Fair warning: this post is longish, and recycles something I posted to my personal blog years ago. But being this is Pride Month I think it’s a good time to take a few steps back and look at the big picture. A story out of Boston a couple days ago caught my eye…
As the Boston Globe first reported, Saturday, June 11, Church officials have ordered Rev. John J. Unni, pastor of St. Cecilia’s Parish, located in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood, to cancel a Mass scheduled for 6:00 pm, Sunday, June 19.
The liturgy was an explicit outreach of affirmation to LGBT Catholics.
As recent church bulletin announcements have explained for weeks, “The Rainbow Ministry of St. Cecilia Parish invites all friends and supporters of the LGBT community to a Mass in celebration of Boston’s Pride Month,” adding, “The theme of the liturgy, ‘All Are Welcome,’ honors Christ’s message of hope and salvation to all people. We will also celebrate the diverse community that finds its home at St. Cecilia.’’
The Paulist Center and St. Ignatius Parish, located on the Boston College campus, also ran bulletin notices about the “All are Welcome” Mass.
But, apparently, when an anonymous blogger – pseudonym Joe Sacerdo – objected, the diocese stepped in…
So the archdiocese stepped in and canceled the mass. So much so bleeding obvious. Ever since Cardinal “When civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase” Ratzinger became pope it had to have been clear to anyone with a brain that the jihad on gay people and their families inside and outside the church walls would get even more bitter, brutal and venomous.
So I’m reading some of the reaction to that in the comments on this Catholic blog. They were pretty much what you would expect, what we have seen time and time again as the standard, boilerplate excuse for brutalizing gay people in the name of Jesus, in the name of love…
Somehow we all need to accept 1.) that God loves homosexuals as much and as unconditionally as he loves anybody else; 2.) that sinners of all kinds belong in church; 3.) that homosexual conduct is not some kind of super-sin which is worse than anything else (except maybe voting for a pro-abortion politician) and must be abandoned before one is welcome in church (unlike other sins which one may struggle with from within the community), 4.) that God is patient and sometimes draws people slowly with his grace, 5.) that we must strive to be channels of God’s love and grace, and woe betide us if anything we say or do ever drives away someone God was drawing step by faltering step to himself, 6.) that everybody knows the Church’s moral teaching on homosexuality, so it is not necessary to beat them over the head with it every chance we get, and 7.) that what will be more likely to help is a gentle presentation of the reasons for the teaching — such as John Paul II’s Theology of the Body — on occasion.
Love the sinner, hate the sin, in other words. You will never count the number of different ways people who just don’t want to take responsibility for their own prejudices toward homosexual people can phrase and rephrase Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin. Infinity is not big enough to hold that number.
The stereotype of the bigot is of a raging red faced bar stool ignoramus, but that’s just one variant of the breed. Another far more maddening type is the kindly and sincere benefactor who just wants to stick a knife in your heart while assuring you of the selfless torrent of unconditional love that it takes to twist it.
Yes souls are at stake. Therefore we must evangelize. We do not evangelize by presenting a hostile face. We do it by embodying the saving love of God, drawing people into communion with us and giving the Holy Spirit time to work on their hearts. Sometimes we have to “eat and drink with sinners.”
The degree of conceit there, the casual, unquestioned, matter-of-fact assumption about homosexuals needing saving from themselves is breathtaking no matter how many times you see it. It’s easy to see it simply as blind religious dogma, but that just prettifies what is at its core nothing more noble then ignorant prejudice. It’s one thing to say that we are all sinners, it’s another to say with a sincere loving and compassionate look on your face that your neighbor has to live their lives utterly bereft of that body and soul love heterosexuals have celebrated in song and poetry and music and in story telling and every other form of human art for millennia, for a reason even the Catholic church nowadays grudgingly concedes is beyond their control.
What really annoys me is that there are lots of people who are convinced that the Catholic Church hates gays. Somehow, we’ve got to overcome that false image if we are going to evangelize, and if we want to have any hope of holding on to our teenagers who are in danger of being lost to the hedonists.
We don’t hate gays, we want them to live lonely sterile solitary lives because we love them. We don’t hate gays, we want them to remember they are sexually broken damaged goods that God has cursed whenever the slightest feelings of desire tug at them because we love them so very much. We don’t hate gays, we want them to exist in an utterly alienated state from the human experience because we love them so very very much.
I have a suggestion: before you go fighting any false images be sure you aren’t being entranced by one yourself. This isn’t religion, it’s arrogance, it’s conceit and that it regularly gets people killed is only one part of the obscene toll this particular conceit has exacted on innocent human beings for century upon century upon century. The other part is the denial of love, of human intimacy, the self loathing, the squandered lives lived in solitary desperation, all to appease a monstrous conceit. Call that conceit: The Heterosexual Premise.
Here’s what I wrote about it during Pride Month 2008…
The Heterosexual Premise
As we experience it today, the romantic fallacy is a transparent curtain of ingenious weave with a warp of rationality and a woof of sensation that hangs between ourselves and reality. So transparent is its quality that we cannot perceive its presence. So bright in outline do men and affairs appear beyond the curtain that we cannot doubt but that reality is what we observe. Yet in truth every color has been distorted. And rare is the conclusion based on such observations that would not bear re-inspection if the curtain were lifted.
-Robert Ardrey, African Genesis
Ardrey’s talking there of what he called elsewhere, the illusion of original goodness. That being his shorthand for the enlightenment notions of human nature which influenced thinkers as diverse as Marx, Rousseau and Jefferson. In it the default human nature is assumed to be peaceful and good, and the simpler agrarian past from which we emerged is our natural condition. In this view civilization has separated us from the circle of life and all the plagues which befall us, violence, poverty, sickness and war are the result of our being divorced from our natural state by this artificial construct we live our daily lives in. If we could only return to our agrarian roots again, live more as nature intended us to live, then the default human nature which is peaceful and good would once more reassert itself and all would be well. It is the secular version of the much older banishment from Eden story and it is just as poisonous.
Steven Pinker would some decades later debunk The Blank Slate model of the human identity; that human kind is so distinct and apart from the rest of the animal kingdom that its ancient tides pull and tug on us not at all. We are for all intent and purpose what we are taught to be. A human being is all rational mind and our emotional state is simply the logical end result of how our rational mind processes the world around us. For humankind there is no nature, only nurture. Ayn Rand thought of human nature in exactly this way and it is just as false as the romantic fallacy. In fact the false premise of both the Romantic Fallacy and the Blank Slate model are one and the same.
Back when I was a teenager, this passage from the beginning of Ardrey’s book, African Genesis, opened my eyes…
We are not so unique as we would like to believe. And if man in a time of need seeks deeper knowledge concerning himself, then he must explore those animal horizons from which we have made our quick little march.
The sexism there was typical of the times. Ardrey was much criticized later for, among other things, the overwrought image of the “killer ape” that arose from his writings. But he was a dramatist by trade when he took up the search for our ancient origins. If the bloodthirsty image he served up of our not-yet-human forbears was a tad emphatic you can argue that it had to be to jolt the popular culture into rethinking its model of human behavior. We are not fallen angels. Neither are we blank slates. We are humans.
We are still in a process of learning what that really is. Perhaps like any individual journey of self discovery that learning will be an endless process. I would like to propose the existence of another self destructive popular fallacy. Call it, The Heterosexual Premise. In its simplest form it states that since heterosexual sex is necessary to continue the human species, heterosexuality is the natural condition of our kind. Let me paraphrase Ardrey here…
The Heterosexual Premise stands in relation to the entire human species as the conviction of central position stands in relation to the individual human being. Both in their most naked aspects rest on assumptions of special creation, of special blessedness, of unique destiny and innate sovereignty; and both are false…
As we experience it today, the heterosexual premise is a transparent curtain of ingenious weave with a warp of rationality and a woof of sensation that hangs between ourselves and reality. So transparent is its quality that we cannot perceive its presence. So bright in outline do men and affairs appear beyond the curtain that we cannot doubt but that reality is what we observe. Yet in truth every color has been distorted. And rare is the conclusion based on such observations that would not bear re-inspection if the curtain were lifted.
Obviously in any species that reproduces sexually via opposite sex pairs, opposite sex pair bonding is necessary for reproduction. But it does not follow then that sex serves only that one single purpose, vital though it is. Nor does it follow that everyone born of a heterosexual relationship must therefore be heterosexual themselves any more then that right-handed people must be the result of right-handed parents.
An entire cosmos of conclusions follow from the heterosexual premise which all seem perfectly reasonable yet are utterly false. That homosexuality amounts to some sort of damage to our nature…a biological mistake as the talk radio host Laural Schlessinger once averred. That homosexuals experience neither desire nor love as fully as heterosexuals do. That homosexuals must be, can only be, miserable deep down inside, frustrated, angry at the world, resentful toward normal heterosexuals, because of their condition. If homosexuality is a kind of mental damage then homosexuals may well be mentally damaged in other ways too…possibly dangerous ones. Since humans don’t reproduce homosexually homosexuals must reproduce in some other way, more like a disease then by natural reproduction. Homosexuality must be a kind of perdition. Homosexuals then don’t so much seek out partners as they do prey. And every person turned away from heterosexuality is one less to carry on the species. So homosexuality damages the species ability to reproduce. It must be contained or else the human race will die out. Homosexuals prey on heterosexuals, and in doing so make war on humanity itself.
Add religion into the mix and you have gay people waging war on God almighty too. If God created the human race then homosexuals are attacking God’s own creation and God himself. But even among people who reject the idea that gays are any sort of threat to the survival of the species, the heterosexual premise prevents them from seeing us as being quite as human as they. We are still damaged goods. Yes we should treat the gays with decency and respect, but all the same there is something wrong with them. There must be. They are not heterosexual and heterosexual is the natural state of a human being.
Larry Niven, author of the Ringworld and Known Space stories, with that effortless self assuredness granted by the heterosexual premise once wrote that giving the homosexuals what they want would be a good way of breeding it out of the species. Yet it exists in all sexually reproducing species that have been studied. Why has it not already been bred out of those then? The heterosexual premise has no answer only a requirement that whatever the answer is it must fit the premise. Perhaps it is because humans are crowding the rest of animal kind out of their natural habitats. Perhaps homosexuality spreads from species to species. Perhaps homosexuality is such a gross distortion of nature that it’s impact cannot be confined to just the humans. Perhaps the other animals who engage in homosexuality are a warning sign that our own dalliance with it as gone too far and now we have polluted the rest of nature with it like we have with our greenhouse gases. Nature is not telling us we’re wrong about sexuality and sexual orientation. Nature is telling us how bad our own behavior is. See how easy that is?
Heterosexual sex is what makes babies. Therefore heterosexuality is the natural condition of our kind. Therefore something must be wrong with homosexuals. But it is not so simple. The two-legged thinking creature that rings up your purchase with a smile from behind the checkout counter, or delivers your newspaper in the morning carries with them every moment of their day, in their blood and bones, the entire history of life on earth. As do you. Ironically the ex-gay gurus are right about one thing: we are more then our genitals. On the other hand there they are. And if sex is simply for reproduction and nothing more then why does nearly every human male alive today have an erogenous zone up their ass? For maybe nine-tenths of the male population that makes no sense at all. But there it is.
It wasn’t our modern hedonistic civilization that did that. It wasn’t godlessness. Somewhere back in our distant probably pre-human past, possibly even well before that, same sex pair bonding among some individuals began making enough sense that our bodies adapted to it. If it was destructive it would have been bred out. If it had no benefit whatsoever that erogenous zone probably would not be. There had to have been some selection For it. But what? I give my own hypothesis Here. Others may have better ones. The point is you make your model of human behavior fit the evidence, not make the evidence fit the model, which is what the heterosexual premise demands. Our bodies are adapted to both opposite-sex and same-sex pair bonding. So heterosexuality cannot be The natural state. It is just the most likely one.
Yet in truth every color has been distorted. And rare is the conclusion based on such observations that would not bear re-inspection if the curtain were lifted. Lift the curtain. Look at us as we are, not as what your conceits tell you we must be. We are your neighbors. We are your sons and daughters, your parents, aunts and uncles. Look at us. We are as human as you. We bear within us the same story of life on earth you do. The ancient tides pull and tug at us just as they do you. The exaltation of love and desire burns within us as it does you. We love. We cherish. We long. We need. There is nothing wrong with us. Look at us.