Here’s the thing about Eve Tushnet — she’s Catholic through and through, in a way that I only long (and sometimes pretend) to be.
When I read her posts about sublimation and obedience, I am equal parts inspired and ashamed. I’m inspired because she’s taken her faith and woven a life of such beauty with it that it seems transcendent, otherworldy — saintly, even. I’m ashamed because her cross is so much heavier to bear than mine is, yet she bears hers unflinchingly, with joy and gratitude. Most days I have trouble even picking mine up without blaming everyone around me for the weight of it.
The book she has written is a raw, wonderful distillation of her character. It’s beautiful, compassionate, honest, generous, humble, and unerringly faithful. It’s a book that our culture desperately needs — and no, not so that us straight people can understand and love the gays better, or so that gay people can learn how to be gay without being, you know, gay — but because the virtue of obedience is lacking everywhere. On the left and on the right, at the Novus Ordo Mass and at the Tridentine Mass, at the National Catholic Reporter and at Rorate Caeli. We are all of us rebelling against something, and Eve’s book stands in stark contrast to all of our self-important squabbling.
When the book was released I wrote a review of it on Amazon. This is what I said, then:
“There are few treasures of the Church more beautiful and more forgotten than its theory and practice of friendship. It seems every generation of queer Catholics must rediscover this neglected legacy and be startled by it: the ‘wedded brothers’ buried together in English cemeteries, the vows of kinship taken by friends in the Eastern Church, the intimacy and wry, practical wisdom of St. Aelred’s Dialogues.”
That is how Eve Tushnet opens the seventh chapter of Gay and Catholic, titled “Friendship in Theology and History.” That’s also the part where my jaw hit the ground and stayed there. Her book is packed with brilliant insight and fascinating memoir, but her ruminations on spiritual friendship put her book above and beyond what the title suggests. Far from being a niche book for a niche market, this is a book for everyone, gay or straight, Catholic or non-religious. If you are a human being living on earth and have contact with other human beings, then you need to read this book, particularly the sections on friendship — a type of relationship that has deteriorated rapidly in Western culture. Eve Tushnet goes a long way toward reminding us of the depth and and importance of same-sex friendship, especially for gay people.
That’s not to say that the rest of the book isn’t good — the rest of the book is pretty spectacular, actually. Her retelling of her childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood is self-aware, honest, and unflinching. And despite the fact that I come from a vastly different background and am living a very different vocation, I was surprised to find that her writing about living a vocation was hands-down the best thing I’ve ever read on the subject. It was practical, honest, mercifully unflowery, and full of things I needed to hear. The question-and-answer section in the back is like those secret tracks that used to be at the end of cd’s…just when you think all the good stuff is over and wishing it didn’t have to end, surprise! I was particularly impressed by her thoughts about attending gay weddings.There’s something worth highlighting on virtually every page of this book, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know since I read it. My own copy is heavily marked up and starred, and I have no doubt it will get more so every time I open it. This is not a one-time read….it’s a book to return to again and again.
That’s all true, but after re-reading it, I just don’t think it goes far enough. Eve is a gift to Christianity. In a time when we’re ready to claw each others’ eyes out over marriage, we’re suddenly faced with a gay (!!) celibate (!!!) liberalish (!!!!!!) female (!!!!!!!!!!!!) Catholic (!@#%@#@!!!) writer who speaks truth, in actual love. She doesn’t flinch from the hard teachings, but she also never forgets that these are human beings who have to live these teachings. Most importantly, though, she doesn’t tell anyone what to do or how to do it…she uses her own life as a rough draft for her readers to build on, thereby showing us what faith is instead of admonishing us to have it.
This is not merely a book for those who are gay and Catholic…this is a book for anyone who wants to understand what it is to follow Christ.
The Anchoress, “Gay and Catholic: A Vital Book for Our Time”
Aggie Catholics, “A Call to Extravagant Love”
Tom Zampino, “Can You be Both Gay and Catholic?”
Will Duquette, “The Pole of Attraction”
Jennifer Fitz, “What’s Not to Love?”
Sarah and Lindsey (A Queer Calling), “A Review of Gay and Catholic”