November 1, 2006

In the past on some blogs, when trying to discuss gay theology with some folks I’ve gotten responses that my positions essentially boil down to “self-love”– that because I advocate love of self they should be rejected.

I get the feeling that there is some body of work out there on the conservative side of things that must be propagating the view that homosexuality is related to self-love.  I have looked for it, but not been successful in finding it (at least in the Episcopal world).

Since we’ve just finished studying St. Augustine in my Patristics class and our friends who claim to be “Orthodox” assert a return to “traditional” Christianity as espoused by the fathers, I thought I would share a few thoughts of Augustine’s on the topic of self-love.  If you need a little refresher, Augustine was the creator of the doctrine of original sin– but don’t hold that against him.  He is also the creator of the doctrine of grace and freedom.

  1. Augustine clearly believed that love of God was most important.
  2. He also believed that in order to love God we must love ourselves as the image of God.
  3. The love of self is the basis for loving others.
  4. It is inordinate self-love that Augustine is concerned about, when love of self begins to depricate the relationship with God or with others.

I have yet to meet a gay or lesbian person who does not believe that they were created in the image of God (we are all in different places of acceptance, but I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t believe that they should believe it).  Loving and embracing ourselves fully as those children of God is essential to living as gay and lesbian Christians.

The lack of self-love creates an unhealthy place, where some people cannot embrace how they have been created.  It leads to the unhealthy situation of not being able to be fully out, not being able to accept one’s sexual orientation, or at worst trying to change one’s sexual orientation.  These things are not embracing, loving, things to do when we see ourselves as created in the image of God.  This is inordinate self-love– trying to put our will over the will of our Creator, to create our own image of ourselves instead of embrace the image of God within us– in some cases going so far as to try to change our sexual orientation.

I’m not trying to condemn anybody here.  Of course we are not perfect– we are all sinful and we need grace and freedom to move forward on our journeys, and that is the beauty of God that we are given those gifts.  But to say that self-love is un-Christian is just wrong as a matter of historical fact.

Dare I call it revisionist




10 Responses to “Self-Love”

  1. FrMichael Says:

    Try Romans 1 for the “conservative text” that links inordinate self-love with homosexuality (among other vices).

  2. Jeff Says:

    Good to hear from you Fr. Michael!

    I would have thought you’d come up with something better, though. Rom 1 claims the following for the reasons “God gave them up to their degrading passions”: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.”

    This is idol worship, not self-love.

    Also, see Rom 2 for what it says about not judging. That’s something that folks always seem to forget when quoting Romans as a source of judgement about homosexuality. I won’t go in for the rebuttal of Paul’s text here as it is clearly an attempt to change the topic– we’re talking about Augustine here.


  3. Saint Dumb Ox Says:


    You seem to be missing the point about the judgement thing. It seems that FrMichael is only a bystander pointing to the actual judge and saying “Look, he’s judging you, not me.”

    The love model is that we can only love God because he FIRST loved us. We would not know any love, self-love or otherwise, with out first having known that God loves us. It is impossible to start with self-love and think that from there we can know the love God has for us.

    Plato’s Cave, man, Plato’s Cave.

    As for original sin, I would argure that it was God himself who mentioned it first when he cursed Adam and Eve. St. Paul also talks about this.

    Also, homosexual orientation or not, the homosexual behaviour is said to be sinful. And chastitiy is an option. Single hetero folks are also called to abstain from sex. In fact, as I hope you are learning, the historic teaching of the church has always taught that sex is supposed to occur in a one man, one woman marriage. ANY sex outside of that arraingment is said to be sinful, gay or strait.

    Please remember that it is the behaviour and not the orientation that is at issue.

  4. Jeff Says:

    St. Dumb Ox,

    There is no logic in saying that human is pointing to the judger without also judging. The human doing the pointing uses judgement in discerning when to point and when not to point, and in so doing is fully judging himself. For example, I could point to apocalyptic literature in the text proclaiming that the “least of these” will be raised up while those in power will be cast out into the darkness– proclaiming that I am only pointing you– the heterosexual establishment– to the judger, but not judging you myself. That, of course, is foolishness. To do so would be a judgement on my part just as it is a judgment on Fr. Michael’s part to say that homosexuality is sin by raising up the parts of scripture he believes reinforce his theology.

    That being said, I’ll accept my judgement on my own and do so without any pointing from anyone else. I’m aware of the Biblical references, I have taken my own accounting of them, and I am reconciled with them in my theology. If someone else continues to point me to the “judger” we can only assume that they are judging my theology.

    The “love the sinner hate the sin” argument doesn’t hold water. We are created as GLBT people in the full image of God, and as such God created us in relationship with the expectation that we would be in relationship. Click on my GLBT category and you can find a wealth of information on this topic.


  5. Saint Dumb Ox Says:


    By your logic, ANY decision or action on anything could therefore be called a “judgement.” If three people were looking at the sky and A says “It is blue” and B says “You are wrong” and C says “B, perhaps you should listen to A.” By your line of thinking, you are putting words in C’s mouth. C never made any judgement call on B, she just made a statement. There is not even any implication that C believes what A is saying. If I said you should read Mein Kampf (sp?) does that mean that I endorse Hitler and his beliefs?

    As for loving the sinner and hating the sin, there is plenty of water in that bucket. If such a thing were impossible, then there could be no use in Jesus’ death. For if we are the sins we commit then Jesus could not have saved us. If we (persons) are seperate from our actions (sins) then it is possible for God to love us, for God cannot accept sin in his presence. The two are as incompatable as Light and Dark. We can draw near to God because He can take a sinful action (thoughts included) and remove it vis-a-vie the sacrifice of Jesus.

    Of course our real disagreement is “is homosexuality a sin.” The very fact that we may debate about it presupposes that one of us is right and the other wrong. I guess eventually we’ll find out which.

  6. FrMichael Says:

    The comments ate my comment, grrrrr.

    I wasn’t being laconic to be cute or score cheap debating points. I was trying to answer the question implicitly posed in your second paragraph. IMHO Romans 1 and Genesis 19 are the theological starting point for most conservative Christians when dealing with the phenomena of homosexuality.

    But since I see the discussion has moved on, I would like to briefly address your comment that “We are created as GLBT people in the full image of God, and as such God created us in relationship with the expectation that we would be in relationship.”

    First of all, none of us marked by Original Sin and concupiscence are made in the “full image of God.” We are, at best, partial models heavily scarred by Original Sin and its effects.

    Second, since there is neither a theological explanation from the Bible or Apostolic Tradition nor a definitive explanation from science about the origins of GLBT orientations, a little modesty about its supposed divine origin is in order.

    Third, by being made in the (partial) image and likeness of God, we are called to relationships with God and others. However, that call to relationship does not mean that all relationships are inherently good nor all are individual actions within a basically good relationship inherently good. Further moral discernment is called for.

  7. Jeff Says:

    St Dumb Ox –

    You are extending the argument past the point of common sense.

    From my perspective, you have internalized the authority of scriptures to the point of having the authority of personal experience. Scripture does not hold the same authority as the experience of knowing the color blue.

    Scripture, as we have been discussing in the “While I’m defending myself” thread, is not infallible.

    Your assumption is that scripture is infallible and therefore is just as subject to “observation” as calling something blue.

    I do not make that jump of logic, because I know that there are inconsistencies within Scripture that prevent me from believing that an infallible God could have created it in totality. Humans were involved, and thus it is not inerrant. That is not the same as saying it should be discarded or that it isn’t a Holy document– it just needs to be examined for what it is; a narrative of faith rather than a historical revelation straight from God’s mouth.

    I understand what you are doing with the Mein Kampf reference, but I know Fr. Michael well enough to know that he is not simply asking me to read something he doesn’t agree with. Fr. Michael, please let me know if I am misstating. If I am, I would again recommend Rom 2 because Fr. Michael knows full well that I am already familiar with Rom 1, and to point it out again is a judgment in and of itself.

    Yes, the disagreement is about whether or not homosexuality is a sin. You started by saying you were talking about behavior and not orientation, but your second post reveals much more about your beliefs. Of course, there is no distinction between orientation and behavior. If you are straight, there is no distinction between your orientation as a straight person and your marriage to your wife. Somewhere in there you may have sex with your wife, but that’s not really the point. It is no different with gay folks.

    We, as gay people, cannot distinguish between who we are as God created us, with a desire and inclination to relate to same-gender people in loving long-term relationships. Perhaps somewhere in that relationship sex is involved. But that’s not really the point. It’s all about the relationship.


  8. Jeff Says:

    Fr Michael –

    I hear what you’re saying– I’ll leave Original Sin out for a minute, because I don’t happen to agree with either Augustine or you on original sin…

    However, I would agree that I overstated when I said that we (or anyone) is created in the “full” image of God. Of course none of us are that.

    But I would argue that GLBT folks are no LESS created in the image of God than straight folks, and that we are created in the image of God.

    Homosexuality in and of itself is not a moral issue; see my previous comment on relationships. The texts fail to sufficiently explain that they discuss GLBT relationships; GLBT relationships that are balanced in power did not exist until recent times. Even those Hellenistic relationships that were same-gendered were not balanced in power because they tended to be of very different ages; something which would clearly be immoral in my judgment.



  9. Saint Dumb Ox Says:

    If it’s just about the relationship then that implies that any relationship I have with another male could be considered homosexual if we were close enough. I think it was Chesterton who said that when sex is trivialized or made inconsequential, it will become a tirant. It’s not “just sex.” Sex is also not a god to be worshiped, but it is a special thing. By relegating sex to “just sex” or “casual sex,” the specialness is lost and it’s inherant power runs rampant. This is alluded to when St. Paul talks about uniting yourself to a prostitute…the two become one.

    As for the bible being inconsistant…if you are referring to different eye witness accounts, then any cop will tell you that every eye witness account is a bit different. It is entirely too simplistic and poor rational thinking that would look at four different eye witness accounts and think that they SHOULD be the same. Of course humans will relate things from their point of view. But the truth is contained in those pages, make no mistake. The truth of God’s Word is even more believable to me because of those small variations. But to think that they missed the main gist of the message because they saw it a bit different is a bit silly.

    And Fr.Michael is right…
    “Second, since there is neither a theological explanation from the Bible or Apostolic Tradition nor a definitive explanation from science about the origins of GLBT orientations, a little modesty about its supposed divine origin is in order.”

    Leaps of faith are not advised as they are always blind. Christianity is the most logical thing I can think of. It’s scary how much sense it makes.

  10. Jeff Says:

    St Dumb Ox –

    Forgive me, but this exact same conversation on homosexuality exists over and over again on this blog and others.

    I just don’t feel like repeating myself. You can look it up and read it all over again.

    To respond to Fr. Michael’s comment, there was no scientific explanation yet there was a theological explanation at the time of Moses to explain the creation of the earth. Did that mean that it was literally created in 7 days? No. We know now that it was not. There may not be a theological explanation you like, but there are theological explanations. Again, they are provided elsewhere here and other places.

    I would argue that if you think Christianity is logical, you had better rethink the rationality of the church’s exclusion of the marginalized.


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