn't pretty strongly anti-gay. Obviously, it is. But that's just not good enough; if I have to choose between God and the Bible, I pick God every time, and my understanding of God is that he suffers with suffering humanity, that he's out there with the forty-nine or fifty murdered LGBTQ persons at Pulse, dying with them, and he's steadfastly not with Franklin Graham or any of the other gay-bashers of the world who hide behind "family values" to justify their hate. 

And, yeah, that's angry and not very intellectually rigorous, but I hope you guys will forgive me for going on a tear, there, just for a moment. Like I say, this massacre--of all the massacres that have happened in the US just in the last couple of years--has really done a number on me, and I didn't fully realize the extent until I started typing this post.

Edited by NBooth

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