Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On Homosexuality and Disarming Bombs

There are some things life in which there is no room for error — things one must get exactly right, for the consequences of failing to do so are disastrous.

One of these is following the instructions for disarming a bomb. (Thankfully, though, this is something most of us will probably never have to worry about doing ourselves.)

Another is understanding the the truth of the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality and same-sex attraction (SSA). Unlike disarming a bomb, however, this is something all of us must endeavor to study, understand, appreciate, and be able to articulate, as it is perilously easy to get the Church's teaching wrong, either in whole or in part, and the consequences of doing so can so readily result in the loss or souls — either by redefining the moral law to tacitly wink at same-sex acts, or by uncharitably preaching a false gospel of irredeemable hostility to persons living with same-sex attraction.

I've been meaning to post on this topic for some time now, and this BBC article — which Mark Shea rightly characterized today as "the usual blah guaranteed to kill brain cells" prompted me to do so.

A few months ago, we received an e-mail, the likes of which we get from time to time, accusing us of hating homosexuals. In all honesty, I felt sorry for this person, as she is so self-evidently uninformed about what the Catholic Church teaches (and thus, what we believe).

The best I could do, I figured, was to try, as charitably as I could, to point out her misunderstandings and refer her to other suggestions for further reading.

I've included below said e-mail and, following that, my reply. To date, I have not received a response from this woman; still, I maintain hope that she reconsidered some of her inaccurate perceptions.

-----Original Message-----
From: [Name Withheld] [mailto:[]
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2007 6:56 PM
Subject: Letter for you


I have read over your website and I have a question. If the Pro Life Action League's main priority is conserving traditional Christian values and praying for the well being of our society, isn't condemning an entire community of our neighbors and rallying to prevent them from experiencing God's greatest gift-- love, and the ability to declare that love publicly through state and federally recognized marriage-- extremely counterproductive to your cause??

Your bible, as well as the first 5 books of the bible, known as the Torah to your Jewish friends and neighbors, clearly quotes the following in Leviticus 19: 17-18: "Thou shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Also, in the New Testament Matthew 5: 43: Jesus says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself". I have combed through both testaments with extreme care over a period of several years and NEVER have I seen God or Jesus command that we love thy neighbor only if he or she is heterosexual. Its just simply "love thy neighbor" period.

Something else doesn't make sense to me. You may argue that God said that homosexuality is an "abomination". Why would we, as a community, chose to recognize that piece of scripture but clearly ignore every other abomination that God (allegedly) claims? For example, God clearly states that working on the Sabbath day is an abomination and should be punished by death. Strangely enough, I happened to pass a Family Christian stores on a Sunday once and lo and behold... it was open! People were working! Should they be put to death? If we follow with your understanding of taking God's word seriously and literally, then we should. Additionally, the bible declares it an abomination to consume pork or shellfish, yet I was invited to a lovely baptism cermony recently that ended with a luncheon of ham steaks, potatoes, and vegetables. But they were good Christians! They had their child baptised! Should we ban them from church because of their pork-based lunch? And following the same logic, should we ban gays who are monogamous and love each other from marrying? How can we support one of those ideas and not the other without being entirely hypocritical??

To me, people who choose to spend their time and energy preventing people who love each other from marrying because of their gender is wholly UNchristian. It goes against the most important and beautiful gospel of your lord, Jesus. Jesus said that the bedrock of Christianity is love for our neighbor. It would seem as though people who rally against gay marriage are not true Christians at all, and going against the most important tenet of the word of God. Worst of all, these people are ruining the reputation of true Christians who choose to preach love and tolerance, like Jesus did.

But then there's that old adage: if you hate homosexuals, maybe its because secretly you are hiding some same sex feelings yourself. It would certainly seem that way in the case of Republican Senator Larry Craig, among numerous other cases.

I implore you to look into your heart. Would Jesus really want you to prevent the state's recognition of LOVE between two people? Wouldn't Jesus want you to support love in all of its forms? After all, we are ALL made in God's image, including gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trangendered people, genderqueers, polyamorists, etc.

I welcome a response! Please write back any time.

Thanks for your time.

[Name Withheld]

Do not believe anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.


I replied:

Dear [Name Withheld],

Thanks for writing.

First, let me clarify that all of us who work for the Pro-Life Action League are Catholic; furthermore, we accept, believe, and profess everything the Catholic Church teaches, including her teachings on human sexuality.

That said, it seems you have some significant misconceptions about what the Church teaches about homosexuality.

To find out what the Catholic Church actually teaches about homosexuality, please allow me to make a few suggestions for further reading.

My first suggestion is an entry I posted on the Generations for Life blog last year in response to a document on homosexuality issued by the U. S. Catholic Bishops.

This blog post, as you'll see, contains extensive blockquotes from a pseudonymous blogger, CourageMan, a Catholic man with same-sex attraction who is committed to living chastely.

If you're looking for an authentically Catholic Christian perspective on homosexuality, I can't recommend CourageMan's blog highly enough. Not only does he possess an all too rare firm grasp of the Church's teachings in this area, but he's also an amazingly talented writer — the kind of writer one really enjoys reading. My only regret is that he doesn't blog more often.

I also cannot recommend highly enough the writings of Ron Belgau. Like CourageMan, Belgau is also a Catholic man with same-sex attraction who is committed to living chastely.

I would recommend in particular two of Belgau's essays: "Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality"? and "Sodom and the City of God". The second of these is probably the best single essay I've ever read on homosexuality.

I would also recommend the writings of Eve Tushnet — yet another amazingly talented writer — a woman with same-sex attraction and a convert to Catholicism who is also committed to living chastely. Her blog is here, which also contains links to many of her essays and articles written for various publications.

Yours for Life,

John Jansen
Generations for Life
Youth Outreach of the Pro-Life Action League

1 comment:

jeron said...

i've never read eve tushnet, but i've read (and personally know) the other two persons to whom you referred this writer. i concur that both *courageman* and ron belgau are excellent resources for those trying to wrap their heads around this highly charged issue. kudos to you.