Recently, we learned that, despite Gov. David Patterson’s approval of same-sex marriage rights in New York, the New York State Senate didn’t have enough votes to pass the bill and, therefore, same-sex marriage is not likely to occur in New York in the near future as had been expected and hoped by those of us who believe in full equality for all citizens in the United States. The irony of outcomes such as this one, and the egregious ballot initiatives in other states that are mightily influenced by professing Christian clergy, is that the myth of the separation of Church and State comes to the fore, and that clergy, even presumably celibate clergy, have a tremendous influence on the fate of same-sex marriage rights in the states where those rights have been (unconstitutionally, I believe) put to the vote of the electorate. I’m 5’6″ tall and have never played professional basketball! What kind of credibility would I have in your eyes if I lectured you on the proper way to play professional basketball? Clearly, the answer is likely, “none.” Now, Roman Catholic clergy presumably do not engage in romantic/sexual relations, so why do people give credibility to those RC clergy who would dare teach us on the subjects of romance and sexuality? Compounding this bizarre scenario where gullible people do take seriously the toxic pontifications of assorted RC clergy and the Vatican regarding sexual matters, is the fact that there is so much condemnation emanating from all too many RC sources regarding sexuality that they view as “normal” and also sexual expression that is, in their eyes, “disordered” or even “intrinsically evil.” So, we have the hateful rhetoric of the Archbishop of Guam regarding same-sex love and its protections:
Islamic fundamentalists clearly understand the damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture. This is why they repress such behavior by death…It may be brutal at times, but any culture that is able to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers … is a culture that at least knows how to value self sacrifice. (Taken from the article “In Bill 185 the Stakes are Very High,” on the website, “How Prejudiced is America?)
So, Gay people must suppress their God-given sexuality because of the “damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture,” damage that is elusive to any rational person. And this Archbishop’s statement goes so far as to applaud Islamic fundamentalists who “repress such behavior by death.” And this egregious pronouncement is done in the name of “Christianity?” This is not any type of Christianity to which any Christian can relate! Fundamentalists of any stripe, be it from the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, or from any denomination, church, or secular authority are birds of a feather who flock together. Hence, the Vatican holds its arms open to reactionary Anglicans, even going so far as to allow them to have their own liturgy and married clergy within the context of Roman Catholicism, some doctrines of which are antithetical to those of Anglicans and protestants in general. Just as I wouldn’t trust someone like me to lecture you on the finer points of professional basketball, I wouldn’t trust presumably celibate clergy who (unless called by God to do so) suppress their God-given sexuality and seek to impose the warped values and questionable psychological dynamics they possess onto others who have no reason to see any contradiction between sexuality and spirituality. The Apostle Paul said, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) I wholeheartedly agree with his statement! That’s why when those who succumb to enforced celibacy seek to impose their own sexual views and values onto others, they are projecting their preoccupation with sex borne of its daily suppression; their condemnation of others’ sexuality and sexual expression is likely a projection of their own sexual frustrations borne of sexual suppression that is not healthy unless one is gifted by God to be celibate. Moreover, by suppressing such a primal urge as sex, sex is what is largely thought about in that person’s daily life, even more than when one is free to express him/herself sexually. We all think of sex quite frequently (Yes, even at my age!), but can you imagine the preoccupation with sex when one suppresses this very God-given primal urge? Therefore, one is carnally minded particularly when one is forced to be celibate; the healthy integration of sexuality with one’s spirituality allows one to live a full, abundant life that partakes of all of the gifts that God has bestowed on God’s children! So, one can truly be spiritually minded when his/her sexuality is integrated into his/her life that, for the Christian or for any religious person, has been dedicated to God. Moreover, to enforce celibacy, as occurs among Roman Catholic clergy, contradicts the Apostle Paul’s admonition:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1Timothy 4:1-5)
Paul well knew, as do most of the rest of us, that carnality is borne out of repression and suppression, and that whatever God has created is good! And God created sexuality for our pleasure, as well as for procreation for those for whom that is possible. And no person or institution should be in the business of “forbidding to marry!” Why would God make sexual activity so pleasurable if God wanted us to abstain from it, or restrict it to only one type of relationship that is not natural for a given person? For a heterosexual it is unnatural for him/her to want to marry someone of the same sex; for a homosexual it is unnatural for him/her to want to marry someone of the opposite sex. This is not rocket science! Since God created Gay and Straight (and bisexual and transgender) people, God wants us to live abundant lives that only comes from living lives of authenticity that comes from partaking of the unique gifts, among them our sexuality, that God has conferred upon us. And like being Straight, being Gay is a gift from God, and to deny that gift is to not only stunt the spirituality of that person but is tantamount to throwing that wonderful gift back in God’s face. The Archbishop of Guam, the Vatican, and all religious homophobes are advocating that others throw God’s gift of sexuality back in God’s face, and by so doing are helping to create lives of self-loathing manifested in untold suffering, suicides, assaults, and murders of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. And the denial of marriage rights to Gay people bears no relationship to our Constitution that makes clear that “all people are created equal,” and that “separate is not equal.” Let’s be spiritually and intellectually smart enough to have learned from the “season of suffering” endured during the African-American civil rights struggle, and let’s not have to repeat that trauma for Gay people, for their allies, and for this country! And this suppression of sexuality, the projection of one’s warped views of sexuality onto others, and the condemnation of the sexual lives of Gay people bears no relationship to Christianity!
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society,” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.