Saturday, November 26, 2011

My 'Inspiring' Story

One of my readers reprimanded me for the content of my previous post "Gay Cooties." The substance of the argument was that my story is inspiring, but that being outraged by homophobia in the Christian world isn't helping my ministry. I've considered this very seriously, however on reflection I've realized that the opposite is true.

My inspiring conversion story is not inspiring to LGBTQ people. I've never once had a letter, or a comment on my blog, or a phone call, or someone come up to me after a talk and say "I have same-sex attractions and I'm really inspired by your story." I've had dozens of people tell me that my story is a real inspiration, and a testimony to the grace of God, but every single one of them, to a woman (they're almost all women) is straight. Really conspicuously not even questioning. This doesn't mean that I don't have a ministry to LGBTQ people. I have had same-sex attracted people come up to me, and thank me, and ask me questions about Catholic sexual morality, but it's not because they were inspired by my conversion story. LGBTQ people generally just think "Oh. So she's bisexual and she's chosen a Catholic marriage. I guess that's her choice." The one thing that gives me any credibility with the same-sex attracted crowd is that fact that I'm willing to stand up and tell the faithful Catholics that they're not better than the gays.

After I noticed this, I thought, "Oh. But what about the story of the Prodigal son?" When Jesus went out to preach to the tax-collectors and the sinners, He told them a story about a boy who goes and squanders his inheritance in the city, who sinks into a mire of depravity, and who then repents and returns to his father's home where he is joyfully welcomed. If that's not an inspiring conversion story, I don't know what is. So I flipped open my Jerusalem Bible to chapter 15 of Luke, and re-read the story -- but this time I noticed something that I've never noticed before. Christ does not tell the story of the Prodigal son to the tax-collectors and the sinners. He tells it to the Pharisees. The whole story with the sinner in the pig-sty is just a set-up for the part at the end about the kid who complains that his father has never given him a goat. The parable is actually the parable of the Good Son.

Now this isn't to point a finger and threaten all Catholics with brimstone. I think it's important to remember that the Pharisees ought not to be stereotyped and judged any more than the rainbow folks. The Pharisees were people who genuinely wanted to do good, to serve God, and to obey His ordinances. Several of them are spoken of very highly in the gospels, and some were converts to Christianity. St. Paul, the prototypical Christian convert, was a Pharisee. So Pharisee shouldn't be a dirty word. The purpose of drawing the parallel between faithful Christians of today, and the Pharisees of yesterday, is that just as gay-sex is a perennial temptation to queer folks, self-righteous pride is a perennial temptation for religious types. The moment that we forget this, that we start to think that we're okay, that we begin to thank God that we're not like those homosexuals down at the bathhouse, that's when it's time to look again at all of the things that Christ said to those who thought they were good.

p.s. There's a fabulous Nick Cave song called The Good Son, about this parable, and I highly recommend it to all.


  1. I had nascent rumblings in a similar tone to your rereading of the Prodigal Son some years ago, but had forgotten them. Thanks for reminding me what that parable is really about.

  2. I'm one of the straight women you are talking about. But I can't help that your blog is so inspiring to me! I need to be constantly reminded to love. Thank you!

  3. Something of the same ground is covered in the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard: Those who have labored all day get the wages they negotiated for, and have no grounds to gripe when the Owner chooses to be generous to the Johnnys-come-lately.

  4. I'm both disappointed and stunned that no Catholic gay men have come forward and told you that you inspire them. Permit me to be the first. I was amazed by the lucidity and elegance of your book, and I'm very grateful you wrote it, and glad you've set up the blog as well. I can't claim to be living chastely, but it's partly thanks to you that I can still understand and admire chastity.

  5. Dear Melinda, Thank you for sharing you story and struggles. I have a ssa brother and need to try harder to...I don't know exactly but I know there is work/learning to be done. Reagarding today's post, I believe the parable of the Prodigal Son and the Workers in the Vineyard are for both the sinners and "pharisees". The Sinners need to know they are welcome no matter how late they come and the Pharisees need to know that the late comers are just as welcome as those who have been there all along. The difference is that the "pharisees" often end up hurt that their contributions and presence seems to be forgotten in the glow of the Prodigal son's return. In my experience, it is not so much self righteousness but what comes down to as at least a little pride that I have been forgotten as always being there. There is a huge lesson in humility here but there is also joy in this pharisee over every prodigal son that returns. Believe me, it is humbling to be put in my place as just one of many and to see the grace, the strength, the faith of those who come late but do come. One more point, yes I do thank God that "I am not like those homosexuals down in the bathhouse" because what a terrible cross to bear, what a terrible thing to be so separated from the Father in such a way. I thank God for every temptation I do not have and ask forgiveness for every temptation and sin I do have. I look forward to reading more of your blog. God bless.

  6. There is no doubt in my mind that you are an important voice on the topics you address more particularly for the Catholic and Christian community and their growth in understanding. I am a straight woman too, but experienced some of the things you described about your adolescence (disinterest in becoming a woman etc) and reading this is really helping me to grow in understanding of myself and the uniqueness that I for the most part felt was great but in comparison to the norm, even within the diverse community of the Church, seemed to be out of place, at times.


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