To the Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
From an Oppressed Minority
As you know, evolutionary biologists now believe that sexual monogamy is quite unnatural. In fact, at least for human males, what has been somewhat critically described as “promiscuity” is a genetic/biological imperative. Male heterosexual activity with multiple female partners, traditionally condemned in Judeo-Christian cultural contexts is, according to the most respected research, merely the outward manifestation of genetically encoded predispositions and impulses. In other words, heterosexual men have an “orientation”
It made evolutionary sense, as the infant mortality rate was so high, for our ancient forefathers to live “promiscuously.” Generally speaking, evolutionary anthropologists say, it was most profitable for males to mate with many different females. Indeed, the more females the better, as with each mating the odds of the male seed being carried into future genetic pools and future generations increases.
Over the course of many millions of years, this evolutionary necessity has become bilogically/genetically “encoded” into hetersosexual male primates, including human beings.
Surely your grace recognizes the wide-ranging ramifications of this discovery for both culture and Church. What today is the considered the social norm, monogamous marriage, is essentially an act, perhaps even a crime, against nature.
Traditionally speaking, scripture has been understood to uniformly condemn “adultery” (a rather offensive and hateful term) in all forms and the Church has always strictly suppressed and restricted the expression of expansive heterosexual love.
However, in addition to and in light of the above advances in human self-knowledge there are now many reasons to move beyond the traditional interpretive bonds.
The passages found in the Old Testament in which promiscuity is apparently forbidden are, according to the most prominent OT scholars, likely the result of years and years of cultural diologue between ancient communities guarding distinctive ethnic boundaries and claims. The entire levitical code might be more profitably read as an expression of communal identity. The people who are now called, “Jews” (known in the ancient world as Hebrews and/or Israelites) have always been surrounded by foreign and sometimes hostile language/culture groups.
The great question for any ethnic community in such a hostile and fluid social context is, “How do we remain distinct? How do we maintain our identity while living amid others?”. The Old Testament religious ritual and legal codes stand as a record of the gradual resolution of these questions. Given our recognition of the complex social/cultural milieu within which the OT was written, most mainstream Old Testament scholars believe that it is somewhat problematic, if not impossible, to take the vast number of legal proscriptions found in the levitical at face value.
In light of this scholarly consensus, in my own opinion, we need not take the seventh commandment against “adultery” or the levical injunctions against male promiscuity as universal injunctions but rather enjoy, experience, and live into them as cultural expressions of ethnic identity and inter-cultural dialogue. They say, in effect, “this is who we are.”
But what of Jesus’ famous words during his sermon on the mount. “He who looks at a woman lustfully has already commited adultery with her in his heart.” Well, aside from the well documented fact that Jesus most likely never said these words (see “The Five Gospels”), it is obvious that Jesus was speaking from within a more limited worldview that did not acknowledge natural or inborn promiscuity as a genetic necessity. Jesus, as a first century Jew, most likely held to the prevailing primitive cultural ethic of his day; what he might have called, as fundamentalists do even today, the “Created Order;” the idea that human beings were given by God a natural desire for members of the opposite sex but that these desires were intended to be fulfilled in life-long marital-covenant unions between one man and one woman.
His injunctions ought then to be read in that sense. Jesus spoke from within a primitive culture. Had he known then what we know today, his opinion would undoubtedly more closely resemble my own.
This does not mean that Jesus’ words are not to be taken as “authoritative.”
We know that his injunctions against heterosexual “promiscuity” cannot be applied accurately to heterosexual men because heterosexual men are born with or, dare I say, “created” with the expansive desire to include as many women as possible in their physical expression of love. However, Jesus’ proscriptive words regarding expanive heterosexual behavior may be more correctly applied to homosexual men who, acting against their own created orientation, might be tempted to act out unnaturally, in a heterosexual rather than homosexual way.
In this sense, perhaps Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 ought to be seen as consistent or corollary with the principle St. Paul articulates in Romans 1: it is unnatural, a perversion if you will, for men who are heterosexually oriented by virtue of creation to have sexual relationships with other men. Likewise, then, according to Jesus, it is unnatural, a “perversion”, for homosexual men to lust after or engage in expansive sexual activity with many women.
But, some may object, what of tradition? Need we even ask? The Church has ordained “promiscuous” heterosexual men from the very beginning. Doing so now, and openly, would both serve to acknowlede what has been a suppressed reality and affirm those who for centuries have been an oppressed minority. Such a move would allow heterosexual men to live and expansively love with honesty and with integrity.
Given all of this I plead with your Grace to encourage the various provinces of the Anglican Communion to stop the lie. It is time for heterosexual men to come out of the shadows and embrace the truth of who they are. And, more importantly, it is time for “promiscuous” heterosexual men to be embraced. I call on the Church develop and authorize rites for blessing expansive heterosexual unions; portable rites that may be applied prior to and/or after the loving union takes place. I also call on the Church to acknowledge the centuries of faithful service given by heterosexual men who live secret lives of expansive heterosexual love.
Sincerely Yours in the Expansive Love of Christ,
The Reverend Matt Kennedy
(yes, don’t worry, this is a parody)