Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Love, first

My June 30, 2015 column.


One of the most telling consequence of recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States giving same-sex couples the right to marry was that one got to know the stuff one’s friends and acquaintances were truly made of.  Reading various commentaries in social networking sites over the weekend on the issue was an educational and informative task, although also quite amusing and agitating in many instances.  Although there were a number of really heartwarming and enlightening messages from people, including priests, political and religious leaders, still the question that was top of mind over the weekend was: How can some people be capable of so much hatred in their hearts?  
There were those who openly applauded the decision and immediately turned their profile pictures in Facebook into a mosaic of rainbow colors, thanks to an app that made it possible.  I was one of those who did this.  But then, expectedly, there were those who expressed disappointment, confusion, anger, and yes, outrage over the decision.  The vitriol was particularly more pronounced the day after the decision was rendered when the celebratory spirit started to wane.
In many instances, people just needed to be enlightened; their negative reactions borne mainly out of lack of information or inability to process the whole picture.  For example, one of my former students decried in his Facebook account what he thought was a question of inequity, essentially wondering why it is okay for gay people to express pride in their sexuality but not okay for straight people to do the same.  I had to explain that straight people actually express their pride in their sexuality 24/7 through the various posts they make about their significant others, when they post those lovely pictures and videos of their engagement parties or of their weddings, those ultrasound pictures of the babies that they are conceiving, and even when they display pictures of their husbands and wives and children at work.  Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders, obviously, cannot do the same things.  Thus the need to stress pride in their sexuality.
Quite a number of people expressed shock and anger over pictures (purportedly of the celebration in the Castro District in San Francisco, or probably, taken in some other place at some other time) that featured some holy images “redesigned” to show that Jesus Christ also loves the LGBT community.  I was also taken aback by one picture that showed a gay man kissing on the mouth what appeared to be a representation of Jesus Christ on the cross and two women kissing while simulating being nailed to the cross.  The pictures were obviously political in nature – they were meant to assert ownership of their own religious beliefs.  In a way, the act was an extreme variation of the way certain people turn the Santo Nino into a doll and present him in various depictions that make him one of them – a judge, a policeman, a farmer, even an entertainer or an overseas Filipino worker.  We’ve also seen images of saints being submerged in water or made to gyrate and rock in the street.  The act may have been more symbolic of redemption than an act of defiance.  But the real message was to push tolerance further.  After all, it is when we see images that incite intense feelings within us when our capacity to really accept and tolerate is tested.  But more important, those images where not necessarily representative of the beliefs and practices of the whole LGBT community – many are actually devout Catholics with particular devotions to specific saints.  It is wrong to hold these images up as a form of condemnation of all members of the LGBT just as it would be wrong to hold up the many husbands who beat up their wives or children as representative of straight men.
Lost in the whole discussion was the fact that the SCOTUS decision affirmed the legal bases for same-sex marriage for those who so desire, it did not prescribe a new morality for everyone.  It did not prescribe same-sex marriage for all.  Neither did the decision change anything about how people practice their faith or religions.  Anyone with a strong faith should have nothing to fear as the decision has not decreed that anyone change the way one observes his or her faith.
Fr. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, tried to put everything in context in a Facebook post he made where he exhorted people to “love first, everything else later.” Of course the Jesuit was attacked by so many religious zealots who claimed to be spokesperson of God Himself.  The priest’s message was lost on them, particularly the one that said “Everything else is meaningless without love.”


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