Posts Tagged ‘christianity’
The transition of Canadian broadcaster and journalist Michael Coren, from a conservative Roman Catholic commentator most notable to me for his homophobia to an Anglican who has embraced gay issues, has from my perspective been sudden and remarkable. That homophobia was actually the motive force behind his religious transformation, as he wrote on the 16th of May in the Toronto Star, is still something of a shocker to me.
It’s been an interesting two weeks. I was fired from three regular columns in Catholic magazines, had a dozen speeches cancelled and was then subjected to a repugnant storm of tweets, Facebook comments, emails, newspaper articles and radio broadcasts where it was alleged that I am unfaithful to my wife, am willing to do anything for money, am a liar and a fraud, a “secret Jew,” that my eldest daughter is gay and I am going directly to hell. As I say, an interesting two weeks.
The reason for all this probably seems disarmingly banal and for many people absurdly irrelevant. At the beginning of May it was made public that a year ago I left the Roman Catholic Church and began to worship as an Anglican. More specifically, from being a public and media champion of social conservatism I gradually came to embrace the cause of same-sex marriage, more liberal politics and a rejection of the conservative Christianity that had characterized my opinions and persona for more than a decade. I’d won the RTNDA Broadcasting Award for a major radio debate where I opposed equal marriage, I was the author of the bestselling book Why Catholics Are Right, I was Michael Coren, for God’s sake — certainly not someone who would ever appear in the pages of the Toronto Star!
The change was to a large extent triggered by the gay issue. I couldn’t accept that homosexual relationships were, as the Roman Catholic Church insists on proclaiming, disordered and sinful. Once a single brick in the wall was removed the entire structure began to fall.
I refused to base my entire world view and theology, as so many active Catholics do, around abortion, contraception and sex rather than love, justice and forgiveness. Frankly, it was tearing me apart. I wanted to extend the circle of love rather than stand at the corners of a square and repel outsiders. So I quietly and privately drifted over to an Anglican Church that while still working out its own position on many social issues, is far more progressive, open, relevant and willing to admit reality.
He wrote again about this transition, at length, in The Walrus in the appropriately named “Coming Out”.
As a middle-aged, very white, very straight, very Christian man, I was obliged, first reluctantly and then eagerly, to explore the complex dynamic between faith and homosexuality and to work out a new narrative. The crux of that narrative: God is love. The love I felt when I first saw my newborn children, when I watched my mother dissolve into Alzheimer’s, when I found my late father’s diaries that spoke of his pride in our family, when I feel closest to the Christ I worship. Jesus spoke of love for everybody and called for forgiveness, justice, truth, turning the other cheek.
As my faith has deepened over the years, I have tried to broaden the circle of inclusive love rather than guard the borders of what I once thought was Christian truth. Instead of holding the door firm, I want to hold it wide open. I have realized that Christianity is a permanent revolution, a state of being in which we believers must challenge our preconceptions every moment of every day. How dare I—with all of my brokenness and sordid, banal sinfulness—criticize someone simply because he or she wants to live life fully? How the hell dare I?
The standard Christian response to homosexuality is the familiar but entirely inadequate mantra “love the sinner but hate the sin.” In other words, a gay person’s sexual and romantic attractions—much of their being and personality, and all that they want in a lasting relationship—is sinful, but they themselves are just fine. By way of analogy, the teachings go, Christians love alcoholics but not alcoholism, love those who commit adultery but not the act of adultery itself. Such logic presupposes that same-sex attraction is no more central to a person’s identity than substance abuse or unfaithfulness—which any reasonable person knows to be untrue.
I’m still taken aback by this all. The apparent thoroughness of Coren’s transition, triggered directly by his recognition of homophobia, impresses me. Really, the only thing coherent I can say about this is that I hope that I, too, am able to make similar shifts in my thinking when I recognize a fault in my worldview.