Thursday, July 16, 2015

Gay Christians and the Shattered Faith

No, this isn't authentic Christian teaching.
Before you read this, I entreat you to right-click on this link to Gabriel Blanchard's post "Silence in Heaven" on his blog Mudblood Catholic. Go ahead and read it; I'll still be here when you come back.

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Especially powerful to me are the last two paragraphs:

Those who have eyes only for the (in my opinion, legitimate) threats to religious liberty in this country, and have perhaps never knowingly dealt with a gay person in their own lives — even, maybe, wouldn't be homophobic if they did, except by accident — seem to have a difficult time believing that these stories of homophobic harshness, rejection, and even violence are credible, save perhaps in far-off pars [sic] of the world like Russia or Nigeria or India. Nonetheless, every single one of the names I've mentioned above — including every victim of murder and those driven to suicide — hails from the good old US of A. We are not immune; there are those who would say we are not safe.

Stop talking about us, fellow Christian, and talk to us. We were never meant to bear this cross alone, any more than you were meant to bear yours alone; Jesus Himself did not bear His Cross alone, accepting help from Simon and Veronica. Our anguish is not a guarded secret. There has been no need to break seven seals on the scroll of our pain and call for silence in heaven for half an hour to read it; we have read it from the housetops — and, too often, been met with the order to seal up what the seven thunders have said, because you saw no reason you should care. You were not, after all, your brother's keeper. Put your fingers in our hands and your hand into our sides, and do not be doubting, but believe: we are suffering. We need you.

In my latest post on Catholic Stand, "Christianity 'Found Difficult and Left Untried'", after speculating that orthodox Christians are doomed to be marginalized and reduced to second-class citizenship, I state: "... [I]t’s hard not to conclude that we’ve brought it on ourselves. Not only for failing to live the Gospel message we preach, but also for allowing it to become so badly fragmented in the wake of the 'Reformation' that we have no single, coherent message to live."

The most difficult of the mortal sins to combat is the sin of Pride, because it manifests in ways both blatant and subtle. It's easy to get pissed off at hate-filled jerks like the Westboro Baptist nutjobs — but see what I just did? Even saying the ever-trite "There but for the grace of God go I" has a soupçon of Pride in it; it assumes that I, in my own quirky way, am not creating my own Hell. Boy, hasn't God blessed me that I'm so full of charity for sinners? So easy to pat myself on the freakin' back like that. God, I thank You that I am not like other men ... especially not that tax collector.

Yes, I am like other men. Because I am a sinner.

And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:15-17 RSVCE)

Now, I've quoted this passage in other contexts to show that Jesus wasn't affirming the tax collectors' and sinners' lifestyle choices. As true as that statement is, however, it's incomplete: by eating with them, Jesus did affirm the sinners' and tax collectors' intrinsic dignity as children of God. The very fact that he went to bring them out of their sins affirmed that God loved them just as He loved the righteous. The Father loves not only the faithful son but also the prodigal son. The shepherd goes after the lost sheep, not because he loves the lost sheep more than the other ninety-nine, but because he loves the lost one just as much as the rest.

God doesn't love us for a reason: He simply loves, because He is Love. We are not now, and never have been, the most important creatures in the cosmos; rather, even before Christ came to earth, we knew that we were insignificant in the grand scheme of things. "When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?" (Psalm 8:3-4) As one writer put it, in a book I read a long time ago (and have since forgotten both author and title), God loves us not with a logical "Therefore" but with a forgiving "Nevertheless": we are loved, not for our merits, but for our being.

We failed to show that love. Rather, we sat in judgment on others' souls (cf. Matthew 7:1-5). We asked God to freely forgive our debts, but weren't so easy with our own forgiveness (cf. Matthew 6:12,14-15): we set limits and imposed conditions, and forgave only those sins we felt were reasonable to forgive though Christ's teaching made no such provision (cf. Matthew 18:21-35). We've even gone so far as to participate in evil: marginalizing, shaming, degrading, humiliating, harming, and even killing children of God for being sinners, far beyond any reasonable demand of public order. We became Pharisees (cf. Luke 18:10-14); how can we expect to be justified?

God's name is now blasphemed among the Gentiles because of us (cf. Romans 2:24). It's not just that they don't understand; rather, we've given them no desire to understand. Why bother? What we say is far less important than what we've done: the tree is known by its fruit (cf. Matthew 12:33-37). We have lost the right to be taken seriously. In just the last couple of weeks, we saw that, fifty-one years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, 150 years after Appomattox, the South has yet to be forgiven for her act of rebellion, for her slavery and long history of racism. Not having shown our culture how to forgive, not having shown our people forgiveness, how can we expect to be forgiven?

And if, as I suspect, Western civilization comes crashing down within the next two generations, will it really be the fault of the Culture of Death? Or will it be ours, because we dropped the ball?

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried." (G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World [1910], ch. 1.5)

In writing this post, I've developed a clearer sense of my mission: Right now, the people most in need of evangelization are not the new pagans and irreligious of what used to be "one nation under God". Rather, we Christians need to rediscover Christian humility. We must earn the right to be taken seriously, by living the life to which Christ calls us — fully and authentically. We need to pick up the shattered, kaleidoscopic pieces of the evangelium, the "good news", and put them back together again — the schisms and the "Reformation" need to come to an end. In a sense, we need to return to the catacombs; at least spiritually, if not physically.

One way we can begin is by giving our full support to those Christians suffering same-sex attraction and gender-identity disorder who are struggling to live faithfully according to the teachings of the Church. It's not enough to simply hold up their names like so many "token LGBTs" — "Look, people, it can be done!" As Blanchard says, they need our help just as Christ needed help to make it up the Via Dolorosa; nobody can bear his cross by himself, but only in the company of other cross-bearers. For those who no longer wish to live according to the teachings of the Church, who indeed reject the Church because Christians rejected them — we can say nothing to the purpose; until we earn the right to be taken seriously, we can only exercise mercy, charity, and forgiveness.

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I don't know that I can truly go AWOL from the culture wars. I certainly don't think I can completely shut up about the next election cycle (and the Republican's apparent decision to get Hillary Clinton in office by immolating themselves). Besides, I'm sure I'll still have a recipe, a poem, or a joke to share every now and again.

But if it seems I'm talking more to other Christians, you'll know why: it's because we need to get our shit together. Quick. Because it's very possible that we'll be forced into some new form of the catacombs very soon. And, again, for that we have only ourselves to blame.