Thursday, June 30, 2005

Coming Into the Light

Whatever our individuals sins, they are to some extent, and probably to a large extent, the product of our history. Often the sin of today is the result of some series of poor choices made long ago, but even those choices, at the time we made them, were conditioned by our environment and our history.

To even suggest, then, that someone's sin would put them outside of God's grace is to suggest that it is the condition of needing salvation which blocks salvation. It would be the cruelest of Catch-22's. Of course, intellectually we know that sin doesn't separate us from God in this way. God seeks out the sinner.

The trouble is, when we're burdened by the condition of sin, we often can't see what the real problem is. I say this is trouble, but it's only trouble for our theory. In practice, God makes his way through the jungle of our condition and finds us. We often describe God's finding us in terms of coming into the light.

For alcoholics, drug addicts and other people trapped in compulsive behaviors, this step of coming into the light is incredibly important. Recognizing that you are an alcoholic is the decisive step in being lifted out of that condition.

It's curious, though, that for gays and lesbians coming into the light is also important, but the result is very different. Whereas alcoholics who have recognized themselves as alcoholics are on the road to change, the healing process that begins with recognizing that one is gay seems to be one of acceptance, embrace and even celebration.

There are no "alcoholic pride" celebrations, and there never will be. A few rowdy frat boys may revel in the idea of being alcoholics, but they aren't really, or at least don't realize it yet. Knowing what it is to be an alcoholic precludes anything like pride.

But this is apparently not so with being gay. The alcoholic can look back at his life and see the extent to which his drinking has brought problems into his life. But when the homosexuals who have come into the light look back on their life, it is apparent that the related problems were caused by a refusal (either their own refusal or that of others) to accept the fact of their sexual orientation.

This should tell us something. If we ignore this, it is nothing less than a refusal to ground our morality in reality.

7 comments:

*Christopher said...

Melancthon,

Yes. Thank you. Someone who gets it. The result is becoming more one'sself, not the opposite.

Then the trick becomes helping folks along so they don't get caught up in behaviors like becoming drug and alcohol addicts to cover over oppression sickness and lack of self-worth due to family or societal circumstances.

Andy said...

This verse occurred to me today in this regard: "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Co. 3:17)

LutheranChik said...

Thanks, Mel...a great illustration. And it underscores the sin -- the brokenness and alienation between people and between people and God -- of creating an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and judgment that keeps others from coming into the light where they can find healing and wholeness.

mindflame said...

I can’t believe that you would conclude that the problems a homosexual person experiences is a result of them not embracing sin. You may say that my views are not based in reality but then yours are not based on the scriptures. Should we really trust our own understandings more than the word of God? Yet homosexual behavior is destructive to the participant but unlike alcoholism, Christians have not focused on helping bring them to the point of change. We are not free to seek sin but free to live for God and that means giving up the ways of the flesh which we formally knew, not trying to justify them. We are not doing anyone any favors by speaking comforting words about actions that destroy the body and alienate the person from God.

LutheranChik said...

I can't but wonder how, exactly, I am destroying my body and alienating myself from God. Personally, the older I get and the more comfortable I've become with who I am, the closer God has been to me, the more I have wanted to reciprocate this wonderful grace of God's presence by serving the Church, and the better I've been treating myself physically and emotionally. Not fitting your paradigm, Mindflame.

Andy said...

Mindflame, I don't believe that "the problems a homosexual person experiences is a result of them not embracing sin." I believe that these problems are a result of them rejecting (and being told to reject) themselves.

I might be wrong about this, but I think you're probably right in saying that there are some destructive behaviors we need to be concerned about (although I'm sure to what extent we're drifting into caricature here). The thing is, to the extent that these destructive behaviors exist, I think they are the result of individuals who have been universally rejected by society trying to discover for themselves what's OK and what isn't.

Once you discover that society has been unjust and wrong in its central criticism of your existence, it's hard to accept anything else society tells you, and often you'll embrace the opposite.

What we as Christians need to do is to reach out in love to gays and lesbians and to discover along with them what it can mean to be a faithful Christian in this context.

My scriptural basis is given in the second comment above.

*Christopher said...

Melancthon

Some of us are in a gay or lesbian context and we are also living and discovering what that means as Christians to live our queer Christian lives, reaching out to others like ourselves--evangelizing our people, so to speak. And its that witness that is so needed, actually being part of what Sr. Elizabeth Johnson calls formation of another paradigm for holiness...

The lgbt community has destructive behaviors, some related to oppression sickness, others related to that swing to an extreme you mentioned, some from plain lechery, but the best critiques at this point come from within in my opinion as Christianity has little street cred in lgbt communities as a whole and heterosexuals are perceived as being quite hypocritical in pronouncements when quite a bit of lechery can be seen in heterosexual communities as well.

The best thing heterosexual Christians can do, in my opinion, is what you said, reach out, love. When a gay or lesbian person meets love, it frees us, and changes us, just not ways that some might want or expect. They may find themselves wanting commitment, a blessing, sobering up, etc. And also especially attend to those of us struggling to integrate our sexuality and faith in shalomic ways--we need your support as we're often caught between two worlds.

I think that self-rejection you speak of is in fact sin, and not individually faultable, but societal and ecclesial as you mention. It is a very serious experience of alienation from self, others, and G-d, and when one experiences an "aha!" or Luther moment, as I have, there is a liberation that only the Good News can bring--we are justified by grace through faith in Christ Jesus! Or as I experienced in contemplation: "You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!"