John J. McNeill, an 83 year old ex-Jesuit and founder of Dignity New York, has certainly earned the right to be called the strongest gay voice of the Roman Catholic Church in America. His recently published Sex As God Intended: A Reflection on Human Sexuality as Play crowns his four earlier books about gay sexuality and Christianity with a wisdom and vision that make this an inspiring resource for anyone who has ever felt that gay might be godly. It would also provide an excellent and complete outline and agenda for anyone teaching a course on the subjects of gay sexuality, feminism and the patriarchy of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
I was eager to read this because I wanted to hear the voice of the old soldier. I was curious to know the mindset of a life spent fighting for gay rights, arguing with the stubborn Roman Catholic Church, counseling LGBT people and living with the same man for decades. Would he be bitter or tired, I wondered. I am happy to report that he is neither, and I should be so lucky as to write when I am his age with the clarity, warmth and sensible prophecy he brings to the page.
McNeill shows us how the patriarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has gotten sex all twisted up with work, when really, God intends it to be play. He is also convinced that this sad patriarchy is in its final days, and that the revolutionary progress being made by the gay community will usher in a reborn and rectified Christianity restoring the feminine/masculine dialectic that is now sorely missing. For this reason alone, heterosexual Christians who voted for Prop8 and the like, and who fear the "invasion" of the LGBT community into their churches and institutions ought to read this, for it will show them that the gay agenda will enhance rather then cramp hetero style.
I especially liked McNeill's succinct tour of Judeo-Christian heroes in the course of which he clears up many common misinterpretations of Old and New Testament texts without getting all professorial on us. We finally visit the real Genesis, David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Sodom, Roman Centurion, Martha and Mary, Lazarus and Ethiopian eunuch. It's like one of those old Broadway review/cavalcade of stars spectaculars in which all our favorite "Gee, they seem gay" biblical heroes are reunited.
McNeill also does a fine exegesis of the Old Testament's Song of Songs in which he raises the probability that this is actually a love poem between two men. McNeill concludes The time has come for a hermeneutic of suspicion to reclaim this song as originally a gay love song.. Having felt that suspicion when I was in high school seminary and first reading that section of the Old Testament, I was heartened to learn that this was not just wishful thinking on my part. Oh, and by the way, my young gaydar was absolutely on target about Jesus.
Also, this is a Festschrift edition including some fascinating essays celebrating the life and work of John J. McNeill.
There is much more to be found in this book that will be of interest particularly to women and lesbians and teachers of every variety, but those who need it the most, Mormons and priests and Prop8ers, will probably not read it unless perhaps someone gay wraps it up and sends it to them for Christmas.
Sex As God Intended: A Reflection on Human Sexuality as Play
by John J. McNeill
Lethe Press Books