Ontology II

Some more ontology notes. This is an extended meditation. I'm trying to open it up so as not to focus on my own garden variety stuff - you can have your own ontological issues, I'm sure!
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

There's something odd in this passage: It's all the gerunds. A gerund is a verb that functions as a noun. Rather than "fornicators" it might make more sense to render it as "fornicating-ers". Yes, the Greek word is a plural masculine noun (as are all the others in the list), in fact I don't know enough about Greek to know if there is a gerund in that language. But it strikes me that St Paul doesn't say "people who commit theivery" but rather "thieves". It seems he means, quite literally, those who have taken thievery, or gluttony or greed or fornication as the template for their lives. Thus, the one noun rendered in the five words "abusers of themselves with mankind" is really talking about people who have "changed the natural use into that which is against nature." (Rom 1:26)

As I noted about thieves or fornicators or partyers ("revilers" should be "mischief makers") I will make bold and say here that St Paul isn't talking about adolescent experimentation, but, rather, in fact, "being" gay - substituting one thing, one element for the whole of one's God-given nature.

Some one will correct me, I'm sure, by noting that Greco-Roman culture had no conception of "being" gay. That's ok. This is the way I've been wrestling with the understanding of these passages. Even so I think one thing of St Paul is quite clear: no one who keeps "going that way" is out to inherit the Kingdom of God (that is the Church) and indeed, we know it to be true. The quote from the baptismal liturgy is right there, "But ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified". After the rite the Human Nature is restored we may fall in sin again, but we strive to make our lives to not be "about sin". We have turned around from what ever it is.

This comes to me as we read today, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the passage in St Paul which follows this one.(verses 12-20). My ears perked up hearing it, and shortly there after, was the Story of the Prodigal. The confluence of these two readings called to mind the "ontology" issue. St Paul's list of Gerunds, followed by "all things are lawful for me - but not all things are expedient made me think - at first - that what he was saying a little drink here and there is ok, but drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom. You know, its ok to crave a bit here, or there... but greed and gluttony are out. I couldn't make that make sense in my head. The Greek word rendered "expedient" also means "to bear together" or "to bring together" which I (perhaps mistakenly) read as part of "sozos" (salvation) as meaning "healing" or "making whole".

But here's the kicker. In the Prodigal's story, what's the first line of sanity, the first line of note on the boy's salvation? "He came to himself."

Therein, I think lies the clue I was looking for to the Ontology in Paul's passage: The boy's life of wine, women and song, or of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, was not "himself" and neither are any of those things listed - fornication, extortion, heavy drinking, nor serious partying. Those things do not "bear together", they are not salvific.

It is interesting to me how many of the things on St Paul's list - not just the sex - are part of "the gay life", albeit only with "modern" interpretation. It would be honest to say that gay folks are not the only manifestation of these things. Certainly that other groups in our culture offer these "immorals" as their "lifestyle choice" - most especially the double-income-no-kids groups of 30-something straight folks who may or may not be married but certainly live the same life: sexually self-serving with a "metrosexual" style and into travel vacations and hedonism in food, wine drugs and clothes, and a "spirituality" rather than a "religion". In the list that follows, you could be looking at anyone of several subcultures: I could find this list for members of my fraternity or housewives from Berkeley or some who claim membership in the various churches as well.

  • Fornicators - Like the other sexual words here, take this as granted.
  • Idolaters - Worshipers of the created rather than the Creator: the worship of the body, the gym, the merely physical aspects of the person, as well as the merely physical aspects of sex.
  • Adulterers - Like the other sexual words here, take this as granted.
  • Effeminate - Even the near-psychotically macho ones.
  • Abusers of themselves with mankind - like the other sexual words here, take this as granted.
  • Thieves - Not part of the life as I read it, but it is the only exception.
  • Covetous - Like the idolaters on another level, these want to have the latest greatest thing, want to have everything one better than "that queen next door" and want to have that queen's boyfriend too - just as another notch.
  • Drunkards - Go to a bar tonight, every night.
  • Revilers - literally, "mischief makers". Partyers. Think circuit parties. Think "Southern Decadence" and Gay Pride week and "International Bear Rendezvous". Think huge migrations of gay men on cruise ships to Caribbean islands for no other reason than to shop and have sex - and to make fun of those islands' traditionally moral cultures.
  • Extortioners - To be honest, part of me wants to say "not part of the life" and another part says most of the above gets paid for with credit cards...

These things - even "effeminate" - are distortions in human nature (although I will yield that I think St Paul may have had another concept than do I: the Greek word seems to mean "soft"). They all hold in common one factor: they use something - be that one's self, one's possessions or one's neighbor - for things other than which it was intended. Things here become a distraction rather than a salvation. Things here become "what I am". My actions define who I am - rather than my being defining my actions.

Actions here become a block to communion: real communion in Christ, because they deny the personhood of all involved. Each becomes merely an individual: to the drunk, to the sex addict, to the adrenaline addict, to the dancing party-goer, he's the only person who matters, his needs, his desires. He objectifies everyone - and so, also himself. With such objectification, communion is impossible - and thus, personhood, the product of communion, is denied and destroyed no only in the first person but equally in the second person as well. Idols are created when "what I do" becomes "what I am." Just as suddenly, my false sense of me, my idol, keeps me away from my own wholeness - my own salvation.

As I carry the thought forward, I become a non-entity: my actions and my being become synonymous in my head - they are coterminous. Once that happens, any attempt on another's part (even by the Church) to change my actions becomes perceived as a threat. My actions, my "freedom" to indulge in actions of my own choosing - including those actions that are not healthy - denies to me the very wholeness, or "self-realization" that I'm seeking. "Freedom to be me" gets confused with actually being me. And should you try to stop me, why, gasp you're threatening my freedom! You're trying to change me!

Well, yes. My actions are not "me" and in this case they obscure me. Unlike the Prodigal, I can not come to myself. There is no me left to save. In the things that I enjoy I become exactly like the member of a racial group who never lets you forget that he is ____; or the feminist who changes every word to "herstory" or "wymyn"; or the handicapped person for whom her handicap is the defining feature: you can't do that, I'm ____.

Our culture likes to do that. I want to be clear - our culture has done that for a long time: look at English family names like Smith (blacksmith), Cooper (barrel maker) and Bailey (a groundskeeper). Look at American attitudes towards work: I know a lot of people who are so identified with their jobs that they will say "I am a _____" with the same conviction that someone else might say, "I am a Gemini". We identify with our labels in ways that previous cultures reserved for nations or ethnic status or class. Yet with that last note, I will indicate that the majority of human cultures are very quick to identify something - class, race, etc - as of an higher importance than the Image of God in us. In fact, most desperately seek for something - anything other than that that cursed image that calls us back from the edge to Truth.

Thus, our Being, our "is-ness" is deferred in exchange for something which may or may not be seen as "sin" but certainly is something other than the Image of God in us. We agree not created as cobblers or iron mongers or housewives, but rather only as men and women in the Image of God. Anything that obscures that image takes away from Christ in us - in Whom there is neither slave nor free, neither Jew nor Greek, neither male and female for all are one in Him.

That's where I want to go next. If I'm not "a gay" what am I?