I need to be really careful writing this post, or I could get into some trouble. What I mean is that I am going to encroach on some potentially controversial territory here, and so a few things are necessary up front.
First, let me just remind everyone that I consider myself a Side B Christian who affirms the authority of the Bible and a sexual ethic that does not condone homosexual activity. Let that be the lens through which you read what I am about to say.
Furthermore, as I just made clear in some previous posts, I believe that homosexual desires are caused by the fall, exist contrary to the created order, and cause people to desire the wrong object. Therefore, SSA is sinful, but not the same as sinning. Rather, it is a temptation to sin, and therefore same-sex desires must be fought.
Ok, enough qualifiers, lets get into it. I was reading one of my favorite bloggers the other day, Eve Tushnet (seriously, go read everything she has ever written on homosexuality!). She was talking about how she is dissatisfied by the language of "disorder" that many (including me) use when talking about same-sex desires. Here's what she said:
Having said that, here's my problem with the "intrinsically disordered" language: I think it relies on a mechanistic understanding of eros. If sexual desire can be easily tweezed away from nonsexual longing and love and adoration then yeah, sure, I guess I can see the point of calling homosexual desire "disordered." But that's not how eros actually works! My lesbianism is part of why I form the friendships I form. It's part of why I volunteer at a pregnancy center. Not because I'm attracted to the women I counsel, but because my connection to other women does have an adoring and erotic component, and I wanted to find a way to express that connection through works of mercy. My lesbianism is part of why I love the authors I love. It's inextricable from who I am and how I live in the world. Therefore I can't help but think it's inextricable from my vocation."
(Enter angry mob) SLANDER AND CALUMNY*! BURN HIM AT THE STAKE! CUT HIS HEAD OFF! SLAP HIS WRIST LIGHTLY! (Awkward stares at that guy)
(Nick Defends himself) Wait, wait! Let me explain what I mean.
I believe that any desire that I experience for sexual activity with another male needs to be fought against. But here's the thing: Same-sex desire encompasses much more than my desire for sexual activity. When I experience an attraction to another man, BESIDES the sexual desire, I also desire to hang out with him, learn about his life, be his friend, and serve him. And those are GOOD things that are not disordered. I just feel them more intensely toward guys that I am attracted to than toward guys that I am not.
Eve continues in this direction:
And what's funny is that even the defenders of the "intrinsically disordered" language are defending so little. Basically all of them say one of two things: either "everything you do which is influenced by your lesbianism is tainted," which is bleakly hilarious if you've ever nursed a sick woman through her illness in part because you loved and were attracted to her; or "it just means that your eros can never be acted on, whereas even wrongly-directed heterosexual eros might (could) be in some hypothetical made-up world." Which is like... do we really want to be encouraging unhappily-married heteros to think, "I could totally act on this desire and it would be ordered!... you know, if the old ball-and-chain died, or we got an annulment"? I mean, at that point literally nothing is added by the "explanatory" language of disorder which wasn't already stated by the bare moral teaching: You don't get to have sex with ladies, case closed. I knew that already! What extra work is this jargon doing?"
Again, this is another reason why we must think about homosexuality in nuanced terms. My attractions to guys are multifaceted, and I must deal with each aspect accordingly. I need to fight any desire for inappropriate sexual activity tooth and nail. I am NOT denying that! But, I need not fight my desire to befriend and love and serve. These are good things.
Wesley Hill says something similar here. "[Gay Christians] can also find their same-sex attraction itself to be the thing that is taken up by God and used as the means to draw them out of themselves." Out of themselves into what? Love, service, friendship, and other beautiful things that they might not have done if they weren't attracted to someone. These are opportunities to take a desire, send it through the cleansing of the cross, kill the sin, and express it in a way that is no longer disordered. Fight what is wrong, and pursue what is right.
I'd welcome thoughts on this. I won't pretend to have thought through all of the implications, so please help me out if you want! But be nice...I'm trying to pursue truth and live the tensions of life well.
*This post is brought to you by the word calumny. Use it in a sentence today. Feel cool.