Sep 14, 2012
I’m reading Eve Tushnet’s bit in the October First Things — a response to Douglas Farrow’s “Thirteen Theses On Marriage.” (You can find the theses, and the whole set of responses, here.)
Eve’s stuff is always worth reading. The theses themselves are pretty dry, albeit maybe only in the sense that Aquinas is dry: they succinctly distill a whole worldview, and so they don’t admit of much poetry. Eve characterizes them as having a “certain antiseptic sting,” and the same is true (maybe by necessity) of many of the responses. Not Eve’s, though. Her reaction is first of all a human one.
Here the bit that made me leap for tumblr:
For me, as a lesbian Catholic with no discernible call to monastic life, the absence within the Christian churches of a deep understanding of the human need for vocation is glaringly obvious. Too many gay Christians grow up learning that there’s simply a blank space where God’s vision for their future should be. There’s a list of do-nots and a free-floating sense of shameful disorder, but no image of a path in life on which God might call and lead them. But this void in our culture damages everyone.
Yes indeed. But then there was this:
In this world, no one is called to a life of sacrifice; they either choose the life they want and claim it, or long for it and never find it.
My first instinct was to disagree: everyone is called to a life of sacrifice, right? Marriage, the religious life, and any other legitimate vocation all involve sacrifice.
But then I saw that wasn’t what she meant. Her writing elsewhere consistently points to the necessity of serving others through self-denial. So maybe she meant something like this: that nobody is called to a life of mere privation; that is to say, a life defined by not having those things that, given your nature and the deepest desires of your heart, you hope to have.
A year or two ago, I would have disagreed with that, too, because I was very caught up in the notion that it was my job to suffer, to be deprived, and to offer that deprivation up for the good of anyone I could think of. That’s not how I think anymore. Now my M.O. has more to do with St. Irenaeus’ “The glory of God is man fully alive.”1
What do you think? Is there any such thing as a “victim soul”? Is there anybody who’s just plain made to suffer?
Or is suffering just an unavoidable, but still essential, part of the Christian (or any) life — to be endured and accepted and offered up and even welcomed, but never positively sought?