Pride, (Dis)Grace, Solitude

In an earlier piece, I wrote as follows:

Life moves on, positively, at least on balance. A few years ago, when I attended the wedding reception of my gay Conservative co-worker (yes, those anti-gay marriage Conservatives), I was struck by how refreshing it was to see people flaming without a care. This is who I am, and I deny nothing. The only one at the reception who reminded me of the whipped shower scene was someone from the House of Commons who wasn’t yet out. Have to be so very tight and neutral, dontcha know, since so many people think I am still looking for the right woman.

Other dimensions. The Conservative colleague came from an evangelical Christian tradition, and had attended Bible College. He ended up married in the United Church, because no other church would marry them, and religious marriage was very important to him. He was uncomfortable with the United Church, he told me, because “they are too liberal”. He wanted to be married in the tradition he knew. Somebody who cranked up the Christmas carols at home, at of early December. Somebody with tattoos–religious themes, on his back.

Where does the gay Catholic go? Where does the gay Muslim go? Know an “out” person who has a leadership role in his Anglican congregation…but what does one do if the only religious tradition that makes sense is the one that reviles what one does not choose, but who one is?

In the past year, attended a presentation of Muslims for Progressive Values. Impressed to encounter diversity of perspectives in what is often perceived to be a hardline and intransigent religion, at least in Western eyes. On the other hand, found them to be far too liberal. Imagine a number of gay Muslims would feel similarly.

Invited to an evangelical congregation. Want to hear a colleague preach. Can’t go. Nowhere in the zone, and no pew in the back. In Catholic context, nobody knows you, unless you want to be known. Can sit alone, and nobody wonders why. Don’t go to the Communion line, and nobody wonders why. Never alone in the sitdown; there’s always several, or more. Why you are there, in the midst of whatever disgrace, temporary or permanent, is yours and yours alone, unless you choose otherwise. No greeters, no checkyouout. Live a broken Catholic life, and nobody wonders. There in your own connection.

If other Houses of Worship could provide such choice of solitary connection…

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2 Responses to Pride, (Dis)Grace, Solitude

  1. There is an expectation that if you have one conservative (or liberal) view, you are supposed to accept the whole package of associated beliefs. Like a conservative is supposed to believe in fiscal balance, but also the death penalty, pro-life, anti-gay, pro guns, pro war, etc. Who ever heard of a gay conservative – right?!

    It’s kind of an odd world. We are encouraged to think through the issues for ourselves. Who ever had more access to relevant information than us? And yet when we are done free thinking, we are supposed to line up consistently on one side or another, like sheep. And God save you if you are a politician, if you learn something new, or think something through differently, than when you were much younger.

    Everyone is supposed to be learning all the time, except politicians, who are ridiculed for flip- flopping on issues. Poor Romney is castigated because he used to support Medicare, and because he has a nuanced position in abortion that has been reported as pro, con, maybe…and so on. And maybe he is pro MA medicare but not Obamacare. We’re all supposed to think in consistent slogans Peter Mansbridge can report in a 6 second sound bite, or the critics will howl.

    Personally I have Tea Party-like views on national debt and taxes. That obviously marks me as a conservative. But wait: going against foreign wars, like Afghanistan and Libya. That marks me as an NDP, I guess. I say that, really, I am a progressive conservative, but that doesn’t even exist! What’s that?! And I am against the death penalty, but maybe with some exceptions, such as for Mr. Bernardo and that guy from Norway who murdered a whole island of kids who were for multiculturalism. And I suspect my position on abortion is much like Romney’s. I was totally in favor in my 20s but now I am not sure, and not willing to commit myself to either the black or the white, or even to say which side is which.

    The Canada I grew up in in the 1960s and 70s in Saskatchewan was not nearly as accepting of multiculturalism and diversity as today. A visible minority was if you were Ukrainian or Mennonite. First Nations were invisible, because the police kept them out of town. I think we have a much improved Canada today.

    Consistency is a clarion call for repression of free-thinking that I do not support. People should be allowed to be who they are, though I wouldn’t support them wandering around town nude because they were naturists. People’s rights should end where they infringe on each other, and people should have enough empathy for each other that they don’t have to constantly fight and sue, to figure out where that line is.

  2. On August 30, 2012, Lorne commented as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    You seem to have a higher opinion of evangelical congregations than I do, if you think you can’t hide unnoticed in a back pew. Especially in the larger congregations.

    But I ask you/challenge you – is the solitary connection what church is supposed to be? Catholic, evangelical or whatever? I would argue it is not.

    I am by nature a loner and quite happy with solitude.

    But I know that is not the way God has designed us. Humans are created to be in fellowship, with God and each other. A strong case can be made that when we are not in fellowship, we are not allowing ourselves to be fully human, and be doing that we are also hurting our relationship with our Creator.

    Church is designed to be community, an interdependence. With that understanding, I attend a church where people care if I’m sitting alone, who want to know how I am doing and won’t accept superficial answers from me. But it’s more than mere attendance. I became a member of the church, not just someone who attends. I’m not sure if membership conveys any privileges, but it does come with responsibility and accountability. Do I want to be held accountable by my church and its leadership? Of course not! Which is why it is all the more necessary to put myself in that position.

    If I’m slipping in for Sunday mass and slipping out again, if the priest can’t place my face let alone remember my name, what makes that a church? In my church I know that when I pick up the phone at 3 a.m., for whatever reason, support will be there, from whomever I call, not only the paid clergy. As Tony Campolo said in another context: “I’m from the church that throws birthday parties for whores at three o’clock in the morning.”

    As much as I would love to slide into the pew unnoticed, I know that’s not healthy, so I want to be part of a church where that’s not going to happen.

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