Beware of the Celibate

beware of the celibateThere’s rather a lot of silly talk going on online about celibacy at the moment. This is largely connected to a couple of recent publications, not the least of which is Richard Coles’s new autobiography. Rather a lot of the publicity surrounding the book has made much of the idea of someone moving from a rockstar lifestyle to that of a celibate vicar.

This is connected to the idea that gay priests are OK “so long as they are celibate”, an expectation which seems to have something to do with what gay people (by which we mean men) desire to do with bits of their bodies. (The unspoken and rarely challenged presumption being that straight men don’t do these things with their bodies).

Alongside this, we’ve also got a small number of the usual suspects saying that the churches can’t legitimately adopt a positive attitude to same-sex couples getting married because it would somehow invalidate the experience of those who reject the legitimacy of their own gay desires and have pledged to live without doing anything about them. This is linked with the specious phrase – “same-sex attraction” or even worse, “unwanted same-sex attraction”. This phrase is only ever used by those denying that God might delight in God’s gay children and have given them their desires so that they might delight in one another. Let me be clear – the phrase “same-sex attraction” is intrinsically homophobic and only ever used by those, usually motivated by religion, who have bad news for gay men.

In the midst of all this, it seems important to get back to first principles.

Let us begin with the bible and what St Paul had to say about marriage.

In 1 Corinthians 7 we find Paul saying that it is better to marry than to burn. Now, this is important. Firstly this is not an argument in favour of marriage – it is a rather sniffy comment from someone who thought that Jesus was about to return and turn the world so far upside down that marriage wasn’t really important. Secondly, it is important to recognise that this isn’t someone advocating celibacy as being a higher calling than marriage either. Rather it is someone usefully pointing out that enforced celibacy, particularly celibacy enforced for religious reasons, is a dangerous thing.

Enforced celibacy is something that we should all be wary of. I’m far from being the only person who thinks that all kinds of abusive behaviour can arise from enforced celibacy that is demanded of those who have no sense of vocation towards it.

Many years ago I knew a nun who knew a thing or two about psychology and she used to say, “Wherever you see a virgin, there you see a witch.” Now, virginity is not the same as celibacy but it is a comment that I often have reflected on. All kinds of behaviour are linked to psychosexual hopes and dreams. When we hear people advocating celibacy as a lifestyle we should at least see amber lights before us. It may be the right thing for some people and it quite certainly isn’t the life for everyone.

One of my big reservations at the moment about the current discussions about celibacy is that they seem to settle on the notion of celibacy as being about what one does (or doesn’t do) with bits of one’s body. In fact, Christian spiritual teaching about celibacy was always about something rather more than that. It was (and is) about someone responding to what they perceive to be a call from God to live a life free from distractions not simply for its own sake but so that they are then free in God’s name to love the world. What one doesn’t do with one’s bits is rather a secondary consideration.

The truth is, a couple of people who are living in respectable coupledom with all its compromises, arguments and trips to IKEA are not living in a celebate relationship in the grand scheme of Christian spirituality just because they declare (or are presumed) to be putting limits on what they do with their bodies. Christianity is certainly an incarnate religion and does indeed claim that bodies matter but it is also about more than bodies too.

Some Christians are called to celibacy. All are called to chastity. The trouble is, and it is interesting very interesting trouble indeed, we don’t all agree what chaste living is any more and that applies to straight people (including particularly those not yet married) just as much as it applies to those who are gay.

By all means let us talk about celibacy but let us do so in a grown up way, beginning from being cautious about those trying to argue either by their words or their lifestyles for the enforced celibacy of others. Let us also not confuse the idea of not having sex, with living celibate lives.

These things matter far too much. When you encounter the C word, let it flag up some warnings. Celibacy is a complex, tricky and fascinating thing. If we don’t have any knowledge of that or interest in understanding it then we should beware of the “celibate”.

Living together and not having sex is perfectly legitimate and perfectly uninteresting. Indeed it is no-one’s business but that of the couple themselves. We must ask couples wanting to make much of that way of life why they are doing so.

It doesn’t seem particularly godly to enquire about (or advertise) what is happening in particular bedrooms. That applies whether there is a lot going on there or not much going on at all.

Comments

  1. A thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Many thanks.

    You might be interested in http://aqueercalling.com/, which has some challenging things to say about the vocation to celibacy.

    • Thanks Eamonn. I had that blog in mind when writing.

      • It’s interesting that you say you had us in mind when writing because we don’t see anything in your post that describes how our relationship works. Anyone who reads enough of our posts will see that we view celibacy as so much more than what one does with one’s body, and your post seems to reduce us to two people who call ourselves celibate simply because we don’t have sex. We would encourage you to read more and engage with us on our site. We don’t expect that we’ll come to any profound agreements, and that’s fine, but if you’re going to write something with us in mind, please do not characterize us incorrectly.

        • I didn’t say I was writing about you. I said I had your blog in mind. That’s quite different. I was certainly writing about some of the things people have been saying about you but I think you would agree that is also quite different.

          • Could you clarify what you mean when you said that you had us in mind? Because from our read of your post and your comment, and especially your post’s title, it sounds as though you see celibate gay people as a threat. It also sounds as though you see celibate gay relationships as not truly celibate and focused only on what we do or don’t do with our bodies. Please correct us if we are misreading that. We really hope that we are.

          • I’ve had years dealing with the damage of people arguing for the need for gay people to embrace celibacy. For that reason, I think most gay people would be wise to be suspicious of talk of celibacy, particularly from evangelical quarters. You are quite right to think that I don’t think people living in relationships to be living celibate lives. However you apparent discomfort over that seems to me to be caused by us using the word celibacy to mean different things.

          • It does seem to be the case that we’re using the word “celibacy” to mean different things. We have great appreciation for the hurts caused by straight Christians who have mistreated LGBT Christians. We get that. But of all the celibate couples we know, *none* of them understand celibacy in the way you say celibate couples do. It’s difficult to see this post as anything other than disrespectful of a way of life with which you are (presumably) not familiar.

          • Well, people can judge from the post whether it was disrespectful. I don’t, incidentally think that causing harm to gay folk is something only Christians who identify as straight are responsible for. Sometimes it is those who are gay themselves who have caused others harm.

          • You’re absolutely right about that. Gay Christians can cause and have caused harm to other gay Christians. That’s one of the reasons we make abundantly clear on our blog that our purpose is to discuss celibacy as a way of life, and celibate partnership as the context in which we are called to live our two individual vocations to celibacy…and that our purpose is *not* to advocate for celibacy being shoved down throats. We’ve written plenty about why we *don’t* support forced celibacy. This post conflates gay celibacy with forced celibacy. It also implies that anyone speaking publicly about celibacy is advocating for it to be forced. This isn’t true. We would be interested to know why you believe that living together with another person in a relationship means that one is not truly celibate.

          • Again, this post is not about you. The post doesn’t conflate gay celibacy with forced celibacy.

            Very obviously I don’t believe there is such a thing as gay celibacy. Nor straight celibacy.

            I’ve no problem with people taking about celibacy. I’ve no problem with gay people taking about being celibate. But yes, when people start taking about gay celibacy the alarm bells do start to ring.

        • We’ll say one more thing and be finished, unless you’re ever interested in communicating privately or visiting us on our site. Saying that one should beware of discussions of celibacy with regard to gay people implies that every gay person who writes about celibacy is somehow harming non-celibate gay people. We’ve gone on record as saying that we’ve learned many things from our friends who aren’t celibate. While this post may not have been written “about” us, it is still highly disrespectful of us and others who write on similar topics. As far as we know (and correct us if we’re wrong), we are the only celibate LGBT couple currently blogging about celibacy. If more celibate couples are speaking publicly about celibacy, we would love to meet them. But at present, we aren’t aware of them. Given that, how are we supposed to interpret comments such as, “It doesn’t seem particularly godly to enquire about (or advertise) what is happening in particular bedrooms. That applies whether there is a lot going on there or not much going on at all” if they aren’t statements of disrespect about our way of life? We have far too much respect for our gay friends who aren’t celibate to write the sorts of things about them that you’ve written about gay celibates, and especially celibate couples. We wish you the best.

          • Many thanks for your comments.

            I stand by my own.

          • Bro David says:

            I guess that I view the call to celibacy similar to prayer, something to be done in private, whether in solitude or community, even a community of two. So I’m perplexed by someone who needs to shout it from the rooftops, “We’re a celibate couple!” It seems that would, one, distract from the very call to celibacy itself. And two, make celibacy a novelty item to be hawked in the Christian fetish marketplace. And three, once you’ve advertised it, why is there a need to continue advertising?

            Twenty years ago I went to a gathering that was advertised as a meeting regarding spirituality and mysticism. The meeting started with a woman standing in front of us who stated, “I’m an Anglican mystic. She then went on for the next hour to present her credentials qualifying her as a mystic. The fakery of the whole thing cried sham to me and I slipped away when the group broke for tea. If you have to advertise that you’re a mystic, to me your not a mystic, at least not for all the right reasons. And if you have to advertise that you’re celibate, then I have to wonder how that’s any different.

  2. Annie says:

    I read this, and other articles on this theme, and I wonder if anyone is reflecting on the experience of a great many Christians – in fact, numerically speaking, possibly most practising churchgoers. So many of us are celibate and invisible. Many of us are older, separated, divorced, widowed or simply have never met the right person. The constant presentation of the debate as something about which people have a choice ignores this reality. The person really struggling with celibacy in your church may well be the sixty-year-old recently widowed person in the back pew, but we seem not to like thinking about that. For many of us celibacy is an enforced state and we have to work out how to live in a state of grace and acceptance around that, whatever our sexual orientation. Celibacy may be complex and tricky, but for lots of people it is just lonely routine.

    I cannot see any virtue in people in a stable relationship struggling in artificial celibacy because the church hasn’t got around to recognising same-sex relationships as legitimate, but ‘beware of the celibate’, tongue in cheek though it may be, is painful reading.

    • Once again, celibacy and not-having-sex are not the same.

      • Annie says:

        I’m not sure I said it was. The people to whom I refer are living lives without loving relationships, lives which may focus deeply on God as a result but are still a result of a choice they have not made. Sex is but one facet of that. Many such people are both celibate and chaste.

        • Then I don’t really understand your point.

          How did such people embrace celibacy? If they didn’t opt for it freely, I’m struggling to think of it as anything other than not having sex for one reason or another.

          I’m single but I don’t presume to think of myself as celibate.

  3. Your respectable couple are as likely – especially if getting on a bit – to be distracted by their visits to IKEA as they are with what they do with their bits. People who bang on about celibacy/non-celibacy seem to me to be unhelpfully obsessed with a very limited part of life. This isn’t really germane to what is an excellent post, but flew into my mind as a response to a small part of it … sorry!

  4. Annie, while I agree with Kelvin’s comment, I understand your heartfelt plea for recognition of ‘the I people’ (yes I’m misquoting Bridget Jones and no I don’t mean ‘the me people’). During the time I spent as a friar I didn’t identify with what then was termed ‘gay liberation’ but I felt a certain solidarity in being outside the relentless discourse of dominant category coupledom. It’s not nice to be written off as defective because you’re not in a Sunday morning brunch & newspapers young, strait & able-bodied in bed scenario in which everything (including the carpet and the dog) is blond and bubbly.

    • Annie says:

      Indeed Alan. At theological college the entire discussion about celibacy revolved around men who had deliberately chosen a celibate lifestyle. I totally believe that same-sex couples who are in permanent faithful stable relationships should be able to marry and to express their love physically, and I appreciate the torment and abuse that goes with the church denying this. However, to say that people who are not in a relationship are not celibate, because they haven’t chosen to be, does seem to belittle their difficulties and to fail to recognise that their celibacy may still have a grace of its own.

      • Annie – what in your view is the difference between celibacy and not-having-sex?

      • Bro David says:

        I think that you are confusing celibacy, which is the matter of a conscious decision, with not having sex, as a matter of circumstance.

        I live a vowed life. I am single since the death of my partner Roberto, of blessed memory. I did not take a vow of celibacy, I took a vow of purity of heart and am open to marriage, should that present itself. I don’t consider myself celibate, I’m not engaging in sex, two different things in my mind, because I do observe living a chaste life.

        • May he rest in peace and rise in glory. You know, Bro David, you really must visit us at St Marys. I’m sure we could find you a holy husband without too much trouble. In fact, I have someone in mind.

        • Very well said, Bro David. Thank you. Our “vowed lives” are, I believe, similar (aka “when I meet Ms Right, spousal intimacy till death-us-do-part—until then, I’m not engaging in sex”)

  5. I wonder which variety of witch and which variety of virgin the religious sister (who may not technically have been a nun) was referring to. If she meant a wise woman and an autonomous woman then I see her point. I’m sure you wouldn’t be quoting someone who was counter to deep ecumenism, AKA interfaith.

    • I might have guessed that you would have something very interesting to day on that, Alan. You are also quite right that she was a religious sister and not in the strictest sense a nun.

  6. margaret of the sea of galilee says:

    A “witch”? What is wrong with being a witch (in the braodest sense of that)?
    Hetero-sexist society messes up all thinking people sexually, IMHO (Especially WIMMIN)

    • Oh, I’m aware.

      I make no apology for my comments about celibacy above but I would hope I have not offended too many witches.

      (We are having a gothic afternoon with nuns and witches and all)

      • margaret of the sea of galilee says:

        You know how we Old School Feminists are – can’t let the word “witch” go un-commented upon! Not offended NOW – that was over all too quickly!!

        • Oh I know. Alan was ahead of you in the comments above though. He was defending witches *and* religious sisters who happen not to be nuns.

          That’s catholic for you, isn’t it?

  7. Aaron Saunderson-Cross says:

    Kelvin would you agree that celibacy in its strict sense involves relinquishing significant emotional bonds of attachment in order to invest oneself in the ‘vocation of celibacy’ as a gift to others? This would make sense to a priest but what about a monastic fraternity where celibacy is lived out as family? What indeed for same-sex couples who pursue the vocation of celibacy together ‘in communion’ with each-other? I suppose what I am asking is what you think celibacy is rather than what it’s not.

    • Yes, thanks for the question, Aaron. I would partly agree with what you’ve said. I do think that celibacy does involved relinquishing significant emotional bonds for a purpose – I’m not sure that the purpose is celibacy itself but certainly it is some kind of gift to others.

      I do understand and have benefited from the friendship and support of those who live monastic and other religious lives where celibacy is a part of their lives. I also understand that some of those communities can be small.

      I struggle quite a lot with the idea of couples being celibate. (As must be obvious above). When placed within a conversation about LGBT people I think that notion can be very unhelpful.

      • Aaron Saunderson-Cross says:

        Thanks Kelvin.

        The significance of relinquishing emotional bonds of attachment in pursuit of celibacy was put forward by a previous spiritual director (a priest); and I think you’re right that we need to ask what positive virtues constitute celibacy (e.g. the priestly gift of himself to others). If celibacy is an unhelpful notion for describing same-sex couples who live together in continence then I would ask what shape their vocation might take and how the Church can provide a pastoral language to describe it.

        • Why on earth would the church want particularly to encourage same-sex couples to “live together in continence”?

          I can only presume it would do so in the same way that it does so for opposite-sex couples wanting to do the same.

          (Which, I’ve a feeling we don’t hear much about).

          • Aaron Saunderson-Cross says:

            Kelvin if you belong to a faith tradition like my own (Catholic) that believes in sexual continence outside of marriage and yet doesn’t have a clearly worked out theology of vocation for LGBT persons then it makes sense that for those gay men and women who seek to share their lives together in communion with each other whilst observing the Church’s teaching on sexual morality this is precisely a way forward.

          • Good luck turning that into pastoral care.
            Sounds like dangerous cruelty to me.

          • Aaron Saunderson-Cross says:

            Kelvin I suspect that we belong to different faith traditions and that perhaps we do not share common ground where sexual morality is concerned and so I imagine our ideas of LGBT vocations in the Church might seem rather odd to each-other. What I would say, and I’m sure that you’ll agree, is that a healthy mutual respect for different visions of vocation is crucial.

          • There are some visions of vocation that I respect and done I don’t. I imagine that is true for many.

          • Bro David says:

            I’m having an issue with vocation and the concept of coupling in the same sentence. I’m unfamiliar with finding a partner as a vocation.

        • Bro David says:

          The alarms ring when you describe *gay* couples living in this arrangement. And then, separately, just *couples* living in this arrangement. Why are they a “couple” if their purpose is to deny sexual intimacy?

  8. I’m also, as a life coach, in great admiration of Sarah and Lindsey’s assertiveness – in the true meaning of that word: calm and strong clarification of meaning which enables respectful dialogue and mutual learning. Shalom, Margaret Ha Gal, everything I see your name I remember my time in En Gev. And my very popular blonde companion on that trip jumping at midnight into a fisherman’s wee boat from the Disco Boat in the middle of the Kinneret with all the passengers shouting “come on Scotland!” 🙂

  9. Blair Robertson says:

    I probably shouldn’t joint this thread but I do so because first, I’m fascinated by language and its use and, secondly, interested in the way the Church of England seems to expect its clergy who are in same-sex relationships to be celibate. Years ago I introduced a Roman Catholic Priest to speak to a church group with the line, “Father Fred will tell us the difference between celibacy and chastity.” He blushed red as he seemed to know there was, and is, a difference. Yet celibacy seems to be defined in multifarious ways, and its’s great to explore theological perspectives on the idea, but according to my dictionary it means ‘not married.’ Those who are celibate would in traditional Christian morality also be chaste, but the words are not interchangeable. For some years I was not very chaste but I was celibate. I think it’s fair to broaden it’s definition to include committed, long-term relationships, even heterosexual ones! Someone is going to tell me that it’s context that gives words their meaning, and that’s fair enough, but it neither can it be the case that a word can appear in any context and be given any meaning the user of it wants. So some rigour about the use of terminology is helpful. I guess all I’m saying is that when certain words are used in certain conversations it’s useful to stop and ask ‘what do you mean by the use of that word today?’ and then listen and proceed. Oh, and I guess I’m now not celibate but I am chaste.

  10. pamela says:

    I remember when my dear bishop, Winchester, put his name to a letter with Rochester and the other members of the inquisition in 2003

    “The Church’s understanding of scripture and of long-standing tradition is that the proper place for sexual relationships is within marriage. This is based on the order of Creation where men and women are seen as complementary. Sexual intercourse, within the life-long relationship of marriage, is the sign and beautiful expression of that union. Intercourse outside marriage undermines the power of that sign.”
    no worries my Lord, happily married now so there should be no need for you to impose any restrictions or make us endure more rhetoric on being chaste.

  11. Duncan says:

    Very nicely put:
    “The truth is, a couple of people who are living in respectable coupledom with all its compromises, arguments and trips to IKEA are not living in a celebate relationship in the grand scheme of Christian spirituality just because they declare (or are presumed) to be putting limits on what they do with their bodies.”

    But: “Let me be clear – the phrase “same-sex attraction” is intrinsically homophobic…” Uh?

    • Sounds hopelessly medical and intended to make people think it is an affliction.

      • Bro David says:

        I don’t think that it carries a negative connotation in North America. We have a tendency to say gender more often than sex. And yes, it does sound medical, scientific or psychological/psychiatric.

        • *Especially* in North America, “SSA” is almost always used by “ex-gay” outfits, as a way of separating the person from their “affliction.”

          • Bro David says:

            Sorry, I disagree. That’s not my read on the press.

          • Well, whether you “agree” with it or not, “same sex attraction” is a favourite and prevalent buzz word among the ex-gay crowd. Google the phrase and on the first page of results, eight out of ten are conservative polemical sites.

          • Bro David says:

            I’m trained in human behavior* and as has been pointed out above, the phrase is clinical or theoretical, so the circles in which I am familiar with its use, in my opinion, don’t tend to load phrases with baggage. Sexual attraction, opposite sex/gender attraction, same sex/gender attraction, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual. sexual preference, sexual orientation, there are folks who argue for and against all of them at one point or another.

            *Licenciature en Comportamiento Humano, Universidad AutĂłnoma del Estado de Hidalgo; Master of Theology, Clinical Pastoral Education, Northwest Theological Union

          • Aha! Therein lies the rub. As a professional in the behavioural sciences, you wouldn’t be expected to bat an eye at the use of behavioural science terminology (and of the two non-offensive Google hits I mentioned, one was Wikipedia discussing “same-sex attraction” in a neutral, scientific way).

            But as JCF and Duncan have noted, the exportation of behavioural science terminology into general discourse doesn’t “cut both ways.” “SSA” is a homophobic trope precisely *because* there is no corresponding borrowing of clinical language about “opposite-sex attraction” outside of clinical discussions. If “SSA” were just a value-neutral descriptor, then we would hear about “OSA” as well – and as a trained behavioural scientist, you very well might, but you will also not be surprised that that isn’t true of the general population.

            If your training is in a clinical context, no one would expect that clinical language would have the same biased “ring” in your ears, since you’re used to using that language in the correct way. And if you had said “I work in the one field where that term doesn’t carry those connotations”, that would have been different – and more defensible – than contriving to “disagree” with the fact that in “the press” outside of scientific discourse, the term is overwhelmingly identified with ex-gay groups – when that can be verified pretty easily. And I guess it was especially galling to see you play the “pond difference” card, when if there is a trans-Atlantic difference in the connotation, it’s the other way around: groups like Exodus have been *more* successful in associating “SSA” with a “negative connotation” on our side of the pond than on Kelvin’s. I might buy it if a Briton claimed innocence of the loaded nature of the term, but any North American who hears the phrase and is not a psychologist cannot help but think first of the very same groups that pop up when you plug it into a search engine: the Mormons, “Courage,” and charismatic magazines.

          • Bro David says:

            WOW, are you always a junk yard dog with a bone!

            This known-he-was-queer-since-age-five gay guy, who isn’t-now-and-ain’t-never-been offended by my sexual orientation being described by something so neutral as *same sex attraction* is gonna move along now. You can have the bone.

          • It’s your prerogative to continue to ignore the context in which language is used, but repeating them mantra “neutral” will not make it so.

      • Duncan says:

        And is part of that problem that we don’t ever use any equivalent for straight people? e.g. “When I met my wife, it was other-sex attraction at first sight.”

  12. An exhilarating post from you, Fr. Kelvin. As an ex-Franciscan, I have posted your article on kiwianglo, my own New Zealand web-site. The subject of intentional celibacy does need to be addressed more honestly than has so far happened. One wonders what might motivate intentional celibacy outside of a religious order that specifies such a discipline?

  13. Jane Mason says:

    What a fascinating and informative discussion. I was very interested to read your blog Kelvin and I think your clarity and opinions make this discussion thought provoking. Thank you.

  14. Anne Lee says:

    “…. the phrase “same-sex attraction” is intrinsically homophobic and only ever used by those, usually motivated by religion, who have bad news for gay men”

    Kelvin, thank you for telling us how you feel about the phrase ‘same-sex attraction’. It had never crossed my mind that it could be seen as homophobic. For me there is no more judgement in the phrase ‘same-sex attraction’ than there is in the phrase ‘opposite-sex attraction’, it is simply a description. However, as you have told us that you find it offensive, I shall try to stop using it. Thank you for your post.

    • “For me there is no more judgement in the phrase ‘same-sex attraction’ than there is in the phrase ‘opposite-sex attraction’, it is simply a description.”

      I have NEVER, ever heard someone use the phrase “opposite-sex attraction”, EXCEPT (if then) in the *context* of a discussion of “same-sex attraction” (in order to make a pseudo-equivalent point. Kind of like how homophobes say “I’m not homophobic: I denounce heterosexual SIN too!” . . . which completely begs the question of the ONE sexual state they do NOT find *intrinsically* sinful, opposite-sex marriage.)

  15. Fr Michael Blyth says:

    A really good exchange of views here. Celibacy and chastity have become very much ‘in-house words over the centuries, which today’s Western civilization finds difficult to comprehend, apart perhaps from the American ‘right’. Kelvin (I enjoy your blogs by the way) I sense that your real ‘suspicion’ of self-confessed celibacy relates more to the problem of self-advertisement, rather like the couple at the dinner party who insist on sharing how good their sex lives are (way too much information). This is not to say we shouldn’t be having a reassessment of the vocation to celibacy, but the churches themselves often collude with the pretence of using ‘celibacy’ as an excuse for denying/repressing gay sexuality, or still using ‘chastity’ within marriage as a convenient gloss for the necessary shennanigins in the bedroom which lead to the godly outcome of procreation. Incidentally I have always wanted to ask the House of Bishops about their theology of anal intercourse in marriage , since I am reliably informed by my GP friends that the practice is very widespread. When it comes down to it, not everybody likes sex in any case, but everyone does usually crave intimacy. Emotional involvement, unrequited love, the problem of incessant desire – these are the issues which most of us as human beings wrestle with, whether we are called to celibacy or not. Also throughout a single human life there may be many phases of, if you like, via activa or via negativa. Both are equally valid, both different sides of the same coin I guess. The great thing is to live according to your own integrity and forgive oneself for the messes one sometimes causes.

    • Your point about anal intercourse is well-taken! Once in the comments of our national church newspaper’s website, an interlocutor defied me to demonstrate where the Bible supports “homosexual activity.” When I asked her what she thought such a phrase could possibly mean, she told me not to be “coy”! I for one would have no problem if the church were to decide that anal intercourse is “off the menu” so long as the expectation were upheld across the board. The problem arises when we get into “irregular verbs,” condemning some and praising others for essentially the same “acts.”

  16. Geo point her to my book, Only Say The Word: Affirming Gay and Lesbian Love. It’s all there very plainly!
    Bro David, I have a strict policy of not disagreeing with handsome Godly men who I’m trying to match up with certain others who are being awkward about a little thing like geography, but I have to admit that I did what Geo suggested and the best I came up with was: “dealing with same sex attraction can get very messy”. Such practical advice from an evangelical website! However, joking aside, I do take your point about a professional viewpoint. And let’s face it, from the Heavens there are no countries. And marriage is a prophetic calling and we never read in the Bible about anyone refusing one of those cos Ninevah is just too far away. Oh wait…

  17. Alex says:

    “Wherever you see a virgin, there you see a witch.”
    Umm…. what does that mean?

  18. My experience of my own lack of intimacy is causing me a great deal of pain at the moment. I agree, it’s not celibacy, because celibacy is a calling, even a gift, providing it is embraced with the same humility as any other gift. It’s a millstone round my neck, and born of the fact that I have never entirely managed to embrace my sexuality and my faith simultaneously and equally as gifts of God. I want to, I long to, but they fall over each other and I end up in a horrible heap. I have seen ecclesiastical gay homophobes tear people who dare to be in happy relationships to shreds, and been furious with them, but part of my fury is derived from my fury with myself at this ongoing, dry, dead, touchlessness, and at the force within me that causes it.

    At all events, I refuse to have my sexlessness described as a virtue, especially by poisonous bigots. It isn’t a virtue; it limits the richness and abundance of my life and it’s an absolute curse.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I am decrying no-one else’s situation, experience or life. I am attempting to describe/articulate my own. And dear God it hurts – the situation and attempting to articulate it.

  19. Steven McQuitty says:

    My goodness this is complicated! Most couples have some form of sexual relationship. Some couples do not. Single people are in the same position. All that matters is that those involved are moving towards a flourishing and happy life for them and their partner (if they have one). People know when they are moving in the right direction and when they are not. People know what is harmful and what is not.

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