Friday, October 30, 2009

News from the Week: Maine Anti-Gay Initiative's Shenanigans, More on Rome's Invitation to Anglicans

It’s apparently not just this site that has gotten plastered with ads from the Yes on 1 folks—the group trying to remove the right of marriage from gay citizens of Maine. John Aravosis reported yesterday at Americablog Gay that the ads had shown up on his blog, too. John says, “Folks, just an FYI, the anti-gay bigots in the Catholic Church and the religious right in Maine are buying Google Ads on all the gay sites.” The ad that showed up on his site appears to be the same one that I found on this blog—one that tries to stir up fears that gays are out to recruit children.

I’m trying to understand the rationale of this move. Since people visiting Americablog Gay or Bilgrimage will likely not be inclined to donate money to Yes on 1 or support its goals, why plaster sites like this with No on 1 ads?

Well, at least we must have attracted these folks’ attention, and that’s probably not bad. They know they’re being watched as they wheel and deal—and watched in some cases by people of faith, as they claim that they wheel and deal in the name of the Lord.

Thankfully, around 100 religious leaders representing a wide range of communities of faith gathered in Washington, D.C., yesterday to provide another perspective about the role of faith in debates about gay rights today. They represent a coalition of some 200 ministers in D.C. who have formed D.C. Clergy United for Marriage Equality. The group spoke in support of a bill before the D.C. city council, which would permit same-sex marriage.

As Benedict continues to re-brand the Catholic church as the international shelter par excellence for Christian homophobes and misogynists, many faith communities will continue to move in the opposite direction: they will continue the march to justice alongside their gay brothers and sisters, regardless of Romes warnings and the shrill cries of other right-wing religious groups that are trying to build 21st-century Christianity around misogyny and homophobia today.

They’ll continue their march because it’s the right thing to do, the gospel-oriented thing to do. It is very difficult to preach a gospel centered on God’s salvific love for all, and, in particular, for the dispossessed and wounded, while targeting a vulnerable minority and seeking to make the lives of members of that minority group even more miserable. It’s difficult to do so and retain credibility as you proclaim the gospel, that is.

Particularly not when the men fulminating against intrinsically disordered gays are wearing pink dresses and fabulous designer shoes. As Andrew Sullivan notes, one of the open secrets of contemporary right-wing Catholicism, with its fixation on smells and bells and parsing theological rules to keep everyone in line, is that many of those in the driver’s seat of this movement are repressed gay men: “But there is as much an overlap of closeted gay priests and bishops with liturgical and theological orthodoxy as there is of closeted gay politicians finding ways to oppress other gays who are out and open.”

For a humorous take on the recent Roman invitation to dissident Anglicans which touches on that open secret about which we’re not supposed to talk, have a look at Stephen Colbert’s recent send-up of the Roman invitation. Colbert, who’s Catholic, is in his zone with this bit of comedy, and I’m glad that Cathleen Kaveny has chosen to blog about it at Commonweal.

As she notes, the clip is on YouTube, which means that it becomes a message—a theological one, one worth theological attention—for a whole generation of young folks. To ignore the theological conversations that are taking place at this popular level, in the name of a theological elitism that disdains all popularizing of theological discourse, is to miss a significant opportunity to comment on theological reflection at the level at which it reaches the widest audience possible.

I like Randall Balmer’s persistent statement, in the Colbert clip, of what’s really at the heart of this discussion: the Jesus about whom we read in the gospels never turns his back on those who are in need. He reaches out. He includes. He brings in and does not shove away.

As Balmer notes, organizations built around a message that appears to be about only the negative, around a message of exclusion, are likely to falter. And a church built around such a message is failing to be a sacramental sign of Christ in the world.