Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Lewis On Homosexuality

Hey everyone! Welcome to October, which if you disregard the Halloween stuff is probably one of my favorite months! The weather is beautiful outside, Fall Break is just around the corner (I have nothing planned... and that feels awesome!) and I updated my music for the month as well (though I'm still reading through Kim as steadily as I can, so the book list might stay that way for a while). Also, I added a new comment policy, since I think it's a good idea for a blogger to do. Please take a note of it before you comment.

I've been meaning to write today's post for several months, but I just haven't gotten around to it. I came across this letter through a friend of mine, and it's from one of my favorite authors: the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this man's writings helped me become a serious Christian (most notably The Screwtape Letters), so obviously I have a great amount of respect for him, and I was curious what his views were on homosexuality.

I was sure he'd be traditional in regards to sexual behavior. I am too. But I was curious about what his attitude would be concerning today's identity politics and ex-gay squabbles. Of course, the world was a very different place back when he was writing, and those things didn't even exist, but I was hoping I could glean something from his attitude and apply it to today. Turns out he seemed to be ahead of his time, and almost addresses those issues directly, though he also, of course, is limited by his own time period and lack of experience with the subject of homosexuality.

Here's the letter in full. I was thinking of going through it line by line, saying what I did and didn't like, but that really isn't necessary. I think it's pretty obvious what's good about it, and it's also pretty obvious that the bad stuff was born out of ignorance brought about by the more conservative culture at the time more than anything else.

Letter from C. S. Lewis regarding homosexuality, quoted in Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy, pp. 146-148, in response to a question about a couple of Christian students of Vanauken who were homosexual and had come to him for advice:

I have seen less than you but more than I wanted of this terrible problem. I will discuss your letter with those whom I think wise in Christ. This is only an interim report. First, to map out the boundaries within which all discussion must go on, I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin. This leaves the homo. no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying. Second, our speculations on the cause of the abnormality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance. The disciples were not told why (in terms of efficient cause) the man was born blind (Jn. IX 1-3): only the final cause, that the works of God shd. be made manifest in him. This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e. that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, wh. will 'turn the necessity to glorious gain.' Of course, the first step must be to accept any privations wh., if so disabled, we can't lawfully get. The homo. has to accept sexual abstinence just as the poor man has to forego otherwise lawful pleasures because he wd. be unjust to his wife and children if he took them. That is merely a negative condition. What shd. the positive life of the homo. be? I wish I had a letter wh. a pious male homo., now dead, once wrote to me--but of course it was the sort of letter one takes care to destroy. He believed that his necessity could be turned to spiritual gain: that there were certain kinds of sympathy and understanding, a certain social role which mere men and mere women cd. not give. But it is all horribly vague and long ago. Perhaps any homo. who humbly accepts his cross and puts himself under Divine guidance will, however, be shown the way. I am sure that any attempt to evade it (e.g. by mock or quasi-marriage with a member of one's own sex even if this does not lead to any carnal act) is the wrong way. Jealousy (this another homo. admitted to me) is far more rampant and deadly among them than among us. And I don't think little concessions like wearing the clothes of the other sex in private is the right line, either. It is the duties, burdens, the characteristic virtues of the other sex, I suspect, which the patient must try to cultivate. I have mentioned humility because male homos. (I don't know about women) are rather apt, the moment they find you don't treat them with horror and contempt, to rush to the opposite pole and start implying that they are somehow superior to the normal type. I wish I could be more definite. All I have really said is that, like all other tribulations, it must be offered to God and His guidance how to use it must be sought.

But while I'm here, I guess I can go through my favorite quotes, and quotes that I think more mainstream ex-gay ministries would do well to listen to.

"I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin. This leaves the homo. no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying."

"Second, our speculations on the cause of the abnormality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance. The disciples were not told why (in terms of efficient cause) the man was born blind (Jn. IX 1-3): only the final cause, that the works of God shd. be made manifest in him."

"This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e. that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, wh. will 'turn the necessity to glorious gain.'"


"I have mentioned humility because male homos. (I don't know about women) are rather apt, the moment they find you don't treat them with horror and contempt, to rush to the opposite pole and start implying that they are somehow superior to the normal type"

I quote that last line not because I believe it applies to all (or even most) gay men, but mainly because I know I often have the tendency to use my celibacy as a point of pride and lord it over people (Disputed Mutability wrote about that condition in this splendid post once; you should give it a read). Well, I guess it may apply to a lot of us, since there were quite a few people who responded to DM's post with a "me too!" And I was one of them. :)

Either way, I'm really interested in taking this letter apart through discussion in the comments. Despite all the negatives in it, I really think it's one of the most tempered, clear, loving, yet firm opinions about homosexuality I've ever read (and I wish I could have read the rest of this conversation, because presumably it continued). What do you guys think?

43 comments:

MR said...

I didn't know that CS Lewis ever wrote on this subject. So many conservative Christians have so much respect for Lewis. People will definitely consider my views on this more seriously if I can quote Lewis to back me up!

Lewis said, "I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin. This leaves the homo. no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying."

I think he is implying here that for many people, change to heterosexuality will not happen. This is something many conservative Christians need to understand. Hopefully quoting Lewis will help me persuade them I don't need reparative therapy!

Jay said...

MR: I don't know if he's saying it definitely won't happen. I know a change to at least a functioning heterosexual marriage has been possible for many people.

I think what's important about that quote is that he obviously doesn't consider such a change to heterosexuality to be necessary to be a pious Christian. It's great if it happens, but if not you're no worse off than any other single.

So no, I don't think he'd recommend reparative therapy, since some of the precepts behind that is that you MUST be hetero-oriented, no matter how pure your sex life (active and mental) is.

Dan in Michigan said...

I read A Severe Mercy years ago, and was blown away when I read this letter to Sheldon Van Auken. In many ways, my view of my own struggles with homosexual were shaped by Lewis, not necessarily because of this letter, but in other parts of his writing. When I stumbled upon this letter, it reinforced what I had already come to believe, and as Lewis tends to do, it is pithy and to the point.

The most important part of this letter for me has always been this part:

"This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e. that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, wh. will 'turn the necessity to glorious gain.'"

For me, this is directly linked to the passage in The Great Divorce where Lewis writes about the lizard of lust being transformed into a stallion. The very thing in our lives that can cause us so much pain and suffering, or in the case of some addicted to sex, can, through the grace of God be transformed into something beautiful. For me, I have come to view my struggle with my homosexual desires to be the source of my "vocation," as Lewis says.

I've reached a point in my life, through a couple of decades of thinking about all of this that homosexual desires in men and women has far less to do with sexuality than it does suffering. For me, it's not so much a question of "reparative therapy" or change but rather I've come to view this as my daily cross to bear. I've been thinking about how it can be used, offered up to God as a "holy and living sacrifice."

Through that lens, I've come to view my desires for men, and my need to overcome them, as something that is being redeemed by God in powerful ways and used by God to help shape me into becoming the man he wants me to be. Whenever anyone denies themselves, and says to God as Christ said in the garden, "Not my will, but thine be done," I think powerful things happen in the Kingdom of God.

I was just reading in Hebrews today something that speaks to this for me, and the hardship that is endured by any man or woman who struggles with homosexual desires, and yet seeks to live a celibate life:

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Don't get me wrong--I don't view my desires for men as "punishment." It's a hardship, and when the writer of Hebrews says "endure hardships as discipline" I take that to heart. I guess in my mind I tend to turn my hardship with homosexual desires more into "training and correction." God uses my very struggles, and the temptations I face, to make me more like Him. In that respect, I view my struggles as a gift. Paul said he rejoiced in his sufferings, and that he glories in his weakness. Lord knows I've got plenty of weakness when it comes to desiring men!

All that to say that I've come to embrace not my "homosexuality," but rather my struggle against my desires as a gift from God to cause me to draw near to him, to rely on him more fully. That's part of what I see is my vocation, and the struggle turned to "glorious gain."

Jay, if you love Lewis, then you probably love Tolkein. He coined a term that I use all the time when talking about my homosexual desires, and it fits in with Lewis's phrase "glorious gain." Tolkein coined the phrase "eucatastrophe" from the Greek word "eu," meaning good. Thus the "good" catastrophe, like when Gandalf plunged to his death and was feared lost for all time, only to return more glorious than before.

Tolkein said that the greatest tales of all time have moments of catastrophe that are redeemed, and that the greatest example of a eucatastrophe was the death of Jesus Christ.

For me, I've come to view my struggles as a eucatastrophe--it's all being redeemed by a loving and merciful Father.

But now I'm just rambling tons. I do have a blog, but I don't want to link to it publicly, though I'd enjoy sharing it with you. I think in many ways we're on the same page, and on my blog I've written quite a bit about suffering--you may find it intriguing.

Here's my email, if you're interested:

DaninMichigan@yahoo.com

RikFleming said...

Jay,

The timing of your post could not have been better - THANKS!

But, as a book-aholic... now there is ANOTHER I feel I have to BUY! :)

David said...

I would comment but I think it would be too long. I may take to pecking out at spare moments a reply on my own blog.

Norm! said...

I appreciate Lewis' careful writing about this topic and his disclaimer that it is only an "interim report". I think more of us on all sides of the issue need to admit that our understanding is interim.

His opening is interesting:

"I have seen less than you but more than I wanted of this terrible problem..."

My impression is that in pre-1960s, sexuality was a taboo topic, so it is amazing that some people felt they could discuss this topic with Lewis. [For some reason his 'more than I wanted' statement leads me to imagine Lewis surrounded by a gaggle of pious, cross-dressing, jealous, and superior gays. :) ]

It's not fair to Lewis to pick apart his sentences, so could I be reading too much into this?:

"... It is the duties, burdens, the characteristic virtues of the other sex, I suspect, which the patient must try to cultivate. ..."

Could Lewis suggest that gays should "cultivate" appreciation of the opposite sex? Is he endorsing some type of 'ex-gay' position? Does he believe gay men dislike or are repulsed by women?

While I think Lewis was sincere in his intentions of supporting struggling gay Christians, I can see why many would prefer to not see themselves as "patients" with a life long "terrible problem", burden, or tribulation. Certainly, the ex-gay movement's message of "change" is more optimistic and attractive.

Jay said...

Dan: You certainly did ramble, but I also think your writings were good and Christ-centered, so you rambled well. :) I also like that Tolkein term.

Rik: You are very welcome. I guess there's a reason I put it off for so long, then. :) Hope the book doesn't cost too much.

David: Well, I look forward to anything you have to write.

Norm: I think Lewis' attitude (at least as presented here) was one of the least-judgmental and open-minded that you could fine amongst pre-1960s Christians. It's not a surprise that people would go to him with problems that others would consider taboo.

I was also confused by the quote about cultivation. I thought, perhaps, that since he obviously confused homosexuality and gender-identity issues (hence the note about the cross-dresser), he might have been suggesting that, instead of taking on the appearance of a woman, a man with that inclination should instead try to focus on cultivating a woman's characteristic virtues instead.

But of course we know nowadays that homosexuality and gender-identity issues don't go hand-in-hand, and I have no way of knowing what Lewis really meant. I don't think he was suggesting an ex-gay route, though. It just doesn't seem worded that way to me.

And the ex-gay way of change may be more optimistic, because it's born out of a more optimistic church, but I think the Bible (and Lewis) favored a life of humble hardship. And I don't think Lewis saw homosexuality as any more of a "terrible problem" or tribulation than any other sin.

Norm! said...

Hi Jay,

CS Lewis was definitely open-minded and readers identified with his writings.

You're probably right that Lewis' "cultivation" comment may have been directed more at gender-identity. He may have understood homosexuality to be related to gender identity issues.

I wonder what Lewis' thoughts would be of today's American consumer-oriented, conservative Christianity. I have hard time seeing how the glossy, attractive, super-positive Christianity that seems common today could also promote that Christianity is a humble hardship. Same-sex attractions, like so many other life challenges, may just be a 'condition' that some Christians have to live with each day without a self-help solution.

Joe said...

What a great find. I knew that Lewis had made a few cryptic remarks about homosexuality but I didn't realise he had written anythng as insightful as this.

I'm going to take a copy with me to the True Freedom Trust conference (tomorrow) and ask a few other guys what they think about it.

Brady said...

Jay- very good find. Great read. I'm confused to your support of the last quote you pulled out, though.

They way I read it is that if you are nice to a gay person, that person is apt to then show how much superior they are than straight people.

Is that how you read it, and if so, is that really your view? I don't know, it just seems to single out gay people. I think that's really just part of human nature.

Jay said...

Brady: I think I made it pretty clear that I don't think that quote applies to all gay people. I said:

"I quote that last line not because I believe it applies to all (or even most) gay men, but mainly because I know I often have the tendency to use my celibacy as a point of pride and lord it over people."

I quoted it because it spoke to me personally. I think Lewis was singling out gay people, but also remember that he was much more limited in experience than people of today are.

Brady said...

Jay- my apologies on that, you're right. I wasn't pleased with the quote and ran right over your disclaimer. Man, apparently I was too quick on the draw this morning. Don't hate me ;-)

Devlin said...

Jay, Interesting comment about superiority and celibacy etc. I was celibate for 3 months and it was pretty easy, as I didn't make it a life commitment etc, and I found I was floating off the planet feeling very ungrounded at times. I did it to help me focus on other areas of my life. There was no right or wrong about sex perse, but I did think it would get me higher spiritualy, though I was pretty high already if I focused. That seemed to be my final key, focus. It did not make any difference so I stopped and found the experiment telling. I am wonderng if your celibacy is a life time commitment, and do you consider celibacy a total no sex deal, self sex included? And do you seem higher spiritually? That sounds much like the vow a Catholic priest might take. If you fall off the wagon so to speak, is there alot of guilt etc? I enjoyed Lewis' take on things but agree things are a bit spotty due to the time period. Now if we just had H.G. Well's' time machine . . .

Jay said...

Devlin: I don't know if I consider myself "higher spiritually" because I am celibate. In fact, I really don't know how I would gage that, since I am more-or-less a virgin anyway, so I really have nothing to contrast my current state to.

Yes, I consider my celibacy both lifetime (unless I ever find myself attracted to women - then marriage would be an option), and a "total no sex deal" (since the Bible is clear about being pure in both mind and body).

I am celibate not in order to reach some sort of emotional state of feeling "spiritual." I am celibate because I believe in the Bible's prohibitions on same-sex sexual activity. If I do stumble (and the majority of my stumbles have been mental, not physical), then yes, there is some guilt. I think when any Christian does something they know to be wrong, they feel guilty.

The trick is that we also know that Christ has taken away the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross. So we repent of them, ask for forgiveness, and try to do better next time. Will any Christian get to a point where they stop sinning completely? Well, not in this life. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do everything we can to please God. It's difficult, but in the end one has to have faith that it's worth it.

Brandon said...

"...but in the end one has to have faith that it's worth it."

Isn't that so very true?

Jay thanks for posting this. I've been an admirer of Lewis since this last winter after reading Mere Christianity. I loved it. And I've tried finding the time to read some of his other books for a while now, but sadly still haven't. But I'd wondered what his thoughts on homosexuality might have been. I'm so glad you found this and posted it.

I liked that second quote you mentioned in particular. It took me some time to realize the cause wasn't as important as simply obeying God, and this quote seems to emphasize that--that the reason behind it shouldn't matter, but obeying God regardless does.

Hope you have a good fall break. I'm looking forward to mine as well. I don't know about you, but the school work is just about to kill me--there's too much of it! So I need the break.

God bless.

Kurmudge said...

I think that Lewis' comment about seeing more than he wanted to of this is rooted in his boarding school experiences. If you read his autobiography, written in the early 1950's before he had met Joy Gresham, "Surprised By Joy", note that he actually mentions the prevalence of "buggery" in the school as a sort of initiation perpetrated on new boys by the upperclassmen, just as is often encountered in a prison.

Lewis also had another relationship as a young man with a woman twice his age that was believed to have been a bit kinky, and it is generally thought that his celibacy after becoming a Christian was a consequence of guilt over some of the earlier "different" sexuality in his life. This, of course, dissipated in a hurry after he got married to Gresham, when he felt that God have given him back a gift of sexual expression.

But a beauty of Lewis is that he indeed does not get into the all-too-common fundamentalist trap of ranking sins by degree of guilt; Romans 3 agrees with him. We all have issues, it is how we deal with them that counts.

But, Norm, I disagreee with this statement: "I have hard time seeing how the glossy, attractive, super-positive Christianity that seems common today could also promote that Christianity is a humble hardship." That description of the "prosperity gospel" is certainly applicable to televangelists. But that generalization is a bit of a cliche, I think. For every Joel Osteen (and I know too little about him, really, and too much about my own shortcomings as a Christian, to pass judgement on him or anyone else), there are 10 hard-working people in (non-"emergent") churches of all sizes, taking care of people who are hurting, feeding the poor, comforting the sad, etc., and preaching Christ and Him crucified.

I am a bit frustrated with the broad-brush condemnations I see of the "religious right" among some writers (Brian McLaren, Wallis, Campolo, etc.)(. I don't think that Jesus would be in that mode today- because He condemned it in His own day- any more than He would be impressed by megachurches because of their size.

He would look to see if they were about His Father's business, no matter how prosaic or glossy the trappings.

Norm! said...

Hi Kurmudge,

The "super-positive Christianity" I referred to was the consistently upbeat, self-help, and consumer-oriented trend I've noticed in churches. "Prosperity gospel" churches would probably be included, but I would characterize many non-prosperity gospel churches as super-positive as well. From small-low-income-racial-minority-churches, to mainline-denominations, to high-income-suburban-megachurches, the message is often similar: becoming Christian results in wellness, happiness, and fulfillment (cue praise music).

From my experience and observations, much of Christian culture & media market Christianity as a solution to life's challenges. They often showcase before-after change testimonies, offer self-help seminars & support groups, and incorporate psychobabble analysis into sermons. The point of my prior comment was that it's hard to see how Lewis' humble hardship would fit into the super-positive Christianity message. Sometimes life challenges cannot be overcome within a lifetime and faith is merely a means of carrying an unfair burden.

MICHAEL said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jay said...

Michael: I'm deleting your comment because you didn't address the topic of the post or any of the commenters in this thread. That, and you basically just cut and pasted the entirety of your most recent blog post into my comment thread. That's called "spamming."

Jon said...

1. Thanks for pointing this out. You can also read "Surprised by Joy" to get another more subtle take on the issue of homosexuality by C.S. Lewis.

2. Thanks for also pointing gout Disputed Mutability's post on the matter. I especially liked this part:

” If I have to give up my sexuality and any hope of a future relationship, well, that’s all I’m giving up. If God’s asking this hard thing of me that He isn’t asking of all these other people, then He has no business holding me to the same standards as He’s holding them in other areas.”

That was an explicit part of my attitude not too long ago, and it still hangs around. In my worst moments, I would use it to nurture some dark, uncaring thoughts towards the struggles of other. After all, other people didn't really have any problems to speak of. Why wouldn't they just stop whining and enjoy being straight?

3. I have had the feeling from time to time that being in this situation has made me more understanding of the problems other people go through.

I also regularly have times when I am not willing to be patient with others at all though, so I am not sure if I have gained any net "benefit" in this area.

Maybe I would be worse off in this area if I did not have same-sex attractions?

4. I was going to link to an article I read saying that gay bosses tend to be more understanding; but I honestly cannot remember where I read it and Google is not helping.
It could have been in a magazine like Esquire or something, but I cannot remember.

I am sure I wish to say more, but I am in a hurry.

Jay said...

Jon: I've read "Surprised by Joy." Granted, C.S. Lewis doesn't even refer to the homosexuality there as homosexuality, and I would be inclined to agree, since he was describing acts that took place within the same-sex confines of a boarding school.

However, I did like how he argued that of all the sins that went on at that boarding school, he actually found more good in the same-sex relationships, since it gave students who normally were completely self-centered a chance to go outside of themselves.

And Disputed Mutability can often be very gifted in holding up a mirror. I suggest you read more of her. She's awesome.

I don't know exactly what benefits we get from having same-sex attractions, or if those positive traits would be there if we had same-sex attractions or not. It's really impossible to separate oneself from things that have largely expected one's life experiences.

I do think that, no matter what, we should try to examine ourselves and see what gifts we have, and then move forward using those gifts for Christ. Thanks for your comment, and stop by again!

Nicholas said...

Horrible words. I do not find his thinking to be even remotely "advanced". It is about as medieval as the witch-burners of the same era. Why not post a letter from Auden, Gide, or other un-closeted homosexuals for their opinions re. Christ and homosexuality. You'll be stunned at the beauty, honesty, and downright "Christianness" of their points of view. Lewis had his merits and his flaws - misunderstanding the inevitable sexuality (and beauty) of partnership-love was one of his flaws.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Nicholas on that. I would not concur with anything that requires self-denial to such an extent that it would represent the equivalent of self-lobotomizing. In what sense would there be any real "you" left? The most significant application of Christianity is to love. That has to include oneself, as you are. Erasing yourself to appease to false concepts of what God wants, expects, from humans in their sexual identities or behaviours, is not going to include such annihilation of your self. The whole idea of having to give up that, to please God, is childish at best and horrifically misguided at worst.

College Jay said...

Anonymous: So if a person feels something, it is automatically good, "part of oneself," and must be accepted? I'm not sure I follow. And while I agree that the most significant application of Christianity is love, it's not romantic love that the Bible highlights, and it's certainly not "love of oneself" (after all, how often does Scripture speak of the fact that we must die to ourselves?) It is love for God (which means following His commandments) and love for our neighbors.

Anonymous said...

College Jay,

I have great respect for you.

Very much enjoy reading your blog.

P.R.Mahoney said...

Just surfing around and found your blog on Lewis and homosexuality. Both subjects dear to my heart. I find it interesting that we would try to reconcile our thoughts and behaviors to harmonize with Lewis' thoughts on a subject like this. It's thought provoking for sure. But it raises more questions than it answers. Like questions about his brothers drinking or his relationship with what’s her name, the housekeeper he was "involved" with' let alone his marriages to Joy. No feeling, I agree do not constitute my "true nature", whatever that means, but to suppress my ability to love because it does not fit into our understanding of traditional marriage is nonsense. To assume that my life long affections and yearnings are sinful in and of themselves because they involve human beings of the same gender is nonsense as well. I am not saying Lewis was being foolish but I am saying he lacked a perspective that is essential in these discussions today. (I had read everything I could get my hands on about Homosexuality, including the passage quoted in Sheldon's book. I even wrote him hoping to find the courage to ask him for help. He wrote back a nice note but I was too terified to actually broach the subject. Lewis' ideas esp. about gender and roles was a reflection of his time and culture. The harm done to LGBT people in our time in conservative Christian churches and organizations is shameful and not to be tolerated. The works of CS Lewis have nurtured my heart and stimulated my mind for over 40 years. Born again during a service at a Plymouth Brethren Bible Chapel, introduced to Lewis shortly there after, his writings served me well as I became a Fundamentalist minister. I struggle for years celibate and ashamed of myself and my thoughts. Eventually I gained the courage to talk about what was happening in my life with other believers. My Bible believing church demoted to janitor and sent me to "Love in Action" in LA in the early 80's to help me "overcome" my homosexuality. By the end of that year I was so brutalized and afflicted by my church family that I decided it would be better to face up to the reality of the situation and get honest with my family, friends and community. I trusted God to do what ever it was he wanted to do with me, come hell or high water. I was excommunicated and found myself attending a little Episcopal church. There I met Christians who didn't care if I was gay. I eventually found MCC and learned that there were lots of gay Christians who believed the Bible was God's word but who had a different take on what "those" passages meant! I was shocked. All that time believing all that crazy stuff about gay people from folks who didn't know what they were talking about! Grrrr. I am thankful that Christ remained faithful in the midst of all my confusion. So here I am today, a happy productive member of society, living in a loving nurturing relationship with my partner of 24 years. God is good; but some people are often well intended but seriously misinformed.

Raul Martins said...

"To assume that my life long affections and yearnings are sinful in and of themselves because they involve human beings of the same gender is nonsense as well. I am not saying Lewis was being foolish but I am saying he lacked a perspective that is essential in these discussions today." Wrong. Homossexuality is inherently bad, because God says so. So it is selfishness, adultery, fornication, idolatry, and so on. Our nature is corrupted. Mine and yours. That is, we cannot trust in our instincts, nor in our heart, which is deceitful and wicked. If a person feels happy being selfish, that doesn't make selfishness a good thing. If God says that relationship between two peoples of the same sex is sinful, then, by definition, this is sinful. I have so many faults as a Cristian, so many! I am not better than you. But I accept the word of God as it is. And, it's crystal clear about that issue. The Bible condemns Homossexuality. You must fight against it, repent, seek for strenght, and God will give you. But don't maculate His holy name. He condemns homossexuality. Oh, my friend! Open your eyes and see! Face the truth! And then, you will be free.

P.R.Mahoney said...

Why do people continue to to promote ideas about scripture, history and sexuality that conform to their preconceptions and prejudices? Homosexuality as we understand it today is not inherently bad, and like any sort of human behaviour and feeling can be a vehicle for love and nurture, or selfishness. Many many Bible believing people,Catholic and Evangelical have come to the conclusion that God has not condemned homosexuality as we understand it today. The Scriptures used to condemn LGBT folks refer to behaviors like rape and prostitution, and not same sex relationships. Fear and bigotry hae often been supported by our misunderstandings and misuse of Scripture. I can't believe Lewis would supported such bigotry in light of our ability to speak for ourselves, unashamed and out as we are.

Truthspeaker said...

I think we need to ask is there a rational basis for Christianity opposing homosexuality? (After all, Lewis was a rationalist, famous for using reason to justify religion). One could argue against certain specific homosexual acts, which might carry increased risk of disease e.g. unprotected anal sex. But one can't really argue against homosexual acts that are safe e.g. kissing, cuddling and mutual masturbation - acts which are non-violent and carry virtually no risk of disease. So the only conclusion I can reach is ... Christianity opposes homosexuality because Christianity is anti-pleasure or the pleasure of homosexuality might distract believers from Christian duty.

Any thoughts?

Aaron said...

I am a young gay man raised on a Conservative , Fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. After finally accepting the fact that I am gay I was forced to abandon the faith I had been raised in and had come to accept as my own. Everyone around me from teachers , to family members , to pastors told me that because I was gay I was going to hell , that I was sick and that the affection I felt for certian members of my own sex was wrong and perverted. I had three choices , turn straight , lifelong abstinence , or eternal torture. I cannot be physcially attracted to women , it is fundamentally impossible for me just as being physically attracted to men would be impossible for a heterosexual male. And to be chaste and lonely for my entire life seems almost as bad as death I cannot even imagine plannig my future alone. Telling someone that they have been born with an affliction that they did not choose and then telling them that because of that they have to go without the one thing that every human being longs for is cruel.

So , I told my parents that I no longer believed in God. After all , what was the point? The way I saw it I'd better hope there was no God because if there was I was going to spend forever burning in agony. My parents think I chose my sexuality and that if I only really tried I could be cured. My uncle , a pastor , told me "God doesn't make people gay." and gave me my own personal sermon on Sodom and Gomorrah. Despite my repeated attempts to engage them in calm , intellegent dialogue my parents refuse to believe anything other than what they've been taught , that being gay is a choice and those who make it are going to hell.

I would like to believe in God. Before my coming out my faith was an enormous part of my life. And C.S Lewis was among my favorite religious authors. I thought his take on Homosexuality was compassionate yet still not entirely accurate. Why would it be a sin to be born with an affliction? Why would God create a whole group of people with natural desires for companionship and love and then explicity deny them these things? What God could do that?

P.R.Mahoney said...

During the long process of "coming out" I realized that I was going to have to risk being honest with myself and others, often in spite of what others thought and taught about God and human sexuality. I was not willing to put my relationship with Christ on a shelf somewhere to explore my sexuality (as some friends advised).I believed he loved me and wanted what was in my best interest, regardless of what others were saying. So I continued to struggle and eventually found a better way to see myself, others and the God of my understanding. I let go of old ideas and became willing to make changes. This was sometimes painful and confusing, often rewarding and joyful. Looking back, I see that life is indeed a journey, and like the proverbial onion, each layer reveals another. Coming to terms with my sexuality did not complete or derail the process. Each day brings us opportunities for personal growth and the development of relationships. Accepting myself as a work in progress is essential. This includes my ideas about religion, scripture, dogma, ideas, and opinions about God. To settle for a worldview of self loathing, judgment and guilt does not, in my opinion, serve anyone well, let alone speak to the truth of Gods love, compassion and creativity. I am so very grateful having come this far on the journey. This year by the grace of God, I celebrate 23 years with my same sex partner, 13 years clean and sober, and am living a life that brings satisfaction, joy and challenges. God is good. However, my ideas about God are my ideas, often just vague shadows of His true being and nature. He is more than my mind or the minds and imagination of others can begin to conceive. But we can know Him in the journey, for we do not walk alone.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to make a comment on the single life itself since some seem to think it's a terrible burden.

I'm a straight woman. I currently have a boyfriend, (I'm 26), but have never had sex. If I never get married, I never will have sex. I have physical desires just like anybody, but don't think sex is the be-all end-all of life. And I'm a little tired of the viewpoint that if you don't have sex you're just simply going to die!

Paul talked about how he thought it was better for him to not be married so he could basically give his whole life to preaching the Gospel. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with being married and having a family, on the contrary. But it does mean that you can serve God in whatever situation you find yourself in - single, married, married without children, eunuch, whatever.

I don't think celibacy is a mark of spirituality. I would actually deter someone who could have a wife and a family from deciding on singleness just to be more "spiritual". I view that as flawed thinking. God created the marriage relationship. There's nothing wrong with it. But if you don't find yourself with your prince or princess, it's not the end of the world, contrary to what Disney might say.

I'm not gay, but don't really see how the struggles of an unmarried gay person are that much different than the struggles of an unmarried straight person. Both are sexual beings, albeit desiring different things. The single ladies I've known in my life who've become teachers and use their spare time to take a mission trip here or there or minister to others have sexual desires, I'm sure. But God never brought Mr. Right into their life and so they've served Him single.

As for homosexuality itself, we all have struggles. We all have sinful inclinations. Some are more tempted by some things than others. Some will deal with life-long, recurring battles with some particular sin. I don't think you can get around the Bible saying that it is sin for a man to lie with man like he would lie with a woman. That's pretty black and white.

But God doesn't just hate the physical act of homosexuality. He hates a lying tongue, those who oppress the poor, envy, hypocrisy, etc... So before judging those who struggle with sexual desires, I look to myself. I may not have "banged" anybody today, but have I been envious? Lost my temper? Most likely.

Anonymous said...

I agree that we don't . I do not think everybody ought to get married, gay or not. Life presents us with numerous choices. However to equate one decision to be single or not with the issue of being gay just misses the point totally. Lots of gay people decide that being single is best for them. Many gay folk make other choices. Homosexuality is not a sinful inclination unless you think it is. Some people and groups continue to believe otherwise. That is a choice. Being gay is not. But I doubt you will listen to us. But rigid adherence to an outdated understanding of biblical text to support ideas like "God hates the physical act of homosexuality" is wrong and does great harm. But again, a closed mind on this issue pretty much ends any chance for discussion. BTW what are "homosexual acts"? You might be surprised that many gay folks,as well as many straight folk don't participate in activities the haters would like everyone to imagine. Really. Unless you mean shopping, paying bills, watching TV and going to church.But I don't think the bible says much about these things. It says even less about homosexuality.

Unknown said...

It is interesting to see Lewis' life. As a big fan of his works and his life steps, one thing that struck me the most: Arthur Greeves! I see Lewis' relationship with Greeves' are almost like David and Nathan. His letters which some are quite erotic and the way they spent holidays together sometimes makes me suspicious if Lewis himself is at least a bisexual. I may well be wrong ultimately. Nevertheless, at least Lewis showed what is a Christian's attitude towards homosexuals: loving them, not judging them. More about Lewis and homosexuality: http://cslbookclub.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=84&Itemid=107

Anonymous said...

I have read every post from every person on this blog because today is a very very hard day for me. I have jsut ofund out that someone dearer to me than life itself is gay. He otld a friend, and my friend told me because he thought I needed to know. I will call my dear person John. John is someone who is extremely shy, brilliant, and who may suffer from Asberger's Syndrome, a syndrome in which finding social acceptance is extremely difficult.
Today I found out he had told my friend he was gay, and ever since I have been struggling with it. I have never been sure about homosexuality. I do not know if it is a choice or if it is the way someone is. What I do know is that I am one of your Fundamentalist Anglican paritioners, and reading your comments have helped and stunned me. Many of you who are Episcopalian(what I used to be) say that Anglicans and other Fundamentalists are discriminatory, but I beg of you not to make this generalization. As an Anglican, I believe exactly what the Bible has written-engaging in sexual homosexual acts is sinful, just as engaging in sex outside of marriage, murder, covetousness, and theft are sinful. The sins are not measured in differing degrees. They all fall under the same blanket. Please understand this viewpoint from the side of one who has found out her dear friend is this way. I know he has wanted to kill himself, I know he been slandered beyond what is humanly possible, and I have seen him suffer immensely, but I now realize this is likely why.But along with this realization, I am suffering from the greatest spiritual conflict I have ever faced.
I believe the Bible, but I desperately want John to be happy. And suddenly, I feel as if I have to choose.
But I also believe with all my spirit and soul that C.S. Lewis is correct. I myself suffer from terrible sexual desires. No one knows of these but myself, but privately, my Christian life has been a struggle. I do not believe in lust, sex outside of marriage, etc. etc. But I do believe that these are things which we must resolve with God and in our own hearts.
You cannot make the Church conform to you, but you must conform to the Church if you believe in God. It can be unpleasant, trying, and altogether torturous, but the reward is great.
My words fail me. All I know to say are two phrases that have come to dictate my life. One is from Philippians and asks us all, as Christians, to "work out [our] salvation in fear and trembling." The other is that our lives are not our own and whatever desire we succumb to will impact all of those who love us as well as ourselves. Do not blame the Fundamentalists without considering that they perhaps do what they do so that homosexual individuals will not try to suffer through the tortures of overcoming their desires. Their discrimination is absolutely inappropriate, but it is not altogether Biblically unfounded. I have no hard feelings toward those of the homosexual leanings. I am friends with them, and they are fellow human beings.
But I believe Jay and many others here are correct. This is a struggle, and it MUST be battled, as I MUST battle my own desires. This is the great battle which defines our lives. Temptation is difficult because it is SO TEMPTING.
But this does not mean temptation is right or should not be overcome.

God bless you all, and I will always keep you in my prayers. I beg of you to keep John and me in yours.

P.R.Mahoney said...

Dear Anon., I was moved to respond to your post as you seem so distressed by an issue that many people struggle with. Obviously Christians (and others as well) have looked into this and have often come to radically different positions. In the meantime, we ought to remember that like others issues Christians have argued over, whether it slavery, women's rights, church polity, or gender roles. Our opinions are just that, our opinions. My interpretation of scripture and church history may be incomplete or mistaken. We can agree that we must love one another, treat one another with respect, compassion and kindness. I encourage you consider some other perspectives. If you are of a more conservative tradition, then you might think about the fact that the scriptures used to justify negative and discriminatory positions on homosexuality may not actually refer to your friends same sex attraction. Good bible students the world over have made it clear that these passages used to bash gau folk do not, in the original languages, refer to gay people at all. So unless he is involved in temple prostitution or a complete reprobate his walk in Christ is not at risk. He is at risk if he believes the negative perspective or is treated badly by his friends because he is gay. But alas, this is the difficulty. There is ample material on this subject that makes it extremely clear that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality and the Hebrew Scriptures forbid lots of things the Christian church is not bound by. The Laws of Leviticus command numerous things we would never expect our neighbors to follow. Philippians also says that God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. So take some time to breath, do some homework, pray, discuss this with others, and give yourself and your friend a break. There are lots of really wonderful, fully committed gay Christians in and out of the Anglican Church. God's family may not agree about all these things, but we are a diverse, colorful and joyful group. A wonderful book that really helped me with this struggle was a little well written books called Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Revised and Updated: Positive Christian Response, A, by Letha Dawson Scanzoni, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, HarperCollins. Here are some great resources to consider: http://www.sacred-texts.com/lgbt/index.htm. , http://johnshore.com/, http://www.paulonhomosexuality.com/, http://someone-to-talk-to.net/.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone. I believe that most if not all of what Lewis wrote in his letter, no matter how dated you may think it is, is correct. Some have been badly harmed because of ignorance and Christianity, but I would urge you all to consider that not all who claim to be Christians really are. Having said that, I must tell you that I am a straight heterosexual man and a Christian if you couldn't already guess. I guess you could call me a conservative or a fundamentalist, though I don't think of myself as either one of those. I know many will disagree with my beliefs, but I speak truthfully to you regarding what I know to be real. I hope you will try to understand my view as I am trying to understand yours.

All sin is sin before God. Jesus tells us that anyone who mentally makes another person an object of desire has already committed sexual sin in his or her heart. Is this sin any better or worse in God's eyes if the sinner and subject are of the same sex? I tell you there is no difference.

Though we attempt to make the two sins very different, the truth is they are not. The problem is this, the straight man has a perceived out in heterosexual marriage, which apparently is assumed to end all of that man's temptations. I tell you it is not so. Have you never heard the joke that the surest way to get a woman to be chaste is to put a wedding band on her finger? This is not always the case, and it is an exaggeration to be sure, but it makes the point for me that heterosexual marriage is no easy way out for anyone. Do not forget that there are heterosexual men called to a lifelong commitment to celibacy and do not assume that all such men have no desire for sex or intimacy.

We mistakenly assume that marriage is all about us and our desires, our happiness. Desire and happiness are an important part of marriage, but more important than these are the fact that marriage is meant to symbolize something greater than ourselves: the relationship between God and humanity. We are called to live differently than the world in keeping with our knowledge of the truth. We think that the old ways are wrong because we have forgotten the truth that we were called to keep. This is a pity indeed.

We also do not understand that all human traits, inclinations, strengths, weaknesses, and interests may be laid upon a spectrum in each of us. Some are born to heterosexuality, but also given to larceny. Some are born to charity, but given to homosexuality. Some fall in the middle and have a choice to make. When the Bible speaks of the liars and homosexuals having their place in the Lake of Fire, it does not mean all men given to these temptations or inclinations--who among us has never lied? The Bible is referring to those who are defined by those traits mentioned--the one who lives by lies is the liar, the one who revels in homosexuality is the homosexual. Otherwise, the Christian who knows his sin and struggles to escape it in submission to Christ--this one has hope, even if he falls. It is the one who gives himself up and over to such desires that is without hope.

Having said all that, if being gay did not imply unlawful intimacy and sexual relations I should not mind being gay myself, as I enjoy the company of men, as a band of brothers. However, by the nature of men's wicked hearts, you cannot have such relationships--it seems, without the necessary implications of gay desire and gay sex. You see, straight men enjoy the company of other men, too. Therefore, when the gay man pushes for equality and freedom to act as he wishes, the issue for the straight man must be one of sex--because otherwise, you are no different from other men. It is for this reason, more than any other, that homosexuals are perceived as particularly wicked and depraved. That is my view, and I hope it sheds light on this matter for those curious about why things are the way that they are.

Patrick Mahoney said...

Dear Anonymous, so given your premise, as I understand it, coupled with a more culturally and contextually accurate understanding of the texts, if gay folks are in monogamous relationship, i.e. marriages, then we are no worse or better off than any others. Your insistence that the argument begins with gay people being identified as the subjects of the English word “homosexual” ( a word used in some translations, which does not do justice to the Greek words used in the New Testament ) is unfair. Better Biblical students than me have made numerous arguments that these passages refer to something no one in our century would recognize or identify as gay or lesbian behavior or identity (a concept foreign to ancient societies). So let us marry and struggle against sin on equal terms with the rest of the community.

J. said...

Does anyone know the source of this letter? It's so unlike anything I've read from Lewis and considering his life long best friend, Arthur Greeves, was a homosexual, one would think that Lewis might have more definite, well rounded opinions on the subject. Please provide a source

College Jay said...

J., as the quote says, the excerpt of this letter comes from Sheldon Vanauken's "A Severe Mercy," which contains much of Lewis's correspondence with Mr. and Mrs. Vanauken. Surely he had more to say about the subject, but this was simply an excerpt from one personal letter between friends.

Haiko said...

Hi there

I am in search of Dan in Michigan - I would like to contact him to find his blog and to ask for permission to share his comment at "10:57 PM". The email address he listed no longer works.

Regards
Haiko N.

Anonymous said...

Like your thoughts here. Life is not about sex, sex does not or should not define you. And not having sex never killed anyone. However, gay or straight, there will always be times when your strong desires to engage in some prohibited form of sexual expression will present a battle to overcome, especially for Christians but also for non Christians. God promises He will never allow us to face a temptation that He also doesnt give us the power and grace to overcome. Hes there with all the power of Heaven to help! What a wonderful promise.(this is a promise that goes along with our decision to become a christian and submit to His lordship.) That doesnt mean we dont struggle but it does give us hope that we can come out on top.
I do believe from experience that, although our flesh may be tempted by homosexuality or other prohibited sex, that doesnt necessarily mean celibacy is the only option. I have experienced Gods life transforming grace in a very loving happy heterosexual marriage. Love--not lust --is the key. Battles come but years of celebacy did teach me self control, and a strong respect for and desire to be obedient to Gods word has released a wonderful blessing --25 years!

P.R.Mahoney said...

Celibacy is a gift, not something we force on others. Gay or straight, loving committed relationships benefit our families and communities. But people will disagree. Hopefully we can do this without malice or bigotry. Joe and I are celebrating 26 years together this month. I thank God for this amazing blessing.