Thursday, September 1, 2011

Being human, being Christians, living together

The issue of sexuality is always a difficult one to address in a responsible and charitable way. I think this is true because our sexuality is one of the most difficult aspects of our personality to understand. It is certainly a river that runs deep within us sometimes very fast and rapidly, launching us forward on whitewater rapids! This is why sex is the cause of so much joy and so much despair.

In his dialogue Phaedrus, Plato posits that the human soul is composed of three parts: a charioteer and two horses. One of the horses is docile and obedient, the other, representing the appetites is unruly. Hence, the good horse struggles with the unruly horse, and the charioteer, who represent the rational part of the soul, is forced to constantly work to keep the unruly horse pulling the chariot to its destination, along with the obedient horse.

I do not pretend for one moment grasp entirely why some people are homosexual. I do not categorize people as "homosexuals" because I think, as with anybody, to do so is to reduce people to their sexuality. So, while I am heterosexual, I am not "a heterosexual." While I may not be particularly deep or interesting, there is more to me than my sexual preference for women! Like everyone else, I have some ideas along these lines, but, not being in any way an expert, I would be loathe to lay out my "theory," such as it might unfold. At the end of day, who cares? It is what it is and, as a deacon, I am called to render loving service.

I'll begin the month with yet another observation about life's ambiguities. Along these lines I have laid out, there are two pieces of news today, one bad and one encouraging. First, the bad news. The news came out today that last week a homosexual young man, Dane Hall, was attacked and brutally beaten as he left a club in downtown in Salt Lake. Hall told the Deseret News that he was assaulted "by a group of men" who began their assault by yelling gay slurs at him. Then, one of the men, in Hall's words, "came up randomly and punched me in the back of my head and I fell on the ground. And he grabbed me by my shirt and punched me on the side of my face." After being viciously pummeled, the attack ended with being "curbed."

The Deseret News story goes on to describe this horrifying bit of torture: "'Curbing,' also known as 'curb stomping,' 'curb checking' or 'biting the curb,' is a term used when a victim is forced to lay on the ground, open his mouth on a cement curb as if he's trying to bite it, and then has the back of his head kicked or stomped on by an attacker. The violent incident gained notoriety in the 1998 movie 'American History X.'" I am not only horrified, but angered that this occurred where I live. There is no place in civil society for this kind of behavior, at all, end of discussion. When the attack finally ended, Hall was left with a thrice-broken jaw, other fractures, and six fewer teeth.

On the good side, I read something today I never thought I would see. San Francisco’s LDS Bay Ward (a ward is local LDS congregation, their equivalent of a parish) called an openly homosexual man, Mitch Mayne, to serve as the Executive Secretary in the ward's bishopric. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Mayne "is not the first self-identified gay member to hold a key leadership position" in the LDS Church. A ward in Seattle apparently called a gay man to serve as one of the two counselors to the congregation's bishop (i.e., their volunteer pastor). Across the bay from the San Francisco ward to which Mayne belongs, a gay man serves "on the stake’s high council and is a temple worker."

What is unique about Mitch Mayne is that, according to the story in the Salt Lake Tribune, he is likely "the first local LDS leader to announce his orientation over the pulpit." He was chosen to help the LDS Church "build bridges between the Bay Area’s Mormon and gay communities, a gap that was widened by the LDS Church’s overt support of Proposition 8, defining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman." Taking a page from the Catholic Church, the LDS Church has not changed their standards. Until a year ago, Mayne was in a committed, monogamous same-sex relationship. After his relationship ended, he re-committed to living his beliefs faithfully.

In his talk, Mayne said:
"If what we truly want is for people to join with us in fellowship and worship, we would do well to remember that there is no recommend interview for sitting in these pews, and no test to take to be the recipient of our love and concern.

"Life is a journey, with our fellows as peers, each of us pressing onward on our prescribed paths, to learn the lessons that life ... intended to teach us."
A friend of Mayne's, after hearing him give his introductory talk to the ward he is called to serve, overheard him say this to someone afterwards: "Look, if you want to change your life, we are super-excited to help you do that. If you just want us to love you and care for you as a brother, we are super-excited to do that, too." Wow!

If you're interested, Mitch, too, maintains a blog. Like many people who are openly homosexual and Catholic and who strive to live in accord with what the Church teaches and their own consciences, Mayne gets it from both sides: from Latter-day Saints who scorn him for being honest about his sexuality, and from other people who are homosexual and see him as a traitor and a sell-out.

When it comes to sex, we need to spend less time judging and condemning, and more time praying and fasting for, and listening to each other, bruised and broken, needing Jesus.

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