Also helpful is Daniel Mattson's recent essay on "The Strange Notion of 'Gay Celibacy.'" Mattson himself experiences same sex attraction but refuses to self-identify as a "gay Christian."
The ambiguity of "gay Christian" also hints at a more serious problem, one that challenges fundamental Christian beliefs about sin and human nature. Despite their different lifestyles, both kinds of self-styled "gay Christians" see gayness as so much a part of who they are that they have no choice but to admit it and embrace it. One embraces it by indulgence, the other by abstinence, but both believe they can be nothing but "gay," and this belief separates them from those Christians who suffer same-sex attraction yet do not identify as "gay" and strive instead to live heterosexually as much as possible in the hope of escaping the attraction. The "gay Christian" harbors no such hope, as Tushnet's diminishment of the "ex-gay narrative" shows. He therefore resigns himself to living with his homosexuality, inviting others to accept it as his personal norm. "I'm gay," he says, "so stop expecting me to marry."
Many "gay Christians" are inclined to believe their homosexuality is genetically or otherwise biologically based. Some describe it as "ontological"—inherent in their being as God has made them and therefore nothing to be ashamed of, so long as they do not act on it. They "come out" so as to be themselves. In the language of the postmodern, tribalistic, identity-driven Left, "coming out" makes them more "authentic." The "gay Christian" Matt Jones, whom ["gay Christian" author Eve] Tushnet quotes, writes on his blog:
A central part of my decision to be honest about my sexuality is the desire to foster authenticity. To be closeted usually requires a constant and exhausting self-awareness, a meticulous and intense image-management that can only be maintained through various forms of manipulation, half-truths, and, at times, outright deception.The impatience expressed here with having to live according to heterosexual norms is remarkably similar to the impatience felt by nineteenth-century European Jews struggling to live by gentile norms after centuries of isolation. The Jewish experience inspired Sigmund Freud's theory of the trifurcated psyche consisting of the natural, instinctual id (who we are deep down); the moral, aspirational superego (who we strive to be), and the resulting, mediating ego (who we end up being). It has also contributed to the revolt of the postmodern id against the constraints of Christian civilization, seen in the Sexual Revolution and in the multicultural/diversity movement. In both, the claim is made that people cannot be expected to live according to Western, Christian, European, American, middle-class, bourgeois, or heterosexual norms, because that's just not who they are "authentically."
Therein lies the problem, for the sexual attraction of men for men and of women for women cannot be said by Christians to be in any sense normal or "authentic" without corrupting Christianity's understanding of human nature. Traditional Christianity has always taken a fundamentally positive view of human nature, believing that God did not make man to sin; that sin is therefore not natural to him but something he introduced on his own; and that, although the first sin made sinning easier by alienating man from God, human nature, even in the fallen world, is still not naturally sinful. The proof of this is the Incarnation, in which the Son's assumption of human nature demonstrates that nothing naturally human is unworthy of God and that when reunited with God, man, too, can live sinlessly and even divinely, like Christ. Healing is therefore always possible through Christ to those who believe.
Of late, much attention has been given in both the secular media and Christian media to those who call themselves “gay celibate Christians.” As a man attracted to men yet committed to traditional Catholic teaching on human sexuality, I find the notion both of being “gay” or “celibate” strange. Indeed, in the context of what the virtue of chastity is all about, neither of them make sense.Both articles are quite lengthy, but well worth your time. They give much needed scrutiny to a nascent movement which, while presenting the church with many legitimate questions, may need to prayerfully reconsider some of its terminology.
The gift of the virtues can be summed up by Christ’s words: be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. “The Christian man,” Gaudium et Spes tells us, is “conformed to the likeness of that Son Who is the firstborn of many brothers.” Christ “fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” and is “Himself the perfect man.” His life is man’s paradigm and the virtues are the template for how Christ, the perfect man, lived.
The commandments are not arbitrary “does and don’ts.” Rather, they are the way man would naturally live—if man knew who he truly was. Those who have virtue will spontaneously live in accord with the commandments. They are not perceived as impositions that deny us pleasure, but as safeguards against harming ourselves and others. Such was the case with Christ.
Despite what most people might think, the virtue of chastity, like all other virtues, isn’t so much concerned with what we do or don’t do. Rather, chastity is the virtue that helps us see things truly and objectively—things as they really are—within the realm of sexuality. This clarity of vision is necessary for true human freedom and human flourishing. It is chastity that gives us the freedom to order our sexual appetites and therefore make decisions that correspond with reality. Christ lived as a chaste man, not because he followed every dot and tittle of the law (which of course he did), but rather, because he lived in accordance with the truth of what it means to be a man, made in the image and likeness of God. Like Christ, a man who truly knows who he is will naturally lead a life of chastity.
When it comes to homosexuality, then, the reason I mustn’t have a relationship with a male isn’t based on an arbitrary whim of God. Rather, it is immoral because it is irrational for human beings to live in such a way, based on the sort of creature that human beings are.
Put more simply, the reason it is immoral for me to live out a life according to my subjective desires and inclinations is precisely because I am not, in fact, a gay man.
Nor is any man.