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« Works that Stand Out: A Primer on Works (5 of 8) | Main | Next Time, Go With the Gecko »

May 16, 2007

Dear Brian

My heart goes out to you in your pain and frustration. Our temptation to sin is so powerful, that it almost seems “natural.” But I think your belief that you were “reduced to a sex act” sounds a bit self-pitying. Of course you are not the sum total of your sexual desires—and no one here would ever suggest it.

I sometimes feel that people look to Eros as the highest pinnacle to reach. This notion will only grow because of our continual sexual indulgences—be they mental or physical. 

Another way to say this is today’s Westerners (maybe a few other cultures too) have idolized Eros. We’ve idolized the act to our own detriment, leading us to think God’s demand for purity outside marriage is distorted. (Sex can be distorted even in marriage, if the act includes degradations like S&M.) To borrow from C. S. Lewis, love becomes the god. Lewis writes in The Four Loves, "Every human love….has a tendency to claim for itself a divine authority. Its voice tends to sound as if it were the will of God Himself."

Thankfully, Jesus sets the example for us—our Model was offered all sorts of physical temptations, at which he stomped His foot and said, “Satan, get behind me.” Is refusing tempations easy? No! Without God it would be almost impossible.

For 20 years I was celibate. I am now happily married, but marriage was in no way guaranteed. Was celibacy easy? Far from it—instead of being able to re-order my disordered will, to name one thing: I had to stop watching some movies because of the powerfully alluring “love” scenes.

But what’s more important for you and others to know, Brian, is that my love and desire for God became more important than sinning. “Save me God, but not just yet,” became “Help me, Father, to order my life according to your tender mercy and desire.” You see, I realized it was what God desired for me that was of vital importance.

Whatever our sin, we have to rely on God completely, and sometimes it will seem as if He’s very distant and turning His holy back to us. I think Lewis, in Mere Christianity, is most encouraging with the struggle for celibacy: “After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again…this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still.”    

Sometimes we’re so broken that we begrudgingly have to pray to God to help us to be willing to start to pray for help. I know because I’ve been there.

Even if you are not Catholic, go to a local parish priest and ask him to help you with your internal struggles. Stay close to your family. Be prudent and surround yourself with people who will encourage you toward a celibate lifestyle. Conversely, stay away from people who would scoff at celibacy and tempt you back into that lifestyle. 

Brian, may God bless and keep you all the days of your life.

Suggested readings: C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, The Four Loves, St. Augustine’s Confessions. There are quite a few websites devoted to celibacy, including writings and interviews with Pope John Paul II and with Cardinal Ratzinger who is now Pope Benedict XVI. 

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Kim, I appreciate the good intentions of your heart. I would like to say, however, that I have neither pain nor frustration. Thank God (literally) for my relationship with Christ, without which I would probably have very much pain and frustration.

I think GLBT people, more than others, need to know God's grace in a world that is all too often harsh to them. This is why I continue to offer my dissenting voice: not out of pain or of frustration, but that God's gay and lesbian children will have a voice out there that says "You are loved," and truly means it.

Please forgive my brevity as I'm attempting to juggle comments in multiple blog posts now.

I would like to start with the facts:
* There are gay people.
* There are gay Christians.
* Many of these gay Christians have tried for years, decades, and some for their lives, to change their sexual orientation.
* Every major medical, psychological, and psychiatric organization agrees that sexual orientation is not a conscious choice nor is it changeable.
* The long-term success of so-called "ex-gay therapy" has never been shown

The belief that homosexuality is sinful has persisted unquestioned for eons. Other practices (slavery, apartheid, male ownership of woman...) had in the past gone on under the espoused support of the Bible. Diligent, honest, and open study of God's word eventually revealed the error in these positions and they were revised.

Every day, 4 GLBT youth in America kill themselves, driven largely by the sad reality that they live in communities and go to churches where they are told their very existence is sinful.

This is our reality.

Before we begin chastising believers for not adhering to God's will enough, before we begin counseling on change, or advising on celibacy, is it not worth re-examining our old positions with an open heart, turned towards God?

For the 4 young people who will not be with us by nightfall, I think it would be.


Thank you for your candid address of celibacy. I stand with you in this matter: it is both a challenge and a blessing. I am thankful to be surrounded by Christian family and Christian friends who call me to integrity and accountability (and even non-Christian friends who respect the calls my faith).

I have no disagreement with a call to chastity until marriage. It is what my parents did and how I was raised. It is not always easy, you are right, but you are also right that it is certainly important to persist.

This is why I feel reduced to a sex act: that an entire post is spent calling me to celibacy. To be gay must mean to be having sex. It does not.

I am not talking about a sex act, I am talking about an integral part of who I am as a person. I hope that we can have a conversation about what it means to be a gay person. I'm encouraged by your interest... I hope that we can.

As for Mere Christianity, great suggestion! It's my favorite book. (That, and The Ragamuffin Gospel).

Kim Moreland

Sorry for my tardy reply, but the days have just flown by.

Of course I would like to continue our conversation.


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