Friday, January 04, 2008

The Future of Sex and Marriage

From First Things: On the Square:

The Future of Sex and Marriage
By Richard John Neuhaus
Friday, January 4, 2008,

Here’s an instructive exchange between Luke Timothy Johnson and Eve Tushnet. Johnson is a distinguished New Testament scholar at Emory University and Tushnet is a writer living in Washington, D.C. She is a recent convert to Catholicism and identifies herself as a lesbian. The exchange appeared a few months ago in Commonweal and was again brought to my attention when I spoke to a meeting of Courage a while back.

Courage is an organization founded by the remarkable Father John Harvey, and its purpose is to help people who are afflicted by same-sex attraction to live chaste lives. In private conversation, a young man at the meeting cited the Johnson–Tushnet exchange in support of his view that Catholics who attempt to accommodate homosexual practice have, in fact, rejected the authoritative sources of Christian teaching. As someone who had, with personally disastrous consequences, bought into that accommodation for some years, he spoke with more than an edge of bitterness.

The Commonweal exchange is titled “Homosexuality & the Church,” and in it Johnson describes how he came to his position through the experience of a lesbian daughter. “I trusted God was at work in the life she shares with her partner—a long-standing and fruitful marriage dedicated to the care of others, and one that has borne fruit in a wonderful little girl who is among my and my wife’s dear grandchildren.” Trust your experience, says Johnson. “When read within the perspective of a Scripture that speaks everywhere of a God disclosing Godself through human experience, our stories become the medium of God’s very revelation.” What does this mean for the authority of Scripture and the Church’s teaching? Johnson does not flinch:

“I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us.”

Eve Tushnet responds: “I’m not convinced this is how human love stories relate to the divine love story. Loving one another can be an echo of the love we receive from God; it can be the child of that love; it can be preparation for our own awestruck love of God. (I would argue that my erotic and romantic love of women has been all three of those things, at different times.) But our human experience, including our erotic experience, cannot be a replacement for the divine revelation preserved by the Church. We must be careful not to let it become a counternarrative or a counter-Scripture.”

Tushnet also says this: “So it’s tempting to conclude that prohibitions against homosexuality are culture-bound, no more universally binding than the requirement that women cover their heads in church. It’s true that culture conditions how we read Scripture, and that as Christians we need to be open to the countercultural implications of the gospel. But this fact argues far more strongly against Johnson’s position than against the Church’s. If we seek to overcome any aspects of our culture that conflict with the gospel, I’m not sure why we would expect the gay liberation movement—slightly over a hundred years old, and largely Western in character—to be less culture-bound, and therefore a better guide to the countercultural aspects of the gospel, than the Catholic Church. The Church is bigger and older than you, me, or the very concept of the homosexual person. (The view that sexual orientation is intrinsic and constitutive of a person’s deepest identity comes from a school of psychology that owes very little to the gospel, and a great deal to anti-Christian forms of philosophical materialism.)”

Tushnet is impressed by the “theology of the body” as set forth by John Paul II and the richness of the Catholic tradition on the meaning of friendship, “helping me to express my love of women both sacrificially and chastely. . . . Every week or so I discover yet another hidden treasure of the Church that speaks to me in exactly the way I need in order to deal specifically with my struggles, resentments, longings, and strengths as a woman and a lesbian. We can make the Church’s teaching believable by becoming more Catholic—which is, not incidentally, what we should be doing anyway.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I must admit I am astonished not only at the pro-homosex position taken by Luke Timothy Johnson, but also by his honesty that in supporting homosexual sex he is abandoning the Scriptural admonitions. I must say that while I am disappointed in him (for I always viewed him as orthodox),I appreciate his honesty with regards abandoning Scripture. He is scrapping it, and that at least is more honest than many of the revisionists I have met.

Peace in the Lord!
Rob Buechler, Pastor
Trinity-Bergen Lutheran Church

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