A post on Rod Dreher’s blog caught my attention. He describes a Facebook rant by a woman who discovered that when her children go to CCD (after school catechism class for Catholic kids) they are being taught traditional Catholic doctrine on sexuality, including the teaching that homosexual acts are immoral.
The post accused the parish and the program of spreading hate, teaching young people that gay individuals should be treated with scorn and rejection and even threatening the well being of any REP student who might be questioning his or her sexuality. In short, the post, without ever acknowledging that the parish was simply teaching what the church believes, grossly mischaracterized the church’s understanding of marriage and sexuality and dismissed it as pure hate. This from a Catholic woman whose children are enrolled in religious education and who presumably belongs to the parish. She concluded her post by encouraging everyone who read the post to send their complaints to the Director of Religious Education, whose name and contact information she provided.
Thus, the teaching that homosexual acts are objectively immoral, in this woman’s mind, is the equivalent of hatred.
Now, there is an outside possibility that that information was delivered in a hateful or ignorant manner, and that would be wrong. For example, the assertion that gays chose their orientation would be ignorant, or the assertion that God hates fags would be both ignorant and wicked. Such things ought not be said or implied. But this is not the Westboro Baptists we are talking about here, but a suburban Catholic church.
Most likely the program was simply covering the teaching that a baptized person belongs to God in his entirety, and therefore he cannot dispose of his body in any old way but must do so according to God’s law. This teaching is as old as Christianity itself, as is the teaching that human sexuality is ordered to marriage and reproduction. A Christian ought not engage in fornication, adultery, sodomy, prostitution, concubinage, or polygamy. Every Christian, no matter his state in life, is called to live the virtue of chastity, which while not easy, is possible with grace, patience, humility and self control.
You see, it does not matter how Christian doctrine is preached, the very preaching of it is considered an expression of hate.
About a decade or so ago, in a different life, I was teaching a CCD class to students preparing for Confirmation. One girl, a bright and engaged student but utterly ignorant of Christian doctrine, asked me why Christians traditionally hate and kill Muslims, as in the Crusades.
I thought for a bit and said that while a religious war strikes us as being absurd, it was an utterly different world in the 13th century. Islam represented an advanced, aggressive and expansive power from the 6th century until the 16th and European Christians probably understood the Crusades as a defensive war. I drew a map on the chalkboard of the Mediterranean world and pointed out the area that Islam had conquered by the sword had previously been Christian, so blaming Christians for the Crusades without also blaming Muslims for Jihad is rather one sided.
Not that the Christians on Crusade were blameless: people fighting wars do terrible things to each other, and atrocities were committed by all sides. However, I concluded, it makes no sense to hold people responsible today for what Arabs, Franks, Turks and Greeks were doing to one another in the 14th century.
The next day I got a call from the parish Director of Religious Education: the girl’s mother had called him to complain that I had been teaching the students to hate Muslims and announce that she was pulling her daughter from my class. I told him that I honestly did not think I said anything that could be construed that way. For his part he said he could not imagine me saying anything like that. After getting my side of the story he called the mother back to straighten things out, to no avail.
I was sorry to lose a bright student and bemused that someone could take my exposition of an historical situation from seven hundred years ago as advocating hate.
At the time I assumed that something got lost in translation from me, to my fifteen year old student, to her mother. But what I know now is that it did not matter how I said what I said, nor did it matter how reasonable my exposition of historical events was.
It was the start of my career as a hate monger. For some people the simple fact of going against the idea that Christians are guilty for the Crusades – and not so much going against it as simply putting it into historical perspective – was indistinguishable from hatred of Muslims. The only acceptable, non-hateful thought one is allowed to have is a simple-minded, black and white, thought-stopping mantra of Christian bad, Islam good.
I never imagined that this thought pattern would, twelve years later, reach today’s absurd proportions. Think homosexual Christians should try to live the same virtue of chastity as every other unmarried Christian? Hater. Think “sex-reassignment” surgery is a terrible idea for people who suffer an identity crisis? Hater. Think 18 year-old girls joining the infantry so they can strap on 90lbs of gear, pick up rifles and charge machine-gun nests is a bad idea? Hater.
And so on.
The ultimate purpose of dismissing all disagreement on these issues as hate is to delegitimize dissent. As they are learning in North Carolina, if you refuse to call Bruce Jenner so beautiful that you can’t even, and then bow before his severed penis, you will be dismissed as some kind of moral monster, and be treated as such. The purpose is to intimidate and coerce.