Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Confucius and same-sex attraction

I actually have no idea what the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, may have said--if anything--about same-sex feelings. But I do know something that he said that bears on the question.

One of the teachings of Confucius was the "rectification of names," which you can read about here--the idea being that until you call things as they are, and thus know what things actually are--you can't get where you have to be. In other words, realism.

Anyway, I was driving back from Clermont County on Saturday evening, thinking about a conversation I had recently with someone asking me what's wrong with the "love" expressed by someone who is homosexually oriented?

That's when Confucius' rule came to mind. Are we using the term correctly?

The answer is no. To put it simply: we insist that "love" doesn't mean what you think it means.

What do we mean by love?

Of course there are different sorts of love--and I'm skipping over, "I love cinnamon rolls." We speak of love between friends, among family, the love of parents for children, the love of a patriot for his country, the love of self-sacrifice...

And then there is erotic love. And that's where the controversy lies. No one objects to love between two men or two women, when it is the love of friends or family, the love of comrades at arms.

The issue is sexual love expressed between two people of the same sex. Why do we care?

The answer is, strictly speaking, that's not truthful "sexual love," because sexual love, by its very nature, is nuptial. It is, by nature, complementary. And, by nature, ordered toward procreation.

And there it is. This is a common thread to a number of teachings of the Church, so much mocked and derided:

> Who cares if people have sex before marriage?
> Who cares if people give themselves sexual pleasure?
> What's so terrible about contraception, especially if a couple at least has some children?
> How can you be against using technology to conceive a child ("in vitro")?
> What's wrong with the love of two men or two women for each other?

The answer is that sexual love is essentially nuptial--meaning it's ordered toward, and realizes its truth in, the complementary union of a man and a woman. This union by its nature is ordered toward procreation. And, for what ought to be obvious reasons, this physical union is only truthful and moral when it is not only a union of body but also mind; and when it has permanence.

So when our society speaks of "love" in its loose way, an accurate answer is to say, "that's not really love." That is to say, while there may be love of friends, the expression of sexual love is false. It is not--it cannot be--what sexual love is made to be. It cannot be complementary. It cannot procreate. It cannot be nuptial.

Remember, this life isn't a different story from eternity--as if in this life, we enact whatever narrative we wish, and then when we die, we start with something entirely different. No, this life is our preparation for eternity. With every choice we make, we shape ourselves, bit by bit, into the persons we will be forever. And ultimately, the choice of good versus evil is the choice of reality versus non-reality, the will of God or our own.

Heaven--whatever else we can say about it--is also the ultimate realism. If God exists, he's in charge; and if we want to be happy forever, we must be happy with him. So when someone is aghast at our suggestion that you have to believe in God--and, for that matter, believe in Jesus Christ and the Trinity--in order to go to heaven, all we're really saying is, you must be reconciled to reality. If Christianity is true, then you're "stuck" with the Triune God, including the Son, forever. If you can't bear that, then you face an eternity of gnashing your teeth in misery. In other words, hell.

I am greatly influenced in my thinking by C.S. Lewis, particularly his Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce, in which he illustrates powerfully this idea that someone would not go to heaven because she or he is, as a result of a lifetime of choices, incapable of wanting what heaven is. And in that context, one wonders: if our Faith is correct about the falsity, the reality-rejection of erotic love that refuses to be nuptial--and that means not just same-sex eroticism, but all eroticism outside marriage--then it isn't just that it "offends" God, but that it shapes us with an orientation toward unreality. A lifetime of seeking happiness in illusion is not a happy preparation for heaven.

Now, it may be that of all the ways our deviations from God's plan can render us incapable of true happiness, the sins of the flesh may be less destructive in their effect on the sinner than others. Some--including Lewis--have argued that. That contention will get vigorous push-back from some, and it's only a speculation. But if it has merit, it has it to the extent that sinful erotic behavior is a result of misplaced love, love that is in other ways seeking to be generous. It may be that, somewhere this side of eternity, even just shy of it, the person who spent a life seeking happiness along that particular wrong path may come to distinguish the love that was noble from the eroticism that was wrongly appropriated.

In any case, let's rectify our terms. We are not against love; we're for it. True love is permanent; true love is wholly self-giving. True love is open to the gift of life--it does not render itself sterile, either permanently or periodically. And when true love can be sexual, it is procreative. They go together. This true, sexual love takes the risk of giving ones power to procreate to the other. True love has, imbedded with in it, a willingness to be a parent, even if that never happens. A husband (or wife) is, by nature, someone willing to be a father (or mother); and a father is someone willing to be a husband. True love recognizes children as a gift, not a right. Children have a right to be the fruit of human love, not the product of an industrial process.


rcg said...

Exactly! Another way to put it is to ask, "Is your 'love' contingent on a sexual favor?" The answer to that question tells you where the person's intent is. And if the person flees into the totally open, position of sex is unrelated to 'love' and my 'partner' can have sex whomever they please, then again they repudiate the connection and confirm the base nature of their goal. This is a fools errand for us, of course, because the statement that would totally frustrate them is, "I agree with everything you say about sex. I just don't want to have sex with you."

Pat said...

Father, this is circular reasoning.

You're merely saying that gay people cant have sex (or sexual love) because sex (and therefore sexual love) requires people who have different sexual organs.

But your stating that doesn't make it a fact.] And the whole "ordered towards procreation" concept just doesn't hold water. To believe that concept requires that we believe something ridiculous: that certain body parts are "for" certain uses and not for others. I disprove that theory every time I swim.

Also, our government doesn't require (or measure) love when it hands out marriage licenses - and that's a good thing. We don't want the government making love a requirement for marriage -- that would require, among other things, that government officials make determination about whose love is "really love" and whose love isn't.

It's best to let the couple decide if they are in love or not.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Oh Pat, you just like to argue, and attempt to harass into silence anyone who disagrees with your post-modern dogma.

Of course certain functions of the body can be discerned.

Do you know anyone who can hear with his or her eyes?

Anyone who can eat food with his or her ears?

Of course male reproductive parts are ordered toward female reproductive parts, and the combination results in...guess what? Reproduction.

This is what you claim "doesn't hold water.

Pat said...


When someone challenges your assertions about a matter that is in our newspapers every day you shouldn't take it as someone trying to harass or silence you. Quite the opposite. This is a dialogue.

What doesn't hold water is the theory of Natural Law as you've applied it to human sexual behavior. In short, the theory as so applied holds (among other things) that a man and a woman who are dating are violating natural law theory if they engage in mutual, consensual, oral sex because that behavior is neither procreative nor is it occurring between people who are married to each other. That's ridiculous.

Natural Law theory would say that such a man's genitals should be used only for (A) urinating, (B) impregnating a woman to whom he is married and (C) providing non-procreative sexual pleasure to a woman to whom he is married. And no other purpose. Again, that's ridiculous.

I appreciate your attempt at analogizing to eyes and ears but those examples don't really advance the discussion because those body parts are limited. Arms and legs are a better analogy: NL theory, taken to its logical conclusion, would say that legs are for walking and arms are for lifting. And no other purpose.

But we know that we don't limit the use of our arms and legs like that. It gives me pleasure to use my arms and legs to swim. Why is THAT behavior not disordered, but cunnilingus is disordered when not used in (C) above? Why aren't man's fingers, toes, tongue, nipples, etc, limited the way NL theory limits the use of man's genitals. It just doesn't hold water.

NL theory fails miserably when applied to human sexual behavior and therefore certainly cannot be used as a basis for who deserves a civil marriage license.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I have seen your comments here enough to form a conclusion about what I think your purpose is. I stand by my assessment.

McCall1981 said...

Beautiful post Father, thank you!

Pat said...

Well, I can't force you to engage in a dialogue, but I do thank you for allowing me to share with you my thoughts and my reasoning.