While we’re on the subject of liberation…

February 6, 2007

A comment on a previous entry mistakenly got marked by the system as spam.  I found it today while sorting through all the activity on my Open Letter to the Archbishop and the associated Petition to His Grace

The comment itself isn’t that interesting– just the same old predictable stuff about how even though we might be born gay we need to be celibate.  But I liked my response and thought I would bring it up for a little more visibility:

…Those who take the position of “requiring my celibacy” but not requiring their own in relationships of similar stature fail to understand the point, as you clearly demonstrate in your post. I am grateful that you seem to have a genuine remorse for the polarization this issue has caused. However, asking us to remain celibate because you are uncomfortable with our identity based on your exegesis is simply not an option for us. As with many other oppressed people, we have developed a hermeneutic of suspicion for the exegesis of the established hierarchy, and respectfully but frankly I am not interested in what a straight, white man has to say about my oppression when he likely has not encountered any oppression at all in his lifetime. (If I have mis-generalized you, then forgive me. If you have suffered from oppression than your comments certainly seem to indicate otherwise.)

I am, however, completely interested in talking about how we can live together in our differences; I will not, however do that in the context of me having to give something up to do it while you do not. [End of Quote]

It seems to me that this is the fundamental problem:  we are being asked to give something up, while not asking anyone else to give up anything in return.  We are not forcing our theology on the conservatives.  We have not told +Jack Iker nor any of the other bishops who will not ordain us that they have to leave.  They have moved forward with that agenda on their own.  And now ++Rowan has talked about protecting the “innocent children,”  when all I can think of is protecting my innocent five and seven year old from his increasingly disparaging comments.

I don’t want nor ask “them” to give up anything.  I only ask that in return, “they” don’t ask me to, either.  In a multi-cultural world, we must find ways for our cultural needs to co-exist without demanding that they change for our unique perspectives.  God has given us the grace of a diverse world.  If we demand that the world come to the Church with a monistic, one-sided perspecitve, the Church has no future.  The Church must be able to live in a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, dynamic, fluid, and changing diverse world– full of diverse peoples, diverse cultures, and accordingly, diverse theologies, hermeneutics, and perspectives on the Gospel.

If she cannot, she will not survive.



19 Responses to “While we’re on the subject of liberation…”

  1. scott Says:

    Well put Jeff! i almost jumped out of my seat applauding for this gem:
    “However, asking us to remain celibate because you are uncomfortable with our identity based on your exegesis is simply not an option for us.”
    Hear, hear!!!!!!

  2. Brian Says:

    “I am not interested in what a straight, white man has to say about my oppression when he likely has not encountered any oppression at all in his lifetime.”

    I don’t know that Akinola’s position is all that much better just because he isn’t white. I do know that I find sexist or racist comments from my fellow gay men to be offensive even if those men have experienced oppression. Of course, your following comment “If you have suffered from oppression than your comments certainly seem to indicate otherwise” shows that you realize this point as well. Still, I feel uncomfortable making someone feel uneasy for being a straight, white man when “there but for the Grace of God go I”…. (Some of my best friends are straight white men 🙂 )

  3. Kit Says:

    Perhaps the paraphrase is to say that I’m not interested in listening to a SWM pontificate about my oppression unless he has listened to my story and is trying to understand where he fits into the picture.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Thanks all –

    And Kit, yes I think you have more elegantly captured what I was trying to get at.

    The point for me is that I am happy to dialogue with a straight white man if he is interested not in having me change to suit his needs, but in a genuine discourse where we both are equally changed (for the better) through the dialogue.

    If he walks in with an assumption that my core identity is flawed, without a full understanding of what that identity entails, including some of the things I have been writing about over the past day or two, and so on– then I am not interested in his description of my experience.

    I will be happy to tell him about my experience, but he certainly cannot tell me what my experience is.

    I, similarly, cannot tell him what it means to come from a position of power. I cannot tell him what it means to approach things with the assumption that others are like me. I cannot know how it feels to walk down the street and have conversations, images, and phrases embedded that assume congruence with my identity.

    I need his perspective to understand that.

    But without a willingness on both sides to understand the difference between us, without the loss of arrogance that we know the other’s experience, it is impossible to have a productive conversation about our differences. That includes our approach to Biblical interpretation and theology.

    For a person in power, for example, Jesus may be a savior from one’s own sin. For a person under oppression, Jesus may be a liberator from the power of the establishment.

    The Bible can be read in many different ways, and the assumption that we all read it the same is a myth which needs to be dispelled.


  5. Again, borrowing from myself:

    Thought For the Day

    Celibacy is a vocation, a special call from God. No human can call another human to a life of celibacy. Only God can make that call. Therefore no human has the right to declare to a Christian gay man or lesbian, “You are called to a life of celibacy”

  6. John Says:

    I would think there would be a lot of reasons to consider more seriously than you do the wisdom of the Christian tradition’s affirmation and counsel of celibacy for relationships outside of marriage rather than be so flippant and portray it as a power play by one group of people, SWM’s. I used to be more liberal in my outlook but 20 years experience with the left-wing of our church, and the ‘listening’ that you and Windsor call for, has made me think that we are mistaken in the path we are taking and that the wisest path is to somehow help people consider afresh celibacy. Though I doubt it will happen in large numbers.

  7. Jeff Says:

    John –

    I am not sure what diocese you hail from.

    Most dioceses in TEC no longer teach that sex is only acceptable within marriage, preferring instead a teleological structure looking to how sex affects the relationship. Only the most conservative dioceses which have listened to the straight Christian tradition of celibacy outside of the straight Christian tradition of marriage have followed the deontological structure you seek. Don’t you see the point? The tradition is established by straight people. That is like asking African-Americans to accept a repressive teaching on race that is a tradition of Anglo-Americans. It just doesn’t work.

    In any event, what I advocate is that it is marriage that needs redefining, not celibacy.


  8. Jeff Says:

    I also wanted to go back up to the point about Akinola that Brian made–

    Of course Akinola isn’t white, but the comment about listening to white men isn’t as pertinent to him since he doesn’t hail from a culture where white men are the majority. Therefore he is not subject to the oppression of the white man in the same way that a non-white person in the U.S. would be.

    In other words, an African-American is very different than an African from a cultural perspective.

    And, I’m not saying Akinola doesn’t have his own problems to deal with– poverty, internal strife, etc.– but for God’s sake he should deal with them and not our cultural affairs.


  9. Mark Says:

    I’m all for celibacy.

    As long as the demands are equally applied to all in the clergy, gay or straight, and those calling for lifelong celibacy for gays embrace lifelong celibacy for themselves.

    Otherwise, you’ve no moral ground from which to make such demands.

  10. John Says:

    You obviously do not know what teleology is; go read Aristotle again.

  11. Mark Says:

    Quite aware of teleology, thank you.

    I’m also aware of justice and fair-play. I’m aware that those who place burdens on their brothers, should be willing to shoulder the same burdens. I’m aware that, as far as procreation goes, Jesus Himself said that God could raise followers from the very stones. As far as sex goes, perhaps you should tell St. Paul to read his Aristotle again.

    In any case, your attempt at derision and belittling speak very badly for the true reason for your side’s demands.

  12. Jeff Says:

    Mark –

    I’m not going to get into an argument of the different forms of teleology.

    What do you want?

    If you are looking for me to embrace celibacy, that’s not going to happen. It’s likely not for any other “out” GLBT person either. Those are the difficult choices we wrestle with as we come out of the closet. Once we embrace our identity we are done with those ethical decisions.

    Yes, as you pointed out, you might find one or two exceptions. There are always one or two exceptions to the rule, but that doesn’t make those exceptions applicable for the whole of society. I can find more than one or two straight men saying that sex is an addictive lure for them, and so they must be celibate. That doesn’t mean that all straight men should be celibate.

    So again, what do you want? Nobody here is going to jump up and down with excitement over celibacy.

    It doesn’t sound like you are going to jump up and down saying “wow- I see the light, I’ve been wrong all these years.”

    I’m all for dialogue, but the starting point for dialogue can’t be a one-sided willingness on YOUR side for ME to change.

    That just doesn’t work.


  13. FrMichael Says:

    OK Mark (and Jeff).

    I call for lifelong celibacy for all those afflicted with same-sex orientation. And willingly give up my rights to be married as a straight, single, white male.

    Now what?

  14. Jeff Says:

    Fr Michael –

    LOL 🙂

    But you are still calling for a change on my part from your side. What are you going to give up? You’ve already given up sex. I don’t think that’s quite the same thing…

    And, quite frankly, I don’t agree with the Roman Catholic theology of celibacy for priests anyway. Nor for the exclusion of woman from the priesthood, nor of gays. A great reason I’m not Roman Catholic.


  15. Mark Says:

    Well, Fr. Michael, I decided on celibacy for myself, long ago. Not because sex, or even gay sex, is dirty, but because that sort of relationship was not one I was interested in. It’s simply not for me. I was given the gift of celibacy. Not everyone has that, but, if you’re going to ask it of others, Jesus spoke clearly about being unwilling to take burdens on yourself while laying them on others.


    In no way am I arguing that you should embrace celibacy, and the teleology thing was directed at John’s rather condescending post (sorry to have failed to identify).

    No. Celibacy is a good thing, if it is a gift, not otherwise. “It is not good for Man to be alone.”

    I was, rather, trying to back up your argument by saying that, if they really are so concerned about our spiritual health and not just their comfort level, they should be willing to take up the same burden.

    Sorry if I was unclear. I’m on your side. 🙂

  16. Jeff Says:

    Mark –

    I’ve got to apologize because I was in a hurry when I posted and got confused on the trail of comments. I was thinking of John when I wrote, not you, although I was intermixing comments about your teleogy response in my response…

    Anyway – point is I was confused!!! It does happen when you’re trying to feed two kids, finish reading texts for class, and take care of yourself while posting a comment and running out the door in the morning while not being late for school!



  17. John Says:

    “Not everyone has that, but, if you’re going to ask it of others, Jesus spoke clearly about being unwilling to take burdens on yourself while laying them on others.”
    I agree with this–indeed think it is the answer to the issue-IF we learn (as people like Lee Ann Payne have shown) that the burden we take on is to create the kind of churches that make God’s calling to the gays to be celibate possible. Our churches need to create more friendships for everyone so that loneliness is not so dominant and destructive.

  18. Jeff Says:

    John –

    Again, God doesn’t call us to be celibate.

    I appreciate the intent of your compassion, but it is mis-placed.

    It so much reminds me of when the Spanish missionaries tried to inculturate the indiginous native people of our continent.

    Their rationale was that they knew how God needed to be brought to the other– God could not possibly have been present in them already before they (the missionaries) arrived. They (the objects of the missioners) needed to dress, talk, and worship in the way that the Spanish did in order to be “Christian.” They “knew” how God was going to work in the other, not pausing for one minute to ponder how God might already be deep at work in them (they were unfamiliar to the Spaniards, but God already knew who they were).

    So too you assume that you know how God must be absent from us, not pausing at all to wonder how God might already be at work within us. You do not have a curiosity to develop a relationship with us to see how we might move forward together, both changed by an increased understanding of the Christ within us; rather you have an arrogant insistence that you alone know the only shape Christ can take– the shape envisioned within your imagination developed by your understanding of tradition; and that unless we assume that shape and form– just as the Spanish missionaries wanted the indiginous of North America to assume the shape and form of their understanding– you fail to see the Christ already at work deep within us.

    The result of the Spanish missioners work? Devestation. Genocide. Slave labor. Dehumanization.

    What is the difference here?

    Perhaps we are not subject to genocide, because God has revealed enough of Godself to humanity to allow the collective Body of Christ to prevent that level of atrocity. But there is still violence against us. And Christians still rationalize it. On a conservative site, there are “Christians”- so-called “Episcopalians” claiming to be true to Anglican Tradition- who rationalize the murder of Matthew Shepard, saying that in some way, shape, or form, his tragic and horrible murder should be “mitigated” because of the circumstances of his death.

    This is no different than saying that a woman who is raped while wearing a short skirt is asking for it, therefore is somehow “mitigated.”

    There is simply no justification for violence. And the violence of gay-bashing has its roots in the Christian tradition of discrimination against us.

    Just like the genocide of the indiginous people of this continent has its roots in the Christian tradition of the Puritan and Roman Catholic roots of our fathers.

    Just like the lynching of those Africans brought to this country for the benefit of Anglo-Americans was allowed to continue while the church stood by silent; even, in some cases while it condoned such atrocities.

    Its time to stop these traditions.

    So again, I ask, what is the difference here?


  19. Mark Says:

    No, John, I don’t think you quite get what I’m saying.

    If you want us to have no sexually intimate relationships and no marriages, then the same must go for you, otherwise, you’re trying to have your cake and eat it, too.

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