Deus Vult: Conquer June
Around the end of May and the beginning of June, I saw several posts on Twitter about “reclaiming Pride month for the Sacred Heart.” And, well, trads gonna trad. It wasn’t surprising, and honestly it didn’t even hurt much. LGBTQ people get much worse insults than that.
But it does suggest what seems to me like a faith that’s not just homophobic, but incredibly weak. Do you really think Jesus is threatened by Pride month? That there won’t be space for him if it’s taken up by something else? Quoting from Fr. Herbert McCabe’s God Matters:
God cannot interfere in the universe, not because he has not the power but because, so to speak, he has too much; to interfere you have to be alternative to, or alongside, what you are interfering with. If God is the cause of everything, there is nothing that he is alongside. … Whatever God is, he is not a member of everything, not an inhabitant of the universe, not a thing or a kind of thing. … Every action in the world is an action of God; not because it is not an action of a creature but because it is by God’s action that the creature is itself and has its own activity.
Hence, any talk of “reclaiming” something for God always strikes me as extraordinarily silly. (To say nothing of the fact that he’s perfectly capable of looking after himself without your help or mine.) At best, it’s a childish misunderstanding of what God is; at worst, rank idolatry.
Besides that, though, it’s sad to me that people talk this way. Because when you say stuff like that, what you’re implying—whether you intend to or not—is that the mere existence of LGBTQ people is a pollution so extreme it chases away the presence of God. That’s an incredibly damaging message for any LGBTQ young person to hear, especially if they’re religious.
But wait, you might reply, Pride month is a celebration of sin. It’s right there in the name, to say nothing of the sexual aspect!
This is the part where I quietly count to ten, and then say that yes, Pride is the name of a sin. But words can have more than one meaning. Lots of people claim to be proud of their country or their heritage or their work or their children—including lots of the same people who are so eager to use this semantic argument against Pride celebrations.
Pride commemorates the Stonewall Riots. And the reason those happened was not because LGBTQ people wanted more sex. It was because we didn’t want to be harassed and brutalized by the cops any more. It was because we wanted social dignity and equal treatment before the law. And as time went on, it’s become an occasion to remember the dead, too. The AIDS pandemic—which, though drastically reduced, continues to this day—robbed the LGBTQ community of a generation; this year is the fifth anniversary of the worst mass shooting in US history, which happened at a gay bar. Pride is about LGBTQ people’s humanity, which gets abused and erased because of our sexuality.
The Horny Police
And the sexual aspect? Well, I’ve been to a few Pride events, and yeah, there’s a sexual aspect to a lot of them; about as much as a Super Bowl Halftime Show. I’m not saying Pride is above criticism, and there are things about many Pride celebrations that I disapprove of (though I rarely talk about that, because I do plenty of things I disapprove of and don’t want to rack up extra hypocrisy points). But the idea that it’s all about gay sex comes from a ridiculous and demeaning stereotype about LGBTQ people, not as a rule from anyone who’s actually been there.
As for the sexual element that is there, well, I think Catholics need to be a little more self-reflective about this. Far be it from me to say that the Church should not be a prophetic witness to chastity. Thing is, she has spent the last thirty years torching her own credibility on that exact subject. An organization that concealed hundreds or even thousands of sexual abusers, many of whom targeted children, for decades, and continues to fight both accountability and the claims of victims, is in absolutely no position to lecture anybody else on how they’re dressed. It’s just not. I think the Church is going to need to spend a long time in institutional, societal penance—which includes making reparations for the damage she’s done—before anyone will take her seriously as what she claims to be.
But what are Catholics supposed to do about the sins? The gay people’s sins, I mean! not the Church’s. If we believe Catholicism, then sinning is bad for them, and, and how do we make them stop? You’re not taking this seriously!
I invite you to consider the following exchange from one of my favorite films, A Man for All Seasons:
MEG: Father, that man’s bad!
THOMAS: There’s no law against that.
ROPER: There is. God’s law!
THOMAS: Then God can arrest him.
Not only can God look after himself; God can look after other people. You do not need to stop them. You have no business stopping them. God cares about LGBTQ people far more than you do. And if the Church, through every fault of her own, can no longer pray on the street corners without being shouted at, Catholics are still free to go into their rooms and shut the door, and pray to their Father in secret. A Father who humbles the proud; one of the great symptoms of pride being an urgent concern with how sinful other people are.