Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pray THIS Away, Padre

The Rev. James Livingston is a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. As the lead chaplain for a Faith in Action support group, a prochastity ministry for men and women with same-sex attraction, he believes you can pray the gay away--or so he says in a piece he wrote fro the Star Tribune:

I am glad for Ron Bates that he was able to overcome the guilt and shame that burdened him for years and find that God loves him. ("I tried for years to pray away the gay. It didn't work," Sept. 1).
But while I respect Bates' personal experience, I respectfully disagree with his conclusions about same-sex attraction and traditional marriage.
I am the lead chaplain for the local Courage/Faith in Action group. Courage/FIA is a confidential support group for people who have same-sex attraction and who want to practice the virtue of chastity as understood by the Catholic Church.
As a confessor and confidant to many men and women who have homosexual attractions, I can say that people are not limited to the choices Bates offers.
The plain truth is that people with same-sex attractions experience them differently.
For some, those desires are deeply rooted and long-lasting, while others experience them as symptoms of something else: loneliness, lack of confidence or frustrated childhood bonding with same-sex parents or peers, just to begin the list.
In other words, some people really do find developmental and environmental roots to their same-sex attractions.
And yes, some find release from them through therapy or through the mysterious grace of a spiritual awakening.
Bates was not able to pray away his same-sex attraction, but some people actually do. And others, while unable to avoid homosexual temptations, still live lives of chastity and virtue by the grace of God and with the help of good friends.
Marriage to a woman did not work for Bates, but for this you don't redefine marriage. And especially for this you don't tattoo a "GLBT" label onto teenagers who may be simply confused about their life choices. It took Bates 54 years to find his life direction after an imprudent start.
By the same logic, many young people could be trapped for years with a mistaken gay or lesbian identity, goaded on by our disintegrating, sexually untethered culture.
Like it or not, heterosexual behavior is rooted in human nature and the universal moral law. Both the body and the Bible witness to this truth in their own ways.
Traditional marriage is rooted in this ancient if inconvenient truth, and it can't be scolded or legislated away by one misguided generation. History is not and never will be on the side of gay marriage.
But what about the nerve root question that Bates addresses? What do you do when the "gay" just will not go away and your religious standards and traditions just seem to accuse, to point out what you can never do or be?
Are the choices limited to either living in shame or just pitching the moral code out the window?
Many of us can relate in our own way. You were unfaithful and your spouse will not allow you to forget; you have a prison record that shows up every time you try to get a job; you have a weakness for alcohol or spending or food and your life is unmanageable.
Add your own weakness to the list. Regardless of how it got there, you want to move beyond it, but you can't. Who among us is righteous and qualified to cast the first stone?
St. Paul confided in a letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 12:7-10) that he had a "thorn in his flesh" that wouldn't go away. What God said to him was not "you're going to hell" or "you are disordered."
He said, "My grace is sufficient for you." In the midst of his weakness, Paul found both steady direction and contentment in his friendship with Christ.
My point is this: Whoever you are and whatever insurmountable problem you have, don't jettison your moral compass. Find friends who will support you in truth and virtue.
Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, "Does anyone here condemn you? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more" (John 8:10-11). Minnesota citizens, you can support traditional marriage and be a friend to persons with same-sex attractions. It's not an "either/or" issue.

Okay, then, let me get this queer.

He isn't so much talking about "praying the gay" away, as in, through the power of prayer, you can change your sexual orientation from gay to straight. No, he wants gay people to refrain from having sex. 

Well, padre, that doesn't make us non-gay, ex-gay, less-gay; it makes us celibate gay. It isn't the sex act that makes us gay, it's the bond, the connection, the attraction, and the physical love we feel for the members of our own gender, and your little prayer circles won't get rid of that. They'll just shove it down, and lock it away, in little bundles of shame and self-loathing.

How fucking Christ-like of you.

You say The Gays experience same-sex attractions differently. I'll give you that because heterosexuals feel their attractions differently, too. But being gay is not a symptom of "loneliness, lack of confidence or frustrated childhood bonding with same-sex parents or peers. It is, as I said, an attraction, a bond, and a connection, a physical, and emotional connection, and love, for members of the same sex..

The people you speak of all feel lonely and frustrated because of people like you who try and inflict your sense of shame and guilt upon them. And that needs to stop.

You can't pray away the gay any more than you can pray away my blue eyes, or the fact that my hair is turning brown to gray. I could get contacts, or some Just For Men, but I cannot pray that away.

You cannot pray away HIV or cancer or diabetes, but you can pray that your doctor and your medicines will help. You cannot pray away heart disease or a broken bone, but you can pray to heal quickly.

Still, since you're such a strong believer in the power of prayer, padre, and since you're a member of the Catholic Church, mired for decades in a child abuse scandal, why aren't you focusing your efforts on praying away the pedophilia? or, at the very least, that the Catholic Church steps up and rids itself of pedophiles and payoffs? 

Focus on the things you can change, father, not the things you cannot. Focus on people living openly and honestly and not hiding themselves away out of fear of people, like you.


Rainbow said...

Wooooo!! Give the sista a soap box and she will have some church!!

Amen, Brother Bob! It is so great that you wrote this piece today, because last night I was watching the videos on a youtube channel called "Agaycallab" and the question of the week was "what was the turning point where you began to love being gay?" And I was thinking about this very thing last night. I was raised in a VERY religious family and during the first few years of coming out, I struggled a lot with what I had been taught religiously and what I was feeling in my heart. I remember the Sunday that I first walked into an MCC and I felt the love of God along with the love of the gay people standing around me. It was my life changing moment. You don't have to pray the gay away, you don't have to repress or feel guilt. You just have to realize that God accepts us for who and what we are as long as we accept ourselves.

Mitch Block said...

Well said, as always!

Biki said...

Best argument against religious twaddle I've ever read. Bravo!

Raybeard said...

Why is it that a young person who thinks they MAY be HETEROsexual is never likewise defined as 'confused'?
With the overwhelming majority of messages and propaganda in the hetero direction you'd think that presumption of THAT inclination ought at least to be taken with a degree of caution.

tamayn said...

If everything goes well, The Hague may have something to say about the whole "protecting institutional pedophilia" soon.

Would it be wrong to pray for that?