UPDATE (late afternoon, 30 June): Wow. Readers visiting from Relapsed Catholic, welcome! Since Kathy linked here last night I've had more hits than in all the previous weeks since I started blogging. It's very gratifying. Thanks for your interest, and of course, thanks again, Kathy, for the plug.
Apparently today's the day same-sex marriage will come to a vote in the House of Commons. I've lost interest in the procedural wrangling and am baffled by Stephen Harper's complaint that bill would pass only because the separatists' votes would tip the balance. (Could that have been a distortion by pro-gay-marriage journalists for whom Harper is automatically in the wrong? Nope, just checked that National Post and they report it too.)
So later today, barring a massive yet selective lightning strike from the heavens upon certain seats in the House of Commons, this bill will move one step closer to being law.
I've started praying the rosary, and this morning, appropriately enough, is designated for meditation upon the Sorrowful Mysteries. Singer Liz Kelly, in her booklet on the rosary, offers these words of prayer on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery:
Lord, please continue to show me that it is not always in your displays of strength and power where I will find my greatest security and comfort, but in your greatest act of submission: this Crucifixion, this death, this mysterious embrance of indescribable love, this sacrifice that makes grace possible. Show me that the answer does not [ahem, omitted this originally!] always lie in the removal of pain, that sometimes we are asked instead of throw out our arms wide open to accept it. Remind me that such sacrifices are met with trembling, even from within the earth.
I pray for the virtues of patience and self-control.
What will the landscape look like in Canada with one more support for traditional marriage knocked down? Well, Christians will still be called to live lives of faithfulness to the gospel.... Some will surely be persecuted for daring to speak against gay marriage.... I am, truthfully speaking, discouraged. It grieves me especially that those who clamour for this change in the law, as I myself once did, are unwittingly cheating themselves of lasting peace. The stamp of approval from society, or from the Supreme Court, or from Parliament, cannot quench that inner doubt about whether same-sex relationships are really all right.
Time was when I felt no guilt about my sexual behaviour, so long as I followed the rules that the world lays down: consenting adults in private--or at least, well, call it "semi-private." I felt morbidly guilty about so many other things in my life, but my sex life was clean. The world had said so.
Well, but then those Christians turned out to be right about the existence of a loving God who embraced me in all my weakness and inconstancy and selfishness, who assured me I was loved no matter what. And I had to ask whether perhaps those Christians might also have been right in saying that gay sex wasn't good for me, wasn't good for anyone. There were liberal Christians, of course, who assured me that I was created this way and that it didn't matter, but did they know what they were talking about? I'd always assumed that conservative Christians didn't understand, and that was why they persisted in their benighted views of sexuality. But what if they knew all too well what sin was all about? The liberal Christians I knew generally didn't talk much about sin. Oh, racism was a sin, and greed, and the militarism of George W. Bush and company. But sin as something that infects us all, that, like evil in Romans 7, "lies close at hand"?
A few years ago I read a stunning story in NOW Magazine about a gay pride celebration in Rome. One of the speakers, a Roman Catholic priest who was expecting to be disciplined for participating in the event, was quoted as encouraging the members of the crowd not to think of themselves as sinners. Hello? And this can be reconciled how with the Christian doctrine that we are all sinners, every last one of us??
The idea, apparently, so far as I can remember my own mind-set when I believed such nonsense myself, is that if we don't think about guilt then it won't affect us. Any reminders of our guilt, such as would rear their ugly heads from time to time because of the Church, or because of what with a neat linguistic sleight-of-hand was lamented as "internalized homophobia" (it being an article of faith among progressives that a sense of unease about one's same-sex desires is primarily external to begin with, rather than innate), these had to be expunged as a matter of urgency. Hence the earnest (and often heart-rending) pleading by gay and lesbian activists for full societal approval of their relationships.
I have bad news for those activists: it won't work. All the approval in the world won't take away that unease over same-sex activity, because God gave us that unease. As a gift.
I have good news too, though. Not just good news, terrific news. So-called internalized homophobia is not a booby-prize. It's a good gift, just like the sensors in our fingertips that by causing us pain keep us from injuring ourselves with stoves and fires. And better news yet, that God can free us from the whole weight of guilt we carry around (for all sorts of reasons, of course, not just because of sexual sin), consciously or unconsciously.
Rev. Brent Hawkes of Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto will have a lot to answer for at the Pearly Gates, but I'll give him due credit for drumming into my mind one quotation from 1 John 2: "If any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins."
In the end I agree with Eve Tushnet, who argues that same-sex marriage debate isn't about gay people. It's especially not about whether gays and lesbians are nice people of the sort anyone would want as neighbours (with a few exceptions I can think of, they're as nice as anyone else). "The same-sex marriage debate is about marriage, above all else." It's about what marriage is for. So my rambling reflections about sin and approval aren't really at the core of what Parliament is voting on today.
And yet these other issues will persist even after the legal questions are settled. They won't go away. I tried for many years to make them go away. They won't go away.