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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The intense loneliness of not having a life companion openly at one's side

Part 5 of The Harmful Effects of the Closet

Preamble to each post: There is no doubt that "the closet" is the most harmful result of continuing to deny LGBTs a legitimate and equal place in society. By not acknowledging them, heterosexuals force them into hiding. The results are often catastrophic. What is also not in doubt is that the closet is of heterosexual making. Rather than wag our fingers and preach our condemning sermons, we should be doing all we can to eliminate this despicable situation. For a simple fact remains: if we eliminate the closet, we eliminate all those things that we negatively associate with gayness.  Even better, LGBTs are freed from the inhumanity of closet life. 

For most of us, our families are the center of our lives.  We live in constant awareness of and with high purpose for those we call family.  We hardly do anything outside of work that doesn't involve them, directly or indirectly.  Few decisions we make are made without reference to their well-being.  And if we are happily married, our spouse is the most significant person in our life.

But for those who live their lives in the closet, who marry for the sake of self-protection, or who chose to remain single, life lived without the most satisfying relationship a human may enjoy, loving and being loved by a deeply devoted life partner, is denied them.

For Christian LGBTs, this is a heightened problem, for the church, almost universally, condemns any effort they might take to relieve the loneliness that constantly dogs them. Nonreligious out LGBTs have found satisfying life partners and live lives not much different from straight couples, enjoying the ebb and flow that accompanies all relationships.  But closeted LGBTs, Christian or not, are denied such a life.

Let’s be clear about what we are asking of Christian nonheterosexuals.  Richard B. Hays, in his The Moral Vision of the New Testament, writes,
Heterosexual persons are also called to abstinence from sex unless they marry (1 Cor. 7:8-9).  The only difference, admittedly a salient one, in the case of homosexually oriented persons is that they do not have the option of homosexual marriage.  So where does that leave them?  It leaves them in precisely the same situation as the heterosexual who would like to marry but cannot find an appropriate partner (and there are many such): summoned to a difficult, costly obedience, while groaning for the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23).  
Gay Christians, according to Hays, are essentially no different from would-be married heterosexuals.  Both of them are asked to hold their natural sexual impulses at bay.  This ability to be chaste for life is considered a gift from God, not a natural condition, and is rarely granted.  Even when it is, it is not without its challenges. Even so, straights and gays are far from being on an equal footing, because the heterosexual— let’s call him Greg— has the hope, even the strong possibility of some day being married.  Greg can hope, and hope makes all the difference for him.  But Norman, a gay man, has no hope.  He is denied the possibility of ever having his greatest longing fulfilled—that of a marriage partner.  Let us be clear about this.  We are not asking Norman to deny himself sex.  We are demanding that Norman deny his humanity.  In effect, we are asking Norman to commit suicide of his spirit. This I find to be profoundly unchristian and unworthy of a compassionate God.

More and more congregations and denominations are finding this situation needlessly burdensome for their LGBT members and are holding marriage ceremonies for them.  In many cases, these are marriages "in the sight of God" only, as the state has yet to legalize them.  But they are, nevertheless, just as fulfilling to the gay couples as any straight marriage can be.

But the closet is still the enemy of those it continues to house.  As long as they remain safely inside, the possibility of a complete life is beyond their grasp.  They will languish, continuing to seek furtive, incomplete alliances which will only remind them of what they will never have.  Their human longing for the one who can make all the difference in their lives will go unabated.  They shrivel and die.  As one who left the closet for good told me, "The oxygen in there grew thin and I could hardly take a breath."

The sooner we, as a nation and church, make marriage available for nonheterosexuals, the sooner will the loneliness of the closet and its consequent inhumanity be eliminated.  After all, doesn't the Golden Rule, "Do to others that which you would want done to you," demand that?  Imagine for a moment, if you are straight, life without your significant other.  Why would we want anyone else to be forced to live that way?

In this video, five gay couples talk about their anticipated marriage ceremonies

TOMORROW: The self-destruction that accompanies closet life

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