The piece is in response to a pair of pieces by Austin Ruse, who is very proud of himself for coming up with a term, albeit a sort of squicky one, to describe our odd little group. Ruse’s piece made sort of a kerfuffle in the Side B blogosphere: a lot of us thought Ruse’s piece was unfair, and some of us just objected to, in Joshua Gonnerman’s formulation, being squinted at as by an anthropologist (although Gonnerman points out that it is “old school anthropology, the kind where you didn’t ask the people you were studying what they were on about, but just developed your own explanations, which you relayed to people who were more distant than you, and coined names for them yourself”).
I’m really impressed with, and grateful for, the way Mr. Blanchard has stepped up to the plate. Here are some of my favorite bits from his piece, with some emphasis added by me.
Homosexuality does not exist in the abstract; it only exists in people. The Church’s doctrine of sexuality is precisely a doctrine about people, and about proper modes of relationship among them…If our sole mode of engagement with self-identified gay people is in the spheres of the culture wars, and not as people that we know, I believe that we have already failed the task of evangelism. For in that case, the truth we speak has no connection to the people it is about. A truth that costs us nothing will always feel like a counterfeit to the people who have to pay for it.
Damn. And I’m indebted to him for explaining why I, and many like me, tend to not worry too much about using the word “gay” to describe ourselves:
Take, for instance, the controversial word gay. I use it to describe myself, because I know from experience that if I use same-sex attracted instead, it puts up the hackles on my gay friends, for whom the phrase has the baggage of ugly psychiatric experiments and denial. I also know from experience that virtually none of them assume I take any specific view of the origin of homosexuality, or assume anything about my sex life or lack thereof, just because I use the word gay. The odds of misunderstanding, then, are so low (in my circles at any rate), and the risk of scandalizing people — that is, moving them away from God — with a PC-for-Catholics term is sufficiently high, that I find gay preferable. Not that there is nothing to be said for PC-for-Catholics terminology; but in this case it is a bad evangelistic tool, because it is ignorant of — or deliberately ignores — its actual effects upon the audience.
I’m reminded of one of my worse days as a teacher. I had spent hours preparing a particular lesson, and I was pretty excited about it — but for some reason, when I taught it, it fell flat. The students were bored and restless. My reaction then was anger, because it seemed to me that the very fact that I had put effort and thought into the lesson meant my students owed me their interest.
Years later, this seems to me a very self-absorbed attitude. If only a couple of students are bored and restless, the lesson is a good one and those kids are bad apples. If everybody’s bored and restless, it’s a bad lesson, no matter how hard you worked on it. This is, I think, exactly the kind of ignorance of one’s audience that Mr. Blanchard is addressing.
My own position within the Side B world is, I think, a little weird. Ruse’s piece made me uncomfortable and annoyed, largely because it made us seem more heterodox than we are. Some Side B stuff, on the other hand, makes me uncomfortable and worried, because bits of it bear the smell of, or the smell of the danger of, self-deception: the line between “my homosexuality is a gift and a blessing because of all the gifts and blessings that have come with it” and “my homosexuality, per se, is a gift” is blurrier than I’d like. In some cases it’s not blurry at all, but just nonexistent. I don’t think I’m okay with that, but I have yet to formulate exactly why.
I’m still torn about how much to post, and where, about this stuff. This blog has always been personal rather than conceptual or political, and I’d like to keep it that way. But I’m conscious, too, of my desire to just skip the whole conversation; and I suspect that desire is born more of sloth than of principle. We’ll see. Till then, peace.