Friday, December 2, 2011
Facebook Drama and Lessons on Evangelization
Well, it had to happen sometime. A person I know and am "friends" with on Facebook "defriended" me. To be fair, this person (who we'll call X), has defriended me before and then refriended me...several times. So this latest shouldn't exactly come as a surprise - and yet it does. She defriended me very publicly as a response to an article that I liked. The article I liked is this one: "A Faithful Catholic's Reflection on Same-Sex Attraction."
Now...I knew that liking the article, and having that story show up in my newsfeed, could be volatile. And usually, I stay away from the volatility relating to same-sex attraction or marriage; those debates scare the pants off me. People get so angry and downright mean. But I thought to myself, the perspective of the author is one that isn't normally heard and afterall, I didn't post my own comments or thoughts - I just wanted to put it out there for consideration. But...that was still offensive to X. Her comment was "Wow this article is a load of ----. Adios, muchacha." Then when I checked, I had been defriended.
This left me thinking about several topics: is it really a friendship if you can't stand for the other person to disagree with you? Is it right for a community to tell one of their member's that their experience is a load of whatever? What does open-mindedness actually require of us, in communities and in friendships?
The answer to the first question is most definitely no, I'm pretty sure. I have several close friends who aren't Catholic and don't agree with me on many Big Deal social issues: abortion, gay marriage, the death penalty. We still manage to be good friends, although sometimes we recognize that we need a break from each other or that certain arguments are not very productive. The third question has probably been addressed most succinctly by Chesterton when he said "the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." That is, we should be open to finding the Truth, and upon finding it, should be satisfied.
The second question is what is the most beguiling. I have found the gay community very hostile to those who profess to be gay and faithfully Catholic, that is to say, gay and celibate. X's comment expressed this hostility - not that my "liking" the post was what was wrong, but the post itself. And this man's article was expressing his journey to a place of peace with his life: that he experiences same-sex attraction but is committed to living out the teachings of the Church. How can the gay community, if it champions the rights of gay persons, be against what he says? Why is his experience of his attraction less valid than a more mainstream gay experience? My theory is that because if a person, any person, can live happily without expressing their sexuality genitally, it undermines the entire premise of the gay "rights" movement. The entire underpining of the gay rights movement, along with many feminists movements that champion contraception and abortion, and any movement that would champion pornography, is that for a person to be really happy, they must be able to express their sexuality however they would like, so long as it doesn't harm anyone else. To have people who have SSA saying they are happy without living a gay lifestyle undermines this; the gay community has to call this person repressed or say they are self-hating. They see genital sexual expression as the bedrock of who they are. It's disappointing that this holds back my friend X from drawing into deeper dialogue with those who like the author of the article, experience their SSA within a different framework.
However, in thinking about all of that, I also got to thinking: whose Catholic experience do I disrespect? Who am I pushing out of the community, because they are not saying what I want them to say? Now, granted, a religious community is different from a community gathered together around shared sexual attraction. But I still want to consider -who am I pushing out? I'm proud that I am a faithful Catholic. I don't mind friendly debate with atheists, other Christians, or people of other faiths, but I go crazy when I meet a "Catholic" who wants the Church to change just because it's "behind the times." My thought is always: there are already Christian denominations out there that profess your beliefs; go join them and leave us alone! What I find so troubling about these people is that they are intellectually dishonest; they claim to be Catholic when they do not believe what the Church proclaims. Unlike other religious, we are centralized. We have a leader, the Pope, who is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals; we have a compendium of what we believe called the Catechism; we have an apostolic tradition that ensures that each one of our priests can trace his ordination back and back to the apostles and Christ himself. From the earliest times, we have fought for unified belief and held that the fullness of Truth is contained within our Church: we don't change based on popular opinion or what the people in the pews makes more sense.
All of that still standing, have I, in my quest to scorn cafeteria Catholics, pushed out some that were merely lingering upon the threshold of the cafeteria? Maybe I have. As a convert, I have always felt freer to criticize the Church than my cradle Catholic brethren, because I do not have the innate respect for the Church that's been bred into some from childhood. Yet, I am content to criticize until certain subjects are touched upon and then I get a bit rabid. I have to be willing to face that some people really did have a bad time at Catholic schools under habited nuns - and still be able to discuss religious orders with them coherently. I have to admit that sex abuse by priests has happened and listen to those whom it has hurt, honestly, with compassion - and only when they are ready and the Spirit leads, defend not those men, but the institution of the priesthood itself. I have to acknowledge that for many years now, parish life for many has been a wasteland of poor catechesis, ugly buildings, and bad music, and that these deteriorating conditions have led these people either to a state of disbelief and apathy, or to Protestant churches that are truly thriving.
These Catholic experiences, and those whom they profoundly affected, cannot be discounted, as much as I would like to. These people cannot be treated as if they are just a political example; they are real, and their experiences are genuine. Within each one of these encounters is an opportunity for me to learn more about my Faith - to learn about how Truth overcomes all these obstacles of personal pain, seeming inconsistency, and institutional sin. Christ is the answer to all the questions posed by every cafeteria Catholic, if only I have the courage to speak of Him - and the humility to realize that the conversation has nothing to do with me and my personal feelings.