Sunday, April 20, 2008

… And Speaking of Loneliness

Thanks to my friend, J, for bringing this essay to my attention. To me, it speaks of the deep yearning that we've been discussing here in the last couple of days. He approaches it from a different angle, but still . . .

It's from CrossWalk.

John Shore
Writer, Editor, Author
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Homosexuality Isn't Stealing or Lying--But It Is Being Lonely

I'm no theologian, but I know one can't pay attention to the ongoing national conversation about Christianity for too long without running into the "issue" of homosexuality. As I explored a bit in How I Broke The Heart Of My Lesbian Friend, when I suddenly converted to Christianity, I had no idea homosexuality was any kind of issue for Christians at all. I now know differently, of course.

Easily the thought I read and hear most often on the subject from my fellow Christians is that being inclined toward homosexuality is in essence the same as being inclined toward any kind of sinful behavior: it's the same sort of behavioral sin that all people, in one way or another, must struggle against.

"We're all sinners," runs the idea. "We all struggle to overcome our sinful ways. Homosexuality is a sin. Just like all of us must strive to stop behaving sinfully, so the homosexual must strive to overcome his or her sexual predilection. Even if a person is born gay or lesbian -- even if homosexuality is genetic -- a homosexual must still strive to overcome the ungodly behaviors toward which he or she is inclined, the same as we all must overcome our lower natures in order to realize our highest."

I personally am fine with that formulation. I know how much time and energy I spend trying to overcome my lower nature. We all struggle with our desire to be better than we are.

I do, though, want to say one thing about this commonplace notion of homosexuality being on par with other human sins.
It seems to me that the difference between homosexuality and the other sins people typically fight against -- the urge to steal, or lie, or have extramarital affairs, or whatever -- is that doing all the other sins objectively and tangibly hurts another person. No matter the moral, ethical or cultural context, it is always wrong to steal or lie, because doing so always hurts another person. But outside of the Biblical injunction against it, whom does homosexual love hurt? Not that the Bible doesn't count! Of course it does. All I'm saying is that the other sins can be readily understood as wrong without reference to the Bible. That can't help but mean that homosexuality shouldn't be grouped together with them. It's manifestly qualitatively different.

Another thing about the homosexual/Christian "issue" is that it seems to me that we Christians should be clear on the fact that asserting homosexuals should stop acting homosexual necessarily means asserting that they should spend their lives never knowing the loving intimacy with another that straight people enjoy and know to be the best and richest experience in life.

If I were gay, and I lived and behaved in the way most Christians (understandably!) defend as biblical, I would live alone. I wouldn't wake up every morning next to my wife. I'd never hold hands with my wife. I'd never kiss my wife. I'd never cuddle with my wife. I'd not know the profound pleasure of every day growing older with my wife. Remaining as sinless as possible would, for me, mean never knowing love of the sort that all straight people, Christian or not, understand as pretty much the best thing life has to offer.

Again: I'm not saying that it's manifestly absurd and even cruel to suggest that everyone within a broad swath of our population spend their lives in emotional and physical isolation. I believe in the tenets of Christianity as ferociously as any Christian in the world. All I'm saying is that, as far as I can tell, we Christians (insofar as we ever speak with one voice) are saying that it is morally incumbent upon homosexuals to spend their lives in emotional and physical isolation. I hear a lot of Christians asserting that gays and lesbians should stop acting like gays and lesbians.
But I never hear anyone saying the unavoidable follow-up to that -- saying what that really means -- which is that gay and lesbian men and women should spend their lives never experiencing what people most commonly mean when they use the word "love."

But doesn't the Bible tell us that God is love?

Anyway, this is why I'm not a theologian. Who am I, to even try to understand the great and abiding mysteries of God? All I know is that I want to be the best Christian I can. And I deeply hope that no one minds if, in my struggle to do that, I sometimes bump into questions which, in my desire to learn, I then share with others, confident that one of the best ways for me to grow in my understanding is by gaining access to the understandings of others. Thanks.

Happy Birthday, Scotty

Today is Scotty's 17th birthday. If you've followed this blog, you know he's had a couple of near-death experiences. A month after Shug died, I took him to the vet, and discovered he's become diabetic … again … for the third time. The first two times, he converted ... miraculously. The vet and I hope he will convert again … but 6 weeks gone, I'm not so sure.

The first time he became diabetic, my right hand was totally paralyzed, so checking his glucose and giving him shots was pretty traumatic for both of us. The second time he became diabetic, I had a very shaking right hand, so it was pretty traumatic. This time, I have a diagnosis and medication that mostly controls my shaking hands. So we've settled into a routine: I stick his ear to get a glucose reading, then I administer insulin, then I give him a couple of pills the vet has prescribed, then ... yahoo! ... he gets Greenies treats. Generally, he's pretty mellow through all that. Sometimes he even purrs.

A friend visited a couple of weeks ago, who shared a great insight with me, which has converted my approach to this whole thing. Scotty came into my life while he was still a nursing kitten. We've had these 17 years together, when he has stuck with me through thick and then, through better and worse. … My friend reminded me of that Gospel passage that reads something like, "Having loved them … he loved them to the end." My friend reminded me what a great honor it is to love my cat even to the end.

Scotty and I have been through a lot together. We had many good years together in Atlanta. But then I went through a couple of years of chaos, where I was moving from pillar to post every few weeks or months. He adjusted to all those transitions and remained my faithful companion. No judgment. No lectures. He (and Shug) just hung in there with me.

Shug's gone now, but Scotty is still here.

And Susan helped me convert my understanding. Scotty may not "convert" this time. Maybe he'll remain a diabetic cat, and maybe we'll continue to do this twice-daily routine of glucose-testing and insulin shots. That's ok. We've been friends for a very long time now. He remained faithful even when my life was chaotic. Now my life is more settled. It really is an honor to care for him … even if it means watching him in the waning years.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Sign

Last Sunday after church, I needed to run a couple of errands. As I passed one of the big Protestant churches in town, I was struck by the words on their marquis. This is what they posted:

What if you face God today?
Are you ready?

You may have guessed already that it was a Southern Baptist church. That was the denomination in which I grew up, and which I left in my 20s.

Passing under that sign, just moments after leaving my Episcopal parish in which I had partaken of the Eucharist, I was struck by the difference and how far I have moved.

I had indeed "faced God" that morning. I had partaken of the body and blood of our Savior. I had been united with God in the Eucharist. And I had seen Christ in the faces of all the people around me.

It struck me: How sad it must be for those people who think they won't see God until their death, or the "Second Coming." or some such bye-and-bye time. I get to see the face of God every day, almost every hour . . . if only I am open to it.

The face of God – the face of Christ – is present with us all the time, in the faces of all the people around us. How sad it must be to think you need to wait 'til your death to meet God.


I'm not sure what has been going on. But ever since Shug's death on February 1, I've found it very difficult to write here. Part of it was my grief about her death. But another big part is that I am dealing with a personal issue that I dare not share – even obliquely – in the blogosphere. Losing my cat and trying to give up the hope of a romance or intimate friendship, all in the same month, has cost me my voice on the blog. And then there was the experience of Lent and Holy Week, which (thankfully) moved me beyond all that … at least for a while.

I'm going to try to set all that aside.

And I want to set aside the notion that my postings need to be Significant. The bloggers I admire [and you'll see their links in the sidebar] do a fine job of keeping up with and commenting on the news in the Anglican blogosphere. I think I need to ratchet-down my expectations of myself and my writings here. I hope that can be easier, now that my site hits are down to nil. I don't need to speak for anyone but me. There must be a gazillion blogs out there. I don't need to be wise or insightful. Fact is, I am not wise. I need to give up that illusion.

And I need to give up the illusion that I can be insightful. I am not. I muddle along day to day, trying to do my best, trying to avoid the worst. I try to live into the baptismal covenant, but I fail all the time. I'm trying to discern what God or the Spirit would have me do … but I can't make heads or tails of it.

Life was easier in my young, fundamentalist days, when I thought one could use the Bible [KJV, of course!] like a Ouija board. Things are more difficult now … as I try to discern the movement and direction of the Spirit.

As Faulkner had a character say (or pray?) in his Snopes trilogy: "Save us, Lord – poor sons o' bitches."

I'm feeling lost and without a compass. I'm just one of the "poor sons o' bitches."