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What’s So Bad about Lust?

800wi

I have no idea whether I’ll even hit Publish on this one, it’s pure speculation and wondering. The audience is me, not you.

But I know to make it as honest as I can, to get the most out of writing it. It’s funny, I have a fictional character (Kent) who doesn’t always know what he feels or thinks until he says something; then he thinks, “Wow, did I just say that?” His lover Jamie always thinks before he talks.

With this post I’m more like Kent than Jamie. I’m exploring some ideas, trying to pull together some vague emotions until they make sense. Writing often works this way for me; it’s why teachers often advise students to keep journals. (H/t Miss Carole France, WLHS.)

Something weird is going on with my lustometer. This has been happening for several days now. My body wants sex but my mind isn’t satisfied.

Every guy on the far side of puberty knows what his body feels like when it wants sex. There’s this sense of unease, of anticipation, of restlessness. We come to recognize it; we’re horny—rather an ugly word, but still. If we can’t satisfy the physical drive, it comes out in other ways, in dreams, increased aggressiveness; our gonads start churning, sometimes over unexpected stimuli. It’s like hunger or any other physical need. We get antsy, we shift our weight from one foot to the other, we can’t concentrate. At work we start making mistakes and making excuses. The lunch whistle can’t blow fast enough.

As the blogger D’Jam’l says, you want what you want COZ U NEED IT!

The need for sex is built into our bodies, and therefore is a blessed thing according to God. That’s Lesson #1.

What we do about our physical needs, of course, is a question of morality. According to St. John Cassian, the seven deadly sins are Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed and Sloth.

Gandhi’s 7 Sins differ. He listed these:

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice

I notice that his sins are as much communal as individual. He wasn’t obsessed with eating or sex, but with the public impact of private behavior. Both lists seem helpful to me.

So there’s my second lesson about Lust; some thinkers don’t even list it at all.

However, it’s indisputably true that unbridled lust can lead us to very bad consequences; HIV, broken relationships, wasted time, self-destruction.

So how do you bridle it the right way? Christians would say you get married.

(Insert discourse favoring Gay marriage here.)

Monastics might say you channel it into your love for God—although in my experience this is less a matter of our choosing and acting than of receiving God’s gift and allowing lust to merge with divine longing.

I’m not sure if the latter is happening to me or not. (If so, I blame Julian of Norwich!)

My body’s going all kinds of crazy—but wait, that’s not right; my mind is wondering why my body’s NOT going all kinds of crazy. It’s been days now. I’ve never been through this before.

Is it some kind of spiritual growth? Or just the “male menopause”?

According to WebMD:

Since men do not go through a well-defined period referred to as menopause, some physicians refer to this problem as androgen (testosterone) decline in the aging male. Men do experience a decline in the production of the male hormone testosterone with aging, but this also occurs with some disease states such as diabetes. Along with the decline in testosterone, some men experience symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, depression, and sexual problems. The relationship of these symptoms to the decreased testosterone levels is still controversial.

No fatigue, weakness, depression or other sexual problems for me; no underlying disease process. What if it’s spiritual???

In the past couple of weeks I have stopped visiting erotic websites, including one that is actually fairly thoughtful and witty. They leave me cold these days, or even halfway disgusted. This surprises me; since the early days of AIDS, I’ve belonged to the camp that argues that porn is good, when it enables men to relieve themselves safely. You can’t catch a virus from it, that’s for darn sure. And no Gay man should ever worry about the “sin” of Onan. We’re not making babies in the first place, so that old crazed teaching doesn’t apply. As a planet we need to be concerned about population control—the ultimate reason God made Gay guys, and keeps cranking us out as fast as quality assurance allows.

But more and more I dislike what porn companies are producing.

It’s in their financial interest to promote a subliminal message that says, in Gandhi’s words, pleasure without conscience. In a sense this is the objective state of Gay men: no babies to worry about, no marriages to break up, no reason not to.

But so much of porn is dehumanizing, and that’s a very grave consequence indeed. We need not, in this hugely mechanized culture, any more inducements to become, or regard others as, less than human, just a means to a selfish end, a cog in a wheel.

So the rap against porn remains what it’s always been, commerce without morality. The only difference is that the moral argument has changed.

There’s no excuse for bareback videos, and a Christian cannot support them. Haven’t we lost enough porn actors already? How many more have to die to get you off?

There’s no conscience either in purported “Straight guys for Gay eyes.” All these scenes do is reinforce homosexual inferiority—and I don’t care if there is a sizable market for that. You can’t love Gay guys and tell them they’re worthless; one way or the other you’re a liar.

Back in 1994 when I first invented Kent and Jamie, I had to ask myself, What is my sexual ideal? It’s a useful question everyone should ask. Fantasies are one thing, turnons that aren’t real. Goals are entirely different. What do I want?

Over time I refined my answer to six male characteristics. None of them involve inanimate objects, group sex or interchangeable parts.

For that matter, none involve sex with a stranger. (I have now eliminated 98% of Gay pornography.)

I saw a video clip the other day of two guys getting it on in an RV; I guess they’re on a camping trip, meaning they met more than five minutes ago. They’ve got “good chemistry,” which is a mechanistic way of saying they like each other, are attracted to each other, pay attention to each other, appreciate each other. “Well,” thought I, “this might be good.”

Then a couple of other guys started banging on the door, demanding to be let in. I hit Stop.

Since the door is locked, I am hoping they stay out. Letting them in would say to the partner, “You’re not good enough, I want more.”

Is that a message you want from your partner? Or would you put your clothes on and walk off?

I’d scram, because I’d stop being attracted to a guy who did that to me. My bodyparts are mine, and they’re not interchangeable with anyone else’s.

This has nothing to do with traditional “faithfulness,” but everything to do with how one person treats another. (I think now I’ll click Play to see what happens.)

They ignore the interlopers.

The best sex happens when two people are into each other. Over time I’ve come to believe that, regardless of traditional heterosexual teachings, this means that the best sex occurs in a committed and monogamous relationship—monogamous because otherwise, the message is “you’re not enough, I want more.” If people love each other they can learn how to be “enough.” Don’t believe the easy lie that says one person can never wholly satisfy another. It’s just an excuse for “I wanna trick around.”

Being bored says “I’m boring myself.” The Pet Shop Boys have the answer for that.

We were never being boring;
we were never being bored.

It’s not my fault that hot, committed and monogamous happens to align with what the Church has always said. As far as I’m concerned it’s half-coincidence. The ancient wisdom isn’t wrong because it’s ancient and we’re cynical; maybe the problem is in us.

Let me come at this now from a different place: I believe that one of the reasons I’m on this earth in this time and place (in other words, the vocation that God has given me) is to help liberate my people, and thus all people, from the scourge of anti-Gay heterosexism.

From the Jews in Egypt to the women’s suffrage movement, from Dr. King to anti-colonialism, God has been working to free the slaves. So it only makes sense that this includes Gay slaves too. We are not here to pay higher taxes and get fewer benefits from being “unmarried.” We are not meant to be the Heterosexual Subsidy Plan, which is right out of South African apartheid.

We can’t liberate Gay people without entering into/enabling their sexual liberation. But what happens after that is very much up for grabs. We can easily expect that liberated Gay people will run after every false god they can find, and will only turn honest when those gods turn out to be lifeless and powerless.

I very much wish the Church—the liberating (not there yet) Episcopal Church—will learn to devote real time and resources to teaching people, Gay and Straight alike, how to integrate love, sex and spirituality.

Such work could be enormously popular, because it’s desperately needed.

By “teaching” I don’t mean imposing the old morality, but exploring with participants what the issues are today, helping us to come up with our own answers as well as listening to the ancient wisdom already revealed. Even Gay men can profitably study the Song of Songs.

We make a big deal in this church about not just marrying people because they want to get married; we make them jump through hoops, we have requirements, including pre-marriage counseling. Then once the big day’s done, we drop the subject like a hot potato.

What heteros need is post-marriage counseling, and it’s best done in groups.

What homos need is some enlightened Bible study starting with Cornelius the Centurion, whose “boy” was sick.

Of course, we need post-marriage counseling too, and it would be nice if that could be done in mixed groups. Currently we’re too obsessed with Gene Robinson and schism and external political concerns to respond to Gay couples with any depth.

My blog of course doesn’t fill this gap. But I figure that talking about Gay sex and Gay spirituality is a start.

Do other men come to a point where their relationship with God begins to crowd out all other concerns? If so, we don’t stop being human and having hormone drives.

Julian describes Christ as our Lover. She’s quite deliberate about that, and she knew what she was saying. Her whole revolutionary theology (from the 1400s!) was built on Divine Revelations that upend every human assumption about gender and God and the nature of love.

In ideal lovemaking, two bodies and souls are one’d to each other.

This is why marriage is a sacrament. The love of one person for another reveals the nature of God. The physical one-ing of two persons in mutual delight is a prefigurement of the soul’s union with God.

Whether you’re Straight or Gay you can see the light of God in the eyes of your lover.

Anything less is fast food, empty calories, a cheap thrill that doesn’t satisfy our needs. So why settle for it?

Hell is full of sex machines, which keep going long after your ass is grass.

My tentative conclusion is this: Gay or Straight, Christ is our soul’s Lover.

The human love we find in this life prepares us for the one-ing yet to come.

If we think sex is wonderful now, we can only imagine what Total Union will be like.

We know it includes the resurrection of the body, which is a fairly shocking circumstance; I don’t know what it portends.

But I know that true, gentle, selfless love is holy; and it doesn’t preclude, but actually invites in this life, hot sex.

If we could find out more of what that means as a Church, not just individuals, humanity would break down our red doors.

We should pray that God reveal Herself more and more, and give us the courage to look and listen.

It may well be that the “end of time” will not be an apocalypse, but a mass, giant and uniquely personal one-ing of human and divine. After that there’s not much need for mortal life.

But oh, is humanity slow to catch on…++

15 Responses

  1. I´m exhausted from reading this…maybe it´s because I have a 33 year old lover and I´m retirement age and it´s bedtime and I want to go to SLEEP!

    I think ¨inspiration¨ sometimes changes, but, as a Gay person (almost all of my memory of my 65 year old life) I have clarity of days/daze gone by…I don´t think much has changed except my energy level and the outside of my body…but there was a nice surprise when I got older…many people like older…I didn´t know that before…the circus remained the same (even if the animals changed).

    More later, I can´t think and I hope I wasn´t insensitive (although you warned us you are writing this just for you).

    Leonardo Ricardo

  2. One other thing.

    A little over 30 years ago I attended a ¨Mens Stag¨ Meeting where the leader accepted handwritten questions that were thrown in a basket. Mine was drawn by him to answer (it was first)…he read it out loud ¨How do you know the difference from lust and regular sexual desire¨…he laughed, they all laughed, he tore it up, threw it over his shoulder and went on to the next question without answering…I still don´t know.

  3. Hi Josh. My thoughts traverse similar territory. Working out what a gay sexual ethic might look like is hard, particularly since it is, these days, difficult to even have the discussion honestly. For myself, the image of Jesus as lover is an important one. John of the Cross helps me there.

    Two books I’ve read recently are helpful too, I think. Michael B Kelly’s ‘Seduced by Grace’ is a collection of essays, some of which consider this stuff. Michael is gay, and his video teachings ‘The Erotic Contemplative’ are tremendous. The other book is more mainstream, but well worth a look. Ronald Rolheiser’s book ‘Holy Longing’ is a sort of handbook for the spiritual life. His chapter on sexuality is, if you ask me, worth the price of the book.

    Best wishes on your journey.

    Col

  4. I’ve read as much as I can, I’m going to have to come back to get anythign coherent (YAY ADD!) but I want to say this:

    If so, I blame Julian of Norwich!

    Appears to be going around. 🙂

  5. Leonardo, I don’t see any way your remarks are insensitive; I was hoping you’d read this and give some reaction. Maybe I had you in mind when I wrote it.

    Your question 30 years ago, “What’s the difference between lust and regular sexual desire,” sounds to me like a good one. (I take it the Men’s Stag leader didn’t know how to respond. Sometimes people just don’t have anything to teach.) To me one difference is a matter of degree; sometimes we’re hungry and sometimes we’re “starving to death.” The greater the hunger the more willing we are to throw aside all manners and niceties (including consideration for others) just to feed our faces.

    A few years ago I gorged myself on a red ripe juicy tomato, homegrown, my favorite food – and I noticed that I made the same little vocalizations (moans and groans) as I do during sex. I laughed at myself and kept on chomping. Mm-mm-mm!

    I don’t know what it means except that appetites are good. (It helps that I don’t have a weight problem, and tomatoes aren’t chocolate.)

    Col, thank you for your recommendations. I will have to learn more about John of the Cross. Merton mentions him, then throws him over for Julian. Her Revelations do strike me as approaching the erotic fairly frequently, and that’s a bit confusing as a Gay man. There are guys who over-identify with the Crucifixion and sexualize it (I’m told) as part of a masochistic fetish; that seems to me a pretty horrible mistake spiritually and psychologically. If I did that I’d lose sight of the person of Jesus, one to be encountered rather than manipulated to my own ends and fantasies.

    At the same time I have a sense (purely subjective) that Jesus recognized and even embraced a certain eroticism in many of his relationships – Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciple are most prominent. I’ve never believed he had sex with anyone – such particularity would not be fitting for the Son of God who loves the whole world – but one can imagine his acknowledging the sexual impulse of some of his followers. With John he was Gay, with Mary he was Straight; I don’t know where that leaves his relationships with Straight guys, but they loved him too (and still do). I suspect they identified with his courage and strength and nobility; he drew their best from them.

    His celibacy was not an exclusion of possibilities but an inclusion of all. Yet we are not less for not being capable of the same; our bodies and minds are built the way they are, that’s all.

    What I wonder, though, on the far edge of my groping understanding, is whether the processes both of aging and of spiritual maturing lead some of us to transcend sexuality – and whether that’s happening to me. If so it would be quite a surprise in my 35th year of being publicly out, a former spokesman, a founder of GLBT institutions, an author and organizer.

    As I wrote above, we can’t liberate sexual minorities without entering into their sexual experience and relationships; perhaps God does the same. Or maybe there’s no perhaps about it, God just does. I claimed that we can see the light of God in the eyes of our lover; well, how did He get there without “entering in”?

    The Holy Spirit lives inside our bodies; that’s Lesson #3, and its implications are profound.

    One corollary: don’t crowd Her out with alcohol, drugs and nicotine. Another: if the body is a temple, do we put up a statue of John the Beloved or Francesco D’Macho? “A kid can’t be what a kid can’t see,” and so far, all our role models are destructive.

    It’s time I Googled Michael B. Kelly. Thanks, Col.

  6. I wish I were learned enough… erudite enough… experienced enough… to comment intelligently.

    Certainly most of the gay porn available is designed to arouse and create the need to masturbate for release. But there are also gay films like “Latter Days” which I think are very erotic and affirm love and commitment in gay relationships.

    I’ve spent most of the fall and spring semesters in college trying to gradually seduce my own roommate, andhave succeeded. It was lust that gradually because love, but does that excuse the lust and the deliberate seduction, and all the carefully engineered situations to get hiim aroused? We both knew “where it was going” every time, and he never ran away or said no, so does his reaction and his coming back for more excuse me?

    After the need for food, the drive for sex is our strongest physical requirement. In my opinion, God gave us the equipment for sex, made it pleasurable, and likes it when we use it. It is possible and in my opinion correst to have casual sex, and non-commitment sex when both partners know that’s what it is.

    I was eight when I discovered, with my older brothers, the wonderous uses my set of hydraulics were designed for, and I’ve never looked back.

    My family have been Episcopalians since it was called The Established Church, but I’m really more of an Deist. Man is simply the highest evolved form of life on the planet, we’re not made in God’s image, there’s no holy spirit floating around, the idea of eternal rewards and eternal punishments were designed by the professional priesthood to control other people. Do unto others as you would them to do unto you is found in virtually the same wording in every major religion, so if there’s one eternal truth, it’s probably that.

    I know this… I really like sleeping with men.

  7. (shrug)

  8. Hi again, Josh.

    I’ve had a bit more of a think. Doesn’t it really come down to love? My own contention is that if the sex I have with my partner reflects the love I have for him, it can’t be wrong. To me that puts sex outside the relationship out of bounds – there’s not love with the other person, and it threatens the relationship God has given me. It also means that the diversions that come from porn, threesomes and so on are off the menu. I don’t think this is legalism – it seems to me to be the only possible response to the gift of sex.

    As for the gap between the need we all have for sexual release and emotion, and spirit, I think that this is variable throughout life, and changes in it have lots to do with psychological states, being busy, being tired… the list could go on. It may also be a reminder from God that the purpose of sex is to ‘cement’ a relationship which has God at the core. I think that each time my partner and I make love the Holy Spirit is there, and the Father and the Son exalt in the love we share, pale imitation of the love within the Trinity that it may be.

    Col

  9. Col,

    Glad you’re back. I very much liked your earlier comment.

    You write, “The purpose of sex is to ‘cement’ a relationship which has God at the core.” I completely agree, but that phrase reads so effortlessly it almost seems facile. I don’t know anyone with a relationship which has God as its core. Life is difficult; people get stressed out in their jobs (if they have one), then they come home to a lover who is cranky or distant or obsessed or lazy or high or exhausted or absent and not where he said he would be. It’s awfully hard to have the relationship you describe. Both parties have to be equally open to God; how often do we find that? Most of us are just trying to survive another night.

    Or imagine the opposite: committed lovers get along well, easily patch up minor misunderstandings, make enough money to live okay, express their feelings openly and are eager to jump each other’s jeans. God gets lost in the shuffle. In an excellent relationship people even forget they need God; they’re happy without him.

    It’s really hard to keep all this stuff in balance, and in actuality we never keep it that way. Only with regular, dedicated effort will the couple consistently rebalance, and even then one partner will probably do more of the work than the other.

    Easy or hard, we’re so caught up in here and now, day to day, that very few couples live as you describe. And yet you’re quite right, that is the ideal, the vocation we’re given as lovers. If you and your partner are making it that way, go with God!

    What I’m wondering is whether the love-longing we have for God doesn’t start to consume our soul at some point, leaving us with increasing indifference to the cares of this world, even making our bodies less responsive than they’ve always been before. That is my current experience. God is the magnet and I am the iron; I’m not passive in this mutual attraction but I can’t resist either. I imagine God becomes my Lover instead of my lover.

    For now I assert this: lust can be destructive or a blessing, and keeping in touch with God is the way to prevent the first and enable the second. In a relationship, keeping in touch with God is best done regularly and together. Do that and everything else will more or less work out. Feed my sheep, fuck like rabbits and read Compline together naked in bed.

    Josh

    P.S. It’s my opinion, based on Mooney as described and illustrated by Mails, that the ancient Cherokee cementation ceremony was a Gay wedding. Two young men, particular friends who offered themselves to the religious chief, were brought before the whole Nation at the start of Purification Week. With great solemnity they got undressed, then each dressed the other in the clothes that were formerly his. Cementation prayers were said, the People were healed of their sins, a new era of peace and brotherhood began, and at the end the two young men slipped away together into the mountains and were never seen or heard again, for they were always together before God. It was a great mystery to the People that two young men would forsake the comforts of a wife and family, and yet their doing so was the very evidence everyone needed of God’s favor on the whole Nation.

    To have the kind of relationship you describe, it is essential that the Church embrace public liturgies for committed, monogamous same-sex partners; a kid can’t be what a kid can’t see. And perhaps this is the way to renew heterosexual marriage, too.

  10. Col’s affirmation of monogamy includes this negative consequence when it’s not observed: “there’s not love with the other person, and (non-monogamy) threatens the relationship God has given me.”

    That’s the conventional wisdom, but what about those cases where the partner isn’t threatened by non-monogamy? It’s called an open relationship, and if the research (e.g., McWhirter and Mattison) is to be believed, that is the overwhelming pattern among male couples.

    M&M report that nearly every couple they surveyed started out promising to be monogamous, but abandoned that within a few years, sometimes just a matter of months.

    Their couples come up with various compromises and rules:

    • Go ahead and do it, but don’t tell me about it.
    • Go ahead and do it, but always tell me about it.
    • Go ahead and do it, but not at our house.
    • It’s okay to do it at our house, but not in our bed.

    And the latter gets repealed once they start sleeping in separate rooms.

    To which my reaction is, If we’re sleeping in separate rooms, we’re just roommates, not lovers, and why would I want to grow old with a freakin’ roommate? I don’t want to stumble over his junk and put up with his bad habits if we’re just roommates; if I want companionship I’ll get a dog.

    I also can’t accept rule-making that institutionalizes dishonesty. My lover is my best friend, that’s why we live together; am I dishonest with my best friend? You can’t build a solid relationship on a dishonest foundation.

    But in fact that’s what most people try to do, and the reasons are very revealing. “He wants to fuck (or any other sexual practice), and I just hate that.” Well, gee, fella. If you truly love someone, and he truly loves to fuck, refusing to do it not only drives him away, it also makes your sexuality more important than his. “I just hate that.” In real love, his sexuality is at least as important as yours.

    Mind you, I love to fuck, so I really roll my eyes at that objection. But M&M say that up to a third of their respondents find it icky and gross. My advice: leave him. You are never going to be happy together, he’s too damn dumb.

    But it turns out the non-fuckee doesn’t want to come out and tell the truth, “I don’t much like this.” He’s “afraid it will hurt his feelings.” He originally agreed to get fucked, but then he changed his mind and didn’t want to admit it. So he makes excuses (constructs lies) instead. Does he think his lover can’t figure it out?

    Then one lie justifies another, back and forth, and pretty soon they’re sleeping in separate rooms.

    Believe me, a dog is cheaper and a lot less work.

    But in the open relationship mentioned above, what’s wrong with both guys saying, “I love you, but I also like him and him and him, COZ I NEED IT!” Is something wrong with that?

    Maybe not. But it certainly diminishes the intensity of and mutual commitment to the primary relationship. Joe’s been thinking of making a really nice dinner Saturday night, then Bill comes out with, “Sorry, babe, I’m going out with Frank that night.” You can hear the air whoosh out of Joe’s balloon.

    If this is the kind of arrangement couples want to make, it’s not up to me to say they shouldn’t. All I can say is, I don’t want to live that way.

    What is a committed relationship? If it’s just remembering birthdays and staying home if he gets sick, I call that friendship. It’s a holy thing but it’s not really love. All friends love each other; marriage is a commitment that goes way beyond occasional (or even frequent) thoughtfulness.

    Gay men probably don’t even know what marriage is, and why should they? It’s not like we’ve got great role models for it, among ourselves or Straight couples either. The whole world is clueless about marriage.

    But some couples, a small percentage, stumble across (receive the grace of finding out) what marriage really is. And I say it starts here:

    1. We will never lie to each other. We will create such a safe space for each other’s feelings that even when we have to admit something that hurts, we can say it, because your feelings are just as important as mine. We’ll talk and hold each other through the bad spots until we come to a consensus.

    2. You get my body and all my sexuality, even its uncomfortable and imperfect parts. I want all your body and all your sexuality, because to me you’re beautiful no matter what.

    In other words, monogamy makes the best sex of all; the best relationship of all. It’s not a negative thing, it’s a huge positive.

    Stop worrying that it’s always the same old thing with him, the boredom objection; in fact he’s never the same person from one day to the next. He’s constantly changing, you both are, so discover how he’s different right now. Meet that guy; love that guy, fuck that guy, not your image from last week.

    Have you ever read a newspaper article about some old geezer and his wife of 57 years? There’s almost a formula to such stories. They’re best friends, they still hold hands, they’ve been through a lot together, she thinks he’s handsome as heck, he still sees her as the pretty girl he went crazy for all those years ago. (And the newspaper never says this, but they still cuddle up a storm.)

    How did they do it? That’s always what reporters and readers want to know. And the answers are always the same: he does “whatever she says.” She always worked hard and helped him with his business. They’ve gone through loads of heartache but it always made them closer. And they learned how to be great in bed.

    He never assumed he knew how to please her; he asked her to teach him, and he listened and tried it when she did. He learned to touch her right there, just the way she likes, and every time he did she went goo-goo. She learned what to wear, what to cook, what to say; she learned how to suck his dick. No wonder 57 years later they still have stars in their eyes.

    And it goes without saying, they never had eyes for anyone else. Why would they have strayed when they had it so good at home?

    That’s a marriage; that’s what I want. That’s what the Church should be teaching people; that’s how you find God in your lover’s eyes.

    That’s how, as Col said so well, people make a relationship “that has God at the core.” You may not be religious to start out with, but soon enough you’ll end up on your knees thanking God as fervently as a convert saved from death, that you have been given such joy and such heaven.

  11. Hello again Josh.

    This is an interesting conversation… thanks for starting and continuing it.

    I don’t want to draw any distinction between what works for straight couple and what works for gay couples. For me it all comes down to what works for human beings. If God has given us one another to care for and delight in, then that it seems unlikely to me that there will be great particularities or different terrains between types of relationships. At the base of all of this is love.

    I absolutely agree that the church needs to recognise gay relationships. It needs to do this because it is a source of grace for the people involved in the relationships, for the people who come together to celebrate the relationship, and for the church. It is helpful, also, because to do this means that the relationship is recognised as a social institution, and that recognition means that there is support for the relationship. Marriages are supported in some ways because society recognises them, values them, and provides support for the partners when they’re in stress. It is a sort of glue that supports relationships when they get hard and we’d rather walk away. For me, I think the church should bless relationships, and let the state worry about what they’re called, and how they’re regulated. The church’s job is to be the body of Christ in the world, and not to decide who it will touch and when.

    Non-monogamy is, for me, always problematic. Don’t get me wrong – there are certainly moments when I’d rather not be monogamous. But, for me at least, this is to deny and threaten the place God offers to me as a source of grace, love, forgiveness, transfiguration and so on. Just because I’d rather be non-monogamous doesn’t mean that it is good or preferable. Just because lots of gay men have relationships like that doesn’t make it good – we’ve been very successfully socialised to prefer it. Part of the tough thing in a relationship is waking up each morning and still loving the person you’re with, and relating to them as more than just a dick or an arse, or a vagina, or whatever. Dicks, arses and vaginas become boring because they’re just things. We give them way too much weight in our culture, think about them too much and invest them with too much meaning. There is a tendency to think that routine is boring, and that boredom means that we have to move on. Why should we? Why do we need to? In the spiritual life the wise recognise that boredom generally means that we’re called to go deeper, not to move on. When I become bored with the sex I have with my partner I understand it to mean that I’ve become separated from the actual purpose of the sex, and the connection with the person. When I make an effort to re-engage with this, the sex becomes transcendent. Being fucked takes on new dimensions, and ceases to be just an exchange of fluids and a race to orgasm.

    So much of our relationship with God is misunderstanding. We often misunderstand that what we need to do is recognise what is already there, and make efforts to remove the blinkers from our eyes, the hardness from our hearts. In the West we often read the story of the Transfiguration as a change in Jesus – he becomes light and we are impressed. The tradition in the East is to read the story as the disciples having their eyes opened – the change is in them. They see reality as it is, and recognise, therefore, Jesus for who he really is. They are changed, not Jesus. The change doesn’t last long, and they begin to blather on and try to rationalise it all.

    I think that when we talk about stuff like this – love, sex, lust, relationship – we need to realise that it isn’t something we do, but something we already are caught up in and need to grow into. The world (especially the gay world) wants us to be immature consumers of product and experiences, subject to fashions, whims and caprices. The church does too, really. God doesn’t – ever. God’s call to us is to grow, change and begin to be who we really are. Relationships are part of the way that happens.

    You wrote “I imagine God becomes my Lover…” – God already is. In every way.

    Holy Week is a good time to explore all of this stuff, I reckon. Jesus’ death is not all about sins, but about a call to transcendence and self-sacrifice in order to become something new.

    Col

    (I can hear the Inquisition coming for me now!)

  12. Col,

    This first sentence really resonated with me, and I’ll paste it with a little context:

    “In the spiritual life the wise recognise that boredom generally means that we’re called to go deeper, not to move on. When I become bored with the sex I have with my partner I understand it to mean that I’ve become separated from the actual purpose of the sex, and the connection with the person. When I make an effort to re-engage with this, the sex becomes transcendent.”

    Called to go deeper. Yeah. What we know from our spiritual life needs to inform our sexual life, and vice-versa.

    I’m glad to know that other Gay Christian guys think about these issues. Sometimes I feel like the only one.

    Now if only I could finish the next novel, which is about all this!

    I checked on the Michael B. Kelly book Seduced by Grace; it is cheaper for Americans to buy it direct from the Australian publisher (US$21.95) than to get it from Amazon/US ($35). And the postage won’t take that long, he says.

    Now it’s time to Google Ronald Rolheiser, Holy Longing. Thank you for all you’ve contributed here, Col.

    Josh

  13. Where have I been? You keep making me exhausted by the time I discover what´s been written/added here…I need to get up early in the morning for this stuff.

    However.

    I think God is fully present in my life, and most likely everyone elses in my opinion. I don´t think God is optional (even if I were to resign from admiring/beliving God). This is not a religious ¨pitch¨ but simply my experience with God. Once, over 30 years ago I was drunk as shit (which I had often been since around age 18).

    I was so lonely. I was 35 and had been through two lovers (one from College daze+) and one Bisexual hookup, turned live together, that aided to my rush from reality (he was a dazzlingly handsome guy and I felt like a ugly lost soul, he remarried a woman after we broke up….imagine and it was him that liked to get screwed, beat that!)…anyway, I couldn´t stop drinking, I pretended everything was ¨fine¨…I know, this may sound like a AA testimonial, but I COULDN¨T STOP drinking, I was miserable/self-loathing…I had stuff, a good job, I went to the gym everyday (mostly), I looked fine (puffy some morning), and the booze smell sometimes came out of my pours (after steaming hot, soapy lathered, heavily gargled, scented preps for work).

    Back to sex. I wanted to kill myself, because, at 35, sorta successful/attractive, I was EMPTY and I knew that anyone whom I liked, wouldn´t like me. RED ALERT, facade crumbling attack…nowhere to hide.

    I didn´t kill myself because I went downstairs and drank more to get up the nerve to do ¨it¨ and ended up crying out, very drunk/alone, to God, ¨save me from this¨ (whatever this was).

    God did. I went to bed and didn´t drink anymore. I got help in the next weeks because I knew I would drink again.

    Then I knew. God was really available. God helped me and was on duty 24/7 and did room service too.

    I trust God and whenever I´m confused (sometimes more than othertimes) I ask God ¨help me.¨ Then I abandon my demands/notions for a while and God does the ¨nature takes it course¨ thing…God works things out…it doesn´t matter how horrible/good stuff gets in or outside (I love sex and the guilt/shyness fell away after I became sober…speaking of juicy lust) of relationships.

    Speaking of relationships…my relationship, right now.

    I am over my head.

    I need God to sort things out and I´m willing to ¨go¨ wherever God takes me (or not). I mentioned above that I have a partner half my age…to be direct, my sexual activities aren´t increasing…his are, his desires are and I´m starting to be turned off by the enthusiastic¨attention¨ (I know others my age would be thrilled).

    Interestingly my feelings of ¨love¨ are deepening…my friend says his feelings increase too…I don´t know where this is going except to say that I want to be responsible in this relationship. So, since I don´t know what to ¨do¨ I ask God to help me learn how to ¨be¨ in this relationship…we will see.

    Josh, I often think of our ¨conversation thread¨ elsewhere that happened after your report on a foreign visitor…I still believe that it is important, probably critical to our cause, for our Gay leaders to ¨keep their zippers up¨ as someone said (when they are in a long term ¨relationship¨) while campaigning for sexual ¨equality¨ and personal ¨integrity¨ at all levels of Churchlife.

    Seems right to me…but then, maybe we will have to see…but, thanks for standing up for TRUTH and basic decency.

  14. “God does room service” — Amen and amen. That’s so exactly true.

    Re: partner: a lot of guys don’t realize the great satisfactions of the 2 C’s, cuddling and communication, and think it’s about the 3rd C instead… What we want is to be close, intimate, to know what’s going on with our beloved, what he thinks and feels, what’s changing with him/in him/on him, where he’s at this moment. The 2 C’s aren’t a substitute for cum, but they sure do deepen and extend it, allow it, enable it.

    I find the concept of a pleasure center in the brain helpful; it can get hooked on all kinds of fun, food for some, booze for others, orgasm for men, he’s a voracious little dude wanting more and more and more. Sometimes he needs to hear “cool out!” so life doesn’t get unbalanced. We always need to hear that, it’s part of what makes us mortals. We keep running after the same old standby pleasures instead of discovering the whole vast variety of them.

    My rhythms right now are very pleasurable, even going to bed alone. So I shouldn’t panic that the pattern has changed for now. What goes around comes around, and Lent gives way to Easter, sorrow for joy.

    Through it all, just stay close. The greatest pleasure in life isn’t the gymnastics but the resting. When it’s time to tumble, go all out. Then keep each other warm at night.

    I’ve been having more success with my fiction because of this thread. Thank you Len and Col.

  15. ¨I find the concept of a pleasure center in the brain helpful; it can get hooked on all kinds of fun, food for some, booze for others, orgasm for men, he’s a voracious little dude wanting more and more and more.¨ etc…..Josh

    I think that puts *things* together nicely.

    Thanks

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