Gay Marriage, Sentimentalism and Being – UPDATE

Over at First Things, I felt compelled to continue unpacking my thoughts from last week, about homosexuality, nature/nurture, “necessary otherness” and what it all might mean.

Larry Kramer called the gay community “exceptional,” and in doing so he opens the door to question what that means, whether it implies a giftedness that is planned, and meant for all of us. If that is so, our homosexual brothers and sisters deserve a full participation in our human adventure, right down to the “plans of fullness, not of harm; to give you a future and a hope.”

But those plans, in the life of every fully-engaged human, involve not just gifts but also challenges, not just “yes” but also “no,” not just satisfaction, but also sacrifice, not just ourselves but also obedience. That’s the fullness; it comes from embracing the plan, but it is not easy.

I wasn’t going to write on this again so quickly, but then Maureen Dowd wrote her incoherent column, and you know I can’t resist her when she gets like this, so I felt compelled to revisit it:

A week is not very much later, but the incoherence and vapidity of Maureen Dowd’s June 18th column has rather forced the hand; daunted as I am by the prospect of countering so sterling a wit as this grown woman who refers to the good-natured Archbishop Timothy Dolan as, “the Starchbishop,” I will plod forward, looking first at that troublesome nature/nurture question.

Annoyed that canon lawyer and Vatican advisor Edward Peters had explained the church’s fundamental outlook on marriage in simple terms (“men and women are not supposed to live together without benefit of matrimony”) Dowd grouses,

But then the church denies the benefit of marriage to same-sex couples living together. Dolan insists that marriage between a man and a woman is “hard-wired” by God and nature. But the church refuses to acknowledge that homosexuality may be hard-wired by God and nature as well, and is not a lifestyle choice.”

That’s because no one has yet been able to demonstrate that homosexuality is, in fact, “hard-wired” by God. Aside from the ponderings of greater minds than either Dowd’s or mine, the best we can do is look at humanity, observe that “form follows function” and throw up our hands at arguments suggesting that form and function are relative issues or that human design is as irrelevant to the question as fishes are to bicycles. That Jesus of Nazareth said, “the Creator ‘made them male and female . . . for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” is apparently just one more opinion, since his Word did not address specifics.

That being said, I do go on
to offer something that is, I hope, provocative, over at First Things

In some ways, I am trying to get to the point, here that sentimentalism, which I wrote about in Disorientation last year, is at the root of so much of our confusion:

If 20th century atheism rode in on the backs of totalitarian regimes, the 21st century has delivered unto the world an anti-God, anti-Church movement that fits seamlessly into shallow, postmodern popular culture. Having no need for uprisings and the hardware of destruction, the new fog of faith has crept in on the little cat feet of Sentimentalism and it now sits on its haunches, surveying its splendidly wrought sanctimony.

Sentimentalism is the force of feel-goodism, the means by which we may cast off the conventions of faith and casually dismiss those institutions that refuse to submit to the trending times and morals. The Sentimentalist trusts his feelings over hallowed authority or the urgings of his reason, frequently answering hard religious questions with some noble-sounding phrase like “The God I believe in wouldn’t…” (fill in the blank). What fits in that blank is typically some tenet of traditional faith that isn’t currently fashionable, some moral demand that pop culture considers impossible—and hence, not worth even trying. Thus the Sentimentalist, while believing he follows the inviolate voice of his conscience, is really sniffing after trends, forming his heart according to the sensus fidelium of middlebrow magazines and public radio.

A Sentimentalist cannot reconcile religious convictions—whether rooted in scripture, tradition or cultural practice—that do not correspond with his own considered feelings, which for him are both weighty and principled. Convinced that the people he loves cannot possibly be denied anything they want by a just God, or that the same just God would not permit deformities, illness, war, childhood abuse, or any of the human sufferings common to us all, he will not participate in a Church so fault-riddled and out-of-step with a generous and enlightened generation as…his own.

I hope you’ll toddle over to FT and read my piece — leave a comment!

UPDATE: Over at NRO, George Weigel is also fed up with Maureen Dowd’s bigotry

Joseph Lawler Also finds her lazy

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