The sheer mechanics of navigating an overlong comment thread cause me to move my ongoing conversation with Richard (and some of his friends) to first position.
To Mystical Seeker:
As a middle-aged male, making broad generalizations about the sexual satisfaction of women is way above my pay grade. Suffice it to say that I am aware of divergent testimony on the matter you addressed.
To Grandmère Mimi:
I take your point. How 'bout we agree that, as couples age, the libidinal disparity between the partners tends to increase, causing a de facto state of "enforced abstinence" on one of them.
Your prose is plenty elegant, but this is the first time mine has been accused of being post-modern!
First, let me remove any suspicion that I may have implied that you cross your fingers when you say the creed. That thought has never entered my mind.
I agree with you that an extended point-counterpoint exchange over a narrow range of subjects invokes the law of diminishing returns rather quickly. Plus, it just gets boring. I find it both more helpful and more interesting to explore the underlying suppositions that lead us to different pragmatic conclusions on the questions that vex the church we both love.
I'm not sure of all that this might mean, but it seems potentially significant that I tend to speak of "norms and exceptions to the norm" while you favor the language of "majority and minority" (presumably both within the range of "normal"). These two paradigms certainly have their similarities, but they are also importantly different. Why is it that you embrace one and I embrace the other--I'm suspecting, without a lot of conscious intent?
Here's a theory: It seems plausible that you (and many who share your point of view) begin with the pastoral reality that there are gay and lesbian persons who "profess and call themselves Christians," and from there seek to articulate an idealistic construct that supports a robust ministry of inclusion. In the meantime, I (and many who share my point of view) begin with an ideal that we perceive as divinely revealed, and from there seek to find pastoral practices that minister to those whose experience diverges from that ideal, but without sacrificing the ideal. Could this be a speciation of the distinction between the Top-Down and Bottom-Up methods of doing theology?
You have suggested that my position is based on ontology. As far as I know my own mind (which is a significant qualifier!), the distinction I want to make is less ontic than semiotic. It's about the sign value of human relationships--sign values that exist despite the particular qualities of particular relationships that may not literally manifest that sign. I will confess that my view is substantially similar, though not identical, to that of the Roman Catholic Church, in that I would contend that the telos of sexual coupling is ordered toward reproduction. That is the primary sign. There are other benefits, from the unitive to the recreative, but they are ancillary and cannot be divorced from the primary sign. Heterosexual copulation looks like something that can be fecund, even when, in any given relationship, it cannot. But that gets into territory we've already traversed, and I sort of promised not to do that!