By C.K. Persons
In last month’s column I began an exploration of Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. A person will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” My focus was two-fold: to provide the necessary background to a more complete understanding of this passage and to prompt thought about serving God and wealth. The focus of this column is more directly related to being Catholic and kinky: How can a kinky person interested in power exchange be Catholic as well?
Matthew 6:24 is a rather definitive statement. After all, the use of language such as “no one,” and “either hate one and love the other” does not leave much room for compromise. But this does not mean that submissives and dominants who also claim to be Catholic are just deceiving themselves. The passage emphasizes a complete love of God, which necessarily implies neighbor; and love is real only when there is action. To love means to act in a way that wills the best for the other. The Christian understanding of God as Love is that God does nothing but desire (will) the best for all creation. And believers of this God (Trinity, Love, pure self-gift, as highlighted in my second column) are to act likewise. (Yes, I know that we don’t do such a hot job on this one!)
The primary focus of a healthy power exchange relationship (really any healthy relationship) is that all parties involved do that which is best for the others. The focus, therefore, is love. When such desire (will) guides the relationship, I see no contradiction with Matthew 6:24. Submissives, for example, work tirelessly to make better the lives of dominants; and dominants accept submissives and act according to the best interest of their submissives. Problems arise, though, when self-interest trumps care for the other. (This is not to devalue self-care, which is vital for all of us.) In essence, Matthew 6:24 warns against idolatry, which can take various forms. For the dominant, greed and exploitation can be obstacles, and, for the submissive, a reliance on the dominant to the exclusion of love of God and others.
The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures can probably be boiled down (very simplistically, of course) to the invitation to love God and neighbor, especially the vulnerable, completely. Such complete love is hardly easy – and perhaps only infrequently achieved given the many distractions and divisions on the personal, communal, and global levels – but being kinky does not in itself make such love unattainable. In fact, at least in my experience, because healthy kinky relationships require deep honesty, trust, and communication; kinky relationships can make it even more likely to live authentically Catholic lives.