Saturday, March 03, 2007

Reflections on the Robinson article, Part 3

It seem like a paradox, but given this description of sexuality, it makes sense that the thing to do is to do nothing. Well ... not "nothing," but certainly "not obsessing" over it, battling scrupulosity, accepting that one is a sinner like others (rather than a pervert unlike others), keeping one's expectations low, and ultimately trusting in God. Dr. Robinson describes a metaphor for struggling against homosexuality:
“When people begin this battle, they think it's going to be like this: There's a terrible dragon over here. He has caused untold pain and misery in my life. I must kill him. So I draw my sword and I go to do battle, and he knocks me down, and I knock him down, and we fight and we fight and we fight and it's a terrible battle, but finally, because I'm so valiant and so diligent, I get a couple of good blows in, I drive my sword into his heart, and he goes down, and I collapse in exhaustion, covered with dirt and mud and blood and sweat, but victorious.”
It doesn't work. Those who are successful would describe it this way: there's a terrible dragon over there; he has caused untold pain and misery in my life. I draw my sword, he lunges at me, I hold him back. I back up a little bit, I back up some more, I back up some more and keep backing up and finally I turn and walk from him, and I walk and I walk and I keep walking, and the farther I walk, the smaller he becomes on the horizon until he becomes irrelevant in my life. He just doesn't anymore.
Think also of the end of Jean-Paul Sartre's play "The Flies." How does Orestes slay Zeus at the end? By saying "I am free" and walking away. Or think of Luis Bunuel's film "The Exterminating Angel." The whole comic point is that the dining-room door was always wide open and that the partiers simply convinced themselves they were trapped. But that's not heroic in the usual sense. And it also goes against the grain of the scrupulously devout personalities of Dr. Robinson's patients. They want to fight the dragon, to slay it in God's name. For ever and ever, Amen. This was part of why I am very skeptical of what Ted Haggard's people are saying about him. (It may also have something to do with how the evangelical imagination in other fields is shaped by their soteriology, where Salvation is a once-in-a-lifetime fiat. Before you are damned, now you are saved.)

Again to speak personally, I am happiest when homosexuality is not an issue for me. I made this point about the Courage Conference once -- that I could breathe easily there. This may seem like a paradox -- that going to such a place makes the distinguishing fact a non-issue. But see ... if everyone is "homosexual," then it's also the case that nobody is. I saw a psychiatrist for about six months, and it was not successful because it kept shoving this subject and my failures therein to the front of my consciousness.

Dr. Robinson continues:
Men who struggle with this issue are often men who in their adolescent and early years, are men who understand the part of the gospel that says, “Obey. Keep this commandment. Don't do this, don't do that. Repent. Be good. Be outstanding. Be perfect.” They get that part of the gospel; that just sinks into them, and they get it. It's an important part of the gospel, and boy, they get a hundred percent there. They understand it completely.
But the part of the gospel that talks about redemption, atonement, unconditional love, being born again, the love of the Savior--that confuses them. They don't really understand it. They don't really get it. They could give a great sacrament meeting talk on it, because they're very bright and they know how all the words fit together. But in their hearts, that part of the gospel confuses them.
My confessor has said to me words to this effect more than once -- that my great weakness is in the heart, not the will or the intellect. To put it bluntly, that I can't really accept or make sense of that God loves me to the point that He died for my sins. Oh, I would never deny it as I know that this is what the Church teaches. But I believe it entirely on Her authority (I sometimes thank God for this, because if I had to reason to God's love for me, I probably would not accept it at all). Robinson makes the point that there is a difference between accepting something and "getting" something. At some level, yes, I don't get it (There. I've said it).

A Courage brother who has twice bailed me out of bad situations (the one who alerted us to this article in fact) has said to me that my difficulties with certain compulsive behavior are the result of my not getting that very thing. That "God loves all and wants all to follow Him" actually really does include me. Despite continuing difficulties.
I sometimes say to clients, “If I had a pill in my drawer here that would make this problem go away, I wouldn't give it to you.”
They'll look at me, like, “What? What do you mean?”
And I'll say, “I think our Father in Heaven has a pill like that in his drawer, and I'm guessing you've asked him for it.”
“Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.”
“And I'm guessing the answer was no.”
“Yeah, it was.”
I tell these men our Father in Heaven seems to be stingy with taking this problem away from people, with taking it away, but seems to be magnificently generous in showing them what the very next step is for them, what the very next thing they need to be doing when they humbly and consistently ask.


Dad29 said...

He would seem to be talking about St Theresa's spirituality--doing the little things every day.

Society loves and adores Strong-Man heroes. The cartoon is Schwarzenegger, but look (e.g.) at what FDR and Wilson wanted to be: the saviors of the world, (or close to it.)

It would be better (perhaps) to take the Vince Lombardi approach. The Packers only had about 3 offensive plays (although there were a number of variations on each one.) But each play was practiced until each player knew how many INCHES they had to move and in which direction. The center was required to hike the ball at exactly (exactly!!) 20 degrees off top-dead-center (or some such number.)

By the way, what the Dr. does NOT explain is those who are 'sensitive, intelligent, and [who] have a strong sense of right/wrong' and who are hetero.

Wonder if he's ever looked hard at heteros-with-addictions (alcohol...)

melancholy said...

Fight the dragon, or feed the dragon?--what you feed will remain alive and grow. The show, "A Beautiful Mind," is a true story about a schizophrenic who sees and hears people--he knows they are not real, he wants to "talk" with them, but he chooses to ignore them. SSA will be with us till we die, but you can choose to feed the attraction, and suffer it's consequences, or bravely "not feed" the attraction.