My column at First Things this week did not start out addressing the coming, unstoppable and necessary confrontation between the church and the homosexual community, but then I read about Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s decision to support a gay member of a parish council over the priest who wished to unseat him, and Edward Peter’s sensible response. With Ross Douthat’s excellent, must-read book, Bad Religion; How We Became a Nation of Heretics swirling in my head, the column simply bent to a natural curve:
We only just begun this walk. Christianity, particularly in America, is struggling with balance as it becomes ever more embroiled (willingly or not) in secular matters, but this will be a defining question: how do we follow the Christ’s example to “first see the human being” (ecce homo) while reconciling it with Matthew 19:3-5 and 11-12—words Jesus did not utter by accident?
[. . .]
Douthat’s thoughts here are a kind of dual prompting: a Christianity struggling to reconcile belief with inclusion will have to “get rid of the beam” in its own eye before it will clearly see how to deal with the splinters of human people seeking Christ. And to do that, the church will have to go back to the basics, re-learn them and then re-teach them, but this time not as narrow, fundamentalist do’s and dont’s that excuse us from thinking, but as the fundamentally sophisticated and paradoxical means toward true freedom that they really are.
You can read the rest, here
I believe we are hearing a clarion call for the church to discourage reactionary emotionalism and give deep instruction from a very deep place. If she gets it right, this confrontation can become the finest fruit of the New Evangelization. If she gets it wrong, the lesser fruits will not nourish or strengthen the body of Christ to its potential.
We live in interesting, challenging times. Pray for the leadership of the church in their teaching, and for the laity who advise, recommend and reach out. What is before us is so huge and important that there is absolutely no room for errors based on intellectual laziness or tyrannical sentimentalism.
And by the way, I will write a larger review later, but please take my word for it — Ross Douthat’s book is going to be important for the church. Don’t get the impression it’s all about this issue, because really, Douthat barely writes on it. The book is a comprehensive look at the wrong turns of the Christian church in America, and a humble look at ways to get it right. It is almost like the necessary water-to-the-face that must follow Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism. Barron reminded us where we have come from, and why it is worth staying; Douthat is saying, “stay in truth; take a look at what we’ve done to ourselves and get a grip on the reality of living in the church that must guide us through this age.”
UPDATE I: I have decided I must be a very bad writer, because people seem to think I am advocating Gay Marriage; I am not. I thought I made that clear in my FT column, when I used the citations from Matthew. What I am calling for — or rather, what I believe Douthat is calling for very brilliantly — is a deepening of teaching from the church that sheds more light, less heat, on the paradoxical truth (because God’s truth are so often paradoxes) that the obedience that so many see as nothing but “no” is actually a freeing act that leads to the whole YES that is God.
Terry at Abbey-Roads has more thoughts
UPDATE III: Aha! And read this: How Do We Render God Credible in This World?
Related: The Tolerance Disconnect