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Reply to Leonardo: Integrating Sex, Love & the Divine

My friend Leonardo Ricardo and I have struck up a dialogue from my previous post below.

He wrote:

I keep thinking about… hey, what IS acceptable for people like us…am I missing some new information? Am I out of the loop? Am I innocently pursing traditional moral values that don’t really exist? What’s the marriage covenant, for people like us, REALLY about? Is there some kind of a movement to relgiously validate something other than monogomous relationships? Is there a “wink/wink” that I’m unaware of?

I don’t think you’re missing any new info, Leonardo, or that there’s a wink/wink thing going on. I’m not aware of any push to bless “open” relationships, Gay or Straight. Instead my sense is that only now, at this time in history, are LGBT people of faith beginning to face some of these questions because of civil unions and legal marriages, especially after the California Supreme Court so clearly ruled that unions lacking the term marriage are seriously discriminatory.

In TEC’s heterosexual marriage rites, “faithfulness” still occupies an important place in the giving and receiving of vows. As we look at adapting the traditional rites, we start to face the questions; what does faithfulness mean? Can one be faithful and committed but not monogamous? I think that’s how most LGBT Christians have defined it up to now in their own living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. Many have straddled the Gay world and the Christian world, taking some from both. But now for the first time we have to/get to wrestle with all the meanings of fidelity—which is what led me to ask some of the questions.

I don’t think we’re ever going to get Gay men (as a category) to give up hot sex—not when there are whole industries and millions of individuals eager to provide their version of hot sex. In this sense, porn is often the enemy of love and relationships, if only in how most porn videos set up the hot encounter (or orgy, ugh). Very seldom does one encounter a scene where two guys who live together and love each other get naked in the privacy of their own home, or say I love you. Sometimes real tenderness is depicted, but not too often. The far more likely setup is “Wow, look at that!” and drop your pants. Or sometimes you’ll see infidelity depicted as a positive thing, natural and common. (Not that we should live our lives according to the dictates of pornography, but media do convey messages about standards, and porn producers profit most when “anything goes” is the norm.)

But none of this is particularly Christian, some of it is anti-Christian, and the issue for committed Christian lovers may become, How do we have hot sex here at home, just you and me? How do we get honest enough to say and show each other what we really want? How do we handle sexual incompatibility (two tops or two bottoms, or one’s kinky and the other’s vanilla)?

How do we combat the secular Gay norm that monogamy is A) boring and B) mimicking Straight people (and therefore homophobic and not hot)?

How do we promote and enable real intimacy based on love? If it’s not loving, it’s probably not from God.

Just the mention of God in this conversation sends lots of guys, including Christian Gay guys, running for the exits; “God has nothing to do with my sex life!” They maintain a separation between God and normal life which God seeks to integrate and bless.

The really big shocker I think is that God gave you your lover, knowing exactly what your inclinations are and everything the two of you might do. God did that because God loves you both so much!

It’s a mistake to separate God, love, sex and marriage; they’re all one thing. And our spiritual practice (if not our religion) teaches us that God lives inside each one of us—so yes, God’s in the room while you’re getting nasty.

We’ve been so mis-programmed for so long that we want to lock God outside, while the theology of hetero married sexuality is fairly well-developed. As Gay people we’ve never heard or said the message, “Within marriage, you can do anything safe that makes you hard!”

The Church hasn’t been sex-positive with us (or publicly with Straight couples either), and LGBT church groups have been so busy lobbying that they seldom or never get to this message either, in case it would be used against them by anti-Gay bigots.

Here’s a fantasy for integrating God, love, sex and Gay marriage: maybe we should teach each couple to devise their own little rituals before and after Doing The Deed. It could be as simple as holding hands in front of the crucifix, making the sign of the Cross and kissing. No words need to be said, but the Divine One who gives us love and made our bodies ought to be acknowledged and thanked and blessed. Do it naked if you want, but do it.

Afterwards you can’t help but have sex AND make love.

When you’re finally lying happily exhausted in each other’s arms, one can whisper, “Thank you, God, for giving me this man.” And the other can say, “Amen.”++

8 Responses

  1. I have to acknowledge one other thing: monogamy is difficult for most people, male and female. The culture barely recognizes it and doesn’t promote it; science shows vast numbers of people don’t keep it, whether they want to or not. Yet it is the ideal in Christianity, which is a very idealistic religion even as it recognizes there is no perfection in this life, there’s mostly sin.

    I would hope that pastors doing marriage prep with Gay couples (and all couples) would teach as well as listen on the ideal of monogamy, then also point to this passage in the marriage rite:

    “Give them grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours.”

    One Straight norm I hope LGBTs never adopt is “Oh, he cheated on me, I’m leaving.” To me that’s just nutty and immature; Gay people have smarter notions of forgiveness than some Straight people do.

  2. I remember my first “lover”… we met during the final college years…I thought I was supposed to be honest and honorable…I drank quite a lot to suppress feelings of being trapped…when he “cheated” on me, I was furious, confused and relieved…the gate was open and “open” it remained with years and years of twisted “being”….later, alone, I met another person that I became “lovers” with…he was bi-sexual and I was always “concerned” about his possible “cheating”…he was a great looking man (they all were) so I drank fearing the “cheating” I knew would come…it did….third time was years later and lasted for four years….he and I were very close, slept together when together but stopped the intimacy at his request after a few years….later he was murdered and I didn’t think my grief would ever go away…I simply didn’t care if I lived or died each day….now, it’s over ten years later and about a year and half ago I met someone much younger than me…someone who has wonderful attributes as a person and is very sexual….I just had my 65th birthday and I find myself VERY loving and kindly but not very sexual as it turns out (after quite a firey first year+)…I’ve settled into a wonderful friendship/companionship but I feel that my extreme comfort level isn’t always enough for him….considering him as the well loved person in my life I think that soon WE must acknowledge the natural needs of his that I’m not now satisfying very regularly.

    On another front…I’ve know a heterosexual, lovely Episcopalian widow for a very long time…once, years ago, I made some kind of gossipy crack about a “adulterer” we knew…it was meant to be funny but it wasn’t really funny…my lady friend said to me “be careful nobody ever knows the REAL circumstances in the relationships of others.” Over the years I’ve known that to be true…nobody really does know what needs need to be met and how loving ones beloved may be more “generous” of spirit than one may thought or may have believed possible between two people who deeply love one another…I’m not certain all the answers are given when “vows” are taken at Church…somehow compassion, selflessness and real love may call for, and be, more than we first agreed to or understood.

    Thanks for speaking openly, I hope others will join in…it’s hard to discuss ones secrets questions openly.

  3. whoops, sorry, a mistake above: number three last for fourteen years, not four.

  4. What a thoughtful comment – thank you for getting so real. There’s such a gap between the ideal and the level most of us live on, especially when we’re young. We’ve got all sorts of crazy psychological issues just at the time we’re supposed to make our way in the world, including pairing up; no one does it right. (This is yet another example of fundamentalist hypocrisy; they officially believe in “family values,” but meanwhile they’re living in the gutter.)

    There’s also the situation where one lover gets seriously ill; what’s his partner supposed to do, suffer for the rest of his life? In the Old Testament guys are visiting prostitutes, taking concubines and multiple wives, committing murder (King David, to satisfy his lust for Bathsheba). They weren’t any better at this than we are, or the pious crowd at Viagraville who stand morally erect because that’s the only part that still works.

    Life is complicated, each couple is different. Pastoral counseling should take that into account. We should make the most loving, honest, self-disclosive decisions we can. Furthermore, I really believe couples can learn a skill set in facing various relationship questions, which often go beyond sexuality.

    In my fiction, the lead character, early 20s, follows all the rules and stays chaste for five years through his lover’s illness and death. Afterwards when he meets someone else he commits to, he says, “If you get sick and can’t have sex, I’ll still love you and be with you. But I’m never doing that chastity crap again.”

    It’s only as we get older that most of us learn what faithfulness is about. It takes a lifetime of prayer to start to grasp it, which is why I commend the Daily Office to every man, woman and child. Couples who say it together gain a vast spirtual treasury.

    The good news is that God cherishes human love wherever it breaks out. So I think your widowed friend was right, and that you and yours will make some good choices. Besides, things change.

  5. I just read your comment and then went downstairs and washed the late breakfast dishes…as I was scrubbing away on a griddle I kept thinking about how “conflicted” I was about being “good” as opposed to being a “out” Gay person, a person that society, and my little heartbeat of a person living in it, thought MUST BE “wrong/bad!” When I went away to College I selected a College near San Francisco (although I was accepted at a great/famous University in Los Angeles and also in Washington)…no, not me, I wanted to disappear into being “bad” and I couldn’t wait to escape “being painstakingly well-mannered and acceptable” to my fellow human beings…the truth was that I was ill prepared to become a full-fledged adult in society because I was trying to ESCAPE being who I REALLY was while simultaneously striving very hard to BE SOMEONE so nobody would fuck with me…quite a twisted illusion when facing responsible participation in everyday life with everyone…everyone else. How was I to know that I was going to attempt to create my own nitch in society while lurking/hiding in the shadows sexually (while indulging in alcohol and substances in order to operate/act-out freely away from my quest for personal dignity)? How did I know that working my butt off and becoming a someone in my “little pond” of things wouldn’t save me from my own undercurrent of self-loathing.

    Somehow my personal life had to be “fashioned” out of the “pieces” of “Christian/Social Correctness” that I managed to find reasonable…reasonalbe in my “case”…my “case” that had NO CASE if exposed to everyday life. I could have lived in a Gay Ghetto and insulated myself, brain washed myself and protected myself from social REALITY…I didn’t do that (mostly)…I attempted to be “part of” everyday life…regular life with it’s ideals/standards and brutal and blatant prejudices and stupidities (albeit a modified sexual version that I glued together to fit my own well intentioned yet guiltdriven needs).

    Fast forward.

    I found my way away from self-loathing and underlying insecurity by being able to follow Gods everyday “will” for me…by putting myself in Gods hands and accepting the authentic person that God created me to be has given me the FREEDOM to live with greater purpose…accepting that I wasn’t doomed to run forever away from a “ugly sexual nature” that I believed was part of me is a HUGE relief…it’s the difference between being a weird special attraction (something like the two headed Queer) in the Circus of life and simply becoming a member of the audience, with a front row/center seat, under the Big Top.

    Now I see that Akinola, Orombi, Duncan, Iker and few other religious numbskulled extremists are trying to lay the old BLAME/SHAME on me, my friends, my family my supporters again…these not so loving twisted souls are attempting to make ugly people with the preaching of abusive filthy notions about the lives of people like me…these sadistic ignoramouses are clueless as as to the persecution they cause amongst their fellow Anglicans/Christians and fellow human beings…these dudes are irresponsible citizens who OUGHT be responsible for their OWN, ongoing and despicable actions against humanity…actions against people like me whom they no NOTHING about (except for what we allow them to know/see).

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  7. Dear Josh, This is what I usually find when people start openly discussing LGBT relationships/sex and how that all “fits” within our Episcopal Church religious beliefs…true, Heterosexuals aren’t much better at “coming forward” with the reality of what they actually “do” as opposed to “what they believe.” I guess this “struggle” is still in the catagory of “double standard” thinking/beliving?

  8. I think there is still a wink/wink that I don’t know about.

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