More on God’s Gayness, Part 1

gay-godOne of the most commented on parts of 2007’s Soulfully Gay is the section “T.I.O.B.G. 1 of 6: God Is Gay”, from Chapter 1, “God Is Gay”. Bear in mind that these words were written in 2003, not 2007, and reflect my very first effort at a quasi-Integral systematic theology as a 33-year-old man. Some 13 years later, I have more to say, and so I start a new thread on the topic.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30

T.I.O.B.G. 1 of 6: God Is Gay

Human nature teaches us about the nature of God, the Source of All and the Destiny of Everything. Human beings include male and female. God is like a man and God is like a woman. There is beauty in mankind and in womankind, and God is so beautiful that God’s beauty includes all the beauty of women and men.

We can try to express what these aspects of human nature teach us about God with words, but only poorly. We could say, for instance: God is male. God is not male. God is female. God is not female. These are all fine (but limited) ways of talking about God.

Human nature teaches us about the nature of God. We include gay people and straight people. Gay people love in gay ways and straight people love in straight ways. We can try to express what human nature reveals about God with words, but only poorly. We could say, for instance: God is gay. God is not gay. God is straight. God is not straight. These are fine (but limited) ways of talking about God.

God is like a gay person and God is like a straight person. There is beauty in gay people and in straight people, and God is so beautiful that God’s beauty includes all the beauty of gays and straights. There is beauty in gay ways of loving and in straight ways of loving, and God’s ways of loving are so beautiful that they include all the beauty of gay and straight ways of loving.

God made some men gay, because He made them in His image. God made gay men to love in gay ways, because God loves in gay ways. The beauty of gay men reflects the beauty of God. The beauty of gay ways of loving reflects the beauty of God’s gay ways of loving. When someone fears and hates a gay man, he or she fears and hates God. When someone denigrates, despises, loathes, and harms a gay man, he or she denigrates, despises, loathes, and harms God.

Some people have repressed the truth about God’s gayness, because they have hated and feared God. Some who have repressed the truth about God are straight and others are gay. The truth about God’s gayness has been revealed to those whose eyes are open.

With these words, I began to tell a new story about God, the superstar, the celebrity, the personality that religious people are always talking about and irreligious people are always railing against. The story begins with the revelation of a secret teaching: psssst, hey, did you know that God is Gay?.

In subsequent parts of Chapter 1, “God Is Gay”, I proceed to erect something that theologians call a theological anthropology (i.e., a conception of human nature in relation to divine realities). In this new map of human nature, I compose a cross at the center, and put Masculine and Feminine (or Yang and Yin) at the horizontal axis and Sameness and Otherness (or Homophilia and Heterophilia) at the vertical axis. All of gender and sexuality dynamics — the grand story of our essence and our expansion, our translative spirituality and our transformative spirituality — are denoted on this diagram. And every human being can recognize themselves on this cross: men and women, heterophiles and homophiles, and even people who don’t fit neatly in the categories can at least see intersection which reveals them.

It is pretty astonishing to me that until the publication of Soulfully Gay in 2007, this simple explication of human nature had not gotten any play in Christian theology. No one else had put Sameness and Otherness as the vertical axis, representing transformative spirituality, in their conception of human nature. (Nor had this understanding of gayness been explicated in Queer Studies or LGBT Studies, which taken as a whole were Green/PostModern and uninterested in the possibility of cross-cultural and cross-linguistic universals).

If you know something about Christian theology, then you can start to see the horrible challenge this theological anthropology poses, particularly in Chapter 3, “Deeper Connections”, which builds on this map of human nature an add more associations: Eros for the heterophilic, outside-pointing arrow of the Y-axis, and Agape for the homophilic, inside-pointing arrow of the Y-axis. The spirit of self-transcendence itself enacts the heterosexual impulse and sprints ahead to God’s Evolution (or Ascent) … meaning that self-immanence itself enacts the homophilic impulse and describes God’s Involution (or Descent).

In other words, the moment that sexual sameness is associated in a proper, robust theological anthropology capable of describing this facet of human nature, something wonderful and horrible happens. Homosexuality and same-sex love can now be seen as playing a role at the central drama of anthropology — and therefore Christology. You can’t understand human nature or Christ’s nature without understanding that homophilia is the inward-arrow of God, and it is a gay direction. It is also a direction associated with the distortions of Grand Narcissism and the Death Drive (Thanatos).

Thus, God — viewed from the inside angle, pointing from the infinite expanse of Evolution toward a central point within the inner face of All Things — is gay. Christ knows God from the inside and out, and when manifest in human history reveals its “broken” nature, homophilic in a symbolic sense if not literal. Put bluntly, to be a Christ is to have gayness.

Arguably this is the most important teaching in Soulfully Gay, and I am heartened that quite a few people have come to me and expressed how important this finding is. Some divinity schools have assigned the book to students of Christology or theology. I have even heard that it is nothing less than a radical inspiration of the Holy Spirit because it tells everyone what a Christ is — if it is not already obvious — in the form of gay and lesbian people.

I think I’ll leave this story right there for now. If you want to explore this topic further, then please spend a few dollars to get the book at Amazon. There’s quite a bit more to this teaching — and its development — than I will be hashing out in this blog.

Libyan “tipping point,” a victory for the forces of human liberation

Muammar_al-Gaddafi_at_the_AU_summit-from-wikipediaThe President of the U.S. provides leadership in an important area that probably doesn’t get enough attention: being the country’s meaning-maker in chief. President Obama, noted for his rhetoric and ability to frame complex issues in balanced and multi-faceted ways — often with an Integral tilt — has risen time and again to the challenge of explaining to Americans the big picture.

Today, he addresses Americans regarding the positive events in Libya where rebels gained ground in Tripoli, creating the sense that victory for anti-Qaddafi forces is at hand. Obama said:

…The situation in Libya has reached a tipping point. As the opposition increased its coordination from east to west, took town after town, and the people of Tripoli rose up to claim their freedom. For over four decades the Libyan people had lived under a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights. Now the celebrations that we’ve seen in the streets of Libya shows that the pursuit of human dignity is far stronger than any dictator. [Transcript by JP, emphasis mine]

Notice Obama’s rhetoric emphasized. He is not making a liberationist theological argument per se, but the underlying premise of his speech is clear: good triumphs over evil in history, and human liberation is ultimately victorious over the forces of oppression.

Without invoking specifically Christian theology, he nevertheless gives expression to a civil religiosity which understands history to be governed by a force of reconciliation and liberation. Whether that force is understood as God, the telos of evolution, or the collective action of autonomous individuals is not important. The fact of evolutionary advance is.

From an ABC News blog:

As a side note, in the U.S., the news about the success of the Libyan rebels saw strange political posturing from certain quarters, as political partisans seemed almost comical in their refusal to acknowledge the American role in the story, fearing that any good news for President Obama is bad news for their political party. They don’t notice that the rest of us aren’t fooled.

There is still much work to do to reach a day in which partisanship can be replaced by truly trans-partisan efforts (and trans-national efforts), and more Integral solutions can be found for the world’s big problems. A more Integral picture, I hope, that provides leadership that creates alliances where they can be found in service of goods greater than any nation’s interests alone, protecting and advancing the health of peoples and nations at all stages of development.

Amid the debate over tactics, strategy, and political consequences over Libya, there must be room for holding a big picture view … and Integral voices in the conversation.

In a religiously diverse nation, political leaders ought not invoke their religious convictions as an argument for their political views. But we are fortunate to have a leader in Obama who is capable of drawing from shared American values — our optimism, our hopefulness, and our determination — in a manner that is consistent with the perennial insights of our religious traditions.

Obama does this so subtly most people won’t even notice. But in small yet poignant ways he is helping to cultivate a more worldcentric awareness of the power of human liberation in history — which some of us call Spirit or God — and he has power. Obama is the one calling the shots, not the ethnocentric sourpusses heckling from the sidelines.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Orthodox integral

In a recent exchange with another integral blogger, there was a dispute about orthodoxy. Orthodoxy, can you believe it! The word seldom came up, but it lurked in the background… the day has arrived where integralists can now engage in the sort of disputes over orthodoxy that in days of yore only religious traditionalists/rationalists could do.

Here’s the deal with orthodoxy. Integral is not a set of doctrines or beliefs about the nature of reality. It doesn’t tell you what religion to follow. It is not, strictly speaking, a worldview (when worldview is understood as a conceptual framework and symbolic system). Integral includes a worldview as part of its entire nature (technically speaking, if worldview is a mode, then integral is first second-tier level of that line of development; it is also possible to speak of worldview as “existing” in the Lower Left quadrant or angle), but integral is more than a worldview. Integral is a systematic way of thinking, being, and relating to the world that apprehends a fundamental Unity to reality.

This, at least, is a short summary of how I have defined integral. But people disagree about such things. Integral is a fuzzy word. To avoid confusion or unnecessary debate over definitions, when I mean to specify Ken Wilber’s systematic philosophy in its entirety, I use AQAL(tm) the proprietary term that he invented, uses, and owns. And when speaking about my approach to integral, I speak of STEAM, an acronym I coined. This allows me to say things like “It may be integral, but it’s not AQAL, and it’s not STEAM.” or, “STEAM is based on AQAL, but with the following differences…” In short, it allows me to label a systematic philosophy in its entirety and thereby avoid unnecessary confusion over terminology.

Some people would call AQAL the “orthodox integral.” I can see why they might say that, given the close association between Wilber and integral. However, I’d rather allow integral to remain a generic term that can be used by a wide variety of people to point to the cultural intellectual trends towards integration and unity that many are observing. There’s no need for anyone to monopolize integral.

But terms like AQAL and STEAM have very specific meanings. If an author claims that her philosophy is not only integral, but specifically also AQAL, this claim can be tested by the community of integralists aligned with Wilber’s philosophy. To make such a claim while simultaneously rejecting many of the key tenets of the integral framework seems truly dishonest. And there’s no need, since the integral label is available to all. I’m not even sure why anyone would want to call herself AQAL while rejecting, say, the notions of second-tier and third-tier, Spiral Dynamics, and integral as a level of consciousness. To use individual elements of Wilber’s philosophy–say, his distinction between liberal and conservative as responses to suffering–is not specifically AQAL.

If you think it’s ridiculous to believe that there would exist individuals who might seek to call their philosophy AQAL while simultaneously calling for a post-AQAL integral, trust me, they’re out there. Eventually someone will probably say, “The essential ethos of integral is sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll… and you can’t tell me otherwise, because I reject all aspects of integral theory that contradict that essential message.” The danger they pose in their writing is not grave, so far as I can see, but it is concerning. They can confuse the public understanding of what integral and AQAL are all about, so that they become useless words with no accepted meaning. Integral is already in that category to some extent. Hopefully words like AQAL can maintain some of their specificity of meaning for a while longer.

In Christian theology, there are some beliefs that are so essential their rejection would indisputably lead to charges of heresy. For example, belief in the existence of God or the divinity of Christ. On the other hand, there are a range of beliefs about how to interpret the Bible, and there are esoteric matters such as the doctrines of purgatory or limbo that are highly controversial. What are the comparable beliefs for AQAL? Well, I’m not sure that I’m the one to say. But since AQAL is a term used to describe the entire system of Wilber’s systematic philosophy, with a particular emphasis that all levels, types, states, quadrants, and lines be included, then at the very least a philosophy that refused to include all those elements as Wilber has described them would have to be non-AQAL. For example, a philosophy that denied integral as a level of consciousness would indisputably be non-AQAL.

So it seems in my old age I’m becoming more orthodox in my beliefs. I do think there is value in defining boundaries to flavors of integral, and being able to clearly say “this is outside the boundary.” But you can only do this if you have some sort of locus of control over the intellectual terrain. Perhaps for AQAL that locus of control will be Ken Wilber himself for now, or eventually Integral University. As more and more individuals begin to align themselves with AQAL or near-AQAL integral philosophies, perhaps others will follow my lead by coining a unique term (mine is STEAM) to describe their own integralism, so they can properly distinguish their ideas from others in debate if necessary. As an ex-Roman Catholic, I am enjoying the irony here of finding myself now advocating for the practical necessity of orthodoxy and a need for an authority to define the boundaries of the theory.

Defining orthodoxy should not be the end of discussion, but merely a helpful prelude. In integral approaches based on AQAL, there is no condemnation associated with being unorthodox. If you’re non-AQAL, you’re not wrong. Calling someone unorthodox is not an argument, and probably not even an effective rhetorical strategy for debate. But AQAL is a tool that can help place non-AQAL approaches into a specific location in a fairly comprehensive scheme. In other words, you can use AQAL to say, “this is where your ideas and approach fits into the AQAL map of reality.” In this way, the partial truths of the non-AQAL approach can be assessed, and you can describe what aspects of reality are overlooked by the more partial perspective, if it is in fact more partial. If the alternative to AQAL is more comprehensive and unitive in its approach to reality, then perhaps that alternative could eventually be described as post-AQAL or trans-AQAL. Who knows what is possible in the future with ideas as fresh and embryonic as these. At the very least, being able to attach a label to a flavor of integral is a helpful way to start an interesting discussion.