I logged on to my facebook group about midnight with every intention of going to bed early. William, a member had posted a lunk to an essay by a young Evangelical,
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On his personal journey in how to reconcile GLBTQ marriage with his denominational family. In it he outlines how his studies have led him not only to be opposed to (at a minimum) marriage equality, but also newly opposed to birth control.

William’s comment was

“I especially commend this piece from First things.”

And all 100 of my most active pro-marriage equality members were staying away from commenting with 10 foot poles. This was obviously going to intrigue some of the other 1400 members, so before I started getting private messages asking why so and so hadn’t put a comment, I wrote the following:

(Note that there is virtually no one more fearless sitting in the back pews in scruffy lay Franciscan robes than an MS patient. We are slowly dying anyway, so why not raise a hand and speak?)

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I think the first things that struck me was that he went to great effort to keep the focus of his essay on his personal beliefs without devolving into rhetoric like “all evangelicals believe this”. He also gave good examples of what voices of wisdom he was not only permitted to listen to, but chose to. He could have very easily cited Evangelical writers who spend more time spouting slogans on Fox than praying in Church. So, on all that he deserves respect.

He also said nothing in particular about his personal beliefs being sufficient to prevent civil gay marriage between, for example, two reform Jews. In that he could have been a lot more clear, and I would cite it as a main fault of his essay’s portion dealing with civil marriage. However, there is still the implied thread that this Evangelical was talking with other young Evangelicals about how marriage – the religious event (or sacrament) can be defined within Evangelical circles. There is still the unsaid, implied reluctance to be acting as a judge and jury over what other religions, even other Evangelicals believe, and thus a default stand that civil marriage is just that – a civil, non religious, exchange of agreements between two consenting capable adults that happens to offer some benefits to our society.

Also left unsaid, but implied, is that if sex without procreative potential is wrong, then personally this young man may have to turn down a chance at a good Christian marriage simply if the woman of his dreams has a hysterectomy due to uterine cancer. Also, by trying procreation to sex and marriage so tightly, he leaves open the possibility that a like minded female Evangelical might not be willing to marry him if it turns out his swimmers can’t swim. I have met Evangelicals like that, and watched how quickly “couples with infertility should not marry” morphs into “couples with …(fill in the blank with mental retardation, genetic disorders, mental illness) should not marry”. From there, in the past, we saw evangelicals and others decide that steilization, institutionalization, AND the stripping of civil rights were not only permissable, but God’s own design.

I would find that having an ecclesiology based on the “marriage” of God to Church or God to Man, especially if it considered sex and procreation to be such vital threads that pulling at either could destroy the tapestry, is to severely limit how God is seen, how God’s actions are seen, and how humans develop a meaningful relationship with God. Right from the beginning of Genesis, we are given two very different creation stories. There are no Jewish foundations full of Rabbi’s trying desperately trying to combine them or prove one true and one fake. The Jewish faith came to grips that there are two creation stories because God wanted it that way. Only us Christians get hung up on trying to edit God’s work, and pick which one is “true”. I doubt seriously that any one denomination’s ecclesiology is “The One”. They are human constructs that are divinely inspired to give us a piece of “How Much God Loves Us” that we can come together as a denominational entity and adore the greatness of God’s love without blowing our puny little humans brain apart.

Anytime we encounter a dogma, ecclesiology,  or belief system that seeks to put God in a box from which He cannot escape, and outside of which God is NOT, we are venturing off The Way Jesus taught. Are Eucharistic ecclesiology, Marian ecclesiology, Roman ecclesiology, or Gnostic ecclesiology better? No. The young man has the ear of the elephant, but he is not only still blind, he is also suffering the deafness of youth and the deafness of denominationally exclusive hearing. I wonder, for example, how his beliefs and perceptions might change if Evangelical Colleges were a little more willing to include books on genetic development in humans and animals in relation to same sex behavior. If they are focusing on fighting evolution and pushing creationism, I would be willing to bet his access to such scientific material is limited. The same is true of some of the excellent commentary on GLBTQ issues based on study by reform Jewish Rabbis and scholars. Reading Stephen Lovatt’s Faithful To The Truth, might have also brought some new, extremely well researched and footnoted, information into his hearing to help him puzzle out just what this thing is in his hands, that his eyes can’t see.

What does any of his essay have to do with our group? First, the young man stayed focused, polite, and respectful of those who had different beliefs except for a few passing stabs with the “rights aren’t everything” sword. Even those couple of jabs were deserved, because there is plenty to discuss in the bible, early Church tradition, science, the linguistic changes of meanings of words, and the definition of “becoming parents” that is supportive of the concept that what we define as marriage today is not inherently limted to opposite sex couples who are both fertile. Everytime we shoot off a post or essay that only focuses on rights, and especially civil rights, we are doing a diservice to God by not at least giving a nod to all the ways God has created for people to love each other, to become parents, to relate to God….The “it’s just a civil rights issue” essay about civil marriage equality is fine. An essay about GLBTQ marriage in general, or within our denomination, the Catholic Church, or the greater Christian world however, at least deserves to have more meat on the bones than a “it’s a civil right.”

Second, while Evangelicals are mostly in an adjoining garden to our Catholic one, cross pollination happens all the time. As Catholics we are all called to be apologists for our faith. Even a Tweet can have the book and verse of Naomi and Ruth, or a link to books that present equally persuasive essays as his to the opposite conclusion being true. We are called to respect that this young man is not a “poor, unenlightened one” just waiting for our handy cure, but a real human doing his best to stand there blind, unable to hear a great many voices, and make sense of this piece of reality in his hands. Our streets, grocery stores, kareoke bars, and schools are full of people – a good number of them Catholics – looking for a spiritual homes, a meal that sustaines, and an answear to what to think about the gay couple next door’wedding invitation.

This essay is both an example of HOW to write and a call to Catholic action TO write.

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