It is fascinating to read the announcement of Apple CEO Tim Cook in Businessweek yesterday that he's gay in light of the tortured back and forth that has just taken place at the highest level of the Catholic church about whether "these people" have gifts or should have any place at the Catholic table. The initial draft of the synod's relatio, which the fathers of the church found impossible to affirm, said,
Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing [...] them [...] a place of fellowship in our communities?
And then, as we know, all hell broke loose and the welcome mat was yanked away, along with any recognition that "these people" might be bearers of gifts to the Catholic community.
In his coming-out essay, Tim Cook writes,
I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me. Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry.
Reflecting on those declarations, Noah Michelson states,
Being queer is a gift because of the possibilities inherent in our otherness. I truly believe that we can and will be the ones who help usher in new ways of understanding our humanity. As we've long operated outside of traditional and institutional frameworks, we have and can push ourselves and our non-queer brothers and sisters to challenge what we've been told about sex, love, relationships, families, creativity, art and other big ticket items and that will mean that, hopefully, some day we'll be liberated from the isms that plague our society that are rooted in our reliance of and privileging those frameworks.
It would be hard to locate a more clearly stated contrast between what the fathers of the Catholic church (and some other churches) find it impossible to say right now about "these people," and what increasing numbers of gay people are willing to say openly about ourselves, with the support and encouragement of increasing numbers of straight people. This is that our experience of dealing with marginality, with brutal oppression from people claiming God as their authority, with constant injustice disguised as Christian righteousness, often develops in us qualities of understanding, compassion, and empathy for others who are marginalized, oppressed, and treated unjustly as we are treated.
And so that gay experience represents a gift to others — to the human community and to communities of faith. This gift will not vanish simply because people who claim God as their warrant for oppressing us deny that such a gift exists. To the contrary, what is happening to religious communities whose leaders find themselves unable to acknowledge that gay human beings bring valuable gifts to the communities these folks lead is, as Spanish theologian Juan José Tamayo has just stated about the synod on the family, that they appear to more and more people to be missing the train of history.
They appear to be missing the moral train of history insofar as they cannot affirm the humanity and human rights of a long-despised segment of the human community. And they are losing moral credibility as a result. Spectacularly so.