Thursday, July 16, 2015

"I Am for Peace; But When I Speak, They Are for War": A Consideration of the Christian (and Catholic) Reponse to Obergefell

I've been thinking about war and peace lately, not primarily because, in response to the possibility of a peace-seeking agreement with Iran, one of my nation's two major political parties, which claims to represent Christian truth in some unique way, wants war — continued war, always war, always an enemy. I've been thinking about war and peace lately because of the continued bellicose determination of many American Christians, not a few Catholics included, to keep on making war on their LGBT brothers and sisters after those fellow human beings have gained the right to civil marriage.

And, along with the right to marry, the right to a certain level of security we never had before, to have much-needed healthcare coverage in many cases, to be permitted to dispose of our property as we wish in wills safeguarding our spouses, to be allowed to be with our loved ones and hold them when they are in the hospital and dying, to enjoy tax benefits long accorded to heterosexually married people, and so forth . . . . The right to count for a change, even if only for a little bit and if only for that one day in late June when, as Rob Watson notes, "Everything was coming up dancing rainbows". . . .

And then, as Rob Watson says, the Christians stepped in, and we who had relished the dancing rainbows for a day had to deal with the deluge of statements on social networks about polygamy, pride parades, and "sin" (see Mariam Williams's similar testimony at National Catholic Reporter). "The feeling of astronomical progress now felt like a reversal into retro thinking," Rob writes, as we tuned into social networks to hear what our Christian brothers and sisters chose to broadcast about us as soon as the dust of the Obergefell decision began to settle.

As they reminded us that they stand against us and that panoply of fragile rights we have just been handed, which promise to make our lives a bit more bearable . . . . As they shout at Catholic blog sites, "What about the children, for God's sake?" (see Monica Carley in this thread responding to America Magazine's editorial appeal to Catholics to lay down their weapons against the LGBT community) . . . .

The children, and broad, ugly insinuations that LGBT folks use and damage children, are weapons too valuable for Christians to relinquish now in their battle against LGBT human beings — even or especially after the Obergefell decision. As is the continued broad and ugly insinuation that some Catholic commenters at Catholic blog sites like one Purgatrix Ineptiae, who routinely contributes to National Catholic Reporter threads about gay folks, love to make, that LGBT people (who are, in Miss Ineptiae's mind, primarily rich, pampered white gay men) carry disease and infect the healthy, upright Christian population with their filthy illnesses contracted through filthy sexual acts that define their entire identity.

We who are gay are for peace now, after the Obergefell breakthrough, since we have lives to live, vocations to pursue, children to raise in many cases, etc. But the Christians remain, as Rob Watson points out, inclined to war. We may speak for peace, but they are for continued war, for a continuation of the war they have been waging against our humanity for years now.

America may call for a Catholic truce in this anti-gay war, but Father Robert Imbelli, a regular contributor to Commonweal, is for war. Father Imbelli is for continued Catholic war against LGBT people renamed by the pretty Greek word parrhesia, a word that allows us to pretend we're acting in love when we attack our brothers and sisters who are made different from us with claims that love demands we speak "truth" to them about their sin.

National Catholic Reporter may plead with Catholics to give up their "foot-stomping 'no'" to their fellow human beings who are gay, but Deacon Jim Russell, Family Life Coordinator for the Office of Laity and Family Life of the St. Louis archdiocese, remains for war. "The" Catholic approach to the "evil" of same-sex marriage is, he informs NCR readers, to tell LGBT people bluntly that what they are doing when they marry is evil, and Catholics can in no shape, form, or fashion cooperate with them and the evil of their marriages.

Shun them, Deacon Jim tells his fellow Catholics. The shunning is, after all, our premier way of showing them that we love them in that biblical way sketched for us by Father Imbelli with his prettified-war Greek term parrhesia.

We love you to death. That's the Christian, the Catholic, message that we must not stop bearing down on — as hard as possible — after Obergefell. 

We do not love your actions. We do not love your choices. We don't love your sexual orientation, your disorder. 

But we love you — and why in God's name can you not hear that when we confront you with the healing balm of our parrhesia? Are you deaf as well as disordered?

As Todd Flowerday (who serves in a music and spirituality ministry in his Midwestern parish) points out in his response to Father Imbelli and Father's prettified Greek term for continued war, there's something more than a little odd, isn't there, about the obsessive focus of many Catholics today on our need to shun any and all cooperation with the "evil" of same-sex marriage? We don't hear similar appeals for Catholics to shun other groups of sinners and the evil they do.

Though the Catholics making this parrhesiac appeal claim they're defending a countercultural church, they're usually perfectly content to live within socieities that adhere to the values of ruthless capitalism. They don't shun others who exploit and demean the poor, nor do they mount a big public outcry encouraging us to shun outspoken racists and Confederate flag-wavers. We certainly don't hear these Catholics speaking out about the Catholic obligation to shun misogynists and people who use their own heterosexual identity and system of values to justify persecuting and discriminating against those different from themselves.

It's just the gays who are in their sights.

It's just the gays who trigger that baleful word "evil" for many "countercultural" Christians today, for many "countercultural" Catholics today. Somehow, who we LGBT folks are, the choices we make, the lives we lead, crystallizes the concept of evil in a stark and all-surpassing way for many Christians today. Such that they have no choice except to continue attacking us, shunning us, firing us when we have been working in Christian institutions, lying about us as people who harm children or spread disease in pure societies . . . .

How any of this represents the good news of Jesus Christ is, I confess, difficult for me to understand. I am for peace. But they are for war.

And when the gospel is preached to me by way of weapons, I'm, I'll freely admit, inclined rather to turn away from it and those preaching it than to embrace it. So that I fully understand the many people today — and they're not just LGBT people — who are walking away from churches that proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and God's all-embracing love of the world in this anti-gay and belligerent way.

What I suppose I will never fully understand is why those who want to keep this war on a segment of the human population alive can't manage to turn the light of the gospel on themselves and to ask whether they're adequately representing God's embrace of the cosmos through Jesus with their pretty-war-as-parrhesia. And why they can't manage to see that they're hardly serving the gospel when they aim their weapons at human rights that extend healthcare to people who have been without it, that afford security in sickness and old age to people long denied that security, that lift burdens from the backs of people historically burdened by atrocious prejudice and discrimination.

Where is Jesus in any of this?

(I'm grateful to Jim McCrea for sending me Todd Flowerday's article.)

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