Ron Belgau, a chaste gay Catholic whom I respect enormously, writes:
I saw your update about writing projects, so you’re welcome to put off a response to this for a while. I have to do enough juggling myself to be completely understanding of others’ need to juggle responses.
Anyhow, the subject line is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But if I wanted to focus on Christians behaving badly toward gay people on my blog, it would be trivial to do so.
Internationally, the problem is much more serious.
I could easily dig up more examples, both here in the US and overseas. But I’m not going to, because if I constantly dwelt on the most stupid, most extreme examples of Christian bigotry toward gays, I would lose my ability to relate to the majority of normal Christians who do not share those extreme beliefs.
It would also be trivial for me to create a blog where I regularly posted every example of black-on-white violence I could come up with, or every example of wealthy Jews being accused of financial crimes or whatever other negative thing I could find about wealthy Jews (I expect lots of blogs like this exist, but I stay away from them).
I really appreciate your recent pieces on Perry Lorenzo, as well as the posts referencing Joshua Gonnermann and my Pepperdine videos.
Al Qaeda represents, I am fairly sure, a much more serious threat than the “radical gay agenda.” They have historically done far more violent things, they have openly threatened much more violent things, and they have training camps training people to do violent things. But that does not mean that one responds intelligently to Al Qaeda by constantly reporting these threats as statements about Muslims generally. This is the approach of the rubber hose right, and it’s an approach that you rightly recognize as stupid and evil on a number of different levels.
There are unquestionably some very nasty gay people out there (as there are anti-gay Christians and violent blacks and crafty Jews and violent Muslims). But you don’t effectively understand a group, or how to interact with its more moderate members, by only focusing on the most extreme examples. It appears to me that Terrorism is much more than a matter of just a few bad apples among Muslims. But that belief is entirely consistent with thinking that we need to safeguard the civil liberties of Muslims, and insist that Muslims are innocent until proven guilty (while recognizing that a disproportionate percentage of them may be proven guilty when the investigations are completed).
I have no desire to defend anyone who issues death threats to Bristol Palin or smash church windows or threaten 14 year old girls with death or attempt to silence Spanish bishops. I don’t suppose you want to defend people who want to subject gays to the death penalty, or Catholic institutions who fire gays who uphold the Church’s teaching, or priests who incite attacks on peaceful gay rights protesters. But I don’t think that when I cite those sorts of examples, I am saying anything meaningful about Christians in general. And so I think it’s a problem to think you can say anything about gays in general by focusing on the worst examples of bad behavior.
As I say, I appreciate the fact that you are trying to show more balance, and appreciate the fact you have always been willing to highlight examples of faithful and orthodox gay Catholics. But continuing to highlight the bad examples as if they say something about gay people in general comes off in the same way as a blogger who regularly harps on the bad behavior of The Jews.
Fair enough. This was the sort of feedback I was looking for, as was this over at Abbey Roads. Also this, from a reader:
In response to Mark’s: “That established, what *can* be done to say “There is a place in Jesus Christ for the SSA person and he is the real happiness and Yes you seek?”
I’m not sure if I can fully address this, but I’ll try to expand upon it. First, while a celibate gay man, I doubt my mind will ever be chaste so I don’t think I fully qualify for Mark’s call. Second, as for the “there is a place in the church for you” thing, I’m not sure that I believe that, even though I am part of the church. I want to believe it, and I’m celibate because I don’t want to go to hell, but it defies my experience with my fellow christians. My experience has been that because of my temptations, NOT because of what I do or don’t do, I am pretty much hated by everyone in the church. Yeah, I know that’s harsh but hear me out. I’m not claiming I’m hated because someone disagrees with me, or because they don’t approve of gay marriage. I’m stating as fact that from the personal experience of the speech and actions of christians, it is an inescapable conclusion that as a rule, christians hate gays. This is the part where someone is supposed to quote the catechism on homosexuality. My response is so what? To others, what you do will ALWAYS trump what you only claim to believe.
A word about identity: I call myself gay. I am NOT defining myself on the basis of the fact that I’m sexually attracted to men instead of women. I’m defining myself by what makes me different from you. From the time I became aware of my fellow believers talking about this, the message has been clear: “Gays are not worthy of anything but death. You are contemptible, you are disgusting, you are loathsome. Because of WHAT you are (not what your temptations might lead you to do) you should die. I want to kill you.” Now I’m sure that if they knew I was gay, they wouldn’t have said such things (at least in front of me), but I’m equally certain that it would be because of social embarrassment rather than a change of heart. The point is that everyone else in my experience, when they spoke of gays, defined it as the most important thing about us. The fact that it’s now become fashionable for christians to claim that calling yourself gay is “so narrow and limiting” would be funny if it weren’t so sickening. Who the hell do you think created and imposed that definition, in the first place? It wasn’t me. My part in it was believing it for far too long. My part was taking you at your word. Hmmm, what do you suppose that does to trust? Does thinking that, what people say about gays is what they’re saying about me, make me a narcissist?
So, while there’s a place in the church, even for someone as disgusting as me, it’s pretty damned lonely. Yes, Jesus is always with me. But he’s also always silent, and he doesn’t ever hold my hand.
Heard any good jokes lately? “You know what GAY stands for? Got Aids Yet?” “Hey, you know what AIDS stands for? Another Infected Dick Sucker.” I heard these in church, from an alleged grown-up!
What can you do? How about this: Don’t shit where you pray.
I would be interested in hearing from more SSA folks who are trying to live out their Catholic faith. I would like to *not* hear from all the heterosexuals who decided to fill up my comboxes with pre-emptive defenses/condemnations/ declamation on how evil the Church/gays are in the effort to establish their orthodoxy/gay empathy cred. If you are straight and feel an overwhelming need to weigh in here, please just don’t. I want to hear from the people who are most impacted both by the the Church’s teaching *and* by Catholic failure (including my own) to heed the Church’s teaching with respect to treating gay with the sensitivity the Church requires.