Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mourning Reynolds Price, "Outlaw" Christian

Carolyn Disco asks a significant question, as bloggers at the America site mourn Reynolds Price: she asks,

I can't help but ask: And the church characterizes him as 'intrinsically disordered?'

And blogger David Power replies,

His sexuality but not him Carolyn. 

I wonder what those folks who keep defending the language of intrinsic disorder when it's applied to someone other than themselves would say if someone told them that their "sexuality" is disordered.  But that naming their "sexuality" as disordered is not calling them disordered--in their nature.  In their personhood.

As if "sexuality" is some garment we can easily take off to uncover the person beneath it.  As if our sexuality is not intrinsic to our personhood and our human nature.

It's always easy to tag someone else as inferior, defective, subhuman, and so forth.  But perhaps much harder to accept that stigmatization when the ones being tagged are ourselves.

And if one of the biggest challenges of a moral education is to prod people to begin thinking about what their life experiences would be like if they lived in the skin of someone else--especially someone demonized and relegated to the margins--then I wonder how we'd grade the performance of the Catholic church and its institutions at this point in history, when it comes to educating folks morally.

Reynolds Price probes these questions in moving autobiographical meditations on his struggle with faith and his encounter with Christ.  But, of course, he does so as a disordered person someone whose "sexuality" was disordered, and so readers who are not intrinsically disordered will perhaps need to be forewarned that his reflections arise out of the experience of disorder and may not have much to offer those who are ordered.  Price's powerful meditations on his experience of God arise from years of struggle to find a place in the world for his gifts and love, and to cling to faith when the church that exercised such formative influence on his life had no tongue to condemn racial oppression, indifference to the poor, and cruelty towards those who are "disordered," as Price famously noted in his description of himself as an "outlaw Christian."

Outlawed by many churches, despite his spiritual depth, precisely because his "sexuality"--and, it goes without saying, he himself--were considered disordered.

No comments: