A personal postscript

Paul Tillich (39) correctly says that all created matter is capable of being revealing of God, or sacramental. This is because it bears God's imprint. We experience this when we feel a sense of God in the sunset, or walking along the beach, for example. We also find it in our covenant sexual relationships if we are so fortunate as to have a partner and be in a good relationship. In the God-created matter of our partner, and in the act of sex, we sometimes meet God. I understand this to be at least part of the reason the Roman Catholic Church calls marriage a sacrament.

A ground breaking experience for me was to read Tillich, and have one of those 'know it before you know why you know it' experiences. As I was reading Theology and Culture in the area I refer to above, it suddenly hit me; "This means two men may find experience God in their sexual love of each other!" It took me a while longer to work out what that meant!

In the same place Tillich says that matter can have a demonic nature. I reckon promiscuity and abuse head in this direction. They place the act/matter interface above God, and seek meaning by the abuse of self and others. But I have no doubt that gay or lesbian love can be as revealing of God, and as blessed by God as heterosexual love.

As I thought this through, I began to remember and see. I remembered a gentle proposition from a male friend. At 19, I had not even been able to recognise his question! Unlike the horror stories of others (often true) gay men can ask, and accept a refusal. I remember Bill with fondness.

I discovered, as the sticker says, "Lesbians are everywhere." (Gays too!) Some of my best friends really were gay and lesbian! I find in many of these people the kind of theologising I found among feminists: a theology that has depth bred of pain, great faith, and courage. To be frank, it is a real theology, and life giving.

I have come to understand there is no longer a question of 'homosexuals' in the church. There is only question of the ministry of one person, their fruits, their calling, and their maturing as a Christian person.... pretty much the same issues I face in life myself. To define a person by their sexual orientation is a sin.

For those who wonder, I am not gay! I know what attraction to men is about, but it is fleeting. Women are the ones with the hold on me. As the father says in The Sum of Us, I can't cope with the thought of hairy bums!

One of the things I met first in philosophy studies was the notion of the 'thought experiment." I have found it invaluable in theology and prayer. An interesting thought experiment for me has been to go to a gay friend and be held and comforted in a time of real need when there is no one else. I found that it was not so hard. I began to realise how fragile my boundaries were. It is not hard to see that a man could feel love and attraction for a man, or a woman for a woman. And it does not worry me anymore. 

(39) Tillich, Paul. Theology and Culture (OUP 1959) pp 53 -67

(Date: 2002)




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