Book Review: Accepting the Lordship of Christ, Gay Style

Book Review: Accepting the Lordship of Christ, Gay Style November 19, 2014

BC GayandCatholic 1

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I know a lot of people who are gay and Catholic, on both sides of the altar. Contrary to the media yammerings, being Gay and Catholic is something of a commonplace.

I’ve never personally known someone who was Catholic and gay who hated the Church the way that we hear they should. What I have seen is a number of people who are doing just like so many Catholics. They are obedient to the Church’s teachings to varying degrees, but they are sincere to the core in their longing for the transcendent love of God.

I know gay Catholics who are in loving sexual relationships. I know gay Catholics who have lived their lives and almost certainly will die in the closet. I know gay Catholics who have marriages, children, grandchildren and who live two lives, a secret one as gay and the one they present to the world and to their families as straight. I know gay Catholics who are single and, so far as I can tell, living celebate lives.

What I haven’t known until I came to Patheos was gay Catholics who openly discussed their sexuality in terms of their acceptance of the teachings of Catholic Church. I had not met the willingness to discuss their own gay-ness within an intellectual and lived framework of obedience to Christ in an open and honest way.

I had not, in short, met Eve Tushnet.

Eve, whether she puts it in these words or not, is striving toward the wonderful objective that Margaret Rose Realy states so beautifully, “Being pleasing to God.”

Margaret’s faith and her elucidation of that message have been a beacon to me in these days of my retreat, a light showing the way forward. When I read Eve Tushnet’s book, Gay and Catholic, I recognized that I was reading the message of a person who is also striving to “be pleasing to God” with her life.

There is no one story for how to apply the love and lordship of Christ to our lives. Each one of us has our uniqueness which we bring to that way of living. But “being pleasing to God” must — must — begin with accepting that Christ is the Lord of all life, and most particularly and most demandingly, of our own lives.

Jesus does not force us to follow HIm. He lets us choose. He lets us say no. He even, just as He did during His passion, lets us mock Him and attack Him and deny Him.

We chose to follow Christ, to make Him the Lord of our lives, each of us, of our own free will. Or we refuse.

Obfuscations and claims of following Christ without actual followership do not count in this choice. What matters is if you actually live out that choice on a daily basis. That means living lives that are profoundly counter-cultural. It does not matter what your culture is, you will not “fit” with its worldly zeitgeist if Jesus Christ is truly and absolutely the Lord of your life. It is not possible.

In that way, Eve Tushnet’s decision to accept a celebate life is no different from the many decisions that Christians all over the world must make. It certainly is not so fraught as the decisions to follow Him that Christians who are imprisoned and murdered for their faith are forced to make.

But the decision to give up her will for His will is Eve Tushnet’s gift of herself to Christ.

That, at bottom, is what accepting Jesus Christ as Lord means. It means making a free gift of yourself and your choices to Him. It is not possible to make such a radical commitment to Christ and still be comfortably aligned with the world. In this way, gay Catholics face the same choices as all other followers of Christ.

Eve Tushnet seeks to develop a paradigm of friendship as a way to live out the vocation of celebacy without inflicting the aridity of isolation and loneliness on oneself. In truth, friendships are the elixir of life, and once again, that applies to all of us. Katrina Fernandez, who struggles with the loneliness of a single mother, is just as much in need of loving friendships as the gay Catholic sitting in the pew in front of her.

Friendship, real friendship, is a lost art in our culture of immediate satisfactions and raging political divisiveness. That is a tragedy which reflects our deeper alienation from God.

I say this because the more you love God and the longer you walk with Christ, the more fully you see that we are all the same underneath our artificial differences. We are all scared and alone, pitted and stained, lost and isolated. We all crave the infinite and we all need forgiveness and love.

The rageful craziness of our society as it plunges into a steepening descent, is a manifestation of what happens when people seek these things inside themselves instead of finding them in God.

The antidote to this raw, keening alienation is the complete freedom of accepting that Jesus Christ is Lord, and by that I mean, that Jesus Christ is Lord of you.

For the gay person, no less or even no different, from the rest of us, that means laying the whole of ourselves, including our sexuality, on the altar of His love. But that does not mean that gay people should live lives of solitary confinement inside their gayness.

We were made by a triune God Who understands fellowship, Who made us for fellowship, with one another and with Him.

In Gay and Catholic, Eve Tushnet begins the discussion about how this fellowship might look for a celebate gay Catholic. I don’t think her suggestions are the final discussion about this. I think they are the beginning of a great dialogue, which, if it is to be truly meaningful, must be based on the acknowledgement that this need applies to far more people than just those with homosexual orientation. It is a human discussion, about universal human needs.

We were made for God, and for one another. Friendship is a human need that is probably stronger and certainly more persistent than our sexual longings.

I like Gay and Catholic so much that I’ve bought copies to give to gay Catholic friends of mine. I am interrupting my retreat to write this review because I think that Gay and Catholic begins a discussion that is long overdue and which we desperately need to have.

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15 responses to “Book Review: Accepting the Lordship of Christ, Gay Style”

  1. “I know gay Catholics who are in loving sexual relationships. I know gay Catholics who have lived their lives and almost certainly will die in the closet. I know gay Catholics who have marriages, children, grandchildren and who live two lives, a secret one as gay and the one they present to the world and to their families as straight. I know gay Catholics who are single and, so far as I can tell, living celebrate lives.”
    Boy you know a lot of gay people…lol. I live in NYC and i don’t know that many. They must really open up to you. I don’t usually buy books on social issues, but I just bought Eve’s book.

  2. The book doesn’t address this. It’s a reflection/autobiography of one gay person. Eve focuses on her conversion, and her decision to believe what the Church teaches, including celibacy for every outside of Holy Matrimony, with Holy Matrimony being a union between one man and one woman.

    I don’t remember her talking about a “special form of welcome” for gay people, an idea that I, personally do not care for. What she does talk about is friendship, instead of isolation. She advances some ideas that I don’t think will work in today’s crazy climate, but which I do think open us up for a discussion of Christian friendship and how wonderful it is for all people, including homosexuals.

    Eve specifically states that she is not approaching the situation from a theological viewpoint, but rather, speaking from her own experience and her own ideas. She also says that if the ideas she has about friendship in any way damage marriage (meaning between one man and one woman) then the ideas have to change to benefit marriage.

    She is not talking about gay people standing up in front of a church an announcing they are gay or anything like this.

  3. I am curious about that too. I walked away from the church and the bishops and their 2006 letter made it easy for me to never look back. I am curious how she and your more public Wesley Hill types get around that pretty clear rule on public disclosure.

  4. I know a lot of gay people, including my own youngest brother. Gay people are everywhere to be found, so it is not hard for me to believe at all that Ms. Rebecca knows a lot of them.

    What is refreshing to me is finding people who are gay and Catholic who are committed to doing their best to live out the Church’s teaching about the nature of human sexuality in their lives. I understand that this is a struggle for many who make that decision, but that is why I respect them all the more. Those gay people who understand why the Church teaches what she does can’t say, as some falsely do, that the Church hates gay people.

    We can’t wave a magic wand and make someone not have same-sex attraction. That’s a big reason why it is wonderful to encounter gay persons who embrace the teachings of the Church.

  5. Here’s a link to the document you’re referencing. It’s a directive on pastoral care, not an injunction against behaviors for the laity. If you are saying that it in any way puts a lay Catholic who happens to be gay under penalty of sin for publicly “coming out” — or for that matter, addresses them directly at all — you are mistaken. This section is talking about what clergy should encourage people to do. Lay Catholics are free to do whatever they want in this regard.

  6. Ah thank you for your response. That said, I am curious how they can come out and not create scandal. There is no shortage of people out there arguing that even identifying as a “gay Catholic” is scandalous by it’s very nature. In truth, I highly respect Eve, Wesley, and the others at Spiritual Friendship who walk a hard road. Not only do they have to give up on love should it come into their life (something I could never imagine doing for so little in return) but they do so while being attacked by their Church family.

    It takes a lot of guts to strip down naked and run with the wolves. Even if you (not you the person I am responding to but you, generally, to readers) are disgusted by them or hate them and wish they would all just die or crawl back into the shadows, you have to admit that few would so readily carry the burdens that they find lashed to their backs.

  7. From what I’ve seen, most people are supportive. I don’t think that a devout Catholic writing about her decision to follow the teachings of the Church is going to give scandal. I think it’s edifying.

  8. I don’t know what they bishops were thinking Jim. I would guess — emphasis on GUESS — that they were referring to announcements in the mass, which would be very wrong as it would turn the Holy Mass into a confessional/coffee klatch/counseling session. If they meant standing up in church and making broad scale announcements about one’s sexuality, I can see how that wouldn’t be helpful, but intrusive and somewhat invasive to the people who would be forced to listen to it. For the same reason, standing up in church announcing that you’re an alcoholic, or any other personal situation would not be helpful. I’m guessing that the mean “helpful” as being edifying to the congregation as a whole.

    Remember, this document is directed to pastors and advising how they should handle issues of homosexuality in pastoral situations. That is the clear limit of the document. I think it’s a big mistake to try to stretch it further than the limits its authors rather explicitly have said they intended.

    “Coming out” in a secular sphere, such as writing a book, is not the same thing at all, and would be entirely up to the person doing it.

  9. Perhaps the bishops did not state it well. It says “General public” disclosures are not helpful. It does not mean that the person’s gayness must be kept secret. I think by general public disclosures they mean that the gay person gets up in front of a large number of people and discloses that they are gay. This is, I suppose, discouraged because they want to treat the person as a person, and not make a big deal about their gayness, or make gayness the number one issue about the person. Such broadcasting of the fact of gayness tends to make gayness the prime feature of the person rather than their inherent integrity as a person. When the whole church knows you are gay, but does not know anything else about you, it is perhaps unhelpful. The person becomes “the gay” rather than the person that he is. At least, that is how I would interpret it, given the overwhelmingly positive approach shown towards gays in the rest of the document.

    For example, Immediately before:

    “As baptized members of the Catholic community, persons with a homosexual inclination continue to look to the Church for a place where they may live in authentic human integrity and holiness of life. Being welcomed into and participating in their local faith community is the foundation of spiritual support that the Church offers to them. Full and active participation is encouraged.
    Participation in a worshiping Catholic community is a support for living a life of chastity and integrity and an encouragement to an ongoing personal conversion”

  10. The problem only comes about when a Gay Catholic insists on publicizing the fact that they are having, and will continue to have, gay sex. The church will welcome gays who approach in all sincerity and wish to live by the church’s teachings, even those who are not able to fully live up to those teachings at the current moment. And the church never condemns simply because one has same sex attraction. But if a gay person approaches, and says I want to be part of the church, and be accepted, but I am going to continue to flaunt her teaching in an egregious way, because they don’t see anything wrong with it,, then there is reason for concern. This is the same as if someone said that they were having affairs outside of marriage, and intended to continue on with that, because they honestly did not see anything wrong with it.

  11. I really think that, taken within the context of the document, what they meant is that it is not helpful for pastors to encourage such things among their parishioners. I’m flummoxed by anyone would latch onto this and think that it’s a prohibition for a book such as Eve Tushnet has written. Her book is a testament to faithful Catholicism.

  12. Which I agree with. There are the Austin Ruse hate group types in the Church who won’t be happy till the gays are simply gone but the official teaching seems more in line with you here so I understand now.