link: “To Come First for Someone”

I’m a little late to the party on this one, but a dear friend’s tumblr alerted me to a recent post I had missed by the incomparable Eve Tushnet on the subject of the common desire to be the most important person in someone else’s life (which I’ve written about here and here). If you haven’t read much of Eve’s stuff (she’s a lesbian Catholic), I would highly recommend you do. She’s a phenomenal writer and thinker with a profound gift for expressing ideas that are surprising and thought-provoking and resonantly human.

You can find her post here.

At the risk of you deciding not to expend the herculean effort to depress your mouse button or track-pad, here’s an excerpt:

“There are a lot of pieces to this emotion [of wanting to come first]. To be always the one who watches the love between spouses or parents and children, supporting that intense your-needs-first love but never receiving it yourself… Feeling like you’re burdening people when you need them–like you’re asking them to do something outrageously above and beyond the call of duty when you ask them to sacrifice time, effort, or their own priorities to care for you, even when you’re really seriously in need…

This is an area where our refusal to honor or even imagine important vocations other than marriage causes a huge amount of pain, loneliness, and sense of worthlessness. If we took friendship seriously as a potential site of devotion and sacrifice, far fewer people would feel neglected and unwanted. If we considered lay community life (“intentional communities”) more seriously, and if we expanded our concept of family and welcomed single people into familial homes (for a season or for life), many more people could have the experience of living in a realistic familial love in which we all come first at times, and nobody is just there as support personnel…

And finally, maybe the most important thing to say about this desire to ‘come first’ is simply that I’ve felt it too. It’s been really hard for me sometimes. Other times, like now, I don’t feel it as strongly. But maybe the most important thing I can offer in response to this painful and pretty humbling cry isn’t advice or theology but just solidarity. I feel it too.”

There’s plenty more to read, and you simply must clink the link. Here it is again. Click it. Then click all her other links, because they’re great too.

Peace,

Jordan

“male beauty as a threat”

As the conversations continue at my church, I remembered a blog post that touches on one of the more controversial aspects of my homosexuality: the moral nature of the attractions themselves. It was written by a pastor from the UK who is same-sex attracted (hence the -re’s and the lack of z’s).

Are my attractions inherently sinful, or do they become sinful if unchecked and indulged, left to ferment in my mind rather than pointing me to the God of beauty and grace? Is my sexuality only capable of producing sinful, broken, desires? Or can I cling to some kind of redemption even as I find myself inexorably drawn to male beauty?

How these questions are answered, I have found, has more serious theological/ethical implications than I had previously anticipated.

Edit: Apparently the post is protected, so I’ll cite the parts I find most helpful.

“[Seeing male beauty as a threat, as a loaded gun pointed at me,] makes my life difficult. There are many beautiful men on TV, in magazines and, every so often, they step into real life too. And so I have sat at church feeling like a sitting target because of the ‘comely’ man sitting straight ahead of me. My instinctive sexual attraction to his beauty produces such horrific guilt and shame that it even begins to feel as if the gun has gone off. And next week we will both be back on the firing range – how am I to avoid being shot at again and again?

I somehow need to stop living with this fear. I need to stop seeing male beauty as a loaded pistol aimed destructively at me and instead as something that points me positively elsewhere. I need to respond to it better and to do that I think I need to understand how beauty works a little better…

Part of this is, I think, a growing realisation that my response to male beauty is, at one level, very natural. In desiring a beautiful man, in wanting to become one with him, I am responding to real beauty as all human beings tend to whenever, wherever, they discover it in any overwhelming form…

But how do I avoid crossing that line [from acknowledging beauty to trying to consume it]? For, at the moment, the one nearly always leads to the other; despite the accompanying guilt and shame, any beautiful man will almost invariably soon feature in some imagined sexual act producing even more guilt and shame (does my fear make any more sense now?).

Where can I positively take my appreciation of a man’s beauty? Well, where does it point me to? Just to my sin, or my mucked-up sexuality? If so, every attractive man will continue to be ‘a loaded pistol’ pointed at my soul – I’ll continue to live in fear of the guilt and shame beautiful men bring.

But what if, next time I see one, I paused and prayed, remembering that all true beauty should point me to the beauty of my King? To the Lord Jesus in his perfection, whose beauty far outstrips any other man I’ll ever meet. And recall that my powerful desire for beauty reminds me of how my right desire for true beauty will only ever be properly satisfied in him. For his Word tells me that one day soon I will live with him forever, passing onto his beautiful new world, be beautiful myself, bathe in his beauty, become part of the divine beauty that is at the centre of the universe.

Would that not wonderfully begin to end the guilt and shame?”

Brief update: I’ve met with two staff members so far, one meeting harder than the other, though both ending at a kind of impasse. The second chat, however, was defined by a mutual encouragement and gave me hope for future conversations on the subject even in the midst of disagreement. I remain very hopeful, and feel, I don’t know, strong. Is that weird? God is strengthening me, I can sense it. Not just to “win” the argument, but to respond in love, to reject any flickering of bitterness or anger, to humbly and intentionally dwell on the qualities of these men that I respect, to ultimately submit myself to their authority while I am here, to seek the flourishing of the church, and to trust that the Gospel is being proclaimed throughout the entire process of discerning truth. It’s an oddly quieting sensation.

Jordan

exodus

Hey guys,

I posted this article on Twitter/FB, but I figured I’d throw it on here, too. My mentor sent this to me and asked for my thoughts. I’ve never been too keen on Exodus, but it seems like they’re trying to change their modus operandi, at least in public relations. Anyway, I’m still not totally sure what to think. Give your opinions, I’m interested how people feel about Exodus, especially if you’ve actually been involved with them. I’ve heard good and bad things.

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/06/sexual-healing-evangelicals-update-their-message-to-gays/258713/#.T-OVXhT6xeU.email

Jordan

pain

“If acting on your homosexual attractions is really such a terrible sin, why are so many people who deny themselves same-sex romance depressed or constantly anxious? When Christians faithfully combat greed, lust, rage, or any other sin, isn’t there supposed to be a feeling of liberation, of joy, or of peace? If you really were doing God’s will, don’t you think it would make you feel better, more content, rather than crippled by a compelling and unfulfilled longing?”

This is a composite question made from various opinions I’ve heard over the last few years. The basic idea is that sin is bad, purging sinful habits and desires is what God wants, and doing what God wants should result in happiness and feelings of freedom. And yet most men and women who are not acting on their same-sex attraction have been terribly depressed in the past, are currently depressed, or are planning on being depressed some time in the near future.

So… isn’t that the opposite of what’s supposed to happen? Isn’t that maybe a sign that we who hold to the conservative ethic should reexamine how we are living?

The correct answer is not, “God doesn’t care about happiness, he only cares about holiness! So buck up camper, sanctification is gonna hurt, and you’d better like it.” That approach to pain makes God sound way too much like my 5th grade P.E. teacher.

Pain is a part of Christian life, of human life, and it can produce astounding growth and glory when responded to with a faithful turning to God. But I am increasingly convinced that pain is never an end, never a good in and of itself. Evangelicals have, at times, idolized pain. The beauty of people worshiping joyfully in the midst of suffering is such a potent symbol of Christian devotion that we begin to see that suffering itself as a desirable thing, almost. Pain isn’t to be avoided at all costs. No. But I don’t see Jesus modeling any sort of holy masochism either.

For so long I thought the secret to living the chastely single life was to get used to the pain, to learn how to love it, because that’s just the way it was going to be. But that blinded me from seeing that the pain was actually the result of some pretty terrible things from which God wanted to free me. I thought misery was standard for people like me because that’s the message I was hearing from every side.

Pain arises for so many different reasons. It could occur because of poor personal decisions (I shoot myself in the knee), because of the sins of others (Blaine Anderson dreamily, but sinfully, shoots me in the knee), because of some uncontrollable event (lightning strikes me in the knee), or a host of other physical, emotional, social, or spiritual reasons. Sometimes pain is inexplicable and simply must be endured, and sometimes pain is a sure signal that we should immediately remove ourselves from that which hurts us. The human experience of suffering is staggering in its multiformity, but I’m going to focus on the common turmoil of gay men and women who share my convictions.

When I was in the midst of my season of despair (the first three years of college), should my pain have caused me to “reexamine” how I was living, what convictions I held to and why? Yes, absolutely. That part of the suggestion is dead on. I think all pain is an opportunity to reflect and grow; it’s a warning that something isn’t quite right. Was some of my pain due to the presence of distressingly strong attractions and my refusal to just “let them be”? Totally. A lot of people want me to think, therefore, that the solution to my angst is to remove the friction and become open to a future of same-sex romance.

When you are caught in the teeth of a deep sadness, such a suggestion can seem rather compelling because often the things you are denying yourself, even if it’s for a good reason, become more obvious and alluring in those moments and the will weakens. However, I had a mentor who lovingly reminded me that my homosexuality was one of the least of my “worries.” He rightly saw to the heart of things: to my desperate emotional dependence, my blistering self-loathing, my lack of trust, and my personal assortment of medical issues. Those things generated the pain that would often manifest itself in times of confusion surrounding my sexuality.

Looking back on it, I can only think of a few isolated surges of darkness caused predominantly by my commitment to leaving the option of gay romance off the table, and even then there were unresolved issues of lust and mistrust augmenting the emotions. What is more, as I’ve found healing in those aforementioned areas of struggle (which, just for honesty’s sake, are still not the strangers I would like them to be) I really have experienced the profound sense of joy and freedom that I had been told would come from ditching the archaic, inhumane convictions that guide my sexual practices (or lack thereof). On top of that, my convictions have only grown stronger as I’ve been more convinced of the great goodness of God and his brain-vaporizing faithfulness.

I know there will be dark days in the future that are tied to my convictions. But this past year has shown me that such darkness is not the inevitable pattern of my life as a chastely single gay Christian and that, in those moments, there is usually something else going on that is symptomatic of deeper issues.

I hesitate to post this because, well, I’m just a 22 year-old guy. There’s a lot of life I haven’t experienced, a lot of pain that hasn’t yet ripped into my psyche and challenged everything I know to be true. There are also many people whose personal histories might tell a radically different story than mine. I’m not trying to be arrogant, acting as if I’ve got it all figured out. I simply want to propose three things:

1) The conservative ethic does not and should not breed despair.
2) Often the suffering of people pursuing the more conservative vision is grounded in experiences and pain that wouldn’t be “solved” by pursuing a romantic relationship.
3) My own commitment to a chaste singleness is truly a source of a very real joy and calm in my life, but this didn’t really come to fruition until I found some freedom from actual causes of emotional and spiritual corrosion.

I hope that makes sense, I’m a little tired at the moment.

This post was brought to you by the tunes of Shiny Toy Guns (We Are Pilots. Their new stuff is terrible), AWOLNATION, Wicked, Two Door Cinema Club, and the delicate string and piano arrangements of Joe Hisaishi’s musical scores. Also, the letter B.

Jordan

P.S. I realized as I concluded this that Steve Gershom already wrote a similar post on his ever-blessed blog. You can find it here. He uses the word gregarious, which is delightful. This only reinforces my suspicion that the singular reason I’ve ever written about anything ever is that I’m simply oblivious to the fact that someone else has already done a better job of writing about it.

looking to desire (plus we’ve updated some things!)

I’m sharing a week-old blog entry from Melinda Selmys, a Catholic woman with lesbian attractions. She does a great job articulating things Tony and I have been trying to get at recently. Here’s an excerpt where she rhetorically argues against the claim that all homosexual attraction is entirely sinful and to be totally repressed:

“But what if I make the act of will to redirect [my homosexual] desire, to use it as an opportunity to give glory to God for the beauty which He has made manifest in that particular woman? Or to meditate on my desire for the one-flesh union of the entire humanum in the Eucharist where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, slave nor free, woman nor man? Or as an opportunity to contemplate the relationship between the doctrines of the Communion of Saints and of the resurrection of the Body? What if, by an act of will, I take that desire and order it towards its proper end: towards the Good, the Beautiful and the True?”

I’m not sure how well I can do all those things in the moment I find I am attracted to someone, but it sure sounds nice!

The whole post is good. You can find it here. She loses ten points for saying “irregardless,” but she earns 45 points (45!!!) for quoting Gerard Manley Hopkins at the end. I love Hopkins. Her post is also nice because I’m sure y’all are tired of Tony and I talking about guys all the time. She provides a nice influx of X chromosomes.

Actually, most of the best stuff on the internet about the intersection of Christianity and homosexuality is from Catholic authors. It’s cool. They generally have a more profound and helpful conception of the place of singleness in the Church than Protestants do. There’s always some initial awkwardness because our sexual ethics are slightly different, but I’ve found my Catholic brothers and sisters have taught me so much about pursuing a holy stewardship of my sexuality. I hope her words are encouraging to you.

Jordan

Update: So we have added a resource page (which we wanted to call [Out]Source but decided not to) that has some books and websites we have personally enjoyed and found helpful. But wait! There’s more! We also revamped our “About Us” page because this blog is really all “about us” and our image and stuff! Check ’em out! Tell us what you think.