Yesterday I had a brief conversation with my dad about what’s been called “Christian television.” We receive about five or six of these networks through our cable service. I usually avoid them all. Over the course of our vacation I did some extended flipping around and decided to settle in on some of these networks just to see what the programming’s like these days. My overall impression was one of embarrassment. I sincerely hope that my friends who don’t share my faith don’t see me in the unpleasant light that many of these broadcasts cast so broadly.
I told my dad that one of the religious networks that I have come to appreciate more and more is EWTN, the television arm of the Catholic Church here in the United States. While I don’t share many of the core theological beliefs of Catholicism, I do appreciate their commitment to providing some very thoughtful and theologically deep programming on EWTN. I actually watch from time to time, and have especially enjoyed the show Catholicism on Campus and the shows featuring conversations with Scott Hahn.
This is a big step for me as I’ve had to overco, me some of the biases and even misunderstandings I’ve held about Catholicism for most of my life. I’ve come to appreciate the deep, evangelical faith of many of the Catholics who have tapped into our work here at CPYU. They are among the most earnest and grace-understanding people I know. We’ve had some great discussions. And, I’ve been especially thankful for many of the deep insights the Catholic Church has provided in terms of a theology of sexuality. There’s a richness there.
Earlier this morning, I finished reading another in my growing pile of books on faith and homosexuality as part of my quest to not only understand the issue, but to better be able to discern and then speak Biblical truth into this extremely sensitive and divisive issue that is boiling over not only in the culture-at-large, but in the church. This time, the book was by Melinda Selmys, an engaging, gifted, and thoughtful young Catholic writer. Melinda doesn’t write about homosexuality as an observer, pundit, or social critic. Rather, she’s been there. She’s done that. . . and a whole lot more. Her book, Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism, reflects what happens in life when we take our attitudes, actions, habits, sins (whatever they may be) and we lay them at the foot of the cross while choosing to live out the Gospel. Selmys writes with a blunt sensibility and honesty. While I’ve never met her, I would guess that if I did I would quickly come to the conclusion that she is one of the most strong-willed human beings I know. . . a trait that led her to embrace atheism. Let’s just say that she’s very thorough and resistant in her thinking. . . something that makes her story all the more compelling.
As the debates on faith and same-sex attraction continue, I want to offer the last five paragraphs of Selmys’ book for your consideration. Hopefully, they will challenge your thinking and whet your appetite to read the 233 pages that come before. . .
“When the life of God is embraced, is lived, it transforms the rest of reality into a foretaste of heaven. The entire project of human living comes into its own, develops its meaning. The light of God shines through life as though through a photographic negative. At last, so much that seems like meaningless and chaos resolves into order, into significance. The trials and sufferings and pains of life cease to be an engine, stopped in the sky and become the chiaroscuro etchings of a portrait so beautiful it is almost impossible to believe that this is oneself, perfected – as one appeared in the beginning, in the mind of God, before all the broken chemistry of a fallen womb or the first breath of hospital-scented air.
It is for this that I gave up homosexuality. I could feel the light creeping under the doorways of my heart, and I understood that is might reveal a future without lesbianism – I understood it with all the terrible clarity of Christ looking at the cup of suffering offered to Him at Gethsemane. There were absolutely no illusions, no possibility of turning and twisting Scripture until is said what I wanted it to say. I had told God clearly what I wanted; then I said, ‘Thy will be done.’
So it was that I ended up kneeling in the chapel at Queen’s University, some three months after I had first started praying to an unknown deity, a formless ‘Thou who art.’ I started to pray as I usually did, offering up a general thanksgiving, and informal expressions of my own joy in the world that I had been invited to inhabit. It was not long before prayers from my childhood began rising up in my mind, and I voiced them, as naturally as I had then. ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven. . . ‘ The Hail Mary was new to me, but I had learned it in some quiet moment in the library, when I had first recognized the Lady in the Moon as the Virgin Mother of God. I prayed it as well. Finally, when I had exhausted all of the more innocent prayers, and sung the Christian hymns that I remembered, I realized that I desperately wanted to pray something more. There was something further, unexpressed. Almost without realizing what I was doing I began to whisper, ‘I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. And I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord. . . ‘
The creed ended in silence. And in that silence, I could feel God there, waiting. A question hovered in the air between us: ‘What are you doing?’ It was not reproachful, and I understood immediately what it meant; why was I saying that I believed these things and yet refusing to acknowledge them in my life, outside of this little space that I set aside for prayer? Why had I spoken with my lips what I had not professed in my heart? I could see, with absolute clarity, that I stood at a crossroads. That either I would reiterate that prayer of belief, and make it real, entirely, with the rest of my life, or else I would turn away and never pray again. I had asked to know God, and to know God’s will, and now I did.
I went home, dialed the phone, and said, ‘Michelle, I’m becoming a Catholic. That means that we can’t be together anymore – not as lovers.’ It was the end of a relationship that had lasted nearly seven years. It was the beginning of a life more beautiful than I could have asked for or imagined.”