I was having breakfast at a local bakery one morning recently with my cousins, who were visiting from out of town. Shortly after we got our breakfasts and settled in with our coffee to enjoy the view of the lake and mountains, two women walked in. They were obviously in a relationship, and it looked to me to be a very happy and loving relationship as they laughed and joked with each other at the cash register. Nobody took much notice of them, and that’s a good
thing. Normally, I wouldn’t have either, but for some reason I did notice this couple in particular. I’m grateful to live in a community that is largely becoming more accepting of same-sex couples, and they were just another couple out for breakfast on an uncharacteristically rainy July day.
Justification for bigotry…
As I drove home, I thought back on my Christian Science past, and on a particular teaching I received from my Christian Science teacher many years ago during my two-week class instruction, when he decided to lecture us on the evils of same-sex relationships. I also remember him sharing this teaching during Association meetings. I’ve mentioned this teaching in passing in other posts, and I’ll share it again here. My teacher taught that ‘homosexual’ (as he called it) relationships were based entirely on sensuality–since such relationships are unable to produce offspring; and that in all ‘homosexual’ relationships, there was always a dominant party and the consequential subservient party. Therefore, since these relationships were based entirely on sensuality, physical desire, and dominance/subservience, as he saw it; they were immoral and invalid. His view was that all same-sex relationships were of this nature, and that was why they were invalid. He quoted some passages from Mary Baker Eddy’s writings, and Biblical passages as well to support his point of view.
“Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness.”
(Science and Health, p. 57)
This is one statements from Eddy’s book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (the so-called ‘Christian Science textbook’), which many people like my teacher trot out to bolster their claims against the validity of any relationship that is not heterosexual in nature.
This one is often more specifically used in relation to same-sex relationships:
Marriage is the legal and moral provision for generation among human kind. Until the spiritual creation is discerned intact, is apprehended and understood, and His kingdom is come as in the vision of the Apocalypse,–where the corporeal sense of creation was cast out, and its spiritual sense was revealed from heaven,–marriage will continue, subject to such moral regulations as will secure increasing virtue.
(Science and Health, p. 56–emphasis is mine)
Together, these two statements underpinned my teacher’s teachings, and also the pronouncements of many other Christian Scientists who deny the validity of non-heterosexual relationships. I do want to point out that this is not a view that is universally held by all Christian Scientists. In fact, many Christian Scientists are supportive of same-sex relationships, and the Christian Science Church does not officially have a stance (however there is some debate on that–please see this post for my take on the Church’s position regarding LBGT issues).
My internal conflict…
As I was driving home and thinking about how I had viewed this teaching back when I received it, I remembered how deeply conflicted I felt about it. For my entire life, I have always been unwaveringly opposed to any form of bigotry or discrimination; and my teacher’s teaching immediately struck a dissonant chord within me. While I had been conditioned to take his teachings as a final word of sorts on Christian Science, I found that I could not reconcile this teaching with my deeply held feeling that any sort of discrimination was morally wrong, and this teaching screamed ‘discrimination’ to me, loud and clear.
I went through what I’d best describe as ‘mental (and moral) gymnastics’ to begin to try to reconcile this teaching with my deeply held antipathy towards any sort of discrimination. Out of these contortions, I initially came to the conclusion that while I didn’t believe that same-sex couples should be denied equal rights, I did push myself into a belief of sorts that their so-called ‘love’ was not natural, not ‘normal’. I kind of felt better–I could say that I wasn’t being discriminatory, but I also felt a moral right to say that the love between two people of the same gender wasn’t real, wasn’t valid–it was my ‘personal opinion’ after all, and I was entitled to that. I had found a way to mesh things together in a way that seemed acceptable, and so it stayed for several years.
A change of perspective…
Hand-in-hand with my ultimate departure from Christian Science, came the realization of something I knew deep-down to be wrong: that the contortedly-reasoned stance I’d come to regarding same-sex relationship was morally wrong. My grip on this stance had always been tenuous at best, and it would take the unspoken love between two people to break it apart completely.
The ‘ah-hah’ moment for me came a few months after my mother died. I was riding home from work on the subway, and as we passed the Fenway Park T station and a Red Sox game had just let out. All of sudden the car filled to capacity with baseball fans. Among this press of people were two women who were obviously a couple. One was fairly tall, the other much shorter. The shorter woman could not reach a grab-bar, but her taller partner could. The shorter woman simply wrapped her arms around her taller partner, and vice versa. The contentment and love that I saw and felt between these women was beautiful, to say the least. They hardly exchanged a word, and didn’t display much in the way of PDA. They just held on to each other. They got off at the same station I did, and as they walked across the parking lot, they simply just held hands like any other couple would. It was beautiful and touching.
Then and there, I realized that nobody had any right to invalidate the love these two women had for each other. Their love was real, and it was beautiful. While I’m sure they enjoyed a good sex life, I didn’t see that relationship as being rooted in sensuality as my teacher had taught. I didn’t see one dominant party. All I saw was two people who were deeply in love. Nothing more, nothing less. Their love was not going to bring about the moral destruction of society.
Within my own family, and also my circle of friends, I know several same-sex couples. Some are married, some are planning to get married, some are not. No different from the many heterosexual couples I know. Bottom line, they love each other, they fight, they make up, they go through everything any couple goes through. All they want is to be accepted, and I believe it is morally wrong not to accept them. Nobody has any right to sit in judgement of the validity or non-validity of someone’s love.