A noted sports figure came out of the closet. Not Jason Collins of the NBA saying he is gay. ESPN commentator Chris Broussard revealing himself to be a Christian, something far more controversial than what Collins did. [Read more…]
The Boy Scouts are caught between Scylla and Charybdis–or, as more of them might put it less classically, a rock and a hard place. The organization has had to deal with scandals involving gay scoutmasters and some incidents of child sexual abuse. So it tightened its standards and its scrutiny. Now the organization is under fire for being anti-gay. The organization has announced that it is reconsidering its policies banning openly gay leaders and scouts. Barton Gingerich (a former student of mine) has some inside information about what is going on. [Read more…]
A New York archbishop shut down a “gay mass” that was held regularly in a SoHo church. His explanation why there must not be a distinct worship service for homosexuals–the one mass is for everyone–makes a further interesting point about human identity:
First among the principles of pastoral care is the innate dignity of every person and the respect in which they must be held. Also, of great importance, is the teaching of the Church that a person must not be identified by their sexual orientation. The moral teaching of the Church is that the proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life.
Comments David Mills:
That “must not be identified by their sexual orientation,” for example, also means “must not identify themselves by their sexual orientation,” which is to say, must not assume they can or must act upon their desires.
You are not first a homosexual, the archdiocese is saying to the people who attended that Mass. You are first and primarily a human being, and therefore someone called to chastity, and the proper expressions of your sexuality are defined and limited and do not include homosexual practice. Being homosexual is only the personal context in which you are called to be chaste, as being heterosexual is the context for most people. But it is not an identity that brings with it a way of life.
How does this help to frame the issue of homosexuality and pastoral care to gay people (that is, to human beings with same sex attraction)? On the other hand, what is distinctly Catholic about this formulation?
Exodus International has been the preeminent Christian ministry to gays. A major emphasis of that group has been that homosexuals, through prayer and therapy, can lose their same-sex attraction and become heterosexual. Now the president of that organization is saying something different:
The ex-gay movement has been convulsed as the leader of Exodus, in a series of public statements and a speech to the group’s annual meeting last week, renounced some of the movement’s core beliefs. Alan Chambers, 40, the president, declared that there was no cure for homosexuality and that “reparative therapy” offered false hopes to gays and could even be harmful. His statements have led to charges of heresy and a growing schism within the network. . . .
In a phone interview Thursday from Orlando, Fla., where Exodus has its headquarters, Mr. Chambers amplified on the views that have stirred so much controversy. He said that virtually every “ex-gay” he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself included. Mr. Chambers, who left the gay life to marry and have two children, said that gay Christians like himself faced a lifelong spiritual struggle to avoid sin and should not be afraid to admit it.
He said Exodus could no longer condone reparative therapy, which blames homosexuality on emotional scars in childhood and claims to reshape the psyche. And in a theological departure that has caused the sharpest reaction from conservative pastors, Mr. Chambers said he believed that those who persist in homosexual behavior could still be saved by Christ and go to heaven. . . .
“I believe that any sexual expression outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sinful according tothe Bible,” Mr. Chambers emphasized. “But we’ve been asking people with same-sex attractions to overcome something in a way that we don’t ask of anyone else,” he said, noting that Christians with other sins, whether heterosexual lust, pornography, pride or gluttony, do not receive the same blanket condemnations. . . .
Mr. Chambers said he was simply trying to restore Exodus to its original purpose when it was founded in 1976: providing spiritual support for Christians who are struggling with homosexual attraction.
He said that he was happy in his marriage, with a “love and devotion much deeper than anything I experienced in gay life,” but that he knew this was not feasible for everyone. Many Christians with homosexual urges may have to strive for lives of celibacy.
But those who fail should not be severely judged, he said, adding, “We all struggle or fall in some way.”
As one might expect, Chambers’ announcement has sparked a huge controversy, which the NY Times article goes into. Some people who have gone through Exodus International are insisting they have too been changed and no longer struggle with same-sex attraction. Others, like Chambers himself, are now happily married ( to women), have children and a heterosexual sex life, while also still feeling and battling same sex attractions. Most gay Christians, though, don’t lose their attraction to the same sex.
Are we perhaps making a mistake by “privileging” homosexuality as a special category of sin? Theologically, given the “bondage of the will,” can we say that sin is ever just a matter of “choice”? Aren’t all sins deeply ingrained, even “genetic,” in that we inherit our fallen nature from Adam and Eve? Don’t we all have to struggle against our own personal besetting sins? And, certainly, isn’t it precisely sinners who are saved? Or do you think our salvation rests on being “victorious” over our particular sins?
The problem on the other side, it seems to me, is with those who deny that they are sinners. That would include both religious legalists and those who insist that when it comes to their particular sin (whether homosexuality, pornography, selfishness, cruelty) “there is nothing wrong with it.” Such an attitude precludes repentance and denies their need for the gospel. Not that repentance in itself saves, but that it can drive a person to the Cross, where Jesus bore even those sins in His body, so as to atone for them and win free forgiveness.
We’ve talked about homosexuality a lot on this blog, so could we set that aside for now? Could we discuss the more general issue of “besetting sins” (the ones each individual is prone to), repentance, failure, and the Christian life?
President Clinton was hailed by the liberal media as “the first black president”–on the basis of his soulfulness, sexual appetites, and other racist stereotypes–even though there would be an actual black president a few years later. Now Newsweek is hailing President Obama as “the first gay president” with a cover story by Andrew Sullivan about alleged affinities between being biracial and being gay. (Never mind that gays had been disillusioned with the president for not doing anything for them until his recent announcement that he support gay marriage.)
I think this is ridiculous journalism and unfair to President Obama. What gets me, though, is the cover. In an extreme version of media hagiography, both of Obama and of gays, the president is adorned with a halo. A rainbow-colored halo.
We have recently discussed homosexuality and gay marriage, to the point of exhaustion, so let’s not talk about those subjects as such. Let’s talk about the halo.
In what has to be one of the most dramatic turnarounds in moral and cultural history, gays have acquired the status of sainthood, while those who oppose homosexuality have acquired the status of evil villain. Homosexuality used to be considered a mental illness; now homophobia is considered the mental illness. Gay sex used to be considered a vice; now it is assuming the status of a virtue, while disapproving of gay sex is considered a vice. Conservative Christians have liked to think of themselves as “good” (despite their own theology); but now they (or we) are demonized. Gays, though, wear a halo. Not that everyone believes this, but this is the projection of both the elite and the popular cultures, whose influence is permeating everywhere.
How do you account for this turn-around? How did it happen? Why? Are there lessons that Christians can learn from this before the persecutions begin in earnest? And, to play the Newsweek game, might Christians someday become the “new gays”?
A custom of Afghanistan that our intervention has helped bring back into vogue, despite the moralism of Islam:
The 9-year-old boy with pale skin and big, piercing eyes captivated Mirzahan at first sight.
“He is more handsome than anyone in the village,” the 22-year-old farmer said, explaining why he is grooming the boy as a sexual partner and companion. There was another important factor that made Waheed easy to take on as a bacha bazi, or a boy for pleasure: “He doesn’t have a father, so there is no one to stop this.”
A growing number of Afghan children are being coerced into a life of sexual abuse. The practice of wealthy or prominent Afghans exploiting underage boys as sexual partners who are often dressed up as women to dance at gatherings is on the rise in post-Taliban Afghanistan, according to Afghan human rights researchers, Western officials and men who participate in the abuse.
“Like it or not, there was better rule of law under the Taliban,” said Dee Brillenburg Wurth, a child-protection expert at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, who has sought to persuade the government to address the problem. “They saw it as a sin, and they stopped a lot of it.”
Over the past decade, the phenomenon has flourished in Pashtun areas in the south, in several northern provinces and even in the capital, according to Afghans who engage in the practice or have studied it. Although issues such as women’s rights and moral crimes have attracted a flood of donor aid and activism in recent years, bacha bazi remains poorly understood.
The State Department has mentioned the practice — which is illegal here, as it would be in most countries — in its annual human rights reports. The 2010 report said members of Afghanistan’s security forces, who receive training and weapons from the U.S.-led coalition, sexually abused boys “in an environment of criminal impunity.”
But by and large, foreign powers in Afghanistan have refrained from drawing attention to the issue. . . .
Boys who become bachas are seen as property, said Jawad, the human rights researcher. Those who are perceived as being particularly beautiful can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars. The men who control them sometimes rent them out as dancers at male-only parties, and some are prostituted.
“This is abuse,” Jawad said. “Most of these children are not willing to do this. They do this for money. Their families are very poor.”
Although the practice is thought to be more widespread in conservative rural areas, it has become common in Kabul. Mohammed Fahim, a videographer who films the lavish weddings in the capital, estimated that one in every five weddings he attends in Kabul features dancing boys.
Authorities are well aware of the phenomenon, he said, as he played a video of a recent party that featured an underage boy with heavy makeup shaking his shoulders seductively as men sitting on the floor clapped and smiled.
“Police come because they like it a lot,” Fahim said, referring to parties with dancing boys.
When the boys age beyond their prime and get tossed aside, many become pimps or prostitutes, said Afghan photojournalist Barat Ali Batoor, who spent months chronicling the plight of dancing boys. Some turn to drugs or alcohol, he said.
“In Afghan society, if you are raped or you are abused, you will not have space in society to live proudly,” he said.
When Batoor completed his project on dancing boys, he assumed that nongovernmental organizations would be eager to exhibit his work and raise awareness of the issue. To his surprise, none were.
“They said: ‘We don’t want to make enemies in Afghanistan,’ ” he said, summarizing the general response.