Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Meditation: God Takes Flesh, God Takes Gay Flesh

The last few days, at the tail end of Advent, I've published snippets from journals I kept in previous years.  As I've noted, I've been leafing back through my journals for one reason or another, and the pieces I published in the past several days leapt out at me.

I chose them because they're a reminder of something that, I suspect, we don't think about sufficiently, when we think about prejudice and discrimination, and what these do to the object they single out for abuse.  I suspect we don't think sufficiently about how the person whom we bar from employment and human community through discriminatory action in the workplace suffers in quite specific ways: economically, through the loss of a job and the loss of income to satisfy debts; physically, through the loss of health coverage and thus of ongoing health care; but spiritually, as well, through the sense of terrible exclusion from the human community, from a community in which one can offer one's talents, provide creative input, learn from others, and experience the gratification that comes from knowing one is making a contribution.  

And, as my recent journal entries also suggest, there's often an intense spiritual struggle when those who have done all this to you prosper and their actions go unchallenged--and that is very commonly the case when "official" church figures like bishops, priests, abbots, or nuns practice discrimination against others.  Because they own the title Catholic, their actions go unexamined, even when those actions are sometimes grossly prejudiced and cruel in their effects on others.  This results in an intense spiritual struggle to find God somewhere in the scorched earth of a life that has been interrupted due to discrimination by people claiming to act in the name of God.

But this is not the whole story.  Advent, with its search for light in darkness, leads to Christmas and its  proclamation that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  Though Steve and I have struggled long and hard, we also have much to celebrate, much for which to be grateful.  We not only search for, we also often find, the gracious presence of a loving God in our life journey.

I'm typing these words in London.  As a gift for my 60th birthday this year, Steve offered me a trip to London--a place neither of us has ever been.  I didn't feel up to traveling in March, when I turned 60, and we then decided to take the trip at Christmastime.  

And here's a more recent journal entry of mine, one written yesterday in London, which I offer today as a Christmas meditation: On the tube just now, headling along the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus, we sit across from an older (truth: probably near our age) gay couple.  And as I listen to one of the two describe an exhibit about the history of Christmas celebrations to the other ("The trees began with Queen Victoria, you know"), I think:

God chooses to take flesh in the lives of gay men and lesbian women.  And as John McNeill says* in his book Taking a Chance on God, if the world suddenly lost the presence and gifts of loving gay men and loving lesbian women, the world would be infinitely impoverished.  Infinitely dehumanized.

God loves my gay flesh and becomes incarnate in my gay flesh.  Out of sheer delight in gayness, in the gifts those God makes gay bring to the world.

And thinking this, as I watch one "older" gay man describe a Victorian Christmas tree in loving detail, using his hands in the description, my heart lifts, and I feel great gratitude for the gift of God made flesh.

And a determination to remain grateful and to celebrate, no matter the calumnies, lies, absurdities uttered against me and my brothers and sisters today by many fellow Christians.  Grateful and celebratory, because God takes gay and lesbian flesh in the incarnation . . . . 

And later I think: it's morally crude to imagine, as many Christians do today, that the wish to procreate sets the procreative class of people apart in some superior ontological way.  Anyone (more or less) can beget a child.

The real challenge is to raise a child, to educate hearts, to help shape admirable human beings.  And, unfortunately, many of those ontologically superior heterosexuals who beget children have no clue about raising them, about educating their minds and hearts.

The human community needs many gifts and talents to become community.  It needs generativity that surpasses mere biological generativity, to sustain itself as humane community.

Churches that continue to base their sexual ethics on biological generativity alone as the prime ideal are doing a great disservice to the human community through their morally crude, reductionistic understanding of procreation, of pro-creation, of the shared creation of the world in which we human beings are involved with the God who takes our flesh.

*John J. McNeill, Taking a Chance on God (Boston: Beacon, 1988):

“Despite their personal suffering, the loving presence of lesbian women and gay men is the oil that keeps the whole human machine running.  If, somehow, gay people were to disappear from the scene, the whole community would be in danger of being seriously dehumanized” (p. 99).

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