Friday, April 4, 2014

Being Gay And Being Protestant

How is being gay similar to being protestant? It terms of how they relate to the Catholic church they are similar in quite a few ways. Protestants have a spirituality that they often see as impossible to live in the Catholic church. Gays have a sexuality they often see as impossible to live in the Catholic church. Of course both are wrong. The Catholic church is for everyone. Partly they lack information about what it is actually like to be Catholic. What kind of diversity the church actually embraces often surprises people.

Even more-so, I would say they are both skeptical of the kind of lifestyle changes that being Catholic would involve. They don't see them as positive changes. They are so sure the changes would not be positive that they can't imagine God would be calling them to such a thing. Yet God can do things beyond what we can imagine. Can a gay person imagine a happy, fulfilled life as a celibate? Or, even harder to imagine, in a marriage that is not only opposite sex but open to life? Can a protestant imagine a happy, fulfilled spirituality that has the mass as the center? It can still have dynamic preaching and contemporary music and bible study as important ingredients but can the such a liturgical Sunday morning experience ever be satisfying?

There are examples, there are some gays who are happy celibate Catholics. There are even some gays who are married with children Catholics and happy that way. Of course, the number of protestants who have converted and are surprised by the joy they have as Catholics is huge. If you just count the pastors the numbers are in the thousands. If you include laypeople I wonder if it is millions. Again this year many diocese are reporting record numbers of converts. One difference is that there are many more protestants who want to talk about their story. I know of a few blogging gay Catholics but I suspect the vast majority want to keep it quiet. It is probably wise. There is no great need for their parishioners to know about their same-sex attractions.

Another similarity is that most of them are immersed in a subculture that constantly reinforces their ideas. People don't really grasp how much this effects their thinking. They feel they are being totally fair and rational yet they have an ideology that they are unable to question because contrary ideas simply get drowned out. It has the effect of making a person very sure they are right but it does not actually make them right. It is not entirely a bad thing. When I was protestant I was very sure I was right. To the extent I was right that served me well. Still it made me quite slow to seriously consider Catholicism. A lot of protestants and gays are in that boat.

One more parallel I see is a sense that their community has been abused by the Catholic church in the past. They are often unaware of the details. The truth is more complex. Yet there are many examples of the church treating homosexuals badly and the church treating protestants badly. I know the execution of Jan Hus was presented as evidence that Luther and Calvin were taking a big risk in breaking from Rome. Harvey Milk has been seen that way by the gay movement. You can multiply examples. None of these acts form official church policy now but there existence makes it harder to believe that Catholics are acting out of love when they try and evangelize these groups.

Another thing they both do is expose a problem inside the Catholic church. We have Catholics who don't believe in infallibility. We have Catholics who reject much of Catholic sexual morality. We are unable to evangelize in large part because as a community we lack faith. We don't really believe it ourselves. So how can we encourage someone else to risk everything to become Catholics. For many gays and many protestants it is their identity they are putting at risk. You need courage to take that step. How can we inspire courage when we can't even speak these truths clearly inside the church?

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