|The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice ~ Martin Luther King.|
I like how Sarah Posner frames the significance of David Gushee's important announcement that, as an evangelical Christian ethicist, he now stands unambiguously in solidarity with LGBT human beings. I discussed this announcement here several days ago. Posner states,
David Gushee is thinking a lot about history. About social change, about civil rights movements, about religion, about power, about the Bible, about oppression, and about love. He has been thinking a lot about when the pro-LGBT movement within evangelicalism, one in which he has become a leading figure, will sweep across the church, transforming pulpits once known as bastions of anti-gay diatribe into bastions of Christ-like embrace of LGBT believers. He is certain change is coming—he's just not certain how quickly.
But he does seem confident saying that decades from now, the anti-gay, "angry" stalwarts of today will look like "the dead-enders on race" did after the civil rights movement.
"My mind goes back to 1963, to the white churches in the south," he says, referring pastoral reaction to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. "Who's going to be brave? Who’s going to step up? There's never a majority. There's always people waiting for other people to go first."
Gushee tells Posner that he's advocating for Christian understanding of "the most beaten-up minority in the Christian world." As I read what he's saying — the angry stalwarts of the Christian battle against the gays will eventually look like "the dead-enders on race" after the Civil Rights movement, and gay folks are "the most beaten-up minority in the Christian world" — I feel a sense of relief. Someone finally seems to get it.
Someone finally seems to get what I've been nattering on about for years at this blog site. I've been saying these things here for a long time now, feeling as I do so that, in my own Catholic cultural context, in particular, my voice counts for almost nothing. I've pointed over and over again to the glaringly obvious connections between the civil rights struggles of LGBT citizens and African Americans, connections long since highlighted by prophetic civil rights leaders including Bayard Rustin, Coretta Scott King, and John Lewis (video link) to whom American Catholics have a clear obligation to listen carefully, if they really care about the credibility of the moral teachings of the Catholic church in the American public square.
I myself have listened carefully as one judge after another — circuit judge Chris Piazza in my own state, federal judge Robert Hinkle in Florida, circuit judge Henry Floyd in Virginia — notes the glaringly obvious parallels between unconstitutional laws that long prohibited interracial marriage in many parts of the U.S., and unconstitutional laws banning same-sex marriage. I've listened carefully to what's increasingly obvious to many of my fellow citizens, and have watched with bafflement as the movers and shakers of the American Catholic public conversation, its most educated contributors, respond to these challenging moral connections by falling all over themselves to praise, instead, people who want the Catholic church in the U.S. to resist the moral arc of history in the area of gay rights, people like Ross Douthat or Rusty Reno.
The intellectual movers and shakers of the American Catholic public conversation clearly don't intend to get it. They don't intend to get the extent to which the leaders of our church — with the complicity of these movers and shakers — have worked themselves into a cul-de-sac over the issue of homosexuality. They don't intend to examine their own complicity in the serious injustices the institutions for which they teach and write have visited on their gay brothers and sisters, as they have looked the other way and remained silent.
They don't intend in any critical way to examine their own unmerited heterosexual power and privilege, and how this has made them obtuse, unable to see moral facts and ethical trends that are right in front of their noses and patently apparent to more acute observers of these facts and trends whose eyes are wide open. They don't intend to admit that their intellectual leadership within the American Catholic academy and media has been stultifying rather than liberating, parochial instead of catholic.
And so, as people like Tim Cook come out of the closet and people like David Gushee announce that Christian commitments to compassion and justice require followers of Christ to stand with the most beaten-up minority in the Christian world, in the American Catholic context, we continue to find our public conversation about these matters led by academics and journalists who think that folks of the ilk of Ross Douthat and Rusty Reno have more to say to us than just about any gay Catholic around. In its "centrist" manifestations, our American Catholic conversation continues to be radically skewed to the hard right, and adamantly closed to even the moderate left.
As we American Catholics continue to be bombarded, at leading Catholic blog sites where these issues are discussed in blog threads, by discussions like one I've followed lately, in which a defender of the faith who has a long history of publishing vocal anti-gay sentiments at these sites concocts fables about gay men molesting children and the danger such men would pose to the children of Catholic families, should those families be foolish enough to invite a homosexual to their
Thanksgiving Christmas meal table . . . . While it's hunky-dory, she insists, to invite the unmarried longtime partners of the heterosexual members of Catholic families to the table, just as it's absolutely okay for heterosexual married and unmarried members of these same Catholic families to use contraceptives . . . .
In the American Christian context, the center of moral gravity is now shifting away from such toxic nonsense to people like David Gushee and Tim Cook as the issue of homosexuality is discussed, leaving the American Catholic conversation about this issue in the dust. And leaving folks like me to wonder if it's even possible or worthwhile to try to keep engaging those who control the public conversation of my own American Catholic church as it deals with this issue . . . . Who clearly don't want to hear the testimony of openly gay human beings including openly gay Catholics, but, insofar as they're willing to entertain such testimony at all, prefer to filter it through the heterosexual matrix of people like Ross Douthat, Rusty Reno, or themselves . . . .
The graphic: a photo of the ceiling of the Thanksgiving Square chapel in Dallas, Texas, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by user Romary, as an illustration of Martin Luther King's statement, "How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."