Friday, August 31, 2007
Two months is too little.
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Who told us we'd be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We're asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we'd be held.
This hand is bitterness.
We want to taste it, let the hatred know our sorrow.
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.
This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we'd be held.
If hope is born of suffering.
If this is only the beginning.
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?
This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we'd be held.
I just want to share my first hand experience of why is it so important that the Parish Family (be it of any denomination or religion) actively seeks ways to embrace the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender population.
Most of the persons I know who are LGBT have felt "different" from their peers since entering puberty. A lot of the time it happens that they convince themselves that it is just a phase because it is normal to feel sexual attraction to both sexes at that age. When they see that this "phase" persists even after they reach middle or late adolescence, the internal and external conflicts begin. Parents, peer pressures, religion become a constant battlefield for the confused teenager at a time when the adolescent needs to seek his or her identity or else face role confusion for the rest of his or her life.
At this point there are only two visible paths for such persons. They either accept their sexuality knowing at the back of their mind that they might face a period of great hardship because of the discrimination and harassment of their peers, the lack of support or even aggression of their parents and to top it all the lack of understanding shown by Church institutions and their lay persons. Or the other road that might hold stronger appeal for these confused children is to suppress their sexuality, killing a part of their true self, and continue to live a "normal" life devoid of inner growth.
It is for this reason that I would like to make an urgent appeal to the Parish Family to become more aware of how we are marginalising some families facing these challenges of having a gay son/daughter within the Church. We are doing great harm by assuming that everyone is heterosexual and by telling homophobic jokes we can be cruel and hurtful. It should therefore be an obligation for the parishes to clarify matters of homosexuality with the community by referring to research and official documents and not only to the Catechism of the Church or the Bible.
In conclusion I suggest that we should also implement an anti-discriminatory and equal opportunities policy in education starting from primary school in such a way that it is friendly and comprehended by children of that age. This would contribute to bringing up children who have been empowered to build a better society.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Sexuality and relationships by Marisa Xuereb, Malta Gay Rights Movement (Times of Malta, August 28, 2007)
Jacqueline Calleja keeps writing letters about "sexual complementarity" (Sexual Complementarity, July 31 and Marriage in Do Minore, August 17). I would like Ms Calleja to define "sexual complementarity".
A tip to Ms Calleja: A search on Google for this term yields as many as 12,700 results. The big surprise is that an advanced search for pages containing the same term but not containing the word "Catholic" reduces the number of results dramatically to just 570!
"Sexual complementarity" is used freely in Catholic discourse, often in the place of "heterogenital complementarity" as has been the case in Ms Calleja's letters. In an age when it is widely recognised that sexuality is not about genitals but is an integral part of human personality and lies at the heart of human relationships, the term "sexual complementarity" has much greater appeal than "heterogenital complementarity" and has better chances of securing popular support for an argument, however lame it may be. But the meaning of the two terms is very different, as I hope Ms Calleja will confirm. The fact is, societies are finding it increasingly difficult to dismiss relationships on the basis of lack of "heterogenital complementarity", irrespective of whether Catholicism chooses to embrace modern understanding of sexuality and human relationships or not.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
As for procreation being a pre-requisite for any sexual act, does she expect anyone unable to conceive (for whatever reason) to stick to scrabble and embroidery?
Moreover, in her zest to discount same sex marriages, her arguments seem to imply that a marriage without children is invalid. This is a very wrong assumption because not having children can be the result of various physical or psychological causes which don't necessarily and automatically annul a marriage. Thus her comment that "no homosexual act can ever result in the conception of a child" makes no valid contribution to her arguments.
By the way, I am a straight heterosexual male.
She has the right to live by her Catholic Catechism; but her letter "marriage in do minore"" has too much "falsetto".
I am not a homosexual, but I disagree with Ms Calleja's use of a simple, black and white biblical verse to "prove" homosexuality is unnatural. She quoted (Matthew 19:4): "...He made them male and female... a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife...".
Why, using her own black and white chop-logic, one can just as easily use the quote to "prove" that, making the fair assumption that Jesus practised what he preached, then he would have taken his own advice and married. But hackneyed biblical quotes are blunt instruments of logic; and they are best used when quoted only to oneself in times of personal need.
Ms Calleja suggests homosexual people practise homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and she is generous in her unsolicited advice to homosexuals to change their ways. Perhaps in her next missive she might elaborate on the series of events, situations and circumstances that presented her with the fork in her road - her own defining moment - when she had to choose a homo or heterosexual lifestyle.
I certainly didn't choose my heterosexuality - I came wired that way. Others come wired in other ways. God may have created us equal, but not the same.
Judging by the disastrous consequences of the Church's efforts in trying to suppress the sexual urges of homosexual priests, it is not hard to see that sexual orientation (as opposed to experimentation) is neither temporary nor a lifestyle choice but a biological, natural and unstoppable drive; which not even Church dogma, blind obedience and the prospect of eternal damnation can suppress within its own priesthood.
Jesus left no doubt in the minds of priests in relation to paedophilia. Who knows why Jesus left the subject of homosexuality alone? Perhaps he considered homosexuality a natural human condition and had the good grace to leave homosexual people in peace. But the Church chooses to demonise a natural biological phenomenon left alone even by Christ; especially when its own house is made of very thin glass.
There is scant hope that the Church or its quixotic defenders might consider following the example of Jesus; homosexuals will never get approval from the church. Equally, no amount of sermonising is going to turn homosexuals into celibates or heterosexuals.
The silence of Jesus on the matter is making more and more sense; to me at least.
In his article about homosexuality, Kenneth Zammit Tabona (August 21) asks our politicians to promise in their electoral manifestoes that "as far as the law is concerned, the freedoms that are enjoyed by our European counterparts will become law here too."
Unfortunately, he did not specify which "freedoms" he was referring to. As far as I know, homosexual persons in Malta rightfully enjoy the same individual freedoms that heterosexual persons enjoy.
If they feel that as private individuals their rights are not being sufficiently safeguarded then it is proper that they should urge politicians to remedy the situation. Matters change radically, however, if they insist that rights should be accorded to them as a couple within some sort of matrimonial bond. This can never be since, for reasons that I explained in my previous letters, one cannot compare the union between a man and a woman to those between persons of the same sex.
Finally, it is worth emphasising that the Catholic Church insists that, while homosexual persons are asked to fulfil God's plan in their lives, no unjust discrimination should be exercised towards them but solely the love and respect that is due to those redeemed by the passion and death of Christ.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
Saturday, August 18, 2007
‘In You all find their home’
Ps 87: 7
Jesus to Saint Faustina:“Why are You sad today, Jesus? Tell me, who is the cause of Your sadness? And Jesus answered me, Chosen souls who do not have My spirit, who live according to the letter [cf. 2 Cor. 3:6] and have placed the letter above My spirit, above the spirit of love.I have founded My whole law on love, and yet I do not see love, even in religious orders. This is why sadness fills My Heart.”
Divine Mercy in My Soul,Diary, Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, [p. 520]
‘He has given us the competence to be ministers of a new covenant, a covenant which is not of written letters, but of the Spirit; for the written letters kill, but the Spirit gives life.’
2 Cor. 3: 6
Christian discourse sometimes uses words which tend to be understood differently by different people. The flesh-and-blood person is sometimes lost in the interpretation, misinterpretation and debates of such words and biblical verses, especially for those of us gay. Frequently, I read beautiful excerpts, books or articles written by Catholic/Christian people, the clergy or the Pope himself, but often I stop and wonder why such beautiful words are not translated into concrete love-action for us LGBT people? I wonder and often feel lost. In this article I seek to ponder the issues of Obedience, Chastity and Poverty. These, I believe do lead us to the summits of Love, to Jesus Christ but can the LGBT community live up to them? Can the heterosexual world live up to them? Again…I wonder!
‘Your eyes could see my embryo.In your book all my days were inscribed,every one that was fixed is there.’
Ps 139: 16
‘But look, I am going to seduce herand lead her into the desertand speak to her heart.’
Hos 2: 16
‘But the hour is coming-indeed is already here-when true worshipperswill worship the Fatherin spirit and truth:that is the kind of worshipperthe Father seeks.God is spirit,and those who worshipmust worship in spirit and truth.’
Jn 4: 23-24
Monday, August 13, 2007
This article appeared in Notre Dame Magazine, Summer 2004, Vol. 33, No. 2, p. 34-38.
Mark gazed out the small window of his dorm room. It was Saturday morning and the bitter cold bleakness outside matched his mood. He may have made a mistake going to school so far north and so far from home, but he had chosen this school in northern Michigan because he loved the natural environment of the north country where he could ski, hike in the woods and
enjoy the serenity of this sparsely populated place. Mark also had thought college would bring people into his life who wanted a good educational experience, people with whom he could be open and find companionship. But the dream turned into a nightmare.
His anguish -- realizing that he was attracted to some of the young men around him and the conviction that those feelings would disgust people -- fed his terrible feeling of isolation and left him feeling numb. He didn't think it was his fault; he wondered if God had made him that way. But it wasn't a problem he could talk about, not to family, not to friends. No one could help
him. Even God didn't answer.
So on this Saturday morning Mark realized nothing really mattered anymore. It could only get worse. And while it frightened him -- having considered it for quite a long time -- he also knew how he could fix it. The only way to confront this demon was to end it all. Nobody would understand it anyway. He didn't understand it. But he knew he was gay, and he knew being gay
was an abomination. So he would put an end to his agony. Suicide, he had decided, would be less painful to his family than revealing to them who he really was.
So Mark sat down at the small table at the end of his bed. He picked up his pen and wrote:The fog thickens . . . I try to see through it at my paper and pen.
The fog thickens . . .
They pound and laugh all around me,
Their laughter a testimony to my despair
"All that you need is wine and good company.
I can be like them,
I am not alone.
I can be like them,
I will find happiness.
I cannot be like them,
I am alone
Why not just rest and forget about it?
Rest and forget about it.
Outside the wind howls.
Inside the silence howls.
It has been snowing for some time now,
And my soul is buried in a drift.
The wind blows too hard for the plows to clear the roads.
I am destined to die in a snow drift.
Then Mark went to the window and gazed at the gray blur of the winter storm. He thought: It will be easy. Just take that bottle of prescription pain killers. No more anguish. No more self-hatred. No more struggling. The hell with it then. God forgive me. And the thought became the act. The pills went down easily, and he lay down on the bed to die.
* * *
It was a sunny afternoon in San Francisco. My wife, Trish, and I had just arrived at our room in the Mark Hopkins Hotel for a business conference. It had been a long and tiring trip from Michigan. "Tom, look," Trish said, "these flowers are from Tracey." She was holding a mixed bouquet sent by our daughter, with a card that read: "Welcome to San Francisco. Call me when
we can get together. Love, Tracey." My wife sighed as she collapsed into the plush leather chair. "Aren't our kids wonderful?"
* * *
Raised in a traditional Catholic family during the 1930s and '40s, I enjoyed a thoroughly Catholic education, from elementary school through college. The church was a central part of my loving family. My two brothers and I were expected to excel in everything, but our grades in religion classes got special scrutiny.
After graduating from Notre Dame, I had a certitude about religion and morality. My understanding of the contemporary culture was defined by a black-and-white perspective on most issues. I felt comfortable expressing my views on those things, and often did. I was solidly Roman Catholic, more than proud of it and ready to defend it to anyone. My parents seemed
reasonably satisfied with the product of their labors, as we had survived the Depression and the Great War, and we were all healthy, college-educated offspring. It was the '50s, and I was a young man ready for career, marriage and family.
Trish came to our marriage as cloaked in traditional Catholicism as I did. She, too, had enjoyed 16 years of Catholic education, though she wasn't the cocksure moralist that I was. Typical of that time, our children came early and often. Having five girls and one boy in the first eight years of marriage was part of our education. We felt blessed with such healthy children, and I
often bragged about how we were "growing up with our kids." Life confronted us with the usual mundane hurdles all families experience, and we handled them as best we could.
Soon the children were entering the teen years, the church was adjusting to Vatican II, women were being liberated, the United States was at war in Vietnam, the moon was the latest frontier for human progress. Hippies were in vogue, a president was assassinated, immorality seemed rampant. Just about every norm that appeared certain was being assailed. The world was
going to hell and outer space at the same time.
Our best efforts couldn't totally shelter our family from the dangers and challenges of those days. However, armed with self-assurance and the absolute truth endowed to us by our Catholic background, we confronted each issue with confidence. We sought opportunities to promote family discussions, and our dinner hours evolved into a ritual of stimulating conversation. We would discuss any topics that any family member wanted to explore.
I indulged in a lot of preaching during those family sessions. Often, I simply pronounced the official church teaching as the final word on various issues. I cautioned my children to beware of all the false propaganda that bombarded them from virtually every source. When they were confronted with a difficult choice, I urged them to consider the right thing to do. I would stress: "Use your intellect. Decide for yourself. What does the data say?" I wanted these as family mottoes. Of course, Vatican II challenged some of my long-held convictions. Still, my immutable Catholic dogma continued to fortify my comfort. In hindsight, I now realize I was suffering from an intellectual coma. My brain was in hibernation.
* * *
As we returned to our room after our first day of the seminar, we saw the red message light on the phone blinking urgently. My wife checked in with the operator while I mixed a couple of drinks. As I handed a glass to her, she looked puzzled and alarmed. The message was from my doctor. Some tests I'd taken just before leaving for San Francisco indicated a serious cardiac condition. I was to avoid any strenuous activity and see him as soon as I got homee.
* * *
Eventually, at a few of these dinnertime discussions, the subject of homosexuality was ever so timidly broached. "What do you think, Dad?" I don't remember who asked the question, but it wouldn't have been Mark. It had to be one of the girls. They liked to challenge "Dad's agenda." While I'd have preferred to avoid anything relating to sexuality, my answer was fairly easy, and it came quickly. I knew the words of the magisterium: "An abomination. Sex is reserved for marriage. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Natural law. Et cetera." Concluding with a short lecture on the virtue of chastity, I clearly conveyed, "End of discussion . . . next topic." It was a well-intentioned automatic response, but one that avoided open dialogue of a difficult topic. Little did I realize the struggle my son was undergoing at the time. My brilliant pontificating was stifling his attempts to communicate and secretly causing him to question the worth of his very existence.
* * *
Taking a stroll in San Francisco two days later, Trish gently posed a question that was to impact my life far more than the doctor's report that I'd been dwelling on. "I've been worrying about Mark," she said. "He's been seeing a lot of one young man and hasn't been dating girls. The thought of it scares me. Does it scare you?" My initial reaction was a quick little laugh. Then, a bit sarcastically, I said, "Relax. There's nothing to worry about." But a wave of panic swept through me. My God! No. It couldn't be. The seeds of doubt took root. Dreading the prospect, I resolved to confront my son as soon as we returned.
* * *
Mark defied all the popular stereotypes I believed about what being gay means. I was sure I could recognize a gay person a mile off. But my son was just too masculine. He never displayed the effeminate traits that I was certain a homosexual male would exhibit.
I recalled as typical of his "masculine toughness" an incident when he was about 8 years old. One day, when he was to play in an important junior hockey game, he had a dental appointment to have five teeth pulled. His mother insisted that the hockey game was second priority. So, after a little nitrous oxide, the five teeth were extracted. Getting out of the dental chair fter this ordeal, Mark proceeded to the restroom where he promptly vomited. Then he calmly returned to his mother and said, "Now, can I please go to the hockey game?" She took him, and he played. This was my homosexual child? No way.
Nothing during Mark's childhood indicated any sign of homosexuality. There was none of the verbal violence many young gay people endure from earliest childhood; no derisive jeering, no "faggot" or "queer" talk. He was seemingly happy, well-adjusted and "straight."
Of course, there was that time in high school. Late afternoon one pleasant spring day, we received a phone call from Mark's after-school employer. Mark had not shown up for work. His employer said he was concerned because "Mark is never late. He's my most reliable employee." We didn't know where he might be, and a series of frantic telephone calls came to no avail.
Eventually, we discovered that our son had withdrawn all his savings from the bank, and he and two friends had taken a bus to Florida. While he soon telephoned to assure us of his safety, he had apparently resolved not to return. We were dumfounded. Fortunately, economics soon intervened. When his money had nearly run out, Mark was relieved to learn we would not only welcome him back, but we were ready to wire him the return plane fare as well.
This incident was definitely disturbing to us, so we decided Mark needed rofessional counseling. The counselor came highly recommended and with all the appropriate credentials. His evaluation quickly assured us that Mark's Florida escapade was little more than a "lark -- a healthy, youthful rebellion." His prompt conclusion: "Your son is a very normal, well-adjusted
and intelligent young person. It would be a waste of your money and my time to proceed any further." Without hesitation, my wife and I accepted his reassurance and breathed a sigh of relief.
* * *
My wife and I, like most parents, had hopes and dreams for each of our children. These entailed the usual trappings of health, education, spiritual welfare, material success and all the nuances these include. We wanted their lives to be happy and fulfilled. However, again like most parents, we unwittingly tried to fit our children into preconceived molds. Now, older and perhaps a little wiser, I marvel when I observe how different each of my adult children is. They are like startling reflections of the incomprehensible diversity of God's creation. Nevertheless, back then, this father certainly had some definite assumptions about his son's future. The possibility of homosexuality was a dim and distant issue about which I knew and cared little.
It has been said that possession of the absolute truth is the end of learning. While I understood there were many things that I didn't know, moral issues were not among them. I knew the rules, and I knew the reasons. The possibility of a gay son was not part of my plan. Not only was I unaware, but my pontificating moral certitude had actually been adding to his anguish. I
was unwittingly encouraging my son toward suicide. I did not know then that the suicide rate for young gay persons is three times that for other teens. Their struggle to accept their sexuality is too often a lonely battle devoid of family support, not unlike my son's. I fear that, like me, too many parents suffer from rigid moral convictions. Unfortunately, the result can be the ultimate of tragedies -- the loss of a child.
* * *
Mark's act of ultimate despair was overcome only through courage and God's amazing grace. Years later, when I learned of his suicide attempt, Mark would tell me that as he waited for death to release him, he went through what he could only describe as a unique religious experience in which God spoke to him in a special way. Somehow he abruptly realized that God had created him just as he was, and so there must be some good reason for being who he was. And that God surely accepted him as he had created him, and so Mark should do likewise. He ran to the bathroom and forced himself to vomit the pain killers he had taken. Had he reacted soon enough? The next 36 hours proved to be a benumbed and desperate struggle as he dragged through a drugged twilight, not daring to allow himself any sleep for fear there would be no morning. My son did survive his trauma. Mine was still to come.
My wife and I had returned from San Francisco. I was with Mark. We were alone in the car, returning home from the university for his semester break. Freeway traffic was light, and I had decided it was time to take the plunge. There was no prologue, no warning. I was abrupt and blunt. "Mark, are you gay?" He looked startled. After a long pause, he quietly said, "I don't want to talk about it." I thought a moment and said, "I guess you've just answered my question." To which he responded, again very quietly, "I guess so." With those three little words, the world came crashing down for me. Despite my mental preparation for this moment, I was speechless. We were almost home, and neither of us spoke another word for the rest of the trip. I was still in shock when we walked into the house. My wife looked at me and knew instantly that I had asked the question -- and what the answer had been.
* * *
My son's disclosure was a personal trauma. Initially, I didn't think about the implications for him. My immediate reaction was mostly self-focused. "What had I done wrong? What will family and friends think? Could he change? What should I do? What can I do?" My heartache alternated between anger and fear. This son of mine, who moments ago seemed so perfect, was now a torment. Of course I loved him still. But how could my son be gay? He wasn't like that. It simply wasn't plausible. I just had to fix it. Yet what could I do?
I realize today how little I knew. My level of understanding homosexuality encompassed little more than a now defunct Freudian theory that a homosexual child is the result of a weak father and a domineering mother. As part of my selfishness, it gave me some immediate solace to place the blame for this tragedy on my wife. Of course, it's her fault. A dominant woman! I thought. But I quickly found this strategy neither right nor helpful. It simply added stress to our marriage. Still, there was this weak father thing. I just couldn't accept that idea. Maybe there was something I could do. I realized I needed more information.
I began by reading every book or article available in the Detroit libraries. I had an insatiable need to learn everything I could about homosexuality. Gradually the myths began to dissolve. I learned that some 5 to 10 percent of the population is estimated to be homosexual. Homosexuality is probably not the result of environmental conditions but more likely genetic in origin. It is the general professional consensus that it cannot be changed and that attempts to do so can be distinctly harmful. The best minds in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, psychology and biology generally agree that homosexuality is a normal variant of the human condition and certainly not some disorder that requires treatment. Even during that period, without the Internet, there was plenty of "data" that homosexuality was a normal condition.
Following this phase of my education, I began to realize that this issue was about my son and not so much about me. My spell of self-indulgence was fairly brief, but I still feel sad that I wasn't more help to Mark, immediately and without any equivocation. He needed it. He deserved it. My intellect began to awaken from its hibernation. I felt more empathy, a virtue too rare in my past. My predilection for expectations of the conventional gave way to a frightening vision of my son's future. What was he going to face? It was not pleasant to contemplate.
The risks of violence, discrimination, harassment and ostracism are all too common for the gay community. The chances of my son being accepted as a normal member of society seemed to be slim to none. Otherwise decent people often oppose, with self-righteous moralistic railing, some of the most fundamental human rights for gays that the rest of us take for granted.
Homosexuality is not a condition I would have chosen for my son. So why now celebrate the gift of a gay son?
Since that disclosure some 20 years ago, because of Mark I have come to know many gay persons. We have dined together, walked together, traveled together, worshiped together, and laughed and cried together. I have some new stereotypes as a result. Almost without exception, I have found my gay friends to be likeable, loveable people of high integrity. More than that, most seem to have a resilience, a forbearance for life's burdens. I have been deeply moved by their tales of adversity overcome. I have seen them subjected to insults and abuse by their government, their churches, their neighbors, some even by their families, then seen them respond with a patience I envy. They have taught me how a quiet tenacity can achieve
uccess in the face of the most discouraging odds. I have watched gay people, young and old, routinely living lives of often heroic charity toward others, done without fanfare. It is a charity most of us professing Christians would find difficult to match, and it is too often accomplished while deprived of the nurture of "organized" religious groups that seem focused only on condemning them. By their example, they have shown me how to truly love my neighbor.
These experiences forced me to confront the fallacy of my former arrogant certitude. I realized that I had been given the opportunity to learn from everyone I meet in life, but that I had been passing up many potential professors. I resolved to attend all my classes in the future. Through my involvement in PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) I have come to know many other parents of gay children. I have learned about the anguish and abuse society irrationally inflicts on their families. It has been a journey to a new perspective that has enabled me to understand my own failings and the world around me better. My struggle to be more
fair-minded and less judgmental has been made easier.
I also have watched my children gain a unique appreciation of others. And I've found that not having all the answers has resulted in a closer, more trusting relationship with my God. It has been a bonus to watch Mark mature into the successful, happy adult that he is today.
Yes, Mark does experience more than the normal challenges of our culture than straight folks endure -- despite the fact that being gay is only one small part of who he is. Yet he now seems to shrug off most of those gay-related burdens. He prefers to think of them as society's problems, not his. His goal to lead a normal and happy life has been largely successful, but that other reality is always lurking in the background.
There is one challenge that gives me, his father, much anguish. It is his feeling of utter rejection by the Catholic church. After his long struggle to find a place in it for himself, it seems that too many official proclamations only remind him that he is considered depraved, disordered and intrinsically evil. He has given up on it. I am at a loss as to how to convince him otherwise. I've discovered that when I apply my newfound empathy, I had a tough time not reacting as he has. I can only continue to pray and wonder about what it all means. I try not to let it destroy my own love for the church. Sometimes I'm not too successful at it.
I know that many of my Christian fellows and others would take grave issue with some of my views. They would argue with sincerity the same positions I once so adamantly held. I am well aware of the popular biblical arguments that are used to condemn homosexuality. I am also glad that some of the best biblical scholars have given us new insight into those popular literal interpretations touted by many to support their castigation of homosexuality. Sadly, too, I regret the promiscuous immorality displayed by some in the gay community. Yet I doubt that any segment of our society has a monopoly on immorality; heterosexuals are certainly just as accomplished at this. I also share a deep concern for the welfare of what some describe as the "endangered" American family, but heterosexuals have done their share to break up marriages and threaten the health of the American family. And how can we justify the dishonest labeling as "special rights" those basic civil, legal and human rights the rest of us take for granted?
Much of our Christian rhetoric is anything but Christian. I have personally seen the tragic human consequences of intransigent, righteous moralizing. I nearly destroyed my own son with such "loving" dogmatic proclamations. Now, late in my journey, I find myself with more questions than when I started. Answers that I once was so sure of have fallen far short. Some have proven to be false. I have found many answers in unlikely places and from unlikely people. Most of the answers have given me joy; a few have made me sad. Many of my unanswered questions, my beloved church will not even address, acting as if "the data" were irrelevant. Like me, the church, too, has feet of clay. I realize now that the absolute truth is a far-off goal,
ttainable only in the hereafter. Perhaps now, though, I have a better understanding of humanity's common struggle. For a Christian, I think, the task is to try to comprehend and apply the truth and the full implications of Christ's final plea: "Love one another as I have loved you."
For me, discovering the complex meaning of this message has been a lengthy journey that continues to this day. It has been a difficult lesson for me, and one that might never have happened. But, fortunately, God gave me a gay son.
Yes, God gave me a gay son -- a fact I celebrate today -- a son who has had a most profound effect on my life. While it was obviously not his intention, Mark, just being who he is, has taught me more about myself, about the nature of the Creator, his unfathomable love, and the diversity of his creation, than perhaps all of the academic and social experiences of my past. I believe most parents would agree that they learn from their children, probably as much as they teach. I have certainly enjoyed this reward of parenting from all of my six children. Being the unique individuals they are, they have all taught me -- all in their own special way. But Mark had the
advantage of being gay.
Note: Author Tom Nelson was named to the Board of Directors of Fortunate families June 2006. For more information about Fortunate Families, visit www.fortunatefamilies.com.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
THE INTERVIEW WITH GOD
I dreamed I had an interview with God.
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, I am in the heart of God."
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
Well, as such things go, one thing led to another.
The sales manager went longer than anticipated and the meetingran overtime. Their flights were scheduled to leave out of Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and they had to race frantically tothe airport. With tickets in hand, they barged through the terminal to catch their flight back home.
In their rush, with tickets and brief cases, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a displayof baskets of apples.
Apples flew everywhere.
Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach theplane in time for their nearly-missed boarding.
All but one.
He paused, took a deep breath, got in touch with his feelings,and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned.
He told his buddies to go on without him, waved goodbye, toldone of them to call his wife when they arrived at their homedestination and explain his taking a later flight. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over theterminal floor.
He was glad he did. The 16 year old girl was totally blind!She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her; no one stopping,and no one to care for her plight.
The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them into the baskets, and helped set the display up once more.
As he did this he noticed that many of them had become batteredand bruised; these he set aside in another basket.
When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to thegirl, "Here, please take this $20 for the damage we did. Are you okay?" She nodded through her tears. He continued on with, "I hope we didn't spoil your day too badly."
As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girlcalled out to him, "Mister...."
He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes.
She continued, "Are you Jesus?"
He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered. Then slowly he madehis way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul:
"Are you Jesus?"
Do people mistake you for Jesus?That's our destiny, is it not?To be so much like Jesus that people cannot tell the differenceas we live and interact with a world that is blind to His love, life and grace.
If we claim to know Him, we should live, walk and act as Hewould. Knowing Him is more than simply quoting Scripture andgoing to church. It's Actually living the Word as life unfolds day to day.
You are the apple of His eye even though we, too, have beenbruised by a fall. He stopped what He was doing and picked youand me up on a hill called Calvary and paid in full for our damaged fruit.
Let's start living like we are worth the price He paid.
Sexual attraction and expression differs for each individual. Sexual fulfilment can be achieved in a myriad of ways that do not necessarily involve both male and female genitals. I've often read that the most important sex organ the human being has is the brain.
The complementarity in same sex couples is based on their attraction and love for each other and this includes the desire for sexual intimacy. I can assure Ms Calleja that our ability "to generate light" is not in the least affected. In fact, some studies on sexuality found that orgasm is much more common among lesbians than heterosexual women.
Gay people are not infertile and increasingly, more of us are choosing to be parents. The children of same sex couples are likely to be more loved and cared for because for us, parenthood is not simply an accident which happens as a consequence of sex, but an event which requires deliberate planning.
Since we are intelligent and creative beings, "a village hypothetically inhabited solely by homosexual couples" would acknowledge the need for sperm banks and surrogate mothers, and is, therefore, as likely to flourish as one populated by heterosexuals.
Since same sex couples generate mostly heterosexual offspring, the village would soon cease to be populated solely by gay people.
It seems to me that Ms Calleja, though strikingly loyal to official teaching, in a letter which could almost have been written by a member of the Curia, completely misses the point.
It is obvious that those writing letters to this newspaper about "homosexuality" do not need such reminders. They seem to be well versed and knowledgeable on the Church's teachings, on the Bible itself and about those Biblical verses which appear to be referring to "homosexuality" - out of which the teachings spring.
Sadly, Ms Calleja's remarks seem to be intended neither for gay people, nor for those who know and love them. She certainly shows no familiarity with gay people or gay couples. Her arguments on complementarity and sterility only convince those who are not personally involved in the matter.
I encourage Ms Calleja to find a more credible way of talking to those who are long past this sort of treatment. Many of us have taken much courage from Pope Benedict's reminder to us faithful Catholics, that we must use reason even when approaching matters of faith, or else it is mere fundamentalism.
With regards to the gay issue, as James Alison has pointed out, the Catholic question we need to ask is: Is there or is there not such a thing as humans who are gay? If there are, then all arguments, such as those adduced by Ms Calleja, which presuppose that gay people are defective heterosexuals, are not worth the paper they are written on.
Facing up to this is a question of truth and as Jesus tells us, the truth will set us all free.
I agree with Jacqueline Calleja (Sexual Complementarity, July 31).
In the eyes of the Church, gay people are not sexually complementary because sex between two men or two women cannot produce babies.
Actually, sex between a heterosexual couple is also unacceptable unless it happens within the holy sacrament of marriage and for the purpose of reproduction.
As mechanical as that may sound, the point is gay people at large do
not fit into the Church's definition of marriage as it requires a couple to get married with the prime intent of having as many children as possible.
Ms Calleja's letter misses one crucial point, however. I have never asked for gay marriage within the Church.
The Church excludes openly gay people in many ways. Gay people are discouraged from becoming priests and nuns, gay couples are not allowed to get married, and homosexuality has often been described as immoral, evil, and, quoting the Bible, an abomination.
Before receiving Communion, a gay person is required to confess and redeem. But honestly, how can I redeem, when I love that person I have just made love to?
The Church has always been an exclusive club, and I am perfectly happy to not be a part of it. I excluded the Church as soon as I realised that it was excluding me.
I know I will never be able to change the Church's way of thinking, and quite frankly, I do not feel it is my responsibility. But I will not accept someone telling me that I cannot be with the man I love by quoting the Church's definition of marriage.
I am not even going to comment on Ms Calleja's theory of two sockets or two plugs - that's physics not human behaviour. But I cannot help pondering on the idea of the gay village.
Ms Calleja naïvely hypothesises that a gay village would eventually become deserted. Here she misses yet another point: Heterosexual couples will keep producing gay and lesbian people in other villages to keep the gay village thriving, because gay people are a natural occurrence within the norm of the human species. The vast majority of gay people are children of heterosexual couples of course!
I do not care if Ms Calleja does not view gay marriage and heterosexual marriage as having the same value. But I am severely disgusted at any government that makes that same mistake - especially when its reasoning has a purely religious foundation.
It has been said so many times, in so many different ways, so I will not even try to say it in a unique way: Keep the Church and the State separate.
And on that note, let me finish off by saying this, also for the nth time: It is not the sacrament that same-sex couples are after, but outright laws that protect their union.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
*This prayer originated in Amsterdam in 1951. Since that time it has received many imprimaturs. After the local bishop consulted with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in regard to the prayer, the Congregation approved the text of the prayer but with the directive to change the original phrase "who once was Mary" to "the Blessed Virgin Mary", due to possible misunderstanding (October 30, 2006).
There is a special blessing given each day to the person who carries it and another blessing given each time one looks at it with love.
Hail brilliant Rose of the Garden of heavenly delights:
O you, by whom God wanted to be born and by whose milk the King of Heaven wanted to be nourished! Nourish our souls with effusions of divine grace. Amen!
At the hour when the soul which has thus greeted me quits the body I’ll appear to them in such splendid beauty that they’ll taste, to their great consolation, something of the joys of Paradise.
The blessed Virgin Mary to St. Gertrude the Great. (Revelations book III, chapter XVIII)
I refer to the letter Sexual Complementarity (July 31). From the letter I can presume that Jacqueline Calleja is of Caucasian race and of middle to upper class status, heterosexual, Catholic and possibly a married person - all the ingredients necessary for a person to face no racial, religious or sexual discrimination in Malta and furthermore be given social and political privileges.
It is a known fact that the traditional family that Ms Calleja portrays (married men and women with children borne in wedlock) is on the way to becoming a minority group. Some might see it as a negative thing because of all the secularisation that is taking place and the "breakdown of Christian values". However, this notion of the traditional family is putting extra pressure on groups who consider themselves as families but cannot be accepted culturally and socially by society at large. As a result, we are witnessing a breakdown of persons instead.
With her letter, Ms Calleja is not only discriminating against homosexuals, but also unmarried parents, single mothers and fathers, children out of wedlock, separated spouses, families of other religions and ethnicities, and so forth. This strict view of how a family should be and how children should be conceived because the teachings of the Catholic Church say so, is making the above mentioned people's lives a daily struggle because of the stigma they carry.
I therefore suggest to Ms Calleja and those who share her same views to re-examine their reasoning when it comes to preaching the Church's teachings and reflect a bit on what is really important - whether to follow word for word and burn at the stake those who do not fit into that box or challenge our views to widen and appreciate the diverse situations and peoples that exist so that we can live in a society which fosters acceptance and promotes equal opportunities for all. In the end, we all need each other.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
I recently came across photographs of this year's Gay Pride March in Valletta. All three parties were represented by a trio of politicos - Louis Galea, Evarist Bartolo and Harry Vassallo. All in all it was merely a handful of brave people who turned up, myself not included, to demonstrate against the prevalent discriminatory social laws and, even worse, the negative attitudes that the homosexual, whether male or female, must face in everyday life; pitfalls and snares that are unimaginable to those whose genetic make-up is uncomplicatedly hetero, hurts and slights that are pies in the sky for the majority, emargination and discrimination that are caused by misunderstanding and lack of information on both sides. Nobody in their right mind would choose to be gay if he or she could have a say in the matter as it creates untold complications and traumas that render life far less of a picnic than it is already.
It was a good thing that the token MPs were there lending some officialdom to a group that represents and is attempting to address the most difficult of issues. It is about time that Malta and his wife realised that the days when we could put these social problems in a convenient closet are over as every year more and more people "come out of the closet" declaring that they are of a different sexual orientation than the majority.
I never thought it was anybody's business but my own as to whom I choose to share my bed with. I can think of nothing more private and personal. I was under the impression that it had not affected my persona as an artist and writer at all, or if I did, it was not all that negative or detrimental to my being able to lead a pleasant life surrounded by my many, many friends whom I love very much and who, I am sure, love me too. I have always loved people; maybe being an only child had something to do with it, however as I get older I find that, no matter how many friends surround and support you, we are all, hetero or not, very much alone as we make our way inexorably to our final destination. Having mutually empathic and honest relationships goes a long way to ease the burden of this human imposition. Crosses are easier to bear when one has a little help from one's friends.
What prompted me to write this was the alarming increase of homophobic letters in this paper negating all the mutual understanding and acceptance of how the other "third" lives that most of us have long taken for granted.
I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that there actually are people who are ready to put pen to paper spouting all sorts of quotations from the Bible. I have nothing against the good book, far from it, however we have to keep things in perspective here. The books wherein these extracts were taken were written several thousand years ago with the sole aim of keeping an evolving nomadic people united and strong by the simple expedient of increasing and multiplying it at all costs.
Then we had other people comparing men and women to plugs and sockets, out of all things! We had others who opined that homosexuality was a dangerously fashionable trend and that young people are trying it out for fun as if it were a pair of even more low-cut designer jeans!
Oddly enough these correspondents were mostly women, which I find strange as I have always found women, of all ages and social stratae, far more understanding and supportive than their male counterparts who prefer less complication and sophistry in their lives. Women, along with the homosexual twilight world, have, for millennia, been the object of suppression and emargination. Women's rights are still relatively new in the most enlightened parts of the world. I know people who have actually met suffragettes. These rights are non-existent in many others; far too many in fact. It is interesting to note that, while these backward bigoted communities still stone adulteresses and allow husbands to beat their wives and fathers to strangle disobedient daughters as a matter of course, homosexuals are hanged. We cannot accept this state of affairs in what we would like to call a "civilised" world can we? Of course not!
Our schooled, logical minds have been trained to apply a label to everything in order to keep them under control. If something is ambiguous or obscure then people get confused; should it be incomprehensible, they panic.
Homosexuality is incomprehensible in a world that we all desperately try to keep in order by continually categorising what's in it. The reasons why it exists, apart from being totally lost in the mists of time, are still very much under continual discussion and are as variable as Heinz 57. Although it is an accepted fact that people are born that way and that the gene can be inherited, making it an integral component of the natural world, there are still people who think that homosexuality is unnatural and that people can be born heterosexual and be corrupted into becoming homosexual.
There are also those who believe that people who are born homosexual can, with careful nurturing, for which one must read, brainwashing, become heterosexual.
Both theories are a load of codswallop. What is happening is that, with general sexual liberation, many people are more open to understanding the world around them and that is all.
So it should be a matter of total unimportance should your neighbours be gay or not, shouldn't it?
Sexual liberation has produced a jaded palate in as far as sex is concerned. Nudity has actually lost its attraction as we are confronted with it everywhere.
All this exposure has had another detrimental effect other than jading the sexual palate, which I find even more dangerous. The regular and relentless marketing of "body beautiful" in the media has created a huge inferiority complex in all of us mere mortals who do not live in a gym or a beauty parlour and do not look like statues by Praxiteles. This bombardment of "flesh" causes people to feel very insecure should they not fit the "fashionable" requirements of what is considered to be beauty. It causes much unhappiness and, occasionally, has tragic results too.
Today's Malta presents a strange and complex scenario wherein, by and large, sexual and social irregularity is tacitly accepted. The acceptance of affairs of all kinds was always governed by a code of conduct that was like a gracious minuet; constrained by strict unwritten rules practised by both parties. The dictum made famous by Patrick Campbell that as long as one did things behind closed doors it was fine, as long as one did not frighten the horses in the street. Hers was a code that epitomised the pretty lax morality of the naughty 1990s and Edwardian England.
What Gay Rights and Gay Pride wish to achieve is the eradication of hypocrisy, which is all very well and good. The fear is that, in doing so too vociferously, they may awaken and provoke a disproportional sleeping tiger of homophobia and do more harm than good. It is indeed a great risk and a very brave choice, the results of which are highly uncertain.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
In response to Tom Davies (The Sunday Times, July 22) I believe in the Bible, that it is the word of God albeit in the words of men. God is the principal author but He makes use of human ones to write His book.
I believe, not because I see, but because I obey, that every word of it is inspired. Inspiration means that God wills each and every word to be written as it is even though He does not dictate what the human authors write. He lets the human authors write according to their own genius, knowledge, customs, conventions, etc. yet it is He who moves them to do so.
What they write may contain historical, scientific, cultural and even ethical mistakes, yet God wanted all that to be put on record in His book in the very words the human authors used. He does not dictate to them, He leaves them free to be themselves with all their human capabilities and limitations. He remains the principal author of the various books that comprise the Bible, but the human element is there also. Hence the need to interpret and sift the divine from the human in the writings. The quotations which Mr Davies uses are words which God wanted to be put on record in His book in the very words they are written, at least in the original. But that does not mean that He approves of them.
We believe that Jesus is the same God, the divine word, who inspired the words he quotes, yet declared that all food is clean. Jesus, probably referring to elements to which Mr Davies also refers, said: "It was said to those of old to love your friends and hate your enemies, but I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who harm you". When Jesus' enemies wanted to trap him they brought to him a woman caught in adultery who according to Mosaic law should have been stoned to death.
Jesus showed them that Moses had ordered many other things which they were not observing and which they should observe before thinking of putting this one into practice. Do please remember that there are many other elements in the Bible which really make it holy besides the one that struck Mr Davies (and me!)
I do share his feelings and I am glad about that. What he sensed I do also and any good Christian should. These are not divine but human elements and should be roundly condemned. It is dangerous to speculate about what makes God do what He does. We would have to have His infinite wisdom to really understand Him. But could it be that (like a good novelist!) He did not fill his holy book only with pious and holy things but also with shocking ones to make us realise what the spirit of Christ is gradually bringing us out of?
I hope that what I wrote means something to Mr Davies. I invite him to continue the debate by writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am leaving Malta for Sudan today.
Friday, August 3, 2007
I am shocked that in 2007 someone can still use the words "heterosexual", "healthy" and "normal" as synonyms, insinuating that if one does not fit into the heterosexual category one is unhealthy and abnormal. Any respected doctor, psychologist or lay person will tell you that there is nothing unhealthy and abnormal with being gay or bisexual. There is also nothing wrong with questioning and exploring one's own sexuality.
Contrary to what Ms Bruce is claiming, there is no proof that gay relationships are increasing in any age group, social class or country. All we know is that homosexuality is slowly becoming more accepted in most of the Western world and therefore gay people are more open than they were years ago. This should cause no alarm because throughout human history, and even within the majority of animal communities, there has always been a percentage of the population that engages in gay relationships. This has never caused extinction or any "huge mix up" as Ms Bruce so eloquently put it. This is simply a natural and normal occurrence that should be accepted. And yes, this acceptance should be encouraged.
What is worrying is not that homosexuality is starting to be more accepted, but that the closed-minded, intolerant and ignorant mentality of homophobes is still prevalent around the world. This attitude is what causes a third of teenage suicides, countless incidents of bullying, torture, beatings and murder of gay men and women, as well as an alarming rate of young people left rejected, abandoned and homeless after telling their families they are gay.
If you are gay or bisexual, coming out of the closet and being open about your sexual orientation is probably the most difficult hurdle you will ever face. No one would choose to do that if it was not something they had to do. No one would choose the segregation, bullying, fear and worry, had there been a shred of doubt in their minds that this is who they are.
Claiming that coming out of the closet is just a fashion statement or that being gay is something people choose to be cool, is highly offensive to gay people because it undermines all they had to go through to accept who they are and share that with their family and friends in a world where being gay is still a huge taboo, especially in a conservative and traditional society like Malta.