Sunday, January 3, 2010

Black or White?

People seem to have a tendency to go to extremes. At the ripe old age of 27, I have found that very few things are black and white. I have always preferred the old saying "the truth lies somewhere in the middle", meaning that the extreme right and extreme left are just that.. extremes. A more sensible approach to topics would seem more rational.

There are staunch opponents to the "middle of the road" attitude. Just google the saying, and you'll find "their" criticisms. It's that tendency to stick to the right or wrong mentality, all or nothing, black or white that frustrates me. What about gray? Do I have to agree 100% with any given topic, or can't I agree to disagree on some parts?

Why am I even mentioning this? I have had some down time in my personal life, so I figured I might browse online bookstores for some new reading material. Not being a fan of fiction (Harry Potter being the only exception), I was debating between another biography or another book on gay history. While browsing the online databases for "gay" subject bestsellers, I was amazed at all the books that dealt with Catholicism in some way. One can guess that none of the titles were supportive of Catholicism... since the official stance of the Church on topics of homosexuality are well known.

I've written about my my Catholic faith and the fact that I'm gay a few times on this blog, though since I don't really know how to tag entries or archive well, you'll just have to search for them if you feel so inclined. What pisses me off (excuse my French) is that both "sides", the Church and the Gay "community", go to extremes when confronting one another. It's this all or nothing scenario all over again... black or white.. no happy middle. For the Church, who officially teaches that homosexuality is not a sin but it is the act which is sinful, has surpassed other fundamentalist denominations in at least acknowledging that being gay is a condition one is born with. Their extreme lies in the fact that they stop their understanding there. There is no next level of understanding that since it is a condition one if born with, it is also not alterable... and since, after all, God cannot create evil... maybe the topic should be re-examined about the sinfulness of committed same sex relations. The Church stands by age old interpretations of sometimes misleading Scriptural passages without really taking into account social norms and understandings of the time. There it is, black and white... so that is how it shall always be.

I see where the Church is coming from, but I disagree with its interpretations.

The other side of the debate sees the Church as being inflexible on topics such as this, therefor, the ENTIRE structure of the Church should be overhauled. This is what irks me most. Some person or persons disagrees on a social teaching of the Church, and then lobbies with all their might to change the entire system of the Church... or at least rally public opinion to believe as they do. Get rid of the Pope, let the clergy marry, ordain women, water down the Mass (even more) to nothing more than a pot-luck dinner, and throw Catholic culture and tradition (what's left of it) out the window.... just keep the label of "Catholic". If all this were done, then dialogue could begin.... or so it is believed.

If we substitute the Church for the government of the United States, one can better see the perspective from which I look at this issue. I love my country, and am very proud to live here. The government and many in power have also kept gay people from certain civil rights. I and other gay and lesbian people didn't all move to Canada. Dialogue and better understanding between both groups has to occur, and then hopefully change will take place. However, for change to happen, there is not a rally call from the Human Rights Campaign to scrap the presidency for a direct democratic system where everything is decided by a majority vote. The state senates are not in danger of being abolished because they are not flocking to grant the citizens of that state same sex unions. Our national traditions, past times and identity aren't being challenged because of certain political topics. Why is this done with Catholicism??

My faith is very strong, and I am thankful for the Church I attend... as flawed as it may be. I would be outraged if the spiritual elements of our prayer lives were sacrificed in order to gain same-sex recognition. I'd argue then that we have lost more than we have gained. I look to the struggling and suffering Anglican Communion which is being ripped apart, not just over the controversies of gay marriage and female ordination, but because their very identity, traditions, prayer lives and theology have been in a constant state of rapid change and flux. It is called a "sanctuary" for a reason after all. Faith and accompanying expressions of that faith are very important to people, and bring us together as a community. Once that community is tampered with to fit the political awareness of the times, irreparable damage can be done.

I am so thankful to Pope Benedict for the work he is doing to slowly restore our Catholic identity, customs and expressions of faith that have inspired us for generations, and which we have lost since the turmoil of the 60's and 70's. When it comes to political and social topics like homosexuality, I respectfully agree to disagree. I am no more willing to denounce my faith than I am my citizenship.... after all, there is nothing in the Mass or the prayer life of the Church that is anti-gay. You trim the branches of the tree, not cut it down.

As long as people keep clinging to extremes and insisting on all or nothing, black and white only, there will never be fruitful dialogue. Such stances only serve to widen the gap between sides, and foster misunderstanding. Get over it already... live and let live.

No, things are not always black and white, all wrong or all right. Sometimes, the middle of the spectrum has a better sense of reality than the extreme left or right. There is black.. and there is white... but there are also a million shades of gray.

*gets off soap box*

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