Tag Archives: fuzzy thinking

The best (according to me) tweets I have twitted over the course of the previous week or so, as a momentary stay against the essential evanescence of twitter.

Thoughts: yup, I definitely seem to be angrier now that the meds are wearing off.

I haven’t had any time to write a short piece on the Exodus kerfuffle, so I will have to settle for a long one. I’m honestly sorry, because I’m from the Strunk & White school of writing: the fewer words, the bigger the punch. But there’s just too much here I’ve been wanting to say.

The fact that Exodus is closing its doors doesn’t affect me much. I’ve only ever been part of one Exodus-affiliated group, and after a few months I gave it up as a bad job: I didn’t to hear these men tell and retell their stories, and I didn’t need to keep telling them mine. I’ve never been to an Exodus conference. Up to a few days ago, when I read his humble and courageous apology, I hadn’t even read anything written by Alan Chambers.

Predictably, the media at large (who, until the apology, had never heard of Exodus at all) declared itself an expert on what Exodus did or didn’t stand for, and proclaimed its closing a piece of unqualifiedly good news, long overdue in a society as enlightened as ours. To the fuzzy mind of the Huffington Post, the difference between Exodus International and the Westboro Baptist Church is only a difference of degree.

They’re wrong, of course, but the more I think about Alan Chambers’ apology, the more blown away I am. It takes tremendous selflessness to devote yourself to a cause to the degree that Chambers devoted himself to helping gay Christians; and then after years of that, to turn around and accuse yourself of being an enemy of the people you were most committed to helping? I can’t imagine how he has suffered. “You have never been my enemy,” he writes; “I am very sorry that I have been yours.” You have to be a mensch to say those words.

“I am sorry,” he says elsewhere in the piece, “that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart.” There’s a certain brand of Christianity that treats the actual experience of human life as somehow irrelevant, and substitutes instead a scaffolding of abstractions — Conviction, Deliverance, Freedom In Christ — things which, however true and real in themselves, mean very little to an actual suffering human being. That’s the kind of thing that, however well-intentioned it was, really does need apologizing for.

To an extent, that’s the kind of thing ex-gay ministries have offered. That’s certainly the way these things are caricatured: trying to “pray away the gay” without actually touching any of the underlying longing or pain; or using at-best-questionable means to develop heterosexual attraction,1 when our lack of heterosexual attraction is actually the least of our worries. In my own experience of homosexuality, sex (or lack thereof) is very far from being the point.

The point is how we relate to other human beings. I’ve always said that if I could deal with all the other bits, the fact that I experience sexual attraction to men would be no big deal.

The problem is that, for the kind of Christian who’s committed to thinking of homosexuality as “just another temptation”, it makes no sense to talk about “all the other bits”. In this school of thought, homosexuality is coterminous with sexual attraction, and the gay man is exactly the same as any other man, except that he happens to want to sleep with men instead of women.

It boggles my mind that people actually think this way, because if you’ve ever been a human being, you’re aware that sexuality neither begins nor ends with the pelvis. If your sexuality is so compartmentalized that is has nothing to do with the way you relate to people outside the bedroom, then you are bad crazy.

People who do think this way have either not really thought about it at all — not tried to put themselves inside the head of an actual man or woman with same-sex attraction — or they’re afraid that, if they admit that homosexuality is an actual complex phenomenon, and not just an invention of Teh Liberalz!!!!11, they’ll have to relinquish a lot of their other beliefs about what men and women are.

This is the first part of a four-part post. Part 2 will appear tomorrow.

1 Like the bit in Alan Medinger’s Growth Into Manhood where he (qualifiedly) recommends masturbation as a way to help nature along. I got a lot from that book, but last time I checked you can’t use an evil means to achieve a good end; and masturbation, like any kind of theft, is evil.

Oh my dear, dear Kathleen Sebelius, you lost your cool and accidentally said what you really think.

The quick version of the video’s at the bottom, and the link to the whole thing is here if you want context. Since I tend to skip blog posts with videos in ‘em and I don’t want you to miss this, I pulled the transcript. Come on, just skim it.

Conversation is between Sebelius and Rep. Tim Murphy.

TM: Who pays for it? There’s no such thing as a free service.

KS: The reduction in a number of pregnancies is — compensates for the cost of contraception. The overall plan —

TM: So by not having babies born, we’re saving money? I just want to get this on the record — you’re saying, by not having babies born, we’re gonna save money on healthcare.

KS: Providing contraception as a critical preventive health benefit for women and their children reduces —

TM: Not having babies born is a critical benefit. This is absolutely amazing to me. I yield back.

KS: Family planning is a critical health benefit for women, according to the institute of medicine — and that’s, again, scientists!

You can see KS slowing down her sentences, trying to think carefully and avoid speaking plainly. But then she says it: “the reduction in a number of pregnancies.” You know that that’s what “preventive services” prevent, right? Not colds, not the flu: pregnancies.

The last line is also telling, and chilling. Having been trapped into saying what she thinks, Sebelius falls back on what she really believes in: Science Says It, I Believe It, That Settles It. The problem is that Murphy’s not talking about science, but about ethics.

Okay, here’s the clip. Excerpted bit starts at about 4:30.

Poor commenters: they leave a few perfectly innocent(ish) remarks buried deep in the combox, and I resurrect them for A WHOLE POST. Sorry. But not very.

Commenter 1 says:

This does not mean that every time a person has sex he has to intend to make babies and nothing else. He may just think his wife looks ravishing that Thursday night. It Does mean that when he does have sex, though, he has to do it appropriately; that is, by ejaculating inside of her vagina.

Commenter 2 responds:

As a non-Catholic, I have always considered this to be a very queer and partial formulation of the purpose of sex. As expressed, it also seems disharmonious with Catholic beliefs [...] it doesn’t matter if someone’s decision to have sex is purely carnal so long as it follows a strict mechanical formula of ejaculation within a vagina?

[...]

From my own perspective, what you are describing is a particular physical activity that can be successfully performed given the capacity and a particular configuration of genitals, but is by no means the only legitimate activity or exclusive purpose for sex. Each human being is a complex and unique organism with their own emotional and psychological needs, wants and preferences, and has a body which is capable of experiencing pleasure in a number of different ways. In this context, sex can mean a number of things to any one person. Reducing this complexity to a single “correct” act doesn’t really make sense without very powerful moral assumptions.

Allow me to transpose these comments into a different key.

This does not mean that every time a person eats he must think of nutrition and nothing else. He may just think the pizza looks ravishing that Thursday night. It does mean that when he does eat, though, he has to do it appropriately; that is, by digesting the food inside his belly.”

And the response, only lightly changed:

As a non-Catholic, I have always considered this to be a very queer and partial formulation of the purpose of eating. As expressed, it also seems disharmonious with Catholic beliefs [...] it doesn’t matter if someone’s decision to eat is purely because they’re hungry, so long as it follows a strict mechanical formula of putting food in your actual mouth?

From my own perspective, what you are describing is a particular physical activity that can be successfully performed given the capacity and a particular configuration of mouth and stomach, but is by no means the only legitimate activity or exclusive purpose for eating. Each human being is a complex and unique organism with their own emotional and psychological needs, wants and preferences…In this context, food can mean a number of things to any one person. Reducing this complexity to a single “correct” act doesn’t really make sense without very powerful moral assumptions.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that wives are meat (or pizza) to be consumed by their husbands. I’m suggesting that to say “There is an appropriate way and an inappropriate way to perform a particular bodily activity” is perfectly compatible with believing that there’s a deeper meaning for that activity.

Not only are the two perfectly compatible, but saying the latter (that there is a deeper meaning) implies the former (that there is a right and a wrong way to do it). That’s the reason there’s a right and a wrong way to do it: because it has a meaning.

There’s no right and wrong way to put on your socks in the morning, because putting on your socks isn’t a very meaningful activity. Do it upside down and backwards, use your teeth, do it while wearing lubricated latex gloves — who cares?

But the life-giving act of union with another human? Yes, that’s important enough to be able to be done wrong.

Marc Barnes totally nails it over at Bad Catholic today. Excerpt:

So once again…why is it that following Christ while disdaining religion leads to the direct contradiction of Christ’s teachings? It’s a silliness of modern Christianity, to love Christ partially — “Ah yes, he saved me, died for me, opened the gates of Heaven for me, and I accept him as my personal Lord and Savior, but not what he said about that whole no divorce thing. That was just whack and unloving.”

Speaking of BC, I love this bit in Marc’s “contact me” section: “All death threats will be disregarded unless written in iambic pentameter.”

Last night I received this comment on an old post. Read it, friends, and weep.

God loves you fully for who you are – your sexuality is an expression of the love in your soul and heart and God does not require that you repress it unless you really want that (i.e. as a monk)…brother you are trying to be accepted by the church but the true acceptance comes from God – the church’s reasons to oppose gay love are history, fear, self-repression and bigotry–the church has got it wrong and in time will correct it – in the meantime
are rejected and treated as half people – please promise you will try to talk to somebody more open – perhaps Jesuits- please realize God made you as you are and loves you—
– another Gay Catholic who is a practicing Catholic and has a loving partner.

So much compassion, and so much confusion. The author appears to assume the following things:

  • - That I don’t believe God loves me, SSA and all.
  • - That all sexual feelings are expressions of love.
  • - That the only way to be celibate is through “repression”.
  • - That rejecting the behavior of gay people (or anyone else) implies a rejection of the people themselves.

So many Catholics have been tricked into believing that they can take the parts they love about Catholicism and leave the parts they don’t. This would be the case if the Church were a philosophy, or a political creed, or a theory. The Church is none of those things.

The Church is — among other things — the instrument by which God communicates His truth to the world. Like Christ, she is both human and divine. Her humanity means that she is full of knaves and imbeciles1 as well as saints, just like the rest of the world. It means that her members, who of all people should know better, have often done unspeakable and horrific things, and often done them in the name of Christ.

But she is also divine, and because of this, there is one thing she has never done: she has never erred in her official teachings on a matter of faith and morals, Nor has she ever changed one of these teachings. I challenge you to find one instance, just one, of such an error or such a change. (Citations required, please.)

This unchangeability is our salvation. As soon as we begin to sift through Catholic moral teaching and select the ones that please us, we have ceased to believe in the Church as she has always been understood, and have replaced her with something that is designed to suit us. We have changed her foundation from rock to sand.

We have, in short, set ourselves up as the ultimate authorities. I’ve lived with myself all my life, dear readers, and by this time I know very well that I’m not an ultimate anything. Thank God for the Church, my compass, my anchor, my North Star. However far I wander, she will always leads me back to sanity; because she does not move.

Please pray for this man and all those like him, who have been led so far into the wilderness that they no longer know they are lost.

1 q.v. Hilaire Belloc: “[The Church is] an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.”