Beholding and Beheld: Mutual Vulnerability in the Divine Image

In previous posts I traced the strong version of the conservative argument against gay marriage, and also pointed to where the serious, conservative, theologically grounded argument  for gay marriage needs to go. In this post, we’ll lift up one thoughtful reflection– on God, desire, humanity, and sexuality– that leads, at the very least, to the possibility that God’s nature as Creator and Source of Life can manifest in human sexuality in ways other than begetting children. The author of that reflection is Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury.

In a piece entitled “The Body’s Grace” (composed over a decade before becoming archbishop), Williams identifies God’s enlivening, life-affirming nature as present in human sexuality itself. He helps us see human sexual intimacy in terms of the grace of reciprocated desire and delight– a grace and a delight that are in the very image of the trinitarian God, whose nature is love-in-relationship. By that grace we learn to inhabit the fullness of the lives we have been given.

From this perspective, the moral goodness of a sexual relationship is not whether it is homosexual or heterosexual, but whether it is characterized by mutual nurture and care, surrender and vulnerability, and a faithfulness over time that can lead to delight, joy, and an enlarged sense of life. The essential nature of human sexuality is not procreation, but beholding and being beheld. This is not to divorce human sexuality from the divine life, but to ground it in a theology of grace wherein we receive the fullness of ourselves as a gift from another, and from an Other.


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