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Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Thinking out loud: Gay and straight pride is just pride

Vague post I suspect.

Working with evangelical families who have same-sex attracted members is among the most difficult clinical work I do. Many evangelicals make SSA the unpardonable sin ("thank God I am not like those sinners") and the SSA member wants to pursue a scorched earth, take no prisoners approach ("if you don't accept my truth, then you don't love me and I will never speak to you again"). Both sides wants a change of belief to occur and accuses the other of disloyalty and hatred if the change is not forthcoming. It appears to me that both sides want to fight and win the culture war within my office and within the context of their family. My efforts to normalize disagreement by making it analogous to other behavioral and social issues about which people disagree often fail initially. While most families do gradually grasp on to that concept, living and letting live is like brokering a peace treaty. I think at the moment that I write this that pride in the direction of one's sexual attractions is not healthy self-esteem nor assertively standing up for one's beliefs, it is just pride (or narcissism, if you speak english with a psychological accent).

My work is practically done for me when I speak to a less common set of parents who understand "there but for the grace of God, go I" and gay identified member who says, "I know this is difficult for you, it is difficult for me, remember I didn't ask for these feelings." These families seem to understand quickly that one cannot argue anyone into heterosexuality.

Not vague at all. :) Your thoughts speak truth very clearly.
"Both sides wants a change of belief to occur and accuses the other of disloyalty and hatred if the change is not forthcoming."

Speaking only for myself, I don't need a change of belief, only of action. I want my parents (which they are doing now) to recognize that I am in a relationship analogous to theirs, even if they consider it sinful. I want them to recognize that I am grappling honestly with my view of the world, others and myself. This doesn't involve them changing their belief that I am apostate, etc. It can include the view that my honest grappling is sin-laden and tainted by an impaired view of the world. But it would be apply that same perspective to themselves.

Finally, I'm not proud of the direction of my sexual attractions. They just are--like the orientation of my handedness or my height (I'm 6 feet tall, but didn't choose that either). I can be "proud" of what I do with those attractions, in the sense of feeling grateful that I have the ability to live in a covenantal, monogamous, healthy relationship. That's the kind of pride that is more of the sense of honor we have in being human and having an extra dimension to our lives, the "ought" that goes along with the "is."

One more remark--the idea of "there but for the grace of God" is tricky. Even though an evangelical may understand that the grace of God is not earned, is a gift, is arbitrary--doesn't come with respect to the recipient's moral stature--in practice, it's more of a "Pheew! I'm glad I'm not that way!"

And while that sense of relief, while connected to a belief which I cannot change (that being gay is sinful), nor should I ask to be changed, is dangerously close to despising the other. Or can be.
As I use and understand the phrase, "there but for the grace of God, go I" it means no one can lay claim to pride over one's endowment, genotype, temperamental dispositions, giftings, etc. What we are responsible for is fidelity to the teachings as best we understand them. I believe that such fidelity often produces changes in personality and disposition and even in desires; but not always.
"I think at the moment that I write this that pride in the direction of one's sexual attractions is not healthy self-esteem nor assertively standing up for one's beliefs, it is just pride (or narcissism, if you speak english with a psychological accent)."

Well, perhaps if you had grown up in a culture that encouraged you to feel shame for the direction of your attractions until you finally decided you weren't going to any more, you'd think differently.

If you think, and pass on, that being self-assured and/or proud of your relationship (or your intention of one) is nothing but narcissism; then you are not normalizing disagreement. You are trying to turn one side into a pathology.

I assume you wouldn't consider heterosexual man or woman asking (and expecting) people to attend their public wedding, or demanding that people treat their partner with at least polite respect are infatuated with themself.

When I stand up to an insult hurled at my relationship I am defending him, not myself.

He is more than right for me and a good person, thank you for asking, and to suggest otherwise is just plain rude and insulting. You are entitled to them, but may keep those views to yourself and I will not be silent if you decide to do otherwise.

I'd expect you to do the same if someone behaved that way regarding your own family. Actually, I'd support you and ask that the rude person shut-up. That doesn't make you prideful, let alone narcissistic.

I find it interesting that you did not describe the personal religious beliefs of the parents etc as selfish or narcissim, or attempt to turn their behaviour into a pathology.

Frankly, have you ever considered that your own low regard for gay people or their relationships is itself selfish and self-infactuated?

(I assume you're addressing the personal here; as "Pride Day" etc has entirely different dynamic with a deliberate public and political statement to make.)
Part II :)

I just remembered the word I was looking for in the above post: grateful. Sorry, brain cell that was stored in must have gone to sleep.

There isn't a day that goes by, even when we are in disagreement over something ultimately trivial, when I am not grateful: about me, for him, because of "us".

That is the word I tend to use, in conversation. You'd be wrong to interpret it as pride.
"I can be "proud" of what I do with those attractions, in the sense of feeling grateful..."

Grantdale and I are on the same page, in some ways, I think.

I understand where you're coming from about grace. My personal experience is that there can be a slide in attitude. Of course, the real problem is, as you point out, the conflicting beliefs--I don't think that it is a matter of the grace of God keeping someone from having same-sex attractions. Though I don't consider grace a real phenomenon, except perhaps in a sense closest to common grace, I would say that it would be quite rude for me to say "There but for the grace of God go I" when pointing to a heterosexual couple.

However, from within a Christian perspective, it is appropriate.

Tomorrow is the Love Won Out Protest/Vigil here in St. Louis, and I'll be interested in how it plays out.

Already (I've posted some on Gayspirituality.typepad.com about this) two signs have been vandalized. The community is split in how to respond, and not necessarily along lines of religious experience.

Look for a more thorough consideration of this dialogue (evangelical-LG [there's no BT on their radar]) on that blog later this weekend.
No Grant and Dale, it's definitely narcissism, just like the narcissism of Steven Spielberg:


or that of many black people:




yes, truly narcissism all around!
Sorry ck -- I missed that word in your post.

I could have saved myself some brainwracking!

And I've just noticed the paragraph that starts "He is more than right..." was meant to all be in italics. It reads like it's addressed specifically to Warren, as the other paragraphs were, and it wasn't meant to be. It's a more general statement, for anyone.
A lot of mainstream churches are rather cultish in their practised doctrinal beliefs. They say they believe in grace and redemption, but in action they condemn sinners to the pits of Hell very quickly, especially gays. Yes, I think this has a lot to do with pride...the I'm glad I'm not like that sinner syndrome in all its glory.
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