Friday, June 30, 2006

The Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name

Okay, here's the problem as I see it: no one in the Anglican Communion wants to demonize homosexuals. Archbishop Williams has said as much, in his message to the General Convention of the ECUSA. This, he says, will not be tolerated. And I have yet to find (though I have not searched diligently) any statement by Bishop Akinola condeming homosexuals because they are homosexuals.

The issue seems to come down to one of marriage. Neither Archbishop Williams nor Bishop Akinola is willing to condone homosexual marriage. And there, the matter seems to come to an impasse. Why?

Because the problem, we all understand, or seem to, is that The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson is in an open homosexual relationship. But he is not married, because he cannot, in the eyes of the ECUSA or most states in America, be married. Which means he is "living in sin," as the archaic phrase has it. But no one even wants to say that. They just want to talk about homosexual marriage and respect for other members of the Communion, and the like. All of this, let us be clear, is simply code for power. No one ever seeks power directly; they always do so indirectly. No one is ever so nakedly ambitious as to say "I just want to be in control!" Thjey always speak of doing it for someone else, such as taking back control of the ECUSA from the "liberal leadership." Despite the fact the House of Deputies was (as I understand) all laity, and it was the Bishops who baldly exerted, or tried to, control over their lay people.

No one ever acts in the name of power; but in situations like this, all the actions are aimed at gaining power. Nothing more, nothing less. Examine the question of marriage, and homosexual marriage, and this becomes clear.

Homosexuals should not be Bishops, the argument runs, because they are immoral in their actions. But who isn't, we all ask? Yes, but Bishops should be held to a higher standard. Fair enough. But a fair standard, surely? Not an arbitrary one, with one standard for one class of people, another for another? Are we going to return to divisions between men and women based on gender? No. So the standard must be fair. Good.

Why are homosexuals, then, worse than anyone else? They aren't. Archbishop Williams himself rejects that assertion. So that' s out of the way. Now what? Well, we all acknowledge that gay bishops have been ordained. It's not (presumably) even an open secret. It is acknowledged. The focus here, by Archbishop Williams, by Bishop Akinola, is on homosexual relationships. It's a problem of homosexual marriage.

Homosexuals, by definition, cannot marry, unless they wish to lie to themselves and their spouse, and marry someone of the opposite gender merely for appearances sake. But this is back to demonizing homosexuals, and we said we won't do that. Okay, so what can they do? They must be celibate. After all, they cannot marry, and sex outside of marriage is bad. A sexual relationship that is not sanctioned by marriage, is bad. Bad for Bishops, at least. Let us agree on that, for the sake of argument. Let us, arguendo, consider that common ground.

Now, here's the problem: what is marriage? Typically, we think of it as a relationship sanctioned by the church, recognized by the state. Let's go slowly here, though; let's take those one at a time, starting with the last first. Marriage is a relationship recognized by the State. When we say that, we usually mean something like "certified by a marriage license." Alright, so the marriage license is very important, is it? No, actually, it isn't important at all.

I have been married for 29 years now. In all that time, no agent of the State has ever asked me to produce my marriage license, to prove I am married. I've been asked to produce my driver's license, to prove I was authorized to operate a motor vehicle, or my age, or even to prove my identity; but I've never been asked for my marriage license. When I practiced law, I handled divorce cases. We never had to prove the couple filing for divorce had been married in a ceremony producing a marriage license. We never had to show the judge a certified copy of the license and prove that the John and Jane named therein were the same John and Jane standing now before this court. We just said, in court papers, that they were married on this day, in this year, in this county and state; and the judge said "fine." If the judge said anything about it at all. Why? Because even the state doesn't care if you have a marriage license; even the state doesn't think a marriage license means anything; because it doesn't.

Texas has a provision in the Family Code for what most people call "common law marriage," although the Code doesn't call it that. If it can be shown (or, if challenged, proven) that the parties have held themselves out to others as husband and wife, well, then, they are married. That's all it takes. No time limit, no minimum number of years, no minimum numbers of assertion of spousehood (well, in a hotly contested case, you might want more than one, but you get the idea). If two people walk into a court in Texas and say, in a divorce proceeding, that they are married, that's good enough for the State of Texas. And the IRS, and almost any other governmental entity I can think of. And it's good enough for the church, too.

I am ordained in the UCC. When I told them I was married, they didn't ask for my marriage license. In my application for holy orders in the ECUSA, they don't ask for a copy of my marriage license. My transcripts from the colleges I have degrees from, yes; my marriage license, no. Nor do they ask if I was married in a church, although I was. I'm married; they accept it; that's all that matters.

Now, how is that different from two men, or two women, who claim to be married to each other? The difference is, society recognizes one, and doesn't recognize the other. Why? Why, the most famous church answer of all, of course: "Because we've always done it this way!"

Miscegenation was once deemed wholly improper, and though I have no cases to prove it, I'm quite sure was frowned upon by the church, condemned as a sin and never sanctioned or approved by any pastor or priest. In some states, it was illegal. Until, that is, we decided such laws and traditions and rules were nonsense. Until we finally realized the distinction of "race" was an invention of the 19th century. Oddly enough, so is the English word "homosexual."

But before that, didn't we recognize different 'races'"? Didn't the Hebrews distinguish between children of Abraham and Gentiles? And doesn't Genesis condemn the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah? Well, no, that's not right, either. But note that no one is making those arguments, because, again, that goes back to "demonizing" homosexuals, and no one is willing (and rightly so!) to do that. They won't even take a stab at "hate the sin, not the sinner!," though that's what the attempt is, in practice. So what, finally, is the objection?

It is that homosexuals will not be celibate! Which is interesting, because if they are, then they are not homosexuals, are they? Do we categorize the celibate on the basis of who they would have sex with, if they allowed themselves to have sex? No. They are celibate. They aren't supposed to have a "sexual orientation." Except, of course, they do; but we don't categorize them according to it. So the ECUSA has ordained homosexual bishops, and apparently that has not provoked schism. What has? The fact that a homosexual bishop is actually having sex! (or we presume he is). Now, we presume the same thing about heterosexual couples, but no one asked PB Schori how often she and her husband had sex before electing her Presiding Bishop, I'm quite sure. No one even gave it a thought, in fact. But the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson is another matter. And that' s the modern day crux of the issue: the "ick" factor.

We have decided that human beings are primarily sexual beings. Freud and the Viennese school have won, at least in the West, and while we claim to focus on other areas: economic, spiritual, social, intellectual, cultural, etc., it all comes back to sex. We define ourselves as sexual beings, assume that our truest expression of ourselves is in our sexual appetites and how we satisfy them. Sex is why we are here, is the essence of our being, is the most important thing about each and everyone of us. If it were not so, would we even be having this discussion? As the Mad Priest says, we just seem to like this crapola. But it's more than we like it; it is our identity. It is who we are, what we are, what we should be. We are all sexual beings, first, foremost, and foundationally. Nothing else is more indicative of what kind of person we are, than who we do, or want to, have sex with.

It's why sex sells. It's why we use it to promote everything. It's why we are so obsessed with it. And it's why homosexuality promotes in us the "ick" factor.

Because a gay bishop in a relationship, is having sex with another man. Because the fact that he is in a relationship, makes us think about his sex life. I don't think about the sex lives of my friends. But when I define someone as "homosexual," how else am I defining them except by whom they have sex with? And that means I can never escape the "ick" factor. Because when I define that person, I'm thinking, first and foremost, about that person's sex life. I have to. I'm labelling them "homosexual," which means they have sex with persons of the same gender. If they don't have sex, they are either pre-sexual (i.e., children, and thinking about them having sex makes me a pervert, at best), or they are celibate. Otherwise, they are sexual beings. And, well...ick.

And so we stand at this impasse in the ECUSA. Because of the ick factor. Except it can't be that; no one struggles this mightily over "ick." It just isn't that motivating. In fact, it kills motivation. "Ick" makes you want to stop thinking about it, just as you don't want to imagine your parents in the act of your conception. (Got you there, didn't I?) "Ick" does not lead to power struggles. "Ick" leads to going on to another topic, quickly.

So if this threatened schism isn't about homosexuality and "ick," what is it about? Power. Pure and simple. Someone wants control, wants things to go their way, and by God or in spite of God, they're gonna get it. And that's the love that dare not speak its name.

The love of power. The real issue at play in the ECUSA, and the Anglican Communion.

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