Erotic Religion

Monday night, at the GLBT support group I attend, two of the people there were talking about some salacious poems disguised as religion, something about a dark night and sneaking out to a lover. They seemed to think that the talk of God was a disguise and implied that the poet was gay.

I immediately identified this as St John of the Cross and tried to talk about the circumstances of those poems and about mysticism. They were having none of that. They felt that the erotic tone did not fit with religion. I told them Mark might be sending me an actual relic of St John of the Cross.

So now I am reflecting on the erotic and religion. There is nothing wrong with the combination. If we were created in God’s image, male and female, sexual beings, then our sexualities are in the image of God’s sexuality.

I was also remembering my directee. After months of going back and forth, in which I said little more than, “did you hear you said should again?” she talked about a spiritual experience that she shouldn’t have had. “Why, Brother Robert,” she said, “it was almost . . . erotic.” And I said, “What’s wrong with that?” Then I was able to help her accept the experience as a gift from God, and to appropriate it.

There has been a discussion in the Magdalen list of contemporary church songs that people hated. One main complaint was that they are just love songs with the name of the beloved changed to the name of God. then someone cited the old hymn that I grew up with, “I Come to the Garden Alone,” and disliking it for the dame reasons. As a child I loved loved loved that song. It spoke to me of my personal experience of Jesus. He was my friend who loved me, when no one else did. And I did come to him in a private space, a kind of rose garden. If this was erotic, it was pre-pubescent eros.
These songs, sentimental or amorous, are part of the Christian mystical tradition. We should criticize them on the basis of taste, for sure, but not the theology.

And for damned sure, we should not let the anti-erotic bias of some religion hinder us from the love of God.

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