At Boundless Salvation, Jason Davies-Kildea, took as his second extract from Fr Owen O’Sullivan’s paper on Gay Inclusion a section headed “Why Can’t they Just Keep Quiet?”.
This is a short passage, and an apparently reasonable question – which hides some big and important questions. Fr O’Sullivan’s brief response is summarised even more briefly in his first two sentences of the passage:
Homosexuality is not a problem; the denial of it is, especially if one denies it to oneself. Good human relationships (or good health) can never be founded on the basis of suppression or denial of the truth.
Even the CDF’s own Pastoral Letter plainly reminds us to “Speak the truth in love”, and “The truth will set you free.” Yet, in the same document they contradict themselves by suggesting that discrimination against lesbians, gay men or trans would not be a problem if only we did not come out publicly, if we would hide our sexual identity – and refrain from speaking that truth, “in love” or otherwise. But we know that failing to speak that truth is not only contrary to Scripture – it is also harmful to mental and emotional health – and hence also to physical health.
On the other hand, following the instruction from Scripture to speak the truth and being open and out, including out in Church, has many sound theological arguments supporting it. In a series of posts here, I have shown how numerous pastors and theologians, from diverse faith traditions, have argued that coming out is:
- a spiritual growth experience (Daniel Helminiak)
- wrestling with the divine (Richard Cleary)
- a Gospel command (Equally Blessed Coalition)
- implied by the Catechism (Me, at Queering the Church)
- saves lives (Bishop Jim Swilley)
- a religious obligation (Rebeccah Alpert)
- a sacrament (Chris Glaser, in his book)
The heart of the argument that coming out saves lives, is that healthy public role models give encouragement to young people who might otherwise think of suicide, and discourages bullying and homophobic violence, when they see that queer men and women can also be respectable and honest people of faith, and not the “perverts” of their imaginations. This is also the political argument for coming out.
The suggestion that we should “just keep quiet about it” is one I often meet, from people who would like to think that they are reasonable and free from discrimination or prejudice, but just don’t see why they should have to see or think about “those things”. This was neatly demonstrated on the BBC website a short while ago, when the corporation disclosed the results of some viewer research on LGBT visibility on TV. One respondent was quoted as saying something like he had no objection to homosexuals, but could not understand why he should be exposed to “one particular orientation” being constantly forced on him, in news reports, documentaries, comedy or drama series and films, or openly kissing and caressing in public. To which my immediate response was, “precisely”.
If we who are queer are expected to keep quiet about our sexual lives and attractions, why should not the converse also be true? Why should the heterosexuals be permitted to dominate television, books and public spaces with the open and exclusive demonstration of “one particular” orientation?
When I first came out as a gay man, one of the books I read which had the most profound influence on my thinking was called “Flaunting it”, on exactly this theme. While so many straights, it argued, complain about us “flaunting” our sexuality in public, they are completely oblivious to how blatantly and universally the hetero majority are constantly flaunting their preferences in front of us.
And so, I agree emphatically, with Fr O’Sullivan:
The ‘problem’ of homosexuality may be resolved in one word – truth, or, if you prefer, reality. If you live a lie, you’re lost. Wholeness is linked to soul and body; cutting one off from the other is divisive. It is a sad thought to know that you’ve hated your body, been unable to face the truth about yourself.
Go ahead, come out as far and as completely as you are able. Come out first to yourself, and continue to do so, ever more fully (coming out is a process, not a single event, even to oneself). Then to family and friends, and at work. Come out too, to God, come out in church.
The full series of extracts from Fr O’Sullivan’s “Furrow” article at Boundless Salvation is:
Inclusion – Is Sexuality the Final Frontier?
- Part 1: “Homosexuality is Unnatural
- Part 2: “Why can’t they just keep quiet?”
- Part 3: “It’s not wrong to be gay, but it is wrong to act gay’
- Part 4: “Homosexuality is fundamentally disordered”
- Part 5: “What’s wrong with saying “Do your best?”
- Part 6: “Our theology of sexual relationships”
- Part 7: “In the end we will be judged on how we have loved”
- Part 8: “Are homosexuals showing the church and society a way forward?”
My previous commentary is at
- Cleaver, Richard: Know My Name
- Glaser, Chris: Coming Out As Sacrament
- Glaser, Chris: Coming Out to God: Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, Their Families and Friends
- Goss, Robert (ed): Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible
- Heyward, Carter: Touching Our Strength: The Erotic As Power and the Love of God
- Helminiak, Daniel: Sex and the Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth
- Jackson, Ed: Flaunting It: A Decade of Gay Journalism from the Body Politic (312p)
- L’Empereur, James: Spiritual Direction and the Gay Person
- McNeill, John: Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians, and Everybody Else
- McNeill, John: Sex as God Intended
- “Speaking the Truth” on Catholic LGBT Inclusion (Queering the Church)
- The Problem of Heterosexuality.(Queering the Church)
- Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion: Is Homosexuality Unnatural? (Queering the Church)
- The Problem of Heterosexuality.(Queering the Church)
- Excluded From God’s People? (Queer Scripture)
- The Futility of (Attempted) Church Censorship: Minnesota, Ireland. (Queering the Church)
- Come Out, Stand Proud. (The Catechism Commands It!) (Queer Spirituality)
- The Spiritual Gifts of Gay Sexuality(Queer Spirituality)
- The End Is Not In Sight – But the Journey Has Begun. (Queer Theology)
- Come Out to Save Lives – Megachurch Pastor Jim Swilley (Queer Theology)