Tuesday 10 April 2012

The Ugly Face of Disappointment - The Flaw in the Carpet (Part 2/3)

This is the second in a triptych of articles on disappointment. On Monday night on Australia's ABC, our national broadcaster, Tony Jones' QandA program had two very special guests on to discuss the vicissitudes of religion and science, or if you prefer, Christianity and atheism. The guests? Biologist Professor Richard Dawkins of 'The God Delusion' fame and Sydney's Catholic archbishop and primate of the Australian RC Church, Cardinal George Pell.

Now as many of my readers will know, I am no great fan of His Eminence regarding a number of matters, but especially his myopic attitudes to the LGBT community, both Catholic and secular alike. Why begin this post with a reference to Dawkins and Pell? Well, it's something the Cardinal said in a throw-away comment that disturbed me, but also led me to link it to our theme that being gay is such a disappointment.

When asked by an audience member about his anti gay marriage views, the Cardinal answered with his usual stump speech. The compere Tony Jones then asked him a general question about his attitude to homosexuality. The Cardinal attempted to make light of the question by using the folllowing well-known musing. He said in reference to "homosexuals" that we're a bit like the intentional flaw in the Oriental carpet which is put there in honour of God becasue God is the only one who is perfect, so the undeniable beauty of the Oriental carpet is deliberately spoiled by the placing in it of a flaw, a mistake.

Now this is not the place for me to enter into a diatribe about the lack of sensitivity or the hurt such a comment would inflict, nor the wisdom of Austrlaia's Catholic primate uttering such words about gay people on national television. That he did, underscores the inadequacy of his theology and highlights the man's ignorance to the truth about LGBT sexuality but also his relentless adherence to a conservative centralist monarchistic wing of the Church that still calls homosexuality "intrinsically disordered." Rather, I want to draw attention to how much this idea, that we gay people are flawed people, is apparent in our societies and why it needs to change.

In Part 1 of this article, I attempted to showcase the cultural notion that gay people are a disappointment - to parents and to society. That we are perceived as second-best, the silver medal, the runner-up to the straight people. And such tragic ideas have their sway in the assumption that we are flawed. That in fact we are flawed heterosexuals, broken straight people, who have had the misadventure or bad luck of growing up on a deviated path, deviated from the right, the true, the healthy, the robust, the good. Now as you can imagine if you have read BGBC or any other of my posts, I utterly repudiate such a thought and show I think convincingly that it is patently wrong.

Gay people are in no way second-best, silver medal, runner-up or any other way of describing people who don't measure up. In fact we do measure up and measure up well. Were we to live in a society free of heterosexism and even worse homophobia, we would not have to go through such an ordeal in our youth in coming to terms with our sexual orientation or accepting the gay or lesbian sexual identity that we gradually develop over time. The problem is not within us, it is within society. It is not we who are sick, it is society which is sick. And the Cardinal's unfortunate remarks, spoken as they are by an authoritative church figure, go a long way to scaffold and perpetuate that illness in society and can even lead to utterly unethical reparative therapy practices in some churches or violence done by antisocial homophobes. Your Eminence, we don't need this sort of talk. We don't need your views. To categorise us as a flaw in the otherwise perfect straight human race is, in the twenty-first century, both ignorant and frankly barbaric. You need to get yourself educated. You need to change this most uncharitable postion.

The view that sees us as the flawed straight undergirds the mums and dads who value their children's lives as elements of an ongoing saga of keeping up or beating the Joneses. When they hear that their young Jason or Rebecca is gay, they are disappointed that their children will not be as good as Stephanie's down the road whose kids have all graduated from University and are all in steady straight relationships, with one of them getting engaged. Harsh? Yes. But you know that this is the truth for some young people. Their parental disapproval and disappointment in them is palpable. Ignorant parents who think of themselves first and who don't understand the damage done to vulnerable young minds and hearts. "Oh this doesn't happen," you might say. Well, tell that to the young gay kid whose parents tell him not to tell anyone in the family. Or "don't say anything to your friends." Or how about the kid whose parents told everyone after he moved out that he was dead. I have heard all this in my Consulting Rooms over the years and a lot more. Disappointment can sometimes have a truly ugly face.

And that face springs from the notion that we are flawed human beings. Never mind that the science of psychology states unequivocally that being gay is not a sickness, not an illness, not a disorder and not a deviation from being straight. We are not contaminated straight people. We are gay people, with all the wonder, dignity, grace and incredible future that living well and living authentically can bring. There is no sense of disappointment here. And so parents and churches and society at large can and should celebrate the coming out of a young person and offer him or her encouragement and reassurance and love and total acceptance. What a wonderful world that changed world would be - a shift in the whole of society.

We gays can thrive. We can flourish. And those of us of Christian faith know that the relational God of love who sent Jesus into the world could never be disappointed in us, no matter how often we make mistakes, no matter how much we stuff up. We are loved and understood by a compassionate God who is for us not against us. And anyway, this same Jesus while he walked the earth chose to live with, travel with, eat with, drink with, sleep with and talk with people just like us - the minorities. So we gay Chrsitans have a tremedndous feel for the Spirit of Jesus because we have lived it and we know it when we see it. We  know that Jesus is into people like us.

If I had the talent to make a wonderful carpet that might symbolise humanity, I wouldn't put a flaw in it. God doesn't make flaws. I'd have the gays and the lesbians and the bi-s and the transgendered and the straights all in together to show that we all make up a unique and valued piece of God's vast beautiful creative act. Your thread would be there and so would mine.

In the final part of this article, we'll leave the examination of disappointment and look at a much brighter side of being gay, hopefully one that will help change old attitudes.

Pax et Amor - Stuart


  1. I agree with you Stuart..God does not make flaws....In davids psalm 139 ..David tells us that God knew us before we were born....he knit us together in our mothers womb....He knew how we would turn out....God did not make a mistake with me...I am Gay ..I know he loves me.....i feel blessed.....Thank you for your comments..God bless you.

    1. Thanks for your comment here Unca Muzza. On page 222 of BGBC, I quote Psalm 139 extensively. It is absolutely amazingly beautiful language and is a wonderful reminder that God knows us intimately, more than we know ourselves. And yes, it's just so great to be living at a time when we can understand ourselves as being gay and valuable worhty human beings, that we are not flawed or mistakes. Every blessing your way too UM.

  2. Quite apart from anything else I could say about this, Pell's "flawed rug" argument is logically inverted. The supposed practice of deliberately including a flaw is because only God makes perfect things, but by that logic God's creation should indeed be flawless.

    1. musicalemotion, my original comment stands - I accidently deleted it investigating spam controls on the dashboard. Sorry about that. Thanks for your comment once again.