Thursday, June 04, 2015

The CHIs, crazier the more you learn about them

I have written a number of posts about those I call the CHIs--Christian Homosexual Identifiers. These are people like Eve Tushnet and others who claim to support the teaching of celibacy for homosexuals but who consider their homosexual inclinations to be a positive identity. 

It appears (this is new news) that Wheaton College has put a CHI staff member (this is an employee of the school) in charge of their LGBT club after an outcry about its supporting homosexuality. In the beginning they had someone who was (as far as I can discern) in favor of homosexual acts completely, so this is the administration's sop to their base (probably their donating base) to keep up the foolish pretense that this has nothing to do with endorsing homosexual acts. Which is telling ourselves lies, as I pointed out here.

So CHIs are becoming important in the Christian world, both Catholic and evangelical. I argued against their perspective here and pointed out here that Tushnet appeared in a (theologically) revolting video by a group openly and explicitly opposing the celibacy position of the Catholic Church. Tushnet herself in the video said that the Bible uses "same-sex love" to model the relationship of God and the soul. As I said, if she could do all of that, she really doesn't think that homosexual acts are all that bad.

Here is Tushnet's extremely lame explanation for her appearing in the video made by the group that opposes what she allegedly stands for (you know, celibacy?). I'll leave aside the nonsense about her pretty much always trying to say "yes" when anybody asks her to appear in anything. Really? How stupid! I'll go right to her flirtation with the most outrageous and blatantly heterodox aspects of the propaganda video:

I will say that the other participants in the film also raise questions the Church needs to grapple with. What are the best pastoral responses to people who come from the other perspectives expressed in the film?
When I entered the Church I was fairly willing to trust Her as a teacher and obey, or at least try to obey. (Or at least try to try!) It was a relief to trust and surrender to Jesus and act as a child of His Church in all areas, even though I was not thrilled that “all areas” included sexual ethics.
But lots of people who are genuinely drawn to some aspect of the Catholic faith face much greater challenges than I did: For example, they may have had much worse experiences in Christian communities, which makes trusting the Church on this issue exceptionally difficult (not solely for emotional reasons–anti-gay attitudes in the Church also raise epistemological problems, since they make it seem like the most obvious explanation for Church teaching is that it’s the result of bigotry or ignorance); they may not be as naturally attracted to obedience as an aesthetic category as I am; or they may not see any possibilities for fruitful celibate lgbt life, and know that Jesus didn’t call anyone to a life without love. They may have done a lot of reading and investigation and concluded that they reject Church teaching. They may feel like rejection of Church teaching in this area is simple common sense. I’m sure a lot of other reasons and starting-points will be articulated in the full “Owning Our Faith” film.
How could your parish both welcome and shepherd people who are coming from those places? There isn’t only one right answer. This post offers some of my initial thoughts on the question, but it’s only a beginning. Still, I don’t think the best answer is, “Well, they can come back when they’re ready to do as they’re told.”
Here is an overtly rebellious group telling the Catholic Church that it needs to change its views, propagandizing for full acceptance of homosexual acts and homosexual "marriage," and Tushnet's response is to wonder how the Catholic Church can "shepherd" these overt rebels and activists. Which is partly why she appeared in their video and appeared to endorse their project. Because they're asking such good questions, y'know. How can we "shepherd" these people? (I notice that Tushnet does not even attempt to explain her pervy statement about same-sex "love" as an image of divine and human love in the Bible.)

On the question of "shepherding" those who are living in unrepentant sin and actively promoting sin to the world at large, there is really only one coherent, Catholic answer. (I know this, and I'm not Catholic.) It would be heinous sacrilege for them to take the Sacrament, because they are habitually living in or seeking to live in sin, and they are blatantly promoting sin, so there's no good way to shepherd that type of person, because these so-called sheep are insisting on running away from the Shepherd to destruction.

There is no other answer. As far as telling them to "come back when they're ready to do as they're told," with regard to taking the Blessed Sacrament, that is absolutely what they should be told. As far as being in any sense members in good standing of any Christian church, that is absolutely what they have to be told. (Ever hear of church discipline, Eve? Try reading I Corinthians 5 sometime and you will see what the Bible says about "shepherding" a person who is living in unrepentant sin.)  As far as attending without being members or in good standing or receiving Communion, that depends on their behavior. If their behavior is disruptive (homosexual displays of affection), if they are using their visits to the church to promote their agenda (recruiting and propagandizing at church functions), then they should be asked to tone it down or not show up. If they just come in quietly, observe the services, and don't try to press their agenda, then you preach the Gospel and hope to lead them to repentance and grace and to know Jesus as their Savior. Sorry for the evangelical language, but Eve and co. could use a sense of sin and the wrath of God and the need for repentance.

And of course, in this lame response there is precisely zero concern for the scandal that this group is causing or for the scandal Tushnet herself causes by being associated with it. Because Tushnet really doesn't care about that. What she cares about is being nice to the poor, poor (rebellious, unrepentant) homosexual activists, not making their feelings feel bad, making them feel welcome, and "shepherding" them, though she has no coherent theory of how that can be done consistently with church teaching and without scandalizing others and normalizing their behavior in the eyes of everybody in the church, including the young.

Moving on (or moving back), I'm still playing catch-up on learning about the CHIs' various crazy ideas. I just haven't had time yet to post about an idea endorsed by Tushnet in this article and apparently in her book. That idea is that homosexual "couples" should carry out formal commitment ceremonies in which they make vows to each other, but that this should mean nothing about intending to have sex. It's just promising to love and take care of each other forever, or something like that.

She argues, pace historian Alan Bray’s 2003 account of friendship in the Christian tradition, The Friend, that Christians should consider a return to a more medieval conception of friendship, one complete with vows and affirmation ceremonies for dedicated companions. Taken seriously, Tushnet imagines, institutionally affirmed friendship could answer the emotional needs of those who would otherwise be engaged in same-sex romantic relationships or desperately lonely. Her historical analysis tracks Bray’s work closely, and it includes moving excerpts from courtly accounts of friendly love and commitment, as well as some monastic and liturgical remarks upon close companions.
Yet Tushnet doesn’t leave her meditation of friendship on a rosily sentimental note. It’s all well and good, one imagines, to propose a more prominent position for friendship in modern Christian life—but what this would really look like is fraught and complicated, which Tushnet acknowledges. Could an avowed pair of same-sex friends with acknowledged homosexual feelings cohabitate without giving the appearance of scandal? Tushnet hesitates: “the danger,” she admits, “is real.” Could these tightly intimate friendships coalesce into sexually realized relationships? It could happen, but for Tushnet “the preventative measure of avoiding intimate same-sex friendship entirely is even worse.”
(Aside: I don't think "pace" means what the article author thinks it means! Can't TAC get basic usage correct? Editor!)

So Tushnet literally believes that people who are sexually attracted to each other but should never have sexual relations should make lifelong vows to each other and even (apparently) maybe live together as an "avowed" couple, and that the "dangers" this poses are less than the alleged "dangers" of, er, something. The dangers of not doing this. Because not doing this is just so horribly dangerous in some way or other. Presumably dangerous because homosexuals would feel lonely. So their loneliness should be addressed by encouraging them to pair up in couples and to make vows to each other to love each other forever and be permanently related and connected to each other as "avowed friends," maybe even to live together, though they are never supposed to be engaging in sexual acts. And these avowed homosexual "friendships" are supposed to receive institutional recognition, too, from the church!

This is insanity on stilts. Such relationships would of course be connected to romantic feelings in these cases, not just to friendship. In fact, the whole reason that friendship can be intense between two members of the same sex and can be a good and positive thing is because it is friendship as opposed to sexual attraction. Tushnet clearly doesn't get this and thinks it's a cool idea to blur the distinction between non-erotic friendship and erotic friendship. Moreover, taking a vow would mean that the homosexual person who decided that this was a very bad idea and that he was being constantly led (at least) to impure thoughts and causing scandal in this way would think that God would disapprove of his severing the connection. Because he took a vow! Thus he would develop a false conscience about avoiding the occasion of sin and scandal. (So much for "make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof." [Romans 13:14] I really do not think Tushnet knows her Bible well at all.) Is she totally crazy?

Read the rest of the article for the ad hoc moves needed to rule out "avowed friendship" between a married man and a woman other than his wife whom he can never marry. Wouldn't it just be loverly for a husband to have an "avowed friendship" with a woman other than his wife? What about a husband who has same-sex attraction and who has both a wife and an "avowed" same-sex friend? Tushnet's answer, apparently, is that it is perfectly okay for a person who suffers from same-sex attraction but has married a member of the opposite sex to have, in addition to his vows to his spouse, vows to a same-sex "friend." But it's never okay for an opposite-sex-attracted person to have an avowed friend (with whom he is never supposed to have sexual relations) of the opposite sex. Because reasons. Got that?

A person who is same-sex attracted and attempts to carry out a normal, opposite-sex marriage is already in an extremely difficult position. Tushnet's idea that he might be justified in further complicating this by also having a same-sex "friend" (who might also be sexually attracted to him) to whom he has taken vows which might compete with the duties implied by the vows to his wife is a recipe for disaster. Her smug answer is telling:
Won’t avowed friendships infringe upon one friend’s marital or familial obligations at times? Probably, Tushnet submits, advising empathy and noting that medieval ballads concerning committed friends often reported conflicts in that vein—many of which did not turn out in the favor of the wife and children. 
To which I reply: a) Medieval ballads are not authoritative sources of moral instruction, and if a medieval ballad is telling you that it's okay for you to keep some sort of commitment to your same-sex friend that harms or slights your God-recognized relationship with your wife and/or your responsibilities to your children, then the medieval ballad is giving pernicious moral advice. This is true even when we assume that the friendships involved have no aspect of sexual attraction to them. b) Tushnet is (as far as my knowledge extends) interpreting medieval literature in a typically perverse way if she thinks the friendships therein are between same-sex attracted people. Taking a vow to continue to be connected forever to a person you are sexually attracted to which might conflict with your commitment to your wife and children is so wildly imprudent that "imprudent" doesn't even begin to cover it.

The CHIs' ideas are more pernicious and dangerous the more one learns about them. If you have any influence, be sure to spread this information around and make sure that your Christian institutions shun their ideas and their influence.

Update: Re-reading this post I realized that I should clarify one point: The person who was previously the leader of Wheaton's GLBT club was a student, not a staff member. He was hoping to found a "gay-straight alliance" at Wheaton and feels that the administration's taking control of the club and putting a CHI staff member in charge is a step backwards. But I did not mean to give the impression that he himself was a staff member.


steve said...

I'm curious as to why Pres. Ryken plays along with this nonsense. I assume he does it so that students or prospective students can receive Federal aid to delay or defray tuition expenses.

bbrown said...

My wife and I saw a movie this past weekend: "The Imitation Game" about the British group breaking the German encryption machine 'Enigma'. At least that's what we thought it was about; a topic we both would be very interested in.

The more I think about it now, the more the "Imitation Game" movie bothers me. It was gay propaganda and the standard boilerplate Hollywood brainwashing agenda. It's a damaging, hateful agenda (in the guise of goodness, of course) that, at bottom, wants to eradicate God and the church. Especially bothersome were the scenes of the protagonist as a boy - they always want to make having a close friend into something gay - how sick and how sad. I had an intensely close friendship as a boy; being gay never remotely entered into our consciousness. The whole gay idea seemed (and still does) grotesquely unnatural.

Revealing and ironic was how the main character's close friend at boarding school was portrayed in an almost Christ-like manner. What great irony that they needed to portray him in this way, without probably having any idea that even progressives in Hollywood recognize the Christian goods of self-sacrifice, and true compassion, when the actual gay world is characterised by a pervasive selfishness, where the number one concern (and self-identity) is the sexual gratification of adults. Any kids involved suffer horribly, and usually come to recognize this eventually.

Lydia McGrew said...


I am certain that there is no _official_ requirement that a college have a GLBT club for the students to receive federal financial aid. It may come to that in the end, but at the moment I'm pretty sure that the most it could be is a vague worry.

No, I think the President and others are going along with this because they have accepted the foolish notion that they are being mean otherwise and that this is the only way to show the love of Christ, blah, blah. Look at it this way: They have an "out" lesbian staffer, and have had one apparently for some time. She's sort of their token lesbian because she claims to believe in staying celibate, even though she's a CHI (thinks being lesbian is a positive identity). I would point out, too, that when she gasses on about how being lesbian is a positive thing, what she talks about is giving a voice to the oppressed or some such jargon. So what does this tell us? That Wheaton has already accepted a leftish spin on things and that they are terrified of looking bigoted or mean, that they want to appear compassionate, social justice oriented, and likable according to what is, at bottom, a left-wing set of categories.

This really does not surprise me. If you think about the evangelical movement and the way that it has been trending away from being (God forbid) considered "fundamentalist" for many decades now, then this sort of thing was inevitable. Wheaton has for a very long time not wanted to be thought of as anything approaching fundie, and that emphasis is bound to have these kinds of consequences. That emphasis essentially leaves the institution open to whatever insanity the left is pushing at the moment. It's hardly necessary even to dream up a reductio for it. We're already at the reductio when an evangelical Christian college with allegedly Christian moral norms is expressing its love and welcoming-ness to men who go around pretending to be women and vice versa.

Lydia McGrew said...

William, yes, the agenda is pervasive. I would never just go to see a movie before reading a review by someone who at least to some degree shared my concerns and could tell me what sort of inappropriateness was contained therein and what agendas were being pushed that one would never suspect just looking at the ostensible topic of the movie.

And as you say, the perversion of intense boyhood friendship is absolutely horrible, and very bad for boys. Boys need strong friendships, unsexualized. Anthony Esolen has written on this subject repeatedly.

This is part of what makes me so angry at the CHIs. They are perverting friendship by deliberately blurring the distinction between erotic and non-erotic feelings within same-sex friendship and promoting so-called "spiritual friendship" *as a route for homosexuals*. It is angering and incredibly destructive for young people.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this!!
I hope you will consider examining Wesley Hill in a similar way. He is the spearhead of the CHI movement within Protestant circles and has aligned himself with Tushnet on this topic. Nearly every Protestant leader will "Recommend" Hill's books and talks for their people to read, and while his heartfelt account of how he struggles with loneliness is helpful, he uses that as a platform to promote CHI views. If someone would do a similar analysis of Hill, it would be a great service to the Protestant churches who are blind that they are being co-opted into the CHI agenda. Again, Thank you!!

Lydia McGrew said...

Anon, I'm sure you're right, but I'm not sure I have the stomach or energy to do a detailed and _specific_ analysis of Hill's views. I believe that what I have written more broadly about the CHI perspective here, for example. I think a number of my arguments throughout should be applicable to the CHIs across the board.

In that post, too, I talk about a dialogue between two Protestant writers on this--Matthew Lee Anderson (on the CHI side) vs. Owen Strachan (on the sensible side).