Finding God in Gay Lovemaking

An Erotic Encounter With the Devine” is the title of a post by Eric L. Hays-Strom at Jesus in Love. (Eric has a Masters Degree in Catholic Life and Worship from St. Meinrad School of Theology). In his post, he has a moving account of how deliberate prayer immediately before making love with his husband has led to intensely spiritual experiences – especially on one notable occasion in particular.
kiss

It would be unfair to copy too much of this personal story here, but some things are worth noting.  Eric’s journey in combining the sexual and the spiritual came after listening to some tapes prepared by Michael B Kelly, who is a noted spiritual director and writer, specialising in the contribution that gay men’s erotic experiences can give to the the church’s fuller understanding of spirituality:

..we discovered a tape series about spirituality and sexuality, “The Erotic Contemplative” by Michael Bernard Kelly. I was immediately intrigued. On our two-ay drive home from Los Angeles to Omaha, we started listening to the tapes and discussing the questions that came in a guide with the tapes.  It was probably amongst the most intimate conversations of sex, sexuality and spirituality I have ever had.

…..

Through the years our lovemaking has risen to an entirely new level when we intentionally invite God to be present to and with us. That is, when we prayerfully invite God’s Divine Presence to bless our lovemaking and to join with us in our lovemaking.
In my blog (
http://scottneric.com/ontheroad) I have written about several experiences in my life in which I have known God’s presence, either as God or in the person of Jesus or of the Holy Spirit. So, in my own heart, and in my own soul, I know what the ecstatic experience of the Divine is like.

…..

(Here Eric recounts a particularly intense experience. To read it in the original, go to An Erotic Encounter With the Devine at Jesus in Love).

This is an important experience, and not uncommon. It gives the lie to official teaching, as do all other such experiences. If we are able to find God in our lovemaking, how can it possibly be wrong?

With their pathological aversion to any form of sexual expression, the Catholic hierarchs insist that any from of lovemaking outside of marriage, and not open to the possibility of procreation is sinful, and gay lovemaking in particular is “fundamentally disordered.”  Anybody who has experienced the sheer joy of giving oneself to another, of whatever the gender, in an intimate loving relationship will know how disordered is the teaching – and not the action.

“The joy of God is humans fully alive”, said St Ireneaus. Many people would confirm that the experience of this kind of intimacy is about as fully alive as two people can become.  It is not surprising that many priests and ex-priests, writing about their experience of celibacy, have described it as dehumanising.  Thus, the celibate theologian’s teaching on sexuality, by trying to impose their own restrictive standards on the rest of us, is leading us not towards God but away.   Fortunately, many Catholic theologians outside of Vatican control our now joining their Protestant counterparts in correcting these misunderstandings - for example John McNeill,  Daniel Helminiak and Michael B Kelly among the Catholics, joining Chris Glaser and many others among the Protestants.

It is basic to theology that consciously inviting the Lord into any activity will make it into a prayerful and hence spiritual one.  It is natural that this should also apply to lovemaking, which is one of the most basic of all human activities. Writing about our experiences of finding the divine in love, sharing the truth, sharing the truth about them, helps to dispel the destructive poison of official teaching.  (Michael B. Kelly is collecting personal stories of these kind of stories as part of his research for his doctoral degree in spirituality and gay men’s erotic experiences.  I again urge anyone who has such stories to tell, to share them with Michael.  I know he will them most useful.)

Further reading:

Daniel Helminiak: Sex and the Sacred

Michael B. KelleySeduced by Grace

John McNeill: Sex as God Intended

P. Sweasey: From Queer to Eternity

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18 comments for “Finding God in Gay Lovemaking

  1. October 26, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    I’m glad that you share my enthusiasm for Eric’s piece on sexuality and spirituality! I appreciate the way you quoted from his post with links back to the original at the Jesus in Love Blog.

    I have added Queering the Church to the list of favorite blogs there, and perhaps you will consider doing the same in return.

    You found an excellent photo to illustrate this post. I’d love to know the source.

    Thanks for compiling a reading list with a valuable summary of books on gay sexuality and spirituality.

    You’re right that such experiences are not uncommon… and yet each one is unique and worthy of celebration.

    • queeringthechurch
      October 27, 2009 at 12:08 am

      Thanks for listing QTC at Jesus on Love. Of course I will do the same. I thought I had done so already, but then realised that all I did was to put it into my bookmarks. I enjoyed some of the other sites you put onto your favourites, so I need to do quite a comprehensive review of all my links – which in any case needs updating.

      The pic I used was from a Google Images “advanced search”, labelled for re-use. I think the search term I used was “gay lovemaking.”

      The reading lists I am trying to update constantly – I also need to do some research on your own books to add them to the list. Thanks for making contact. ,

  2. October 27, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Terence,

    Shortly after your first comment to my essay, I visited your site, before you’d posted this article. Later visits did not come to your blog entries, but to your “About” page, and other pages, so I didn’t know about your comments until Kittredge drew my attention to them.

    Thank you for your kind comments, and for applying the kind of theological commentary that I was unable or perhaps unwilling to apply myself. Your site provides a wonderful service to the LGBT community in general, and to LGBT Catholics in particular.

    God bless you, my friend, for your work.

    • queeringthechurch
      October 27, 2009 at 1:59 pm

      I’m glad you like it Eric – but more important, thanks to you, for sharing something so personal. and counter to the religious conventional wisdom. I hope you will pass on this, and the previous experiences you mention, to Michael B Kelly, who seems to have started it for you.

      (And to the many others who may have had comparable experiences, I hope you too will share them – either publicly, or privately with Michael.)

      • October 27, 2009 at 2:26 pm

        Hi Terrence.

        Okay, I AM interested in submitting the article to Michael. However, I seem to be having difficulty finding a means to do so, either his email address or a web site or a blog. Perhaps I’m missing it, or not looking right, or something.. but nevertheless, I can not find it.

        Can ya help a brother out? :D

        • queeringthechurch
          October 27, 2009 at 6:19 pm

          Great, Eric. He has a website, but last time I checked it was still “under construction” – and was in the US for a few months. I’ll email it to you separately – never wise to put email addresses up on the net.

          (The same applies to anybody else who would like to write to Michael). Just post a comment, as anonymous as you like, and I’ll write to you direct.)

          • October 27, 2009 at 11:43 pm

            Please email me with Michael B Kelly’s contact info, too. I would like to write to him, but haven’t been able to find out how to contact him.

            I wish that Erotic Contemplative was still available!

          • queeringthechurch
            October 28, 2009 at 7:45 am

            Done, Kittredge. Thanks for taking this up. Sadly, I never knew “erotic contemplative”, but wish I had done.

  3. colkoch
    October 27, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    In one of my own encounters with the ‘mytical others’ I was given some incredible insight into this whole phenomenon of sexual spirituality.–short personal aside–Eric’s story has been mirrored in my own life and utterly changed my understanding of sexuality–back to my story.

    I was trying to figure out why I kept having these mutually indescribable sexual experiences with my then partner. Finally I threw the question out to the cosmos. I was told that material reality exists so God can experience his being through touch. To invite God into sexual encounters is to invite God to experience the reason He created this whole matter thing to begin with, and if we let Him work through us we would discover the apex of sensual touch. To make it really work one needs to be in love, not lust. Lust is about human technique, love is about Divine interaction. I was then told that sexuality expressed with the Divine is always a threesome–a trinity if you will.

    The more I have allowed that knowledge to percolate the more I have found myself saddened by the mechanistic approach of official Catholicism. The teachings are completely bankrupt because they are based in the exalted status of celibacy and virginity. They are the two states that deny God access to His greatest desire–the experience of intimate loving touch between two Divine created beings. It’s all so sad.

    • queeringthechurch
      October 27, 2009 at 6:26 pm

      Thanks for this, Colleen. And I agree absolutely with your description of official teaching as bankrupt. I think the moment my anxiety over the conflict between what I had been taught and what I was getting to know, turned to outright anger was when I realised that once you start seeing how much of it is invalid, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down – which leaves us to put together some sort of personal sexual ethic pretty well unaided by the Church.

      I know that I sometimes sound as though I reject everything for an “anything goes” alternative. but that would be far from the truth. I fervently believe in the importance of sexual ethics – I’m just struggling to construct something sufficiently coherent to write about it.

  4. Trudie Barreras
    October 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I am so glad that the Jesus in Love blogspot tipped me off to this location — thanks again, Kitt. I am really delighted that this broader coverage of Eric’s wonderful sharing has occurred. Blessings!

  5. October 28, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I truly have been enjoying the discussion here about my article… here and over on the original post on “jesusinlove” blog.

    I’m especially happy to know that I am not alone in this experience. I know it probably sounds funny, at the least, and arrogant, at the worst, for me to say I really did think that my experience was, if not exclusive, at least rare.

    What a true joy for me to find it’s actually not all that uncommon. It’s joyful for me because it proves to me the validity of my experience, and at the same time, as Kittredge says, puts the lie to traditional church teaching on sexuality.

    Graham, your words on jesusinlove are beautiful. I especially love the quote: “the deepest love one human being can have for another, the truthful eroticism of not love making but love being… there is nothing more God wants than to invite us in.” I plan to remind myself of that reality on a daily basis, applying it to everything I do, not just my love-making… or better, love-being.

    Another quote that I am coming away from this discussion with is from Colleen’s comment above: “material reality exists so God can experience his being through touch. To invite God into sexual encounters is to invite God to experience the reason He created this whole matter thing to begin with… love is about Divine interaction… sexuality expressed with the Divine is always a threesome–a trinity if you will.”

    I really hope this discussion continues. But if not, I thank all of you for reading and am blessed by the hope that my article is as meaningful to you as your comments are to me.

    • queeringthechurch
      October 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm

      Discussion is what it is all about, Eric. You are new to QTC, so you have probably not seen the observation I have repeatedly made before: there are three strands to theology, and the understanding of continuing revelation. These are Scripture, tradition (or what has gone before), and prayerful reflection on experience. We are so used to seeing sex through the blinkers of its assumed shamefulness, that we seldom speak about it frankly and honestly.

      When we do, we have to face the simple fact that at its best it is clearly a great gift, a path to joy and completeness. Joy is the unfailing sign of the holy Spirit, and we are taught to use our gifts and talents to the full Sexuality is one of these. This should be obviouss – but is not until we are willing and able to speak openly. If this has opened a discussion, I am delighted – thank you for starting it.

  6. October 30, 2009 at 3:53 am

    Terence, thank you for the contact info, and for adding the Jesus in Love Blog and website to your links. I’m happy to see that your blogroll now includes some other sites from my own list of favorites. It’s fascinating and encouraging to see how connections grow and blossom over the Internet. I read on your Facebook page that blogging is a pilgrimage. I’ve been reflecting on that for a couple of days. It rings true to me. I’m glad that to be companions on the journey.

  7. Graham
    November 4, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    I have read Eric’s article a fourth time. It is amongst the most beautiful and powerful ever written on this subject. I am left wondering – is there the birth of a book here Eric?
    With love and blessings.

    • Trudie
      November 4, 2009 at 7:48 pm

      You know, a book is a superb idea. I’d love to see you launch it, Eric!

    • November 5, 2009 at 10:11 pm

      Hi Graham,

      Thank you for your gracious words, it is humbling to me that someone finds my writing beautiful or powerful!

      It’s an intriguing proposition you posit. Writing a book is not totally out of the question… I’m going to have to pray quite seriously about that.

      If you click on my name in this reply, it will take you to a webpage about me. My email address is there. Please, if you would like, feel free to contact me directly.

      eric

  8. March 3, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    The Erotic Contemplative
    –an eight hour video or audio seminar, created to assist GLBT Christians live prayful, embodied lives. Especially important for spiritual directors and pastoral counselors.

    “The most powerful and insightful study of gay spirituality that I know of.”
    –John McNeil

    The Erotic Contemplative will be republished this summer. Email publisher Joseph Kramer kramer(at)erospirit.org if you wish to be contacted when it is available.

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