23 January 2009

Christian perspectives on homosexuality

Mike Morrell, in a comment on Tony Jones's blog, offers an extremely thoughtful and helpful map of the range of Christian perspectives on issues of sexual orientation. Mike's aim is
to lay out in as concise a manner as possible my own readings, prayer, and reflection in this these past few years, showing essentially four different options people of faith have in this regard. I'm pretty sure we all fall into one of these four understandings. My goal in showing them in a descriptive, matter-of-fact manner is to humanize all four perspectives, so that we don't demonize one another.
In the end, he really only comes up with three perspectives, but the rest is so good that I do not deduct points for that. :-)

Really, if you care about or are even interested in these issues, check it out. It's worth a read. (As usual on blogs, though, your mileage may vary in the comments section.)

HT: The Moff (via Facebook)

12 January 2009

Faith, relationship, betrayal

"The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty." - Anne Lamott

Lately, I've been having some conversations with friends and loved ones on the subject of relationships. (Close friendships, romantic relationships, marriages, etc.) Are they worth the risk? Do they inevitably contain the seeds of deep disappointment, and even betrayal? Surely there are some relationships which can be counted on for life? Or at least ones that we will look back upon, in our old age, as being rock solid?

So I've been thinking about that, and here's a thought I have.

All close relationships - from a friendship to a business partnership to a marriage - are built on faith and trust. And as St. Anne says in the quote above (which might not be original to her), certainty is the opposite of faith. I think any faith-based relationship (the only other kind being a shallow, faith-free relationship) has risk built in, right from the get-go. There is no certainty in relationships. That's not possible, given that the other party is a person of free will, and always fundamentally a mystery to you (and, probably, to herself as well). Every relationship contains the seeds of deep disappointment, pain, and (if the relationship is close and long-lasting), probably full-blown betrayal. This is what I think.

Further, I think this applies even to our relationship with God. Before I defend that statement, let me make a claim about the nature of disappointment and betrayal. In my opinion, the only meaningful standard for disappointment/betrayal is the subjective opinion of the wounded party. In other words, if you feel that I have disappointed or betrayed you, then this is in fact the case, no matter the intent behind my actions. What other standard is possible? If you feel betrayed by my action, is that betrayal made untrue if I was "doing my best" or "had your best interest at heart"? Does that change the emotional impact of betrayal (at least initially)? Are those things even possible to determine coherently? What exactly does "doing one's best" mean, anyway? I could always have tried harder, been more thoughtful, listened more carefully to you.

So if you grant me that betrayal is determined in the heart of the betrayed, then maybe you'll see where I'm coming from when I say that we will all, certainly, be betrayed by God. No matter how humble we are, no matter how spiritual, how pious, no matter how healthy our prayer life, there will come a day when a prayer we prayed with all the depth of our being goes unanswered - at least as far as we can tell. And we will feel betrayed by God. And that betrayal will be, in my opinion, all too real. (There are many well-worn defenses of God in situations like these, and to me they all boil down to, "You know, God must have been doing God's best.")

If anyone reading this cannot recall a time when they've experienced this kind of betrayal by God, I'd be very surprised.

So this (I think) is why our relationship with God, as with others, is characterized by faith - by trust - by confidence - but not by certainty. And faith implies risk. And relationship, I believe, implies betrayal. And it's damn well worth it anyway.

A corollary to this theory goes a long way toward making up for this, if you ask me. It says that we should see every single blessing we receive - from God, from our spouse, from our family, friends, beloved, or a stranger on the street - as a gift of grace.

Loving God, you betraying bastard, please help us to live lives of risk and grace. Amen.

photo of Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Life of Christ: Kiss of Judas, at the Cappella degli scrovegni a Padova by Carla216 (rights)