Choosing what to do (Pt 4)


Consider a less-passive form of the Serenity Prayer. Life appears to be divided into two kinds of events or, if youyou will, two sorts of points along the space-time continuum. There are points or events that we choose, and there are points or events that happen to us. Wisdom seems to be invested in, first, learning how to tell the difference between the two; second, in not taking the “happened-to-me” part too personally; and, third, learning how to use both to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling.”

It strikes me that getting Nos. 1 and 2 down might take at least half a lifetime and that No. 3 is next to impossible because most of us seem to perceive life less like a tool-shop in which we are the co-craftsman with or without God and more like a rock tumbler into which we have been thrown.

The question is not: which one of those is SSA? Without regard to the question of DNA, or nature vrs. nurture, even if SSA is something caused by external factors it seems to happen so very early that choice, per se, is irrelevant. Even if it is something caused by chemical imbalances in Gerber formula, the child has nothing to say in the process.

The choices are about what we do with it.

This is where I think the “Cure” people miss out on something. Change in sexual orientation may or may not be possible, but I don’t know if it’s desirable. I want to be able to see to walk safely. If the lighting is bad, do you want to make the light brighter, or do a whole remodel that involve tearing out a wall and adding new windows and maybe a breakfast nook? Is it possible that a “Cure” is a distraction from the evil one?

This is the tool I have to help me work out my salvation. Why do I want to go back to Home Depot and demand a refund? I should, rather, figure out how to use this tool that I have to do the work that needs to be done.

Somewhere in his writings, Blessed Fr Alexander Schmemann draws a line between the Church’s model of marriage and the world’s model.

The world’s model has a lot to do, essentially, with permission to have sex and benefits. WHile it is irrelevant in these days of “sexual liberation”, the traditional secular understanding (and, in a certain way, the Western religious one) is that two people “Can’t have sex” until marriage. A new phase of their life has started at the point of “kiss the bride” and, later they will rip off each others clothes and see the opposite sex naked for the first time. That is, of course, no longer a factual reality; but it holds essentially true: sex is something after marriage.

In these days, when sex is everywhere to be had, the main issue is no longer “permission” but rather “benefits.” Healthcare, legal rights and privileges, the legal grafting in of family members, etc. This is all more important than the sex issue.

Taken together, or even taking only the second one, there is no legal or societal reason why the Church’s position should have any bearing at all on “Same Sex Marriage”. It’s not the place of the Church to deny to anyone rights or services.

But that is not what marriage is in the Church. Sex might happen in marriage. Children might happen in marriage. But far from being about sex or rights, Marriage, in the Church, is about martyrdom. It is about two people giving up on their own needs, their own desires, in service to the other. Sex and Children may arise in the marriage, but they are not the primary goal or product. The primary goal is the salvation of the two parties and the fruit, the end result, is nothing less than the salvation of the world. Marriage is called “the little church”, the Husband as Christ giving up his life, with the wife as the Bride of Christ obeying all humility, the family is the very specific icon of Church in situ. There’s something more here than permission to have sex or who gets to access my bank account when I’m dead.

So few of the couples I know are seeking for this rather antiquated and one might even say “sexist” idea (which label I accept because I acknowledge the two sexes as having different parts, duties, strengths and weaknesses) that the other model (permission to have sex) is the only one that obtains nor is it surprising that gay and lesbian folks want permission to have sex or designate their heirs. Who the hell wouldn’t? If marriage is not a sacrament, what right has the state to deny anyone its benefits?

For the Church Marriage is a Sacrament and there’s only one way to do it; just as you cannot – inside the sacramental Church – make Eucharist with Corn Bread and Root beer. Our insistence that, given our beliefs, there is a right way and a wrong way to do something sets us apart. Your beliefs might allow you to do something else, but we can’t.

Father Peter wrote this wonderful essay on clerical celibacy. After pointing out that celibacy, per se, is not an issue but rather Chastity, he adds

Is it difficult, sure it is, but so is the life of a Christian. Is it countercultural, sure it is, but so is being a Christian. We, all of us are called to live lives vastly different from what the world wants us to. We are all of us, called to a certain level of asceticism in our lives and to live lives that Christ wants us to live in conformity with His church and His Commandments.

And, over on his blog, Fr Stephen reminds us:

We are resident aliens, strangers in a strange land. But are not yet ready to dwell in Paradise. Entering the land to which we are called is also a journey of transformation. There is a wilderness that lies between this land and the Land of Promise. The story of the Exodus is of a journey from slavery to freedom – and of slaves becoming fit for freedom.

The journey begins with the recognition that we do not belong. It is the problematic character of secularism. The secular world claims to be our home and bids us settle down. The secular Christian makes his home in this world and holds his faith like a hobby. There will be no journey that sets him apart from his neighbors. He will be like them in every respect excepting his hobby. It is as though the Israelites established clubs in Egypt for the discussion of Promised Land theories. There they could sing the songs of Zion.

We are stuck here, in this world which is not paradise and simply can not be yet. But everything here is a tool to build the ladder to take us there. Would you be in favor of Same-Sex Marriage when it was sexless, a truly sacramental Adelphopoiesis of sacrifice and mutual chastity?

Who the heck would want that?

To return to the initial image of the Serenity Prayer, the problem with our tool set is that most of us feel rather like passive victims of it rather than active participants in it. Yet the Fathers insist – rather dogmatically – that the human being is essentially free and that anything that takes away that freedom, that denies it or obscures it, is a passion or a delusion from the evil one. Astrology seems to deny our freedom because it insists on all the possibilities (including personality traits) are predicted or predetermined by the stars. Calvinism is an heresy for the same reason: except it takes away our Free Will under the guise of Christianity. Likewise the idea that our sexual proclivities must be enacted rather than freely chosen or denied.

Human freedom, properly understood, is not the freedom to do anything: rather it is the freedom to do God’s will (in church, in bed, at the office, at the bus stop) or the freedom to do something else. We already know God’s will in all matters: He “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” The question is are you using all your tool kit to do so – not only for your salvation but for the salvation of all those around you?

Huw Richardson wroted this on March 3rd, 2013

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Category: metanoia, orthoparadoxy

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