Ross Douthat on Joseph Bottum’s essay

Douthat writes in the New York Times:

Finally, I think it helps explains where Bottum’s wandering, complicated essay is coming from, at least in part. Its author has never been a zealous culture warrior or an eager political scrapper; as long as I’ve been reading him, he’s chiefly been a literary Catholic, a poet and critic and essayist with a sideline in history and philosophy. And coming from that place, especially, there is something that is frustrating-to-the-point-of-exasperation about the role that the Catholic Church has been cast in in so many of our post-sexual revolution debates: As some vast edifice of puritanism, handing down “thou shalt nots” and drowning the varied colors of the world in whites and blacks. That is obviously how any religion that preaches a rigorous moral message will sometimes be perceived, but to anyone who knows Catholic history intimately and has experienced Catholic culture from the inside it is a peculiarly ill-fitting caricature. And the more aesthetically and culturally-minded that Catholic, the more ridiculously frustrating it seems that their faith of all faiths (the faith of Italy! of France!) should be cast as the enemy of bodily pleasure — that their church, with its wild diversity of weirdo, “dappled” saints, should be seen as a purely conformist and repressive enterprise — and that the religion of Wilde and Waugh and Manley Hopkins and so many others would be dismissed as simply and straightforwardly homophobic.

That’s how I read Bottum’s essay, at least in part: As a literary Catholic’s attempt to wrench the true complexity of his faith back out of the complexity-destroying context of contemporary political debates. He’s writing as someone who loves his church, and wants everyone else to love it as he does — and I don’t blame him for imagining that perhaps, just perhaps, ceasing to offer public resistance on the specific question of gay marriage would liberate the church from some the caricatures that the culture war has imposed upon it, and enable the world to see its richness with fresh eyes.

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4 Responses to Ross Douthat on Joseph Bottum’s essay

  1. One can really see that the issue of one’s sexuality, and here obviously homosexuality, is quite almost a norm today for so many! Indeed something quite radical has happened in the last, say 50 years or so. I can remember myself (even in Ireland) when “queers and commies” were quite an evil entity! And while this is or was itself, quite a social overstatement and a poor colloquial, the essence of both are still not something redemptive in God’s plan! I mean seriously, “biblically & theologically”, it can never be! But those of us that stand quite against it, are called “homophobic”! Well so be it! And btw, I have gay friends, I mean who doesn’t in our culture today. I’ve seen them in my own ministry for many years. Do I hate them? Seriously, how can I, their human beings, but sinners, just like all of us! But does this make it right or acceptable? Not according to the Judeo-Christian revelation and standard! And so I must love the sinner, but hate the sin! I know, sounds like an old other colloquialism, but none-the-less true!

    • Stephen K says:

      You know, Father Robert, considering all your posts and the way you write, yours is the first expression of the colloquialism that I’ve heard that rings true! [I wonder if it is not also, in part, because you put it a slightly different way: “I must love the sinner, but hate the sin” rather than “Hate the sin but not the sinner”? Pounds of significance can be found in such slight re-arrangements: compare the difference between “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you” (Jesus) vs “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you” (Hillel).]

      • My niece (my younger brothers oldest daughter, 24) such a beautiful girl (looks), but she is a Lesbian, and lives with her girlfriend (for several years now) I love her dearly, but I do hate the sin that has conquered her heart & mind! My brother’s heart is really broken here too, but he loves her anyway, of course. Not an easy place for those of us who are classic and traditionally Christian.

  2. Pingback: Ross Douthat on Joseph Bottum’s essay | Catholic Canada

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