Last month, Reverend Danny Cortez of the Southern Baptist Convention suggested, in the wake of his own change of views regarding homosexuality, that neither unanimous rejection nor unanimous approval was necessary on the issue -- he spoke in favor of a "third way," that of allowing Christians to conscientiously differ on the subject.* Other Baptist leaders, such as Albert Mohler, decried both Cortez's views and the suggested compromise. Plenty of Christians on both sides of the debate have objected equally.
I think the word compromise has come to have a very unfairly dirty reputation. So has the thing it represents. One thing I didn't know about Catholic culture until years after I had converted, was how fractious Catholics can be over liturgical differences -- not just the sort of differences that look insignificant to outsiders but are in fact theologically important (like whether or not to allow laymen to take the Chalice for themselves instead of having it ministered to them), but over things that are really and truly insignificant (like whether to say Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost).** The intrusive arrogance of many Roman Rite Catholics toward the Catholic Churches of the east, whose history and usage is very different from our own in some respects (such as the ordination of married men to the priesthood), is particularly reprehensible. Of course, it isn't a specifically Catholic problem by any means: not to be unkind, but the continual splintering of Protestant communions speaks for itself in my opinion. And for that matter, it isn't even a specifically religious problem -- look at the insane political polarization in this country, despite the fact that, when set against the actual political possibilities that history affords us examples of, there are fewer differences between Democrats and Republicans than between, say, a labrador and a golden retriever. I am all for a spirit of compromise, or, if the word expresses the idea more clearly, a spirit of generosity. Also, all for labradors.
See how much better this is than combox wars over gun control?
And indeed, one of my basic desires in starting Mudblood Catholic in the first place was, without compromising my convictions, to act as a sort of diplomat-interpreter in the kulturkampf between Christendom and glistendom -- to try and achieve, not agreement necessarily, but a greater understanding and rapport between queer culture and Christians, especially Catholics. I think this is worthwhile, partly because, as one of the wounded of that culture war, I'd very much like to not be shot any more, please; moreover, I think that people being kind and respectful to one another is an end worth pursuing in itself, and an end that is much more easily attained when they comprehend one another than when they don't. Above both of these is the fact that, owing to faults on both sides, there are plenty of gays who have repressed their faith, and plenty of Christians who have repressed their sexuality, because they think (I believe, falsely) that the two cannot be maintained together, and therefore choose to renounce something that was precious to them in the name of maintaing something they cannot bear to give up. That kind of false dichotomy is agonizing and destructive, and I think that some good sense, imagination, and generosity -- in a word, some compromise -- would prevent a lot of people from tearing themselves in two.***
Here, though, I have to say that I think the compromise proposed by Rev. Cortez is -- how shall I put it? -- stupid.
Compromise over mere matters of taste, or over differences that are purely cultural (e.g., slurping is rude in the West but complimentary in the Orient), is not only acceptable but positively good. Compromise over matters of principle is bad. Because of course, in the former case, the compromise is an expression of a principle, the principle of respect and kindness towards others, and recognizing that what we happen to be used to or to like is not the same thing as what is morally right. That kind of compromise is a courtesy; compromising over right and wrong is, well, wrong, and in my opinion generally proves to be discourteous as well.
For this is no mere matter of cultural differences. If, in the eyes of God, gay sex is morally equivalent to straight sex, then gay unions should be approved by all Christians everywhere, without reservation or apology. A given individual, based on a personal call to celibacy, might of course choose to abstain from them, but that's quite different from saying that they are wrong. If the progressivist stance on homosexuality is right, then allowing for two opinions on the subject is kind of like allowing for two opinions on whether racism is okay: no, it doesn't determine whether you're a Christian or not, but we kind of need a higher bar for what is acceptable than that.
A bar about this high, for instance.
And if, by contrast, the teaching of the Catholic Church in particular and of Christendom throughout history generally is true, then engaging in a gay union isn't just a faux pas, like using the salad fork to eat a steak. It is something that God has told us not to engage in because it is bad for us. Not arbitrarily, but objectively.**** Making pastoral allowances might still be acceptable for difficult cases, but that's quite different from saying that the standard itself is the problem. If the traditional stance on homosexuality is right, then allowing for two opinions on the subject is kind of like allowing for two opinions on whether polygamy is okay: no, it doesn't determine whether God loves you or not, but we kind of need a higher bar for what is acceptable than that.
A bar about, eh, you get the idea.
In a situation like this, I have more respect for my opposite numbers in the debate -- men like Ben Moberg, Justin Lee, Andrew Sullivan, or Matthew Vines -- than I have for the kind of compromise represented by Cortez and those like him. For that matter, I have considerably more respect for Dan Savage than I do for that. For the progressivist idea is at least an idea. The "third way" suggestion is not an idea, but a refusal to have an idea; it is a declaration that this issue, in which the happiness and holiness of millions of human beings hangs in the balance, is insignificant enough to dismiss without giving it a real answer. Frankly, I find that dishonest and cowardly. Either way, it is a disservice to people who need, deserve, and were made for the truth; and I have no respect for that.
That's not to say that everybody has to have a belief from which they will never ever swerve and they must arrive at it right this instant. Going from one view to another is perfectly acceptable as long as it's done honestly; indeed, if it is both done honestly and involves coming to a view that is in fact more correct, it is called "becoming wiser." But refusing to admit the importance of the issue means refusing even the possibility of wisdom -- it removes the terms under which progress can be made. Changing direction may or may not get you closer to your goal, but declaring that every direction is an equally valid way of getting to your goal is more or less bound to get you lost, and frustrated. (Trust me, I live in Baltimore.)
TL;DR: Nut up and have an opinion. Gabriel out.
Maybe I'm being harsh, but in my defense I added this to my movie library recently. Been
re-watching the tragically snuffed splendor that is Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, too.
*This should not be confused with the video titled The Third Way, which deals specifically with the Catholic approach to the question, and in which the excellent people Melinda Selmys and Joseph Prever appear. Of that video I have very mixed feelings -- which is not code for "I hate it," it really does mean simply "mixed feelings" -- but there is no time or space to do that justice in a footnote.
**Holy Ghost is better. #anglicanusenerd
***As a Catholic Christian, I think it infinitely more important that a person remain or become a Christian than that they identify with their sexuality. Nonetheless, repressing sexuality is in my view never a good thing: learning to restrain sexual desires is just part of being a grown-up, but repressing them -- i.e., insisting that they aren't there or aren't an important part of you -- is unhealthy, and in fact makes it more difficult to deal with them, because of the element of dishonesty and resulting ignorance about yourself that repression entails.
***This doctrine is not the same as the claims, made by some people who profess it, about exactly why it is bad for us, a why that I for one do not claim to know. Some people do claim to know, and I think there are some explanations that seem more illuminating than others; but I have yet to come across an explanation that I find totally satisfactory. I therefore accept, as a matter of faith, that homosexuality is wrong, without necessarily knowing why -- just as many Christians, perhaps most, accept that Christ was born of a Virgin without necessarily knowing why, and indeed the full reasons why may not be knowable.