Melinda Selmys, Tuesday, May 22, 2012, “Looking to Desire”
Melinda: I’d like to expand a little on the points that I made in my last post, particularly with regards to moving from Eros to Ethos – from the experience of desire towards the appreciation of that “Beauty ever ancient, ever new” who is the rightful object of our worship and adoration. This comes in the context of an article by Robert Sungenis, “Creating the Illusion of ‘Chaste’ Gays,” critiquing Joshua Gonnerman’s recent First Things article “Dan Savage was Right.” Sungenis’ article is fairly typical of sanctimonious conservative diatribe: it opens with a passive-aggressive attack on Gonnerman’s assertion that he is chaste proceeds to describe people like myself and Mark Shea as covert accomplices of the gay agenda, and then makes the usual claim that the proper thing for gay Christians to do is to hide shamefacedly in the closet and ruthlessly uproot every trace of homosexuality from their heart.
R. Sungenis: If Melinda believes God is calling her to be gay and wants her to make no effort to rid yourself of this label and/or condition; if she thinks that it’s perfectly acceptable and God-glorifying to call herself gay or have same-sex attraction and encourage others to do the same; if she thinks that she should advertise this disordered state to the world and then criticize those who don’t accept her position as judgmental; if she thinks that there are occasions in which it is not good to be chaste since something worse may happen if she refrain from gay sex (as Mark Shea teaches); then yes, she is an accomplice with Mark Shea.
Barring the closet, Melinda already knows how to deal with the problem since she gives the age-old solution – “ruthlessly uproot every trace of homosexuality from their heart.” This is precisely what Scripture and the Church command us to do. Melinda’s problem starts with the fact that she thinks there is nothing to ruthlessly uproot from her heart. Of course, this is the problem with most sin and sinful tendencies – one enters into a state of denial that the sin or its inclination is actually wrong or headed in the wrong direction.
Melinda: Sungenis’ vitriol is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be gay. Gayness is not reduceable to homosexual sex, or the desire to have homosexual sex. It is a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one’s own gender.
R. Sungenis: As for the definition of “gay,” Melinda’s proposal is precisely the problem. When one wants to make a condition acceptable which is traditionally unacceptable, one begins to modify the definitions to make it more acceptable. The preponderant evidence, however, is that “gay” does, indeed, refer to homosexual sex or the desire to have it. I know of no clinical or colloquial understanding of “gay” that uses it to refer to “a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one’s own gender.” “Gay” is when one takes normal “human relating” and “appreciating of human beauty” to places it should not go. It is when one elevates the “relating” and “appreciating” of the same-sex to a part of one’s personality and identity; when one goes beyond the norm and begins mentally entertaining same-sex attractions.
Another element in the deception is the shunning or attack against all calls that such behavior is abnormal and is to be eradicated from one’s being in order to be healthy, which is precisely what we see in Melinda’s rejection of what she calls “sanctimonious conservative diatribe and vitriol.” This is little more than a well-practiced defense mechanism.
I have dealt with gays for over 40 years, trying to convert them out of their lifestyle. But I have found that they are the most stubborn and self-righteous people I have ever come across. They are like the adulterer that Proverbs 30:20 describes: “This is the way of the adulterous woman. She eats and wipes her mouth and says ‘I have done no evil.’” I believe homosexuals become so stubborn and self-righteous because something changes deep within their person, to their very soul, when they take that step toward homosexuality or even the contemplation of it. This is what I fear for people who begin entertaining the idea that it is acceptable to be gay and chaste, especially when they acknowledge no responsibility to try to rid themselves of this label or identity.
Melinda: Most people who identify as chaste, gay Christians, are referring to involuntary currents of homoeroticism and gender-queerness that run through the personality. Sungenis appears to believe that these currents are so fundamentally disordered that the only proper response to them is one of outright warfare, that the personality must have surgery performed on it in order to eliminate every vestige of queerness in order that it might be rendered fit for salvation.
R. Sungenis: Thinking and writing about “currents of homoeroticism,” such as what Melinda is doing above, is not precisely what we classify as “involuntary.” Involuntary is when one happens to see a beautiful human body and finds oneself becoming physically aroused. It happens every day to every single person of mature age in the world. Normal people just let the thought pass out of their head. We just accept the process as a normal part of life that is inevitable. The problem comes when one ceases trying to move forward from these short-lived thoughts and begins to dwell on them; when one begins to believe that they are not the result of concupiscence but merely “a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one’s own gender” or opposite gender; when one begins to make excuses for thinking that such cultivation of eroticism is morally acceptable. Those who do so are just setting themselves up for the next stage of commitment, which is actually engaging in what they are thinking about.
This is the same problem that many young boys have with masturbation. Although they have sexual desires created by their testosterone, what usually happens is that the young male will begin the process by either thinking about naked women or looking at pornography. Once the image is in his head it is hard to eradicate. Pornographic images will pop into his head involuntarily simply because he has already put the explicit graphics into his head. Of course, he hasn’t yet actually committed the sin of masturbation, but the fact that he is now dwelling upon pornographic material means he is sinning even before the actual act of masturbation. Along the way he may even rationalize his thinking by claiming that he is just “appreciating the beauty” of the female figure, but he is only fooling himself. Before long, especially when his testosterone levels are getting high, his power to resist the temptation to masturbate is just too great and he succumbs. It is the same with homosexuality. Those who believe that being ‘gay and chaste’ is normal or who entertain thoughts of same-sex attraction are playing with fire. The thoughts are in the head. When a weak moment comes, they are sitting ducks for falling into sin.
Melinda: I think that there are two serious problems with this approach. First, people who engage in this kind of argument seem to think that the question of to be, or not to be same-sex attracted is an open question in the lives of gay people. This point is obvious to those of us with SSA, but apparently not to everyone else: for a homosexual person, same-sex attraction is a given. We can have a heated debate about whether or not people ought to have these attractions, just as we can have a lively argument about whether or not men ought to have spontaneous erections (a subject that has produced considerable discursive excitement over the centuries, mostly amongst ivory tower academics), but the fact is that for all practical purposes the question is settled – no amount of theological speculation has ever proved capable of preventing “concupiscent movements of the flesh,” nor can any amount of moralistic diatribe prevent homosexual persons from having homoerotic desires.
R. Sungenis: So if Melinda agrees that same-sex attraction is a “concupiscent movement of the flesh” then she is required, as a Christian, to make the same cry St. Paul made in Romans 7:23-25:
but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin. (NAB)
Unfortunately, I don’t see Melinda crying out like this. I see her calling such Pauline exclamations as “moralistic diatribe.” I see her resigning herself to the “concupiscent movements of the flesh,” calling it normal and not something she needs to fight because, as Melinda has rationalized it, this is “a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one’s own gender.” But, as a Christian, Melinda cannot have it both ways. Her same-sex attraction cannot be both a “concupiscent movement of the flesh” and “a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one’s own gender.”
Another important aspect of St. Paul’s teaching is his employing of the Tenth Commandment in his chapter on concupiscence. Paul is speaking about the power of the law and says, “I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness” (Rom 7:7-8 RSV). Why is coveting a sin? Because it is the selfish desire to have something that belongs to someone else. Notice it is not the same as stealing, for stealing is the overt act of actually taking something that belongs to someone else. In the sin of coveting, it is the mere thought of desiring that becomes the sin. Of course, Paul is not talking about fleeting desire, but the dwelling and cultivating of the desire that becomes sin. This is precisely what I see in Melinda – a cultivating of the desire for a female relationship that is based on nothing more than sexual attraction. This sin doesn’t require the overt act of lesbian sex, which is far worse, of course. It only requires the desire for some kind of intimate relationship beyond a fleeting desire.
Melinda: Secondly, hard-line traditionalists tend to assume that same-sex attraction is fundamentally objectively disordered in all of its aspects. The Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops, in their recent document on Youth with Same-Sex Attractions, were very careful to explicitly spell out the fact that homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered in so far as they concern the desire to have same-sex genital relations. That is, in so far as same-sex attractions are concupiscent, they are objectively disordered: a nice little tautology which only stands in need of clarification because it is counterintuitive to contemporary secular culture. What this means is that same-sex attractions, in so far as they are not concupiscent, are not disordered: another tautology, but one that is equally counterintuitive to many moral conservatives.
To understand the difference between concupiscent desire, and ordered desire, let’s follow John Paul II’s lead and return to the Beginning. I’d like to analyze, specifically, Genesis 3:6: “The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was enticing for the wisdom that it could give.” Surely this is a case of disordered desire, right? Eve wants what she’s not supposed to have, and as a result of that desire, she sins.
Sed contra, Eve at this moment is still in a state of Original Innocence. She does not have concupiscence clouding her judgement. What she sees at the moment is objectively true: the fruit really is good to eat, it really is pleasing to the eye, and it really is desirable for the wisdom that it could give. What is false is her conclusion, that because of these properties, it is justifiable for her to take and eat what has been denied to her by God.
I’d like to apply the same hermeneutic to same-sex attraction. When I look at a woman, and see that she is beautiful, that she is desirable, that she is enticing, I’m seeing something that is objectively true: she is objectively a manifestation of the imago dei, she is objectively attractive, and it is objectively legitimate for me to desire to be united with her in the vast communio personarum which is constituted by the Church and by the whole human race. My desire is not disordered in and of itself: it becomes disordered when I direct it, or allow it direct itself, towards something which is forbidden. If it leads me to fantasize about homosexual acts, or to think of the woman as a sex object, then it becomes disordered, that is ordered towards an end which is not in conformity with Truth and with the dignity of the person. But what if I make the act of will to redirect that desire, to use it as an opportunity to give glory to God for the beauty which He has made manifest in that particular woman? Or to meditate on my desire for the one-flesh union of the entire humanum in the Eucharist where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, slave nor free, woman nor man? Or as an opportunity to contemplate the relationship between the doctrines of the Communion of Saints and of the resurrection of the Body? What if, by an act of will, I take that desire and order it towards its proper end: towards the Good, the Beautiful and the True?
R. Sungenis: The first problem I see is that Melinda’s judgment of women is centered on how beautiful she thinks they are and not a word is said of their spirituality and how beautiful that can be. For Melinda it is merely the beauty of women that is creating this “desire to be united with her in the vast communio personarum,” which sounds like a coveting of beautiful women. Melinda is doing the same thing that teenage girls do when they see a rock star on stage. They swoon and lose themselves in an ecstasy of desire. In reality, they want a piece of the person they admire, and this is usually the case because they want to be like the person they admire. My guess is that Melinda does not consider herself physically attractive on par with a Heidi Klum or Brooklyn Decker, but she secretly (or maybe not so secretly) wishes to have the same beauty and be admired in the same way.
But what happens when beautiful women begin to age and lose their beauty? Does Melinda just unplug the “vast communio personarum” cord? At a distance, she has never related to these women in any other way, so what would she have to hold on to? Melinda’s world evaporates as soon as the beauty does and, like the typical homosexual, she will be on the hunt for another beautiful body she can “plug into.”
The interesting thing about beauty is that the person who has it did nothing to attain it. It is something given to them by God. So, if one wants to appreciate the beauty of a human being, one must realize that the human being is merely a reflection of the beauty of God and thus not the one to be plugged into. The only thing beauty should prompt us to do is marvel at the God who created it. Or as St. Paul puts it, one needs to reject the temptation to worship the creation and only worship the Creator. Interestingly enough, St. Paul’s warning against idolizing the creation appears in the very context he is speaking about the causes for homosexuality, Romans 1:25. In other words, the seeds of homosexuality begin by an inordinate admiration of the creation. The creation becomes the focus of one’s attention rather than the God who created it. In fact, in most cases of sin, it is the idolization of the creation that leads to the shunning of God, and this is why St. Paul calls covetousness idolatry (Col 3:5). It is here where the person begins to idolize either another person or even themselves, and the idolization takes on its own identity, and the very reason that the label of “chaste gay” becomes so important to those promoting this new persona.
The second problem I see is what does Melinda do with the not-so-beautiful women? Why can’t she be united with them in the “vast communio personarum”? Why doesn’t she consider them “a way of relating to other people, a way of appreciating human beauty, and a way of relating to one’s own gender.” The simple answer is, she can’t, or won’t. They don’t titillate her sexual senses. Melinda needs to realize that focusing on physical beauty as carrying any relationship, be it hetero- or homo-, is a dead end. It is nothing to strive for and it will only lead to heartache and frustration.
Melinda: This is what I mean when I speak of sublimation, and it relates to what Joshua and other gay Christians mean when they speak of being both gay and chaste. It means that the word “gay” is being used to refer to the fact that some of us are more easily able to experience the goodness and beauty of the body in the bodies our own sex than we are in the bodies of the opposite sex. Obviously that leaves us open to homosexual temptation, just as the ability of most men and women to more easily appreciate bodily beauty in the opposite sex leaves them open to heterosexual temptations (to pre-marital sex, to adultery, to pornography, to sexual fantasy, etc.) Obviously in so far as it leads to homosexual temptation, it is disordered. But the word “gay” can refer to the orientation of that initial erotic impulse, irregardless of whether it develops towards disordered lust, or towards an appreciation of Christ playing “lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not His.” Which is why, in my submission, gay chastity is a calling, not a myth.
R. Sungenis: This is precisely why Melinda’s position is so dangerous. She speaks of her gay disposition as a “calling,” as if it has a spiritual basis and God has either led her by the Holy Spirit to this position or He made her that way for attaining a higher holiness. She intends on baptizing and sanctifying her “chaste gay” persona so that it becomes a religion for her and something we all have to honor. The truth is, God has done nothing of the sort. God calls both practicing homosexuals and those who covet it in some fashion to repentance, nothing more, nothing less.
Sin starts in the mind, and the sin here is when the mind convinces itself that it is gay. As such, the mind has already lost the possibility of being “chaste” for it has accepted the perverse idea that it is something it was not created to be. It is now only a matter of degree as to the level of involvement the new identity will seek to satisfy its desires.
Make no mistake about it. Melinda is playing with fire. When Paul says in Romans 1:24-28 that God has turned over homosexuals and lesbians to their lusts, in each case he emphasizes the mind as the divine depository for that lust. In verse 24 he says, “God gave them over to the lusts of their hearts.” In verse 26 he says “God gave them over to degrading passions” and in verse 28 he says “God gave them over to a depraved mind.” Melinda is at the beginning stages of the “depraved mind.” I just hope and pray that Melinda recognizes she has been deceived and will beg for God’s mercy to bring her out of this quicksand before it is too late.
While I’m here, I’m going to answer the short comment Mark Shea made on his blog. He writes:
Mark Shea: “It’s a consolation to know that Sungenis has already profoundly marginalized himself with his crazy anti-semitism. I can’t for the life of me understand how anybody can believe that the gospel, which is intended for the salvation of every human being in the world, would essentially tell one class of people, “Your form of temptation is not merely temptation like *my* temptations. Your temptation makes Jesus reject you. Leave.” Sorry, but that is not merely uncatholic. It borders on blasphemy and declares that Jesus is powerless to save those with same-sex attraction. God is bigger than that.”
R. Sungenis: This response is typical of Shea’s bait and switch tactic. This discussion is not about “temptations.” Everyone has temptations. It is the very reason we pray “and lead us not into temptation” when we say the Lord’s Prayer. This discussion is about those who assume to themselves the label of being “gay”; of those who cultivate a mental desire for the same-sex, and believe that such thinking is normal and acceptable; of those who, as was the case of Perry Lorenzo and his gay companion, share the same address; of those who, by continual contemplation of the same sex put themselves in the near occasion of sin; of those who claim that either God called them to be gay or made them with gay tendencies; of those who refuse to consider their condition abnormal and will not seek a remedy; of those who teach others that it is acceptable to be gay and thus confuse many young people who are struggling against the pull of the world toward the gay lifestyle; of those who have absolutely no support for their views from the magisterium, scripture or tradition and who either distort or ignore the Catechism’s teaching that even the inclination toward homosexuality is objectively disordered and requires the most earnest effort to divest oneself of this disorder by prayer and mortification. If such a person refuses to seek a spiritual remedy for their disordered condition and advertises their condition to the rest of the world and leads others to the same disorientation, then, of course, Jesus is under no compulsion to save them. If, as Mr. Shea says, “Jesus is powerful enough to save those with same-sex attraction,” then Jesus is also powerful enough to eradicate the inclination to same-sex attraction to assure that the salvation He provides is not compromised. Unfortunately, we don’t here the second part of that tautology from Shea and of those of his persuasion.
As for the “anti-semitic” accusation, Shea should know how inappropriate such comments are since he was recently accused of being anti-semitic by the on-line magazine FrontPage. But Shea continues to use it against his ideological opponents because it makes for good demagoguery when you are trying to persuade your audience that your critic is prejudiced against you. For the record, I’m not anti-semitic, for that refers to an irrational hatred of the Jewish race. If one wants to call me anti-Zionist, that’s fine, since that deals strictly with the ideological, political and religious views of certain Jewish people and their sympathizers, which I believe are categorically dangerous for the rest of the human race.
May 16, 2012