Comparing religious responses to same-sex marriage

Following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, my Facebook feed blew up, as you can imagine. Among the hysteria, I found the different responses of religious institutions interesting, and I wanted to comment on a few of them. I’m going to largely pull from hierarchical/historical/organized Christian denominations. Continue reading

Sexual morality initiated, but did not cause, my unbelief

The other day I came across a book review Dan Savage wrote on Jeff Chu’s Does Jesus Really Love Me? There was one paragraph that really resonated with me:

Chu worries that gay people like Mr. Byers have been “pushed out of the church.” That’s not true for all of us. My father was a Catholic deacon, my mother was a lay minister and I thought about becoming a priest. I was in church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. Now I spend my Sundays on my bike, on my snowboard or on my husband. I haven’t spent my post-Catholic decades in a sulk, wishing the church would come around on the issue of homosexuality so that I could start attending Mass again. I didn’t abandon my faith. I saw through it. The conflict between my faith and my sexuality set that process in motion, but the conclusions I reached at the end of that process — there are no gods, religion is man-made, faith can be a force for good or evil — improved my life. I’m grateful that my sexuality prompted me to think critically about faith. Pushed out? No. I walked out.

I loved this. The first area of my faith I dissented against was homosexuality. I’ve written about how I have LGBTQ people close to me in my life (here, here, and here), and I saw first hand how the homophobic positions of Catholicism (and other conservative forms of Christianity) negatively impacted their lives. It got to a point that I couldn’t in good conscience agree with my church’s approach to LGBTQ people. A couple years later, I realized that my church’s teachings on premarital sex and contraception had very real and very negative effects on my and my friends’ lives. So, I discarded those teachings as well.  Continue reading

The narrow spectrum of (approved) moral thought in the Catholic Church

The recent comments made by Pope Francis on gay marriage and contraception have made their way around the news circuit:

“The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” Francis said.

[…] The pope also issued a strong defense of Pope Paul VI’s controversial 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which upheld the Church’s traditional ban on birth control.

“He had the strength to defend openness to life at a time when many people were worried about population growth,” Francis said.

[…]

The comments also came less than a week after a speech to diplomats at the Vatican in which Francis criticized “legislation which benefits various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole,” saying that such legislation had contributed to a widespread sense of the family as “disposable.”

On contraception and Paul VI, Francis said in a November 2014 interview with an Italian newspaper that his predecessor’s “genius was prophetic.”

“He had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a ‘brake’ on the culture, to oppose [both] present and future neo-Malthusianism,” he said.

Continue reading

Experiential religion in an ideological world

I want to start with two passages from the Christian scriptures; the first is from the Gospel of Matthew:

..the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Continue reading

Forced gay celibacy…why?

As I’ve mentioned before, the Church’s treatment of LGBTQ people played a big role in my gradual fall away from the Church (of which I am still formally a member). After I became Catholic, I got to know a few people who identify as “celibate gays” – they fully acknowledge their sexual orientation but live “fully in accordance with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality” (that is, homosexual orientation is totally fine, but any and all gay sex acts are necessarily abominable to God).  Coming from Evangelicalism, it was quite refreshing to see sexual orientation acknowledged as being real and that it was okay to identify as gay – very different from what I observed in Evagelicalism (case in point: some discomfort over Wheaton College hiring a celibate gay woman because she identifies as “gay”).

LGBTQ celibates have become a visible and vocal group within conservative Christianity in the last few years – the Washington Post even recently ran an article about these people. This gay celibacy movement is diverse – from chaste coupling to monasticism to singleness. But, as I’ve observed this growing movement, I’ve been growing largely uncomfortable with it. In response to the Washington Post article, Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington (D.C.) wrote a long-winded reflection on it: Continue reading

No, you’re not being persecuted

One aspect of conservative Christianity that initially got me questioning the whole program is the persecution complex. Someone or something is always out to get conservative Christians – (a few) public schools are out to get conservative Christians by giving children comprehensive sex education, gays are trying to destroy the Christian institution of marriage, TV shows are attacking us by portraying people living secular lives without all hell breaking loose, etc. During my time in conservative Christianity, I largely didn’t understand the big deal about comedians who poke fun at Christianity, or a public school not having prayer, or gays being protected from employment discrimination in a non-religious business. The way I saw it, we can do our thing, people of a different or no religion can do their thing, and neutral settings like public schools shouldn’t take a side one way or the other. But, I came to realize that the persecution narrative is a key component of the greater conservative Christian narrative. I’ll delve more into that as a whole in the future, but I want to address some recent events that have solidified my exit. Continue reading

Human value and protecting God

I came across this post on Rational Doubt from a former pastor on how praising God often comes at the expense of denigrating humanity in many Christian circles.

I’d probably sung the song a hundred times, swaying to its gentle melodies with arms uplifted and eyes closed.  It was one of those praise choruses evangelical Christians love to sing, a few words repeated over and over again –

“You alone I long to worship.  You alone are worthy of praise.”

We sang until we were oblivious to our surroundings and open to the Spirit.  Having practiced this form of spiritual reflection often, I was startled when my inner voice said, “That can’t be true.”

[…] Every human life had worth.  Nearly everyone did something worthy of praise.

[…] Of all the religions I’ve studied, Christianity has the poorest opinion of human nature.  Christian theology, rhetoric and music often praises God’s magnificence at human expense.  According to orthodox theology, we are born into sin, doomed from our first breath.  Though Christianity says we were created in God’s image, that image was quickly and irrevocably broken and twisted by sin.

[…] When my children were born, I didn’t look at them and despair[…] While I knew they would make mistakes, I saw this not as a moral failing, but as a necessary process.  What I expected from them was not perfection, but eventual maturity, the ability to live life with wisdom and sensitivity[…] Eventually, I realized my opinion of my children was more praiseworthy than God’s opinion of me.

This was something I grappled with growing up Evangelical. Why do good things happen if humans could do no good? If no one could do good, why do we spend so much time shaming certain acts? If no one could do good, why do we spend time pushing for laws to try to force people into good acts? Why should I trust that my parents, or teachers, or pastors if they’re depraved humans like me? Continue reading