"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
A gay male who marries a female, but claims to still be gay
“Yestergay”, Urban Dictionary
But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
1 Corinthians 7:9
I realise that I haven’t been writing much notes lately, so I gave a list of topics to a friend of mine and he thinks that I should write on this, onward then!
A Three Step Argument
My argument as to why gays should marry and enter into a marital union with the other sexis very simple. It can be reduced to three steps.
(1) Gays have sexual passion
This is self-evident, otherwise they wouldn’t have known that they are gay!
(2) St Paul teaches that it is better to marry then to burn with passion.
C.f. 1 Corinthians 7:9
Ergo (“therefore” for those of you unlearned in Latin/philosophical language)
Conclusion: Gays should marry.
If this argument is really so simple, why indeed has it not occurred to anyone? Let’s go to the objections.
Objection 1: Gay people aren’t sexual attracted to the opposite sex!
So? Who said that the marital life is contingent upon physical attractiveness? Who made sex a function of attractiveness? Are all ugly and unattractive people to be denied matrimony simply because they aren’t physically attractive? What nonsense is this? And all people will grow old one day and their six packs will disappear under their tummy and the ladies’ breasts will sag and no longer attract. Therefore marriage ceases to exist? Bah! Ridiculous! (But maybe this linking of marriage to physical attractive might explain the rise of divorces, but oh well, another topic, another time)
Objection 2: Gay people can’t love the opposite sex!
By “love”, I presume you mean the agape love of Christianity not the eros of paganism, the sort of love which is outward looking, not seeking a selfish possession (eros), but one whereby one seeks the well-being and good of the other and acts to bring it about, the sort of love which exists in friendships whereby friends seek to to advance and further the interest of each other.
If this is what you mean, then it is an insult to gay people to insinuate that they are incapable of and love towards the opposite sex! Of course they can act for the good and well being of the opposite sex. And since it is popular conception that gay people tend to be great friends with the opposite sex and understand them so well, can you think of a group of people better suited for a heterosexual marriage? Can you think people who are more suited “to love and to cherish”?
On NOT Overloading the Meaning of Marriage
Perhaps my last reply has a tinge of being in jest. But that is only because of the fact that since the Romantic age, marriage has been overloaded with too much meaning and significance that the “lightness” in which I am treating marriage seems ludicrous.
For centuries since the Reformation, most of the English-speaking world has been married under the form of the Book of Common Prayer. In it, three “causes” of reasons for which marriage has been ordained by God is spelt out.
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.
No doubt most of us today would gasp at the unbelievably cynical (and dreary!) view of marriage which the Book of Common Prayerhas. It was first written in 1549 and it has remained that way ever since. Even until today, this form is still the official marriage liturgy of the Church of England.
Romanticism has basically introduced the idea of marriage and love union as possessing something like a total and complete claim upon our persons, the sort of passionate, intense, exclusive and total possession of our being so often upheld as the ideal in Hollywood and Disney.
Thus, the idea of someone who does not “love” his spouse with their “whole heart” (read: with total and intense passionate subjectivity), seems to us to be weird and strange.
In Christianity we have a name for this. It is called idolatry. In the “Two Greatest Commandments” of Christ, only God is to be loved “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). To render any creature such total devotion and passion and worship is in effect an idolatrous sin against God. On a related point, when we start investing marriage with the total significance and passion which the Romantics want to do, expecting marriage to be the source of all our joys and happiness, is it any wonder that a whole generation quickly becomes cynical and sceptical when marriage does not deliver all which its promised and portrayed? Only in God is one to seek one’s total good and joy. Creaturely marriage can provide some measure of consolation and comfort, but to invest it with more significance than that, is to burden it with an expectation which it cannot fulfil.
Therefore it would be instructive now to turn from this frankly fantastic notion of marriage to the much more sober conception which the Book of Common Prayer has.
First, it is for the procreation of children, to be raised in the fear and nurture of the Lord. As Christians, as long as the Lord has not return as yet, then we have a duty to continue to raise the next generation as witnesses to the Gospel and salvation history. But I think more relevant to our discussion would be the second and third cause. No matter how many Christians would want to gloss over the second cause, as a remedy against sin and to avoid fornication, it is practically a lifting off from 1 Corinthians 7:9. As I’ve argued earlier, this cause is really very simple. Gay people do feel sexual passion and since the only way for them to legitimately relief their sexual passion is in marital sex, then get married and have sex for God’s sake! (Literally!) Sure, the sex may not be as pleasurable or as intense or as exciting as it would be with a person of your sexual preference, but then again as I’ve already pointed out, to make sexual attractiveness and pleasure a function of marriage, is to simply miss the point. As Christians, we naturally have an interest in their sanctification and as such, since this is St Paul’s prescription to the temptation of sexual passion, by relieving it in marriage, then we are bound to honour it.
Which brings us to the third cause of marriage, the “mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity”. This is, by the way, a distinctive Protestant innovation. Before the Reformation, only the first two causes are taught, so if you think the Book of Common Prayer is cynical, try the medieval age! But as I’ve already pointed out in Objection 2, to love which married couples ought to have in a marriage has nothing to do with the passionate and intense Romantic love, it is simply the proper agape love of friendship, “mutual society”, helping and comforting of each other, i.e. the advancing and seeking the well-being and welfare of the other, etc. This is a duty and an act of will, “that the one ought to have of the other”, not an emotion or a sentiment, whereby one seeks the good and the welfare of the other.
In most Christian marriage liturgies, we are take a vow to love our spouses, we don’t take a vow to be in love with our spouses. Its the agape-eros duality in marriage. Agape is selfless and generous, it gives and sacrifices oneself for the other’s benefit, without consideration to oneself, one’s interest or desire. While eros is inherently jealous, it seeks to possess the object of desire for oneself, it is drawn towards it and acts to “have it”. To put it simply, agape wants your good, eros wants you.
Thus, when we vow to “love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live” it is fundamentally agapistic in nature. We do not vow to be attracted to our spouses, but to love, comfort, honour and be loyal, to give ourselves, while our spouses vows the same loyalty to you. To love is an act, to be in love is a state.
On Overloading the Significance of Marriage
I wish to remark in passing that we Christians do not honour the institution of marriage by overloading it with significance or meaning, we turn it into an idol instead. The whole idea of a marriage where both people are perfectly in love and happy and simply fitted for each other and possessing the whole of one’s being is simply nonsense, a point I’m glad to see pointed out by the Reformed pastor Timothy Keller.
It is this idolatrous view of marriage which could explain our aversion to the ideas of gays in a heterosexual marriage. We think somehow that “something is missing” from a marriage whereby one’s partner does not fit into one’s sexual preference. I’m sure most people have a preference for hot guys and girls, but they are unfortunately in short supply, besides of course completely missing the point of marriage. Remember, the significance of a marriage is limited to procreation and rising of children in the Lord, relieve of sexual passion, and mutual society, help and comfort, to invest it with more than that is to threaten it with idolatry. So as long as a marriage fulfils the three purposes for which God has ordained it, what more is needed?
We may argue that gays will always “desire” a person of their own sex. This can be read in two ways, by “desire” you mean sexual passion, the solution is then relieve this passion in marital sex. Or it can be “desire” in some not-so-biological-pressure but intentional sense. In that case, then, well, renounce this intention! We all can’t have what we “desire” or intend. I may desire to be absolute ruler and dictator of Singapore, or for my enemies to be crushed, but then, I know that is ungodly and I should renounce this intention. This idea that every desire and affection is to be satisfied and that marriage exists for that purpose is more of an idolatry of romanticism, of which I’ve written more about it here.
Conclusion: Making it Work
I guess as a final objection, we can legitimately raise the question, this all sounds very good and fine, but has it ever been tried? The answer is, yes! An Israeli rabbi has precisely such a ministry whereby he pairs gays to lesbians, which you can read here. (Update: Rachel Evans has a recent blog post of a woman married to a queer man here.)
Thus, it is about time we transcend the limitations which the concept of “sexual orientation” (a completely secular and not a theological category by the way), and return back to the roots of our Scripture and church traditions.
If this is still hard for you to wrap your minds around, I’ve written before in the past about what meaning heterosexual sex may have for a gay person. The following is a passage which I wrote in context of the hypothesis that a lot of gay people, who are attracted to bodies of their own sex, tend to beautify their bodies and “buff up”, because they love their own bodies.
Thus, it seems to me that for those people who are “gay”, or who have a predominant homosexual desire, I do not see why they cannot go on to have a heterosexual marriage with homosexual desires. It is true that gay people may not be very sexually attracted to their spouse, but sexual attraction, as I’ve pointed out, has nothing to do with marriage, Love in the agapistic sense does. But more importantly, I think it is possible for them to be unashamed of their homosexual desires and even treat it as godly and holy, because their homosexual desires, their drive to look good and attain a body that is pleasurable and enjoyable to their spouses, is a great gift which they are giving their spouses, it is part of their agape love to make their spouses happy with such a beautiful/handsome partner. Admittedly for the gay person, the relationship has more “agape” than “eros”, there is more self-sacrifice on the part of the gay person then for the heterosexual partner, since the gay person will be giving up on a more intense sexual experience. Such a marriage may be tragic in a way, but in a manner no different from a couple who cannot conceive, the result being that their love shall be fruitless and without children, but I see no reason why it cannot be as loving and as happy as any other marriage, given that the element of loyalty, honour and trust to one another, bound together by the most intimate friendship and ultimately by God.
Actually, it may not be necessarily true that a gay person may not be able to enjoy heterosexual sex fully. As I’ve argued elsewhere before, it may be intrinsic to every phenomenon of sex that it contains a homoerotic element, a summary of this “Hegelian” reasoning is that in sex, my sexual desire is for my partner to desire and be “turned” on by my body, I wish to see my partner sexually aroused by my body, I wish “to see myself” through my partner eyes, thus I am sexually aroused by how sexually arousing I am. What else does this boil down to, but that I am erotically moved by my own body as seen through my partner’s eyes? And what is this but homoeroticism? Thus, it may be that even those who have predominantly gay instincts may “vicariously” as it were, enjoy the male body form through the pleasure and sexual desire of their spouse. The full argument can be access here. My discussion on sexual orientation can also be accessed here.
Thus, to conclude, it seems that even popular culture has already transcended the limitations of sexual orientation with their concept of the “yestergay”, which I picked up from the urban dictionary, isn’t it about time that the Church does to, that they might be more faithful to the Scriptures and the Christian tradition?
I thought it would be instructive to add the following objection to this note which I had online, and my subsequent replies.
I’m not sure I even agree with that quote you mentioned. I’d be very hesitant to share this with others. It’s an opinion piece, firstly and to me, the big problem is: in the past this was already done. People suppressed or hid their homosexuality by getting married. I guess in some cases it may have worked BUT how can we tell for sure that ALL such marriages were beneficial to both parties, without future fallouts such as secret gay affairs, or finally leaving the family because they couldn’t suppress their desires any longer.
*shrug* those problems are not unique to gays. Are you saying that straight couples don’t have affairs or leave their families because they couldn’t suppress their desires for another man/woman? Of course not.
My argument would be that you’re misdiagnosing the heart of the problem of divorce. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation, physical attraction or lack thereof, as Christ said when asked why did Moses issue the writ of divorce, the answer is hardness of heart, I.e. Sin. The failure to honour one’s marital vows is not the failure of satisfaction of some carnal desire, it is ultimately a failure to obey the will of God, and obedience to God’s will is not contingent upon physical attraction or appetites.
So if you’re going to make ALL marriages contingent upon where we can “tell for sure that ALL such marriages were beneficial to both parties, without future fallouts” then you shall have to forbid not only gays in heterosexual marriages but straight people in heterosexual marriages as well for the same uncertainty applies there too.