Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lessons From A Gay Mormon


I first saw this video in an article from Slate magazine. In it, Jimmy, a gay Mormon, comes out to his friends and family and videotapes their reactions. Thankfully, most of them seem positive, if a little awkward. His mother's reaction is priceless.

But the line in the video that is causing controversy is when Jimmy says, "What does being a gay Mormon mean? Well, it means that I'm going to live a celibate life... sucks!"

Of course, many people are commenting on the video on YouTube, urging him to give up the celibate lifestyle:

"It would be a real sin to live a lonely, loveless life."

"He is way too happy about being celibate and single and that is just sad."

"This is simultaneously very cool & very sad. I applaud you for having the courage to admit to yourself & to others about your sexuality. But I'm profoundly sad for you that you seem unable to also unshackle yourself from the idiocy that is organized religion"

What struck me about these comments is that many people simply do not accept that living a life of celibacy as a gay person is an acceptable choice. There are many examples of brave gay people who choose to marry the opposite sex, or choose to live a celibate life because of their religious beliefs, but this is deemed unacceptable by many. You can either be gay and acting upon it, or something is wrong with you. 

Which is kind of funny to me, because "You are free to be gay, just not a celibate gay" sure sounds a lot like the much maligned, "You are free to be gay, just not to act upon it." Both of these attitudes impose rather than invite.

When it comes to moral choices, God invites rather than imposes. This is the essence of the gift of free will. Living according to the tenets of our faith is an invitation from God. As a convert, I can say that I never felt God imposing his love upon me; he gently invited me into relationship with Him until I accepted. 

This, I would propose, is how we can approach those inside and outside the Church who struggle with same sex attraction. We can learn a lesson from Jimmy and his accepting family and friends. People who struggle with same sex attraction will almost certainly not choose celibacy if they do not find love and acceptance among family, friends and among people of faith. It may "suck" for Jimmy to choose a celibate life, but with the love and acceptance of those around him, what is difficult is made less difficult. And even more beautiful than that, what is difficult for Jimmy will surely become a source of grace for him, his family, his friends and his faith community. 

The modern world looks upon celibate life as strange, unusual, repressive, and backwards. But as someone who has also chosen to live a celibate life as a "nun" or Catholic religious sister, I can say that from the pain of giving up sexual intimacy flows great grace for myself and for others. Energy and time that would otherwise be focused on a family and husband, is now devoted in service to many people. In essence, I have given up some expressions of love, but despite what the world thinks, I have definitely not give up Love. 

So, don't lose heart Jimmy, despite what the world says, you are making a beautiful choice.


35 comments:

Alex said...

This is great! The guy's article on his heterosexual marriage was incredible!

Anonymous said...

Sr. Theresa I enjoy reading your blog. Your balance of orthodoxy and love is in itself very inviting and beautiful. And you're right. The mom's reaction was precious.

Phil Dzialo said...

Celibacy's history in the Roman Catholic Church is more of a discipline, as it is described, than a virtue, as it is promoted. It was introduced ten centuries after Jesus chose a married man (Peter) to head his church, in order to prevent priests from handing on lands to their descendants. Sorry, but celibacy is an invention of the Middle Ages...not a virtue Christ touted.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to moral choices, God invites rather than imposes. This is the essence of the gift of free will. Living according to the tenets of our faith is an invitation from God.

Hmmm I'm just wondering how one would reconcile his choosing a non-celibate life. He makes a free choice, if one can say an immoral choice is truly free, and it's a choice against God's will, so where does that leave him??? Truly the Church proposes and does not impose, but what happens if we don't choose the Church? Surely we must agree that there are consequences to refusing the Church's (God's) invitation

Sr. Lorraine said...

Phil, St. Paul would be surprised to hear that, since he wrote: "An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided" (1 Cor 7:32f.)
And I'm sure you would agree that Jesus is an even greater authority: "For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." (Mt 19:12).

Celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is a charism, a gift of God given to the Church, and is has been known from the earliest ages. Check the history of monasticism. It started much earlier than the tenth century.

tagnes said...

@Alex - Right? That article is amazing. Thanks for your comment!

@Anonymous1 - Praise God, thank you.

@Phil - I think Sr. Lorraine responds to your comment well.

@Anonymous2 - You are correct, choices have consequences and immoral choices are necessarily less free than moral choices because freedom is found in God. However, a person must first know and love God in order to worry about consequences, and if they do not experience love from their faith community, they will likely leave to find love elsewhere, likely in immoral choices.

Anonymous said...

@Sr Lorraine,
"Celibacy for the sake off the kingdom" - i agree, but would just like to emphasize that the kingdom starts now, of course, not just when we die (and please God may we preserve what ever grace we've been given and allow God to build on that until we die, and may the Lord keep us safe until then).
That we have to have a personal connection with the Divine that starts now, and a mystical one (and that can happen in ordinary, everyday life). St Theresa of Avila - a celibate - was so in love with the Lord, that she had frequent ecstaties of the soul. Ditto the mystic, St John of the Cross. And the great Francis of Assisi - all celibates.
Celibacy is NOT repression of energies and desires. Rather, if we pray to Jesus, He TRANSFORMS energies into new ones (intellectual, emotional, creative and above all an energy associated with holiness - when the soul is on fire), and our desires are TRANSFORMED to desires to love and serve God and neighbour.
And life becomes magic. Thanks to God.
Lastly, the famous Persian poet and founder of the whirling dervishes described Death as the Wedding Night (the sort of mystical language of John of the Cross and Francis of Assisi). We're all ultimately betrothed to God now (not just nuns although nuns more intensely). The love affair begins now. The Marriage and the Wedding Night - of perfect spiritual union with God and perfect spiritual Divine ecstasy - takes place after mortal death in Heaven (please God bless us and save us all).
Ed

DU said...

Sister, no one can be any more a "gay catholic" than I can be a Hooter's Catholic. I may love woman's breasts more than TV or footbal. I may be attracted to every sign of cleavage that crosses my path and want nothing more than to look down shirts and up sleeves, but I am not a Hooter Catholic. I could go on and on but I hope my point is made. Some people have same sex attractions just like I may have female thigh attraction, mini-skirt knee attraction, or big, fat round bouncy bottom attraction, but it doesn't equal an identity. If it does that is very sad indeed. Please understand that same sex attraction is not genetic any more than my outburst of anger toward toward texting drivers is genetic. We may have an inclination but it has to be fostered or rejected.

DU said...

I went back over this and find terrible that you are celebrating this young man. It is such a sad display of narcisism. No one should celebrate intrinsic disorder. Some guys have a foot fetish, but they aren't pedalphil catholic if that is a word. Should I see my self as the Brooding Catholic because I'm choleric. Seriously!

Maybe I'm missing your point, so please inform me if I am.

Anonymous said...

(by the way, apologies for my preachy tone - not intended - i'm preaching to the converted, but what i say here is the sort of thing i try and say to some of those around me in the UK who are hostile to religion and celibacy)
Ed

Anonymous said...

Sorry, and just wanted to add further, that celibacy is a great Christian value under attack at the moment, especially, where i come from, as well as chastity in general. And was just trying to share an argument i use with those hostile to celibacy (and often religion).
Again, i didn't mean to sound as if i was preaching at you. Just trying to share an argument i use. You might think it a bad one or not.
Ed

tagnes said...

@Ed - I think you make some great points. Celibacy and chastity in general are under attack these days. We need articulate Catholics who can argue for the value of both these things. Thank you for being one of them!

@DU - There is a lot of discussion about whether "gay Catholic" is a term that should be used. Faithful, orthodox Catholics with same sex attraction use this term for themselves and some do not. (http://mattfradd.com/2012/06/14/catholic-gay-and-feeling-fine/) You make good points for the argument against. I choose to use this term because I hope to reach a broader audience that will understand what I am talking about, not really for any other reason. But this is something that I will keep in mind and consider.

And you are right, I am celebrating Jimmy. I am sorry you find that disturbing. But I think he is a brave young man who is making a difficult decision. Sure, he is not totally where you and I hope he will be some day, but he lives in a culture that tells him he should act on his same sex attraction and if he does not, he is strange. Despite this, he has made a choice to live a celibate life, this is brave and very difficult. I do not see sharing this with his friends and family as narcissistic, I find it very practical. He needs support and love in order to live a celibate lifestyle. In order to receive this, his friends and family need to know where he is at and that he needs their help.

Hope this helps you understand a bit more where I am coming from!

In Jesus,

Sr. Theresa

Unknown said...

Praise be to God for this young man. Celibacy is not a death sentence, people. Jesus said that being celibate for the kingdom was something we should accept if we can. Same thing that St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians. This is hardly "Medieval" - it's from the lips of the master himself.

Anonymous said...

@Sr Theresa,
Good article yourself!
It reflects how the Church needs to 1. teach and maintain morality but (just as importantly) 2. give as much support and encouragement to those trying to follow the moral law.
We Catholics are often good at 1. but can be bad at 2. And this ruins everything as we end up sounding shrill and followers of just the law as opposed to what morality is all about: getting closer to God (and neighbour) (which is something more than just following the law, crucial as following the law is - and when we fail, there is always God's forgiveness, as long as we offer heart-felt repentance).
I sound like a priest! (i tried to become one but failed, perhaps my sermons are too long!)
God bless, Ed

Phil Dzialo said...

My comment was deflected not answered: (1) Christ chose a married man (Peter) to lead his church. (2) Early monasticism did prohibit (or so tried to) marriage of clergy, but it was because married clergy opened the probability that the clergy's worldly goods would be inherited by their wives and children. The church wanted the wealth for themselves. It's simple history.
You can't justify stuff by quoting the bible which was written and re-written hundreds of time before it was finally adopted. The official Bible was voted to be God's word by men in the 4th century and approved as such by the Roman Emperor Constantine....simple history.

Matthew said...

Phil - For the sake of argument, let's say the facts of your historical account are spot on.

However... Your statement: "The church wanted the wealth for themselves." is YOUR judgment of the facts and not a fact in itself. Your conclusion may or may not be accurate, and no one will ever know since all the players are dead.

It's not "simple history". Rather, it's a complicated amalgam of facts and interpretations that can lead to multiple conclusions by multiple parties. Yours is one conclusion, but certainly not the only one.

Nick from Detroit said...

Mr. Dzialo,

So, now you're claiming that it was an invention of the 4th century, A.D.?
Because, in your original comment, you claimed priestly celibacy was "an invention of the Middle Ages", remember?
Please, make up your mind.

Besides, your "history" is very flawed. The books of the New Testament were most likely written between c. A.D. 50 - 70. The teaching of priestly celibacy came straight from Christ, and was recommended by Saint Paul, as Sr. Lorraine pointed out.
God Bless!

Anonymous said...

Phil,

1) There is no evidence that Peter was married when Jesus called him, the evidence suggests he might have been a widower. You'll notice Peter's wife makes no appearance in the Gospels, just his mother-in-law. He might have been married, but that isn't established history.

2) Celibacy was valued from the earliest days of the Church and married priests were required to refrain from intercourse the day before saying Mass, which was only done once a week b/c of the persecutions. As the Church began to be free enough to have priests celebrating daily Mass you'll see why celibacy was required. Simple history, of course rehashed conspiracy theories floated by Protestants to attack the Church are fun too.

3) your understanding of the formation of the canon of the Bible, which you are confusing with the authorship of the books of the Bible, is uninformed. I do find it amusing that your point #1 is clearly discredited by your point here, though! Funny how you are certain that Peter had a wife but uncertain about anything that counts against your argument.

God bless.

Joseph J. Pippet said...

JMJ Phil. Where is your Proof??? In my Vocabulary Homosexual is one who has an attraction to same sex as he is or she is. gay,Will not be a definition of homosexual for me.Those who are active in this attraction commit a Mortal Sin aagainst God and his Church, which is not Mormon, nor Christian by the way! Check your History.

Chris said...

I would suggest not using the word "gay." The CCC does not use that term.How about SSA, same sex attraction? Plus if one comes out & says they are SSA, does that mean they have to be that the rest of their lives? Jesus came not just to help us break free from the bondage of sin, but to also transformation into who we were created to be, sanctified in the blood of Christ.
I Corinthians 6:9-11 should be applied: "Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes* nor sodomites,nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

tagnes said...

@Chris - You have good points, and I totally get why people don't like to use the word "gay" but here's where I am at:

- The Catechism also doesn't use the slang term "nun" but the culture does and so I use that for myself. I also use the word "pro-choice" even though I don't agree with the sentiment that is often behind it, it is what people use and if I use the word "pro-abortion" then pretty much am speaking to a certain audience, rather than having an open dialogue.

- I feel that if I am going to dialogue with the culture, I shouldn't use phrases that are only understood in certain circles. It does not mean that I am surrendering to the meaning that is commonly associated with these words, but rather I am accepting it is the word most people will understand and I am repurposing it in a way that might surprise them and help them to think about it in another way.

Again, I am open to people who disagree, but that is where I am coming from.

@Phil - I feel it would be helpful to really know what we are talking about. Are you arguing against the value of celibacy in any context? Or are you simply arguing that it has a questionable history in the Church? (which is something that I would not find surprising at all and it does not in any way impact my view of the value of it). Just think it might be helpful to get to the core of what you are saying rather than quibble about history, and things about which we simply are not going to see eye to eye.

Blessings,

Sr. Theresa

Anonymous said...

@Sr Theresa, i agree with you, and i think some of the comments here are over sensitive / over analytical

@Chris, "SSA or same sex attraction" - if i used that language over here in the UK, i would get laughed or frowned at by most people i think (including by gay people, too i think).
The Catholic Church uses a lot of formal language. Bit like academics. And that's fine if you're formally setting out doctrine etc but not always how you communicate to people in everyday situations.

@DU
Problem is, i think, Catholic Church has been good at teaching and maintaining moral teachings (and i agree, i'm orthodox in my belief) but sometimes lousy at supporting and encouraging people to follow the moral law. Jesus said some very challenging things about morality but at the same time the people he went to first were those who felt they were most in need of him. Not just of his forgiveness but, also, of his love and support in general. Heterosexual people who don't become priests, nuns or religious in general always have the option at the back of their mind of getting married. Gay people do not. Plus gay people, also, get a hard time from society in general just for being different (ie some people sniggering behind their back). I'm with the Church against gay marriage and gay sex but at same time we have to really be there for gay people struggling in general.




DU said...

There is no such thing as "gay people". There is not such thing as homosexual marriage, or "gay marriage". Sister you do great harm to young males who are confused about their identity and sexuality by legitimizing homosexual attractions. No, you do GRAVE harm. Matt. 18:6 There is NOTHING legitimate about an intrinsic disorder. It is not love to celebrate their open embrace of something that can and must be dealt with by the power and grace of God. If a young normal male is exposed to sexual abuse or homosexual porn he WILL struggle with his identity and by God's grace he can overcome. All evil and disordered thoughts or attractions have to be removed to be holy. Homosexual ideations are temptations, just like wanting to lust for some attractive female or neighbor's wife is a temptation. It is foolish and wrong to celebrate intrinsic disorder like celebrating dog sexual attraction. Let's call everyone with dog sexual attraction "Day". Now lets film people's reactions when I tell them I'm "Day". Since I am a Day Catholic I can't be admitted to Catholic Vet. School and I'm having trouble buying a dog from the pet store. Let's changes the laws in Nevada to allow Day Marriage. Sister, you have go to wake up!

tagnes said...

@Anonymous - I agree, you make good points!

@Du - I think you are misunderstanding me. I am celebrating Jimmy and the difficult choice he has made, not his same sex attraction. From my experience talking to people who struggle with this, each person's situation is different. Some have very deeply ingrained attraction for the same sex, a cross they will likely bear for the rest of their lives, and others are able to work through why they feel what they feel to the point that they are able to live generally free of this concern, and possibly marry the opposite sex.

I do not know where Jimmy is; he obviously feels that his same sex attraction is here to stay. Acknowledging this does not mean he is not aware of the power and grace of God to help him deal with it.

I understand where you are coming from and I respect your opinion. Together as Church I think it is important to discuss these issues. Both of us, I am sure, have ways we see this issue incorrectly. With the grace of the Holy Spirit, I pray that we can grow together to love those who struggle with same sex attraction as God would want us to.

In Jesus,

Sr. Theresa

Anonymous said...

Sister, thank you for your post. I studied philosophy in college and have puzzled over these issues for a long time because almost no one addresses them in the context of faith. Thank you again and God bless you in your vocation.

Matthew Ogden said...

"I went back over this and find terrible that you are celebrating this young man. It is such a sad display of narcisism. No one should celebrate intrinsic disorder."

I rather think you are missing the point. There's a difference between a tendency and acting upon it. If he was to act on such tendencies, this would be juvenile and narcissistic, since that is the nature of homosexuality. The point is that this guy realizes these tendencies are a problem and is choosing not to act on them for that reason.

Just like virtue, sin can only be such if it's voluntary. A disordered tendency isn't sinful. It only becomes a sin if acted upon. And acknowledging a problem for what it is happens to be a sign of maturity. That would counter the possibility that this guy's homosexuality would mean he was immature.

BASS49 said...

The author of the article is either mistaken or confused. Homosexuals cannot be celibate. Celibacy is a decision of a heterosexual not to marry. There is no such thing as "gay marriage"--it is an oxymoron, and soon to be a legal fiction. Gays can be chaste and continent, but they cannot be celibates

DU said...

Matthew Ogden,
God did not make anyone to have same sex attraction. He made people with sexual attraction to the opposite sex. One is ordered to creation and the other isn't. God did not make anyone to have an animal sexual attraction. If someone has animal sexual attraction due to the circumstances in their life outside of their control, as some may have same sex attraction due to circumstances out of their control, then they have grace to deal with it without sinning. Making a video celebrating their announcement of that intrinsic disorder is wrong. We don't celebrate disorder, we celebrate what is good. Woe to those who call evil good (Isa.5:20)

You may be celebrating Jimmy as a person, but his video is celebrating his intrinsic disorder and is holding up peoples' reactions as entertainment.

So please tell me exactly what lesson you think some 12 year old boy struggling with his sexual identity (nearly every 12 year old boy today) is supposed to gain from this "gay morman's" video? If his saying that celibacy "sucks" isn't enough to not post such a distortion of truth, then you should seriously reconsider even blogging as a Sister who represents the Catholic Church. The mother's reaction is not priceless.

Eph. 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Anonymous said...

@DU
Sorry, but you're out of order.
Rebuke if you think it right, but do so gently, not in a condemnatory way.
And i agree with you about homosexuality but all you're doing here is laying down the moral law, you're not offering, in any shape or form, encouragement and support to people struggling with their celibacy, who want to do the right thing of avoiding sex in order to follow God both morally and spiritually, and especially young people struggling with their sexuality.
Ed

Anonymous said...

"struggling with their celibacy"

- struggling with their sexuality, i meant
Ed

DU said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DU said...

Ed, the solutions are infinite and it is ultimately a personal relationship with Jesus, but I am not offering a solution in my comment. I can if you are in need of ways to help young people. I am addressing a sister in Christ who has a heart to use the media to share the love of Christ. I am condemning her post as something that is destructive and even wrong. If I was her superior it would have been down long ago.

This is one of the central issues of the day and she is way off base with this post. It is not great, it is not good, funny, or able to build up the body of Christ.

Sexual activity is a powerful force created by God only to be expressed within the protective bounds of marriage. To desire it outside of marriage is natural as the desire to take too many helpings of dessert. To have a desire to masterbate with the dessert is intrinsically disordered. To desire sexual relations with the same gender is even more disordered. Every human being has some disordered attractions and that is what Christ came to save us from as well as the work of the devil, which is glorifying or even normalizing an intrinsic disorder.

Anonymous said...

@DU

You wrote: Sister should reconsider blogging (and earlier on you referred, totally unecessarily, various parts of the woman's body - talk like that in front of your male friends in a pub if you like that - even if you were just making a moral point - but not in front of women).

Personally, i don't think has said anything terrible at all. And i'm glad there are nuns out there who have the courage to talk about such things. No-one is perfect (Jesus said to St Peter "get behind me Satan' - and this was God talking, we don't have the right to speak with this type of authority to others, but Jesus didn't tell St Peter to keep quiet overall - the opposite, in fact he had just offered St Peter a massive bit of encouragement by calling him "Rock" and later on by inviting him up the mountain to experience his Transfiguration - he asked Peter to go out into the world to share the faith - like Sister is doing. And just as St Peter went on to make
mistakes so will all of us).

So rebuke, but rebuke gently, and speak the truth about the moral law (i agree with you completely about homosexuality) whilst at the same time offering support and encouragement to those who struggle with their sexuality, as well as support and encouragement to people such ad Sr Theresa - the world really needs nuns and evangelizers like her).
God bless (hope i don't come over to harsh to you ..)
Ed


Anonymous said...

Matt said: The reason the world regards celibacy as strange or even offensive is because the world regards sex as the highest good. As a married man with children, who therefore knows a thing or two about sex, I can say with certainty that sex cannot satisfy a person's deepest longings. Only God can do that. I learned it the hard way. Those who condemn celibacy are still chasing after fulfillment where it cannot be found.

Anonymous said...

Matt said: Also, I think we should not, as a general rule, label people by their sexual attractions. Those attractions do not define us as persons. To label someone a gay Catholic or gay Mormon makes their sexual attraction part of their identity, and that is wrong. We are all sinners and we should not separate ourselves into groups based on the types of sins we struggle with.