“Gay in Christ: Dimensions of Fidelity”: Notes from Day One

“Gay in Christ: Dimensions of Fidelity”: Notes from Day One October 31, 2014

I’m procrastinating from finishing my own presentation by writing up my super-scattered notes from the first three presentations. This is solely the stuff which struck me personally as interesting and isn’t intended as a complete picture of the event so far!

Ron Belgau (my paraphrase): The Bible doesn’t appeal to the Creation narratives to settle questions of scientific curiosity. Genesis 1 is about the liturgical rhythms of work and worship. Genesis 2 is about love, loneliness, and marriage. And the longest Creation narrative isn’t in Genesis but in Job, where it’s used to remind us that God is in control.

This speech is not a safe space for Protestants.

This is the second conference in two weekends where speakers have been pretty down on the 12 Steps. I never know just how 12-Steppy my (patchwork, haphazard) spirituality really is until somebody criticizes it….

I’m super-impressed by the wide spectrum of perspectives in the audience. Notre Dame did a great job of bringing in people who have various (and conflicting) disagreements with aspects of the conference’s overall project: The Human Rights Campaign sent Justin Davis from their Religion and Faith Program; Eliel Cruz was there; Dan Mattson was there. Lots of interest and participation.

Wesley Hill (again, very much my paraphrase): Galatians 3 is about what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ. Christ is the firstborn son, Abraham’s offspring, and so it’s important to tell us that we can be a part of Christ’s Body without being male or Jewish or free.

Galatians 3’s use of “male and female” may suggest that the possibility of celibacy frees Christians from the mandate that everybody has to marry. When everybody’s supposed to marry, the unmarried are viewed as incomplete adults, incomplete men and women. (this bit is all me:) Christ has children through the Covenant, not biological children. Jesus is not a failure as a man.

This opens the door to marriage as one vocation among others.

Marcionism! (do a shot)

My super-speculative note: We often hear (and I often say) that because marriage unites man and woman, who are “other” to one another, marriage can be an image of the union of the human soul with God. Marriage of man and woman is a union with iconic otherness, whereas same-sex marriage would be a union of two people on the same side of the primordial and iconic division of the sexes, so it’s a less-powerful image of union with otherness. On this account celibacy is more other-oriented than marriage, if/because the person unites only with God. Celibacy is more heteroerotic than marriage.

Hmm, as the philosophers say.

I should intensify my “don’t be your own abbot” post. The abbot isn’t just a spiritual director, whom you may obey but whom you can also get away from. You live with your abbot; he’s inescapable. So spouses can mutually abbot one another, and celibate partners could abbot one another; life in a family household could provide abboting for a celibate layperson. The concept of “parish celibacy” comes up: Could committing to a place be a way of finding an inescapable abbot?

A questioner notes that the “parish celibacy” of widows in the New Testament may have been a response to their social and economic status as outcasts (due to their faith): unsupported and unable to remarry. See my book re: economic consequences of celibacy.

Is there marriage in Purgatory? By which I mean: We sometimes frame celibacy as anticipation of and witness to Heaven, where there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage. Celibacy is lived, then, in solidarity–voluntary alignment, despite personal cost–with the Church Triumphant. Can it also be lived in solidarity with the Church Suffering?

Chris Roberts: Augustine says celibacy can’t be based on a rejection of marriage; it must flow from longing for the social life of Heaven. (Me: This is a very nice reimagining which cuts against the argument that gay men should be barred from the priesthood because celibacy can’t be based on a rejection of marriage… so you’ve got to long for marriage for celibacy to be a real sacrifice.)

Should all conferences of this type (and not only on this subject) explicitly seek to include criticism of the Church’s practice? Should all such conferences include art?

Christians are “sexual minorities” today, as we were in the ancient world.

ATOMS AND THE VOID (do a shot)

Some discussion of what we mean when we say “celibacy.” I completely cop to using it super-casually, in fact incorrectly, when what I mean is “continence/sexual abstinence for people who do not expect to marry.”

GNOSTICISM (shot!)

…Docetism (chaser)

Roberts: “When I talk to my straight male friends, a lot of them don’t feel that they’re called to monogamy….”

And on that note–on to tomorrow! I’ll be talking about the role of choice or lack of choice in vocation tomorrow, though from a different angle. I’ll also discuss several different ways of thinking about vocation, and do a bit of class warfare because theology is always better with class warfare.


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