Facing Society: Overcoming the Four Hatreds
"If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ" Eph4:15.
Spiritual and Emotional Growth
Why is the subject so potentially explosive? Because deeply-felt moral principles are at stake for everyone, and it’s very easy to fall into this dangerous trap of thinking:
"If you believe in something which I believe is immoral, that makes YOU immoral."
That’s how people on both sides of this debate can argue, and the discussion quickly degenerates into labeling and name-calling. We’ve all heard the arguments and loud accusations in the media. We don’t realize the hateful attitudes we may have absorbed until after we’ve let them out and we find ourselves not just disagreeing, but disparaging and insulting one another’s integrity. No wonder people don’t discuss homosexuality.
But the subject is too important to avoid. There is a very simple way to set in motion a dialogue which leaves people unharmed and able to listen and learn.
You just say from the start: "Let’s make a promise to one another. No matter what we have to say to one another, let’s make a firm commitment to be respectful, even if we deeply disagree."
1. If you’re a person with homosexual feelings, this agreement establishes your right, whether you speak up or not, to feel and be safe in this situation.
2. If you’re a teacher or discussion leader or parent, this agreement sets the ground rules for people to gain something and avoid a shouting match.
3. If you’re a Church person in a situation with mixed views, this agreement is especially necessary for you, because your ideas are likely to be the unpopular ones.
4. If you’re confused on this subject, this agreement gives you a chance to learn some things you probably did not know.
Participants in a more organized discussion of homosexuality who want to achieve some depth of understanding on this often misunderstood subject can develop their contract for mutual respect even one step further. You can start by reviewing the four areas of antagonism which will surely arise. You’ll be better prepared to handle them effectively and keep the discussion positive.
1. Antagonism Toward People of Homosexual Orientation
Mistreatment of a person for his or her homosexual orientation takes many forms ranging all the way from social rejection to jokes, to insults, to physical attacks. That’s discrimination, and it’s profoundly immoral. Such abuse is the reason people who struggle with homosexual feelings or live the homosexual life often hide the fact. Maybe you think homosexuality is unhealthy. You are entitled to that opinion, but that’s no excuse to demean a person. In fact, it’s all the more reason to look for ways to be positive and welcoming. You as a Roman Catholic may hold in conscience a deep conviction about the immorality of homogenital acts. That belief must never spill over into a devaluing of the person with whom you disagree. Any person in your life who experiences homosexual attractions must feel your respect and concern. You can and should argue in favor of the wisdom of the Church’s moral teachings on homosexual activity, but the minute anyone says anything to disparage your friend as a person, you must become his or her defender.
2. Antagonism Toward the Church and Church Teaching
This antagonism is expressed so often that many people half believe it and think the Church condemns and excludes people with homosexual feelings. Young people especially begin to think their Church is cruel, which is tragic because they start to distrust the Church on other matters. First of all, no one is condemned or excluded by Catholic teaching or policy for homosexuality. And secondly, the Church is not singling out any one type of sexual sin. The Church says adultery, polygamy, and any other form of sexual activity outside the marriage of a man and a woman are all harmful and wrong. And that’s the Church’s job, to be a lighthouse and guide us away from dangerous waters. The Church’s sole mission is to lead people to salvation. In fact, by guiding all people to chastity, the Church saves countless lives which would otherwise be lost to various forms of physical and emotional harm and, in the case of HIV/Aids, even death. The failure rate for condoms used to prevent HIV infection or other STDs is extremely high for both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Seeing these harms and many others, the Church must speak. Love demands it.
3. Antagonism Toward One’s Own Same-Sex Feelings
During adolescence when everything about a person is changing, young people may experience occasional homosexual feelings. This is almost never admitted, because most teens and young adults experience shame or confusion about these feelings, and few want to be labeled "homosexual" by their peers. As a result, some people walk around in a quiet panic about their sexual identity. Just to make sure they are heterosexual, they resist even their own very healthy affection for friends of their own gender. They pull back and fend off moments of warm feeling or closeness with good friends and in so doing deprive themselves of one important dimension of emotional development. Because of this fear, males especially can trap themselves into an exaggerated and cold form of masculinity. Antagonism towards one’s own need for male bonding and female bonding is a quiet killer that actually undermines the establishment of healthy sexual identity. That fear of homosexuality actually lies behind the need some young people feel to distance themselves from people who are openly "gay" or "lesbian" by mistreating them. That cruelty can extend to people who are not homosexual at all, just socially insecure, and perhaps not stereotypically masculine or feminine.
4. Antagonism Toward People Who Seek Freedom From Homosexuality
Some people have persistent homosexual feelings which they would very much like to overcome. These people and the therapists and ministers who help them also suffer much abuse: everything from having their meetings picketed or disrupted, to being stereotyped by the media as fundamentalist brain-washers, to telephone death threats. Nevertheless, some people do make the journey out of homosexual feelings successfully. The work is difficult, but the chances are better the younger a person is. Even then, it can take several years. With strong motivation, a good counselor, firm support (and often a lot of healing prayer), the success rate may reach 33%*. Don’t people have the right to try to increase their heterosexual inclinations, if that’s what they want? Yet even that desire attracts enormous antagonism. The news media, school counselors, and even some clergy won’t report such success stories, or won’t make referrals for those who want it. Hostility toward the very existence of people making such a journey is the fourth great hatred to overcome in any discussion. (*33 % for adults figure documented in a 1997 study by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.)
Anyone who wants to start a discussion about homosexuality whether they are a Courage member or not, should be prepared. Things are likely to turn quite nasty, even between people who normally do well together -- unless everybody involved agrees to show mutual respect even while opposing each other’s views.
This article discusses personal perspectives to be aware of when engaging in a discussion about homosexuality. As one maintains this awareness, approaching others from the perspective of love is more possible.
Courage International, Inc.
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