Thursday, October 7, 2010

John Shore on Christian Anti-Love Approach to Gays, Andrew Sullivan on Catholic Gays as "Victim Souls"

As the culture at large discusses the alarmingly high rate of suicide among LGBT teens (they are three times more likely than straight ones to commit suicide), that discussion is also eliciting further discussion of the correct attitude Christians ought to adopt towards those who are gay.  John Shore has a helpful summary at Huffington Post this week of what many Christians are now proposing to their gay brothers and sisters--the just-say-no approach.

As Shore points out, for those Christians who are wedded to the idea that homosexuality is wrong because the bible or traditional church teaching or both proclaim this (and far from all Christians accept these premises), there has been glacial movement towards understanding that some people are made gay by God, born gay.  But this cultural movement, which is now reaching even communities of faith adamantly opposed to homosexuality, is not causing gay-resistant Christian communities to take the obvious next step and affirm that people who are made gay by God are made good, and will want to express their sexual orientation in loving relationships.

Instead, the response of some Christians to their brothers and sisters who are gay is now this: we won't insist any longer that you become straight, as we used to do; but we do insist that you act straight.   Gays are just regular Christian guys and gals struggling with their own particular brand of temptation: the temptation to express who they are in loving acts.  It's no different for them than it is for an alcoholic craving the bottle or a glutton the feast, or, for that matter, a man with roving eyes contemplating a tumble in the sack with a woman to whom he's not married.

Like everyone else, the gay believer is commanded just to say no:

Now the argument is ... well, just like my emailer said: A homosexual struggling against the temptation to act homosexual is no different from anyone else struggling to resist a sinful temptation.

Christians love this new argument. If I've heard it once, I've heard it ten thousand times. We all have. You whisper "gay" into the ear of a sleeping Christian, and there's an excellent chance they'll just start saying it in their sleep. "Just like any other sinful temptation. We're all sinners. Must resist."

And putting your brain to sleep before you say that is the very best way to say it, too. Because it could only make sense to a brain-dead person. It's just . . . too stupid for words.

And, as Shore notes, this proposal is wildly off-target, insofar as it imposes on a whole category of human beings, and on their very nature, the preconceived notion of sin.  Just because.  Because it is important and necessary for some Christians to imagine that being gay is in and of itself a predisposition towards sin.

So that the loving expression of how God has made one to be, as a gay person, is equated with the temptation to cut another person's throat, to steal another person's possessions, to rape a hapless victim.  In the eyes of Christians for whom homosexuality has to be wrong, because the bible or church teaching says so (because I say so, and because my comfort levels demand some category of human beings to smear with dirt in order to make myself feel clean), the best the church has to offer gay folks is this: refrain from temptation, and live a life of lifelong celibacy.  Alone.  Never experiencing or expressing the love permitted to those God makes straight.

And here's Shore's conclusion about this Christian approach to those who are gay:

When you tell a gay person to "resist" being gay, what you are really telling them---what you really mean---is for them to be celibate.

What you are truly and actually saying is that you want them to condemn themselves to a life devoid of love.
Be alone, you're demanding. Live alone. Don't hold anyone's hand. Don't snuggle on your couch with anyone.  Don't cuddle up with anyone at night before you fall asleep. Don't have anyone to chat with over coffee in the morning.

Do not bind your life to that of another. Live your whole life without knowing that joy, that sharing, that peace.
Just say "no" to love.

Be alone. Live alone. Die alone.

The "sinful temptation" that Christians are forever urging LGBT people to resist is love.

Being, of course, the one thing Jesus was most clear about wanting his followers to extend to others.

Can we stop with this cruel idiocy already?

And for the unique Catholic version of this cruel idiocy disguised as loving pastoral concern, check out Andrew Sullivan on the proposal of some Catholics that gays be regarded as "victim souls" called to live lives of unique, exemplary suffering, for the good of the entire Christian community.

Faced with this cruel idiocy as the best that many churches have to offer us, is it any wonder that many of us who are gay simply shake our heads and walk away?  That we simply shake our heads at the astonishing proposal that what the churches are offering us is love?  

As I've said before on this blog, I myself have encountered these precise arguments in the confessional, at a point in my life when I still considered it important--when I still considered it possible--to try to bring the "sin" of being gay and living in a loving relationship to the confessional.  During the painful, extremely difficult period of my life in which I came out first to myself and then to others while working as a Catholic theologian in Catholic institutions, I did repeatedly go to confession and try to work through my life as a gay man in a long-term committed relationship, in the confessional.

And I was told things like this: when you go home, just shut your partner in sin out of your house.  Don't open the door when he knocks.  Remember that God has given you this special gift of suffering to purify the rest of the church.  Kiss the cross that is placed in front of your lips, and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, suffering, and enduring the taunts of your brother and sister Catholics, so that your life can be redemptive for them.

And, after listening to this "loving" advice from priests in the confessional for months, one day I woke up and realized, "This is nonsense.  This is insane.  I have been acting as if my mind and conscience are seven years old, while the rest of me has grown up and is now past thirty.  If the price the church expects me to pay to be a good and faithful Catholic is to act as if I am an infant in my mind and conscience, then that price is too high to pay.  It diminishes my humanity.  It turns me into an intellectual cripple who can do no one any good, because I'm living in an intellectual prison and being asked to call that prison the house of love.

Who in his right mind would accept such torture and believe it is imposed in the name of Christ?  And who in his right mind would believe that such crude stupidity masquerading as love is worthy of belief?"

I shrugged my shoulders and went my own way, in order to save my soul.  Thankfully, I found the strength and grace to make that decision.

But young Catholics and other young Christians bombarded constantly by this toxic nonsense peddled to them by "loving" parents and "loving" churches: they will not always be so strong.  Because their psychic defenses against tyranny and stupidity presented to them as Christian teaching are still not fully developed, and their minds are still forming.

If the recent spate of suicides of teens who were either gay or thought to be gay teaches people of faith anything, I hope it might teach those who still peddle this cruel idiocy to think again, before they offer these poison pills to another gay teen.

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