Alas, All Societies Have Closets

  • I think it is also obviously true that at least some of these people would have married and lived conventional heterosexual lives, and been satisfied in them. Why? Because the same-sex desire within them wasn’t as strong as it was in others, and they could manage it, or grow past it.
  • On the other hand, the kind of society that gave them the psychological support for embracing exclusively heterosexual expression of their sexuality would also cause more suffering for those whose sexual desire is more strongly same-sex oriented.
  • Can we have a society in which heterosexuality is considered normative, but homosexuality is tolerated, and gays and lesbians treated with respect, dignity, and love? I think it is possible in theory, but it seems to be utopian.

He is opposed to same-sex marriage but in favor of civil unions. In principle, he is against gay adoption, but in practice, he told me, “there are so many gay couples who are wonderful parents that I find it hard to maintain any ardor for stopping it.”

.. Hanby argues that, where we used to see human beings as possessing intrinsic properties—masculinity, femininity, the ability to glorify God through procreation—we now take a nominalist view of ourselves, seeing our bodies as subservient to our minds. We use technology, such as the birth-control pill, to subvert the natural way of things. Gay marriage, in this account, is a stepping-stone to a profoundly technologized society in which “the rejection of nature” is complete. Today, it’s sex-reassignment surgery and surrogacy; tomorrow, we’ll be genetically engineering our way into a post-human future.

.. as Christians, we cannot accept that homosexual desire is morally neutral. (Nor, I hasten to add, can we accept that heterosexual expression outside of marriage is morally neutral.)

.. how you answer this question: What is sex for? 

.. Not, “what is gay sex for?” or “what is straight sex for?” but “what is sex for?” The Bible, and the teaching of the Church, has a clear answer to that. It is not the modern answer.

.. 15. The reason we cannot agree on what sex is for is that we don’t agree on the answer to the question, “What is a human being for?” Meaning, “What is our purpose in life?” Is it to live in harmony with God’s will? Is it to fulfill our desires? Is it something else? Again: traditional Christianity has clear and consistent answers to these questions — and they are not the modern answers.

.. 16. I have said it many times before, and I’ll say it again: I am glad the closet is gone, and would not want to see it return. I would like to live in a society that leaves gay people alone to live as they like. It is fair, though, for people like Andrew to ask how, exactly, I propose to privilege heterosexuality without in some form re-instituting the closet. I don’t have a satisfying answer to that question.

.. Is it possible to tolerate the expression of belief and behavior that gays and their allies believe is immoral, and doing damage to others? Or should orthodox Christian (and Jewish, and Muslim) belief regarding homosexuality be stigmatized socially for the sake of increasing social virtue, and bringing about a better society? If so, well, aren’t you saying that Christians (Muslims, Jews) should go into the closet with their beliefs?

.. 18. All of which is to arrive at the depressing conclusion that one way or the other, there’s going to be a closet. It’s already there for many orthodox Christians who work in academia and other professional circles, and it will expand. A lot of Christian kids will grow up feeling immense pressure to leave the faith or in some sense to be unfaithful to orthodox Christianity because of all the stigma heaped upon it over sexuality.

How St. Augustine Invented Sex

He rescued Adam and Eve from obscurity, devised the doctrine of original sin—and the rest is sexual history.

“I came to Carthage,” he writes, “to the center of a skillet where outrageous love affairs hissed all around me.”

.. The feverish promiscuity, if that is what it was, resolved fairly quickly into something quite stable. Within a year or two, Augustine had settled down with a woman with whom he lived and to whom, in his account, he was faithful for the next fourteen years.

.. As a young man who had already fathered a child, he knew that, for the entire human species, reproduction entailed precisely the sexual intercourse that he was bent on renouncing. How could the highest Christian religious vocation reject something so obviously natural?

.. The “Confessions” does not take the story of Augustine’s life further. Instead, it turns to a philosophical meditation on memory and an interpretation of the opening of Genesis

.. Why Genesis? And why, in the years that followed, did his attention come to focus particularly on the story of Adam and Eve?

.. Pagans ridiculed that story as primitive and ethically incoherent. How could a god worthy of respect try to keep humans from the knowledge of good and evil? Jews and Christians of any sophistication preferred not to dwell upon it or distanced themselves by treating it as an allegory.

.. he persuaded himself that it was no mere fable or myth. It was the key to everything.

.. Augustine returned again and again to the same set of questions: Whose body is this, anyway? Where does desire come from? Why am I not in command of my own penis? “Sometimes it refuses to act when the mind wills, while often it acts against its will!”

.. And this ardor, to which Augustine gives the technical name “concupiscence,” was not simply a natural endowment or a divine blessing; it was a touch of evil. What a married man and woman who intend to beget a child do together is not evil, Augustine insisted; it is good. “But the action is not performed without evil.”

.. Augustine’s tortured recognition that involuntary arousal was an inescapable presence—not only in conjugal lovemaking but also in what he calls the “very movements which it causes, to our sorrow, even in sleep, and even in the bodies of chaste men”—shaped his most influential idea, one that transformed the story of Adam and Eve and weighed down the centuries that followed: originale peccatum, original sin.

.. Pelagius and his followers were moral optimists. They believed that human beings were born innocent. Infants do not enter the world with a special endowment of virtue, but neither do they carry the innate stain of vice.

.. we are all descendants of Adam and Eve, and we live in a world rife with the consequences of their primordial act of disobedience. But that act in the distant past does not condemn us inescapably to sinfulness. How could it? What would be the mechanism of infection? Why would a benevolent God permit something so monstrous? We are at liberty to shape our own lives, whether to serve God or to serve Satan.

.. The Pelagians said that Augustine was simply reverting to the old Manichaean belief that the flesh was the creation and the possession of a wicked force.

.. Surely this was a betrayal of Christianity, with its faith in a Messiah who became flesh.

.. Not so, Augustine responded. It is true that God chose to become man, but he did this “of a virgin

.. that which was born from the root of the first man might derive only the origin of race, not also of guilt.”

.. Augustine embarked on a work, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis,”

.. For some fifteen years, he labored on this work

.. The inquieta adulescentia that delighted the adolescent’s father and horrified his mother could now be traced all the way back to the original moment when Adam and Eve felt both lust and shame. They saw for the first time what they had never seen before, and, if the sight aroused them, it also impelled them to reach for the fig leaves to cover as with a veil “that which was put into motion without the will of those who wished it.”

.. But what was the alternative that they—and we—lost forever? How, specifically, were they meant to reproduce, if it was not in the way that all humans have done for as long as anyone can remember? In Paradise, Augustine argued, Adam and Eve would have had sex without involuntary arousal: “They would not have had the activity of turbulent lust in their flesh, however, but only the movement of peaceful will by which we command the other members of the body.” Without feeling any passion—without sensing that strange goad—“the husband would have relaxed on his wife’s bosom in tranquility of mind.”

.. ” Others, as he personally had witnessed, could sweat whenever they chose, and there were even people who could “produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from that region.”

.. Adam had fallen, Augustine wrote in “The City of God,” not because the serpent had deceived him. He chose to sin, and, in doing so, he lost Paradise

.. With the help of his sainted mother, he had severed himself from his companion and had tried to flee from ardor, from arousal. He had fashioned himself, to the best of his extraordinary abilities, on the model of the unfallen Adam, a model he had struggled for many years to understand and to explicate. True, he still had those involuntary dreams, those unwelcome stirrings, but what he knew about Adam and Eve in their state of innocence reassured him that someday, with Jesus’ help, he would have total control over his own body. He would be free. ♦

James Comey Cometh

If you believe the Comey statement, you must take away from it that Trump is a liar, a bully and a criminal. You must take away from it that Trump has a consuming need to be surrounded not only by loyalists but also by lackeys.

.. Trump’s comments as alleged in the Comey statement make Trump sound more like a mob boss than the president of a democracy.

.. Comey recounts that at a Jan. 27 dinner alone with Trump in the Green Room of the White House, Trump demanded, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

.. “The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to.

.. Trump added:

“‘Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.’ I did not reply or ask him what he meant by ‘that thing.’”

.. Trump was obsessed with the salacious dossier of unsubstantiated claims compiled by a former British spy, including the explosive claim that Russian authorities believed they could successfully exploit Trump’s “personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’

.. According to Comey’s statement, Trump was so upset by the details in the dossier that at a dinner in the Green Room of the White House, “he said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen.”

Is Trump Russia’s Manchurian Candidate? No. Here’s Why

Trump’s alignment with nearly every Russian foreign policy objective grew in increments, eerily coinciding with the entrance of key aides and advocates into his campaign, not through his own study.

.. he urged Russia to find Hilary Clinton’s missing emails – a public call a “Manchurian Candidate” (see Scenario 4 below) would not likely make.

.. altering the Republican platform to support a Russian position over a Ukrainian ally. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager who previously worked in Ukraine on behalf of Russia, mistakenly cited a debunked Russia false news story about a terrorist attack on Incirlik airbase in Turkey as a final show of Russian influence before being fired.

.. This sort of meddling provides the Kremlin plausible deniability and still achieves Russia’s objectives: breaking up the European Union, dissolving NATO, and weakening of American influence.

.. The former British intelligence officer’s dossier made salacious claims of sexual misconduct by Trump during a visit to St. Petersburg.

.. President Trump compromised himself in this fashion, and the voters didn’t seem to care. Should Russia release the alleged provocative video tape now, they would only confirm their meddling and achieve nothing – the dossier leak and U.S. government discussion of the dossier likely inoculated the president from any compromise on a sexual basis if anything even existed.

.. More recently, President Trump’s son appears to have received $50,000 from a pro-Russia group in the weeks leading up to the election.

.. This scenario is unlikely to be the case for several reasons. Trump’s behavior and policy positions sway with the wind. The famous former British intelligence officer dossier argued that Trump’s behavior in the lead up to the election caused unease amongst Kremlin leaders backing him. Trump openly discusses Russian connections and seems to be unaware of his closest aides ties and contacts to Russian diplomats and intelligence assets.

.. The Russians started their second Cold War with the U.S. years ago, and they are winning. They don’t need a Manchurian candidate