Sex, Gender and the Sacred

The road to the sacred runs through the carnal. Not only the Bible but Life itself reveals that sexuality is more spiritual than biological. The erotic is God's poetry of love calling us out of ourselves to awareness of beauty and to an expansive creativity and giving of ourselves. We go to God through one another, via loving, not apart from one another. --Paschal.

Friday, January 07, 2005

THE SENSUOUSNESS OF GOD


"THE SENSUOUS IS SACRED. FOR TOO LONG in the Christian tradition we have demonized the sensuous and pitted the 'dim senses' against the 'majestic soul'. This turned God into an abstract ghost, aloof and untouchable; and it made the senses the gateways to sin. But the world is the body of God. Hopkins is the great poet of God's beauty. He writes:
Glory be to God for dappled things. . .
All things counter, original, spare, strange; . . .
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
"Everything can be an occasion of God. The elemental presence of the divine is everywhere: wind, water, earth and fire witness to the urgency, passion and tactility of God. From these elements God fashioned the universe. It is not that God is reduced to a force of nature or that aspects of nature become mere images of God. Nature is divine raiment; the touch and flow and force of God touches us here but the divine presence is not exhausted by this.
"Both sensuousness of nature and our senses make the divine presence visible in the world. Nature was the first scripture, and at the heart of Celtic spirituality is this intuition: to be out in nature is to be near God. When we begin to awaken to the beauty which is the Sensuous God, we discover the holiness of our bodies and our earth.
--John O'Donohue, Beauty, The Invisible Embrace. Harper Collins, 2004

Heavenly Eros: When? Where? How?


Poets alone have risked expressing a view of the erotic as Mysterious Presence that invites us into otherness, and Otherness.

Churches, theologians and psychologists have been leery of attributing any transcendent value to human sexuality and sensuality--all aspects of the erotic of our bodies, minds, hearts and souls. Early Christianity saw sexuality as opposed to spirituality, and that negative, Puritan climate has continued down to our time. This neglect may be one of the reasons for the popularity of pornography.
This log (and maybe another soon on the Poetry of Love) proposes that the erotic is an introduction into the Presence of Mystery and Otherness for us humans. Here is an example of what I mean.

".....it was toward the end of that second and last year in Bermuda that I received what may have been the greatest of the gifts the island gave, without any clear idea what it was that I was receiving or that anybody had ever received the likes before.

"She was a girl going on thirteen as I was, with a mouth that turned up at the corners. If we ever spoke to each other about anything of consequence, I have long since forgotten it. I have forgotten the color of her eyes. I have forgotten the sound of her voice. But one day at dusk we were sitting side by side on a crumbling stone wall watching the Salt Kettle ferries come and go when, no less innocently than the time I reached up to the bust of Venus under my grandfather’s raffish gaze, our bare knees happened to touch for a moment, and in that moment I was filled with such a sweet panic and anguish of longing for I had no idea what that I knew my life could never be complete until I found it.

‘Difference of sex no more we knew / Than our guardian angels do,’ as John Donne wrote, and in the ordinary sense of the word, no love could have been less erotic, but it was the Heavenly Eros in all its glory nonetheless--there is not question about that. It was the upward-reaching and fathomlessly hungering, heart-breaking love for the beauty of the world at its most beautiful, and, beyond that, for the beauty east of the sun and west of the moon which is past the reach of all but our most desperate desiring and it finally the beauty of Beauty itself, of Being itself and what lies at the heart of Being.

"Like all children I had been brought up till then primarily on the receiving end of love. May parents loved me, my grandparents, a handful of others maybe, and I had accepted their love the way a child does, as part of the givenness of things, and responded to it the way a cat purrs when you pat it. But now for the first time I was myself the source and giver of a love so full to overflowing that I could not possibly have expressed it to that girl whose mouth turned up at the corners even if I had the courage to try.

"...Let anyone who dismisses such feelings as puppy love, silly love, be set straight because I suspect that rarely if ever again in our lives does Eros touch us in such a distilled and potent form as when we are children and have so little else in our hearts to dilute it. I loved her more than I knew how to say even to myself. Whether in any way she loved me in return, I neither knew not, as far as I can remember, was even especially concerned to find out. Just to love her was all that I asked. Eros itself, even tinged with the sadness of knowing that I could never fully find on earth or sea whatever it was that I longed for, was gift enough..." pp. 51-53.

--Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey. San Francisco, Harper and Row. 1982. ISBN 0-06-061158-8

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Core Questions, Strange Alchemy and My Bias

The core question is: by what strange alchemy has the liberating gospel of Jesus who unconditionally accepted wounded humanity become translated into a contemporary sexual ethic that is restrictive, uninspiring and guilt forming?
In this paper I strive to answer this, more often using the Catholic context as a larger frame for one dominant Christian view.

Other questions that must be addressed are:

How is it that Christian sexuality has been seen as opposed to spirituality?
Is the purpose of sex biological or both relational and spiritual?
What are the effects of Christian teaching on sexual ethics?
What are some remedies for us today?
What is the divine ethic for married love?
Could sexuality be an archtype or metaphor for this mystery we call God?

Is the erotic, in the biblical view, actually God's poetry of love
calling us out of ourselves into relationship and community?

Pondering these issues in the perspective of our Protestant/Catholic traditions can illumine some of our dilemmas and confusion in sexual matters today. Eric Fuchs Sexual Desire and Love, a thorough theological study, is the inspiration for the first part of this paper.

We are seeking to explore

1) a biblical spirituality of sexuality;
2) an incarnational theology of marriage; and
3) a Catholic or Christian context. Each of these is an aspect of the " whole" of
Christian mystical spirituality, of which 1), 2), and 3) are the "enfleshment."

By "mystical," I mean the reality and experience of ourselves (individually, communally--body, mind and soul--as being in immediate touch with God at the very center of ourselves, our whole selves, already available to awareness.

My goal is to empower people to view themselves and their sexuality differently, positively as a gift. I am not attempting here to write a theology of love or marriage, but to suggest counter-points and new directions. I have divided the subject into these topics: the early Christian view, rational control over the body was the ideal, effects of a natural law ethic, sexuality is not primarily biological, an eight fold design, effects of Catholic teaching, linchpin of the Catholic system, and concluding with a biblical view of God's poetry of love. I begin with a brief historical perspective.

On this blog I will post only highlights of each section while seeking better placement of the entire paper. I shall post the conclusion first, so readers can see where we are going, which seems more suitable for this format.

My bias is my life-experience, counseling many others, my own loves, my faith, and a belief that this mystery we call God speaks through our desires, wants, senses, loves, all of our carnality. Theologically, this view has a rich tradition in Celtic Spirituality, and references will be given. Two books by John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, and Beauty are places to begin.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

About your blog editor

Your blog editor is Paschal Baute, Ed. D., a psychologist in private practice in Lexington, Kentucky for 34 years and long time member of APA Division 36, Religion and Psychology. Also marital therapist, pastoral counselor, married Catholic priest, now semi-retired. He is a co-facilitator of the Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky for 15 years. He has written on the interface of psychology, health, sexuality and wellness. Some of his writing can be found on the web at www.lexpage.com/sgn.

These postings are taken from a paper published paper only privately as "God’s Poetry of Love," (subtitle: The Psychology, Theology and Politics of Sexuality), copyright, all rights reserved,. Paschal Baute, 1997. Current references will be offered.