Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Strategies, Same-sex Marriage and Liberty Rights

Preface: Strategies, Same-sex Marriage and Liberty Rights is a repost from the previous week and has been revised slightly. It was originally entitled, Bearing witness to the LGBT community. Because the latter title did not capture the essence (and hopefully, the importance) of this post, I wanted to give it a more apt title. There are certain strategies used by gay-rights advocates that have been particularly successful in appealing to the sympathies and gaining the support of the American public. The New Evangelization, it would seem, is charged with the mission of preaching the Gospel and addressing the premises upon which same-sex marriage is argued.

With this, religious liberty will not only have to be defended against the encroachments of an intrusive federal government (i.e. H.H.S. mandate), but its defenders will have to make a case why the preservation of traditional marriage is the only viable union a society can thrive on. Furthermore, there will be the unfortunate task, as is already the case, of dispelling the accusation that to exclusively favor marriage as being between a man and a woman is inspired by bigotry and phobia. As Pope Benedict XVI warned, “Very soon it will no longer be possible to affirm that homosexuality (as the Catholic Church teaches) constitutes an objective disorder in the structure of human existence…”


PBS: Orgullo Latino

The PBS channel runs a production of documentaries known as In the Life Media. On their website it says that there mission is to “produce change through innovative media that exposes social injustice by chronicling lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender life.” On Monday, June 4, PBS featured one of their documentaries entitled, Orgullo Latino (meaning: The Pride of Latinos). The whole premise of the film was to show that although the Latino community places a high premium on masculinity and traditional values, it, nevertheless, is accepting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) lifestyle with greater frequency.

What is particularly instructive for the Catholic Church are the methods and themes used to promote homosexuality (discussed more in detail below). In short, their evangelical-like fervor and mission have been very effective on a political, social and religious level. LGBT advocates have demonstrated that they will settle for nothing less than making disciples of all nations. Their quest is to make a “new kind of family” (cf. ABC Family channel) socially and politically acceptable in every quarter of society. And as for those who oppose them, the Orgullo Latino documentary singles out Catholicism as the main point of contention. I cannot help but believe that the political agenda of the LGBT community will soon come into greater conflict with the Church’s mission to preach God’s truth about human sexuality. It is even conceivable that the pulpit and the altar will not be spared. Indeed, this push to redefine marriage and the family will likely proceed from the public square into the sanctuary. More on that later.

Orgullo Latino highlights the significance of the growing population of Latinos in America. The program reports that the United States of America has no less the 50 million Latinos. In fact, one out of every four babies born in this nation is of Hispanic descent. For this reason, there are political and economic advantages in getting Latinos to accept LGBT values. To be sure, Latinos will be a strong cultural force both in the public square and in the market place. Yet, according to Orgullo Latino, there are stereo types to overcome. Chief among them is the masculinity or macho persona of the Latino community and the traditional values they embrace. As for the former, they would argue that seemingly irreconcilable difference between the effeminate gay community and the more masculine Latino culture is superficial and can be overcome.

It is an interesting and yet a concerning side note that Hollywood has methodically set out to cast a feminine image on those subcultures that have a reputation for being more masculine. For instance, the main character for the movie Tooth Fairy is Dwayne Douglas Johnson and Tooth Fairy II was played by Larry Guthrie (Larry the Cable Guy). I guess Hollywood gets a kick out of seeing men in tights. And as for pacifying the stereotype that ranchers and cowboys are exclusively rugged heterosexual men, the movie, Brokeback Mountain (2005), was an honest attempt to do just that. The film was about a romance between two ranchers from Wyoming (main actors Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal). In the same spirit, the PBS program, Orguillo Latino, highlights many Latino gay men who defy the stereotype.

Overcoming stereotypes is not the only strategy of LGBT activists. They masterfully associate their cause with the civil rights movement and even the good old fashion pursuit of the American dream. And here it is important to take note that the pro-gay rights movement transcends mere political objectives. In many ways, it mimics the Christian religion. The LGBT community honors their martyrs and victims such as Matthew Shepherds and those who died from AIDS. They also canonize and celebrate heroes such as Daniel Hernandez. Hernandez is a gay Latino man who came to the aid of Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford immediately after she had suffered a near fatal wound to the head during the Tucson shootings in early 2011. He uses his celebrity status to advance pro-gay rights among Latinos and Americans. Moreover, Eduardo Xol (last name pronounced “sole”) from Extreme Makeover, Ricky Martin the once renowned pop singer, and Jane Velez-Mitchell CNN Headlines news anchor are just a few of the celebrated gay and lesbian Latinos who proudly came out of the closet. They are held up as models to imitate. Indeed, all of them, as reported in Orgullo Latinos on PBS, had their mountains to climb, discrimination and persecution to endure, and inner personal struggles to overcome. Such inspiring stories make for good “altar calls” and testimonies for the LGBT way of life. No doubt, this kind of emotional appeal to the public’s sympathy can make their opponents look like Scrooge.

Exposing false premises:

When themes conjure up images of a persecuted minority with heroes, victims and martyrs, a discerning eye on the part of Christians is needed. To be sure, making distinctions and disentangling the good from the bad as well as just causes from unjust causes will be a big part of Catholic teaching and evangelization if traditional marriage and the family are to remain intact. As already indicated, television programs such as Orgullo Latinos cleverly aligns the LGBT cause with the cause of civil rights, minority rights and women’s rights. Whereas such causes are justified because no one has the right to discriminate against color, minority status and gender, promoting same-sex marriage and alternatives lifestyles is a different matter. The former involves an injustice against persons with certain ethnic or social characteristics. Such characteristics are beyond a person’s control. For this reason, racially motivated discrimination is morally reprehensible. However, homosexual activity- in contradistinction to orientation –is a behavioral, moral and spiritual matter. Although same-sex attractions can develop without ones choosing (i.e. due to a deficit of fatherly love or sexual molestation), to act on those attractions is within the realm of choice. As such, for the State and society to honor traditional marriage while denying same-sex marriage legal recognition finds no parallel with civil, minority, and woman’s rights. In fact, as those interviewed in the PBS television program argued, LGBT values, if accepted, would fundamentally change the institution of the family as we know it. With the alteration of the family- and marriage, for that matter –society itself would be transformed.

The appeal to equality or equal rights, therefore, should be identified by the Catholics as false and misleading. We forget that equality is a Christian realization. The Gospel of Christ gave it meaning it never had before. All who stood before the altar possessed an equal dignity and an equal calling to heaven. As St. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) From the sanctuary this God-given equality made its way to the public institutions. Mind you, equality didn’t count for much in ancient pagan civilization.

Fast forwarding to modern times, secular-liberalism pushed this principle to an extreme. Economically, this push gave birth to socialism and communism; seeking to reduce all classes to one dead level. Academically, this push gave birth to outcome-based education in which every student moves on the next grade no matter how bad they perform. And socially, this push has forged the way for same-sex marriage to share equal status with traditional marriage. Nevertheless, in God’s eyes and in reality, same-sex unions and lifestyles enjoy no such status. Without wincing and cringing, Catholics are duty bound to make this clear to the public. But in doing so, we would do well to anticipate reactions to the Catholic moral objection on the part of some in the LGBT community.

By and large, the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender community does not recognize the moral argument against homosexual activity. I have never heard a high profile gay-activist say to his critics in a debate, “I see your point.” For most, the Christian moral argument is categorized as one of two things: fear or hate. That is, moral objections to same-sex marriage are borne from homophobia or bigotry- pure and simple. Conversely, many Christians have made a sincere attempt to offer an olive branch to homosexual persons by saying, “Although I love you, I cannot agree with what you are doing.” But for gay activists, no truce is possible. In fact, to oppose homosexual activity is akin to racism for many in the LGBT community. This is precisely what Catholics who seek to bear witness to the truth of human love and sexuality must prepare themselves for.

A teenage girl recently asked me, “Why does the Catholic Church hate gay people?” This girl happens to be a student at a local Catholic high school. If those people within Catholic institutions are asking this question- mind you, based on a flawed premise -I can only guess that outside the visible walls of the Catholic Church this same question has gained currency without much a challenge to the premise on which it is asked. In fact, if the average Catholic is made to respond to this indictment (wrapped within the question), then his or her attempt to bear witness to people with same-sex attractions will largely be a defensive one. And to be sure, such a response is likely to be interpreted as being apologetic and uncertain.

The premise that moral objections to homosexuality are the result of phobia or hate does not stand under close scrutiny. Christians are bidden to make distinctions between the person in question and moral behavior all the time. To begin with, every good parent targets bad behavior, seeks to eliminate it while still loving the child. God does the same for the sake of a sinner’s salvation. As for heterosexual sins, the bible is replete with condemnations of adultery, lust, divorce, incest, prostitution and fornication. And yet, the human dignity of the sinner is never in question. God’s favor and his grace can also be restored through heartfelt repentance. Homosexuals are no different in this regard.

This is the point. The LGBT community is marked with hypersensitivity to criticism. A lifetime of coming to terms with their same-sex attraction, deciding whether or not to disclose it to others and the fear of rejection upon such disclosure contributes to a great deal of anxiety. Their reaction to criticism, therefore, such as a show of intolerance, ridicule and retaliation, is product of this anxiety. The lesbian couple featured in Orgullo Latino on PBS, whose names are Mita and Samone (picture posted above), talked as though the original court ruling which forbade them to legally adopt each other’s children was socially unacceptable. All of their heterosexual friends, they said, were in a state of disbelief. The impression they had attempted to communicate to viewers is that those who do object to same-sex couples adopting children are clearly in the minority and out of step. This approach, without a doubt, is to create the appearance that critics of LGBT values are already marginalized; an oddity, if you will.

In a brief moment of candor, the Orgullo Latino documentary singled out Catholicism as an obstacle to LGBT acceptance. The narrator said, “Conflict with LGBT acceptance can vary depending on the generation; that is why some LGBT Latinos have left Catholicism for other faiths.” Immediately afterwards, they feature a Latino participating in spiritual exercises of Buddhism. Of course, Eastern religions such as Buddhism are not dogmatic nor are there Ten Commandments to obey. For this reason, these religions appeal to many who opt for alternative lifestyles.

Our part as doves and serpents:

With that said, people in the LGBT community will come to the knowledge of Christ only through love, sometimes heroic, on the part of Christians. “Heroic,” because Christians must love them courageously enough to tell them the truth of who they were created to be in God. And if the spoken truth should be met with ridicule or hostility, still, that same love borne from within should inspire us to forgive and press forward just the same. As St. Paul said, “When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently.” (I Corinthians 4:12, 13)

Herein lies the difficulty for many Catholics. Our Lord told his disciples to be simple as doves but wise as serpents. Therefore, juggling opposites is a must. What this means is that bearing witness to Christ’s love for those who struggle with same-sex attractions requires that we are ever mindful of the distinction between the sinner and the sin. This two-sided reality behooves a two-sided approach.

To be simple as a dove is to resist the temptation of condemning the person. Moreover, it means to love, to understand and to offer a helping hand to the person with same-sex attractions. Bearing witness to the love of Christ is to also recognize that chastity for them does not involve the same sacrifice that heterosexual singles are called to. As for the heterosexual who aspires to chastity, they can, at least, date and eventually marry. Romance, for them, even as a single, is still within reach. They can licitly engage in some affectionate behavior outside of marriage. But for those who have same-sex attraction, they have to abstain all together; that is, abstain entirely from romantic and sexual behavior. Hence, for a Catholic to generalize and say that we are all called to chastity, and leave it at that, is to show a lack of empathy for the real cross a homosexual person must carry. Without this recognition, I am afraid that the disciple of Christ will lack credibility in their eyes. In any case, even when Christians loving disapprove of homosexual activity among friends, family members or colleagues are likely to be accused of bigotry.

But in reality, a bigot makes the mistake of hating the sinner along with the sin. Just as bad, however, is when liberals make the mistake of loving the sin along with the sinner. The Christian must “hate” the sin of homosexual activity for the simple reason that he loves the sinner and wills him good. And the highest good is to inherit the kingdom of God. But as St. Paul said, “boy prostitutes and practicing homosexuals” will not inherit such a kingdom (I Corinthians 6:9). Indeed, the sinner must be loved but without giving the appearance of approving the sin!

On the other hand, in the political sphere, being wise as serpent is to be confident in our message, bold in our approach, creative in our strategies and mindful of the evil at hand. Christ uttered rude and unpopular denunciations during his public ministry. As a result, he offended men in high places. When responding to his critics, he wasn’t reduced to being nice as many Christians would have us be. Sometimes he cut to chase and laid out the truth in its bare naked reality. Other times, however, he was diplomatic and amiable in response to his critics. The Apostles, Church Fathers and the Saints followed suit. The bottom line is that different circumstances warrant different responses. In any case, effective evangelization cannot be advanced by walking on egg shells or by shooting from the hip.

As for our political engagement in 2012, Catholics ought to be unapologetic opponents of the LGBT agenda in the public square. Being compassionate and understanding is certainly appropriate for ministering to persons with same-sex attractions. But a pastoral approach should not diminish a clear and unwavering reproach of homosexual sin nor should it lessen opposition to the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle as it pertains to public policy. A failure to be firm, decisive and uncompromising is to seriously compromise the welfare of our nation. As the Princeton professor, Robert George, said, “The legalization of same-sex marriage will be an unmitigated disaster.” Hence, loving the sinner and hating the sin is the responsibility of every Catholic who bears witness; the two are to be held in tension for the good of souls and for the welfare of our nation.

In the end, the LGBT movement will win out or Catholicism will. I cannot foresee these belief systems peacefully co-existing side by side in America. It is either the catacombs for Catholics or the closet for gay-rights activists. One of the two will have to be publicly sanctioned while the other retreats into irrelevance. My fear is that those who are leading the charge for Gospel values are not as confident in revealed truth as the other side is in their ideology. And the revealed truth that has liberated and sanctified relationships, families and communities is that God's image is comprised of a man and a woman. It is through this sacred image that each child (who is blessed to have a mother and a father) sees God, himself and the world under a certain light. And within the context of this image, Scripture tells the love story of Christ the Bridegroom and the Church, his Bride. Salvation history cannot be understood apart from this love story nor can mankind be redeemed outside of this male and female relationship.


*For those needing more of a pastoral and spiritual assistance in this matter, please click on the title of this post and it will direct you to an article that was published by the Catholic Medical Association entitled Homosexuality and Hope.