Silencing the Haters
The homophobia bulldozer shuts down any civil discourse
After a prolonged campaign against smoking, the culture at large mostly agrees that cigarette smoking is evil. Setting aside whether that is true or not, at no time during the debate did anyone accuse other people of being tobaccophobic or call them haters. That was because it was quite clear that the attack was upon the smoke and not the smoker. In other words, the argument was over behavior and not against the person. This holds for almost all the cultural arenas where morality intersects with civil discourse. Except that is, in the sexual realm. The LGBT activists have found a nuclear option, a button that enables them to shut down any civil discourse with the push of a button. This button releases a homophobia bulldozer that simply runs over the “hater” and leaves the tread marks of “homophobe” imprinted on his forehead. Recently having written about the spiritual pitfalls of Pride parades, I experienced this firsthand. But rather than being deterred, I want to examine why the defense of taking offense has been so effective.
“Hate the sin, love the sinner” we are told. What we are not told is what to do when the sinner loves the sin so much that he identifies himself with it. To hate the sin is also felt to hate the sinner. Sin has a way of hollowing us and eating away our personality until it becomes our identity. The married man rarely ever talks about his “orientation”; the gay man must tell everyone. Yet this close personal identification of the sinner with his sin happens with alarming frequency when it comes to homosexuality. This is why the Church “refuses to consider the person as a ‘heterosexual’ or a ‘homosexual’ and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: a creature of God and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life” (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 16). So, we must first admit that an attack on homosexuals’ actions is an attack on their self-given identity. The charge of homophobe, then, is no mere sophistic sleight of hand but a conviction borne of this identification of the sinner with his sin.
This phenomenon is not unique to our time; sin has always had this effect to a certain extent. What is unique is the cultural milieu in which we find ourselves. The search for truth has always been about conforming our own ideas with reality. But what happens when, thanks to Supreme Court fiat, we each are at liberty to define “one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1991)? This deep-seated and officially canonized relativism doesn’t just lead to moral chaos, but leads to the wedding of the person with his ideas. To confront another person with “real” reality is to attack the person directly. You are no longer challenging their view of reality but their reality. The LGBT movement, be it gay marriage or transgenderism, is the result. To point out what is a biological reality, a reality that challenges their “own concept of existence,” is “triggering” and viewed as a threat to the person and not just an attack on their ideas.
Relativism is not the only reason why this problem persists. A psychological reason keeps the homophobia bulldozer’s engine running: sexual desire run amok. This is the ultimate “no-duh,” but when planted in the soil of relativism the weed sprouts.
All human desire is meant to act like a motor driving us towards a specific object that leads to fulfillment. Sexual desire is no different in this regard. It is the motor by which we achieve sexual fulfillment—sexual not just in the sense of reproduction but in the broader sense of what it means to be male and female. In other words, it has a unique link to our identity as man and as woman, husband and wife, father and mother. Coupled with this strong connection to personal identity, it is the motor that drives us out of ourselves, making it the strongest of all desires. And for this reason, it is also the one that most easily runs amok and needs near-constant correction.
Only in another complementary person, united for life in marriage, does sexual desire find its fulfillment. That is reality and it is the way the human being is made. Relativism’s disconnect from reality forces the individual to find his own meaning for sexual desire. Absent contact with “real” reality, persons with same-sex attraction can only look at their disordered desire and guess where that leads. But it leads away from true fulfillment, so they will need constant reassurance that what they are doing is right. It is not enough for them to be left alone, but they will need everyone in society to affirm them and their decision. Words are not enough, reality itself will need to be adjusted to fit their version of it. They will insist upon marriage and the “right” to become a parent. Anyone who stubbornly clings to actual reality becomes a threat and must be silenced.
Then the vast majority of people will be silent out of indifference. But there will always be a true group of “haters” who love the person so much that they hate their sin and will try to separate them from it. This group must be prepared to suffer on their behalf but to persistently speak the truth in charity, knowing that when sexual desire meets relativism, it isn’t so much depravity that is the problem but confusion.
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