Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Great Misconception

Is it only about sex?

The weekend is over, and it's time to talk about sex! That's right baby, it's time to talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.   Wait a minute, scratch that, let's look at something more interesting:  how about a look at love?   Love is a many splendored thing-love lifts us up where we belong-all you need is love!    I can hear my dear Ms. Turner beg the age old question: "What's love got to do with it?"

Look out your window and what do you see?   Do you see a city sky-scape?  A lush green landscape surrounded by mountains?  A brick wall with a crack-whore down below?  A view is something many people will pay extra for when booking a hotel or buying a house, and it is as simple as follows:  a view is what someone sees from where they stand.   A view of the ocean says nothing about whether or not the ocean is too cold for swimming, or free of sharks.    A mountain may look wonderful and tranquil from my view, and a closer look may reveal a treacherous ecosystem, or maybe within you may find an ocean of life-ending molten rock.  A view of a campfire in the distance will not reveal the wonderful fellowship occurring around it by its participants.  A view is shallow and reveals merely a perspective on the nature of the object in the distance.  I think that understanding this simple notion we take for granted is important in being able to realize that the official Coptic Church only has a view of homosexuality, without digging deeper into the questions and lives of people who claim to be gay and lesbian.

A few years ago, the Coptic Patriarch, Shenouda III of Alexandria was asked to respond to the recent dialogue of homosexuality in the Christian church at large, especially in regards to the ordaining of clergy and higher ranks of the church who are openly gay and lesbian.   In his statement, the patriarch made clear the church's "view" on homosexuality:

I am sorry to have to speak about an issue that has become a topic of popular discussion in the church of late. This subject is homosexuality, and it ought not to be a matter of discussion.


First of all, homosexuality is against nature. Sexual expression is permitted only within marriage, between man and woman, male and female. Anything else is an abnormality and is against nature. When our Lord Jesus Christ discussed this matter with the scribes and Pharisees in St. Matthew chapter nineteen and St. Mark chapter ten, He said 'From the beginning, God made them male and female,' man and woman. This is the will of our God from the beginning of creation. When people walked according to the lust of the flesh in the Old Testament, they received severe punishment from God. At the time of the Flood, only the pure, only eight persons in the Ark of Noah were saved. All the people who were not clean, who walked according to the flesh, perished. Also, the people of Sodom, who were not clean, were burned with fire. 

He continues

St. Paul spoke about the debased mind of the homosexual using the phrase 'exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.' We take this to clearly mean that homosexuality is clearly against nature. This he avers is uncleanness and dishonor of the body, also receiving penalty.

and finally and this is VERY important

It is claimed that homosexuality is a kind of love between man and man. No, my brothers. Love should be spiritual; love should be pure. We love others in purity. We love others in the Spirit. And loving others should not be against our love of God, because our Lord Jesus Christ has said, 'He who loves father, son, wife, sister, or brother, more than Me, is not worthy of Me, is not worthy to be My disciple.' We cannot love any other person more than our Lord Jesus Christ. Every love which we have, should be love in the Lord. We love in the Lord, not against. The homosexual love is not love, but lust, and there is a great difference between love and lust, lust of the flesh. The word love is not suitable for such a relation, because in the Gospel we say, 'God is love.' How can we say, 'Homosexuality is love?' It is not love; it is a bodily lust, a deviated lust of the flesh, a lust that should be corrected.

 These are some pretty loaded statements.  But reveals a great misconception that not only the Coptic Church, but many institutions around the world, have about what it means to be gay, or what goes on in the minds and hearts of gay people.   His Holiness takes a few verses and uses them to define the people he is speaking of.   But if the people he is talking about are claiming to be different than his descriptions, then who is correct?   If gays claim that His Holiness is wrong, then maybe the main question is, can love exist in a homosexual relationship?

The Roman Orgy:
What the church envisions homosexual love to look like
except replace the women with well-built men in speedos.


I think the question goes beyond love.   Love can be defined in so many ways.  The Greeks have many words for our single English word.   There's Philio, Storge, Eros, and Agape.  We each experience one or many of these in different relationships in our lives, and many will say that in a romantic, committed relationship that would lead to marriage, two people should have all 4 loves.   And let us take it to the next level:  some people say that its not only about two people and love, but that a relationship takes three:  each person in the couple, and God, braided together into an unbreakable cord.

How does one know if Love or God is in the midst of a relationship?   Well, Matthew has a lot to say about testing the integrity of a person or situation, as Jesus uses the symbolism of a tree, in order to explain how one may recognize the truth within:   "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit." - Matt 12:33

So what are the fruits of love?
"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." - Song of Solomon 8:7
"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." - John 13:34-35
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13
"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God." - 1 John 4:7
"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness [phileo], and in your brotherly kindness, love [agape]" - 1 Peter 5-7
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." - 1 Corinthians 13:6-7
 Love is unquenchable and passionate.   It is Godly.   It is above the normal human vibration.   It is self-sacrificing.  It is patient, kind, secure, humble, and forgiving.  It is self control and perseverance.  True love endures obstacles and hardships.  True love is gracious and graceful.   A true love relationship will challenge both members to move towards these things and bring each closer to themselves, and closer to God.     Can such characteristics exist in a gay relationship?

I know a couple, both of whom had not dated anyone before knowing one another, and entered into relationship with intentionality and prayer.  Each has sought to love the other to the best of their capacity.  Each worked on moving forward and resolving difficulty.   And they finally sealed their love in a commitment before God and God's people: they got married.    I know this couple very well, and I see the fruits of love and the fruits of the spirit in their relationship.  I see it in the kindness they have for one another, I see it in the humor they share, and the generosity they provide.  I see it in the way they treat their friends and families.   Their love is no different than the healthy straight married couples I know.  In fact their love is one they had to fight for amidst pressures and fears and insecurities, above and beyond what the average couple would ever have to face.   I see two people who are learning the kind of self-sacrificing love that exists when two people come together, that can only be possible when Love (capital L) exists, and in this situation there is the hand of the divine.   It is a view that is close up, as I'm engaged in the details of their relationship.  The church has a view from afar.    The main difference between His Holiness and myself is, I know this couple.  I'm intimately connected to them.   His Holiness has never met them, in fact, he doesn't know that each of them exist on this planet, as he has never been introduced to them.   In fact we see a situation where the church is describing people without even knowing who they are, or not knowing any of the facts about them, but merely quoting a few verses which describe a behavior common to a certain context and a certain period, using words which are no longer used today.    The disconnect is evident.   By the church's view (not definition, so much), I wonder what they would expect from the nature of a gay relationship if they took a step to examine more closely.

The church quotes statistics about the rarity of monogamous gay relationships.  While the sources of these statistics are questionable at best,  let's say for arguments sake, that these statistics are correct, and that the gay community has a higher incidence of infidelity, selfishness, debauchery and other such issues.   And let's even take it to another extreme, let's just say out of the hundreds of thousands of gay couples out there, that there is only ONE gay couple in the world that demonstrates the existence of this love that is evidence of God's blessing and work in their relationship.   If there is even only one out there, then the whole argument against homosexuality collapses on itself, why?   Because then we see that it is INDEED POSSIBLE. Just because something is not common, does it mean that it is impossible?   And by virtue of possibility, we can then realize that there is something true there.   Sainthood and miracle working is certainly not common, it does not mean, however that it doesn't exist.  On the contrary, something rare and pure is something to be strived after and admired.    So then if it is possible, the next question is, then why is it not common. That is a whole other conversation there, but the question should not dictate the morality of the homosexual relationship.  

Any statement to the contrary, especially those put out by the Coptic Church, its patriarch and its many bishops, basically says that the homosexual relationship, a relatively new paradigm in the history of human relationships, is merely a vehicle for the expression of depraved lusts.   Can a house built on depravity stand?   Many would say, absolutely not, unless the goal is depravity itself. Then if that were the case, then it would be arguable that every homosexual relationship has its basis on one thing alone, and that is the sex act, and all other aspects are ornamental, and secondary to that.

Guess what, Sex is easy!   Why build a paradigm which makes obtaining a lusty orgasm that much more difficult?  Why "ruin" a path to endless pleasures and self-indulgence with a model of self sacrifice?   Well, maybe this model for love is one that makes us better people, and this world a better place.

The church will turn a blind eye and say LOVE DOES NOT EXIST, But many gays and lesbians will, to the contrary, stand by their stories and one day, can show the world, that this great misconception is indeed false.     Maybe then can the world understand that a gay man is no different from a straight man.  A lesbian is no different than her heterosexual counterpart.  And that at the end of the day, people are people, and are not merely one-dimensional vehicles for desire, but have great potential and capacity.  Once that capacity and potential is embraced and integrated within the self, only then can it be brought out into the light, and once it's in the light, the shadows are removed and the love of God can shine upon the individual, and it is at that moment, that ALL THINGS become possible, in the midst of hatred, fear, pressure, and temptation, can the gay or lesbian start to recognize the truth within him or herself, and begin to shine as a vehicle for God's love, and if fate / God / or the universe permit, be able to reflect this love onto a partner.   And it is within this unit, that we find the model for all of us to follow:  love amidst brokenness, peace amidst chaos, and hope, in a jaded world.

Do you have an experience in a loving gay / lesbian relationship?  Share your stories.  The world needs to hear them.

1 comment:

  1. I am coptic, living in Los Angeles. I am in a lesbian relationship with a catholic latino woman. We have been together for over 3 years. We go to church together, pray together and love each other. We have a beautiful relationship and believe that God put us together.

    There have been several times we could have split(I was about to get a job out of state). But God kept us together. Its amazing because her mom (a religious latino catholic woman) prays for us everyday and prays we remain together.

    She is completely open but I am open to very few. So...thats our story.

    ReplyDelete

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