“How God loves us through our bad theology”: A guest post

14051_10206246260419240_3924350429838097717_nCults are on my mind lately. For one thing, I’ve developed an addiction to the new Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s a Tina Fey/Robert Carlock comedy about an Indiana woman who escapes a doomsday cult and remakes her life in New York City. Much wackiness ensues.

But also, and more seriously, one of my college friends recently shared a reflection on Facebook. Theresa related how she was “raised with antiquated theology in a pre-Vatican II cult,” and the term “cult” was no exaggeration. I thought her analysis of that experience, and what it means to her today, was remarkable.

Therefore, I am doing something unusual. I am hosting a guest post, and the guest post is Theresa’s reflection. I share it below, and use Theresa’s real name, with her express permission. Continue reading

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Are “Homosexual Acts” Sinful?

In humble prayer, I approach this blog post despite my own fears. But in trust and obedience to God, my love, here it goes.

Homosexual sex can be a sin, but so can heterosexual sex. Neither is inherently sinful. Sin does not come from our actions but in our intentions behind our actions. Allow me to explain through experience:

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Much to my surprise, I fell in love my best friend, a fellow woman. When I told her with wet red eyes, she responded with true friendship. “Rach, I thought you were going to tell me someone had died or something! You don’t have to be worry about me. This doesn’t change how I feel about you, honest to God. You have taught me so much about friendship this year. I’m not going anywhere.”

Although she said she could not reciprocate love for me in the form of physical intimacy, I did not love her any less. What wondrous new love this was for me—something truly unconditional. I thought, “This is the healthiest love I’ve ever felt.” But before the thought had a chance to settle, I grabbed it and tried to smother it. I lay awake for hours that night, disgusted that I could call these feelings healthy. I was confused at my disgust because I always supported the LGBT community. If it wasn’t wrong for them, why did I think it was wrong for me?

The next morning, I remember stepping in the shower and thinking, “God, it would be so much easier if I were just dead and did not have to deal with these feelings.” God scolded me with hot water and slapped it in my face. He washed me, purified me, and quenched my thirst. When I turned off the shower, the noise of my mind was silenced and all was quiet. I stepped out of the tub and vowed never to turn back to that place.

I allowed myself explore why I thought this love was healthy. I processed it they best way I knew how—writing. I wrote this:

“In the past, my physical attractions to men have been greedy and lustful. It was not about love. Now, I see it less as something that I want to receive and more of something I want to give… I want to show her that I trust her with all of myself, the good and the bad, the physical and the spiritual, the past and the future.”

I could not define that kind of love as sin. The devil does not have dominion over love. The devil was tempting me with suicide, not sexual attraction.

About a month after I told my best friend I had feelings for her, God sent me to a Bible Camp for a week of scripture reading with other college students. It certainly was not my idea. I thought I was far too fragile to be trapped in a room with Evangelical Christians reading the Bible that I they used to condemn me. But I trusted God to take care of me.

We read through the first half of the Gospel of Mark. Homosexuality was never specifically mentioned in the scripture. Instead of condemnation, I found a lot of affirmation. As Christ said,

“Whatever goes into a person from the outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer… It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mark 7: 15-20).

Jesus went on to list things that defile including fornication and adultery. I sat by a creek to process this passage. What was God saying about sex? As I watched the water, noticed its clarity. As I listened to it dance, I realized that God was saying that what makes sexual acts sinful is the evil intentions behind them. The acts are actually made clean by God and beautiful as this water, but we make them murky by bringing our dirty intentions to it.

Although I never physically acted on my attraction to my friend, I could not say that act would have been inherently sinful. It could be sinful if I touched her without her consent or tried to pressure her into becoming physical. Even if she did consent it could become sinful if we used each other for selfish gain. But just as God blesses a married husband and wife when they honor each other through sex, he blesses a committed same-sex relationship when they honor each other through sex.   

Sex can be sinful if it comes from a place of lust. Love that is unconditional, selfless and pure is not sinful. May Christians recognize that same-sex relationships are not any different than opposite-sex relationships; they both face the same temptation for evil and potential for good.

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For more posts like this, please read my blog “Christian Bidentity” about my experience as a bisexual Catholic woman.

In What I Have Failed to Do

“…I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…”

My gaze lowers every time the Penitential Rite begins at Mass. I wish this was a gesture of reverence. It’s actually an act of embarrassment:  Despite growing up in the Church, I don’t know the words to this prayer—this prayer that many recite every Sunday at Mass!  I’ve simply never belonged to a community that regularly recites it in the Mass, so I never learned it.  I’m an employed Catholic minister, though, and a theology student, so naturally I’m a little humbled, even embarrassed, by my lack of the fundamentals here.

One blessing of the Rite’s unfamiliarity is that I am compelled to actually pay attention to its words rather than unthinkingly delivering them like many habitual prayers at Mass. Every time I hear it I listen closely, trying to memorize it as I stare at the floor and pretend to lip synch the words (watermelon, watermelon, watermelon…). There is one early line I never miss.  I actually say the words out loud because I never forget them: “I have sinned…in what I have failed to do.” Continue reading

Abiding in Love

[We don’t know why this whole post isn’t visible, but you can see all the words if you highlight it. Please bear with us! Thanks, Ed.] 

 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart

and all your soul, and all your mind,

and Love all humankind as you would Love yourself…

We’ve got Christian lives to live,

we’ve got Jesus’ Love to give,

we’ve got nothing to hide,

for in Him we all abide.

 

Those are the words to a song that I sing a lot. I learned it at Bible School when I was little girl and it’s really catchy. 

 

On Tuesday two of my dear friends and mentors, a lesbian couple, got married in California.  They are both Catholic women and they have three beautiful daughters.  Now they should be able to file joint taxes and have joint custody of their daughters.  Nonetheless, they will never get to celebrate the sacrament of marriage in the church. 

 

This is what I have learned:  In our church, the Sacrament of Marriage is a very holy sacrament.  It’s the sacrament of the union of love. It’s the only sacrament that people make unto themselves, through their vows unto each other and God.  I won’t really ever get to know what this means, either, because I am pretty sure I am made to love a community and not an exclusive family unit.  And as I position myself to commit deeply to be an inclusive Lover within the church and within God’s world, I ironically exclude myself from another sacrament.

 

Since I am a woman and a Franciscan sister, I can only ever know God through five of the seven sacraments– I’ll never get to be ordained nor married. The only other folks that I suppose are in this same boat are gay and lesbian couples because the Catholic Church won’t be marrying them anytime within our lifetime.  So, my choice to not get married is a way that I am sort of in solidarity with them, and all other Catholics who can’t be married in the church because of their sexual orientation.  But it’s not really solidarity, and I know this, because it is greatly imbalanced.  I have chosen the place that is generally honored and they are living the life that is discriminated against.  They are on the fringes in the church, and I am supposed to be a leader and at its core. But God does love us, very much, and is pleased we are authentic to who we are.

 

Before their wedding, my friend emailed me and asked for my blessing.  Here are her words:
 
”What I want to make sure everybody knows is that this is completely real to us.  We’re getting married Tuesday. Thousands will be getting married in the days to come. Each of those marriages is first about love, and second about the politics that surround it.  This IS a political movement.  This is a demand that my wife and my kids get the same deal everybody else gets- the rights to make decisions about our kids, the right to power of attorney, the right to file joint taxes, the right to claim my own children as dependents.  These are basic rights and we will demand them over and over. But just as the marriages of straight people are rarely conducted with these rights in mind, so our marriage too is first about love.

 

I’m begging everyone to do something in support of this movement.  If you can be there Tuesday to support all the couples claiming what is theirs, come to the courthouse. Bring bubbles. Bring signs. Offer wedding treats. Cheer and celebrate and drown out the inevitable protesters. Wrap that building in a wall of hope and blessing.  If you can’t be there that day, find another way. Don’t laugh at the jokes people make about two brides or two grooms, and certainly don’t make those jokes. See the common humanity and the beauty. Take the marriages of gay couples you know seriously. Send cards to the couples you know getting married that day. Be as angry about this denial of rights as you would be the denial of the rights of any other person.  This is the time to act. History is being made, and each one of us is called to be a player.”

 

I’m inspired by their courage and their commitment.  They are really beautiful women, and I’ve witnessed them grow together towards God in their Love for each other.  The unity of love is phenomenal. 

 

It all brings me back to that song from my childhood:  “We’ve got nothing to hide, because in Him we all abide.”

 

Sounds like Love to me.