An Exchange on Gay Christians (Part I)

A few days ago, Annie "Amba" Gottlieb, prompted by comments on a post she wrote about a gay Christian marriage ceremony, issued a challenge to me via email. I accepted and ended up having in interesting exchange with her about gay Christians and homosexuality in general. At her suggestion, we've decided to make our conversation public in its entirety (The only bits that have been cut out were irrelevant to the topic at hand.). I couldn't have written a better introduction than hers, so here are some highlights.

"[T]he stark irreconcilability of the two world views contending, is not new….What is new – and an emergent characteristic of the blogosphere at its best — is that, beginning in the Comments, passionate, open disagreement does not descend into a flame war. We can reject and even despise each other’s world views, yet we’re still talking, with respect – even with friendship. And this is a principle we hold almost as strongly as our convictions about religion, homosexuality, and marriage."

Without further ado, let the conversation begin. 🙂

Before we turn one another away, do we have the faith and fortitude to see more deeply?

Funky my friend — do you have the faith and fortitude to read [this blog post] all the way through?

I'm curious to know why you believe either of those virtues is necessary for reading that piece. I'd think patience would be a more likely virtue.

I wouldn't expect it to persuade you, but I wonder if you'll even hear it out.

Do I really seem to be that obstinate and arrogant that I'd be unwilling to hear a reasonable argument out? One my oft-stated goals of blogging is to get people to stop talking past each other and really listen to what each other has to say. I don't like echo chambers and I long for constructive dialog. If the way I present my beliefs gives the impression that I am not open to fruitful discussion, then I am failing in living up to my blogging ethos as well as in my duties as a Christian.

Anyhow, no the piece did not persuade me. It was beautifully and eloquently written. It's also very nearly orthodox. It is only the matter of gay love that stands outside orthodox Christianity.

I found the piece pleasant to read, due to its skillful articulation, but ultimately anticlimactic. Much effort is made to summarize orthodox Christianity and briefly point out errors in liberal theology. However, the same care and attention were not put into the defense of gay love. I applaud the author's preference for celibacy or monogamy, but he made no effort to explain why the latter is as valid an option as the former. In fact, no argument was presented whatsoever to support the notion that homosexual activity should be tolerated within Christianity.

I am not persuaded because the author made no attempt at persuasion. The closest he gets is a bit of a pity party at the end in which the woes of gay Christians and their families are briefly mentioned. I have not advocated, nor would I ever advocate, inhumane treatment of gays. I agree with the author that homosexuality is a pastorally sensitive issue. I'll even go farther and say that more priests should teach their flocks that gays should be loved as any sinner should be loved. Nevertheless, there are countless examples of Christ loving the sinner but hating the sin, and homosexual activity is a sin. Indeed it is a grave sin. I do not believe anyone's soul is done any good by pretending it's not.

If the author has written or eventually writes a defense of gay love in the Christian context, let me know.

I don't know what kind of response you were aiming for, so I hope I responded appropriately.

Pax Christi,

P.S. Do you really believe we are in danger of turning each other away?

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

26 thoughts on “An Exchange on Gay Christians (Part I)

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  3. Rob


    How many gays and lesbians do you actually know? That began the change in my view on homosexuality, much as I believe getting to know Gentiles changed Paul’s view on them.

    Do you know any Christian gays and lesbians? I do. I see Jesus Christ being glorified, His death and resurrection being preached, the poor fed, the sick ministered to, the imprisoned visited.

    I can see no difference in the Holy Spirit’s working in their lives and in the best Christians I know. I see my own faith as falling short.

    I am forced to reach one of two possible conclusions: Either God has poured His Spirit out on these people, or there is no God. There is no third alternative.

    Given the weridness I’ve experienced in my own life, I really don’t see the second option as a logical possibility, either.

  4. Funky Dung

    “How many gays and lesbians do you actually know?”


    “Do you know any Christian gays and lesbians? I do. I see Jesus Christ being glorified, His death and resurrection being preached, the poor fed, the sick ministered to, the imprisoned visited.”

    That comes as no surprise to me because God has a habit of using broken tools to accomplish things. I’m one of them. That I am still (I pray) a useful part of the Body of Christ does not excuse my sins. I can seek forgiveness, though, if I recognize my sins for what they are.

    I am thrilled that the good news is being spread by active homosexuals, but doing so does not make their lifestyle any less sinful.

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  6. John

    Well, I think that Jon Stewart put it very eloquently when he summarized the whole conflict over homesexuality by saying, “It’s a matter whether you view homosexuality as part of the human condition, or as some bizarre fetish.”

    I think that assessment is very true when thinking about legal issues, and has some theological relevence.

  7. Funky Dung

    Do they have to be mutually exclusive? Does belief in the former require acceptance?

    There are countless congenital defects and diseases that are, by virtue of affecting humans, part of the human condition. That doesn’t make them desirable. Some psychological disorders lead to socially disruptive behavior. The sufferer, as such, may have limited culpability for his/her actions, but that does not mean the disruptive actions should be generally accepted by society.

  8. John

    Well, the former doesn’t require acceptance, but if you agree that it is a natural part of the human condition, and then reject it, you create a difficult situation for yourself.
    When you finally meet a homosexual, are you prepared to look him/her in the eye and say, “nothing against you personally, but your very existence is an abomination before God”?

  9. Funky Dung

    Non sequitur.

    Let’s pick a concrete example: kleptomania. Stealing is socially disruptive and generally regarded as immoral. A kleptomaniac’s culpability for acts of theft is diminished by his condition. I would have no trouble telling someone that stealing is sinful, I’d try to take an appropriately sensitive approach to a kleptomaniac, though. That appraoch need not include societal acceptance of theft.

    The very existence of a homosexual is not an abomination before God. His actions may be, though. Also, it is very unlikely that I would tell a homosexual that his/hers actions are sinful unless that person identified him/herself as Jewish or Christian and/or stated that active homosexuality is not sinful according to Judeo-Christian beliefs.

  10. Tom Strong


    You’re twisting Funky’s arguments up. He’s been very clear that he doesn’t see homosexuals as any worse than other sinners (i.e., other human beings). So he’s not about to call anybody an abomination.

    I disagree with him entirely on this topic (see ambivablog), but he’s at least arguing with civility and reason. That’s worthy of respect.

  11. Tom Smith

    “How many gays and lesbians do you actually know?”

    This seems to be the primary “argument” of pro-gay marriage Christians. “You’re against homosexual acts? Well, you just don’t know any gay people!” This is more than a little demeaning: in asking whether or not one’s opponent knows personally any homosexuals, one implies that the opinion of the opponent would be different if he did. Which is a roundabout means of saying that the anti-gay marriage debator is a prejudiced homophobe.

    I am a Christian, and I know and am related to several homosexuals. My godfather is a gay former Catholic, and my sister’s godmother is a lesbian former Catholic living with another woman and three kids. One of my closest friends lives with strong homosexual attractions.

    But none of that matters. It’s utterly a non sequitur. My relationship with practicing homosexuals has absolutely no bearing on the truth value of my opinions on the matter. I firmly believe that homosexual acts are unethical, despite the stern protestations of my gay friends and family — I don’t love them any less for it. But that doesn’t mean that I need to approve of their actions.

  12. Prefer not to say

    Pro-gay marriage Christians seem to imply that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is an untenable position. I guess they’ve never had experiences with family members whose actions they disagreed with…

    My brother is a convicted criminal. I certainly don’t approve of his actions, and I don’t believe they’re right. But I love him, and I always will — he is my brother.

  13. edey

    i also know actively practicing gays. that doesn’t change the sinfulness of their actions, though. two gay men or lesbians could love each other in a self-sacrificing way. however, if they truly love each other, they will want what is best for the other which means getting to Heaven. like straight people who aren’t married, gay people are called to avoid certain behaviors. if you truly care about someone (gay or straight) with self sacrificing love, you will have no problem with avoiding behaviors that will lead them away from God. it is unloving to do otherwise. monogomous gay relationships that are sexual are still sinful. if you’re engaging in homosexual actions, that is a sin. it’s not less sinful if it’s monogomous.

    being against gay actions doesn’t mean you are against gay people. on the contrary, you are rooting them on in their race toward Heaven.

  14. Pingback: Ales Rarus - A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » An Exchange on Gay Christians (Part II)

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  17. American Phoenix

    I’ve known several active homosexuals. One of them was my cousin. Another was a college classmate. Both are dead of AIDS. I loved my cousin and the other was my friend. I miss them both. But they are both dead of a disease that they contracted while practicing homosexual behavior. Had they not been doing this, had they remained celibate outside of marriage, there’s a good possibility both would still be alive. Loving them doesn’t prevent me from seeing how they both destroyed their lives when they were both still in their 30s and early 40s.

    Another is a distant cousin. She is a lesbian who is raising a boy with another lesbian. My primary concern is this little boy, who will grow up never knowing what it is to have a father or what it is to see a normal sexual relationship between two parents of the opposite sex. Although she is my cousin and I care for her very much, I don’t think that what she is doing to this child is right. Their behavior is going to have detrimental effects on this child.]

    The argument seems to be that if one only knew homosexuals, then one would change one’s religious convictions out of suddenly being “enlightened”. For me, this has not been the case. I’ve known several homosexuals and it only confirms for me that what the Catholic Church teaches is correct. This teaching may not be popular, but neither was Jesus in his day.

  18. Bryan Davis

    Funky – you’re right on in your exegesis of the post Amba sent you. There was no attempt at persuasion, and it’s only use as a persuasive point would be to familiarize yourself with the plight of homosexuals who are also Christians. That’s nice as anecdotal evidence, but not really any kind of persuasion.

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