Thursday, December 23, 2010

Journal Entry from the Past: Dealing with Our Interrupted Lives as Gay Catholic Theologians

In this and several other postings from previous journals I'll be sharing in these days approaching Christmas, I reflect on the intense struggle Steve and I went through in the 1990s, when my job in the theology department at Belmont Abbey College was ended suddenly by a terminal contract that the college would not explain to me.  I resigned after having been stonewalled, and have never again been able to find a job teaching theology in a Catholic institution.  Nor has Steve.

And as I struggled with the effects of this exclusion of both of us by the Catholic academy, after we had worked hard to obtain doctorates in theology and had done well in the initial years of our teaching career, I wrote the following on 24 Sept. 1996: 

"Stay at your inner post," Etty Hillesum wrote in her diaries, and her words ring in my ears.  I can't quite say why. 

There's first of all the fact that Hillesum had an interrupted life, as my life has now been interrupted by what Belmont Abbey College chose to do to me.  What does one do, in such a life?  Edith Stein, whose life was also interrupted, writes that her search for truth was a constant prayer.  Keep searching: the fundamental prayer of an interrupted life.

I search for truth in the junkyard others have made of my life.  On the one hand, it's empty and barren, like a desert, and all the mechanisms of oppression are hidden, out of sight, so that they're invisible to me: the bland looks of superior, dispassionate men, monks and abbots, who know in their hearts what they've done, but prefer to let me writhe in agony, so that my very writhing proves their verdict about my life and vocation, their superiority.  The obsidian façade of "truth," and "right," and "objectivity."

On the other hand, my life's a junkyard, filled with such debris that I hardly know how to pick my way through it, what to do with this or that piece of detritus.

And where am I in it all?  That's the rub.  Deserts are full of mirages, where one never quite knows what is or is not.  A mirage: a mirror that's not a mirror at all.  And junkyards equally distort, with all their debris.

The effect--the intended effect--of all that has been done to me is to problematize my very existence, at its core.  I'm made to feel utterly superfluous, redundant, as if death would be preferable to life.  The hardest thing to hold onto now is the sense that there's anything there, underneath it all--that all I mirror to my oppressors, that ugly twisted thing they choose to see in me, is not all there is to me.

Did Jesus feel this way on the cross?  If so, perhaps he chose to vanish, to accept his redundancy in a total way.  Perhaps that acceptance was what became resurrection in him.  It was by vanishing that he came to life in ways that utterly surprassed any life he may have had prior to that time.

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