To the Editor of Theology and Sexuality,
Journal of the Centre for The Study of Sexuality and Christianity (2005?)
Dear Mr Woollard
I have previously written to Professor Stuart complaining of the very narrow remit of CSCS’s journal Theology and Sexuality to homosexual matters and the virtual absence of heterosexual issues. She kindly replied that the journal does not get articles on heterosexuality. I do feel that CSCS, which I have supported since its inception, is trapped in this vision. Let me therefore write extensively to argue the case for extending its remit to heterosexuality, which, at a stroke, will widen the readership.
First, there are about 85% of heterosexuals to the 15% who are homosexual “So what?” you may say. “It is the latter who need understanding. Heterosexuality is safe and does not need help.” I don’t believe a word of that.
Second, I smiled at your dismissal of my theological contribution as “safe”. In my book Let’s Make Love I start by trying to understand marital love as based on the four pillars of sustaining, healing, growth and sexual intercourse. By sustaining I mean the moment- to-moment cementing of intimate relationships through companionship, communication, demonstration of affection, affirmation and resolution of conflict. By healing I mean the opportunity of offering a second chance to our partner who enters an intimate relationship with wounds such as anxiety, lack of confidence, insecurity, inability to register or give love, excessive anger, mistrust, fear, the inability for closeness. It is around these areas that relationship breakdown occurs whether it be heterosexual or homosexual. Third, there is growth. It is very little appreciated that we grow throughout our lives and partners can either facilitate or hinder this growth. Again, emotional growth is one of the keys to stability for intimate relationships heterosexual or homosexual. Finally sexual intercourse is the central channel through which sustaining, healing and growth are expressed in personal relationships. Of course it does not have to be genital sexual intercourse; any form of sexuality can transmit these life- giving experiences which sustain these relationships.
Thus to me sexual intercourse is principally life-giving act on each and every occasion and the means of new life on some occasions. This is a fundamental advance of understanding the theology of sexuality, shifting the ground from 2,000 years of biology to love. It is so “safe” that my denomination still cannot accept it, not only for reasons of contraception but because it removes the grounds for opposing homosexuality. In fact my theology of sexuality is essential for understanding and accepting homosexuality. All this is a revolutionary personalistic theology, totally separate from that of John Paul II, and has tremendous implications for homosexuality and heterosexuality.
For me, sexual intercourse is the most powerful symbol of the Trinity, in which two people become one, remain completely separate but conjoined by love. All this is to be found in my book Let’s Make Love, my so-called “safe” theology.
But let me go on. I am fascinated by the total demise of church attendance in all denominations. In my latest book Living Love I suggest as an explanation that for 2,000 years we have paid due attention to the “divine” part of the Incarnation and totally neglected the “human” side, for example marriage, kinship, friendship, work, the single person and the capacity to love your neighbour.
Since Freud and his successors we understand the intimate fusion of the sensual (the body) and affect, of which genital sexuality is but one part of the spectrum of love.
We have the audacity to criticise people for their selfishness, hedonism and materialism. Does all this give them happiness? Clearly not. So what are people really looking for? They are looking for love in intimate relationships. Why am I saying this? Look at the facts. The overwhelming majority of young people are looking to marriage and love for their happiness. 40-50% of first marriages break down. This does not stop them from trying for a second or a third time, because they are seeking love. Many who are wounded and hurt from the dissolution of their own families are confused and are trying a spectrum of close relationships to find love. All Christianity can do is say “No premarital sex”. (Puberty starts at 14 and marriage on average is at about the age of 30!) What are we doing to support marriage, or indeed any intimate relationship? The hunger for love is found in the themes of our popular songs, drama and literature. The point I am making is that intimate link between humanity, sexuality and love.
What is Christianity offering? Without diminishing one iota the importance of homosexuality, this narrow preoccupation is threatening to split the Church of England. You may say we use the word love at every other second in our liturgies, we sing our hearts out about it in our hymns. Indeed we do. The word has become a totem – empty rhetoric. We use the word but we do not live it. In Living Love I spell out how to live it, using psychology in marriage, friendship, kinship, work and loving our neighbour. At the heart of this living is the unity of the sensory, affective, sexual and the social and intellectual. The disease of Western society is not only the misunderstanding of homosexuality but the apotheosis of the intellect at the expense of the affective and the sexual, be it hetero or homo.
I could go on. My plea is for a careful understanding of what I have written, and for Theology) and Sexuality and CSCS to expand their horizons and become, not only instruments of homosexual understanding (this is too narrow) but broadly of love which includes homosexuality and heterosexuality but much more. Love is the unconscious cry of the age, and as Christians we must respond to the cry through any means, including CSCS.
In the light of this letter, to talk about shortage of material and subjects beyond homosexuality is clearly absurd. If we look at the notes for contributors to Theoloev and Sexualitv it is clear that only a minute proportion of the possibilities is addressed. At the present moment we are stuck at oppression and discrimination. The greatest oppression of Western society is its unattended hunger for love. And Christianity carries the greatest responsibility.
Dr Jack Dominian