9/30/2006

Our Place with God

I was fortunate enough to be involved in a wonderful discussion at Rev. Dr. Jerry Maneker's site A Christian Voice For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights with him and Stuffed Animal, of the wonderful blog Christ, The Gay Martyr, about the GLBT place in our understanding of God and who we are as Christians.

In my heart, I've always believed there was a special place in God's heart for GLBT folks. I don't think we were a mistake or apparition and especially not an abomination. We're here and we are an obvious part of the cycle of life that God intended since our genetics have continued throughout time in new generations.

What is our purpose and why are we here? Have you ever gotten that feeling that you were meant to do great things and that there was a greater purpose? I have and maybe, just maybe, the Gnostic writings that Stuffed Animal introduces to us is a hint of who and why we are. We'll never completely understand, but for those after God's own heart, shouldn't we try?

As our society continues to fight against and grapple with GLBT rights, it's important that our allies, family, friends, and our own community seek a deeper understanding of our place so we can fight the evil invading this world in the name of God.

The full discussion is here and below are a few snippets of the discussion.

It's fairly long but worth the read. The concepts of "essential orientation" vs. sexual behavior, the role of GLBTs in the faith, and androgyny and its impact on "reaction formation" in society should be discussed much more.

Dr. Maneker: I think one of the main reasons, if not the main reason for anti-Gay discrimination, is that the androgynous nature of Lesbians and Gay men just highlight, bring to consciousness, the androgynous nature of virtually everyone! That's the fear of those who are particularly sexually insecure; that's what they seek to deny to themselves and to others; hence, the hostility, and even the rage, directed against Gay people. We can never underestimate the role of what Freud called, "Reaction Formation," which occurs when a person feels an urge to do or say something and then actually does or says something that is effectively the opposite of what they really want." ...I'm still not convinced that Gay people have more of an androgynous nature than do Straight people. I think the crux of the matter is that Gay people make or seem to make that androgynous nature much more palpable and obvious to people; the ones who are the most uncomfortable with their androgynous natures, who insist they are "straight," are the ones who are the most threatened and lash out in any way they can to both remove the "threat" and to convince themselves that, after all, they are "real men," and "real women."

"Our souls are part of the eternal battle between good and evil." That's all true, except that NOTHING and NO ONE can separate us from the love of God! One of my favorite verses of Scripture is: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) That's what makes the fundamentalists and biblical literalists so dangerous. Not only do they preach a false gospel, but they seek to put people in bondage and characterize Christianity as a harsh, legalistic, judgmental "religion," that has the effect of scarring others, particularly children, for life so that they either become little "stepford children" or rebel (the healthier alternative) and never set foot in those kind of churches again. Some, unfortunately, are lost to the Church forever, though not to God! God knows His own children and He will NEVER let us go!


Stuffed Animal: There's support in Gnostic scripture for what you say, Jerry. In the Secret Book of John, the Savior teaches about the destiny of LGBT souls. There are three paths for them: Those who know themselves and remain true to their nature will be taken up into Heaven. Those who do not know themselves and behave contrary to their nature will be reincarnated, paired in life with another androgynous soul and (hopefully)awakened to the truth in that way. Those who know themselves but willfully defy their true natures will descend to Satan's realm where the angel Tartarouchos awaits!

This teaching, of course, applies only to eunuchs and virgins, and it doesn't mean that people who lack androgyny aren't eligible for salvation. All souls are eligible, and those that rise from the dead will be androgynous (Luke 20). I have no idea how large a segment of humanity is androgynous, Jerry, but I do know that far more androgynous human beings exist than would be willing to acknowledge it. That's why it's impossible to estimate how many Gay people there are in the world. That's also why some of the most vicious enemies of Gay people are themselves Gay!


Stuffed Animal: That reminds me of another question I wanted to ask you. Do you believe that human sexual orientation is fluid? We've both heard people claim that they were Gay and then became Straight. I've personally heard a man say he was Straight until he became Gay by falling in love with a man. I've also encountered a blogger who claimed to be Lesbian although she wasn't attracted to women and prefers having sex with men! A co-worker of mine strongly believes true bisexuality doesn't exist; I disagree, although I must say, most bisexual folk I know about seem to take their heterosexual relationships far more seriously. I agree with him, though, that sexual orientation is NOT fluid; it's the same at birth as it is at death, and it doesn't change during one's lifetime based on who one sleeps with. What's your take?

Dr. Maneker: What I'm suggesting is that sexuality is multifaceted and it's in that multidimensional matrix that sexual orientation is frequently malleable to the point that some radical lesbians in the 1960's, for example, fell in love and married men a couple of decades later.

It's that very multidimensionality and malleability that helps create so much homophobia! That's where the Reaction Formation comes in. And that's why there is so much venom directed against Gay people, because of the interaction among one's neurobiology (that is by no means necessarily fixed at any one point in one's life regarding sexuality) and one's environment.


Stuffed Animal: I believe there's a difference between sexual activity and sexual orientation. I also believe sexual orientation isn't truly sexual orientation, but an expression of gender identity. Lots of people have discovered that orgasm can be achieved regardless of the genitalia of your partner. When I read about the sexual practices of ancient Greece and Rome, I think a lot of people knew as much in antiquity. You can never draw conclusions about someone's sexual orientation just by looking at their behavior...Deep inside, people know which gender they prefer to mate with, and by mating, I don't mean who they want to knock boots with. I mean who they'd be willing to settle down with. There are bisexual folk out there who claim to be Gay but who know in their hearts they'd never form a life partnership with someone of the same gender. "Questioning" doesn't mean orientation isn't fixed. It just means the questioning person doesn't know where it's fixed! She learns with time. I don't know what it feels like to question, and I'm thankful for that. I suspect it would be an excruciating thing to go through!

Lesbians and Gay men go through the process that Jesus Christ described in the book of Thomas, that process of awakening and realization, knowing yourself to be different. The difference involves much more than sexuality, and it's hard to explain to someone who hasn't felt it. You may be surprised to know that the first time I was touched by another man, I was repulsed. The second time, too! I didn't want anything to do with those men. Yet, both times I knew the touch of another man was natural to me, and the second time I experienced the awakening.

Sexual desire is superficial emotion that gets accorded far too much importance. I'm as convinced that homosexuality isn't its own entity as I am convinced that male doesn't attract female. Homosexuality is merely the expression of an entity: Androgynous nature. It's not the only expression, either! Androgynous gender affects more than sexuality. It also affects perception and inclination and other things I can't explain.


Me: Could environmental availability be the reason for certain sexual behaviors? As we know, sex is a perfectly natural desire, behavior, and human need. Sex makes us feel connected not just to another human being, but to the larger universe around us. Therefore, it's a necessary part of our nature as humans. Would or should that be expected to change in environmentally stringent situations?

My partner and I talk about this from time to time but she's asked me if I would feel differently about her, love her any less or find her less attractive if she had a sex change operation? At first, I think it would have been hard for me to imagine such a thing. I just can't imagine her as a man, but I also know that my love for her is about much more than her body parts. I love her soul, her mind, her personality, and even her idiosyncrancies (excuse my spelling!).

Another proposition: what if I was stuck on an island with no women around, just a man, would I have sex with him? Yeah, probably. That would be purely about "environmental availability." The man would be my only option for engaging in the natural behavior of sex. However, it wouldn't be performed out of love but a purely primal desire for satisfaction. I would certainly prefer a woman that I could possibly emotionally bond to.


Dr. Maneker: Callie: I think you touched the crux of the differences between "identity" and "essence" that has been a good deal of the focus of this discussion. My contention is that changes in neurobiology and/or environment can seemingly change sexual orientation; Stuffed Animal (and I hope I'm doing his argument justice, here) thinks that sexual orientation is fixed at birth and he/she will die with that sexual orientation, even if he/she is unaware of his/her sexual orientation, due to assorted factors.

From what you suggest, we may both be correct. "Self-identification" may be a function of behavior, belief, attitude, environment, etc. "Essence" is the result of what is immutably innate, independent of the realization of the person. Unfortunately, as you say, "It's a fascinating discussion and probably one we won't be finding any conclusive answers to anytime soon."


Me: Exactly! For instance, in that "stranded on an island" scenario, I might self-identify or simply be inferred as heterosexual; however, my essence, whether I know it or not, would be homosexual.

Having sex, a purely physical act, with a man doesn't necessarily make my straight. My spiritual and emotional orientation would still be towards women, but it wouldn't be what is available at the moment.


Stuffed Animal: It's the concept of the importance of self-knowledge that comes up so often in the Gnostic Gospels. The texts say that some of us will recognize the fullness (androgyny) within ourselves, and others of us will be in denial about it. This certainly describes how Gay people experience sexual orientation.

Jerry, you asked me yesterday about the lineage of Lesbians and Gay men. I didn't answer immediately because I was trying to think of a good way to summarize what I've been reading. Let me put it in purely clinical terms: The Secret Book of John indicates that there's a recessive gene passed from generation to generation through sperm that, when joined to a certain kind of ovum, produces an LGBT child. This genetic code first appeared in Seth, the first son of Adam (Gnostic scripture claims that neither Cain nor Able were fathered by Adam). Therefore, in theory, all LGBT people can trace their ancestry to Seth. The Gnostics referred to Lesbians and Gay men as "the unshakeable generation," "the priestly order," "free men" (Gay man), "virgins" (Lesbians) and "attendants of the Holy Wedding Chamber" (the etymological meaning of the word "eunuchs"). Beings who possess the fullness (homosexual people) are thought to defile themselves by sexual contact with those who lack the fullness (heterosexual people). For that reason, we are lacking heterosexual desire. The texts indicate this is according to God's will.

7 Comments:

At 13:15, Blogger Jerry Maneker said...

Callie: You did a beautiful job putting it all together. Hopefully, discussions like these will encourage LGBT people to become emboldened as they recognize that God made them just as they are, and that they have God-given ministries, perhaps precisely because they are LGBT; let Christians know that they have permission to divest themselves of the lies regarding LGBT people foisted on them by so many clergy; reaffirm the only true Gospel to be found in Christianity: The Gospel of grace (God's unmerited favor to all those whom He chose before the worlds were formed); faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances); love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness.

The false gospel of legalism and perfectionism, and the biblical literalism erroneously used by perverters of the Gospel of grace to condemn others, throws God's grace back into His face! These wolves in sheep's clothing are witting or unwitting agents of the devil, and they are a stench in God's nostrils!

 
At 11:40, Blogger Stuffed Animal said...

Callie,

My heart is very heavy today. I found out that Lesbian publisher Charlene Cothran, who gave me my first chance to write editorials for a magazine, has renounced her sexuality and is now an enthusiastic spokeswoman for "ex-Gays." In the latest edition of her (erstwhile) LesBiGay publication VENUS, she tells of being converted to fundamentalist Christianity by two women preachers. She says they convinced her as to the utter infallibility of Bible scripture.

How odd that just yesterday, I purchased a book called MISQUOTING JESUS. It tells a shocking tale of how original manuscripts for the New Testament were subject to a myriad of changes: Additions, deletions, mistranslations and substitions of words, done both accidentally and deliberately. The author stresses that there's ample evidence of tampering with Bible scripture, and we can never be sure of the degree of tampering because the original documents no longer exist. The Bible, he concludes, is most assuredly not the direct Word of God.

The more I read Gnostic scripture and encounter varying and sometimes contrary theologies, the more I see that scripture was subject to the socio-political whims of whoever was writing it. Surely, this was as true of Gay-affirming scripture as any other. How are people to navigate their way through this doctrinal jungle? How are they to know what's true and what's not? Obviously, there's no way for us to ever know for sure. There is, however, a way to avoid the trap of doctrinal tyranny.

The way I approach scripture (Gnostic and otherwise) is with both my intellect and my senses. I look for wisdom. I look for love. I look for inclusiveness. Also, I pray for God to unlock the text for me. The main thing I do is begin my exploration of scripture standing on a firm foundation called "knowing who I am." God doesn't always love what I do, but He always loves what I am. What I am is a Gay man. Not a pervert. Not a predator. Not a scapegoat. Not an abomination!

My purpose in showcasing Gnostic scripture that affirms Lesbian and Gay identity is simply to let people know that such scripture existed! It may be true; it may be partially true; it may be totally untrue. The same can be said, however, for orthodox Christian scripture, and I believe that now more than ever before. I also believe that whatever lifts your spirit has at least a grain of truth in it, and books like the Egyptian Gospel, the Gospel of Phillip and the Book of Thomas certainly lifted mine. I'm pretty sure Charlene Cothran was never exposed to them, and I regret that. Maybe having an alternative to Biblical condemnation would have turned her away from the uncertain road she's traveling on today.

 
At 19:03, Blogger Martha said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 13:56, Blogger John Hosty said...

What wonderful work all of you have done in putting this article together. I think that you should give some serious thought to creating an online magazine.

 
At 16:37, Blogger RedStateExile said...

Thanks John! But Jerry and SA are the real heart of this discussion. I just jumped in at the end. That is a fabulous idea though and I'd love to see something like that.

 
At 19:26, Blogger Sadie Baker said...

You don't have to go into the Gnostic gospels to make a case. Not that you shouldn't of course, I love them, too.

But consider this: Jesus said in the Beatitudes, "blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (Matthew 5:11)

Okay. So what or who is Jesus? "I am the light, and the truth, and the way," right? Christian mystics since virtually forever have drawn an equivalence between Jesus and the principle of love. He represents love, the way of love.

So look at the beatitude again. "blessed are you when you are persecuted for love."

Sound like any particular group of people you've heard of before?

 
At 11:49, Blogger Stuffed Animal said...

Sadie, you are right on the money. That scripture applies directly to Lesbians and Gay men. There are passages in the Bible that are Gay-affirming, but you have to really be looking for them to find where they are.

 

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