At the Table

Living with the belief that gay people have a place at the table of Christ.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sexuality, Gender and Holy Ground

I was delighted to find this thought provoking gem in Ed Firmage's article A Pox on All Your Houses:
Sexuality and gender are holy mysteries: just how we become human, how we gradually assume the image of God, upon what graduated plane do we tend more toward the male or the female and still call God father, mother . . . All this is holy ground.
This whole ground ripples with the holiness of the Lord. We feel God's spirit wafting through the land and the water of our soul. Just what is sexuality? Gender? God's image? We take off our shoes.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sacred and Profane

It is a long held position in the LDS faith that the "power of procreation" is sacred. I do not wish to question that point of view, but I have to ask what is it about sex between loving, committed gay people that would be inherently profane? Why do we not forbid sterile people or those who are past the age of procreation from engaging in sexual activity? Would not unprocreative sex make a mockery of the sacred procreative activity? Or for that matter, recall that no one who was "wounded in the stones" or had blemishes could approach the holy tabernacle. Wouldn't it follow that the sacred powers of procreation should be withheld from people with acne or birth defects, or for that matter, from unbelievers? I simply do not see why people who find themselves attracted to the same sex, and therefore do not fit into the ideal model for mankind as set forth in Genesis, should be considered so flawed, so blemished, that they are unworthy to enjoy the sacred blessings of sex in their unions.

The Plan of Happiness, which includes the command for men and women to multiply and replenish the earth, assumes a perfect world. The Plan and the Proclamation on the Family define a narrow ideal to which many people, for whatever reason, will simply never be able to conform. I have no problem with the Plan of Salvation as an ideal. It is wonderful. But to think that whatever does not fit neatly into that picture, even when viewed as an aberration, defect or handicap, to be inherently sinful, defies reason!

The gay community has long described homosexuality as being part of the great diversity of mankind. For years I was not quite willing to accept the idea that a homosexual orientation is simply a variant of human makeup like being left-handed or having blue eyes. It just seems too "broken." After all, it doesn't take a scientist to convince anyone that men and women are physically designed for heterosexual coupling. Yet, it is clear that homosexuality does widely occur in the animal kingdom. And coupled with the estimates that between 5 and 10% of the human population is homosexual, it does suggest that it is a "natural" aspect of life on this earth.

I see homosexuality as "diversity" more akin to the idea of "opposition in all things," which I don't believe is strictly black and white. Homosexuality, like left-handedness, diabetes, mental illness, gray hair, perfect teeth, or olive colored skin, is part of the wondrous and complex fabric of the human condition. Sometimes tragic, sometimes beautiful, sometimes plain, these things are all part of the rich experience that mortality provides. And what matters is how we intersect and interact with the variety of people and situations with which we come in contact.

If we seek a divine purpose for human sexuality, the model in Genesis seems to fit, where men and women are called to join together and multiply and fill the earth. The LDS doctrine of exaltation gives this model its ultimate expression. Yet not everyone can achieve this ideal state, nor fulfill the command to bear children. A portion of humanity, for whatever reason, finds itself outside of the norm, the ideal, the divine Plan of Happiness for mankind. Yet here too, we believe that there is divine purpose underlying the incongruities of life. When we sorrow for the childless couple, we hope that, somewhere in the grand plan of the Creator, there is meaning to the apparent deficiency. I believe that somewhere in the wisdom of God there is purpose behind what some may perceive as the homosexual's broken existence.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Theresa, Dave and Dr. Card

It was 1978, a year after returning from my mission, when a friend introduced me to Theresa and Dave. They seemed like a happy, young LDS couple. A month later they were divorced. Theresa had found Dave's Honcho magazines and Dave left Theresa and the church to live the "gay lifestyle."

My friend encouraged me to date Theresa and help to cheer her up. Although we enjoyed being together and Theresa began to draw close to me, perhaps a little too fast, it was clear that I was not attracted to her. I sensed that nagging thought that I was, like Dave, also gay. I had ignored the feelings for many years, assuming that eventually, heterosexual attractions would develop as a natural part of aging. But there I was, 24 years old, still wondering what it was that I should find attractive in a female.

A bit devastated, when I broke off the relationship, Theresa nevertheless, put me in touch with Dr. Card, a Psychologist she and Dave had visited who specialized in the treatment of homosexuals.

As I sat in Dr. Card's office, he described the dilemma of the homosexual man lying in bed with a woman, with her breasts just standing out in all their majesty, and the gay man wanting to recoil in horror. Frankly, I didn't have a clue when it came to women's breasts. But I was relieved that Dr. Card offered treatment for the homosexual.

It all sounded very scientific. They connect electrodes to various body parts and expose the patient to pornography, zapping the patient when the undesired response is detected. That is what Dr. Card described. He seemed entirely positive about the treatment and spoke with a confidence that made me think that his patients regularly left his treatment entirely cured of their homosexuality. I made an appointment to begin the recommended therapy, and walked out quite excited to be getting help.

As a returned missionary, and a devout Mormon, I wondered about being exposed to pornography. Forget about electroshock therapy. Something about the hard core pornography didn't sit right with me, for some reason. So I prayed about it that weekend and clearly felt that something was not right. The answer was that I should definitely not go forward with the therapy. So Monday morning I called and canceled the appointment with Dr. Card.

Theresa, meanwhile, somewhat distraught at having fallen in love with two gay men in a row, met with Dr. Card for some psychological insight. He asked her what type of man she wanted for a mate. When she replied, his eyes opened wide and he leapt from his chair saying, "I know just the man you are looking for! It's MY SON!"

Theresa went on to marry Dr. Card's son and, I understand, is living happily ever after. I continued dating, praying, and generally, being an active, obedient church member. And waited for my heterosexuality to blossom. It never did.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"You shouldn't have to pretend anymore"

Another heart warming and heart wrenching post from Hurricane, where he tells of coming out to his 7 year old daughter, who replied, "Dad, I'm sad that you and Mommy are getting divorced, but I'm really happy that you get to be yourself. You shouldn't have to pretend anymore."

Out of the mouth of babes. . .

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The High Price of Celibacy

New figures released Thursday by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops show the unrelenting toll of the clergy sex abuse crisis: 783 new credible claims last year, most of which date back decades, and costs of nearly $467 million.

This is a good indicator that celibacy doesn't work and only breeds disfunction.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

12-year-old lobbies for gay adoption

In a heartwarming story, 12-year-old Michael Gulliford-Green brought a family portrait to Florida's capital, showing the parents he calls Dad and Daddy.

"Three years ago, I was adopted by two gay men who are my parents now, "he told a Republican Representative, "I just want to get rid of this ban that was set 30 years ago and affects our family and a whole lot of families."

Michael's adoption took place in New York to Buddy Gulliford, 44, and Jim Green, 35, who have been partners for eight years.

As Buddy and Jim showed Michael their bedroom, they shared this conversation about homosexuality: "Love is love, whether it's between a man and a man, or a man and a woman." Michael chose to take both of his dad's last names.

One year ago the family moved to Florida, where, along with Mississippi and Utah, adoptions to gay couples are banned.

The full story is here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Familiar Spirit

The year is 1975. I am a young Mormon missionary serving in Northern England, where a cheerful minister's wife has walked us through the door of a small Anglican church, as an ecumenical gesture of kindness, just so that we can see the interior. Immediately I sense something very familiar and very powerful--the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is unmistakable. I know it well from years of participation in the Mormon faith, and from my experiences as a missionary. And here it is again, so thick you could cut it with a knife. "But how can this be," I wonder; "How can the spirit be here in a church that is not the TRUE church?" I am troubled. The only way my youthful mind can reconcile the event is to conclude that the feeling is actually a "counterfeit" spirit.

Fast forward twelve years. I am stark naked lying in bed with a friend of the same sex with whom I have just been "intimate". There it is again; the spirit with which I am very familiar. Why would the spirit be blessing this moment? There is a knock on the bedroom door and a housemate pops his head in to say good night. My buddy calls out, "Be sure to read your Book of Mormon and pray before you go to bed."

1989, I arrive at a dear friend's birthday party held at a restaurant in Emigration Canyon. Everyone at the table appears to be gay. Except for one familiar face. To my surprise, seated there is a lady from the Blackpool, England ward, where I had served as a missionary. She is now living in Salt Lake City and knows my friend from their association at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), which, I am aware, is a congregation of primarily gay people. My friend tells me that she attends the LDS church, but also regularly goes to the MCC "because she loves the spirit that is there."

2002, I am listening to another close friend relate a spiritual experience he had while struggling to reconcile his faith and his homosexuality. "Dear God, please forgive me for being gay," he had prayed. And then he heard an audible voice, "Who told you it was wrong to be gay?"