This series of theses should not really be taken as a response to Kim Fabricus’ list of propositions on same sex relationships. While that brought the issue to the surface in recent discussions, these are thoughts that I’ve had floating around for a long time and hopefully will lead to a more substantial and lengthy piece of theological reflection on this contentious question.
I don’t have any theses about the importance of civil dialogue between different sides, hating the sin but loving the sinner, or any other such statements that often come close to being throwaway lines. What I hope these theses offer are some constructive theological points from which more authentic theological discussion might be derived. That all should be dealt with graciously and that dialogue is essential, I simply take for granted, as I think all should.
- Any discussion about the ethical viability of homosexual unions must be placed within a distinctly theological framework, specifically on the basis of the Christian doctrines of the Trinity, Christology, and the Sacraments. To allow such a discussion to take place on the basis of an previously determined ontology of freedom and liberation is to circumscribe the discussion within a politics foreign to that of the church. Put differently, to frame the discussion of homosexuality in terms of the liberation of homosexuals for sexual fulfillment, is to eliminate the possibility of a truly theological discussion. If ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’ are predetermined at the outset (as is often the case in gay liberation theology), there is no possibility of conversation in any real sense.
- In the Christian tradition, the church has univocally affirmed two paths for Christians to take in regard to sexual activity, celibacy and the sacrament of marriage. The theological question that is at the core of the issue of same sex unions is, given a properly theological (i.e. trinitarian, christological, and sacramental) definition of marriage: Can a union between two persons of the same sex be theologically understood as falling within that definition?
- A theological position which maintains that the restriction of sexual activities by the church is oppressive and deprives persons of their “full humanity” assumes that our sexual identity and attractions are the center of personal identity. Christian theology must explicitly reject such a sexually-centered definiton of human identity. For Christians, our identity does not primarily lie in our sexuality, let alone our affectional orientation, but in Christ and his body. Our “full humanity” is established, not by sex or marriage, but by baptism! Eucharistic communion, not sexual intercourse is the ultimate form of “erotic” communion. It is within the sacramental practices of the church, not sexual intercourse that we come to fulfillment as persons in Christ and no one is impoverised or diminshed by lacking a sexual partner. To say otherwise is essentially to call those who embrace the Christian vocation of celibacy less than fully human.
- Given this frame of reference, the burden of proof is on those who would argue for a revised understanding of the sacrament of marriage. For proponents of the full inclusion of same sex unions within the church to make their case, they must show theologically how the Christian understanding of marriage has “theological room” for non heterosexual unions. It is precisely this constructive theological project that has scarcely been taken on by homosexual Christians. The core of this issue does not revolve around New Testament hermeneutics, though that question is not unimportant. The essence of this question is ecclesial and theological. Any resolution that will come can only come from constrictive theological reflection.
- Sexual identity is far more complex than the polarities of homosexual and heterosexual and the common language of biological determinacy allow for. If we take seriously a Christian theological anthropology in which the self is formed in and through relations with the other we must acknowledge that sexual identity, like all other facets of our being is not a static given, but a dynamic reality which is “always-already” imbedded in and shaped by a network of social and political relations. This understanding of the construction of sexuality is widely shared and is championed by many gay scholars.
- One of the greatest social influences that has contributed to the construction of contemporary sexual culture in the west is consumer capitalism. In a culture shaped by the market, sexuality is commodifed and objectified in accordance with the reigning ideology of consumer preference. Above all, in a market economy, sex is conceived as something to which one has a right. Thus, the suspension or regulation of sexual practices by a narrative which claims to supersede that of the market is regarded as oppressive, dogmatic, and archaic.
- A Christian understanding of sexuality and sexual practices must, by definition reject the capitalist construction of sexuality. Sexual satisfaction is not something to which any of us have a right by virtue of our affectional orientation, sexual drive, or perceived relational needs. Christianity affirms that the call of Christian discipleship requires all who would follow Christ to die to themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus. Jesus does not promise us fulfillment on our own terms, he promises the way of the cross and resurrection. Jesus’ lordship and his call for us to submit ourselves to his body supersedes any and all of our felt needs for sexual fulfillment.
- Christians whose practices, sexual or otherwise which bring about a sundering of communion within the body of Christ for the sake of another agenda cannot be considered to be operating by the Spirit of God. The movement of the Holy Spirit in the church is towards and for unity. To be sure, movements of dissent within the church have their role (i.e. the Reformation), but such movements, if they are indeed the work of God’s Spirit must take place within a broader vision of catholicity and the ultimate aim of unity-in-difference within the body of Christ. The question is, do Christian proponents of homosexual inclusion manifest this vision of catholicity and unity, or is there another agenda that carries the day for them?