Thursday, June 26, 2014

Weekend Party Celebrating Our Marriage: Love Does Matter (No Matter What Catholic "Pastoral" Leaders Say about Gay Love)

I've been away from the blog for several days, dear friends, because Steve and I organized a little party this past Saturday to celebrate our marriage with local friends and family members. For high introverts like the two of us, being on stage in that way is, well, downright scary — and it's enervating. By the time the event was over (and we were very pleased that so many folks turned out, stayed for hours, ate and drank well, danced, enjoyed the amazing music from the group that our friends Wendell and Pat Griffen had secured for the party), we found ourselves pretty worn out from the days of planning, the party itself, hosting several house guests who came for the celebration, etc.

Hence my silence for several days. And now I'm back. And wondering what to share with you, other than the preceding news. Actually, I do seem to have something to share that's directly related to Saturday's wedding celebration. Several nights now, since the party, I've had dreams that are, for me, an old trope. I call them my teaching dreams.

These are dreams in which I have reverted in some way to my role as a teacher, dreams in which I have some kind of audience to which I'm lecturing, and with which I'm also engaged in the kind of conversation a really good teacher always develops with those she teaches (and from whom she learns as she teaches). I like these dreams, because I feel myself at a very deep level when I'm teaching (and learning from others as I teach). These dreams always engage a deep level of passion inside me; I amaze myself with my ability to speak clearly, to analyze provocatively, to persuade as I exercise my vocation as a teacher in these dreams.

Here's last night's teaching dream:

I'm in the back of a church that may or may not be a cathedral. The pastor of the parish is there, a kind of mash-up of Cardinal Timothy Dolan and several other sitting bishops (I kid you not: I did dream this). He has decided that it might be a good idea to abandon the high pulpit adjacent to the altar, the pews that force those attending a liturgy to sit rigidly facing him and passively listening to him in silence.

He wants to talk.

And so he's sitting on a kind of ledge beside the holy water stoup inside the front door of the church and talking to the rest of us as we sit facing him, on the same level. He wants to know what it is that makes it difficult for people these days to feel enthusiastic about the church.

Seeing an entry point for meaningful conversation, I respond — in teaching mode. I tell him (and the others gathered for this dialogue) forcefully that it's rather difficult for the church to talk convincingly about love as the primary point of Christian discipleship, when it, in fact, places serious impediments to love in the lives of so many people. I point to gay Catholics, who are told to squelch our love, to pretend it's not there in our lives, to lie and posture and try to believe that the very thing that completes us and makes us whole — feeling a deep affective bond with another person — is an occasion of sin and not of grace.

And then I say that it's rather hard for the church to convince people that love is what it's all about when divorced Catholics are told that a precondition for receiving the eucharist is to cut off all possibility of forming another deep and fulfilling relationship, a marital relationship, after their previous marriage has failed. I say that the church's approach to such couples is downright cruel, as it is in the case of gay people and gay couples.

When I awoke, I began to think about why I'm now having these teaching dreams, as I call them, again after Saturday's party. Here's why, I think: though as an introvert, I buck and kick against being on stage, as we were this past weekend, it's important, I now realize, that Steve and I celebrate our marriage in a public way, with others. This is important because our marriage is not simply our marriage.

It belongs to the entire community of friends and family amidst whom we have married, with whose active support we have been able to marry, and to sustain for so many years a loving, committed, productive relationship. Like any other marriage, our marriage has a public, communitarian context.

It involves a public declaration of our committed love for each other that is nurtured within a communitarian context which is, we hope, enriched by our commitment to each other. It's enriched by the overflow of our love for one another into the lives of our friends, family, and community.

Gay relationships are as capable of being generative relationships as are other loving and committed relationships, though those determined to stigmatize gay people and diminish our humanity are intent on depicting us as self-serving, immature sybarites concerned only about ourselves and our own pleasure. If the party we organized this past Saturday was in any way a success, it was a success because it allowed us openly to celebrate our love for each other in the context of a community of loving family members and friends who, in turn, benefit from our love — and who told us this repeatedly as the party took place.

As we look back on our 42+ years together, we can see many strands binding our lives together and helping to account for the amazing grace of our longstanding relationship with each other (which has certainly had its ups and downs like any other relationship, and is as imperfect as its protagonists are). We are, after all, both Catholic theologians trained to "do" theology at Catholic universities, with doctorates in our field from a Catholic university. 

We have our vocation, education, and training as theologians in common, and that's no small matter. Our shared concern to lead lives of Christian discipleship together has strengthened and bound our relationship together for many years.

But above and beyond this and other strands that bind our lives together, there's also a single bright and shining thread that ties everything together, and this is very clear to me when we are placed in situations like last Saturday's party in which our marriage itself is a kind of teaching: there's love. There's our perduring love for one another over many years of ups, downs, sharp turns and reversals.

There's love. And love matters. Love matters above all for Christian communities.

The fact that my own Catholic church and its "official" communities are blind to the meaning of the loving, committed marital relationship Steve and I have had for many years now, and the loving, committed marital relationships of so many other Catholic same-sex couples: this is tragic in the extreme.

Because those "official" communities and their "pastoral" leaders are missing out on a whole lot of love that stands to make those communities and those leaders happier, fuller, more loving human beings. It is tragic (and sinful) to throw love away as the leaders of the Catholic church are determined to do today, vis-a-vis gay Catholics and our committed, loving relationships.

But, it should also be noted, the decision of our "pastoral" leaders to treat our loving relationships as negligible — as sinful! — won't stop us from loving. And from gathering around ourselves many other loving and committed people of various or no faith traditions.

Since love has a way of doing precisely this, when it's real . . . . 

The photo of some of our friends dancing at our party on Saturday is from the Facebook feed of a friend who was at the party, Jajuan Johnson.

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