Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Meow: Taming the Strange

I have great affection for the disturbed, the scarred, and the psychologically abnormal. Between second grade and the time I left independent contracting for corporate life I have only made two close friends who were baptized and, at any time I knew them, practicing Christians; one since broke down and is convinced he is a woman. The disturbed, scarred, and psychologically abnormal attract us, or at least they attract me, because they showcase an Augustinian example of our damaged human nature and how sinful it can be. This the disturbed do from a safe distance, safe enough that we do not see how damaged and sinful we are. They are those who live on the fringe of society, not as victims of broken families and violence, but because they do not really fit in, those on Bergoglio's "peripheries."

Until recently, one such group was the homosexual community. The arrant self indulgence of what has traditionally been a promiscuous demographic elicited many general conclusions about that group, not all inaccurate, but certainly incomplete. A friend, the out-of-wedlock child of a lesbian academe and a mafioso, would moonlight as a dancer in a squalid little club—the sort Omar Mateen targeted in June—during his military days. He once reminisced of a quiet consensus that the hedonism acted as a bandage on a bloody soul, that engaging in mindless acts of the flesh was like a drug high, a happy escape that yielded a lower and lower rate of return until one haunted such places out of deference to one's social banker. His stories neatly preface St. Augustine's reflection that God "fashion[s] sorrow into a lesson for us" (Confessions II.2.4). Many of the people in the gay community "enjoyed" themselves, but were also aware that they were fighting a litany of personal troubles (broken households, abusive fathers, drugs, disease, lost friendships, harsh relatives) by developing boisterous extroversion, the personal disposition that fittingly allows them to be over-represented in music and the arts.

I do not mean to glorify the gay community, far from it. However, anecdotally I have held the friendship of a few members of that community who are more aware that they are broken individuals than the average middle-class parishioner at the Temple of Mammon, the American shopping mall. My friend's pink version of a lonely hearts' club possessed not a few patrons who seriously wondered how far off God's path they had trod and how their parents felt, despite all the consoling words of support and acceptance. I knew a few who attended Mass infrequently, sitting at the back of the church and fraught with trepidation, listening to the words of Christ pass judgment on their actions (as is the case for all sinners).

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to contrast these experiences with a more modern take on the alternative lifestyle demographic. A friend compelled me to attend a fundraiser for a worthy cause with some of her friends, including a noticeably bored Muhammadan and a gay couple. Gone was the outlandishness, extroversion, and self-awareness that many in the public rightly or wrongly associated with that path in previous times. These two were card-carrying members of the Temple of Mammon and regularly attended the American mall. They were early thirty-somethings, held lower management jobs at major firms that produced low six digit salaries and three weeks of vacation, they worked out, shaved closely, and were "looking to settle down." They looked less like Quentin Crisp, more like prissy, domesticated house cats. They had no interest in current affairs, past affairs, or the cause at hand. They had just "moved in," woken up late, and enjoyed a morning with fresh air through open windows. There was nothing offensive about them, but there was nothing intriguing about them either. In them was no sign of the scars of their predecessors from the 1980s, none of the self-congratulatory politics of modern university professors, nothing but pure middle-class mediocrity. I might have asked the submissive of the pair what he thought of Oscar Wilde were I not so certain he would cough up a fur ball.

While the gay community has never been a paragon of Christian virtue, there were once a few unique qualities that allowed those in it the chance to glimpse at the Truth throughout their lives and, in their darker, more private moments, consider accepting It.

Can the devil not even leave alone those who he has already confounded?


  1. Can the devil not even leave alone those who he has already confounded?

    Not while they recognize their own miserable state. After all, that leaves open the door for Him who nocks, and ol' Beelzebub can't allow that, now can he? Better to have a general culture of "I'm OK, you're OK", of smug self-contentment, where even the presence of practicing Christians does not prique one's conscience, and these are left to a martyrdom of absurdity.

  2. One of the great mysteries of the book of the Apocalypse is these paradoxical words of Christ Pantocrator: "I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth" and "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is just, let him be justified still."

    It is better for sinners to dive wholeheartedly into their sins than for them to drift into mundane normality. Perhaps it is because those who are loud and obnoxious about their wickedness are more open to experiencing the fullness of public shame, once God pricks their conscience. In much the same way, Socrates preferred a spirited but untamed temperament in men to the unspirited and tamed.

    1. Well it can go either one way or the other.
      There was an Italian woman who recently committed suicide after being shamed by the whole of Italy for a pornographic video of her "cuckolding" her boyfriend.
      A lot of women who do this are never exposed, never repent, and go to hell. She had the chance to repent, she could have been another Mary Magdalene, but she despaired and slaughtered herself instead.

      I think those words of Christ are His typical hyperbolic language, as when He says that we should hate our father, our brother, our own selves. It's a wake-up call for the presumptuous. In an absolute sense it is better to be a lukewarm Catholic than a devil-worshipper; but in a relative sense the devil-worshipper might be better off in that if his conscience awakens he might be shocked into becoming a devout Catholic. In the end though, I don't think the lukewarm suffer as greatly as the shameless sinners.

      I don't think telling lukewarm Catholics who struggle to find motivation to be devout are better off when told: "rather than come to Mass distracted, I'd prefer you were a sodomite!" How do you reckon they'd take that? There's a danger of them thinking, "I'm already finding it difficult to come to Mass. If coming makes me worse than a sodomite, I won't bother coming at all. Perhaps father will praise me for my sin."

    2. Of course there's some hyperbole going on here, but those who strive for mediocrity are like the unprofitable servant who buried his one coin. You have to risk in order to gain anything. I am reminded of the swarms of the damned in Dante's Inferno who are not even allowed into Hell, because they were too indecisive to choose either good or evil.

      Those who come to Mass distracted but still make the effort to come are more similar to that servant if he had put his coin in the bank like his master suggested, so that it could at least accrue interest. It is better than nothing.

  3. Rad Trad, great piece and interesting in light of the two part piece on Voris by Jones which I just finished reading in "Culture Wars."

    It is weird to me that Dante puts sodomites and usurers in the same circle of hell and this modern ecclesiastical epoch sees the sodomite Voris railing about bad Bishops and another famous sodomite, Fr Robert Sirico, who started the Acton institute, defending usury; both must be the center of attention; narcissistic, despite lives that used to demand LONG periods of solitary penance.

    Sodomy is unproductive sex and usury is the use of money in an illicit way that "reproduces"

    In a certain way, this is a fun time to be alive

  4. I imagine that there are more converts from bored, nihilist "middle-class mediocrity" than from the sons of sodom.

    "While the gay community has never been a paragon of Christian virtue", must be one of the most absurd, cringing understatements I've ever read.

    1. John, that statement was intended to be a little absurd, or at least tongue in cheek! My point is that the "strange", as I entitled this post, have always had in their number a few who are open to God for the very same reason that they are the odd men out in society. For a better illustration perhaps you have read "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor?

      I am a card carrying member of white middle class mediocrity and have occasionally functioned as its spokesman!

    2. Rad Trad you are who you choose to be. Recently on some show, a local priest ( who used to be a lawyer) said again the magical sad words: human being is the only God's creations who can say no to Him. Hence the devil never rebelled against God so he can't be the excuse (the priest didn't say that because of canons, but this idea that demons don't fight God because they are substantially different from Him, that never made sense to me except in the circumstance of free will -we fight God not Satan).
      Sinners are lukewarm because they (we) sin yet they are redeemed by Him to keep on living whether they admit this situation or not. I am sure that cold and hot are about something else, not just the irreverent self-indulgent hedonists who sin in different ways.
      Here's my 2 cent idea: the Inquisition was cold; the martyrs were hot. Just my 2 cent...