Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TMI about the bishop

The Bishop's Daughter: A Memoir by Honor Moore

Since I'm currently in New York City, it seemed timely to read this biographical/autobiographical account of relationships between and among a set of very complex individuals whose central figure was Paul Moore, Episcopal Bishop of New York from 1972 through 1989. Moore was extremely influential in both his church and his city during his tenure, working for civil rights, women's ordination, full inclusion of LGBT people, and against poverty and war. He was very much a public figure.

The daughter's book was previewed in the New Yorker in early March. These excerpts teased exposure of Bishop Moore's secret gay liaisons. The book does that, and much more, some of it intriguing, much of it simply "too much information" -- TMI. That is, the book told me more than I ever wanted to know about a complicated group of people.

What stood out in this volume was how differently both Paul Moore and Honor Moore constructed their understanding of homosexual love and life from what we now tend to emphasize when working for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church and society.

Gay activists today usually insist that we are "born this way." Homosexual orientation is conceptualized as not a choice but innate and unalterable. Hence, we should have civil rights just like anyone else; if we are believers, we assert that God made us this way and that we can practice loving monogamy and fidelity just like the best of the heterosexuals.

Both Moores seem to be on a very different track. Bishop Moore had clandestine affairs, straight and gay -- so did a good many other people in his orbit. Despite his daughter's forgiving picture, these come across as often leading to anguish among those involved. Only a small part of the anguish seems to have derived from their transgressive sexual orientation; there was plenty as well simply from the life of lies unacknowledged loves lead to.

Insofar as one can discern the bishop's attitude toward his gay attachments, he seemed to believe that they were yet another instance of the goodness God had made in God's creatures -- but one he could not afford to acknowledge publicly. Both the bishop and his daughter were bisexual; gay love was simply another good among the possible goods (and trials) that love in the world offered.

Truth be told, I think this attitude is more true to the human condition than the currently more popular alternative view. I can't believe in an exclusive biological determinism about sexual orientation; social circumstances have a huge impact on the direction our ability to love goes in. When gay love is relatively socially acceptable, more of it will happen; where it is penalized, less will happen. Opponents of gay freedom are onto something: a lot of people who are currently "gay" could pass as straight if their survival depended on it. Some gay love undoubtedly goes on in oppressive societies; but also, oppression does work.

On the other hand, we gay people are right and I think very good indeed -- we rightly assert that more human love is possible when gay love is possible. For those of us who believe in a good God, that should be very good news indeed.

1 comment:

sfmike said...

I hated the excerpt I read in "The New Yorker." Narcissism abounds, with TMI about Ms. Honor and definitely not enough about daddy, who sounds, in between the lines, fascinating.

I'm getting to the age where I'm realizing love is simply love. It usually has a sensual component, whether the object is a baby, a cat, a parent, a lover, a friend. But occasionally it's completely asensual which is fine too.

Related Posts with Thumbnails