Saturday, November 23, 2013

From acts to identity. . .

http://grumpyelder.com/wp-content/themes/_blognews/timthumb.php?src=http://grumpyelder.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/disoriented-bewildered-lost-confused-unclear-perplexed.jpg&q=90&w=609&zc=1I have written before of the relative modern idea of defining oneself by gender or by sexual attraction.  There is more.  In nearly all of history, homosexual acts were forbidden but homosexuality was seldom treated.  The legal codes of most societies had classes of forbidden acts which included "sodomy" or homosexual acts, but these said little about the object of them or even the perpetrator of those acts.  All of this changed when homosexual acts no longer were the focus but the desire itself, now framed as a distinct and authentic form of sexuality.  In other words, the focus of the previous legal codes and moral judgements were on the actions themselves while today we have transcended the acts to speak of being gay as an identity.


When homosexuality ceased being about acts and began to be a psychological identity, then heterosexuality also became one of several identities.  In this way sexual orientation has not only taken up roots but become the defining feature of a person's identity.  In response, the Christian has struggled to know how to respond to this changing terminology and the distinctive way that sexuality has overshadowed every other aspect of personality.  Some have swept away the Biblical and historical condemnations of homosexual acts that were accepted without question until only the most recent of times.  In this vein, the ELCA has determined that no matter what Scripture and tradition might have said, the "gospel" requires that all people be free to fulfill their sexual desires and to do so within the framework of cultural and religious acceptance -- even encouragement. In this way they have given tacit approval to the idea that sexual orientation is the defining feature of any human personality.  On the other hand, some churches have found themselves in the difficult position (though not unBiblical) of suggesting that in order to be true to faith homosexual Christians must deny their basic psychological and personal identifier -- namely their attraction to the same sex.

The problem here is not simply in choosing which sexual orientation as the correct human identity.  No, I would suggest, the problem lies in rejecting this modern myth that sexual desire defines who I am and returning to the other more Biblical and Christian sources of personal identity, morality, and virtue.  Gayness or straightness is not that which underlies and shapes who anyone is as a person.  Desire is one area in which we all share a common path to virtue through self-denial.  Free to be me is not license to practice whatever I choose or whatever seems right in my eyes.  The freedom accorded to me in the Gospel is first and foremost the freedom to deny myself, to practice self-control of even the most basic of human desires, and to take up the cross and follow Jesus.

Our inordinate and unnatural fascination with sexual desire does not ennoble us but it does have the power to strip from us those things that make us distinctively human, bearing -- though distorted by sin -- the image of God in our flesh.  Sex is not ugly nor the basest of our human desires but neither is it the most beautiful or the noblest of human desires.  Nothing could be more burdensome upon us than to be forced to spend our lives finding out who we are, agonizing over the nature of our desires, and living either in fear or or in bondage to those desires.  There is no freedom at all when the fullness of human identity is reduced to a choice between or a stopping point on the spectrum of heterosexuality and homosexuality.  When the church is forced to give permission to all or to choose one point on this polarity and say "this is what it means to be human" we are in a pretty sorry state.  An identity distinguished essentially by our genital sexual desires is but a sign of the depth to which we have fallen because of sin and how little is left to us of the promise of our creation in the Garden of Eden.

There abide these three -- faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.  Love, not desire.  Love shaped by sacrifice, not indulgence.  Love marked by suffering willingly borne, not perfect pleasure.  Love which looks like a cross, even when, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we wear it by baptism and faith.


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said

I would add this, however, if I, as a same sex attracted Christian, am to remove my identity from my desired to the cross and resurrection of Christ through baptism, I will need the help of other Christians to do that. I can not see my identity in baptism if my fellow Christians continue to force my identity back into my desires. By that i mean, if you as a straight Christian continue to regard your own desires as "natural" and mine as "perverted" then i will never be able to break free of my identity in my desire because you will continue to treat me as weird and, literally, "queer" whether you intend to or not. Only if you are willing to admit that your own desires, beyond that toward your spouse, are every bit as perverted as mine will you begin to treat me as a fellow Christians and brother in Christ through the cross and baptism.

David Gray said...

Very close. When a man lusts after a woman who is not his wife that is a perversion of the created sexual order. It is not as severe a perversion as the desire of a man for a man because there are at least theoretical circumstances in which it could be legitimately consummated. That is never true of the desire of a man for a man.

Anonymous said...

Actually, David, that is a bunch of bullcrap. Both the ancient Jews and the early Christian writers included not only homosexual behavior under "unnatural" but prostitution, adultery, incest, and even non-procreative forms of sex between a man and his wife. Further, the distinction was based solely on behavior and choices, not at all on desire. The only time Christ directly condemns lust the Greek construction clearly indicates intentional "looking to lust." The whole nonsense that one "temptation" can be considered "more of a perversion" than another is a falsely constructed modern load of shit that has everything to do with modern romantic psychology and a perversion of the Christian teaching of "natural law" and nothing at all to do with the Bible. So how about we stick with the biblical texts and knock off the crap?

thecurulechair said...

Anonymous,

As someone who is struggling with a strong addiction and temptations to pornography, I can affirm that these desires of mine are absolutely filthy and stained with sin - in fact, even if we're going on an objective basis, I'm pretty positive that some of the fetishes I battle most are far, far worse than same sex attraction.

But there's grace and mercy for both of us in the redemption we have in Christ, through Baptism, the holy Gospel, Absolution, and the Sacrament of His very body and blood. Even if you and I are entirely depraved according to our old men, we are also forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Christ and we're united to Him in our new men. And that's the core of our identity. Some day, it'll be the ONLY identity we have. Maranatha.

David Gray said...

Sure, "anonymous" if you want to argue that a child taking a cookie is on the same level as working at Auschwitz, knock yourself out. And there is a sense in which that is true. All sin brings death. But if you want to argue that either the New Testament or the Levitical law treated all sexual sin as being essentially interchangeable then you are, respectfully, nuts. Or utterly ignorant. Either way perhaps you should improve your manners. Discourtesy can be a sin as well.

Janis Williams said...

Whether God sees one sin as "worse" than another has Scriptures on both sides of the fence. We simply don't know - we haven't His mind. One thing is certain. Every sin, whether stealing cookies or homosexuality is enough in God's sight to damn us to hell.

For the two commenters who have been so humbly honest, prayers. You (amongst many others) understand what so many homosexuals claiming Christianity don't: When Jesus said to "deny yourself, take up your cross and follow," it meant all of us.

David Gray said...

Well there can be no doubt that in both the Levitical law and the New Testament all sins are not punished equally in a temporal sense.

But then the spirit of the age does not like such talk so perhaps I should desist.

Gary said...

Is "David Gray" really Pastor Peters?

Isn't odd that Pastor Peters rarely ever jumps into the conversation to defend his position as stated in the post, but who always seems to come riding to Pastor Peters' rescue?

Answer: Pastor Peters! (Oops! I mean, David Gray)