Monday, May 28, 2007

Thoughts On Celibacy, Part 1: The Calling

Recently, various sources have brought the subject of celibacy to my attention. Not being one to miss an opportunity to speak (or write) my mind, I decided it would be a good time to write a post about the subject. It was then that I realized that I had a lot more to say about it than I previously thought, which is why I intend to spread all my thoughts, reflections, and questions about celibacy across three posts. This is, of course, the first, and it is about a concept that often goes hand-in-hand with celibacy: calling.

I don't think it is strange to hear celibacy referred to as a calling. After all, in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7, Paul calls it a "gift." But what, exactly, is a calling? As a Calvinist (albeit a new one), I should know a thing or two about it, because I believe Christians are called to belief (and I believe the Bible makes a strong case for that). But when we think of callings, are we thinking of them correctly? Personally, when I first hear the word "calling," what I think of is a burning bush, a voice from the sky, or some cathartic life experience that points directly to what God has called a certain individual to do. I mean, callings are supposed to be dramatic, right?

I don't think so. Sure, sometimes they are, but I also believe that callings can manifest themselves through basic circumstances. For example, the fact that I was raised in a Christian home is a good indicator that I was called to be a Christian. It wasn't definite, because I had many opportunities to fall away from Christ. I actually tried to on some occasions and found that I couldn't. But we can talk about Irresistible Grace some other time. :)

Or to put it another way, I absolutely love kids. I can't see anything better for my life than working with kids daily. Is it too bold of me to say that this love for children is a call for me to be a teacher? Again, I don't think so. I think that's exactly what a calling is. It may not be dramatic, but it's pretty real.

But here is where it gets tricky. What if you are called to do something that you just don't want to do? It's nothing new. Moses is an example right off the top of my head and I'm sure he's not the only one. However, his calling was dramatic. There was no doubt of what the call was and that God was doing it. Let's say your calling is not so dramatic. It's a calling of basic circumstance. We're willing to accept these kinds of callings when they are things we want, but what about when we don't want them? From what I've seen, it's these kinds of callings that are seen as tragic circumstances that must be overcome at all costs. It's the overcoming that can make things a little messy sometimes.

I recently came across an interesting Catholic blogger called The Anchoress. She had made a post about obedience, and though it originally concerned infertility, it was this paragraph that caught my attention:

"How about another scenario - and this one will really tick some off - you’re gay. You’re a human being, with a human sexuality and a human sex drive, but you’re gay. The church in which you’ve been raised says, "okay, so, you’re gay. No sin in that, but as such, you may not marry - because marriage is the province of men and women whose coming together assists in the continuation and revitalization of all creation - therefore, since you may not marry, you are called to the same celibacy as any unmarried person. One gift has been denied you, but if you pay attention you will be shown your gift, and your calling - perhaps you are called to be a necessary other…do you accept the calling? Do you accept this dangerous blessing?"

Interesting, isn't it? I don't know much about the "necessary other" stuff (Is that a Catholic thing? Anyone?), but I do know that the view expressed coincides with my own. Not to mention it's another reason why I love Catholics. :)

A lot of people are going to disagree with the notion that homosexual feelings are a call to celibacy, and I don't want to suggest that. Each case is individual and should be dealt with as such. However, I also don't like the notion that only those without sex drives are called to celibacy. For one, do such people exist? I know Paul said it was better for a man to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9), but does that mean the only people called to celibacy are those that don't want sex?

Personally, I like sex. I like it a lot. The thought that all gay men aren't supposed to have it is a little daunting (let's face it; a lot of them are really hot!) But let's look at it this way. God called a shepherd with a speech impediment to stand before Pharoah and lead the Jews out of Egypt. He called a very elderly man to be the patriarch of the nations. He called a shepherd boy to be a king. He called a group of fishermen to lead a new and radical religious movement. So, what makes anyone think that to be called for something, you have to be ready-made for the task?

Again, I'm not asking all gay men and women reading this that they should automatically think celibacy is their calling. Perhaps the fact that I have interpreted it as such is just another reason why it is a calling for me. All I would ask is that people pray, reflect, and read God's Word. Just because you don't desire it, doesn't mean that God hasn't set it out before you. The Anchoress closed her post with a good line, and I hope she doesn't mind me repeating it:

"Okay, God, you dealt me this hand. I don’t particularly appreciate it - it’s not the hand I would have chosen. Therefore, I’ll let you play it, I’ll follow your lead and trust that it will not come up a stinker."

Now, for those of us who have decided that celibacy is what God has meant for us (at least for now), then there's the question of "What next?" That's the subject of the next post. Stick around. :)

Thoughts on Celibacy, Part 2: The Life
Thoughts on Celibacy, Part 3: The Church

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