I posted a review on the First Things website of Michael Voris’ “FBI: Homosexuality,” and it’s raised a few hackles in the com-box. My basic thesis is the Voris’ production is not really an effort in evangelism or apologetics, so much as it is an expression of grief over the loss of America’s Christian identity. I point out that grief is a process which ends in acceptance, and that you can’t really move on and start building a new life—or a new evangelization—at any of the earlier stages of grieving.
So long as Catholics are still deeply upset, angry, and horrified at the widespread social acceptance of homosexuality, and remain in denial about the fact that gay marriage is going to be a political reality in the very near future (as it already is in my home country), there’s no way of effectively preaching the gospel to homosexuals.
It’s just not reasonable to imagine that a gay audience will be able to relate in any way to a production in which the advance of LGBTQ rights is seen as an attack on the foundations of civilization, or where pictures of same-sex couples in uniform embracing on the pier are supposed to produce a reaction of shock horror. It seems an obvious point, but practicing gays find the idea of gay sex appealing, not appalling. The fact that Voris, and many conservative Catholics, seem to consistently miss this in their attempts to “evangelize” the homosexual community suggests that we’re dealing with a serious psychological blind-spot.
I’m suggesting that this blind-spot is the result of Catholics being unable to see past their own pain in order to really reach the heart of LGBTQ folks. Voris promises to grapple with the suffering that same-sex attracted people face, but the truth is that what he deals with is the suffering that he faces as a result of other people’s homosexuality. He projects his own pain onto LGBTQ folks, and assumes that the same things which would bring him relief would also bring relief to homosexuals. Alas, if only it were that simple.
I am also suggesting, however, that Voris’ feelings are completely legitimate. A lot of people in the First Things com-box seem to be in a similar heart-space to Voris, and that’s fine. It’s reasonable. It really is all right to grieve. I’m not getting up on a pedestal here and saying “Hey, you should be just like me. I’ve accepted the way that the world is, and I’m a better person for it.” No. I’m not grieving the loss of America as a Christian nation because a) I’m not American, and b) I have no concept of what it’s like to live in a Christian nation.
That doesn’t make me more mature, or a better Christian, it just means that I’m in a better psychological position to understand why something like Voris’ presentation is totally counterproductive. People who feel like Voris’ presentation is rational, compassionate and truthful don’t need to gird up their loins, pull themselves together, and accept the breakdown of society in order to better reach out to the LGBTQ community. They need to give themselves permission to take time out to grieve.
This is something that I had to deal with myself when I made the decision to talk about my own experience. There was a long period, several years, during which I felt a kind of weird psychological compulsion to get out there and warn people away from the gay community, but at the same time I was consistenly frustrated with my efforts. It all just seemed futile, like preaching to the deaf.
I didn’t really understand what my mistake was until after OSV accepted the book proposal for Sexual Authenticity. I wrote my first draft, and my husband panned it as total crap. He said it was inauthentic. I realized that what I was coming up against was a whole series of internal resistances that had to do with unresolved grief. I hated the person that I had been as a young woman. I wanted to ritually put her to death in the public sphere in order to psychologically distance myself from her as a means of escaping from my own feelings of shame and my anger against myself.
That meant that suddenly I was on a dead-line to deal with a lot of intense psychological pain. There was a date when I supposed to hand in a manuscript, and I couldn’t produce a manuscript worth handing in until I’d worked through my personal issues. I had to go back and look at my former self in a more realistic way, to try to see her as Christ did, as someone who was worth paying for in blood. I had to get past my own negative self-stereotyping, to see past the fact that I had been confused, atheistic, occasionally nihilistic, frequently narcissistic, suicidal, self-harming, self-isolating, and unbearably intellectual proud. This involved two very difficult things.
The first was to go back into my memories and to identify with this creature that I had come to loathe in order to unearth the qualities which made her beautiful. I had to try to remember what it was that made me fall in love with my girlfriend, and to see in that a desire for genuine communion with another human being. I had to accept that all of the ugly and erroneous philosophies that I had embraced over the years had represented an authentic deep-seated desire to know and live the truth. I had to pick through the psychological slag-heap of my past in order to reclaim all of the bits of my authentic identity that I had cast off in my anxiety to become a “new creation in Christ.”
That was hard because it meant reconciling with the fact that the enemy which I saw in the larger culture, the gay agenda, the mass media, the pro-choice movement, and countless other pet bugaboos of the Christian-right, was actually me. Also, it means recognizing that my enemies were actually beautiful people, beloved of God, seeking the Good, the Beautiful and the True as earnestly and imperfectly as I do myself.
Secondly, it involved recognizing that I still am all of those negative qualities that I wanted to project into the past. My confusion, doubts, depression, self-loathing, intellectual pride, and prickly resistance to human love are not black relics of a dark past. They are present realities. I really am, as St. Paul says in th second chapter of Romans, no better than the people that I want to judge.
What I mean by acceptance, then, is this process. It’s not a political thing—accepting gay marriage, or accepting the homosexual agenda in the schools, or any kind of simple superficial ideological stance that a person can take up or put down at will. I mean a difficult psychological project which involves grappling within one’s own heart to get to the point where it is possible to look at the “militant homosexual activists” who are undermining Christian marriage, attacking the Church, corrupting the youth—however you want to see it—of being able to say “these are people after my own heart. My brothers and sisters. We are the same.”