I have to first remind myself that this letter was issued in 1986 so the language sounds strange to my ears. “Homosexual persons” seems to carry a ring to it, one that indicates a condition that I would best avoid both for my own behavior, and also for not associating with such persons. Yet the letter from St. John Paul II is very clear in that first sentence of item number ten, so I will repeat it:
“It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”
We are all aware that LGBT people were the “object of violent malice” on Sunday, June 12, 2016. This must be roundly condemned, not simply because it was violent and sinful against all human persons, but because these people were singled out for being LGBT in the first place.
Sunday’s acts of violence and hatred are entangled with some of the most scorching hot buttons in our US cultural millieu – that old trio of “gays, guns, and God.”
Let me break this down into three short reflections.
Gays. The teaching of the Catholic church is clear on all manner of sexual choices and behavior, period. The reality of the Catholic church, the reality of the world, is that there are numerous sexual struggles for countless people, from priests to parishioners. LGBT sexuality, sex outside of the bounds of marriage, rape and violence against women inside of marriage and out, and the endless horror of abuse, whether perpetuated in the home, among strangers, or by those in power. Sex is a challenge and I’m not here to explore that.
What I am here to say with a very clear understanding of the teaching is this – go reread the beginning of the post. Violence against others is wrong. IT IS WRONG. Got that? Good. Violence has roots that form in hearts and minds, first perhaps as prejudicial thoughts, hateful anger, revulsion, and fear. Whatever you may believe or think about LGBT people, it is no less tragic that this act of violence happened in an LGBT establishment.
LGBT people are everywhere, including in the Catholic church, and ministry calls for openness, compassion, care, and dignity. For. Everyone. No. Exceptions. Read the Gospel, then live it.
Guns. I grew up in a house of guns. My father was licensed to instruct and prepare those who were seeking a handgun permit, he also had a small gun sales business that was run out of our apartment. Guns were stored in one safe, ammo in another. Gun safety was paramount. While I do not like guns, nor do I have a desire to own a gun, nor do I personally believe that having one makes anyone any safer, I accept that people want guns. I don’t like it, but I accept it.
However, why is does it seem more difficult to buy Sudafed than it does to buy a gun?
What I am sickened and appalled by is the proliferation of powerful military-style weapons that are so popular. In February of 2013 the New York Times published this article about the AR-15, here is an excerpt:
“But how did gun makers stir up the demand for these particular guns in the first place? The answer is a story of shrewd advertising, aggressive marketing and savvy manufacturing — a virtual recasting of the place of guns in American life. With speed and skill, firearms manufacturers transformed a niche market for the AR-15 and similar rifles into a fast-growing profit center.”
Alrighty then. It’s just marketing. *deep sigh* Eve’s consumption of the apple in the garden gets a lot of play, but this is much more disturbing to me. You want to have a gun to hunt, fine. You want a simple handgun, if such a thing exists any more, fine. This seems to be more about power and violence than freedom, at least as I understand it.
Does owning a weapon like this lead people to believe that they will be safe? That this, or any other firearm will protect them? I’m just trying to work out the logic along the lines of this – if Jesus had been armed with his own cross, he wouldn’t have been crucified. Oh wait – Jesus was armed with His own cross, which became our salvation. This leads me to the final point…
God. It should be fairly obvious to anyone who reads this blog that I am a person of faith. God is important to me, God is essentially everything to me. That said, I am perpetually troubled by how God is used, and I mean that in the most base way possible, by many people, to further their own ends and agenda. This could mean something as evil as this group, or it could mean something as evil as this one. These are not religions, these are hate factories.
If someone loves God, no matter how they serve God, especially among the three monotheistic religions believe in one God. That would be Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
I’m a more than a little mystified, and more than a little angry that so many people are crying out that we must call out the the Orlando pulse massacre as “radical Islam.” In plain English, no offense and sorry for the language, but…
If we profess to love God, and focusing on my own faith as a Catholic Christian, if we profess to follow Jesus, we are constantly invited to grow more deeply in that faith. Pardon the cliche, but it is way more about the journey than destination here.
Yet, somehow many people of faith drag God out as a fire-breathing monster to be served, a monster that will destroy us if we do not obey! That often translates into a huge amount of hate, all in the name of God. God is not a prop used to decry others – that is no God at all, that is evil.
One last thought on the God-front… If so many want to hear the President Obama and others name this as the violent “radical Islam” that they see it as, what about the zillions of other shootings from Colombine to Tucson to Aurora to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook to… infinity? Radical Islam is a problem, as is any radical and fundamentalist form of religion which translates into no religion at all. God is never hate – period.
In summary, I woke up in sorrow and tears. Gays, guns, and God filled my thoughts and I share them here. This is not enough. If you care about any of this there are ways to act.
Call on elected officials – they work for you, not the other way around.
Fight the NRA – hard. And don’t expect immediate results, but don’t give up.
On a personal level, find ways to interact with “strangers.” If you are Christian, you might have noticed that Jesus was pretty big on this kind of thing. Outcasts, the marginalized, strangers, those who did not fit in. Everything from LGBT friendly events to interfaith activity is not difficult to find. Interaction can be dangerous, it might lead to kindness, compassion, and understanding.
These are small acts, but we must start somewhere. Let’s go – now.