Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Understanding Gays, Part One

Most people who’ve never personally wrestled with homosexuality are under one of two misconceptions (heck, many who have wrestled with it labor under the second):

1. Living the gay lifestyle is a free choice, and anyone who makes such a choice is dumb, misguided, and/or selfish.

2. When someone has a homosexual orientation, there’s nothing he can do about it, so he has no choice but to give in and live that out if he wants to have anything resembling a normal life.

Neither of these statements are true. Like most things in life, the truth is found in the grey area, the mean between the extremes. Choosing an actively gay lifestyle is an extremely difficult choice (if most choices are 50-50 or at least 40-60, this one is 97-3, with the pressure on the pro-gay side). But it is a choice nonetheless, and there are numerous people who have successfully made that choice to live chasteley, ignoring their disordered carnal desires, and in some cases even receiving healing. But that’s another story.

What I want to focus on right now is the first misconception, because many people who have never experienced persistent same-sex attraction think that this is just like any other temptation, or even like any other sexual temptation. This is not the case.

I once asked a dear friend, who is one of the most ardent Catholics and most powerful instruments of the Holy Spirit I know (despite being attracted to other men), why he kept putting himself in situations where he’d bend and almost break under the incredible pressure of the temptation right in front of him, and he boiled it down to this: the temptation is so great and the oppression so relentless (and for so many years) that, even with full knowledge of the consequences of his actions, it seemed worth it to give in just for a moment, to have just a moment’s relief from those terrible, constant, inescapable desires. That statement of his has remained with me ever since, a reminder of the terrible cross that is borne by those experiencing same-sex attraction.

There is much more to say on the subject, but I want to let that sink in. Consider the enormity of the temptations of same-sex attraction. I cannot emphasize that enough. Look forward to more discussion here on this topic.


Thanks to Bridging the Gap for organizing today's Synchroblog.  Definitely a worthwhile initiative, and what response they've gotten!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Best Interview I've Ever Read

All week, my mind has been on this long but entirely worthwhile interview with a traditional Catholic nun and her actively gay cousin. I identify with her more than with him, at this point in my life, and I feel that she has struck an incredible balance whereby she truly, thoroughly, deeply, and without judgment loves her cousin. You know the old saying, Love the sinner; hate the sin? Because she doesn't struggle with this particular temptation, and because he hasn't invited her into his life as a moral advisor and confidante (only as friend), she doesn't need to display hatred for his sin (this is all my paraphrasing). Instead, she loves the sinner and ignores the sin.

And that's the key, I think - she ignores the sin. As a general rule, we straight folks fall into the same pernicious trap that ensnares anyone who's faced homosexuality in their own life: placing so much emphasis on the homosexuality that it overshadows absolutely everything else about a person.

All this begs the question: Why do Catholics (and other conservative Christians, I suppose) feel a need to make it known that we don't support the gay lifestyle whenever we're with people (even sometimes total strangers) who are practicing it? We don't feel the same need when people are remarried, and if it's present with people who are cohabitating, it's much less strong. Why do we feel a need to denounce the lifestyles of people who are, theologically speaking, living in public sin almost before we feel comfortable to talk about anything else? Is this really so different from a gay man's need to put feelers out and make sure his friends support his sexuality before spending time with them?

The theory I've come to is this: We Catholics who actually believe what Mother Church teaches are so accustomed to being lumped in with cultural Catholics who pick and choose what's convenient for their lifestyle (which frustrates and pains us) that we feel a need not only to preach the Gospel at all times but to be preachy about it. Unfortunately, many of the most visible sins are the least pernicious ones, and so we make a big deal out of something that is really more passion than sin, though it still separates people from God.

If I'm being abstruse, I trust that Theophilus will explain me in the comments. Thank you for reading; I return to my regularly scheduled life with new resolve not to judge, but only to love.