Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Around the time I was coming out, I went to see a therapist.  This therapist was an Episcopal priest.  My purpose in seeing him was to work through some of the issues I was struggling with in the process of coming out.

One of the spiritual principles we discussed was the impact that secrecy has on our psyches.  He reminded me of scriptures that warn about the fate of those whose "works are in the dark" (Isaiah 29:15).  This was around the time that a number of scandals involving Catholic priests molesting children were coming to public light.  He suggested that the closet fosters abuse.  When individuals have this huge area of their lives involving intense sexual feelings shrouded by guilt, and when they keep those feelings a huge secret, when there's no public accountability, the groundwork is laid for terrible, abusive acts.

We see something of this every time a sex scandal, like that recently involving an anti-gay Lutheran pastor in the Twin Cities, comes to light.  This pastor, who publicly condemned same-sex relationships in the harshest terms imaginable, was himself having gay sex.  He was engaging in acts in presumably anonymous settings.  And -- by his own confession -- was projecting demonic influences on those with whom he was having sex.  So one must assume that these were acts performed with a sense of hatred -- hating himself and also despising the one with whom he was performing these acts.

When my husband and I make love, we do it in a context of trust and commitment that we have sealed publicly.  We gathered our closest family, our friends, and members of our spiritual communities, and we covenanted in a public place -- in a church -- in a spirit of prayer.  We came before God and before all who cared to witness, and we covenanted to be true to each other and to take care of each other.  So when we make love we are able to do so in that context of care, nurture and commitment.  These acts, instead of being a performance of self-hate and hatred of another, can become sacraments.  They can help us help each other to become better, to love more fully as we come to believe ourselves worthy of love.

My purpose in this reflection is not to add further shame or humiliation to that undoubtedly already experienced by Tom Brock, or others in his situation.  In a sense, even if his actions had never been publicly exposed, I would say that what he has done is already its own punishment, far worse than whatever condemnation or shame I could try to add.  It's tragic actually.  Who has been the worst victim of the anti-gay hatred and intolerance he has spewed over the pulpit and over the radio waves?  This moment of revelation -- this proclamation from the housetops what was "spoken in the ear, in closets" (Luke 12:3) -- it only makes me realize that he was his own worst enemy.  His fear, his hate only kept him from finding the kind of love that could lift him up, give his life greater meaning and happiness, while making someone else happy, lifting someone else up, and making someone else feel loved.  Instead, he's relegated himself to works of darkness and self-loathing.

I should be the last one to condemn or to publicly shame, because I know from first-hand experience what it means to be trapped in that place of darkness and fear and self-loathing.

What is striking to me is how context and intention -- matters of the heart -- so utterly determine whether an act is sinful or saintly, whether from that act can flow good or evil.  Physical acts, in themselves (or, I should add, the genders of the partners engaging in them), reveal nothing about whether that act is good or evil.  The context and the context alone can reveal whether an act is a demonic performance of hate or a sacrament of love.

This is a reminder to me as well to keep faith.  Be patient in trial.  Don't let hateful words thundered from pulpits or over radio waves or on the television; don't let political campaigns and pamphleteering conspiracies to take away our rights and our dignity; don't let those kinds of lies persuade us that we are less than anyone else, that we are not deserving of love or happiness or commitment or faith.  Don't buy the lie.  Be true to what we know and to those around us.  Take care of ourselves.


Krisanne said...

Beautiful. (I found your blog through Listen to Who I Am).

Andrew S said...

Every post here is beautiful. I'm so jealous.

MoHoHawaii said...

I'm not sure why anti-gay closet cases have a worse reputation than other kinds of oppressors. Why should it matter? The effect is the same on the lives of others. Do we somehow admire the "honesty" of the Fred Phelpses of the world whose animus is simple? It seems that way sometimes, as crazy as that is.

J G-W said...

Krisanne - Thanks, and welcome!

Andrew - That means a lot to me, coming from someone whose blog I admire as much as yours!

Mohohawaii - It's hard to believe we're progressing, especially after this. All I can do is live in the hope that positive examples and loving behavior will ultimately have a more powerful effect on the lives of others than the Fred Phelpses of the world...