Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Lost Ground or New Ground

I was really struck by this passage from a First Things piece. The immediate topic is how to address homosexuality as an issues, something which is certainly key as the hoopla over the current Supreme Court review of California's Prop 8 continues, but I think that this question of lost territory versus mission territory is a wider and important one:
Moving on isn’t all that difficult for someone like me. I’m a queer Canadian girl, born in the eighties, raised in a liberal Anglican tradition and educated within a gay-positive public school system. Even though I have since adopted the Catholic faith and chosen to pursue a heterosexual marriage, my knowledge of what older American Catholics have lost is vague and largely theoretical. Occasionally I encounter a little pocket of the community that used to exist, and I’m filled with a sense of longing and nostalgia, the way that a child feels when she sees the photograph of a father who died in her infancy.

For folks like me, however, the feeling that “‘tis not too late to build a newer world” overwhelms any need to pine for the past. The call to a new evangelization is exciting: We’ve crossed the threshold with hope, we’re not afraid, and we’re ready to undertake brave new experiments in the art of loving and preaching the gospel.

From this perspective, the LGBTQ community is no different from Corinth or Athens. There’s no reason to expect the native population to be pre-catechized, to have laws that correspond with the Mosaic code, or to know the fundamental principles of the faith. The key is to discern which of the idols we can use as St. Paul used the altar to the unknown god in the Areopagus, to figure out which pagan poets and philosophers we can quote in order to speak the gospel in a new way. It’s mission territory, not lost ground.
An added factor that's been on my mind a lot lately: We cannot regain the past -- indeed our ideas of the past are often more impressionistic than accurate. At the same time, we are creatures who cannot live without a culture. We can't regain the lost cultural Catholicism which existed (or the one we imagine existed) in the past. At the same time, we can't live without having rituals and calendars and a cultural standards and assumptions. We're tasked, like Catholics in mission areas of the past, with developing something to live in which is a coherently Catholic culture, a culture which helps us to live out our beliefs. And yet that culture can be neither the imagined past nor the mainstream culture which we live amidst. We can't be one with the past or with the present, yet we need to construct some sort of culture to live in which reconciles us to both while bringing truth into them.


Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Thank you for the link to this article which I might otherwise not have stumbled across. It reminded me how much I liked the author's book, Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism. It is excellent. My copy bulges with Post-it notes where I have marked significant passages.

I think her book is valuable because it is "bilingual" in the same way that conversion stories written by former, militantly anti-Catholic Fundamentalists are valuable. They help us to see Catholic teaching through alien eyes.

It is only by seeing how they see (or used to see) Catholicism that we can discover how to speak their vital concerns are and how to speak their language. Without that, it is far more difficult to evangelize.

(The other thing I loved about her book was all the literary references.)

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Her book has been on my meaning to check it out list for some time.

This is a great article. That comment section kills me though. Why is it so many Catholics are completely clueless as to how to talk to people they disagree with. It makes me want to round up everyone in the comment box to have a basic class on rhetoric. You'll never get to first base with evangelizing unless you first go out to where people actually are. Their version of speaking love in truth always ignores the subjective experience of the person they purport to want to evangelize.