A Hill You Want To Die On

Via Americablog, this essay in The Advocate concerning Catholic Church authorities in Canada refusing to baptize the children of legally married gay couples. One part of this raging injustice in particular caught my eye:

The child of a drug addict can be baptized. The child of a murderer can be baptized. Even the illegitimate child of a fornicating priest can be baptized (and if you’ve studied Catholic history, you know many children of wayward clergy grew up to be cardinals and even popes).

All these children are considered worthy before God.

It has been a long time since the catechism of my childhood. But I do remember a central facet of my Catholic experience, and that is a reinforcement, day by day, hour by hour, of my own unworthiness before God. Of the unworthiness of us all before God. Of the sins we all commit, and of which sins we must be confessed. Of the way we must, approaching the altar, cast down our eyes, fall on our knees. A sacrament was not a reward for good behavior. It was a gift God gave to us despite our sinful natures. Despite our own unworthiness.

Who am I, to call you unworthy? Who are you, to call me the same? Who is Cardinal Ouellet, to say to a soul he might gain for Christ, no, we will not have that one, this one we may admit to God’s august presence but not that one, see the scarlet letter his parents wear?

This church which seeks to persuade us against abortion by pointing out what extraordinary children do come into the world unloved and unwanted, now would try to pick the unwanted out. Why does faith appear irrelevant to me, so often, when confronting the evil of the world? Look no further.

As in all matters related to faith I turn to Robert for wisdom and counsel:

As a friend used to ask me: “Is this a hill you want to die on?” That’s the question I hear McKibben asking. Is gay marriage (to pluck a divisive issue) the hill mainstream churches want to die on?

That this issue is intensely felt, and even being forced, on congregations, is clear from the “mission statement” of my friend’s church. Gay marriage is a very narrow and very topical issue; it shouldn’t be part of the definition of what a church is. There is no mention of homsexuality in the gospels, and only a few references to same-gender sex in Paul’s letters (and most of those refer to the Greek practice of men using boys for sexual pleasure, what we sould today call “pederasty”). Why, then, does a Christian congregation feel the need to make that issue a part of the definition of who and what it is?

Increasingly I feel these are the hills the churches want to die on. And increasingly I only wish it didn’t make me feel so terribly sad, that what could be such a force for good in the world is being used to fight a battle that will harm a great many and benefit no one. Not even those dead on the hill after all this is over.

A.