Perception vs. the Gospel

Jesus presents a serious spiritual challenge of self-mastery

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Life Issues

Back in the 1960s, the Church banned dirty movies, deeming them a threat to the functional norms of civilization. Sex scenes were few, if any, and relegated to cloaked suggestives in the golden era of Ben Hur, Exodus, and Magnificent Obsession. As Hollywood norms changed, I would fast-forward love-making scenes because they usually added nothing to the story-line but melodramatic sizzle. Besides, I resented the manipulation by Hollywood magnates titillating the masses for increased profit. In my opinion, the result was movies that merely disguised pornographic scenes, sandwiched between violence, staccato dialogue, and outlandish non-stop action.

I’ve always found blatant sex between gays or lesbians especially repulsive, which is likely true for most honest seniors my age, no matter how many mandatory diversity courses taken. So, I hereby confess my bias against homosexual behavior. Maybe it’s because I and my age group had our moral consciences formed in the ultra-conservative post-war era. I like to think we seniors are the last bastion of moral sanity, and we act the part, clinging to our loaded stereotype armament. However, our grandchildren accept Hollywood trash without a comparative experience. They probably enjoyed the recent bumping and grinding of two female celebrities at the Super Bowl half-time because it’s the new normal. We shocked oldsters judge it as piggery.

Without new information, my harsh judgment of gays would still apply. But scientific studies in my lifetime have brought about a dramatic change in perception, on my part and the general public’s. ACLU lawyers challenged state sodomy laws after the 1970s using arguments based on zoological studies of homosexual conduct by wild animals. The public’s stereotyped perception of homosexual conduct changed. Illinois was the first state to ban sodomy laws in 1961, and a challenge in Virginia reached the Supreme Court in 1976. Soon after that, other states would repeal. Popular perceptions about same-sex marriage also began a dramatic shift. In 2008, I helped a group of Catholics and Mormons support Prop 8 in California, which would have banned same-sex marriage. The people barely passed it but the Ninth Federal District Court overruled the ban in 2010. Nowadays, even a popular vote would reject a similar Proposition in California.

In 1991, Dr. Simon LeVay of the Salk Institute in San Diego presented research on brain-structure differences in hetero versus homosexual brains. This fired up an LGBTQ community which held that Biblical prejudice against “queer” behavior and transgender identity was discrimination, pure and simple. If a human being is born with different physiological traits, then the behavior of such people must be God-approved. The search continued for a gay gene. In 2019, a Harvard research team reported that no single gay gene exists but many genes could be involved in shaping persons with a wide spectrum of behavior patterns. Such studies have led to the conclusion that conversion therapy will not work, and so, since 2015, many states have banned conversion therapy.

LeVay, a gay scientist, struggled with his finding. How would the world interpret it? He wondered what Nature’s compensation might be for the loss of reproductive desires. Was it exceptional creativity? By way of example, I had a gay friend, now deceased, who showed incredible talent in music composition, stage plays, and literature, winning many awards. He validated LeVay’s creativity thesis. Homosexuals dominate the fashion industry, entertainment, and the arts.

So, my judgmental perception of gay and lesbian individuals had to improve. No more homosexual stereotype.

But it has not been easy for me. For if our sexual conduct isn’t of crucial importance for gaining eternal life, then why does Jesus invite men to make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (Matt 19:12)? He presents us with the serious spiritual challenge of self-mastery, which means control of our sexual urges, to be indulged for reproduction. He knew not everyone would accept this doctrine of chastity. He knew most people would falter, even some of his priests and bishops. He knew how narrow the gate and difficult the way which leads to life, and that few would find it (Matt 7:13-14).

 

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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