The Deep Waters and Gay Marriage

I rarely recommend subscribing to RSS feeds, because I know what it’s like to get enough email, but I am going to urge you to subscribe to Theologian (and Patheos columnist) Tim Muldoon — at least over the summer — as he continues to plumb the theological depths in consideration of gay marriage.

He started out wondering if Christianity was having a Gamaliel moment on the matter.

This week, he thinks about what does true violence to the spirit, and whether “facsimiles of love” play into that:

My thesis is that the Church at its best today does cause pain, but does not do violence. It is the pain of the surgeon excising a tumor, or setting a bone, or cauterizing a wound. It is the pain of a mother sending her daughter to rehab, or a father wrestling the car keys from his drunken son’s hands. It is the pain of women doing an intervention with their addicted friend, the pain of a man confronting his adulterous friend with the truth of how he is hurting his wife. It is the pain of Jesus telling his disciples “I have come to bring not peace but the sword” (Mt. 10:34), mindful that truth unmasks evil and causes the implicated to lash out with anger.

It is possible to name violence only when one has an understanding of the good. The spiritually mature person will take the role of one who causes pain when he understands that such pain is necessary for growth. The mystic Saint John of the Cross wrote of this pain:

Why, since you wounded
this heart, don’t you heal it?

Yet the figure in his poem, a bride awaiting her bridegroom (echoing the Song of Songs), understands on some level that the pain is necessary:

the sickness of love
is not cured
except by your very presence and image.

It is the pain of love; or rather, the pain caused when one loses something she believes to be love. One feels a wretched absence, a vacuum. Hearing “no” from the Church can feel like a kind of violence, especially in matters of sex which seem to be about love. Yet love can flourish only when one freely chooses to remove facsimiles of love. One must undergo the pain of absence, the pain of the hollow ground before the new seed is planted.

I think we’re in for a remarkable summer of writing from Tim.

And if that’s a bit heavy for you, perhaps pick up the RSS feed of Pat McNamara, as well. His historical looks at American Catholics are always uplifting, inspiring and refreshing!

It’s like a one-two punch, every Tuesday! :-)

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Victor

    One must undergo the pain of absence, the pain of the hollow ground before the new seed is planted.

    Whow! Anchoress, I’ve only read the foot notes concerning these reading and I’ve learned plenty already but while I’m kind of interested about reading more, some of my spiritual cells you might say are kind of scared to read any further thinking that they might just find some hollow ground and be tempted to plant a seed or two if you know what I mean? :(

    I hear ya! Don’t be afraid Victor cause I would never lead you on the wrong path and besides I think that you’re reading way too much in my one-two punch analysis remark. :)


  • Kathy Schiffer

    Wow, you are right– I need to run over right away and begin reading Tim Muldoon. A profound reflection.

  • kenneth

    Every oppressor in human history has justified their actions by saying it was in the best interest of the victim. The trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Roman Empire right on down to the Mutaween in Saudi Arabia who beat women into submission. Nothing new or beautiful or insightful here at all. It is a poetic way to put lipstick on a pig, I must concede, but it’s still a pig, and I ain’t kissing it!

  • brother jeff

    could be a trojan horse moment too.

  • Greta

    I have to laugh when people suggest in any way we should back off from defending marriage between one man and one woman in an effort to make the gay lifestyle behavior choice equal. When we have judges breaking their oath to defend the constititution by finding words for one amendment and applying them to completely different matters to legislate solutions, we have to fight back or surrender our liberty. If one suggests why a dad marrying his adult daughter is not allowed or brother and sister or man and boy is not the same as gay marriage, you get the laugh and saying it is rediculous. Of course if anyone would have said in 1970 that finding the right to kill babies in the womb in the same way would bring about 54 million dead babies, you would have had the same reaction.

    it is not gay marrige that those who favor this want, but a removal of everything connected to God or religion removed from our country. Gay marriage is just one of the hundreds of tools these people are using to attack everything that America stands for from the first days of our founding on Judeo Christian values. What they hate is one nation under God and In God We Trust.

  • Bender

    Talk about violence.

    Muldoon himself is clearly guilty of a violent attack on the history of the Church, all too eager to throw boulders (thereby giving encouragement to those who hate the Church) with drive-by indictments that are, on the whole, misleading and false given the failure to provide the full history and circumstances surrounding those events.

  • Ben Anderson

    I’m very surprised, Elizabeth, that you think Tim Muldoon’s articles are worth reading. The errors and oversights are rampant. If he’s merely talking about a question of emphasis that’s one thing, but that’s not what he seems to be suggesting at all. One of my biggest laments of the hierarchy is that they’ve thrown many under the bus for standing up for Christian principles. Now, when the hierarchy is actually standing up for truth, it seems that Tim Muldoon wants to throw them under the bus. That timing couldn’t be worse as the SSM debate is at a peak in NYS. I wonder how closely Tim Muldoon has been involved in the SSM debate or whether he’s just watched from a distance. What would he say about the “What is Marriage?” paper?

    [You need to stick with him through the summer. He's a good deal more orthodox than you realize; you'll be surprised. But he plums the depths and considers all sides as he gets there. -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Any account of the violence in the church must also consider the violence Christians have endured throughout the 20th Century—and continue to endure in the 21st.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I would say that yes, there is a kind of violence that arises from being Christian—and it’s the violence directed at Christians, in places like the Philippines, China, the Middle East and elsewhere, who merely wish to live as Christians.

  • Brother Jeff

    I would have to agree with Greta. At this rate, in 50 years there will be a judicial decision holding that it does not violate the First Amendment to prohibit Catholics from expressing their views anywhere outside of their homes. Once that accretes in the case law, it will be followed by steps to bar Christians from holding any public office, and worse forms of outright persecution.

    We laugh at this as being impossible, but we also laughed that abortion would ever become legal, gay “marriage” would ever be recognized, and church attendance would plummet to levels unheard of even in the 60s.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I agree with you, Brother Jeff;

    Except that I will believe it will arrive in America a lot sooner than in 50 years.

    (It’s already happening in the rest of the world. )

  • Brother Jeff

    If the Bamster gets a second term, the pace will unquestionably accelerate. I think Ann Coulter’s observations on the hatred of liberals for any principle traceable to Christianity or God in her new book, aptly titled “Demonic,” are not far off the mark.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, a second term for the Bamster, and I do believe that pressure will start increasing on Christians, and Orthodox Jews, who insist on clinging to their “outdated” faith.

    The excuse will be human rights—or tolerance—or inclusivity—or some other buzzword. But the results will be the same old-same old.

  • Ben Anderson

    Elizabeth, I’m not questioning his orthodoxy – I’m questioning his intelligence. I don’t think he’s thought through the ramifications of playing the appeaser in issues such as SSM.

    [We'll have to agree to disagree. I think he's thinking things through very deeply -- and he is quite intelligent -- and that involves him looking into all the corners. As I said, stick with reading him through the summer and see what you think by August! :-) -admin]

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I confess, I’m disinheartened by Mr. Muldoon’s emphasis on past offenses: The Crusades, the Inquisition, missionary work in South America.

    A dialogue between Jews and Christians would be a good thing, but it might be better, say, to focus on the anti-Israel “peace” flotillas, and the rise of anti-semetism in the world today, rather than the Oberammagay plays.

    We’ll see what happens in August. . .

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Very sorry! I should have said, “Oberammagau Plays!”

    My typing may be crazy, but my heart’s in the right place! Heh!

  • Brother Jeff

    I haven’t seen his writing on the Crusades but dare I assume that they are portrayed as all wrong?

    Where on gay “marriage” he states: “My concern is that overemphasis on the legal question of gay marriage may, in fact, distract us from a more robust public witness, a more persuasive model of sexuality that is deeply rooted in a faithful discernment of God’s project,” does anyone really believe this? Does anyone believe that giving in on the question of legalized homosexual “marriage” will give rise to a “more robust” public witness?

    I don’t. If anything it will cow Christians into thinking it is normal and holding their tongues.

  • Bill

    Maybe, Brother Jeff, he suggests we bear witness to what we are for, rather than what we are against; that we live in faithfulness, not in opposition.

  • Brother Jeff

    To be candid, I think what he is saying makes almost no sense.

    We demonstrate that we are for marriage or for life, for example, by actively opposing efforts to redefine or kill it, respectively. This does not mean that we are giving witness to “what we are against,” though that is certainly how pro-homosexual marriage and pro-abortion operatives would distort it. To play that semantic word game, pro-homosexual marriage advocates are merely arguing for what they are “against,” exclusively heterosexual marriage, and not what they are for. It is a silly rhetorical game that goes in circles.

  • Andy

    I enjoyed greatly the idea that Mr. Muldoon is thinking through and looking at things from all sides. It is the ability to see things from many sides that will allow us to promote Catholic teachings and beliefs. Merely saying it is wrong invites people to do the opposite – witness our grand experiment with prohibition. I for one look forward to seeing how he moves through his explorations and thank the Anchoress for bring him to my attention.

  • Brother Jeff

    Andy, there is no natural or divine law against drinking. Especially a good glass of Napa Valley cabernet. Jesus himself drank.

    There is, however, a natural and divine law against homosexual relations and abortion. You can’t put them in the same league.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I was going by Mr. Muldoon’s reference to the Crusades in the article about Christian violence, where he also mentions the Inquisition, and violence performed by South American missionaries. I don’t know if he’s written anything else about the Crusades, but I would assume that if he had it would be negative, given the way he speaks about it here.

    Churches, like the Episcopal Church, that think they can gain a more robust public witness by dropping their beliefs, and the Bible, usually don’t do so well.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    When you believe something, no matter how tolerant, loving or kind you may want to be, the point will come—and it will come sooner than you think—that you will have to say “NO!”

    When you do, the world will be very offended, and hurt by your “NO!” (This is a general rule, and is not applicable only to the gay marriage issue, by any means.)

    When that point comes, for many in the world, they won’t remember how kind, or generous you are; they will only hear the “NO!” and their reaction will be along the lines of, you’re either with us, or against us.

    Are we here to change the world? Or are we supposed to allow the world to change us?

  • Andy

    Brother Jeff
    I am not equating drinking with anything, nor am I saying that there is not natural law – nor am I putting abortion or same sex relationships in any area or belief. I am saying that using law, which is a blunt and painful instrument to cause moral change will not work. – I am saying that to truly convert and help others understand a belief we need to understand their beliefs – We have enough experiences with the “just say no” actions (my prohibition example) to tell us that we need to talk through and to create an environment where the moral imperatives can be presented. The legalistic approach in my mind prevents the true moral change -having an environment that is neutral about an activity, regardless of laws, does more harm to all of us understanding and converting our lives. Jesus told parables to help put His ideas in context that was understandable – I am not capable of using parables in this fashion so I seek to examine ideas from all sides so I can best refute them or support them as the case may be.

  • David Justus

    I think the whole question of when and where to use the coercive power of the state to enforce moral law is an interesting one that a lot of Christians don’t pay to much attention to. They simply assume that what is wrong should be illegal and end it there.

    I’m not sure that can be backed up very well theology, unlike Islam and Judaism, Christianity doesn’t have a whole lot to say about how to govern people.

    I also think Mr. Muldoon is referring to something I have noted, that many Christians seem to focus almost exclusively on homosexuality as a sin, while largely ignoring pre-marital sex, adultery, and other similar problems. This is not to say they don’t condemn such activity, but often they don’t seem to be focused upon. Sometimes it seems that many Christians are more comfortable condemning sins that they (and their congregations) are not tempted with.

    Simply put, the American legal system does not, by and large, support biblical punishment for sexual sin. Most Christians seem pretty ok with that, except in the specific case of homosexuality. That I think causes people to believe that it isn’t ‘the bible’ that motivates them but hatred of gays (and some Christians do a lot to reinforce this view).

    It seems to me that God has already figured out how to deal with a sinful world. Indeed, that is the central message of Christianity. For Christians the more important question doesn’t seem to be how to organize the world, but how to magnify their faith in a fallen one. Relying on the laws of the land to perfect mankind is a form of idolatry when viewed through the lens of the Redemption.

  • LisaB

    Muldoon’s *Gamaliel moment* brought to mind Matthew 16:23-26

    23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

    24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

  • brother jeff

    The last thing this morally bankrupt culture needs is practicing homosexuals aping real marriage.

  • Steve Colby

    Muldoon’s arguments in the Gamaliel Moment essay remind me of the parable of the wheat and the tares. Matthew 13:24-30

    The servants wanted to pull up all the weeds, but the master told them that by doing so they would do more damage to the wheat than the weeds did.

  • brother jeff

    Ah yes. Now i see. What were that crazy pius xii and jp ii thinking when they supported catholic action in the secular arena? They should have remained passive, silly popes.

  • Greta

    It is not just the fact that some want us to back away from those promoting gay lifestyle as normal or equal in any way to marriage, it is the overall attack on everything of value. Taking God out of our schools was not simply not allowing the name to be used, but the removal of anything of value or moral in nature from everything. It meant that history had to be PC purified and any other subject as well. It means we now see lies being taught because truth would reveal a postive about faith or church.

    Of course the attack is led by lawyers who must give an oath to screw up America to get their hunting license. One more term of Moochelle and Barry will give us more attorneys and judges in key postions to continue to legislate from the bench and to provide distorted regulations. Unless we can get a few more Scalia’s on the supreme court for a strong majority favoring strict interpretation of the constitution, we will soon see that totally destroyed forever.

  • Ben Anderson


    In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.