Monday, July 13, 2015

The Art of Being Christ Like Toward Persons with Same-Sex Attraction

“The Sexual Revolution is Bearing its Rotten Fruit.”

by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton, S.T.L.,
“The Sexual Revolution is Bearing its Rotten Fruit.”
God has created this world. Since it bears the marks of the Divine Artist creation is basically good. The basic goodness of creation remains true even when creatures possessing freedom (like angels and men) choose to sin and choose to live apart from the natural design of the Creator. And when sin entered in and brought death and condemnation the Divine Artist entered the very work of His hands by taking on our flesh in the Incarnation. In Jesus Christ, God has entered this world. He has entered this world to bring Good News. And since God Himself has seen fit to do this, we must view our life with God as a gift that is given not just for ourselves, but for others. For those whose vocation is to be disciples in the secular world (that’s you and I), we must view our faith as a call to engage this world as missionaries with Good News, just as God Himself has done!

Christian Attitude Toward Persons with Same-Sex Attraction

With this brief summary of salvation history and this summary of the call of Christian disciples as a background, I want to comment on the recent narrow decision of the United States Supreme Court alleging a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. As with all difficult topics I want first to speak words of friendship, respect, mercy, and authentic love to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. It is the teaching of Christ, and therefore the teaching of his obedient Church, that homosexual activity is immoral. It is immoral because it is not consistent with the Natural Law as reflected in the design of nature and the design of sexual reproduction made by God. It is immoral because, no matter how deeply same-sex attractions may be felt, such activity is not consistent with true human flourishing and the promotion of the common good.
The very constitution of our bodies reveals we are not made for homosexual activity. Furthermore, homosexual activity by its very nature ends with itself. It does not radiate outward as heterosexual activity is supposed to do and thus homosexual activity does not create society or promote its common good. That being said, we Christians are called to support and respect with authentic love the struggles and legitimate aspirations of our friends who have same-sex attraction. Anymore, many of us know someone who identifies as gay among our family, friends, or acquaintances. They need our love. And we need to love them in the name of Jesus. Authentic Christianity, while being crystal clear about the immorality of homosexual actions, does not simply collapse same-sex attractions or inclinations into the same category as homosexual actions. Thus, the fact of someone’s same-sex attractions does not make that person any more a sinner than the rest of us. It does present such persons with unique and sensitive struggles. So, we need to aid our friends who struggle with this. A person’s sexual attractions and desires are very strong movements within a person. By virtue of being so pervasive or comprehensive within the person, such attractions feel “normal” or “natural” to the person. This is likely also the case even if those attractions aren’t healthy or in accord with the Natural Law, as in the case with same-sex attractions.
A person’s sexual identity, even when that identity is somehow faulty, is very strong and deeply pervasive for that person. Perhaps that can give us extra cause to have compassion for those who experience same-sex attractions and who must deal frequently, perhaps daily, with deep feelings within themselves that, if acted upon, would lead to unholy and immoral expression. A disciple of Jesus should not support crass or unjust attitudes toward those with such struggles. If a person with same sex attractions is honestly struggling to heal and to lead a chaste life then we should have utmost respect for him or her. They fit in among us just like the rest of us sinners who had better be honestly struggling to lead lives consistent with Jesus’ gospel.

The Nature of Marriage Cannot Be Changed by Mankind

The recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), however erroneous, while it may establish man-made law, does not in fact change what marriage itself is. The decisions of judges, politicians, or voters cannot change what marriage is by its very nature. Man’s law did not make or establish marriage because marriage was well in place from God’s making it. It predates governments. A judge could decide that some law permits that an apple is now an orange, but that does not in fact make it so. Marriage is still what is has always been. It cannot be changed by man’s willing it. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the decisions of a court cannot change the moral law. Years ago the Court decided that abortion was legal. But that
does not make it moral. Abortion never has been, is not now, and never will be moral. The same is true with homosexual activity and gay marriage. What we have in the SCOTUS decision is, quite frankly, the legalization of self-delusion. It is delusional to claim that marriage and sexual relations are a constitutional right of self-determination and that the persons are interchangeable: a man and a woman, or two women, or two men. That is not what marriage is. Courts could indicate that a free American has a Constitutional right to hold his breath underwater for three hours… but that doesn’t make it work and it doesn’t mean that there won’t be moral and physical consequences.

Signs of Societal Decay

We have become a society that has lost the ability to reason, to think. We have the faculty to do it but it has become in us like an unused muscle. Many people now base most decisions on feelings and allow most thought processes to be governed by feelings. As such we grasp on to precious little information, often devoid of facts based in reality, and we easily jump to conclusions that are not sound and that rest on the shifty surface of a relativistic morality and a standard that is purely personal, changing with each individual. Many people arrive at conclusions based more on gut reactions or on a certain sentimentality that obscures the truth where we suspect it might make someone feel badly. This way of arriving at conclusions is going to plunge us headlong into still further moral and societal decay.
Another aspect of this tragic decision rests on the fact that law serves society as a type of teacher. Law literally legitimizes things. That’s the root of ‘legitimate,’ the Latin ‘legis,’ for ‘law.’ And for many people, they easily jump from legally legitimate to morally legitimate. I grieve for the many souls who are wounded or weakened by a struggle with same-sex attraction and who may now more easily enter homosexual relationships and even simulate marriage because they long for acceptance or a feeling of “normality.” This law is not a service to them. It promotes the error of thinking that what is legal is automatically moral. And this law teaches the youngest among us the lie that marriage can be something it is not. This will impact us for generations.

Christian Hope

Righteous anger is appropriate in response to the SCOTUS decision. I am angered that our country is literally standing in defiance to God, mocking how He established marriage as a covenantal sign of His life and love for us, and creating an idol in place of true marriage. We deserve His wrath. He will likely let us taste the consequences of this action. Furthermore, I am angered for how this decision will mislead countless millions of souls and place them in serious risk of Hell. True love doesn’t win where we are complicit or silent as people run to embrace very grave sin. But, as Christians, we cannot remain in fear, sadness, or despair. Disciples of Jesus have an irreplaceable hope founded on God’s presence among us in this world. It is easy to think that God is present when things seem to be going well. Good things and good times seem like blessings. Yet, when we no longer feel such confidence, that does not mean God is absent. Recall that God is with us in the storms. Jesus is in that boat tossed about by furious waves. He is our anchor. He warned us that struggle, false charges, and persecution would come. But he added that he is with us through the Holy Spirit who will instruct us how to be his witnesses. That God is with us changes everything and it gives hope. How so? Because Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death, the world, and the devil. We must never forget this!

The Reality of Societal Landscape

Fr. Stephen V. Hamilton
The path to today has been paved for many decades now. The sexual revolution is bearing its rotten fruit. One key moment when marriage became warped was the development and wide spread use of artificial contraception. With contraception marriage then became more exclusively about the adults and less about children. In the affirmation of so-called gay marriage we are now seeing the consequences of just how much marriage can be NOT about children. We need to be sober in admitting that those supporting gay marriage have defeated us in the mechanisms of society. They have the money and the megaphone on their side. They are the establishment forces of government, media, lobbyists, entertainment, and education. Meanwhile the Church and her members have been asleep. We who have Good News have been silent for too long. We have been more like Israel in the Bible who, as it interacted with other peoples and kingdoms, didn’t want to stand out as God’s unique people, but wanted to fit in and to appear as everyone else. We Christians have done the same. We are supposed to be in the world as its soul and leavening agent. But we are not supposed to be of the world. We have largely forgotten that. We think the prediction of rejection, division, persecution, and martyrdom because of faith in Christ is some religious story or some apostolic nostalgia. NO! It is the mark of a disciple in every age because a disciple must embrace the Cross. We are long past the notion that persecution won’t be coming our way. We are now moving full throttle toward it.
I have zero confidence in the thinly veiled lies of our authorities who promise that people who object to gay marriage because of moral convictions will be respected. First of all, there are already plenty of accounts of Christian business owners being fined and driven out of business for refusing to participate in gay weddings. And if that weren’t enough proof, and with all due respect to the Office of the Presidency, the lighting up of the White House as a rainbow the night the Supreme Court decision became public was a juvenile stunt that gives me no confidence in promises of tolerance. That was not the act of people with a measured hand or with respect for others.
Christians have not been the light and the salt we are called to be. In fact, the vast majority of Christians have, knowingly or not, adopted some or all of the values promoted by the sexual revolution. Christians are just as guilty of pre-marital sex, rampant cohabitation before marriage, divorce and re-marriage (without annulment), use of pornography, and almost universal use of contraception. And Christians have even supported homosexual activity. Added to that has been the spiritual malpractice of shepherds and leaders among Christians who have remained silent or ambiguous in the face of all of this. Such silence came from bishops, priests, and deacons but also from catechists, school teachers, and parents and grandparents who also occupy roles of evangelizing the souls entrusted to them.

Curious Victory for Christians

It may take time – sometimes a painfully long time – but people who choose ungodly ways often find themselves coming to a moment of truth. In such moments, Jesus and his Gospel are seen with new power and attraction. People long for fulfillment. The things of this world won’t provide that. We are called to serve as the counter sign. But we ourselves must be convinced of the gospel and the fulfillment that comes from Jesus. The gospel cannot just be words on a page; it must be written in our lives. We are called to be the living pages of Jesus’ gospel. Oddly enough, as disturbing as the SCOTUS decision is, there may be a significant victory for Christians. In time this decision may wake more of us up.  Remember the Prophet Amos was chased away because his message from God was inconvenient to the king. To be a disciple of Jesus is to speak words that call each person away from sin and towards God. And this message puts one in opposition to the powers that be.
In the gospel Jesus summons the apostles and sends them out with the mandate of his authority. This mandate remains in the Church and it is a service to the world that needs to hear Jesus’ voice and his teaching. Notice the type of radical dedication Jesus expects of the apostles as they carry his message: “take nothing for the journey but a walking stick.” This gives us a lesson too. As disciples we are called to proclaim Jesus to others. We need a radical dedication to Jesus and his message. We cannot be dependent on anything but Jesus alone. We will not find security by dependence upon money or power or acclaim or popularity or by fitting in with the prevailing thought of our times. We will not find security by dependence on government entity or the whim of popular opinion. Only Jesus can be our focus.
While the SCOTUS decision is troubling perhaps what is good is that we can finally get a wake up call to see how much society has abandoned moral foundations. Our curious victory, as I am calling it, is that we now have an invitation to be who we are supposed to be. We have a golden opportunity to be more countercultural: namely, to be called apart for God and called to challenge our world to return to godly order. This is nothing new in Christian history. In fact, our time to share the gospel – the New Evangelization – is looking more and more like the original time of evangelization when the Church faced and converted the Roman Empire. Even though it required the shedding of blood, it was a victory for Jesus, much like his own passage from death to the victory of the resurrection.
When you want to focus on despair, remember instead that in the face of fierce opposition, the first Christians went out with confidence and joy because Jesus and his gospel were their only treasures. St. Paul could be filled with confidence and joy even as he soberly accounted the vast number of his hardships for Jesus. He went to places like Corinth – known for sexual debauchery of all kinds – and he proclaimed the Good News that we are temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19) whose very bodies are meant to honor God. Our world needs us to fulfill our mission as disciples of Jesus. Jesus has already won the ultimate victory. No matter how many little victories or defeats must still transpire in this life – the final victory of the Cross and resurrection is already established. We have work to do. Every time you see a rainbow flag you have a reminder of that. Fear not! With the Archangel Gabriel we say: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk. 1:37). And with St. Paul: “If God is for us, who is against us? …  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:31, 35, 37-39).

Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton, S.T.L.
Vocations Director
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
from Courageous Priest