One of my favorite coyotes, Phil Foster, has challenged me thusly:

Quick, Carl – a blog entry on the relationship of Christianity, agnosis and sexuality. Begin with Song of Songs. Or, to paraphrase Genesis, male and female – and God saw that it was good.

My first thought is that this big topic could go in all sorts of directions. At its heart, Christianity is an erotic faith: we are the bride of Christ. But I’m not sure that Christianity has always done so well as a sexual faith: after all,”there is neither… male nor female… in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Maybe before the fall God saw that male/female is good, but it seems that Christianity, understanding itself as a “post-fall” faith, has tried rather too hard to ignore if not eliminate the politics of gender and, therefore, sexuality.

How does agnosis fit in to all this? Well, the heretical gnosis that I wrote about the other day — the extreme dualism that seems to be bound up in spiritual elitism — could be seen as anti-feminine, since it seems that the rejection of the body, the rejection of the physical, and the rejection of the feminine all get wrapped up together. Perhaps I’m just projecting my own modernist bias here. But a truly erotic faith, it seems to me, is a faith that loves both masculine and feminine, both mind and body, both spirit and matter. Maybe this is what Paul was after in Galatians: he denies the difference between male and female but at the same time he also denies Jew/Greek and slave/free as meaningful categories of difference. Perhaps he’s not so much attacking our erotic difference as our sociocultural difference: the difference of gendered privilege.

When we who are embodied in Christ truly move beyond all gender privilege and difference, are we then free to resurrect an authentic eros, a healthy sexuality that flows lovingly among us, as opposed to a fallen sexuality bound up in masculine power and privilege? I hardly know the answer to this question. There you go: agnosis again!

Five Approaches to InterSpirituality
Pentecost and Ecstasy
Sanctity and Struggle, or, Why Saints Have Chaotic Inner Lives (Hint: It's Because We All Do)
Mysticism and the Divine Feminine: An Interview with Mirabai Starr
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • phil foster

    Good stuff. I think the “holy other” (“yanantine” the Q’ero of southern Peru would call this) quality of sexuality is important, especially in Christianity. Certainly in the gospels we see a favorable picture of the equality of the sexes and even in the Pauline literature there is a dynamic tension, paradox about the roles of the genders (re: women don’t speak in church, yet they held important church positions, even episkopoi). The not knowing, “unknowing” quality of spiritual understanding is essential and gender is one of it’s best manifestations.