At A Sound of Sheer Silence, Michael Boyle just finished his engaging series on Dr. Grep Popcak’s Holy Sex!: A Catholic’s Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving. The whole series is great, but Michael’s final thoughts are especially worthwhile. Building on Barbara Brown Taylor’s distinction between “solar” and “lunar” Christianity—both provide light, but solar Christianity is about clarity (and therefore flattens out complexities), where lunar Christianity is more comfortable with ambiguity—Boyle writes:
My experience of sexuality, and the experience of everyone I have spoken to about this, is profoundly lunar. I do not mean to suggest that sexuality cannot be solar in the way Popcak would suggest—I suppose it is possible—but I don’t think it is particularly common. I find sexuality to consist in almost nothing but nuance and ambiguity. Clear and unbending rules almost always prove difficult to apply and subject to exceptions at every turn. As opposed to the lock-step, ontological categories of sexual beliefs and attitudes, sexuality waxes and wanes like the moon. Sometimes sex between partners is a deep, spiritual communion. On other occasions, with the same partners, it is almost entirely carnal and physical. Both of those scenarios can be pretty awesome.
Most people view sexuality as lunar, not because of some pre-existing opposition to Catholic thinking on sex (as Popcak imagines), but because a lunar approach best reflects the reality of sex they experience. People have experienced that sexuality can wax and wane and that this is OK. People don’t use artificial birth control because they are in “romantic anti-marriages”—they use it because it works, and they don’t experience any of the catastrophic life consequences Popcak and the Church warn of.
“I find sexuality to consist in almost nothing but nuance and ambiguity” gets right at what I believe about sex. Absolutism about sex seems to fly in the face of the nature of the act itself, which is the apotheosis of relationality.