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17 januari 2006

Tilting At Windbags

...real Christians pray, not prey

Christians get a bad rap; hell, I give Christians a bad rap. While my aim was true, the blast radius tended to be a bit too large: I included too many of the Christian individuals in my slamming of the Christians Who Speak And Politic Too Much.

Truth be told, I was raised Catholic, my family are all Catholics. Mass-going, Communion-taking, tradition-respecting Catholics. And they're all more than just ok with me, they love me. They accept the bio-diversity and/or socio-diversity that produces homosexual individuals. My partner Sam isn't my “friend” Sam, he's just as much a part of the Barbose clan as my sister-in-law Karen or my soon-to-be-sister-in-law, Jessica. Sure, my parents had expectations from their children which were in line with what the Catholic Church wanted: marry a Catholic girl and have lots of Catholic babies who will grow up to be Catholics who marry Catholics and have lots of Catholic babies.

Book Of Daniel 160X600 Gen-1And so on.

I remember telling my Mom on the phone after I came out to her that the hardest part of coming out at all is the loss of expectations. Everyone, when they're young and living in the 'normal' section of society (belonging there or not) has a set of expectations for how their lives will play out. And most people's expectations in NormalLand tend to be very similar to one another. In this similarity is the tacit assumption that there's really nothing outside that small population of expectations, and that to fall outside the ±2 standard deviations of Median Normal was to fall off a cliff and be forever an outlier.

Brokebackonesheet45 Alas, I geek too much.

The Silent Majority of Christians are out there, I'm certain of it. And, there is evidence in the numbers that go with the movie Brokeback Mountain that people like a good love story over and above the circumstances and traits of those whom the story is about.

In returning the favor, in relaxing about Christianity, in setting aside the politicos who falsely fly under the banner of Christianity, in paying attention to those authentic Christians out there, in choosing story and talent (Aidan Quinn, Susanna Thompson, and, OMG, Ellen Burstyn), I have very much enjoyed the experience. It is just a TV show, after all is said and done.

I have never really lived my life as a contrarian. Not to the Catholic Church, not to Christians, not even to Republicans. Sure, I go up against each of those groups, but if you look back, you'll see that it's in response to something they've said or done (or both). For instance, because Pope Panzer says stupid things about homosexuals and homosexuality doesn't mean that I deplore my very Roman Catholic mother.

So I wasn't automatically predisposed to dislike The Book of Daniel because it was about an Episcopal priest. Not even because Jesus was in it!

On the contrary, the trailers and ads for the show—which, granted, got seen only because I caught images of Aidan Quinn in a Roman collar while fast-forwarding through commercials—were impressive for their originality: honesty.

Nothing cloying and sugary like Touched by an Uncle Angel or Hallmark-cardy like Seventh Heaven, but something involving prescription drug abuse and the nuances of relationships and the reality of gay people in families and politics and how even Churches have to live in the real world instead of the abstract and idealistic world of theism.

Watching the show has helped remind me not that reconciliation between my world view and the majority-christian-worldview is possible, but in fact, that there's very little to reconcile at all!

Those who profess faith in the Christian mythos (def: a set of beliefs or assumptions about something) aren't different enough from me and my particular spirituality when it comes to the things in our daily lives to matter.

I identify more strongly with the main character, Daniel Webster (Aidan Quinn), than I do with the gay son. In fact, I identify more with their particular version of Jesus in the story than with even Daniel Webster!

What's wrong with a mild, understanding, non-judgmental pose? What's wrong with accepting the differences in people while also identifying their strengths and encouraging those while also continuing to understand what might be identified as short-comings? What's wrong with looking and dressing differently to everyone else? What's wrong with patience and meekness even in the face of “Evil”?

I'll answer: there's nothing wrong with any of those things.

These were the things I was taught as a Catholic, and these are the things that remained with me, even as I came to understand myself and my lack of belief in the theological aspects of Catholicism and walked away from it.

Those out there who identify as Christians or Catholics, I have a question for you: am I wrong in any of this, according to your own values? And those who identify as atheists or agnostics? Is any of this off-the-charts crazy?

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Posted by jeff at 17 januari 2006 17:50

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Homosexual, partnered, Catholic - just some tags that would describe parts of my identity. Personally, I love the Church - as misguided as we sometimes are. The whole point is to learn acceptance of God's wonderful diversity and although it may be 'Pollyannaish' of me; I think we ARE learning exactly what you speak of. We are learning to love and as John Lennon said, "love is the answer, and you know that for sure."

Posted by: Curtis at 18 januari 2006 13:19

I dunno Jeff...I am still not in a place where the Church feels safe to me. Of course, I am/was not Catholic, but am only 15 years removed from being a deacon/choir member/Bible Study teacher in a Baptist church. I always planned to stay involved in Church after coming out, but I can't get away from the reflexive feeling of guilt/shame turned to bitterness, especially with the Church I knew becoming so intolerant. As sure as I am that the Church changed, I can't help wondering whether it was really just me who moved away. In any event, the community was a huge part of the Christian experience for me, and I have never again found it in a way that appealed to or satisfied me.

Posted by: BatmanSF Author Profile Page at 18 januari 2006 22:29

I don't feel "safe" with the Catholic Church itself, but that may be because I don't believe in their god or accept it on their terms, and so it renders the point moot.

I was talking about the individuals in the Church, who seem to be increasingly choosing for themselves based on rationality, and discarding what the authorities of the Church have to say when it seems anachronistic or just plain irrational.

Of course, then there's the backlash, the polarization of a subset of individuals within the Church who discard personal decision-making in favor of unquestioning dogma, but what are ya gonna do?

I learned a huge lesson with "Auntie Brenda" on here; I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't put the lesson into action.

Posted by: GodOfBiscuits Author Profile Page at 18 januari 2006 23:06

I think perhaps one of the differences in my experience stems from being raised a Protestant. It used be Catholics who were trapped by unquestioning dogma and Protestants who welcomed diverse viewpoints. Now the trends seem opposite...The social stigma of even voting for a Democrat in many Protestant churches has driven thoughtful Christians underground. Unfortunately the voice of judgment and condemnation is, almost by definition, LOUDER (if not stronger) than the voice of compassion and understanding.

Posted by: BatmanSF Author Profile Page at 18 januari 2006 23:28

The "church" hasn't changed much. I am talkting about the organized religions weather they are catholic, baptist, pretestant, whatever. The church(the community of people) has. MOST of the people, at least in the Catholic church. believe more in compassion, lending a hand, forgiveness and all that.
I happen to believe in God and the sacraments. I do not belive in the hierarchy of the church, they are people who make many mistakes. I do still go to Mass to recieve the sacraments, but I also belive it is more important to have a relationship with God and not follow the regiment of the "church". Having a relationship with God, to most Christians, mean opening up yoourself to accept that everyone in the congregation is "broken" and has faults. Keeping that in mind, to me, makes it alsot easier to go and to accept more diversities outside of Mass. Just because people are Americans, doesnt mean they believe in the Democratic proccess and thier government, but still believe in the freedom of life choices.
Besides, I'm thrilled that my brother(man) realized that its not fair to stereotype people and not to discriminate. :) Love you Jeff.

Posted by: sam Barbose at 19 januari 2006 5:06

Hi, I enjoy reading your thoughts and views. On the topic of Christianity and organized religion, I try to be hopeful. But it's really hard! Religious texts can be used to support works of great good or great evil. Most churches are technically hierarchical, so we tend to blame the wickedness of the leaders, but there's also the law of supply and demand: They'll quit sellin' them goods when people quit buying them. . . . I'm gay, and I was lucky enough to be raised in a UCC church in a midwestern college town, and I never heard a single judgmental or mean word come out of the mouth of my minister. Our church fought poverty, sickness, and hatred. Most people will agree those are bad things. . . . Yet today many straight Christians are (understandably) confused about how to deal with, say, the gay "issue." They hear lots of conflicting things. And how many people in the so-called Heartland have ever had an open, honest discussion with a gay person . . . or even a black person? Here in the Midwest, my OWN church immediately voted to NOT permit gay marriages, in response to the UCC General Synod voting (note the fairly democratic structure) to strongly endorse the rights of gay people to marry. (My congregation took this vote, ironically enough, while my partner and I were away on an Easter trip to the Bay area!) Upon our return, I began talking to the members of my church; many of them didn't know I was gay (good lord, what kind of clues did they NEED?); many of them, after our talk, said they finally understood the issue and would have voted differently. . . . I think there's hope, but social change needs to be a "trickle-up" thing, as far as churches go, and probably in terms of the society in general. . . . That's what the Christian fundamentalists have done, and look at their success! ------> Hey, glad you're feeling better. --Julie

Posted by: Julie at 19 januari 2006 14:18

Brother Sam put me in touch with this entry. All I can say is that I sure raised you well!! Your father(?) too. What you just discovered is what I knew for a long time. My Jesus is much like the one with Daniel. And guess what? Your attitude toward your fellow beings has been there for a very long time, I always saw it. I needed to learn from you what being a true Christian is in accepting all people and I learned to love the gay community. No matter, God is the experience between people and all else comes from that. Love you

Posted by: Mom at 19 januari 2006 14:53

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