Encouraging Off-Ramps for Homosexual Lust

“Virgins and Angels Imploring Christ not to Punish Lust, Avarice” by Late Renaissance painter, Scarsellino.

Recently, the Catholic cable channel, EWTN, aired a program with the Rev. Paul Check, the executive director of Courage, a Catholic organization dedicated to helping same-sex attracted Catholics who desire to live according to the teachings of the Magisterium live celibately and, thus, find peace and happiness. While Rev. Check’s psychological and theological assumptions about homosexuality were as disdainful as any other conservative Christian, Catholic or Protestant, he made one point that those of us who view homosexuality as a precious, naturally non-procreative gift from our heavenly Creator ought to consider: nouns, and sexual identity labels in particular, have their limitations in the spiritual realm.  Amen to that.

Though religious conservatives like Rev. Check may never see homosexuality, like this writer does, as God’s natural offering to men and women who desire sacred, naturally non-procreative sexual union, that does not mean these conservatives don’t have anything to offer human sexual progress, and progressives like myself: namely, people who have no hang-ups about the human body and sexual desire, but who wish all people would stop denigrating the lives of others, including their sex partners, and especially our unborn baby brothers and sisters.

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The Miracle of Whitney

Fifty years ago today, just a few weeks before Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech at the March on Washington, a miracle happened: a baby girl was born. She would grow up to become a global superstar, but most importantly, she would be faithful, even in the midst of inner battles, to the mission God gave her: to bring love and joy to this world through the gift of song. The baby girl’s name was Whitney Elizabeth Houston. Her family would call her, simply, Nippy.

Over a year has gone by since Whitney passed away at 48 years of age. For many of us, the sorrow will really never go away. And yet, for me anyway, the more that time passes, the more that sorrow swims alongside a flowing, gushing, and unadulterated gratitude: gratitude for Whitney, and gratitude for God for giving our world such a miracle.

Down below is a link to one of Whitney’s 1991 hits, Miracle. This line from the song resonates with me now as it did back then:

Nothing should matter
Not when love grows inside you
A voice of love is crying out
Don’t throw love away
There’s a miracle in store…

Ironically, on this day, August 9, we also remember the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945. As Whitney sang in Miracle, we all have love – individual talents from the Creator – growing inside each and every one of us. It is always we human beings who throw away that love, who throw away the “miracle in store,” when we use our talents for war and other destructive purposes, or perhaps countenance or, quite commonly, live in fear of, those who do.

It is never, ever God who is throwing away the love that was put inside of us from the moment we were conceived.

It may sound like a stretch, but perhaps God decided that baby Whitney should be delivered into the world on August 9, simply to get us to stop throwing our hands up in the air when war and injustice take place, asking – and indeed shouting – “Why God why!”

God is always, always doing his part: giving us miracles of love inside each of us to work with, every single day. Miracle upon beautiful miracle.

Despite her battle with the dreadful disease of addiction, Whitney never threw away her miracle. Even in the last few years of her life, when her voice was wearing down, she still was faithful to her call – singing from the depths of her soul the best she could. She gave, and gave, and gave.

Generations yet to come will be blessed by God’s generosity that came in the form of this beautiful person, just as we have been so blessed.

Happy 50th Birthday, and rest in peace, Whitney Elizabeth Houston. Yes, we will always love you.

Here is Whitney’s video for the classic song, Miracle:

The Petraeus Illusion Is Our Own

In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton famously wrote about his spiritual awakening at the corner of Fourth and Walnut in downtown Louisville’s shopping district. Away from the monks and bucolic rhythms of Gethsemani Abbey, Merton described his reaction to seeing all the city people bustling about: “It was like waking from a dream, a spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream. Not that I question the reality of my vocation, or my monastic life: but the conception of ‘separation from the world’ that we have in the monastery too easily presents itself as a complete illusion: the illusion that by making vows we become a different species of being, pseudo-angels, ‘spiritual men,’ men of interior life, what have you.” Merton goes on to explain that though he and his fellow monks live their spiritual lives“out of the world,” they are every bit as much a part of the same violent, tormented physical world as everyone else. Merton writes, “We just happen to be conscious of it [the world’s problems] and to make a profession out of this consciousness. But does that entitle us to consider ourselves different, or even better [his emphasis], than others? The whole idea is preposterous.”

Though not referring to his theretofore monastic experience as a brainwashing, Merton nonetheless described his awakening experience at the corner of Fourth and Walnut as a kind of ecstatic deprogramming: “And I suppose my happiness could have taken form in the words: ‘Thank God, thank God that I am only a man among others. To think for sixteen or seventeen years I have been taking seriously this pure illusion that is implicit in so much of our monastic thinking.”

In the wake of the Petraeus scandal, much has already been said about journalistic failure, not only of the broken boundary between the former general and his biographer, but about the media’s largely uncritical reporting on Petraeus and his rise to power. Yet it seems that for some years now the American people have been drinking the same strange brew as the media when it comes to things Petraeus: opposing the military quagmire in Afghanistan, yet standing foursquare behind the military general who principally conceived it.  This strange brew, it seems, leaves our critical capacities fully intact – handing out teddy bears to Afghan children to win “hearts and minds” while dismissing those same children as “collateral damage” when they and their parents are killed by U.S. bombs is both immoral and nonsensical – yet simultaneously renders We the Drinkers utterly incapacitated to actually do anything to stem the aforementioned bombs-and-teddy bear schizophrenia. What gives?

 

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Filling Up Our Senses With Senselessness

In his classic 1974 single Annie’s Song, the late John Denver drew vivid portraits of nature to describe his love for his wife, Annie:

“You fill up my senses like a night in a forest

Like the mountains in spring time

Like a walk in the rain

Like a storm in the desert

Like a sleepy blue ocean”

The poetry reaches its climax with “Come let me love you, Come love me again.” If ever there was ever an American song to make you appreciate love and senses in life’s sadder moments, it’s Annie’s Song.

Reflecting upon First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention, memories of Annie’s Song came flooding back, precisely because the “American spirit” the First Lady was describing went in the polar opposite direction of the spirit of Annie’s Song.

Speaking about the American spirit of “service and sacrifice” Michelle Obama told the convention, “I’ve seen it in our men and women in uniform and our proud military families…in wounded warriors who tell me they’re not just going to walk again, they’re going to run, and they’re going to run marathons.”

All right, so maybe her husband did not turn out to be the peacemaker many Americans had hoped he would be, but certainly, using her platform before the nation to give praise to paralyzed soldiers confident they will walk again, one could set aside the disappointments and simply appreciate the indomitable American spirits of the wounded soldiers Michelle Obama spoke of. Then came the stunner, sordid and twisted as it was revelatory about our times.

 

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Gratitude for Pelicans

It’s not every day that a reporter gets a celebrity interview. It’s even rarer when the reporter is hardly a reporter, and the interviewee in question has wings. So I had to find a hat that looked somewhat like a reporter’s hat from the days of old, and scribble “Press” on a little sheet of paper to stick in my cap. Once I found something that looked like an old-fashioned reporter’s hat, I then grabbed my note pad and pen. I was ready to go…..except for one thing: I forgot to call a translator to help facilitate the interview. I’m not completely fluent in Pelican; I know just enough to get by.

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