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Judge Not? (Part 2) Limiting Another’s Horizon

God is the only One qualified to determine the eternal fate of His creatures. The fact that we even aspire to His role as Judge reveals an ugly trait in us. It may not always express itself in condemning others to hell; it may well involve lesser expressions of judgment in which we bind others to a lesser image of themselves.

Our own hurtful experiences with loved ones prompt defenses and fears that tempt us to reduce them to our image. That is far removed from the image of his/her Creator; it is the defensive image of our own design. Wounded hearts pronounce final judgments as a way of self-protecting and of getting even. We the created can operate outside the Creator and close the horizon of another.

For example, Annette and I faced much hardship with a gay-identified friend. In frustration and hurt, it was easy to agree with our friend’s own self-sabotaging, self-hateful ways. Our feelings were at once understandable and diabolical. Jesus gave us the chance to repent and forgive him, so that we could become mirrors and providers of his own dignity. God is faithful to help us keep another’s horizon open even when (s)he wants it shut!

The same principle applies as well to what I describe as ‘homosexual fatalism.’ That involves a secular understanding of persons with SSA in which we make them an ‘ethnos’, a people group defined from birth as ‘gay’. That engenders a strange kind of ‘queer’ orthodoxy in which the vulnerable must become baptized and confirmed as forever ‘gay’ if in fact they are to be true to their deepest ‘selves.’ This new sexual orthodoxy is neither scientific nor particularly moral; it is in truth a worldly spirituality.

As a student on the UCLA campus, two groups vied for my attention: the evangelical one and the Gay Student Union. I found the latter particularly compelling, as it is easier to worship the creature whom you can see rather than the Creator whom you cannot. By grace alone, I found the ‘gay’ world to be ultimately a closed horizon, a form of fatalism.

Richard John Neuhaus writes: ‘Fatalism is resigning ourselves to the inevitable; faith is entrusting ourselves to the ONE who is worthy of our trust.’ I am eternally grateful for the gift and community of faith. There I discovered Jesus– my goal and my path—my ‘new horizon and decisive direction’!

Naming one another as gay and reinforcing that identification closes one’s horizon; it is anti-Gospel. St. James invokes the power of the Creator when he entreats his readers to not close that horizon with false declarations about each other. ‘Brothers, do not slander each other…There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?’ (J 4: 11, 12)

Some macho friends at the gym were ranking on an evidently gender-confused man. I could not take it: ‘You know guys, your judgments only add to the pain and confusion of that dude’s life.’ We must live out in all walks of life this profound truth of St. Paul’s: ‘From now on we see no-one from a worldly point-of-view’ (2C 5:16).

We can train ourselves to lay down the false judgments of our modern age and see and name our fellows according to a true anthropology based on the catechism. ‘Every man and woman should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity; that includes gender difference and complementarity…the harmony of society depends on how that complementarity is lived out.’ (CCC2333)

That’s why St. JPll could say decisively in TOB: ‘The dignity of future generations depends on who man will be for woman and who woman will be for man.’ We each have the high call to help confirm the clarity of another’s dignity as either male or female; future generations will thank us for doing so!

Judging others by naming him or her according to an image less than what God intends usurps the role of God Himself. That tendency took on a more familiar form in Jesus’ day through the Pharisees. These Jewish religious leaders spun hundreds of rules from the Mosaic law and wound up entangling others in their web of religious tradition.

Pharisees complement the worldly spirituality of homosexual fatalism. Pope Francis describes them as infected by a ‘spiritual worldliness’: a religiosity based on rigid orthodoxy, pride in that orthodoxy, yet without an inner transformation of heart. With no ‘cor’ (or heart) shift, these ones could impose rules but not inspire redemption. The Pharisees tended to be punctilious, hypocritical, and uncaring toward those they served. Jesus said it best when he described the Pharisees as having exchanged the commands of God for the traditions of men (MK 7:8).

Pharisaic religion in Jesus’ day reduced the horizon of who God was and how He saw His children. Into that mix, Jesus brought a new Kingdom in Word and wonders. He invited the poor into a mercy tender enough to touch their wounds and strong enough to heal those wounds from the hazards of bad religion.

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merciful judge

Judge Not? (Part 1) Merciful Judge

Pope Francis launched a thousand speculations when he quipped ‘who am I to judge?’ in response to a journalist’s questions about persons with same-sex attraction, including Catholic clergy men. I cannot interpret Francis’ exact meaning here. But I know that in our increasingly gay-friendly climate, his words have become only too familiar. In many Christian circles, the believer who challenges the moral goodness of gay identity, practice, and marriage is usually shrugged off with a ‘who I am to judge?’, as if that statement itself marked its proclaimer as profoundly loving.

The paradox: many who refuse ‘to judge’ homosexuality can be shrill and dismissive toward persons who disagree with them–quick to pronounce grave judgments on those who have a problem with gay behavior. For example, a devout friend of mine has been trounced by her Catholic family for her refusal to bless a family member’s lesbian relationship. In truth she has sought the much harder road of loving both parties actively while not shifting the boundary lines of what she knows is God’s best for human relating.

To be sure, Jesus makes a big deal about not judging others wrongfully. Yet He insists we make proper moral judgments by relying upon His mercy and discernment. The Apostle Paul is our patron saint here; he urges us in the Spirit of Jesus to ‘judge those inside the church’ (1Cor 5:12).

So how do we make proper moral judgments without being judgmental? One key: keep first things first–the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That God became flesh in order to break the grip of our moral disorder and to transform us into His own image—that is good news, so stunning in fact that all other considerations must bow before the One who makes all things new.

Becoming ‘judgmental’ in the truly negative sense results from losing this Gospel-centeredness. Losing sight of Him, we become self-reliant and prone to self-justifications. We must defend ourselves—we’re all we’ve got! Self-justified ones tend to judge wrongfully, defensively. That applies as much to liberals as to conservatives. For example, as a ‘lefty’ young man, all I could defend do was defend my ‘gay’ way. I knew no other road, as Jesus was not yet mine.

Mercy alone breaks the bonds of self-justification. Mercy opens up for us a whole new world; it frees us to live out the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict, quoted by Pope Frances in the ‘Joyful Gospel’(EG): ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea but encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and decisive direction.’

Jesus opens up for us a whole new horizon. He cuts a decisive path for us. He made a way for Divine Love to surpass all other loves that compete for our hearts. United with Him—Jesus our horizon, Jesus our path, Jesus our goal, we begin to become more like Him. Part of the fruit of Christ-likeness is the call and the capacity to make wise moral judgments. Such discernment invites new life for us and for others.

The primary word in the NT for ‘judging’ others is rooted in the noun for judge, or GR krites. The verb ‘to judge’ (GR krino) means to separate one thing from another, to select, choose, examine, or investigate. Judgment in the NT is anchored in the understanding of God as the One who judges absolutely. That has a strong OT precedent as well, and refers to the all-seeing, all-knowing Creator who determines the eternal fate of His creatures based on His complete knowledge of them. God the Judge is the ultimate examiner of human hearts; He is thus the only One qualified to separate the wheat from tares, sheep from goats, saved from unsaved.

‘I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to what his deeds deserve…’ (Jer. 17:10)

‘Since you call upon a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here with reverent fear.’ (1P 1:17)

Jesus defines Himself as one with the Father in judgment: ‘My Father…has entrusted all judgment to the Son. He has given the Son authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.’ (JN 5: 22, 27)

These verses and many others make clear that only the Creator–Father and Son–have power to determine the eternal fate of His creatures. Glory Alleluia! That frees us by forbidding us from judging others’ ultimate fates. Clearly a divine call…

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Delivered, Devoted, Declaring

Delivered, Devoted, Declaring

‘Those forgiven of much love much.’ (LK 7:47)

Amid three July gatherings of sinners desperate for Jesus—the annual Courage Conference, Hope 2014 (RHN), and the Spanish Living Waters Training in Mexico City—we celebrated the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene—bad girl made good by the delivering hand of Jesus (‘from her seven demons came out…’ LK 8:2).

How fitting. Mercy alone purged her of pretty poisons, mercy alone provoked lifelong devotion to the only One worthy of it. At all three gatherings we followed the lead of the Magdalene in devoting ourselves to Jesus due to His delivering hand in our lives, be it from the rat’s wheel of lust, from the domination of same-sex attraction, or from the controlling influence of a loved one, still captive.

Marvelous. Mary Magdalene is the Gospel figure who highlights for us how moral and spiritual affliction cannot stand before the Lord of love. Instead, we the afflicted bow down before Mercy and are inflamed by the Fire that makes pure the most perverse. Nothing matters anymore but Him—to cleave to Him, to laugh and weep with Him, to feel what He feels more than the sway of sexy idols.

Mary lived out that devotion. She spent her life on Him, joining a small band of women whom He healed and who then gave all to support Him en route to Calvary. He became her life. When He died, so did the best of her. When ‘they took Him away,’ they took her heart. Perhaps that’s why, unlike the disciples, she wept and lingered at the tomb. The delivered don’t mess around. Love waits.

Of all His disciples, Jesus chose her to be the first one to whom He appeared—Christ Resurrected. That’s why the Church refers to Mary as St. Mary, the ‘Apostle of the Apostles.’ Astounding. Jesus entrusted the most important message on earth to a bad girl, made good (JN 20: 1-2, 11-18).

Today, we the delivered seek to devote ourselves to the One. We declare ‘the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His glorious light’ (1P 2:9). All three gatherings were thick with the fragrance of Jesus’ transforming love, a wooing love that brings sinners home to His rest, His Church.

I have not seen that kind of willingness on the part of the delivered to make known what Jesus has done in the specifics of deep and shameful choices. No more euphemisms or veiled allusions to ‘struggle’—as surely has Jesus has forgiven our sin, we name the sin so that Mercy might have its full effect on all who hear. One Catholic man in particular announced that he was giving up all his spare time this summer to any gathering that wanted to hear what Jesus has done to break the power of SSA in his life.

It is timely that this July marks the debut of two classy full-length documentaries that highlight Jesus’ unfailing love in the lives of persons with SSA. Check them out: Desire of the Everlasting Hills (everlastinghills.org) and Such Were Some of You (purepassion.com).

In a day when ‘coming out’ into some GLBTQRSTUVW variant is nearly boring, how fitting that God is raising up a Magdalene Army. By naming our affliction and its antidote, we testify of nothing less than Christ Resurrected. Delivered, we devote ourselves to Him and declare the wonders He has done.

‘With Jesus everything; without Him, nothing.’ St. Faustina

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Dignity of Choice

Dignity of Choice

‘Fatalism is resigning ourselves to the inevitable; faith is entrusting ourselves to the One who is worthy of our trust.’ Richard John Neuhaus

A prevailing assumption today: homosexuality is a genetic, inborn condition that requires us to defend ‘gay’ persons and ‘gay marriage’ because persons with such inclinations just cannot help it. Parents who confirm ‘gay-identified’ children seem especially intent on perpetuating such a fatalistic view of homosexuality; they lead the way in reducing their offspring (and others) to faulty notions of morality and identity.

In a front page article of the NY Times last week, Methodist Pastor Frank Schaefer offered this counsel to his ‘gay-identified’ son: ‘It’s so obvious that you did not choose this for yourself. This is who you are and this is how God created you to be.’ On those assumptions about his son’s inclinations (and the nature of God), the pastor determined to officiate at his son’s ‘gay wedding’ and lead the charge in promoting ‘gay marriage’ in his denomination.

Wow. Popular, superficial, utterly deceptive thinking with devastating consequences for everyone.

Think about it. Isn’t it obvious that our bodies are designed for fruitful communion with the opposite gender? If that is so, then any feelings to the contrary must be understood as some kind of frustration to the normal progression unto wholeness.

In other words, biology determines the direction of our sexual development but still requires a process of becoming reconciled to our gender selves, a process marked by fits and starts and subject to a variety of variables that impede that process. For some, fixating on the same gender represents a kind of ‘stuckness’ en route to the goal of human sexual relating—the freedom to commit one’s body and soul to another for the purpose of creating new life.

For many persons with SSA, such impediments are deep, unconscious and include temperament, which becomes the grid through which (s)he responds to formative relationships and social cues. Even the APA acknowledges this interplay between personality and social learning in sexual formation. What we all agree on: NO EVIDENCE EXISTS FOR A ‘BORN THIS WAY’ BASIS FOR HOMOSEXUALITY.

While we who struggle with SSA do not choose our inclinations, we also must accept the fact that from the start we choose how we respond to the sins of omission and commission that shape our lives. Painful, confusing, and shameful experiences influence our view of self and other: in the wondrous, woeful mix, we make decisions about the kind of person we want to be and how we are going to steward our bodily desires to love and beloved.

Our Designer and our Redeemer gives us the dignity of choice. We with SSA can courageously choose to entrust ourselves wholly to Himself and His way, including resuming the journey to sexual wholeness.

We begin by forsaking fatalism, and the passivity and self-pity it engenders.

1. Then, we line up with the truth of our destiny: ‘I am created to be a good gift. I refuse to construct a social identity around my SSA.’ All persons have the right to choose whether or not they will create a ‘self’ based on unwanted attractions.

2. We can choose to participate in any number of healing opportunities that identify obstacles to growth and support us in making good decisions that line up with our goals. Maximize healthy church involvement and a host of therapeutic and group options. (NARTH, RHN, TOB, MPC, Courage, DSM/LW)

3.‘Feeling and dealing:’ Let your SSA become a window to the good hard work you can do to understand what these desires mean–to connect the dots between emotional needs and feelings, and to transform the threat of falling back into the grace needed to press forward onto truer ground.

Change is hard. That’s why we settle on fatalism. ‘Born this way’ gives us a ‘pass’ but fails to meet the deepest desires of our heart. We were born to become who we are, men and women whose very bodies testify of the truth and beauty for which we ache and can aspire.

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Death or Liberty

‘You took your sons and daughters whom you bore to Me and sacrificed them as food to the idols…you slaughtered and sacrificed My children.’ (Ez. 16: 20, 21)

Unthinkable. A father leaves his 22-month-old son in a hot car to die while he exchanges nude selfies with six women. Monstrous.

Think again. The monster lives in us, tempting us to abandon our own dignity and the lives of those we love most. The end of sexual addiction—in truth of all illicit sexual acts—is death. Few among us have not experienced the lure of sexy images or love objects whose presence promises a rush of pleasure so intense that we might just forsake all others for its demands.

Two things become clear in the tragedy that came to light in a Georgia courtroom last week: first, addiction enslaves desire. It takes our good and normal longing for love and twists/perverts/intensifies those desires by attaching them to false objects. Neither the real woman who conceived that child, nor the child left to die, was on the father’s mind as he trembled with anticipation for the next disembodied image on his I-phone.

He had entered the dreamy, demonic world of phantoms—unrealities far removed from bills and diapers and human need. Vengeful deities promised him relief at the cost of real life. These demons demand blood.

Besides enslaving our desires, addiction blinds us to impact of our compulsions. Addicts cannot recover while they live in the lie that their enslavement impacts no-one but themselves. Thus the wake up call to self-consumed addicts is a loved one who stumbles upon the affair or the thousands of websites on the home computer.

Whole-enough spouses and friends sound the alarm: ‘What kills you kills me too. I will no longer participate with our slow death. Get help. Not getting help means you are making the choice to seriously limit, if not end, our relationship.’

Heather King says it best: ‘We try to be pure because someone else needs us to be pure. Someone in pain needs us to refrain from using another, whether in reality or fantasy, to anesthetize our own pain. Maybe that person is standing in front of us in the grocery line with three screaming kids. Maybe that person is our spouse.’

Sound the alarm. Wake up to the nightmarish impact of your dreamy gods and goddesses. They enslave you and demand the blood of persons you love most. Remember the real faces of the one you married, the ones you sired or conceived, the faces of the kids your lover has abandoned to dance with you. Our God is just and will punish persons who stumble ‘little ones.’ See their faces and repent while you still can.

I marvel at the darkness that hovers over Christian families today in which the mother or father facing same-sex attraction is given a ‘pass’ to explore his/her gay destiny because the poor one cannot help it. So a parent abandons his/her family for a gay ‘spring break.’ In the name of compassion, we are sacrificing our children to the idol gods. Justice has stumbled in the streets.

Wake up. You have a choice. Get help. You cannot overcome this alone. It takes a village. Find a group desperate for God and for a daily commitment to loving real people. Like any drug addict, be prepared to go through withdrawals. Cry out for mercy constantly. God always hears that prayer and at some point that mercy will invade your heart. Worship Jesus. Turn off ‘Blues in the Night’ and sing ‘Amazing Grace’. You are both a wretch and a beloved child of God. Your destiny is love.

‘If I choose to act in such a way that separates me from my infinite destiny, I move closer to the abyss of not being free, that is, of not being able to love any more. I can be rescued only when the attraction of infinity wins over whatever is attracting me away from it. That is the redemption of my freedom.’

Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, as quoted by Christopher West in The Heart of the Gospel

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