Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More on Lent and the Tears of Things: Andrew Sullivan on James Alison and Gay Believers' Pain

And now I see, having blogged earlier today (here) about Lent and taking pain into one's depths to confront it and perhaps transmute it into greater compassion, that Andrew Sullivan has posted on a similar theme (here).

Andrew Sullivan talks here, as I did, about the specific pain gay believers bear in relation to the church, and our hope that this pain can be made redemptive. He notes that gay believers may ultimately offer the church a gift through our struggle with pain: the gift of helping the church as a whole to understand more accurately what it means to be church.

He puts the question of this specific pain of gay believers vis-a-vis the church in a developmental context. The human community is slowly coming to understand the truth about gay human beings and gay lives, and as it does so, the continued commitment of many in the churches to lies now exposed as lies becomes more painful for gay believers to bear. As he notes, "As the truth about homosexuality struggles to the surface of our consciousness as humans, the depth of the cruelty and lies imposed on gay people for so long can sting even more acutely . . . ."

Sullivan links to a wonderful essay of James Alison on this topic, which I actually read some days ago and which (I now see) has clearly influenced my own thinking on the topic in my previous posting, and so I ought to have acknowledged it. Joseph O'Leary linked to the essay last Friday (here), and it can be found in full at James Alison's blog (here).

I don't dare summarize someone as nuanced and complex as James Alison. I'll say here, only as a teaser for those who may want to read the essay (and I highly recommend it) that it argues that, as things grow better (in the sense that the concsicousness of the human community about the truth of gay lives grows more accurate), those of us who are gay and who remain in connection to communities of faith may actually experience more and new pain.

And that is certainly my case as I continue reading American Catholic blogs of the center, and encountering there the same tired, recycled arguments--with no gay voices invited in at all--that I began to encounter in the 1980s as I entered my years in Catholic academic circles. It vexes to see we have moved so little towards light.

And, even more, it hurts--and the sense of bafflement that accompanies that hurt at our exclusion grows deeper when one listens to the same voices talking about love, compassion, catholicity, inclusion, and justice. Among themselves. In their tight circles that do not represent the church as a whole.

With their gay brothers and sisters as silent bystanders who have been made silent by these guardians of the door to the center. Who even, God help us all, talk about us as if we are not there. Without ever asking what we think about ourselves, what we have to say about ourselves, and how we might frame the questions quite differently, if we had a voice. If we were given a voice.