Three (non-Hobby Lobby) Things

Because maybe you’re sick of reading about Hobby Lobby.

1. Walker Percy on Catholic Novelists

From “The Holiness of the Ordinary” (1989):

“While no serious novelist knows for sure where his writing comes from, I have the strongest feeling that, whatever else the benefits of the Catholic faith, it is of a particularly felicitous use to the novelist. Indeed, if one had to design a religion for novelists, I can think of no better. What distinguishes Judeo-Christianity in general from other world religions is its emphasis on the value of the individual person, its view of man as a creature in trouble, seeking to get out of it, and accordingly on the move. Add to this anthropology the special marks of the Catholic Church: the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which, whatever else they do, confer the highest significance on the ordinary things of this world, bread, wine, water, touch, breath, words, talking, listening—and what do you have? You have a man in a predicament and on the move in a real world of real things, a world which is a sacrament and a mystery; a pilgrim whose life is a searching and a finding.”

2. Rod Dreher on Catholic Triumphalism

The above paragraph might qualify as a bit of Catholic triumphalism, but I like it, and I like Percy, so I’ll give it a pass. But I did appreciate Rod Dreher’s recent take on religious triumphalism. Dreher pivots off of a post from Anglican Evangelical Alan Jacobs, who writes:

As I commented earlier today on Twitter, in the last twenty years I’ve seen theologically-serious Protestants become more and more respectful of and interested in Catholicism — but I have simultaneously seen many serious Catholics withdraw completely into a purely Catholic world, with little interest in other Christian traditions except to critique them — as, for instance, in Brad Gregory’s much-celebrated but (in my view) absurdly tendentious The Unintended Reformation, which blames almost everything bad in modern society on this vast and amorphous (but somehow unified) thing called “the Reformation.”

“The intellectual arrogance identified by Alan that exists within certain Catholic circles,” says Dreher, “is something I once was guilty of, without realizing it. To me, as an adult convert to Catholicism, the intellectual and aesthetic riches of the Catholic faith were so blindingly obvious that I couldn’t see that the Protestant traditions were worth taking seriously, except in a political and personal sense.”

That triumphalism, Dreher writes, is an ugly form of pride that “blinds us to the faults within ourselves and our tradition” and “blinds us to what is good within other traditions, misguided though they might ultimately be.” It also causes others to distance themselves from the Church. Dreher, who has now converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church, tells how he was almost put off from Orthodoxy by an obnoxious, triumphalist man he met at a Greek Orthodox festival.

Cruising the Catholic-Right-o-sphere these last few years, I’ve been astonished, too, at the level of triumphalism I’ve encountered on certain sites and from certain authors. Dreher’s absolutely right—there’s this idea out there that anyone who calls himself Christian that’s not Catholic isn’t to be taken seriously. Honestly, that’s part of the impetus behind this blog. But I also wouldn’t waste time on this blog—I’d just walk away from any conversation with Catholicism, like Dreher almost did with Orthodoxy—if I hadn’t had a much deeper experience with a better, humbler version of the faith. I’m talking about the education I got at my Catholic high school, where so many of my teachers, both religious and laypeople, were open and joyful and really, truly, smart. I feel like a lot of what I’m doing here is arguing forthat Catholic tradition against the one that dominates parts of the internet.

3. No One is Insufficiently Masculine

Speaking of my high school, I’m still grappling with how to write about the fact that one of my classmates, “Jeremy Joel,” is behind the Texas Republican Party’s recent advocacy for reparative therapy.

I’ve been visiting the links that Jeremy recommends on his website and blog, including this site for the Center for Gender Wholeness, which says it’s a “compassionate approach for men who won’t accept a homosexual life due to conflicting values or life goals,” and which promises, “It is possible to stop unwanted behavior, shift sexual desires, and resolve other issues related to unwanted same-sex attraction.”

The center’s approach seems to be built on principles elaborated in the book Becoming a Whole Man, by David Matheson. In the portion of Chapter 7 (“Gender Disruption”) excerpted on the site, Matheson writes:

The patterns of life experiences I observed in the men with whom I worked seemed to point to a common phenomenon shared by the vast majority of them. …

…[R]ather than enjoying masculine sufficiency, we struggle with masculine insufficiency. Rather than experiencing gender congruity, we live with gender incongruity. Rather than being sustained by community with other men, we endure disaffiliation from others of our own sex. And rather than perceiving genderedness and complementarity with women, we encounter distortions in our experience of genderedness.

In this chapter we will discuss the details of these various causes of disruption, beginning with the two conditions that tend to create masculine insufficiency. The first of those conditions is termed “gender incongruity,” and is a sense of being incompatible with or not conforming to your internalized definition of masculinity. It’s caused by gender shame, gender double binds, and gender imperatives. We’ll review each of these in turn. The second condition we’ll discuss is “same–sex disaffiliation,” which is a disruption in our experience of community with other males. After that we’ll turn our attention to the problems that some men with same-sex attraction tend to experience with women, which include unhealthy relational responses to females and gender distortion.

Whenever I read something like that, I want to shake anyone who might be persuaded by it, and say: “Snap out of it! You are not insufficiently masculine. In fact, there is no such thing as ‘masculine insufficiency.’ You are exactly as masculine, as feminine, as androgynous as you are supposed to be. Sure, work hard at being braver, stronger, more dependable. But those aren’t ‘masculine’ traits—they’re as important for women as for men, and they’re modeled as much by mothers as by fathers. Just be who you are and, when you aim at self-improvement, aim for virtue, not masculinity.”

And did you catch the line at the end about “unhealthy relational responses to females”? Okay, I haven’t read the whole book, but I have a funny feeling that just means that “masculine” men aren’t supposed to form close, sustaining friendships with women. 

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One thought on “Three (non-Hobby Lobby) Things

  1. Triumphalism is a dangerous phenomenon for pretty much any religious (or political or ideological) system. It blinds people to the problems within a society and silences the faithful, loving critics. It allows problems to fester and metastasize.

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