Metaphor

I see Archbishop Cordileone’s comments from an otherwise low-key liturgy conference are getting attention, positive and negative, in the blogosphere.

For my view, I’m glad he declined to name names, but unfortunately, HuffPo identified the retired athlete in the living conference room.

Unlike those either of the fawning cult of celebrity or of the culturewarriors, I don’t follow news like Jenner’s. And honestly, I recommend looking the other way. Somebody gets pulled over for DUI in my university town: no need for me to slow down or even notice. “Thank you, officer, for making the community a little safer, and student, whoever you are, make better decisions next time.”

A person undergoes sex-change surgery and chemical treatments: it’s not like changing one’s clothes or getting a fantasy movie make-up session. It’s not fun. Physical pain and trauma have capped a long period of psychological pain and trauma. I’m actually against piercing and tattoos for the reason I prefer to keep my body tissues as they are, or as they age. But I confess to being a pretty straight guy, and my experience is not at all like other people’s.

Suppose persons with gender change operations are really heinous sinners violating the underpinnings of society. They are not going to listen to culturewarriors. Not at all. And if their example for the young and impressionable overrides the moral example of saints and Christian role models, then there’s something wrong with the Christian example.

Of course, Archbishop Cordileone is dead wrong about biology. Male or female is certainly a majority of the human race. But it doesn’t exhaust human biology. And one might quibble about an XYY person or a hermaphrodite being a mutation and deviant from the biological norm. The Christian view remains that the person is a person, and deserving of respect, honor, and deference by nature of how God made them. Laughter and jokes are inappropriate. Probably indulgently sinful.

I do not think the metaphor of husband/wife/Christ/Church is the foundation of Christianity. Spouse is one way to describe the role of the Church to our Savior. Jesus used it. But he used other images as well. If I am betrayed by a friend, that doesn’t abrogate Jesus explicitly calling his disciples friends. We are also heirs, adopted children, chicks under a hen’s wing, branches connected to a vine. The saints have come up with others: wheat grains ground into bread is a personal favorite–from Ignatius of Antioch, I think.

Metaphors help bring images to mind when language fails. I like metaphors in song lyrics and poetry and fiction. I don’t think it always works in theology.

For me, it is difficult to relate to God with the mutuality of marriage in mind. God is God. I am not–I am a human being. A creation of the Father. That is enough. That would not change if, tossing in a science-fiction idea here, a mutation arose that rendered the majority of human beings as different from male and female. If human beings were, say, ninety percent hermaphrodites, it would not change our relationship as believers to God one iota. And if we were ever to discover intelligent life that differed from the two-sex model, I suspect we would need to develop another good metaphor to communicate the reality of God. The reality behind the metaphor would remain the same. It’s just we would need a different image.

My sense is that we live in a fairly creative age. Maybe it’s time to develop new metaphors that communicate more clearly the deep longing within each person for meaning, and how we Christians believe God fulfills this longing.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Politics, Science and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Metaphor

  1. Jim McCrea says:

    To help illuminate your obviously ill-formed conscience, may I post this?

    http://cal-catholic.com/?p=18883
    Postmodern paganism – we’re almost there
    Meanwhile, Archbishop Cordileone warns that gender transitions are a threat to faith
    June 4, 2015

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