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Gay and really Catholic
Gay activist Dan Savage went straight for the jugular in his recent remarks on bullying at a national conference for high school journalists.
The problem, he said, is the Bible.
To state the matter in terms that can be used in family newspapers, the sex-advice columnist repeatedly proclaimed that the Bible contains far too much bovine excrement.
"People often point out that they can't help ... with the anti-gay bullying, because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans, that being gay is wrong," said Savage, in an Internet clip that went viral.
The key is to ignore the bovine excrement in the Bible "about gay people," he said, the "same way we have learned to ignore ... the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore ... the Bible about all sorts of things."
For serious Christians, it's hard to list all the errors and unfair accusations in Savage's broadside, according to Joshua Gonnerman, a doctoral student in historical theology at the Catholic University of America. For starters, it's impossible to dismiss the "prime document of the Christian faith," which is "inspired by the Holy Spirit."
Christians must insist, he added, that Savage was "no less wrong to dismiss traditional sexual morality. On this point, scripture and tradition always have spoken with one voice, and the churches cannot, in good conscience, reject that voice. The traditional sexual ethic is the only possible antidote to the rampant commodification of human persons in contemporary culture."
The twist is that he made these arguments in a First Things essay entitled, "Why Dan Savage Was Right." In it, Gonnerman identifies himself as a "Christian who is committed to chastity," who embraces Catholic teachings on sexuality and who happens to be gay.
The point Savage got right, he said, is his claim that church leaders rarely offer serious responses to gay community concerns, such as the bullying of young gays and people who are perceived to be gay. Most religious leaders act as if they want gay people -- including believers -- to simply go way.
"The whole issue is constantly talked about in a culture wars context, instead of in a pastoral context," said Gonnerman, in a recent interview. "Instead of being a pastoral issue in the lives of real people, homosexuality is handled as an us-versus-them issue. ... Gay people must be treated as members of the family -- not just pushed aside."
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