Ever since the early 1980s, Pope John Paul II has held the monopoly on theologies of the body. An inadvertent product of talks given to the College of Cardinals produced one of John Paul’s most treasured works. The interaction of body and spirit is, of course, an important topic in theology and has recently (and unapologetically) become the topic of debate in less mainstream congregations. What, after all, does it mean to relate the body and the spirit? Is there a right and a wrong relationship? What does morality say on the topic?
Sadly, the early years of John Paul’s papacy introduced a neo-orthodoxy that pulled the church back to a very strict treatment of alternative sexualities. The catechism speaks to this neo-orthodoxy by making clear the “disoriented” nature of homosexuality. Though its genesis and origin remain unclear, it was–and still is–viewed by the church as an opportunity for “disoriented” Christians to “take up the cross of Christ” and live out an abstinence that precludes sinful homosexual acts.
Though it has become clear that the church has never meant their teaching to suggest the individuals claiming alternative sexualities were themselves innately sinful, there is still much work to be done on theologies of the body. How can a healthful approach to spirituality be taken by someone who is homosexual, knowing from the start that they must suppress part of their natural desire? This is what’s worth exploring.
Unfortunately, the theologies of the body that Pope John Paul promulgated are faulted in two primary ways. First of all, they fail to recognize the manifestation of Christ in creation, i.e. the people of the world. A theology that separates God from His people is inherently flawed. Rather than treating God’s people as the bride with Christ as the bridegroom, we should appreciate an even more intimate bond–so intimate, there is no need for joining two separate entities. We are instead, already joined, already one. The spiritual and emotional energy we devote to understanding our relationship with God–on all levels–should be more of a discovery among ourselves than an attempt to contrive an artificial and unhealthy way of life. Secondly, John Paul’s Christian perspective fails to appreciate the views which other religious traditions have shared. Indeed, if the epistles which Paul wrote in the early days of Christianity, bringing Gentiles into the faithful flock of God, are in any way symbolic for us today, we should appreciate that all created people of God have a voice in the understanding of sexuality. The Theology of the Body which John Paul expounded is lacking in this perspective.
My aim, therefore, is to forge a new theology. I hesitate to be specific in my labeling, particularly since I am familiar with a Christian lexicon, and know this to be anathema to many gay people. When I say “theology,” I merely mean a profound understanding of sexuality in spiritual terms. How do the two relate? How can we shape a healthy view of the spirit inclusive of our manifold sexual identities? It is important to know that I do not implicitly suggest a Christian “God” in this theology, but merely that this discussion cannot be successful without appreciation of all faith traditions, including Christianity.
I have also realized, in my understanding of the importance of voice and perspective in this new theology, that it cannot possibly be completed by myself alone. There is much I haven’t experienced–as many of my friends would testify–and my visions, however open they may be, are the visions of only one person. I intend, therefore, to open the dialogue to those whose lives are far different from my own, embracing disparate cultures and societies, different age groups, and vastly different personalities. If we are the people of God in sum, then a theology of the homosexual body must come from all homosexual people.
This is the beginning. I encourage everyone and anyone–gay, lesbian, straight, transgender, bisexual, or questioning, to freely comment on and contribute to this theology. I should hope that it is never finished, and that there is much left to be said and experienced long after I am gone. But I mean to begin the discussion.
At the outset, then, I offer this foundational, if simple, question:
What is sexuality to us? This is not a communal question, but a very personal one. I encourage you to answer anonymously. What does it mean to you as an individual, with all of your unique traits and qualities?
Please comment ad nauseum. I’m anxious to hear your thoughts. Let’s begin a counterpoint to John Paul’s rigid theology of the body, informing ourselves as we inform others on what makes sexuality such a rich component of our spirituality. Perhaps now we can uncover what ostracized so many gay people from the church and heal the wounds that have festered over so many decades.