Monday, November 06, 2006

Against personal interest

Over at Rod Dreher's blog, some people are crassly assuming that Ted Haggard is gay (thanks for the link, Dale). But Rod links to the most important reaction, that of Gayle Haggard. Here's the best quote:
What I want you to know is that I love my husband, Ted Haggard, with all my heart. I am committed to him until death "do us part." We started this journey together and with the grace of God, we will finish together.
Now, I'm sure the right-thinking will dismiss this as some big-heared bimbo (start Hillary imitation) "standing by her man like Tammy Wynette." Because by staying beside her husband and not making this out to be a worse betrayal than an affair with the secretary, and saying that a marriage vow is for life and "for better or worse," she's powerfully denying the cental claims of the gay-rights pushers. She's showing that homosexuality doesn't define the world, doesn't define a person, doesn't define the right thing to do. The Haggards have five children, who need two parents, preferably those who begat them, and that's the most important thing. I'll be praying for the Haggards tonight at Adoration. Dunno what they'd think of such Papist idol-worship of a bowing before a cracker ... but there it is.

Another good link I found at Rod's was to a National Review piece by David Frum (ironically linked by a hostile combox-er). Here's the money quote:
Consider the hypothetical case of two men. Both are inclined toward homosexuality. Both from time to time hire the services of male prostitutes. Both have occasionally succumbed to drug abuse.
One of them marries, raises a family, preaches Christian principles, and tries generally to encourage people to lead stable lives.
The other publicly reveals his homosexuality, vilifies traditional moral principles, and urges the legalization of drugs and prostitution.
Which man is leading the more moral life?
Exactly. In fact, the contrary answer is the direct result of considering hypocrisy to be the sin of sins (which is the direct consequence of considering "authenticity" to be a virtue). In my exaggerated moments, I've said "liberals are immune to charges of hypocrisy because they champion immorality." Obviously that's exaggerated in some details, but I think it still essentially true. Only if hypocrisy is acceptable is public morality possible in a fallen world. In fact I would write a book called "In Defense of Hypocrisy," except that it has already been written (Master Jeremy was a PK as a boy, and I reread his chapter on religious figures over the weekend).

And the great walk-off is from Aristotle:
I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.
Back to Frum: He also makes the sensible point that:
In every other avenue of life, we praise people who rise above selfish personal wishes to champion higher principles and the public good. We admire the white southerners who in the days of segregation spoke out for racial equality. We admire the leader of a distressed industry who refuses to ask for trade protections and government handouts. We admire the Arthur Vandenbergs and (someday) the Joe Liebermans who can reach past party feeling to support a president of the opposing party for the sake of the national interest.
And he rhetorically asks why not the same for homosexuality. In other words, if a person has homosexual attractions but decides (for whatever reason) that these attractions are temptations to be resisted and/or averted, why should he favor every loosening of the public sphere on homosexuality? Why isn't favoring restrictions on "himself" an example of "intellectual firmness and moral integrity" rather than, as the homosex-pushers assert, an act of self-loathing? Or is every claim in the public sphere just a rationalization for biography and self-interest?

In fact, this very matter came up between myself and my confessor a few months ago -- the relation between opposing homosexual "marriage" and men with same-sex attraction like myself. I reprint our exchange below, with Father's permission, which he gave with the following elaboration:
I don't know if I made the analogy, but I think it can be compared to an alcoholic forbidding alcohol in the house. He knows his weakness and he doesn't want the temptation. Or again, similar to almost any man opposing easier access to pornography: he knows it's a temptation and he doesn't it want it near him.
I have bracketed over a few specific details with generalities for the sake of discretion, both my own and that of others.

Here's the lead on a story I just read (the whole story is after I sign off):
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Mayor James E. West, a Republican foe of gay rights, was accused in a newspaper story Thursday of molesting two boys decades ago and was caught by the paper using the trappings of his office to try to court a young man on a gay Web site.
West on Thursday denied the molestation allegations, but acknowledged he "had relations with adult men."
Stories like this one paralyze me with fear. Who knows where I might be at 54. And even if I live like The Blessed Virgin Mary Herself for the next 15 years, some reporter already has his lead written -- "[My Name], a Republican foe of gay rights, was accused in a newspaper story Thursday of [short list of my past misdeeds] decades ago..."

In all honesty, Padre (though I'm not blaming this for [recent event] ), the drumbeat of stories in this genre (and the apparent fact they'll never end) is one reason I think I'm so prone to fits of depression and despair. I see that headline in my future and it's hard to keep my eyes disciplined and dry. The world is completely unforgiving, and there's a significant movement afoot that would positively revel in my public humiliation, as a good in itself (not simply a regrettable but necessary side-effect, breaking a few eggs to make an omelette and all of that).

I know I shouldn't care about the world (if God is with us, who can be against us). But I do. I'm afraid of martyrdom.
To which Father responded:
I understand your fear, and I wish there were a way of removing it entirely. A simple "Oh, don't worry about it" wouldn't really suffice.

What strikes me is the reasonableness of a man with SSA opposing the gay rights agenda. [Name of famous right-wing intellectual] once commented that the reason he opposes pornography is because of his own weaknesses! Not because he looks down his nose at others. He opposes it for his own sake. I must say, that is a lot of what lurks behind my opposition to TV. I know that it is the worst thing for me, that I will settle on the most mindless show or movie (usually featuring Adam Sandler) and fritter away hours that I will have to make up in after school detention (purgatory). It is not my strength or superior virtue that makes me bash TV - it's my weakness. Mutatis mutandis, I think you can say the same.

But let me point out the obvious. You are taking a possibility and making it a certainty, adding water so that it grows, fertilizing it, giving it steroids, and then collapsing under the weight of it.

You know, increasingly I turn back to basics. Dedicate yourself more to cultivating a PERSONAL relationship with Christ. You seem to be living according to fears about a possible future instead of according to the certainty of the present Lord.

It's a hackneyed prayer at this point, but one I pray every day and from which I derive great peace:

God, grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.


Dale said...

You're quite welcome--good stuff!

Anonymous said...

CM, I've been reading your site on and off for a while now, and I admire you more than I can say.

I think one of the reason these news stories are what they are is because America is at heart a Calvinist nation. There is that notion of 'once saved, always saved' along with it's unspoken corollary, 'if you've ever done anything REALLY bad in your life, you're just proving how unregenerate you really are.'

I'm not saying we Catholics can't be just as bad about rash judgment and calumny and those sorts of sins. At heart, though, the difference seems to be that for Catholics, sin is something you do (or omit) that you try very hard every day to stop doing (or omitting) and even when you fail you can still be forgiven--the sin doesn't define you. But the Calvinist notion as seen in these kinds of stories is that the sin is who the person *really* was, all along, and they've just been *pretending* to be good. I can't imagine anything more conducive to despair than that notion.