East Of Eden

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East of Eden

She's Gay, but Catholic. And celibate.

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Flickr /Jess Pac

 

Thomas of The Crystal Tambourine passes along this story by Eve Tushnet, who writes at The Atlantic of being a lesbian and a faithful, practicing Catholic.

 

 

When I became Catholic in 1998, as a college sophomore, I didn't know any other gay Christians. I'd been raised in a kind of pointillist Reform Judaism, almost entirely protected from homophobia; when I realized I was gay it was, if anything, a relief. I thought I finally had an explanation for the persistent sense of difference I'd felt since early childhood. This sheltered upbringing may help explain my sunny undergraduate confidence that even though I knew of literally nobody else who had ever tried to be both unashamedly gay and obediently Catholic, I was totally going to do it. No problem, guys, I got this.

 

Things look different now. I hope I've learned a few things about the dangers of sophomoric self-confidence: There are times when my relationship with the Catholic Church feels a lot like Margaret Atwood's ferocious little poem,

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

And I've met many other gay or queer or same-sex attracted Christians, in all flavors of Christianity. I have several friends in same-sex marriages now, including one who had an Episcopalian church wedding with all the trimmings. I also have many friends who, like me, are trying to live in accordance with the historical Christian teaching on chastity, including its prohibition on sex between men or between women. We disagree (sometimes sharply) among ourselves on the best response to the growing cultural acceptance and political success of gay marriage; but before politics and even before culture, our response must be personal.

 

...

 

The biggest reason I don't just de-pope myself is that I fell in love with the Catholic Church. Very few people just "believe in God" in an abstract way; we convert, or stay Christian, within a particular church and tradition. I didn't switch from atheistic post-Judaism to "belief in God," but to Catholicism: the Incarnation and the Crucifixion, Michelangelo and Wilde, St. Francis and Dorothy Day. I loved the Church's beauty and sensual glamour. I loved her insistence that seemingly irreconcilable needs could both be met in God's overwhelming love: justice and mercy, reason and mystery, a savior who is fully God and also fully human. I even loved her tabloid, gutter-punching side, the way Catholics tend to mix ourselves up in politics and art and pop culture. (I love that side a little less now, but it's necessary.)

 

...

 

Right now, the Biblical witness seems pretty clear. Both opposite-sex and same-sex love are used, in the Bible, as images of God's love. The opposite-sex love is found in marriage—sexually exclusive marriage, an image which recurs not only in the Song of Songs but in the prophets and in the New Testament—and the same-sex love is friendship. Both of these forms of love are considered real and beautiful; neither is better than the other. But they're not interchangeable. Moreover, Genesis names sexual difference as the only difference which was present in Eden. There were no racial differences, no age difference, no children and therefore no parents. Regardless of how literally you want to take the creation narratives, the Bible sets apart sexual difference as a uniquely profound form of difference. Marriage, as the union of man and woman, represents communion with the Other in a way which makes it an especially powerful image of the way we can commune with the God who remains Other. That's a quick and dirty summary, but it seems to me more responsive to the texts, more willing to defer to historical Christian witness, and more attuned to the importance and meaning of our bodies than most of the defenses I've read of Christian gay marriage.

 

...

 

The Church needs to grow and change in response to societal changes. We can do so much better in serving the needs of gay/queer/same-sex attracted Catholics, especially the next generation. But I think gay Catholics can also offer a necessary witness to the broader society. By leading lives of fruitful, creative love, we can offer proof that sexual restraint isn't a death sentence (or an especially boring form of masochism). Celibacy can offer some of us radical freedom to serve others. While this approach isn't for everyone, there were times when I had much more time, space, and energy to give to people in need than my friends who were juggling marriage and parenting along with all their other commitments. I've been able to take homeless women briefly into my own home, for example, which I would not have been able to do as spontaneously—and maybe not at all—if I had not been single.

 

Read the entire thing here.

 

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