Posted 30 April 2012 - 12:50 AM
I can totally relate to MissyP89. I think my generation (I'm 32) and those after it are having to really seriously consider how to deal with this "Hate the sin, love the sinner" issue, because society is demanding more and more that we live "tolerantly" with openly, unabashedly, defensively sinful people. As an academic, I am surrounded by gay men. Two of my four closest friends are gay men (the other two are straight women), and my favorite professor is a gay man. I love all of these men deeply. They are wonderful, gentle, loving people. But because of an incident with another gay male friend that happened some 10 years ago, I live in constant fear that these men I now love will eventually ask me if I "approve" of their lifestyle. I would then feel obligated to explain that I think it's sinful and unnatural, that it harms society, but that my incessant gossiping and judgmentalism and criticizing is also sinful and harms society (though not unnatural, I think...? ;-). I would have to explain how I love them anyway, because I'm just as wretched a sinner as they are. The only difference is that I recognize my sins as such and am repentant for them. They are not. But in that, they're no different than most straight Americans. Ten years ago, I lost my friend trying to explain these things, because he didn't hear anything after "sinful and unnatural". I mourn the loss of his friendship, and regret having hurt his feelings, but I said what I believed. Considering that, despite his sinful lifestyle, I still loved him and wanted to be his friend, I don't feel I was wrong to say what I said. I would have been wrong to lie about it in order not to hurt his feelings and maintain our friendship. That, I think, is a worse betrayal than honestly answering a friend's very serious question. It is a painful irony to me, though, that despite his insistence that his homosexual lifestyle deserved "tolerance" and "acceptance" by all, he was unwilling to tolerate my views enough to continue our friendship, even though I went far beyond "tolerance" and "acceptance" of him as a person: I loved him completely.
Given the sense of entitlement in the culture of rights in which we live today, I think such conversations are likely more often than not to end the way that one did. And that's a scary thing, when you love a person. But I figure, if I ever have to have such a conversation again, I will do the same as I did 10 years ago: that is, try to gently explain the complexity of the Christian ability to genuinely love a person even when one does not approve of the things they do. I think that we all do this every day: My roommate leaves a wet towel on the floor, which annoys me no end, but I love her anyway. My son smacks another kid in the face, which is cruel, but I love him anyway. My neighbor blasts music at 2 in the morning, which is inconsiderate, but I love him anyway. My friend divorces her abusive husband, but I love her anyway. My 15-year-old unwed cousin has an abortion, but I love her anyway. Half my students are on birth control, but I love them anyway (mostly, except for the REALLY insufferable ones! ;-).
If my gay friends can't understand how that works, or can't "tolerate" my views, then I guess our friendships will have to end. I'll be sad. They'll probably be angry. But considering that we both would have simply stood by what we believe, and that what I believe would have allowed the friendship to continue in love, while what they believe would not have, I don't think that there is any way anyone could fairly construe the disintegration of our relationships as my doing.
So, though I live in fear of losing my friends, I think they know better than to ask such questions of a pious Catholic (whom, I'm pretty sure, they also love). And given that I'm a pious Catholic, I'm pretty sure they know very well already what I think of their lifestyle. What need have I to bring it up? If I bring it up to them, am I not then also obligated to bring up every sin to every sinner I meet? Should I start harassing my advisor when she misses Mass on Sundays? Should I start pointing out to my officemate that her eating habits are immoderate? What an insufferable gadfly I'd become! I would much rather just be the pious Catholic that everyone knows is a pious Catholic, the one who appears to love and get on well with everybody in spite of their annoying and sinful habits. That, I think, is much better witness to the unconditional love of Christ than bringing up everything they do that they already know I think is a sin.
One thing does worry me, though: When my gay friends talk about their partners, I don't cut the conversation short or change the subject or squirm uncomfortably. I engage with them in the conversation, just as if I were talking to a straight friend who is having problems with a significant other. With a straight friend, I would be genuinely concerned for her happiness and fulfillment in her romantic relationships. So am I concerned for my gay friends. But sometimes, in engaging in these conversations with my gay friends "just as if I were talking to a straight friend", I wonder if I am not implicitly condoning their homosexual relationships. On the one hand, I want them to be happy and fulfilled. On the other hand, I know they never will be in such relationships. But they keep trying, so I keep trying to help, at least until they see for themselves what I already know (not likely to happen anytime soon—barring a miracle, of course). In this I consider my actions similar to those of a mother who allows her child to stubbornly persist in something that she knows is wrong for him so that he can learn it is wrong for himself, because she knows that if she tells him it's wrong he will only persist more stubbornly. But presumably, no good mother would silently stand by as her child persisted in serious sin... hence my conflicting feelings about this behavior...
Personally, I find it highly hypocritical that Americans decry the sin of homosexuality so loudly, while silently letting so many others pass, simply because (I presume) they are lower on the nation's political agenda. But I also find it highly hypocritical that, in the nation where so many preach tolerance as the greatest good, so many people are incapable of maintaining friendships with anyone who disagrees with them about anything, or disapproves of anything they do. I have dual American and Israeli citizenship, and in Israel, people of all walks of life and all political and religious persuasions eat together, play together, and even argue together (actually, especially argue together—it's the Israeli national pastime) without in any way weakening their bonds of friendship. It's beautiful, really. And I wish to God we could manage to do it here, too.
In sum, MissyP89, if you're as openly Catholic as your friend is transgendered, then trust me, he already knows what you think. So unless he asks, what's the point of bringing up that particular sin?
That's what I think, anyway. O, wise Phatmassers, please correct me if I am wrong!