The Climate of the Human Soul

I recently read a thread on an internet forum, in which a young lady was posting about her personal struggle with being attracted to other women, and the depth of shame that she experiences because of it. A very wise woman by the screen-name of “EasterJoy” responded to her, and the response truly captured my imagination.

EasterJoy’s idea is that we are all born with our own constellation of strengths and challenges; she calls this our personal “climate”:

I would think of your particular set of passions not as being good or bad so much as being your local inner “climate.” By this I mean to give you two lessons.


Lesson One: a particular pattern of precipitation, temperature, and other weather conditions can be harder than others to survive in, but can also be the only one that supports particular and unique flora and fauna. Our job is to bloom where we are planted, not complain about the climate. Do not feel shame for feelings you did not ask for., nor resign yourself to face these elements without hope for shelter. Consider that these are a part and parcel of a total make-up that is exactly what God meant you to bring to the world. We are all both a gift and a challenge: to ourselves, to everyone else, and to God. If God wanted the whole world to be the south of France, God could have made the whole inhabited world to be the south of France. As it is, the world is more splendid because God made life so it would prosper and multiply in many places, both temperate and harsh.


Lesson Two: Just because snow storms or tornadoes are rare in a given climate does not mean that they can never happen. It pays to have some plan for “extreme weather events,” to not be either arrogant nor unduly fearful about what you can or cannot feel. Even if the weather is “always nice,” bring what you will need to face the unexpected. (A coat and dry matches are not much against an unexpected storm, but they are far better than nothing!) By this I mean that you should not teach yourself to think that no man can tempt you. The first time we fall in some particular new way, the fall can be very hard. Ever run into a sliding glass door that you did not think was there? Don’t teach yourself to run without looking because you think you know what “can’t be there.” Watch where you are going!

Life can indeed prosper in all kinds of climates — God’s life longs to dwell in all the weather-ravaged places of our human hearts!

(P.S. This brings a whole new meaning to the concept of “climate change”. I wonder what our spiritual pollutants are).


The New Queer

I’ve noticed something about the word “queer” lately.  Queer people aren’t – that is, they aren’t queer.  They’re pretty normal, maybe a different shade of normal; but normal enough.  For decades, from the modern invention of “homosexuality” in the 18th/19th century, it was genuinely strange to have same-sex attractions and to act on them.  But now?  It isn’t.  It’s becoming positively bourgeois.

So who, I wonder, is really queer?  Let me offer some suggestions:

(1)    The girl who falls in love with another girl in her class, but demurs, not out of shyness or a fear that the girl won’t reciprocate, but because she doesn’t believe that it’s good for the other girl to be in a romantic relationship with her.

(2)    The boy who discovers gay pornography at a young age, and finds it deeply alluring, but seeks help by talking to a trusted older man in his Church about it.

(3)    The college student who knows that she will be welcomed into the gay community with open arms, but seeks the open arms of Jesus instead.

(4)    The 40-year-old who grew up in a gay-hostile environment, repressing his feelings for other men, and now – on suddenly finding himself thrust into an environment where his feelings are acceptable, even glorified – learns to both accept his feelings for other men, but nevertheless does not cave into pressure to suddenly consider gay sexuality a gift or a calling.

In our modern culture, it just doesn’t get any queerer than that.

But can’t this be a selling point?  In 100 AD, Christian was the new counterculture – a culture that said that your desire for the opposite sex was good, but singleness was better.  A culture that said to the Gentiles that there was one god, and to the Jews that the Law brought death.  In Jesus, there was lots for everyone to hate.

But for those who accept him, he gave them the power to become children of God!

So I suppose this is my challenge to my fellow Christians, my fellow children of the Living God: how queer can we get?

On the dignity of dirty, rotten sinners

A group of prominent Californians have recently urged the archbishop of San Francisco not to speak at the National Organization for Marriage’s rally, in Washington D.C.  From the L.A. Times:

In a letter Tuesday, 80 lawmakers and faith and community leaders — among them Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee — called on Cordileone to cancel his planned appearance at a National Organization for Marriage march and rally in Washington, D.C., on June 19.


If he attends as scheduled, they noted, he will be “marching and sharing the podium” with individuals who “have repeatedly denigrated lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”


The letter then quotes other event participants who have likened homosexuality to incest and bestiality.


By standing alongside those participants and organizers, “you appear to be endorsing their troubling words and deeds, which directly contradict the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral teaching that ‘God does not love someone any less simply because he or she is homosexual. God’s love is always and everywhere offered to those who are open to receiving it,'” they wrote.

Now, I don’t know anything about that particular rally, and I’m not saying the archbishop should or should not speak there.  However, the comments of the letter are seriously disturbing to me, because they indicate that the authors of the letter have NO IDEA what Catholics teach about God’s love.

So let’s get this straight.  According to them the letter-writers:

(1) Speakers for NOM compare homosexual activity to incest and bestiality.

(2) By speaking in these ways, the speakers contradict the Bishops’ teachings that God loves everyone equally.

The logical conclusion is:

(3) God does not love people who commit acts of incest or bestiality.

This conclusion is OUTRAGEOUS!  God passionately loves people who commit acts of incest, or bestiality, or adultery, or pedophilia, or any perversion whatsoever.  He died for perverts.  As Yeats says, “Love has pitched his mansion in the place of excrement.”  There is no one unloved, no one rejected, no one left out to pasture in the Kingdom.  That is the center of Jesus’s message.

Now, it is not unreasonable for gay folks to be offended with some of the ways they are compared to other sexual sinners, like pedophiles, since consensual gay sex clearly doesn’t involve anything like the sort of violation constituted by child abuse.  However, the letter-writers above completely misunderstand what the Church teaches about sexual sinners.  Whatever the speakers at NOM say, they do not say that incestuous people should be subjected to hate, or that such people are rejected by God.

In essence, the letter-writers think that God is a manipulative parent, who uses His love as a tool to manipulate us.  There are “bad people” and “good people”, and God loves the good people.

Sound familiar?  Yeah, I thought so too.  Turns out this theory has been tried before: it’s called being a Pharisee.

Here’s hoping the Archbishop turns the tables on them!

On Varieties of Coming Out

I do a lot of coming out.  It’s quite the hassle.

There is, of course, garden variety coming out.  This has gotten rather dull.  I mean, how many different ways are there to tell people that you’re attracted to other guys?  Mind you, there aren’t that many people in my life who know this.  There’s no reason for most of them to know.  I mean, it’s not like my life is inexplicable or unrelatable without including my attraction to other men.  If you want to talk to me deeply about my self-image, sure, it plays a role.  But it’s not central.

Still, garden-variety coming out is gut-wrenching, simply because so many people harbor very conflicted and/or negative feelings toward men who experience attraction to other men.

The second type of coming out is, perhaps, harder.  This is coming out as a Christian — which can be hard enough, in normal circumstances, but it well nigh terrifying in academia.  (Did I mention I’m in grad school?)  In a secular university like mine, people often give off the aura that religion is completely backward — in Valley Girl lingo, it is “so, like, 17th century.”  When you get to know people better, you see shadows and suggestions that they might have a faith life.  But finding another Christian in academia can be very much like finding a Jewish sympathizer in 1940 Germany.

I’m somewhat “out” in my department.  I still remember with trepidation the moment I told my department head that I was looking into publishing a paper criticizing a recent argument in support of abortion.  I felt like I was about to tell him I had gone to the Dark Side.


Coming out as a Christian among academics may be the scariest kind of coming out, but there is a third sort of coming out that is far, far stranger than either type of coming out I’ve mentioned so far.

You see, I spend far too much time online, and online, I’m usually pretty open about my attraction to men.  When I tell people that I have such attractions, and yet that I’m committed to chastity, other Christians often praise me for the “tremendous self-sacrifice” that involves.  In the context of all of that, I sometimes feel ashamed, though, about another terrible fact about myself…

<drumroll please>

I’m … married.

To a … woman.

And she … knows.

I know, I know, it’s all too much to take.

<Melodrama over>

Actually, it’s totally awesome.  We have five kids.  I love her, she loves me, it’s pretty sweet — I mean, except for the fact that marriage and family life is awfully hard.  Every vocation has some major trials attached.

In future posts, I will be discussing some of the misunderstandings that come up when I say I’m married.  For now, let me leave it as this: God has been good to me, and blessed me with the most wonderful person imaginable to share my life with.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my married life involves less self-sacrifice than if I had remained single and celibate — but then, I don’t think it’s all that helpful for us to compare crosses, as if the Christian life were some sort of hardship contest.  Let’s just say that love always involves dying to self…

But man, is it worth it!

A love poem

The intimacy of this poem has always dazzled me.  I am embarrassed by it.

How silly, though!  Jesus, the lover of my soul, invites me to be his guest, and I pull back out of shame and a sense that it is somehow improper.  Keep inviting me, Lord.  I’ll get there eventually!


Love III – George Herbert

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

On Discourse About Being Gay and Christian

There are three views I commonly run into on the internets, about Christianity and homosexuality.  They are these:

View #1: “God made me gay.  If I fall in love with another guy, so be it.  You can’t love me without loving the way God made me to love.”

View #2: “Homosexuality is a sin that must be overcome by prayer/fasting/psychotherapy/electroshock-therapy/what-have-you, and a person with same-sex attraction isn’t submitting to the will of God unless he or she is undergoing therapy.”

View #3: “There’s something deeply right about my being gay, but something deeply wrong with me having gay sex.”

I think all three views are profoundly incorrect.  If you want to try to develop a “fourth way” (hat tip to the “Third Way” video), I think you’ll like this blog.

I won’t be commenting at length on all these views right now, but I will run through some generalized objections.  The dynamic between Views #2 and #3 is instructive.  People holding View #2 sometimes (but not always) understand that being attracted to people of the same sex isn’t sinful, but they usually don’t understand the social reality that our society defines people by their sexual attractions.  We cannot simply “opt out” of the way the culture defines us, no more than I can decide that I am not an American by saying so.  “Being American” is a social construct, but it is not a social construct I myself have the ability to manipulate.

So people who hold View #2 get up in arms when a person with same-sex attraction calls themselves “gay” or “bisexual”.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I certainly think the terms “gay” and “bisexual” are problematic.  But they are problematic in roughly the same way that the term “redneck” is problematic.  A person might grow up and discover that he is a redneck — this is an objective fact, since the term redneck has objective linguistic boundaries formed by the way people use words.  But it is almost certainly a bad thing that the category “redneck” exists, since it’s hard to imagine what positive use the term has (aside from making for funny jokes).

The word “gay” is like this.  A person can discover he is gay — this is merely a discovery of the term people in the culture would almost universally apply to him.  And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him, then, calling himself “gay”.  But there may be something wrong with a culture where we think “gayness” is somehow important, or where we think that there are really non-trivial characteristics that all and only gay people have in common.  (And, by extension, there may be a problem with the individual gay person thinking that being gay is of any real importance).

People holding View #3, however, think that being gay is of some importance.  Their view is often quite inspiring to the person like myself, who always thought that this whole “gay thing” was just a terrible and shameful thing, and who is relieved to find people talking about how many of my good traits are there “because I’m gay”.  “Aha!” I think. “It’s a good thing I think Matt Damon is pretty hot shirtless, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be so good at playing guitar!”

[Image of Matt Damon shirtless removed by censors].

[Image of me playing guitar removed by censors].

The problem with View #3, though, is that it is so subtle as to be incomprehensible.  Even if it is the case that all gay people share some positive, non-sexual traits, these traits have nothing to do with sexual attraction.  Unless we can find some way that the sexual attraction itself is good, we have not proven that it’s good to be gay.  But people who hold to View #3 think, at the very least, that acting on the sexual attraction is not good.  So any good traits of gay people, apparently, have nothing to do with sex.  The logical conclusion, it would seem, then, is that we should have all these good traits that gay people have, but we should be happy to lose the sexual attractions.

Now “being happy to lose the sexual attractions” doesn’t make them go away.  And I don’t think disordered sexual attractions are anything to panic about — most people have them.  But if a person holding to View #3 tries to say that the sexual attractions themselves are good, despite it being wrong to indulge them, I literally don’t understand what they’re saying.  There are words coming out of their mouths, but the words are so subtle and sublime that I need a seer to interpret them.

(This is what it’s like when you hear a Calvinist defend double predestination: VERY intelligent words come out of their mouths, and you get dizzy, but nothing they say really addresses the glaring problem with their view.)

As for View #1, it is simply so very contrary to the historical deposit of faith that I am much more inclined to become an atheist than to accept it.  If God left Christians to marginalize gay people for 2000 years, only to say “just kidding, let’s party!”, God is not worth my time.

Thus ends a post where I should have managed to offend pretty much anyone who holds any view whatsoever on homosexuality and Christianity.  Later this week I’ll post some suggestions on a fourth way.

Top Ten Theological Explanations For Same-Sex Attraction

On a lighter note, here are the ten best reasons I can come up with for why God allowed same-sex attraction to exist:

(10) God doesn’t like that we have to face temptations, but He really does care a heck of a lot about fashion.

(9) Do you really think Michaelangelo would have been so meticulous, working on “David”, if he had just thought, “Guys — blegh!”

(8) When God made Eve, she didn’t immediately agree with God that Adam’s genitals were “good”; she just thought they were “funny-lookin”.  So God made Steve.

(7) God enjoys musical theater as much as the next guy.

(6) Women with buzz-cuts.  Nuff said.

(5) God really liked the bits in the Gospel where Jesus laid into the hypocrites, but he found that Christian teaching over the years had made people so humble about their sins that blatant hypocrisy and Pharisaism had fallen to the wayside.  So, for entertainment’s sake, he made people gay, thereby creating all sorts of hypocrites who stood in judgment over them, and paving the way for more divine entertainment, as God watches faithful Christians make hypocrites look like damnfools.

(4) God really liked the bits in the Bible where Paul talked about the beauty of a life where we are hard-pressed in every way, but resist sin.  So he made same-sex attraction, and he totally delights in bragging to his angels about how totally awesome chaste gay people are.

(3) New Testament God was all like, “My grace is sufficient for you” and Old Testament God was all like, “I wanna kick butt and take names”, so O.T. God got Sodom to go all “I’m gonna turn you into mincemeat” on, and N.T. God got a group of do-wells and ne’er-do-wells to have mercy on.

(2) God realized that science is greatly benefitted by attempts to do the impossible – e.g. to turn lead into gold, to send a man to another solar system, to tame Donald Trump’s hair, et cetera.  So he put mankind to work on an even more enormous task: to make exclusively gay people straight.  This has largely been a failure, although there are signs of progress, I suppose: witness gay men’s completely bizarre obsession with Judy Garland.

(1) One word (errr, band): Abba.