Category: Catholic Sexuality

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

An Army Rising

‘I will rouse your sons, O Zion…and make you like a warrior’s sword.’ (Zech. 9: 13)

In spite of scandal and slumber, the Roman Catholic Church remains the most cohesive and powerful voice for sexual morality in the world today. If the annual Courage Conference last weekend is any indication, she is rediscovering that voice in proclaiming and administering wholeness to those with same-sex attraction.

Under Father Paul Check’s sound direction, Courage–the RCC’s official arm of pastoral care for Catholics with SSA—gathers priests, religious, therapists, and laity to raise up the Church’s foundations. These core truths define who we are as sexual beings and how Jesus through the Church restores our original dignity.

Last week’s conference combined incisive teaching, testimony, and worship. Like swords, leaders and strugglers alike were sharpened by the truth which is our freedom, a truth that exposes false compassion and justice in order to become the basis for a humbled people, arising to become His Body, broken for one another.

We confessed together: what the Church upholds about sexual wholeness, she has often failed to live. The compromised Body has allowed her mouth to be gagged, her hands tied by the lie that ‘gay is good’; she has opted to be ‘nice’, not morally beautiful, in her response to those with SSA.

Though the Bride has shrunk back from her own inheritance, the Bridegroom is raising up churchmen and women who are willing to stand upon the truth, to embody it. Might we become an expression of the Gospel so splendid and stern that it has power to welcome home the prodigal, and to raise the sin-sick from the dead?

Together we admitted we had been broken by the world’s version of homosexuality. Together we arose in unity to manifest the emerging beauty of our true humanity. Jesus is preparing us, His broken Body, to become an army whose offense lies solely in the beauty of Jesus, the ground and crown of our freedom.

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Justice for Whom

Advocates for ‘gay marriage’ usually claim no harm can be done to anyone through extending marriage and family rights to two men or two women.

New evidence now exists to show a host of challenges to kids of gay parents.

Professor Mark Regenerus found that, when compared to adults raised in married, mother/father families, adults raised by lesbian parents had negative outcomes in 24 out of 40 categories, while adults raised by gay fathers had negative outcomes in 19 categories.

(See http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jun/10/study-suggests-risks-from-same-sex-parenting/)

More studies are in the works to debunk the myth that kids don’t need parenting from the two who gave them life. To thrive, a kid needs a mom and a dad. Period.

We must take issue with those who, as a result of supporting gay loved ones, fail to see the implications of such skewed advocacy.

A legal change in the definition of marriage is short-sighted and cruel to the most vulnerable ones in our culture—children. Generations-to-come depend upon societal structures that advocate for their best. ‘Gay’ marriage and family is not one of them.

Strange justice: ‘gay marriage’ advocates often cite early childhood experiences of bullying and harassment for their same-sex tendencies as one reason why gay equality is imperative. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that ‘gay marriage’ only perpetuates the destabilizing of young lives.

‘Gay’ marriage and family causes the very ills it seeks to cure.

Christians, take a stand and resolutely refuse to redefine marriage, especially in the face of our president’s decision to do so. Consider those who have come before you. On behalf of the Church, St. Thomas More refused to grant Henry VIII (his king) a divorce, and was beheaded. May we emulate his courage in championing marriage today.

Please join me in this prayer that American Catholics have been encouraged to pray on behalf of religious liberty until July 4th:

Grant we pray, O heavenly Father, A clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome— for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us— this great land will always be ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

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Broken and Beautiful

What relevance is the Resurrected Christ for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction? Or with any other profound sexual problem?

As one who shares that struggle, I often feel like the rather clueless disciples, stumbling about in the dark with the risen Christ. Disoriented by mixed signals from the church and world, ‘harassed at every turn’ (2 Cor 7:5), I fail to see Him among us.

And yet in blessed moments, He opens our eyes and we see Him as He is. His tender power surpasses our deepest need and transcends moral abstractions. In an instant we realize that our need is only Him—His Real Presence, the life of the world becoming our life, the center in which we rest, the anchor of our soul, sure and steadfast. (Heb. 6:19)

Mysteries, all, made tangible by His body, broken for us and beautiful. It is fitting that only at table together, in the breaking of the bread—the re-presentation of His crucifixion, of His brokenness, that the disciples’ eyes were opened to behold Jesus in His resurrection, His wholeness.

‘When He was at table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him…’ (Lk 24: 30)

I am convinced that we shall behold the Risen Christ only when we discover Him in His broken body.

A few nights back I revisited the beauty of that brokenness. We gathered as one body at our Living Waters Training; there I taught on overcoming sexual brokenness through the advocacy of the Church. Given the unusually high levels of confusion in our culture today over same-sex attraction, I felt compelled to urge all same-sex strugglers (approximately one-third of the group) to come forward. The remaining folks–‘the traditionally-broken’—came forward to lay hands on them and impart power from on high.

God brought such freedom. The Risen Christ met us in acknowledged brokenness and revealed Himself to us: tender power to raise those deadened by fear and confusion and to make us one body.

If we want to know Him, the Risen Lord, we must be known by them: His body, broken and beautiful.

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Intimate Authority Holy Week Meditations, 4

Mary Magdalene anoints the feet of Jesus Christ, watched by the apostles. Original Artwork: Engraving by W Greatbach after the painting by Rubens. (Photo by Spencer Arnold/Getty Images)

This is the fourth post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts as they become available.


Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 4

Mary Magdalene, in her recognition and reliance upon her Merciful Deliverer, became authoritative in holy love. Tears of remorse became gratitude. Peace, love and joy dwelt in her depths now. Degradation and accusation became distant relatives that she could refuse.

You could say that sexual brokenness, surrendered to Him, made her strong. Her weakness invited His power; whenever tempted by the old kingdoms, she had only to draw near to Him. Her gender made a difference here. She possessed that beautiful responsiveness which Jesus, the whole Man, cleansed and ignited with holy love. He became her center; His pure, strong light lit her from within.

Her redeemed womanhood, combined with her moral vulnerability (we are usually not delivered from all susceptibility to our pasts), forged a dependency upon Him that was qualitatively different from that of the other disciples. While other men had shamed and fractured her further, Jesus’ presence set her free. Her wholeness was bound up in His life, her holiness in the intimacy they shared.

In gratitude, she gave all that she had to Him. That is evident in another extravagant display of worship. Mark describes her anointing Jesus with oil, breaking open an intensely fragrant and expensive bottle and pouring it over Him in front of everyone! Like the Pharisee in Luke 7, Jesus’ band was not impressed by Mary’s slavish, wasteful ‘worship.’ (Mk 14: 1-11).

Mark’s account differs significantly from Luke’s. It takes place just prior to Jesus initiating His Holy Supper with the disciples. Luke recounts Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with her tears and with oil, but Mark describes Mary anointing His head, a sign of familiarity with Him. She knew Him now, and like any devoted woman, understood what Jesus’ male friends didn’t. Jesus was going to die.

She was anointing His body for His death. In the old kingdom, Mary must have used such oil to enliven her customers. She saved the best for last, to inaugurate the New Kingdom opened to all through the Cross. Mary had surrendered all to Him and Jesus redeemed it all, even the tricks of her trade, to fulfill His purposes.

Marvelous to me is her obedience in light of the social shame she still provoked. ‘Some were indignant’ (v. 4); the scorn started early on with the Pharisee in Lk 7 and continued with Jesus’ disciples until the end. ‘Once a bad girl, always a bad girl…’ The traditions of men endure, even in the twice-born. The beauty of Mary? Shame never stopped her. She endured the shame for the joy set before her, the gift of knowing Him intimately and loving Him extravagantly.

What is costly worship for you? What do you offer Jesus that is often misunderstood by others and yet gives glory to Your Creator and Redeemer? I think of my peers with histories of same-sex attraction (a hard enough disclosure) who audaciously testify that Jesus is setting them free from its domination (harder still to confess in our gay-friendly age). For every ‘Amen’, that witness of Jesus’ redeeming power provokes a shake of the head or even a warning to not damage someone by giving them false hope.

What do you offer publicly to Jesus that is costly, fragrant, and scorned? May Mary’s worship set you free to worship Him with renewed audacity.

‘Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for Me…I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ (Mk 14: 6, 9)

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Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 3

This is the third post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts as they become available.

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 3

Intimacy with Jesus made an ex-prostitute the bearer of the most important event in human history.

God entrusted a woman, not one of the 12, with Christ’s resurrection. That’s why the Roman Catholic Church names Mary Magdalene the ‘Apostle of Apostles.’

Mary’s surrender to Christ was marked by weeping and lingering, two earmarks of loving another with all one’s heart. Such sustained intimacy gave Mary authority. Such reliance on Jesus gives us authority.

Mary’s life also demonstrates how Jesus exchanges our false attachments for His faithful, unfailing love. False intimacy is no match for His Mercy. And false intimacy can be a degrading and cruel master. God wants to elevate our sexuality to the level for which He intends it—the authentically human in which our desires are subsumed by a passion for Himself and thus transformed.

No easy or tidy task. False intimacy dehumanizes us and the enemy of our souls fights hard to keep us bound. Satan rules a kingdom of unrealities that seems real enough to seduce us until it cripples our capacity to overcome evil with the good. The face of Mercy in Jesus Christ shines on us then picks a fight with that kingdom. Mercy takes hold of our hearts and asks each of us: who will you serve?

Weakened by devotion to the sensual gods, subject to the scorn of the Pharisee without and within, our change seems hopeless. But God’s Kingdom in Christ is true, and is thus far more powerful than the silky illusions of our enemy.

In the sexual arena, I have witnessed deliverance—the clash of one Kingdom overcoming the lesser one—occurring after relationship with Christ is established. Like Mary, we need to know Him first, to trust His advocacy amid the shame of our weakness and religious judgment. And He needs to know that we will serve Him alone. He does not want to purge a house that has no intention of staying true to its owner; Jesus knows that demons return 7-fold to the fickle home. (Lk 11: 23-26)

He is faithful. Relying on Him alone, we cooperate with the Master as He thoroughly cleans house from the ungodly residue left by our false intimacies.

Mary exemplifies this. After she lingered with tears at Christ’s feet next to the Pharisee and joined the disciple’s band, Jesus delivered her of seven demons. (Lk 8:2)

Intimacy invites deliverance. We recognize Him and we rely upon Him, going where He goes, and He in His powerful mercy, cleanses us. I love the ease and naturalness with which Mary’s deliverance must have occurred. The closer we get to Him, the nearer we come to freedom, even from dark and destructive things that are so familiar we do not even recognize them as evil.

We must never romanticize or trivialize false intimacy. It is costly. Sexual violations of all sorts invite unclean spirits to lodge themselves in our depths and to hide there. But when we realize as Mary did that Jesus is not going to reject us and that our cure lies only in nearness to Him, then we will be unafraid to come into His Presence. We will not be shocked at the cleansing He has yet to do!

Annette and I each experienced significant deliverances from unclean spirits long after our walk with Jesus began. Mine involved familiar spirits tied to longstanding exposure to pornography, hers involved a spirit of control that she relied upon after the devastation of rape from an adult relative when she was 4-years-old. Our ‘Kingdom clash’ occurred willfully and prayerfully with the help of trustworthy, discerning saints. After the tussle, we each had a new authority to choose Life and to resist mental and moral strongholds that we had tolerated.

We must not be afraid that our residual brokenness will contaminate Christ or His community. We just enter in as Mary did—looking for every opportunity to worship and serve Him. He knows our hearts. We can know that no matter how broken and yes, still unclean we may be, He will deliver us!

The key is not coming under the Pharisee—the accusing, critical gaze. Like Mary, we must exercise courage to come as we are, our ragged, divided hearts intact, and cast ourselves upon His merciful feet. Like Mary, we must learn to weep and linger there. Our deliverance will come, is coming, will come!

Leanne Payne says it like this: ‘In seeking only Him who is our righteousness we begin to see more clearly and purity of heart and life ensues…Jesus assures us and we know most certainly that He will remove the wheat from the chaff, that He will transform the desire where and when necessary, and that He will elevate it to higher places when our perception of His will for our lives is too low.’

Deliverance strengthens our reliance upon the Deliverer, and grants us a godly fear of sin and spiritual darkness. We should have a holy regard for the kingdoms of this world, especially those we have participated in. We remember Mercy, the grace He gave us to know Him and to follow Him alone. We become a people of One House, One Kingdom, united with Christ. Where else can we go, how else can we live? He alone has the keys to life.

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