Photo from AirforceTimes.com ( Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press )
The US Supreme Court recently upheld the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest homosexuality at funerals of fallen military veterans, regardless of their sexual orientation. As much as this whole disturbing affair nauseates me, it is significant enough to warrant analysis.
The Westboro Baptist Church is not wrong in the message it preaches [opposing gay marriage], but rather, how it preaches it, which strikes me much akin to using a sledge hammer to relieve your friend of a fly that landed on his forehead.
The church members argue that the evil of rampant homosexuality in our nation, which has also now recently been given an increased approval by the Obama administration (no longer with just a wink and a nod by the previous “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy) in our military is the cause of increased evil in our society, including war.
Mother Teresa said, and I believe rightly so, that increased evil in our society is because of abortion. I would add homosexuality, overall promiscuity, and various other evils into that recipe for disaster as well, so with all due respect, perhaps both Westboro and Mother fell a little short in their explanations.
There are many theological reasons for suffering, including original sin, redemptive suffering, if not for ourselves, then for others, etc… The Bible, contrary to popular and erroneous belief, does not contain contradictions, but rather, paradoxes. Suffering, while seeming to be contrary to the will of a loving God, is also in place to bring about a better good for us, and thus, His glory.
Clearly the fallen veterans are not the cause of war, but rather, patriots who bravely sacrificed their lives because of it. Their honor should be preserved, and their already suffering families and loved ones should, morally speaking, if not constitutionally speaking, be allowed their peace and privacy to mourn and lovingly bury their dead, and again, regardless of their sexual orientation. After all, in a moral society, with rights come responsibilities, and a (well formed) conscience should compliment a constitution and correctly guide our actions based on the knowledge and understanding that what we “can” do is not always what we “should” do. One of the driving principles in my life has always been, “Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.”
I believe the evangelizing/protesting Westboro members are hanging their hats, at least partially, if not completely, on a passage from Ezekiel, Chapter 33, verses 7-10:
“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them a warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘O, wicked man, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his inequity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, he shall die in his inequity, but you will have saved your life.”
Perhaps these will meaning, but over the top fellow flawed humans from Westboro might consider reflecting also on Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1-6:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
As Christians, we are to judge evil in actions, not in people, the former being our duty, and the latter, God’s purview. Put another and more commonly evoked way for our part, “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” With regard specifically to homosexuality, in at least some cases before our sordid and deteriorating culture deemed it trendy and acceptable to those seeking only lustful experimentation and/or lifestyles, some immutability might be involved.
Prior to its later cowardly and rushed capitulation behind closed doors because of bullying, protests, infiltration and politicalization by radical gays in the early 70’s, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental dysfunction or disorder in it’s then Diagnostic and Statistical Manual until 1973. This fact then requires us to consider # 1735 of the Catholic Catechism:
“Immutability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.”
Thus, where applicable, gays may be given at least some latitude for their sins, but they should also seek treatment (as some have successfully done so) for their affliction, as well reconciliation and a mindset toward repentance as well. Those who choose homosexual behavior purely of a free will simply need to stop, confess, and repent.
For brevity sake, I will only refer to a longer passage, although I highly recommend its reading, namely, Mark, chapter 4, verses 3-21, in which Jesus teaches a parable about a sewer of seed and the various situations and subsequent explanations as to how the seed falls on the ground, and the ramifications for the results. But like on rocky soil, seed cannot be planted and expected to fully grow. Thus, to evangelize to a person with a clearly closed mind is not only more often than not a waste of time, but in some cases, such foolishly boorish, albeit well-intended action can even further drive someone away from any future hope of acceptance of God’s Word and will, and thus, perhaps even salvation itself.
So what conclusion can we draw from this debate? As much as I so often bristle at trendiness, I refer to the bracelets made popular a few years back that simply contained the letters, “W.W.J.D.?” The abbreviation stood for, “What Would Jesus Do?” and the bracelets were theoretically intended to model better behavior in the wearer of the bracelet, as based on the example of Jesus.
So what would Jesus possibly say regarding the whole Westboro debate? Again, we can refer back to the Gospels and review not just the words of Jesus, but His actions as well to find the answer. Clearly, Jesus evangelized, passionately and often, but He did not waste His time or energy on people who couldn’t be bothered with His message or dismissed it, and He taught the same evangelization technique to His traveling apostles in Matthew, Chapter 10, verses 11-15:
“And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”
While Jesus and His apostles did evangelize, they never beat anyone over the head with their messages. That is because God wants us to come to Him, but only by our free will, which He lovingly gave to us as a gift to be used, and not abused. Such is the difference between ‘freedom” and “license.” And that is also another reason in some cases for suffering: the abuse, or “license” of our God-given free will.
The gravely confused members of the Westboro Baptist Church apparently have not yet figured out, or simply don’t care about this stark difference in evangelization methods. And make no mistake about it, while their intentions are clearly good, their horrifically clouded judgment, as manifested by their all too frequent, and now ironically court sanctioned misguided actions, are wantonly cruel, purely evil and a grotesquely ugly, and impeding mutation of true Christianity.
And for so-called “Christians,” that’s just not “good” enough.
Catholic Teaching on Homosexuality:
Catechism #2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, 141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." 142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.*emphasis added
Catechism #2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
Catechism #2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Comments and thoughts by Julie...
Doug clearly you are a nicer person than I am by giving Westboro Baptist Church the benefit of the doubt that "their intentions are clearly good". While I agree that gay marriage is a sin in the eyes of God and the Holy Catholic Church, I do not agree that Westboro Baptist 'church' (and I used that term very lightly) is doing any of this out of any goodness.
I believe (and I do hope I am wrong) that the folks at Westboro are so filled with hate for people they wouldn't know Jesus' love if he walked up and hugged them. The most important thing Jesus taught was LOVE. LOVE is what changes people. Love is what gives hope to the hopeless. Love is what inspires people to do better and be better. Without love, you've got nothing. Who will even consider listening to the Word of God if the person talking to you is screaming you are 'going to hell' and 'God hates you'?
Compare the loving acts shown by Mother Teresa to the Westboro Baptist folks. We will "know them by their fruits" our Lord said. Mother Teresa spoke out against evil, but she did it in love and with respect for human beings. Westboro Baptist Church in my view fails miserably at that. I'll take Mother Teresa's fruits over Westboro any day. That said, I hope you are correct about them and that I am wrong. I just don't see their "goodness", all I see are 'fruits of hate'. I'd like to think and hope that all their protests come from a will to do good and please God...a desire to do the will of God... - I just don't see it I am sorry to say.
As always, thank you Doug for being a Connecticut Catholic Corner contributor! You bring wonderful thought provoking articles to the table and I truly appreciate that.