Daniel Helminiak

Sex and Sacred

Sex and the Sacred

Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth
Harrington Park Press, 2006

Daniel Helminiak is an openly gay Catholic priest, theologian and psychotherapist, who holds doctorates in both spirituality and psychology. He now teaches spritituality in a faculty of psychology  (the interface between the two fields is attracting increasing academic attention), leaving him eminently well qualified to write on the subject.

In this valuable book, he shows how coming out is an important spritual experience: indeed, he argues that just being lesbian or gay inherently us onto a personal quest which he identifies as ‘”spiritual”, whether or not that includes a conventionally “religious” element.  Starting form this “nontheistic” treatment of spirituality, he proceeds to a a more conventional, Catholic view, and how we can use spiritual growth, and examination of our own personal experience, to learn more about our sexuality and its relationship with God.

Contents (Chapter & section heading):

Ch 1: The Spiritual Dimension of the Lesbian and Gay Experience

The senseless burden of a bad concience
The Meaning of “Spiritual”
The Inner Push to Spiritual Growth
Coming out as a Spiritual Experience
Love as Spiritual Exercise
Gay strength, Virtue, Wisdom and Spiritual Growth
Detours from the Spiritual Path
The Tug-of-War Between Religion and Spirituality.
Spirituality Without God or Religion

Ch 2: A Spiritual Lesson fron the AIDS Epidemic

A Humanist Spirituality

The Possibility of Nontheist Spirituality
The Human as Tripartite: Body, Psyche, Spirit
The Nature of Human Spirit
A Humanist Basis for Spirituality
Summary of a Nontheist Spirituality

The Spiritual Dimension of the Gay and Lesbian Experience

The Spiritual Dimension of Coming Out
A Response to the Religionists

Nontheist Gay Spirituality in the Face of Death

Running Away in life’s Fast Lane
Falling Back onto Religion
Spiritual Wealth within the Gay and Lesbian Community

Final Considerations

Ch 3: Sexuality and Spirituality: Friends, Not Foes

Positive Attitudes
Negative Attitudes
Reemerging Positive Attitudes
Renewed Interest in Spirituality
Integration of Body, Psyche and Spirit
Embodied Spirituality
Means of Integration

Ch 4: Sexual Self-Acceptance and Spiritual Growth

Sexual Development and Human Development
Sexual Self-acceptance and Self-esteem
Sexuality and the Handicapped
Acceptance of One’s Homosexuality and Self-esteem

Ch 5: Sexual Pathways to Spiritual Growth

Sexual Arousal and Orgasm: Focus on the Individual
Loving Another Person: Focus on the Couple
The Pollyanna Effect: Focus on the Human Family and the Cosmos
Loneliness, that Endless Yearning:Focus on the Infinite
The Goodness of Creation: Enter Belief in God
Sexual Fulfulllment in God: Enter Concern for Union With God.
Summary about Sexuality and Spirituality

Ch 6: Sexual Ethics Without Religion

The True Nature of Ethics
Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Dimensions of Human Sexuality
Ethical Guidelines
The Personal and Interpersonal Nature of Human Sexuality
The Social Implications of Human Sexuality
The Promise of Ethical Living

Ch 7: The Rights and Wrongs of Sex, Queer and Otherwise

The Challenge of Ethics in the Gay Community
Reasons to Consider sexual Ethics
Gay is Good
Science-Based Ethics
One’s Personal Best
Ethical Guidelines
The Ethical Attitude

Ch 8: The Spiritual Crisis in Religion and Society

The Sad Record of Religion and Violence
The Political Side of Religion
Religion, Spirituality and the Current Dilemma
Humanity as Inherently Spiritual
Built-Requirements of Spiritual Fulfilment
Science That is Open to God
A Spiritual Response to Religiously Motivated Violence

Ch 9: Jesus: A Model for Coming Out

Mark’s Picture of Jesus
Jesus as God Incarnate in Later Christianity
Jesus’ Self-Understanding
Jesus’ Claim to Unprecedented Authority
Jesus’ “Crisis of Identity”
Jesus’ Experience of Being Himself
Jesus as Everyman – and Everywoman
The Lesson of Mark and Jesus

Ch 10: The Trinitarian Vocation of the Gay Community

Christian Belief About the Trinity
Human Relationships within the Gay Community

  • Friendships Beyond Gender Limitations
  • Equality in Relationships
  • Personal Growth Through Interrelationship
  • Preservation of Personal Uniqueness

The Gay Community as Trinitarian
The Vocation of Gay Christians

Ch 11: Homosexuality in Catholic Teaching and Practice

The Heterosexual Issue: Contraception
The Nature of Sex
“Complementarity and Human Anatomy”
The Nuances of Catholic Teaching
The Supremacy of Conscience
Catholicism’s Conflicted Openness to Gays and Lesbians
Catholic Gay Ministries
The Inevitable Change

Ch 12: Gay Marriage: A Response to the Vatican

The Identification of Sexuality with Procreation
Inconclusive Religious Arguments Against Same-Sex Relationships
Misrepresentation of Social-Science Findings About Same-sex Families
Misguided Concern About the Social Order
A Position Built on Sand and Blind Faith
A Valid Consideration: Concern for the Children
Civil union versus Sacramental Marriage
Marriage as Sacrament
The Reorganisation of Society
The Genius of Roman Catholicism and the Salvation of Nations

Ch 13: Why Biblical Lieralism Is Not Christian

The Identity Theft of Christianity
A Matter of Theology
Literal Interpretation and Reliance on the Bible Alone
Taking History Seriously
“God’s Word” as Political Ideology
The Essence of Christianity
A Lesson From the Council of Nicaea
Implications for all of Chrisitianity

Ch 14: The Bible, Homosexuality, and Christianity

An Array of Ethical Opinions

  • Outright Condemnation Across the Board
  • Different Meanings of Homosexuality
  • Neutrality Regarding Homosexuality
  • Affirmation of Same-Sex Relationships
  • The Dilemma in Basing Ethics on the Bible

A Deeper Analysis

  • The Impact of Historical Awareness
  • The Danger of Relativism
  • The Mind of the Bible

Intimations for a New Christianity

  • The Bible and Critical Thinking
  • Biblical and Naturalistic Ethics
  • The Melding of Scripture and Tradition

An Ecumenical Christianity


Ch 15: Gay Bashing and 9/11 Terrorism: Religious Perversion.

The Religious roots of Violence
The Strangled Soul of Religion
Shaken from Dogmatic Slumber
The Positive Effects of the Tragedy
Towards a Global Community
Resurgence of the Spiritual

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