Monday, August 08, 2005

Grace: Your body's or Someone Else's?

Tyler asked me to read The Body's Grace by Rowan Williams - a defense of homosexuality by the future Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church in England.

The Good

My mom (and everyone else's I think) said "if you cannot say something nice, do not say anything at all"; and there are some things here that are exquisite:
The whole story of creation, incarnation and our incorporation into the fellowship of Christ's body tells us that God desires us, as if we were God, as if we were that unconditional response to God's giving that God's self makes in the life of the trinity. We are created so that we may be caught up in this; so that we may grow into the wholehearted love of God by learning that God loves us as God loves God.
This nearly erotic picture of God's love for us gives us deep understanding of the significance, acceptance, and security we have in Christ. He continues:
The life of the Christian community has as its rationale . . . the task of teaching us this: so ordering our relations that human beings may see themselves as desired, as the occasion of joy
Indeed, all Heaven celebrates when any one of us is saved. The core of all evangelism is to have non-believers see that God loves them; desires them to share in that loving relationship with Him; and that nothing they have done in their life alters that.

Williams shows the true heart of a loving sexual relationship: that each partner's sexual pleasure comes in pleasing the other and not themselves. He comes close to calling heterosexual sex in a legal marriage perversion if "in that they leave one agent in effective control of the situation - one agent, that is, who doesn't have to wait upon the desire of the other." and later mentions 1 Corinthians 7
4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
Of course, I think in this case he is better served mentioning any of the "one flesh" quotes; but oh well. Also, he mentions Ephesians 5:
28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
All in all, him and I agree that the sexual relationship God wants is one where the partners unite mind, body and soul; treat each other unselfishly sexually; and put their partner's needs on all of these levels over their own. This is the relationship that serves God and glorifies Him; it is what marriage in His name should be; and being heterosexual and married does not imply you have this. Finally, he "tantalizes" with this:
I suspect that a fuller exploration of the sexual metaphors of the Bible will have more to teach us about a theology and ethics of sexual desire than will the flat citation of isolated texts
The Bad

And delivers nothing:
"and I hope other theologians will find this worth following up more fully than I can do here."
This is what I expected him to do. He did have time to spend a third of his space on examples from the Raj Quartet by Paul Scott; and quotes from Thomas Nagel and Susan Griffin.

Now for homosexuality: Archbishop Williams argues that homosexual relationships are able to embody that complete unselfishness and abandonment of self to the other, and therefore they too will reflect and glorify God. Garry J. Williams, in The Theology of Rowan Williams:
"The method which Williams employs in his theological argument entails a significant non sequitur. He finds that God desires his people, and he identifies sexual desire with that desire in God. There may be some basis for this analogy, given that God is so often in Scripture depicted as the husband of his bride. It is, however, hermeneutically dubious to use the relation betweenGod and his people to justify specific sexual activity" [and] "There are thus two leaps here. One is from the desire or love of God for his people to human sexual desire, and the other is from heterosexual biblical examples to homosexual acts. Like the first, this second leap is consistently and conspicuously absent in the Bible . . . Scripture does not make the step which Williams makes, in that it customarily marks a clear distinction between heterosexual and homosexual relations and compares aspects of God's relation to his people with the former and not the latter."
Archbishop Williams does approach scripture in defending homosexuality in one way: he attacks procreation as the major factor in God's view of authentic sexual relations. Here I think he is right: I do not believe reproduction is the central point in God's plan for our "one flesh" relationships; although it is certainly a point. However, he brushes by (and brushes off) what is to me the real points:
the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts [see my piece on this], or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures
The bold part is what he just blows by: complementarity is very much a part of every scripture on this subject. He fails to try to make a case for the opposite - so of course none is made. Garry Williams says this is a natural outflowing from his general theological mistake in dismissing revelation in favor of experience.

and The Ugly

This should have been the first thing I talked about since it explains the title of the work - The Body's Grace - but once the parallelism with Clint Eastwood hit me . . . He does not mean grace from the Body of Christ; but grace our own body shows us when we work out our "fear and trembling" over time in giving ourselves up to the mutuality of an equal relationship with another.

In scripture which is simply packed with references to "the flesh" (our bodily desires) this position that we seek the body's grace is simply wrong. We seek God's grace to work through these relationships; His strength to overcome the "fear and trembling" as we work out a true bond of mind, soul, and body. I would argue that in many cases giving in to the grace of our body separates us from the grace of God.

Archbishop Williams seems to imply that homosexuals actually have an easier time finding the body's grace once they have made those first decisions to "identify certain patterns as sterile, undeveloped or even corrupt" and "what we want our bodily life to say, how our bodies are to be brought in to the whole project of 'making human sense' for ourselves and each other." He says:
"a conventional (heterosexual) morality simply absolves us from the difficulties we might meet in doing so. The question of human meaning is not raised, we are not helped to see what part sexuality plays in our learning to be human with one another, to enter the body's grace, because all we need to know is that sexual activity is licensed in one context and in no other." [and] ". . . where [do] the massive cultural and religious anxiety about same-sex relationships that is so prevalent at the moment comes from . . . I wonder whether it is to do with the fact that same-sex relations oblige us to think directly about bodiliness and sexuality in a way that socially and religiously sanctioned heterosexual unions don't."
Not only am I wrong for following scripture on the issue of homosexuality, I am stunting my physical and emotional growth in my relationship with my wife by doing so. I suppose I need a version of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" to get in touch with my bodily life and to recieve its grace.

8 comments:

  1. Ok, John, here are, as I see it, some of the points you missed:

    Williams shows the true heart of a loving sexual relationship: that each partner's sexual pleasure comes in pleasing the other and not themselves... [1 Cor. 7:4] ...Of course, I think in this case he is better served mentioning any of the "one flesh" quotes; but oh well.

    No, I don't think so. Williams' point isn't so much that the two sexual partners are one flesh, It's that when I'm in a proper sexual encounter, as far as my actions go, my own pleasure is meaningless. The pleasure of my partner is the whole purpose for my actions.

    Finally, he "tantalizes" ...and delivers nothing:
    "...I hope other theologians will find this worth following up more fully than I can do here." This is what I expected him to do. He did have time to spend a third of his space on examples from the Raj Quartet by Paul Scott; and quotes from Thomas Nagel and Susan Griffin.


    That's a, pardon my french, asshole remark, John. You miss the point of Williams' statement completely and, it seems to me, intentionally. Williams was referring to the fact that his essay is ten pages long. Full theological explorations are usually published in the form of a book. These tend to go on for a few hundred pages or so. Full explorations of the sexual metaphors of the Bible and the subsequent theology and ethics of sexual desire, as Williams envisions, will take up many books, from many different perspectives. To blame him for not doing so in the ten pages of text that he has to work with (this essay was originally in sermon form, and, as Mark Twain once remarked, very few additional souls are saved after the first 15 minutes of a sermon) is, well, missing the point entirely. Anyway, I guess that for some reason it's obvious to you that since Williams cites extra-biblical sources he must not be a real Christian.

    By the way, if you characterize this essay as "a defense of homosexuality," you should read it a few more times. You imply that procreation is a necessary aspect of sexual life, if not the only point therein. It should follow that you oppose post-menopausal sex and birth control of any kind, right?

    I don't really understand what Garry Williams' criticism is going for. He seems to have his own personal hermeneutical rulebook that I've never read. If there is some basis for the nature of sex being what Williams says it is, and this being mirrored in God's love for mankind, why is it "hermeneutically dubious" to claim that if same-sex couples exhibit this type of sexual life, then they are loving as God does?

    You brush off complementarity just as much as williams does. He says it's non-scriptural and you say it's completely scriptural, but present to evidence to jusify this. Maybe this will be another misguided post in the future.

    He does not mean grace from the Body of Christ; but grace our own body shows us when we work out our "fear and trembling" over time in giving ourselves up to the mutuality of an equal relationship with another.


    Maybe you didn't read the whole essay. Here is Williams:

    The body's grace itself only makes human sense if we have a language of grace in the first place; and that depends on having a language of creation and redemption. To be formed in our humanity by the loving delight of another is an experience whose contours we can identify most clearly and hopefully if we have also learned or are learning about being the object of the causeless loving delight of God, being the object of God's love for God through incorporation into the community of God's Spirit and the taking-on of the identify of God's child.

    If you spent more time trying to understand Williams' essay, and less time reading G. Williams' weak reactionary misreading in order to avoid challenging your theological assumptions, you might have gotten to that point. If you did read it, why did you leave it out? I don't see how you could have written the last paragraph I quoted if you'd read this. Oh, wait, you realized your error:

    Not only am I wrong for following scripture on the issue of homosexuality, I am stunting my physical and emotional growth in my relationship with my wife by doing so.

    Wait, was that a joke? Too bad, it was the truest thing you wrote in this whole post. This,

    Garry Williams says this is a natural outflowing from his general theological mistake in dismissing revelation in favor of experience.

    distills what seems to me as the essence of your response, the whole of which could have been written in two sentences:

    Rowan Williams doesn't believe that every word of the Pauline corpus (except on the rare occasion where Paul says the word "opinion" or something like it) is the directly revealed word of God. Therefore I don't have to take him seriously and can ignore every point he tries to make.

    Sorry if this was combative, but I was hoping that you'd really try to think about what Williams had to say. I'm quite disappointed.

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  2. Tyler,

    Relax a little - the part I said was good was actually really good. And some of what you are complaining about is a misunderstanding of me. This is the key to the other Williams criticism (which incidentally I did not read until I had gone through Archbishop Williams essay about 3 times):

    The method which Williams employs in his theological argument entails a significant non sequitur.

    1.He finds that God desires his people, and he identifies sexual desire with that desire in God. There may be some basis for this analogy, given that God is so often in Scripture depicted as the husband of his bride. It is, however, hermeneutically dubious to use the relation between God and his people to justify specific sexual activity"


    I agree. Nothing in God's desire for a loving relationship with me (or me being part of the Bride of Christ) implies any condoning of any of my specific sexual acts. If you have a hermeneutics for this, write it. I see no connection at all.

    (2)"the other is from heterosexual biblical examples to homosexual acts. This second leap is consistently and conspicuously absent in the Bible . . . Scripture does not make the step which Williams makes, in that it customarily marks a clear distinction between heterosexual and homosexual relations and compares aspects of God's relation to his people with the former and not the latter."

    True. It is these two points that Archbishop Williams has to defend scriptually - at least in framework. It is not a 100 page book. I didn't quote this from the other Williams before:

    To say that this objection is founded on a series of `very ambiguous texts' misses the force of the conservative moral argument and caricatures its basis. Certainly there is a strong case to be made from individual texts, as even a more liberal scholar such as Robert Gagnon recognizes in his seminal work on the subject. But the core of the conservative argument and the premise on which those texts themselves are built is the biblical doctrine of creation. This is not an isolated text, it is a reading of Genesis 1-­2 in the light of its key role in the canon as a whole and especially in the teaching of Jesus, where it has a normative function in sexual ethics (e.g. Matthew 19:3­1-2). For Jesus, the account of creation serves as the paradigm which God has set out for his world and relations within it. That is a basis for rejecting same­-sex relations which does not appeal to reproductivity, and which is based on neither fundamentalism nor non­scriptural theory.

    That is my criticism - he simply does not engage the obvious scriptual problems with homosexuality. Period. Since you know this is exactly what I am looking for in order to rethink my position; and you recommended I read this - you should understand if I am disappointed with (and critical of) this hole. The other Williams is writing his piece during the decision on whether Williams should be Archbishop - so the Archbishop has had 2-3 years to fill in this theoritical gap with however many pages are necessary. Did he?

    You imply that procreation is a necessary aspect of sexual life, if not the only point therein. It should follow that you oppose post-menopausal sex and birth control of any kind, right?

    Archbishop Williams: if we are looking for a sexual ethic that can be seriously informed by our Bible, there is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm, however important and theologically significant it may be.

    Me: Archbishop Williams does approach scripture in defending homosexuality in one way: he attacks procreation as the major factor in God's view of authentic sexual relations. Here I think he is right: I do not believe reproduction is the central point in God's plan for our "one flesh" relationships; although it is certainly a point.

    Doesn't he say procreation is a point? I gave him kudos here. I agreed with him. So huh? Whatever you think he said - I almost certainly agree with. However, it does not follow that separating procreation as part of God's plan for sex allows same-sex relations: the Biblical criticism, as the other Williams points out above, doesn't have anything to do with procreation either.

    I looked at the connection the Archbishop drew between the body's grace and God. I didn't deal with it because it doesn't address my issue. God's grace might flow through His Son; or through the Holy Spirit. Grace does not flow through our body to ourselves. If God's grace did come through our body - it would be grace to and experienced by the other person - not ourselves - and that is NOT what Archbishop Williams said.

    You brush off complementarity just as much as williams does.

    You saw the argument at your place. One flesh relationships turn two people INTO ONE PERSON - one person where the strengths and weaknesses of the two compliment each other. Besides, I said he brushed it off - and he did. If you think you know his position on this, state it. The whole Body of Christ is complimentary for that matter - and individual spiritual gifts are given to us depending on what area in which God wants us to compliment the others.

    Rowan Williams doesn't believe that every word of the Pauline corpus (except on the rare occasion where Paul says the word "opinion" or something like it) is the directly revealed word of God. Therefore I don't have to take him seriously and can ignore every point he tries to make.

    Actually, wasn't Paul all he quoted. My complaint would be that for those two major leaps of logic he ignored all scripture - not just Paul. And, I hardly disagree with every point.

    I disagreed that any grace outflows from our flesh to ourselves; and that homosexuals have some kind of advantage in being more real about their sexuality than heterosexuals.

    Me: Not only am I wrong for following scripture on the issue of homosexuality, I am stunting my physical and emotional growth in my relationship with my wife by doing so.

    You: Wait, was that a joke? Too bad, it was the truest thing you wrote in this whole post

    I consider you a friend despite our disagreements. I have never questioned the depth of your relationship with Laura, or what degree of risk and fear you have had to overcome to have a body, soul and mind connection with her (or whether you have such a relationship). This statement about my relationship with my wife is a pile of crap that was beneath you to shovel.

    Archbishops implication that having a heterosexist world view makes the fear and trembling of building a one flesh kind of relationship any less palpatable and dangerous is an equally high pile of crap.

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  3. *a calmer, more focused Tyler settles down to type*

    Sorry I got worked up. I still think that you remark that your bridge between "The Good" and "The Bad" was snide and off the mark, (I'm one to talk, right?) but I was probably expecting a reaction from you that you're unable to give and was naively surprised that you responded the way you did -- I think that Williams didn't really take the reactions of biblicists fully into consideration.

    Nothing in God's desire for a loving relationship with me (or me being part of the Bride of Christ) implies any condoning of any of my specific sexual acts. If you have a hermeneutics for this, write it.

    I'd say that, with Williams' idea of the body's grace, our specific sexual acts are an (imperfect -- this is important and present in Williams' essay) reflection of God's desire for a loving relationship with us. When these acts are engaged in in the manner (symmetrical, risky in the laying bare of oneself to the other) described, then they approach the sought-for ideal of accepting God's grace. This, then, is the natural purpose for sex, in Williams' theological view. The justification for homosexual acts is indirect -- this is why I think it's a mistake to call this essay a defense of homosexuality, even though it includes such a defense -- Williams' purpose is to, generally, discuss what sex is for. If Williams is right (and I think he is, obviously) in that this can be seen as a natural purpose for sex, then any two people making themselves vulnerable in a symmetrical relationship, committing fidelity all the while (unlike the example from the Raj Quartet, incidentially, as Williams would no doubt agree) are engaging in a natural sexual encounter. Romans 1:26-7 would then be a mistake on Paul's part.

    Laura and I actually had a conversation last night about a David Brooks column. She didn't like it because he failed to spell out what his main point is; I liked his rather vague conclusion -- I tend to prefer essays that make me think, and lay out an issue for me to do so without advocating a specific conclusion. Suggestion, rather than persuasion, I guess. I think that's kinda in play here (Gene Rogers, in the intro to this piece in Theology and Sexuality talks about how some will be bothered by this piece and claim, "There's no argument!")

    I wrote:

    You imply that procreation is a necessary aspect of sexual life, if not the only point therein. It should follow that you oppose post-menopausal sex and birth control of any kind, right?

    and you responded, quoting Williams' "[T]here is a good deal to steer us away from assuming that reproductive sex is a norm, however important and theologically significant it may be[,]"

    Doesn't he say procreation is a point? I gave him kudos here. I agreed with him. So huh? Whatever you think he said - I almost certainly agree with. However, it does not follow that separating procreation as part of God's plan for sex allows same-sex relations

    Okay, I missed your point earlier. Sorry. I think I did a decent job of laying out Williams' implicit justification of homosexual relations earlier in this comment, and separating procreation as a part of God's plan for sex is only a small part of that. Williams' point here is an answer to some really-existing Christians (of whom you are not one, I now see) who do argue that homo-sex is unnatural because it can't result in procreation. These Christians, militant Catholics who oppose all birth control even for married couples (a position more extreme than the Vatican's current one) for example, really exist, and I think my comment about post-menopausal sex, etc. is valid with regard to then. I was mistaken in using it here.

    With regard to complementarity, Williams wrote:

    ...a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures...

    You highlighted the first phrase. I would highlight the second. Williams isn't saying that complimentarity itself is unscriptural. He is saying that complimentarity between a penis and a vagina ("applied narrowly and crudely to phyiscal differentiation") as the core element of this complimentarity is a mistake. You wrote of complimentarity:

    One flesh relationships turn two people INTO ONE PERSON - one person where the strengths and weaknesses of the two compliment each other.

    Nothing about penises, nothing about vaginas. You're talking about psychological structures. There are plenty of queer couples for whom this is the case -- the butch/femme distinction (imperfect and incomplete as it is) testifies to this. Similar complimentarity isn't exclusively the domain of sexual relationships either -- witness a baseball team with its 9 position players, or perhaps a better example, a basketball team (even though it is an inferior sport) where 5 men move together as one organism (unless the team is the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies).

    I'm sorry about my little dig about your sarcastic remark at the conclusion of your piece. It was unneccessary, and not as funny as I thought it was at the time. Williams' point, I think, in claiming (with much less vehemence than you attribute to him) that same sex unions enable us to think about the divine love God feels for us in a way that straight relationships don't necessarily is that the conventional mindset that straight sex is ok, but queer sex isn't clouds the purpose of sex Williams describes and you, to an extent endorse. (He doesn't say it is impossible for you, or for other straight people to experience the body's grace.) Good same-sex relationships can't result in procreation, and therefor if we are to look at why they are good (or, for the biblicist, how they might be good) in Williams' eyes, leads us directly to contemplate this reading of the body's grace.

    Not only am I wrong for following scripture on the issue of homosexuality, I am stunting my physical and emotional growth in my relationship with my wife by doing so.

    You're overstating the case an missing the kernal of truth here. I do believe that you are seeking the kind of relationship that Williams describes, but by following two verses of scripture to the letter, you are seeking to withhold this grace from Christians programmed to desire the emotional and physical connections with people of the same (or questionable) gender. Passively, of course -- you don't wish to outlaw homosexual sex, but you have claimed that queer Christians ought to remain celebate. This, it seems to me, is a form of sexual miserliness, and I think you'll probably agree that miserliness, in addition to keeping resources from others, leads to an incompleteness in one's self.

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  4. Tyler,

    As I said under the good part, there is an exquisiteness to Williams understanding of the full dimension of what God wants a one flesh relationship to mean. I say he should have attempted to wrestle that away from "penis" and "vagina" as a necessary Tab P and Slot V for this type of relationship because he will have to to make his point (and after all, my own sex life doesn't always include Tab P AND Slot V). The other Williams is after all an Anglican - as are the African Anglicans. He doesn't have just us crazy fundamentalists to worry about. If he cannot "rehabilitate" those passages of scripture he is doomed.

    To me the least important part of the biblical marriage presentation is the actual sex act. One of the arguments for celibacy before marriage is that the mind and soul unity should come first - with the body unity last as a reflection of a lasting committment. I believe the sex act reaches a level of transcendence that the Archbishop would admire, and that few people experience, when it is held to that standard. The other Williams quotes the Archbishop as agreeing with the conservative positions on pre-marital sex; and questions how this jibes with allowing homosexual sex. I have no problem with the Archbishop here since I do not view "marriage" as either a church or a state rite; but as instituted with the actual sex act whenever you have it. That allows me the room to say you and Laura are "married"; but of course then broadens the number of people committing adultery in a biblical sense.

    Admittedly, both points under "the Ugly" are my own (the other Williams mentions neither). The weaker of the two was the last; but I think the Archbishop really says that since Gays are in essence "going out on a longer limb" to build their relationships that they experience deeper and greater grace. Frankly, he may have been pandering to the crowd - but either way it was a crock.

    And by his argument, wouldn't a AMB as a bisexual experience even greater grace by choosing her current partner. Doesn't she endure even greater risk; greater embarrassment; and greater possibility of even a worse disaster in this relationship. The core of my argument about seeking God's grace, rather than our body's, isn't that a gay man needs to be celebate; but that a gay men in choosing to be celebate with men may open God's grace in his life to finding a true mind, soul and body relationship with a women. In the Archbishop's argument, wouldn't there be astounding bodily grace in this. Certainly absolute celebacy would be better than some poor marriage selected because it was "the right thing to do".

    Oprah (I know, why was I watching that stuff) had a couple on the other day. The husband (they had been married for quite a number of years) had before they were married been transgender. They were married, body/soul/mind, and had children. He finally "couldn't stand it anymore" and had a sex change operation. The new "she" and her wife were on the show; and they made it clear that they were still committed to a lifetime, but celebate, relationship with each other. This is a beautiful thing to me. It was disgusting that Oprah (after being told about this committment TWICE) was still wondering if the new "she" wasn't itching to take the new Slot V for a test drive with some Tab P.

    I didn't catch the whole interview to know what the faith base of these folk were, if any - but it is God's grace acting through the wife that kept this marriage together "for better or worse". Whatever deep spiritual things this couple learns about sexuality in this process is again grace from God - and neither of their bodies.

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  5. Again, I think you're missing the point if you think Williams is claiming that homosexual couples (etc.) necessarily "experience deeper and greater grace" than heterosexual couples. Williams is talking about traps that heterosexist morality (not heterosexual marriages) leads to. I went looking for a paragraph that led you to believe what you wrote (there is nothing about actual couples at all in the paragraph you quoted) by searching for "identify certain patterns as sterile, undeveloped or even corrupt" and that phrase wasn't even in a paragraph dealing with homosexual (etc) couples.

    I'd be very surprised if Williams thought that there is something about queer unions that is inherently more graceful than straight ones. That's like saying that Calvinists are more saved than Catholics. He was saying in the paragraph you quoted at the end of your essay, I think, that saying "gay sex is wrong, but straight sex is ok" can lead one to look the other way at abusive, unhealthy relationships. It is of a piece with this:

    Nagel makes, in passing, a number of interesting observations on sexual encounters that either allow no "exposed spontaneity" (p 50) because they are bound to specific methods of sexual arousal - like sadomasochism - or permit only a limited awareness of the embodiment of the other (p 49) because there is an unbalance in the relation such that the desire of the other for me is irrelevant or minimal - rape, paedophilia, bestiality.

    These "asymmetrical" sexual practices have some claim to be called perverse in that they leave one agent in effective control of the situation - one agent, that is, who doesn't have to wait upon the desire of the other.  (Incidentally, if this suggests that, in a great many cultural settings, the socially licensed norm of heterosexual intercourse is a "perversion" - well, that is a perfectly serious suggestion...)


    Now back to you:

    The core of my argument about seeking God's grace, rather than our body's, isn't that a gay man needs to be celebate; but that a gay men in choosing to be celebate with men may open God's grace in his life to finding a true mind, soul and body relationship with a women.

    This may be the case. An aspect of Williams' argument seems to me to be that if a man develops a true mind, soul and body relationship with another man, then his relationship mirrors the grace that is given freely by God to Her children just as is the case with straight couples. Why is it so desirable for you that gay men marry women? Is it somehow more important for same-sex couples to aspire to celibacy than straight ones?

    I'm pretty sure the version of The Body's Grace that you've read is a truncated one. I seem to remember a lot of talk about celibacy in the one I read first. Do you remember reading anything about celibacy in straight marriages in this one? There's a good bit about that in the full version. Wouldn't straight couples committed to remaining celibate to each other have more energy to focus on the union of the mind, heart, and soul and be more able to avoid the physical desires that distract one from God? (Are you saying that you never get all "Yum, yum gimmie some!?") This was Williams' point there. He takes you a step further and advocates celibacy for all couples, usually late in life, to focus more pointedly on one's relationship with God, through whom all true grace flows.

    Oprah (I know, why was I watching that stuff)

    Oprah is the best minister in the United States. I'm glad you watch her show.

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  6. Tyler,

    Actually, one of those holdovers from my relationship with Women's Liberation in my radical days is a deep-seated belief that my partner's orgasism comes before mine. So sex is a work of giving for me - really always and for years. There are no quickies in my bedroom - no "get mine and run". My wife is actually a more often initiator than me in my old age. I get your point though.

    I am not saying it is more desirable or not for gay men to marry women. I am saying it is not at all clear to me that it is desirable for gay men to marry men under God's eyes and grace. If that falls outside, then the options are celebacy or women. I agree with Williams that a relationship that is "sterile, undeveloped or even corrupt" (hetero or homo) is not pleasing to, or honoring of, God; so "settling" for a women because God didn't like you with men isn't good either.

    I said in that other thread that if I were Gay I would have married and told everyone else to hang. I also said I would be taking my chances with God's opinion of that. As the other Williams said in his last part of his article - it is very possible that may lead me to eternal isolation from God. Not a good thing to have; and certainly a bad thing to advocate for others.

    I do not think I implied that celebacy for a gay "couple" would be better or worse than celebacy for a straight "couple". In the Oprah couple it was the partner who started out as a women who said they were "of course" remaining celebate even while remaining committed. I admit to a long-term curiosity about whether that will remain so; or given the history whether theologically it should remain so - that is one "lesbian" relationship where I am pretty sure sex would not be a sin. (It is an interesting paradox which I thought you and AMB would enjoy). The sex change is probably sin; but that would be the husband's problem. Certainly staying married is an amazingly non-sinful thing - incredible on the wife's part. Does the "equipment" in this case impact whether the sex act is sin?

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  7. Actually, one of those holdovers from my relationship with Women's Liberation in my radical days is a deep-seated belief that my partner's orgasism comes before mine.

    Orgasism. There's an -ism I can get behind!

    Did the post-op on Oprah really refer to herself (?) as a husband? This thread has gotten real weird. I hope someone else comments soon.

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  8. No, I missed that reference. Its the only way I can keep track of which women started that way.

    Couldn't remember how to spell it.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly