Category Archives: Religion
The Millennial Memory…
I was going to defer this commentary until after Dan posted his commentary and addenda to the bowdlerized PBS Whitman hagiography which, while it was a nice attempt, proved once again how subtly Gay people and beautiful same sex love can be written out of history…no sin but omission. But I can’t wait…and since we offered Father John McNeill’s views on things, I feel moved to share my own point of view of this…
The Pope is in America…and everyone is so worked up and excited.
Your first clue that this stinks is George Bush is receiving him at the White House. Church and State, once again, cozy at the highest levels. We live in an age of hypocrisy and perhaps the only way to be able to get out of bed in the morning is to at the very least, call it what it is.
I’m particularly taken with the media coverage of it all that, while reminding folks of the “controversy” — that is corporate media’s Mother’s Milk (ka-ching!) — it still manages to gloss over with what is bewilderingly called “balance” these days, with the moony-eyed musings of the “faithful” contrasted with the last seething furious gasps of the thousands of men and boys who have been molested, as though they have equal merit. And somehow they manage to leave out the part where this Pope, in his former job as head of what was the office of the Inquisition in another time, instructed those in charge…those responsible for protecting children (hello Texas!) …to play it out for time so the statutes of limitations would take effect. Bill Maher nails this one beautifully in his recent “Rules.”
But what I am reminded of as we watch the flash and the dash, the pomp and the circumstance, the gold and the satin, the grandeur and the theater of it all, of the Papacy paraded before us as though this was some moral model, is something I was told when I was, years ago, the Parish Council Chairman of Holy Trinity Parish on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
One of my closest friends in those days was a Franciscan priest who was living at the parish (not diocesan, in other words). He shall remain nameless here, because he continues to be a priest…a Gay priest, I might add, who loved his cocktails a little too much…and if reports are true, now the Pastor of a parish in one of the bigger primary states. I loved Michael, and still do, even though I haven’t seen him in years, and I would never want to cause him any embarrassment. Michael was a good friend of the “Saint of 9/11” Mychal Judge, and is the reason I meet Father Judge many years ago.
Anyway…probably the most interesting idea Fr. Michael passed along to me was the idea of the “institutional memory” of the Roman Catholic Church. His point was this: the Church views time in a different way than the rest of the hoi polloi.
I was all ready for some mystical take on time and eternity and what-have-you. But no. What he meant was the Church and its hierarchy view time in a “millennial view.” That was the term he used. A millennial view. The very long millennial view. In other words: these things shall pass. A century from now, who will remember? Who will be around to remember? The Church will still be there, of course, but generations of regular folks come and go…and they die. They forget. All that is remembered after a while, say a generation…maybe two…ok, three… is the flash and the dash, the pomp and the circumstance, the gold and the satin, the grandeur and the theater of it all. So…a hundred years…a mere blink of an eye, if that, to an institution like the Catholic Church…200 years…what is 200 years to an institution that has been around in cozy bed with the powers of the world for 2000 years? The one thing this millennial view affords is priceless: people will forget. Who remembers the Inquisition? Who, nowadays, even cares? Who remembers what was done to American Indians in the name of Christianity?
And who…a thousand years from now, will remember the hundreds of thousands of boys who were molested, abused? And how the Church worked not to wash it clean with the cleansing light of day, but to hide it away until the secular laws ran out the clock? How does an institution pull off something like an Inquisition and still maintain the illusion of moral probity? How does an institution pull off something like not only the on-going molestation and abuse of thousands of children, but covering it up and paying people off for years…
Sleepy…you’re getting sleepy. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about these matters.
Father will take care of it for you. Rest your head in his satin-covered lap as he bathes you in incense and architecture and unctuous oils and candles…the flash and the dash, the pomp and the circumstance, the gold and the satin, the grandeur and the theater of it all…
And soon you will forget…
On the Occasion of the Pope Coming to Town
Many interesting things come over our transom…this from the esteemed John J. McNeill, on the arrival of Joseph "God’s Rottweiller" Ratzinger (wasn’t this guy on Cheers?) on our shores (traveling under his nom de power "Pope Benedict XVI"):
Toward a Theology of Fallibility
When Pope Benedict comes to Ground Zero in New York City he will be greeted by a giant banner with a painting of Michael Judge, the Gay Franciscan priest, whose life is recorded in the documentary, Saint of 9/11. That banner signifies the ambiguous state of many Gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics toward the Pope. We share the respect and love of the Catholic community for the Vicar of Christ and wish him well. At the same time we are profoundly aware of how wrong he is in his understanding and judgment on Gayness as “intrinsic disorder”. We are deeply conscious that we cannot accept and live out his teaching on homosexuality without destroying our mental and spiritual health. What is bad psychology has to be bad theology. We find ourselves in the same position as children of a homophobic parent, who, while still loving their parent, must separate off and take distance from that parent’s homophobia, if they are to live happy and healthy lives.
We Roman Catholic Gays have found it necessary to undergo the same maturing process in our spiritual lives that Jesus asked his disciples to undergo at the last supper. “I shall ask the Father and he will send you another Paraclete to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth.” (John 14: 16-17) Jesus stressed the point that it was necessary that he should go away in order for the Spirit to come. “Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this. Still, I am telling you the truth; it is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go. I will send him to you….However, when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you to the complete truth.” (John 16: 6-13)
Why could the Spirit of Truth only come after Jesus’ death? Because as long as Jesus remained alive and present, his disciples had their center of authority outside themselves and were not totally responsible for their actions. They were striving to meet the expectations of a provident leader. They had not yet become fully creative and responsible adults. But after Jesus’ death, his Spirit became what Paul saw as the source of the “Glorious Freedom of the Children of God”. “The proof that you are sons and daughters is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba’, Father; and it is this that makes you a son or daughter, you are not a slave anymore’. Pagans were not free but slaves in relation to their gods because they related to their gods in a spirit of fear. John tells us “Perfect love cast out all fear. It is equally true that perfect fear casts out all love.” Christians are free because their God is a God of love who had adopted them into his family. “All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons or daughters of God, for what you have received was not the spirit of slavery, to bring you back into fear, you have received the Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:14-17)
With the death of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles received a challenge as well as an opportunity to mature. As Paul expressed it, “…until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect human, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.” (Eph. 4:13). The apostles had to give up the security of a provident leader; they had to begin to find out what God wanted from them from within themselves and their own experience.
In like manner, in our spiritual life, we Roman Catholic Gay people must pass from a passive, dependent role to an active, creative one. For our survival we have a special need to become mature, self-motivated, autonomous people, no longer dependent on outside homophobic sources for a sense of our identity and well-being. We must not let our enemies outside ourselves define us; we must let the Spirit of love that dwells within our hearts define us. As the Catholic philosopher Maurice Blondel expressed it: “Our God dwells within us and the only way we can become one with that God is to become one with our authentic self”.
It is this understanding of the role of the indwelling Holy Spirit that gives me great consolation during these times when the Catholic Church reacts to its Gay members in ignorance and even downright hostility. We Gays should be grateful to God for creating a humanly fallible Church. We are intensely aware that if our parents had been infallible we could never have matured and become autonomous and responsible adults. God blessed us with finite and fallible parents. It was precisely when and where our parents proved fallible that we were challenged to take distance from their authority, make our own choices and be fully responsible for them.
In a similar way, as Gay Roman Catholics we are dependent on the human fallibility of religious authorities in order to develop an adult freedom of conscience. I believe that we are witnessing the coming into being of what I call the Church of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. After forty years of ministry with Lesbian and Gay persons, as both priest and psychotherapist, I am convinced that a unique spirituality, special and vibrant, is springing up in the Christian Gay community. It is spirituality totally compatible with a life of Gay sexual love and intimacy. As scripture says “the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Mark 12:18) Gays are leading the way to form a spiritual community based on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s special presence in the Gay Christian community and the unique graces which are enabling Lesbians and Gays to build a mature, autonomous spiritual life are not just gifts meant for the Gay Christian community alone. When God pours out special blessings on one segment of the community, those blessings are meant to flow out and be shared by the human community at large.
The Church of the Holy Spirit will be a Church in which all are equal, no hierarchy, no clergy as a separate caste, no domination of men over women. Leadership in the Church of the Holy Spirit will be based on careful listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying through the people of God. A recent event makes me believe that God is working overtime to bring about the transformation of the Catholic Church into the Church of the Holy Spirit. President Lech Kaczynski of Poland in a March 17 televised speech to the nation, echoing the Vatican position, warned that the adoption of the European Lisbon Treaty would compel Poland to recognize same-sex marriages, which he linked to the end of “moral order”. To make his point the president used footage of the 2003 wedding of Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton in Canada. As a result of that speech a media frenzy moved Brendan and Tom out of obscurity and they became world famous. Brendan and Tom are devout Gay Roman Catholics who see their marriage as a sacred bond blessed by God. The Holy Spirit is ultimately in charge of the Church and will transform it so that it becomes one with the realm of God. We who are Gay and Catholic pray daily that the hierarchy will hear what the Spirit is saying through the people of God and cooperate with the Spirit’s transformation of the Church.
John J. McNeill John J. McNeill, author of The Church and The Homosexual, Taking A Chance on God, Freedom, Glorious Freedom, and Both Feet Planted Firmly in Midair. The Reverend McNeill can be reached at email@example.com
Gay Muslim Life
A fascinating documentary from the BBC. This is part 1 of 6 and I found it an amazing glimpse into gay life in Muslim countries. The attention to the position of homosexuality in Islamic law is so helpful as is the expression of outsider status of Gay Muslims in the Gay community.
I would be interested to see if there exist counter-views to this documentary. It is a powerful statement.
Repressed Thinking 102
So in the midst of a long and interesting interview about the state of the Catholic church, a little nugget of worldview pops up in the words of the former master general of the Dominicans:
"We have to see that behind much of the furor is fear and these fears are comprehensible. There is a fear among straight priests of becoming a member of a small minority in what is perceived as a "gay’ vocation." There is a fear among some homosexual priests of being found out, a feeling of guilt and so on. We have to reassure people so that the issue can be faced calmly. If there is a fevered anxiety about all this, then it does not help people mature and face their own complexity. It is not the case that there are just these two groups, homosexuals and heterosexuals. People are complex, and have contrary motions in their hearts. Straight people may be tempted to strangle the little bit of them that responds to people of the same sex and fear gay people. But that is a disguised form of fearing themselves. And gay seminarians may be tempted to deny who they are, adopt an anti-gay rhetoric, and all that is highly unhealthy and deforming.
It is important also that someone’s sexual orientation is not the most important thing about them, as if everyone was a sexual maniac, endlessly wanting to get other people into bed. The most important thing about anyone, regardless of whether they are gay or straight, is that they be able to love, and that they are helped to love well, deeply, honestly, transparently," – Timothy Radcliffe, OP, former master general of the Dominicans in an interview with Busted Halo.
How telling that Radcliffe’s very first association (actually the only as far as I can tell) with "sexual orientation" is of "sex mania." In the mind of the life-long repressed, sexual orientation itself equals mania. And if we’re to be serious here, read "homosexuality" when one says "sexual orientation" because that term only comes up in conversations about homosexuality. You never find heterosexuals speaking of their own loving as an orientation. Very rarely, unless the conversation is taking place in a group that is known to include people of multiple orientations.
So, orientation/homosexuality can only be understood in this mindset as the extreme and the pathological.
I hope that Mr. Radcliffe can continue in his journey and achieve a greater perspective that also speaks to the intrinsic nature of goodness involved in sexual orientation.
A very funny piece, but also quite clarifying when the "reporter" starts challenging Rev. Jensen on the thornier part of the Bible.
My favorite line: "Lucky I had Leviticus to protect me!"
Christian Gene Therapy
Seems relief is on the way, thanks to the Pink Tiger Research Center:
The Netherlands’ highest court on Tuesday rejected a Gay Iranian’s last-ditch appeal to avoid deportation to Britain, where he fears authorities will send him back to Tehran and possible execution.
Mehdi Kazemi, 19, traveled to Britain to study in 2005 and applied there for asylum after learning that his male lover in Iran had been executed for sodomy. After British authorities rejected Kazemi’s application, he fled and applied for asylum in the Netherlands.
Upholding a ruling by the Dutch government, the Council of State said Britain is responsible for Kazemi’s case because he applied for asylum there first. European Union rules say the member state where an asylum seeker first enters the bloc is responsible for processing that person’s claim.
"There should be some political leadership," he said in an interview. "I hope in Britain they will do it, and otherwise we should take the boy."
Because of Iran’s persecution of Gays, the Netherlands typically relaxes its tough asylum rules when considering applications by Gay Iranians — virtually guaranteeing asylum to any who apply here. However, because Kazemi had already applied for asylum in Britain and been rejected, the Dutch government refused to consider his case, insisting he return to Britain.
Britain’s Home Office has declined comment, saying it does not discuss individual asylum applications.
However, Britain’s Border and Immigration Agency has issued a statement that could give Kazemi hope: "We examine with great care each individual case before removal and we will not remove anyone who we believe is at risk on their return."
James Alison on Gay Catholicism
James Alison has a very well written meditation on being a Gay Catholic on his site (link).
Two fine excerpts:
You may have tried to talk informally about being a gay Catholic to a priest, or even a Bishop, whom your gaydar has picked up as likely to be “family”, and you will have noticed how, with all their desire to be friendly, a hidden check comes into their voice. A kind of internal restraining order means that when they say “you”, you can pick up that the “I” that is speaking has moved into a mode of masking, has become somehow official, and the “you” who is being spoken to is not being breathed into being, but somehow designated as ‘to be handled with extreme caution’. There is a “but” hovering in the background of the voice which speaks as loud as anything they say, because the “but” says “you, but not as you are”.
I don’t want to pretend that being an openly gay Catholic is something easy or obvious. It isn’t. For a start, merely the fact of your wanting to read a letter like this at all is a sign of how many obstacles you must have overcome already. You may have faced hatred and discrimination in your own country, from family members, at school, at the hands of legislators eager for cheap votes, through shrieking newspaper headlines that sear your soul, and in the glare of which you are speechless in your own defence. And you’ve probably noticed that at the very best, the Church which calls itself, and is, your Holy Mother has kept silent about the hatred and the fear. While all too often its spokesmen will have lowered themselves to the level of second-rate politicians, lending voice to hate while claiming that they are standing up for love. The very fact that, through and in the midst of, and despite, all these hateful voices, you should have heard the voice of the Shepherd calling you into being of his flock is already a miracle far greater than you know, preparing you for a work more subtle and delicate than those voices could conceive.
I had the immense pleasure of seeing an amazing play recently. What makes the pleasure all the more thrilling is that the play was written more than 400 years ago, by an ancestor who was nothing less than Shakespeare’s chief competition! As we plan the spring issue of White Crane on Ancestors, it was deeply satisfying to see this production made possible by no less than three major Gay allies or ancestors, Christopher Marlowe, Garland Wright and Edward II himself (kudos to the still with us — and with it! — Red Bull Artistic Director, Jesse Berger, too, of course!)
Starting with the historical Edward: he was the first "Prince of Wales." He is the king who established colleges in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge; he founded Cambridge’s King’s Hall in 1317 and gave Oxford’s Oriel College its royal charter in 1326. And yes, he did have a tendency to sort of ignore his "nobility" (pre-shadowing Whitman’s "working class camerado’s" by a couple of centuries) and run around with sexy, young minions. Marlowe took a collection of "favorites" and created the archetypal character of Piers Gaveston to represent Edward’s "proclivities." Companions had been brought over from France to teach the young prince how to be a gentleman. If they only knew. Ahhh…if we only knew.
The late Garland Wright was the visionary director and a leading figure in both the New York theater scene and the regional theater movement in America, most famously as the Artistic Director of The Guthrie Theater. He died at the tragically young age of 52 while in the middle of preparing this production of Christopher Marlowe’s legendary Edward II. His commitment to Gay causes, particularly his opposition to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell brought him to an interest in Marlowe’s Edward.
There is no way I can improve on the review of the play in the NY Times and other places. Does it ring any bells to say this is the story of a leader whose lover distracts him from his duties, tells the story of sexual obsession, religious power and the intersection of the political and personal lives of a flawed leader. Throw in some church/state tensions and you might well be talking yesterday, not 400+ years ago. Add Queer As Folk’s blond boy Randy ("Justin") Harrison in a featured (and, I might add, impressive…newly hirsute-for-this-play Mr. Harrison is virtually unrecognizeable, "boy " no more…this man can act!) role, and you have a damned sexy and theatrically fascinating evening.
It is tempting (and wrong) to believe that the modern GLBT civil rights movement is the first time a movement has attempted to upset the social order (and despite what the assimilationists would have you believe, this is what it’s about, dear ones) and create an alternative to traditional gender roles, definitions of sexuality and hierarchal power structures. It is bracing to realize that Marlowe was doing this 400 years ago, before there was any other word for who we are than "sodomy." There was no "Gay," no "homosexual," no "same-sex love." It was sodomy, plain and simple, and a clear demonstration of the implicit role church has played in statecraft since its earliest days.
Further, this is the story that first turned this writer off Mr. Mel Gibson, waaaay before his drunken, entitled, anti-Semitic outbursts. His gratuitous and flat out historically wrong-headed re-telling of the murder of Edward’s beloved, Piers Gaveston, in Braveheart, where Gibson has Edward’s father (who was dead before any of the gist of the story we know happened) throw Gaveston out of a tower to his death made Gibson persona non grata in my eyes. Hollywood’s traditional "kill the queer" has never been more distasteful to me than it was in that horrible movie.
But, back to happier stories…the king and his beloved frolic on a wildly sexy set, in costumes (and the tasteful lack thereof) that reinvents the whole "suit and tie" Shakespeare fad. This play is gripping, intellectually and visually, from the dimming of the lights to the last ovation.
In a word: Run, don’t walk, to see this play at the Red Bull Theater on 42nd Street. Its run has been extended through the end of January. This is a must-see.