Part II NAKED AND UNASHAMED
A Christian Response to Marriage and Homosexuality
Dr. Leonard Lovett
Genesis 3: 10 ff. “I heard you were coming and did not want you to see me naked, so I hid.” ….”who told you you were naked.” A myth is a device used to probe for a deeper meaning of a narrative. Adam experiences the ultimate confrontation by God in the form of a question that is unavoidable. The fundamental problem for Adam is that this question is not rhetorical. An objective direct response is demanded. Innocence is lost by one act of disobedience and thus the incursion of sin into the world. The Fall has occurred and innocence has been violated. Shame occurs within the context of a framework of assigned norms and regulatory rules. There is no true and lasting freedom separate from responsibility. Without parents, family or friends to interact with Adam was given total freedom. Eve is created for partnership but eats forbidden fruit. Shame occurs when one’s hidden protected selfhood is revealed within the framework of norms designed to protect one’s better self. Shame is the consequence and product of knowledge. It is only when we have acquired knowledge that shame is made real. With the Fall comes shame. Since the Fall to be naked and ashamed is to be open to the paradox of grace. The ontology of shame makes us open to the intervention of grace.
Scripture does not give us a detailed theory of sexuality, but it does provide a perspective on life that includes our sexuality. Modern media exploits the visual exploratory aspects of raw sex strictly for the purpose of instant sexual gratification. The same media miss the inner reality of the sexual act which is to make the participants “one flesh.” If the act does not point to total life-union it is morally inappropriate to indulge in same. When one indulges in the act for the purpose of self-gratification and not fulfillment of the other with whom life–union is to be experienced, the very act can become addictive and empty, devoid of meaning. Sexuality in and of itself is good, and the misuse of it for the wrong reasons makes it bad. We who are heterosexual must exercise caution, compassion and humility when making judgments about homosexuals due to our own ignorance. Even homosexuals are not experts on their sexuality and much of it is a mystery just as it is for heterosexuals. Many young people go through a phase where they show strong feelings for members of their own sex often without realizing it and move on to heterosexual life styles. Some people go in and out of both sexual worlds, never knowing for sure where they really belong. Some experience homosexual relations in prisons and the military and return to a heterosexual life. The very term homosexual refers to a wide variety of experiences.
The biblical word is that homosexuals like others are called to be morally responsible for their behavior. It appears from beginning to end of scripture that the heterosexual union is God’s intention for sexuality. From the beginning “He made them male and female” so that they might become “one flesh.” The Faith Community must provide absolute support and love for anyone who embraces homosexuality with a deep sense of compassion, realizing that “we have all fallen short of the grace of God.” The primary purpose of this brief essay is not necessarily to provide answers as much as it is to raise the right questions. The cry from Eden is still alive and fierce, “who told you that you were naked?” Eden is closed, but there stands an angel with a flaming sword. There is another garden…it is Gethsemane.
A couple years ago a good friend sent me a little classic fairy tale titled, The Emperor’s New Clothes. The narrative is about an emperor in a faraway land who loved clothes. He had a different outfit for every hour of every day. He never left his dressing room except to ride through the kingdom in his carriage to show off his clothes. Tailors and seamstresses came from all over the world to show the king the latest colors and designs. One day two tricksters posing as weavers came to the palace. They told the emperor that they have come to tell him about the most fantastic fabric in the world. It is fine, light and beautiful and that people who are stupid or unfit for their jobs can not see it. Just think, they, they said, if you had clothes made of this special fabric, you would discover which men in the kingdom are unfit for their offices. You would be able to tell the fools from the wise. The emperor agreed and paid the two tricksters a lot of money in advance to make him a suit of this special cloth.
The tricksters asked for spools of silk and pure gold thread. They set up two looms in an empty shop in the middle of the Kingdom; The spools of silk and pure gold thread went into the trickster’s bags, not on the looms. Then the two sat at their empty looms and pretended to weave, long into the night. The next day the emperor wanted to see the cloth. But he was a tiny bit afraid that he might be unfit for his position, and if that were true, he did not want anyone to know it. So instead of going to the weaver’s shop himself, the emperor sent his most wanted advisor. The advisor could see nothing, of course, since there wasn’t anything to see. Dear me, the advisor said to himself…”Does this mean that I am a fool? I can not tell the emperor that I can not see the cloth!” So he went back to the emperor and reported that the cloth was indeed beautiful. The emperor soon sent another of his faithful officials to see the weavers’ cloth. Of course that man could see nothing either, but he did not want to admit this to anyone. “How can it be that I am a fool?” he wondered. So he assured the weavers that the cloth was lovely and he told the emperor that his new clothes were going to be splendid. The emperor decided that he wanted to see this magnificent fabric, while it was still on the loom. So he called the royal court to go with him to the weaver’s shop. The tricksters were working away as hard as ever at their looms when the emperor and the royal court arrived.
The weavers showed the emperor the invisible fabric The emperor looked at the weavers and then at the members of the royal court. The fabric is marvelous your Majesty they all began to say. Quite amazing! Splendiferous! What design! What colors! The emperor was dismayed. “Can they all see what I cannot see? He thought “Am I unfit for my position? Am I a fool? I must not let anyone know.” Then he pretended to feel the fine fabric and admire its colors and pattern along with everyone else. The tricksters promised to complete the emperor’s new suit by morning. Someone suggested, “why not have a procession to let all of your subjects see your wonderful new clothes?” they suggested. The emperor agreed. That night the tricksters burned sixteen candles while they pretended to cut and sew the invisible cloth. In the morning they took the invisible cloth to the palace. “Here is the coat,” they said, pretending to hold something up to be seen. “These are the trousers, and this is the shirt.”
The emperor undressed and put on the new clothes, at least he pretended to put them on. “How well the emperor looks in his new clothes,” said all the members of the royal court, for no one was willing to admit that he could not see a thing. The procession began. The emperor’s chamberlains walked behind him, pretending to put them on. “How well the emperor looks in his new clothes.” Said all the members of the royal court, for no one was willing to admit that he could not see a thing. The procession began. The emperor’s chamberlains walked behind him, all pretending to hold up the long train of his coat. All the people in the kingdom stood along the roads to see the emperor and his new clothes.
“How beautiful the emperor’s clothes are!” said the people as the procession passed by. “What a wonderful fit! How elegant!” None of them wanted to be thought a fool either. The two tricksters laughed all the way out of town with their bags full of silk and golden thread and the money the king had paid for his new clothes. The procession continued. Then one little child pulled on his father’s coat and said, “But Papa, the emperor has nothing on.” Nothing on?” repeated the boy’s father. “The emperor has nothing on!” all the people cried at last. The emperor knew it was true, but the parade continued through the town and back to the palace. What else could he do? He certainly did not want to admit that he had been a fool.
When leaders listen to the wrong people around them the consequences can be catastrophic. Whoever sits upon the throne of your life guides your decisions. If sexuality sits upon the throne of your life, it becomes ruler. Be careful and discerning about who you listen to lest you end up naked and ashamed.