“Ecstasy in Celibacy” and Other Queer Ideas

“Ecstasy in Celibacy” and Other Queer Ideas April 24, 2019

The workshop descriptions for Revoice 2K19 are live!

Revoice is a conference which seeks “to support and encourage gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other same-sex attracted Christians—as well as those who love them—so that all in the Church might be empowered to live in gospel unity while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” As far as I know it’s the only such conference, in the world. I went last year, the first year. I gave an incoherent talk (you can read a more-coherent version of it here) and had a blast. Hugely recommend it to absolutely every lgbtq/ssa person trying to live the Catholic sexual ethic, or interested in possibly living that ethic and understanding more about what it means. (Using “the Catholic sexual ethic” even though most of these people are Protestants and reject significant elements of Catholic sexual discipline; I continue to hate all the possible shorthands–“historical,” “traditional,” etc all are just as imprecise if not more.) The conference will be in St Louis again this year so you can also visit one of the absolute most beautiful churches I have ever encountered, their cathedral basilica.

Anyway, to see the workshop descriptions, go to the homepage and scroll down until you see the photos, then click on each photo for a workshop description. I’m doing this:

Ecstasy in Celibacy

Contemporary American culture—very much including Christian culture—finds it hard to understand celibacy as anything other than a deprivation. And lots of us also experience celibacy as mostly deprivation, rather than an arena for love. In this workshop, I’ll look at Christian history, theology, and art, in order to suggest ways in which celibacy offers unique forms of openness to love, intimacy with God, and witness to Heaven. I’ll also share my own story of discovering beauty in celibacy even though I never wanted it—if celibacy is a “gift,” I’ve finally stopped looking for the returns counter.

It’s my attempt to describe the many ways Christians have found celibacy to provide witness and beauty, and build community. Some of these are more common in celibacy, but certainly possible in married or hoping-to-be-married life. Some of them are unique to celibacy. This isn’t a how-to workshop, and the ecstasy of celibacy is something I’ve only experienced now and then. But Christians very rarely admit that we have a positive vision of celibate life. It’s a lot harder to accept and build a beautiful life in celibacy if you don’t know what the beauties of celibacy might be. Plus the most common praise for celibacy that we do sometimes hear (it keeps you focused on the things of God because you’re not distracted by merely human relationships) can even be damaging for gay people, as if the way we love God more is to love other people less. I’d like to explore both the freedom of celibacy and the ways it offers unique witness even when your life is very much entangled with and obligated to other people.

But I am not a scholar! So this is also your invitation to send me your best resources, theology, personal anecdotes, whatever, on celibacy as a form of Christian love. I’m at eve_tushnet@yahoo.com . See you in St Louis!

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