Jesus still provides a distinct appeal for LGBT folk

There are voices within organised religion preaching a radical Christian message

What did Jesus say on the subject of homosexuality, according to the Gospel accounts? Not a word. Photograph: Getty Images

What did Jesus say on the subject of homosexuality, according to the Gospel accounts? Not a word. Photograph: Getty Images

 

What a distinctly odd and contradictory state of affairs. A sincere young Christian man is barred from singing at his grandmother’s funeral because he attended a gay pride march (in Indiana).

Evangelical pastors who lambast “degenerate” same-sex attraction are exposed as secret practitioners of the very love they abhor in public, but delight in behind closed doors (examples multiple, US).

The Catholic priesthood relies on hugely disproportionate numbers for the sharing of its sacramental life on the very individuals whose sexual orientation the Holy See in Rome would describe as “intrinsically disordered”.

And what did Jesus say on the subject of homosexuality, according to the Gospel accounts? Not a word.

How should the LGBT community in Ireland view this state of affairs? For some there would be an understandable temptation to describe religion, especially Catholicism, as a 21st-century busted flush. The gay marriage referendum result is in the bag, also now in Australia too.

Torpedoed vessel

The Irish Catholic Church resembles, following decades of sex abuse cover-ups, a torpedoed vessel battling to shore itself up and restore some sense of credibility. But against this perspective I’d counsel caution against dismissing the whole “Jesus project” out of hand.

Isn’t the founder of what is still the world’s biggest ethical following, numerically, a man who can still provide a distinctly peculiar appeal for LGBT folk? A single man who frequently railed against blood ties and the nuclear family, who frequently placed women at the forefront of key episodes in the Gospel. Moreover, a rabbi who accentuated an ethic that makes the marginalised – those deemed “weird” and foreign and a threat to society’s values – as those most deserving of our attention and compassion.

For first-century Samaritans and lepers read the modern day faceless threats of “outsiders” frequently scapegoated for society’s ills. There are, thankfully, inspiring voices still inside the framework of organised religion who are preaching an authentically radical Christian message. They deserve a hearing.

There’ll be other folk, perhaps more apathetic, who once or twice a year will attend Mass, who will ask: “What’s it all got to do with me? I’ve had a tough time from church leaders. Let them get on with it.”

The “pray, pay and obey” model for the laity has been crushed.

In the profoundest sense of ecclesiology, “church” is not a series of elderly males in Rome dictating edicts from Vatican dicasteries. It is nothing less than the journeying pilgrim people of God.

Evolving story

I say to LGBT Catholics: you are part of an evolving story.

Our faith is based on tradition, scripture and authority and thankfully, post Vatican II, we have a church that is, nominally, not afraid to embrace the findings of science and other lessons of modernity.

God’s world is in the midst of constant rebirth and self-revelation.

Tradition evolves, often painfully slowly. The choice for me has always been: do I stay inside that community; tell my story as a man whose innate preferences in the world of love are not any different than my left-handedness and my blue eyes; or do I simply walk away? “Catholic” means universal.

How is God’s pluralistic, multifaceted world served in a situation where whole swathes of the Creator’s differently designed subjects just walk away, refusing to engage and share the joy of their sacred lives and loves?

When I fell in love with a schoolmate in the 1970s as a teenager, I told him I was experiencing a glimpse of infinity. I looked at the language of the institutional church and could not square the beauty of my subjective experience with the harsh reality of a teaching doctrine that spoke of “disorder”.

Nothing has happened in the subsequent 40 years to make me think I called that one incorrectly. To many eyes, it’s an odd space of contradiction that I inhabit in the second decade of the 21st century.

Jesus is still a guy I can’t get out of my life. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Mark Dowd is a writer and broadcaster, and the author of Queer and Catholic: A Life of Contradiction, published by Darton, Longman and Todd.

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