The furor over
the traitor Joseph Bottum continues. The anti-commentary is sometimes cringeworthy, and occasionally thoughtful, like Ross Douthat’s NYT take. I never thought Mr Douthat had a good bead on 20th century history, but his “evaluation” rings true:
As a literary Catholic’s attempt to wrench the true complexity of his faith back out of the complexity-destroying context of contemporary political debates. He’s writing as someone who loves his church, and wants everyone else to love it as he does — and I don’t blame him for imagining that perhaps, just perhaps, ceasing to offer public resistance on the specific question of gay marriage would liberate the church from some the caricatures that the culture war has imposed upon it, and enable the world to see its richness with fresh eyes.
I’m not surprised people pick apart the original piece on Commonweal. Former allies don’t want the personal side. Ideology never works its magic when real people are involved. Intellectuals on any side consider the text wandering and meandering. And they are probably right. But they probably don’t enjoy Ron Hansen quite as much as George Weigel either.
Mr Douthat is scratching close at something in his semi-sympathetic piece. He suspects that there’s some religious view that’s not “confession-sin-repentance” or “tolerance-acceptance-affirmation.” But he doesn’t quite get it.
I think that mystery indeed trumps truth. If the Church lives in an age where non-believers are everywhere, where the tenuous hold on many (if not most) of the baptized is a reality, and where there’s a lot of skepticism on what was written by white male heterosexuals, then perhaps it’s a time to consider where we invest our energy. And let’s be clear: this is an issue about work, not thought or belief.
Naturally a culture warrior is going to prefer an army of a million over a civilian population of a billion. SCGS!* Especially when there are bread-and-circus entertainments like LCWR-CDF interspersed with hors d’oeuvre like Fr Corapi, or preferably, Archbishop Weakland.
I think I see where Joseph Bottum was going with his admittedly unconcise essay. I think I can admit my unfamiliarity with homosexuality. I don’t share the feelings of my gay brothers. I chased girls from the age of four when Susie Wood and I raced our tricycles around a block of houses in our complex. But I can look at more than seventeen years of marriage and recognize that sex is a sliver of its make-up and meaning in my relationship with my wife. Most of the rest of the time, we’re working on communicating (which is still a struggle for us), and on health issues (mostly hers) and caretaking burdens (mostly mine). Not to mention parenting a teen.
What I can imagine is that my SSA friends are experiencing those same things. And they believe they are made that way by God. And neither Church nor science can disprove it.
My evaluation is that Joseph Bottum sees something different from his conservative brothers and sisters. I think he has also assessed correctly that by opening our mouths loudly against same-sex unions, we are shutting the doors that lead to wonder and grace. The same thing would probably happen if the Church started preaching Lukan communism (Cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35). And the case for communal life is a lot stronger than a disputed biological point.
My final assessment?
- Joseph Bottum could probably be writing novels
- Regardless of the truth, the fight against same-sex unions is a losing proposition for the spread of the Gospel
- Regardless of tradition, the moral and religious case against same-sex unions is far from convincing; we’re far from discerning deeply God’s hand in how human beings are made
- I’d rather preach Christ than ideology
* Small church, getting smaller.