St. Paul on Marriage — Radical Conversion

When I was going through the whole business of suspecting DH was gay, I was in a conservative evangelical church that probably would have been very supportive had I not been under the very mistaken idea that I was obligated to stay in the marriage and to protect him, no matter what. That idea of protecting DH was what kept me from seeking help at the time.

But as I’ve read comments from other women, it’s become clear that many of them have been in churches that are not supportive of women married to gay men, or men with SSA (same-sex attraction). The whole idea of submission from Ephesians 5 gets tossed around and used to bully women into staying in insupportable marriages.

But — and this is extremely important! — I don’t think St. Paul ever intended to beat anyone over the head with his Epistle. But I also think he couldn’t foresee a time in which we live, when women have unprecedented rights and privileges and his words would seem oppressive.

Paul was writing to a people who had lived their whole lives in the self-indulgent, even depraved culture of the Roman Empire. Shaped and informed by Greek paganism, although Roman women had some rights, they were still very much under the rule of fathers, then husbands, and the rights they did possess were so connected with their father’s family that I’m really not sure what the point of their being able to inherit or make a will actually might have been. And if she were a slave, she had no rights whatsoever.

Marriage was monogamous, but not a matter of love; most often it was an arrangement between families. Men married in order to establish legitimacy of offspring, to secure a legitimate heir, or for some personal (economic or political) advantage.

Paul, on the other hand, was an elite Jew, highly educated and quite privileged. In Judaism, marriage could occur for love, as demonstrated by many of the biblical narratives (Isaac and Rebekkah, Jacob and Rachel, et al.). The Song of Songs is a highly romantic celebration of erotic love as an analogy of spiritual love (which does not diminish its importance as a marriage celebration).  This was the culture Paul was teaching his Gentile converts to Christianity:  Christianity was Jewish in its moral and social values, its ethos. It was a massive paradigm shift for the formerly-pagan converts.

So when Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands as to Christ, he’s not subjugating them to men.  Society had already done that. What he was telling them was to view their dependence and their legal subjugation in a new and nobler perspective. By serving their husbands as they would Christ, these Ephesian women were given an opportunity to elevate their homes and their relationships with their husbands to a new dignity and importance. And, in the process, to elevate their own status in the home as analogous to the Church itself. Paul goes into this comparison in some detail in ch. 5, vv. 23-24.

But it’s the men who faced the greater challenge. They were instructed to completely change the way they regard their wives:  no longer as property, nor as a status bearer, nor as an object for sex and procreation, but as part of themselves, part of their own bodies!

To love them.

And, even more radically, to love with the same kind of total self-sacrificing self-donation that Our Lord demonstrated when He gave Himself for the Church.

The Greco-Roman culture was depraved. Sexual license and depravity were normal behaviors. From Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, we get a glimpse “Neither . . . sodomists . . . will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And such were some of you!” (I Cor. 6:9-11) [Yeah, ex-gays.  I totally get that!] That’s how complete  and radical the paradigm shift for these converts was.

So Paul is telling men to love their wives, rather than objectifying them. To honor them as part of themselves. To be willing to die for them.

We ex-wives of gay men have been objectified. We have been exploited, and in many ways abused. This abuse is not a Christian experience of marriage, but more of a reversion to a pagan model.

It really is better than we’ve known.

Chastity – A Politically Incorrect Perspective

Right off the bat, let me admit that I’m Roman Catholic, and I get the Church’s teaching about Chastity – sex as a unitive as well as procreative act, etc., etc. Up until about thirty, forty years ago, the mainstream Christian churches all shared this view, and most people were part of a Christian church of some description. That’s no longer the case.

In fact, I realize that most of my readers, now and forevermore, are probably going to consider themselves quite thoroughly independent of a religious perspective, so let’s talk about this chastity business from a very practical point of view.

As I’ve said before and will probably say again, women who’ve been married to gay men get all muddled up in confusing sex with affection with love. We are so habituated to equate the lack of sexual love or physical affection with the overall rejection we faced from our husbands that when a man comes along and shows us a bit of affection or sexual interest, we sort of lose our heads…

And it’s crazier, because a lot of us didn’t have sex before the wedding with our gay husbands. I thought DH had such exquisite self-control! but it turned out he just wasn’t interested. So when a man is interested… wow!

And then we find ourselves in situations we really don’t want to be in…

…with the “player” who just wanted the conquest and disappears after the encounter, leaving us wondering what happened! Was I not “good enough” for him, either?

… with the codependent man who is contented to hang around for easy sex but doesn’t want to make a commitment…

… with our judgment skewed in a very big way by all those endorphins and other horrormones that sort of hit us like a ton of bricks and interfere with our rational judgment.

And ultimately, what we want – to be loved for our whole selves and to belong to and with someone – has gotten sabotaged. We’ve been used. We feel it, as well as feeling cheapened, and exploited, and trashed.

So. Where does that leave us?

Let’s look at Chastity for a moment. Chastity does not mean never ever again having sex. Yes, I’m going to limit having sex to the context of marriage. What you do on your own is your business, but I’m not going to advocate any other course of action, okay?

Because, Look:

Chastity is liberating. It frees us from getting entangled in bad, toxic, exploitive premature “relationships.”

Chastity leaves us free to pursue healing and wholeness and our own integrity in a way that easy sex sabotages.

Chastity empowers us. It puts us in the driver’s seat, not our partner whom we’re trying so desperately to please.

Chastity gives us time and room to get to know a man’s character. Really. Sure, there’s always an element of risk – but that risk is exponentially increased, several times over, when those horny horror-mones kick in and are leading us around by the nose.

Yeah, the popular rhetoric these days is that women’s liberation is reduced to her ability to have unrestricted, consequence-free sex, but that’s a lie. Sex out of the context of marriage has emotional and spiritual consequences, and they’re very unpleasant.

So what do you have to lose by adopting chastity? A whole lot of baggage, it appears to me – baggage that actually thwarts us from achieving the life and love we really want.

 

Perspective – Part Two

Even more important, however, than the basic physical offensiveness of homosexual acts, or of the contemptuous way in which the gay community treats the rest of us, is the spiritual component of homosexuality.

My husband and I were Baptists/evangelicals. When we were married, he was a faithful believer who spent the first part of his morning reading the Scriptures and praying. He was pro-life. He believed that homosexual acts were a sin and that people burdened with the cross of homosexual tendencies were obligated to live as celibates.

He no longer believes these things.

I became Roman Catholic ten years ago, which gives me a new and stronger vocabulary for discussing this stuff.

First, we have the issue of “natural law.” The Apostle Paul was alluding to it when he wrote to the Romans that even pagans have a law that is written on their hearts, that reveals right and truth even to people who haven’t heard the Gospel (Romans 1). Natural law also tells us that sexual relations which in nature result in procreation, must be of the sort that can result in new life if they are going to adhere to that Natural Law. Homosexual acts cannot result in procreation; therefore they violate natural law.

Then we have the historical cultural evidence. Dennis Prager, in Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization, points out that Judaism arose out of a pagan ancient world – a world in which sexual license-to-depravity was the social norm. Remember all the Greek gods and their proclivities? The ancients just weren’t quite so sophisticated with their mythologies, but the cultures operated the same way: homosexuality, bestiality, incest, fetishism…  But out of this milieu arose a family, which became a tribe, which became a nation!… who said that they’d been formed and called by a God who commanded them to live for Him in ways which included restricting their sexual encounters to the framework of marriage: heterosexual monogamy.

So, not everyone followed the rules. Kings, for instance, like David and Solomon, were polygamous (and got into some serious trouble for it, too). But the rules themselves didn’t change. God prohibited all the ordinary events of the pagan world. The homosexuality He called “abomination,” but He also prohibited bestiality, incest, and the like.

And when the Christian Church was established, and, lo and behold! Gentiles were coming to know Jesus Christ! (and Gentiles were not “protestant jews,” they were pagans) it caused such an uproar that the first Council of the Church had to be held to figure out how to handle them. I mean, this was a MAJOR paradigm shift, from Roman/pagan to Christian! — and Peter and the rest of the Apostles put their heads together and agreed: the new converts to Christ did not have to be circumcised, the signification of the Old Covenant of Abraham; instead, they were to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from sexual immorality.

In other words, the new Christians didn’t have to have their bodies mutilated, but they did have to abandon the old paradigm and embrace a wholly new one – a paradigm of chastity.

It couldn’t have been easy. We know this because the earliest records of the Church demonstrate that private Confession (sacramental Confession) was followed up by public penance – and severe penances were placed in effect for the former pagans falling back into old habits. Severe fasting, separation from the Eucharist and from the community were some of the penances assigned to those who fell into the old ways.

There was vigorous discussion whether one could even be saved, whether penance was possible, who had fallen back into such grave sin after baptism.

Paul, again, wrote of this to the Corinthians. Now, the Corinthians were a particularly depraved group of people with a reputation so lewd that calling someone a “corinthian” was a serious insult. And Paul reminded them of what they had escaped, in I Corinthians 6:
{6:9} Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers:
{6:10} Nor the effeminate nor liers with mankind nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor railers nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God.

And those are the very sorts of people the Corinthians had been – But Paul goes on to remind them:


{6:11} And such some of you were. But you are washed: but you are sanctified: but you are justified: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.

(emphasis mine) Get a load of it: the early Gentile converts to Christianity became…

Ex-gays!

Sure, societies have deviated from the norms throughout history. History is full of examples of kings and nobles who had a decided “thing” for young boys instead of for women. But the law of the Church and the expectations of society never changed.

So – Homosexuality is a very grave sin, perhaps the gravest of sins because of its association with paganism, with following after false gods. And because I believe in a coming Judgment, I worry and grieve far more for my husband’s immortal soul than I do for the abuses he’s placed his body under – or even the ravages to his character I’ve observed in the years since our divorce.

Yet those very character deviations stand out as evidences of the great spiritual damage he – and other homosexuals – are doing to themselves.

And this grieves me most of all.

askthe"Bigot"

A place where ideas, not people, are under assault.

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.