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Catechesis Of The Culture

A Catholic reader writes that his son will be starting public middle school in upstate New York this fall:

At a presentation given to the parents of incoming students, the GSA was listed as a school sponsored club under the acronym…without a complete spelling of what it is.

The reader continues:

change_me

But a quick stroll through the hallways reveals that there is an ideology being introduced to students, both overtly and covertly. The school corridors are a veritable gauntlet of rainbows…most of them promoting the student organization called the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). Look at all these signs. Even the academic posters for math and science on the walls are embellished with rainbows.

This isn’t a liberal college..it is a public middle school. The rainbow “safe space” sticker was on almost every single door in the school.

They teach all kinds of lessons in that middle school. Middle school. That means ages 11 to 13.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

If an America existed on the other side of the ocean somewhere, I would emigrate next week. When I think of my children and grandchildren, I am especially concerned. What will become of them? If I and they could be left alone to form a parallel public, I would have hope. The tentacles of technology and government will make that impossible. For the Benedict Option to have actual teeth, those about to hunker down will need land, farming skills, a barter system, medicine, an education system, a safe way to trade with the outside, and a secure information environment, to name a few.

The BO needs a (very quiet) think tank yesterday to figure out the practical matters of surviving in various levels of internal exile as associating with the public square becomes more and more difficult and dangerous. Readers of this blog keep hearing that we should prepare ourselves, but how? Really, how?

At the least, those who are forced into public schools now due to economic circumstances will need to formulate and a daily ritual of deprogramming their kids. Practical ideas here would be most welcome, both spiritual as well as psychological, because this actually needs to work.

We do need a think tank. Do I have any readers who are philanthropists, and who have the kind of money necessary to fund this kind of thing? Or fund a small group of people at the Ethics & Public Policy Center (or somewhere like it; they may not be interested) to think hard and practically about these things?

68 Comments (Open | Close)

68 Comments To "Catechesis Of The Culture"

#1 Comment By Brian Villanueva On March 9, 2018 @ 7:04 am

Wonder how they would have reacted if someone had written “Jesus” on one of their “Love is…” lines?

#2 Comment By Rob G On March 9, 2018 @ 7:30 am

“You do not have to accept or condone. You are asked not to make the space unsafe. If you equate such a request with being asked to accept/condone then that is where discussion (ideally) occurs.”

It’s not a matter of us equating the things. It’s the underlying idea put forth by the proponents that any criticism or negative feedback constitutes a “threat.” In other words, “safe space” = “a space where no one disagrees with me.”

#3 Comment By wmwa On March 9, 2018 @ 10:40 am

“The BO needs a (very quiet) think tank yesterday to figure out the practical matters of surviving in various levels of internal exile as associating with the public square becomes more and more difficult and dangerous.”

This is hysterical — this is the reaction to the existence of a Gay/Straight Alliance at a public middle school? How is a GSA, in and of itself, even unChristian? We had one at my public high school (admittedly this was 15 yr ago) and it amounted to a group of students supporting each other, reassuring each other they did not need to be ashamed to come of the closet. And like, ice cream socials.

Middle school is not an uncommon time for kids to start realizing and accepting that they are gay. Why is the idea of a club wishing to support them so threatening to Christians? Is it because Christians would prefer denying that gay people exist, and denying students the right to form groups to support their gay friends or to seek support?

No one is forcing you to join the club, and no one is forcing you to accept the morality of gay sex to attend this school. Just. Don’t. Join. The. Club. Not that hard.

It seems more likely that this hysterical parent is uncomfortable with the idea of their child learning that gay people exist.

Which brings to mind a question that, as far as I know, you have not answered with respect to the Benedict Option:

Your BO communities will inevitable have gay children. Many of them (about 1-5% of your entire community), some of whom may even want to build relationships with one another. How will your communities respond to that? By denying they exist? By “exiling” them? By telling them their relationships must end, regardless of how healthy or beneficial they may seem to these couples? By discouraging groups from forming to support gay people, such as a GSA?

Rebecca Bratten Weiss got fired from a Catholic school very recently for her views on sexual morality. Remember that. Your think tank does not need to be “quiet” and you do not need to live in “internal exile.” You’re still allowed to fire people who don’t agree with traditional Christian sexual ethics— that is a very far cry from having to conduct scholarship “quietly” or “in exile.” So wtf with all the hysteria around the mere existence of a GSA? Would you flip out about a vegetarian student group too, for fear that meat-eaters might get discriminated against?

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 9, 2018 @ 9:34 pm

I am old enough to have experienced when being queer in grammar/middle school meant invisibility; bullying; ostracism; and having F*G written on one’s locker.

I’m old enough to remember when being unpopular or having crossed up some natural bully meant ostracism and being called “gay” even though everyone seemed to actually be heterosexual. I’ve never been quite sure whether “Stop calling Billy gay, he’s not gay” is a politically incorrect way to respond to bullying.

Actually, it doesn’t matter if he IS gay, assault, battery and harassment are wrong either way.

In middle school I was ostracized and bullied. By your proposal, I and children like me would be just tough out of luck and forced to endure the trauma meted out to us.

Not at all. We just would dispassionately suppress bullying regardless of pretext, and not dwell on whether its because someone is gay, or whether gay is being used as an epithet, or whether there is some other rationale. And we wouldn’t be getting into how wonderful it is to be gay, when, most of us don’t really think so, but if it floats your boat, we don’t care to say anything about it.

#5 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On March 10, 2018 @ 10:49 am

Siarlys writes: “And we wouldn’t be getting into how wonderful it is to be gay, when, most of us don’t really think so, but if it floats your boat, we don’t care to say anything about it.”

I do not think that anti-bullying programs have to get into how good gay (or any other identity is), but effective ones do have components that teach respect for others and how to develop positive peer-relations. To some extent, addressing the status of students who are other is part of an effective anti-bullying curriculum.

Rob G writes: “In other words, ‘safe space’ = ‘a space where no one disagrees with me.'”

It is not about disagreement, but about being treated with respect and not causing harm to those with whom you disagree. I can disagree with someone without disrespecting them or engaging with them in a negative way (which is what I try to do in this community with every post I make). Anti-bullying programs in schools are trying to achieve the same ends.

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 10, 2018 @ 7:53 pm

I do not think that anti-bullying programs have to get into how good gay (or any other identity is), but effective ones do have components that teach respect for others and how to develop positive peer-relations. To some extent, addressing the status of students who are other is part of an effective anti-bullying curriculum.

Not at all, because it perpetuates the sense of “otherness.” We cultivate respect for others because of our commonality, not because of our differentness. The differences are real, and we may not share in them at all, but they do not negate the commonalities.

One can, for example, believe that a same sex couple will burn in hell eternally for their shared sin, while finding that the married gay man who is chef at the French restaurant down the street serves great food that is well worth eating when you can afford it. I don’t believe in hell, and I’m agnostic on how badly God is really bent out of shape by homosexuality. I think its as likely that I will see Brian in heaven as it is that I will see Seventh Day Adventists. But if someone believed that is was a mortal sin…

#7 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On March 11, 2018 @ 1:08 pm

Siarlys writes: “Not at all, because it perpetuates the sense of ‘otherness.’ We cultivate respect for others because of our commonality, not because of our differentness.”

Differences do not negate the commonalities, but emphasizing commonalities alone has not proven to be a strong enough base for successful anti-bullying programs.

The most successful anti-bullying programs have proven to be those based on teaching an approach that gives weight to both sameness and otherness. Otherness is demonstrated to be a positive value because a) it accords with lived experience; and b) affords opportunities to cultivate relations between people based on the shared desire for respectful treatment.

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 11, 2018 @ 8:49 pm

Otherness is NOT ipso facto a positive value. To push the line that it is, is to tell a lie. Homogeneous uniformity is a negative value, but there ARE differences that are indeed malign.

To use an extreme example, the argument “this is the way I feel, its the way I am” applies equally well to pedophiles as to gays. Now there is a crucial difference… the consenting gay union of two adults harms nobody per se, and whether God is angered is conjectural, and not within the purview of the civil or criminal law. Whereas, pedophilia inevitably has a victim. But its fallacious to rely on “this is the way I am.”

Some years ago, there was a man in Washington state under sentence of death who instructed his attorneys to cease all appeals because “if I am ever released I will kill and rape again and enjoy every minute of it.” He wasn’t proud of that. He was human and rational and intelligent and perceptive enough to know that was wrong and dangerous, but he understood the compulsion to do exactly that would overwhelm him. Accordingly, he wanted to proceed with the execution.

Now that the extreme examples have been mentioned to detonate the logical fallacies, we can get back to the relatively mundane issue of curtailing bullying.

Nobody has any obligation to view homoeroticism as good, admirable, positive, or something to celebrate. Nobody has an obligation to ally with it. Just as, I don’t have to admire theological polemics that deny evolutionary biology. BUT, whether we are indifferent, admiring, or hostile to that particular attribute, we can live and let live and appreciate many other aspects and characteristics and interactions of the other individual human beings with whom we share the planet, our citizenship, our community, or our school. I don’t advocate stomping on advocates of Creation Science or Intelligent Design… but I wouldn’t appoint one as biology teacher either.

#9 Comment By oakinhouston On March 12, 2018 @ 4:55 pm

“One can, for example, believe that a same sex couple will burn in hell eternally for their shared sin, while finding that the married gay man who is chef at the French restaurant down the street serves great food that is well worth eating when you can afford it”

It’s very difficult to respect people you deem immoral, even if you “tolerate” them, and, sometimes, avail yourself of their services.

An orthodox Christian who believes that Joe being married to Sam is an immorality, no matter how good a chef Joe is, will deem Joe an immoral person.

It’s no different that a liberal person believing that discrimination against LGBT people is bigotry, and therefore, no matter how good a chef the orthodox Christian is, he’s a bigot in the eyes of that liberal.

People might decide to patronize restaurants run by bigots, or by immoral people, but I doubt they will respect them.

In a school environment, the bullied -be it them the gays or the anti-gays- do not have something of value to trade -like the chef of your example has- so there’s no reason, in the mind of a teenager bully, to tolerate, and not harass, people that are not worthy of inherent respect.

#10 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 13, 2018 @ 7:23 pm

oakinhouston, you offer postulates that are far from self-evident. I grew up in a small midwestern city where the Lutherans believed Catholics were minions of the “W**** of Babylon” while Catholics seriously discussed what it would take to save all the Protestants (Lutheran and other) by converting them to the One True Faith before we all went to hell. But in fact, we children attended school together, the adults shopped in each other’s stores, worked peaceably together in various businesses, etc.

It takes a certain disconnect, but without that disconnect, half the human race would be pushing up daisies, because we would have to kill each other over every real or perceived difference.

It happens to be a fact that an orthodox Christian DOES belief that Joe being married to Sam is immoral. Like any religious precept, you can’t make it go away by saying “Oh what an awful thing to believe, why don’t you give it up?” They don’t give it up, because they believe it to be true. Sincerely and irrevocably.

I could easily patronize a restaurant run by a chef I knew to be a bigot. I would respect him as a chef, and not respect him as a bigot. If he refused service to someone who was dark-skinned, or Jewish, or Catholic, or a furriner, or gay, I might for that pattern of practice cease patronizing his restaurant.

The late Mike Royko wrote a column about a bar run by a known white bigot, often patronized by black steel workers. The bar owner was happy to accept their money. The steel workers were happy to integrate his bar. They traded cheerful taunts with each other about it. One of them told Royko they were loving the man to death. Royko viewed the world through a jaundiced eye, and observed that if the owner felt the love, he took it like a Spartan. Life can happen on this level.

I once heard a joke about a Jewish rabbi having lunch with a Catholic priest. The priest pressed the rabbi, come on, when are you going to at least try some ham. The rabbi mulled this over a minute, then answered “At your wedding.”

I actually met a toothless ex-Klansman when I was living in West Virginia. He loaned me his copy of The Turner Diaries, which I might otherwise never have had a chance to read. I wrote a parody of the first chapter called “The Sinkowski Diaries,” which he read and acknowledged it gave him something to think about. Now if he were actively fomenting lynchings, I might have to shoot him, but he wasn’t.

No, bullies don’t have “something of value to trade.” But a fellow student who was gay could be a perfectly competent science partner, as long as he didn’t try to kiss me. I might have slugged such a boy if he did. (A girl science partner might have slugged me if I tried to kiss her — which would be a different question, but she still would have had every right to slug me.)

People are worth inherent respect AS PEOPLE regardless of whatever characteristics or proclivities they have that I might not respect. There is no reason in the mind of a bully to respect anyone. Bullies by nature have the mind of Donald Trump: its all about me, the rest of y’all only exist to be used by ME ME ME. Bullies need a brick to the head no matter what excuse they use, and it has nothing to do with their rationale. Its still wrong, whether your victim is gay, or not, whether you taunted them by saying they are gay, or some other epithet.

By the way, calling people gay is rife in black inner city schools. So much for the great unity of all the oppressed statistical minorities in the world.

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 13, 2018 @ 7:26 pm

I have made four attempts to respond to Oakinhouston, all of which disappeared without a trace into cyberspace. Generally when this happens, it means I’ve used a “forbidden word” that the cyberhost’s algorithms prohibit. The only word I could find which might qualify is a five letter word which gives a certain specific meaning to the concept of “professional woman.” You will note above that when I put some asterisks into the word to replace some of the letters, my comment was accepted. This has been a public service to anyone else who might inadvertently use the word, and find their comment deep sixed through no fault of our gracious host.

#12 Comment By Rob G On March 14, 2018 @ 7:02 am

~~~It’s very difficult to respect people you deem immoral, even if you “tolerate” them, and, sometimes, avail yourself of their services.

An orthodox Christian who believes that Joe being married to Sam is an immorality, no matter how good a chef Joe is, will deem Joe an immoral person.~~~

Actually, no. Christianity teaches that we are to reject the sin but not judge (i.e., condemn) the sinner. In the ascetic tradition this precept is viewed as being put forth most radically in Christ’s command to love our enemies. Of course all Christians fudge on this command, or simply ignore it, but that makes it neither less true nor less binding.

#13 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On March 14, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

Siarlys writes: “Otherness is NOT ipso facto a positive value.”

I agree. As you say, there are differences that are malign. But I would argue that the majority of differences are not malign, and that there is a positive benefit to teaching young children that differences occur and, in general, they can be treated not as a negative. Maybe one of the commonalities humans have is that we are all Others (to varying degrees) to others.

“But in fact, we children attended school together, the adults shopped in each other’s stores, worked peaceably together in various businesses, etc.”

And I think this is what has changed–peaceably working together is no longer the norm.

As I posted once before, I am old enough to remember a time when I believed that even if a person thought homosexuality was immoral, I would be treated equally/fairly by them in public life/interactions. After the intensity and animus with which certain Christians opposed queer equality and same-sex marriage, I have grave doubts that my former belief is still generally true.

I agree with you when you write “[p]eople are worth inherent respect AS PEOPLE regardless of whatever characteristics or proclivities they have that I might not respect,” but I do not think this is happening as much anymore–on both the right and the left. Further, those people who have lost this sense of inherent respect do not think of themselves as bullies, but rather as upholders of a superior vision of humanity: on the right a vision of humanity as intended by God and on the left a vision of humanity as perfectly progressive. In both cases, deviations from the ideal are treated with harshness.

What people are not doing is living in the pragmatic middle ground where the measuring tool is not an abstract ideal, but a pragmatic measurement of whether or not the Otherness in question is having malign effects on people. For me, that is where the discussion must begin.

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 15, 2018 @ 11:48 am

there is a positive benefit to teaching young children that differences occur and, in general, they can be treated not as a negative.

Agreed. The operative phrase here is “in general.”

And I think this is what has changed–peaceably working together is no longer the norm.

I think you have that backwards. In human history, peacefully working together has definitely NOT been the norm. The peaceful coexistence I speak of was relatively new, and there were religious conservatives of all sects who decried it.

What has been happening the last couple of decades is that this hard-won accomplishment has been torn apart by people who blithely fall back into the notion that “the other” is to be hated, feared, condemned. That includes, of course “the other” who believes that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, among many others.

After the intensity and animus with which certain Christians opposed queer equality and same-sex marriage, I have grave doubts that my former belief is still generally true.

While there are certainly conservative Christians who made royal asses of themselves making homosexuality The Sin and talking incessantly about it, I question that the animus raises grave doubts about your ability to buy a suit of clothes at J.C. Penney’s, buy a happy meal at McDonald’s, or buy a home with your husband.

I do not think this is happening as much anymore

Obviously not — but I object to singling out gays and trans (two very different things) for “anti-bullying” campaigns, because we need to emphasize respect for people AS people, not “this poor group needs special protection.” The world is full of deviations… that’s what it means to have a norm. The norm is in part defined by the existence of outliers.

#15 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On March 15, 2018 @ 12:51 pm

Rob G writes: “…Christianity teaches that we are to reject the sin but not judge (i.e., condemn) the sinner. In the ascetic tradition this precept is viewed as being put forth most radically in Christ’s command to love our enemies. Of course all Christians fudge on this command, or simply ignore it, but that makes it neither less true nor less binding.”

I think this is where problems arise. When a Christian fudges/ignores this command, e.g., not loving (fill in the blank) and working to establish/enforce legal discrimination against them, are they still considered to be a Christian?

As always, I mean this as a serious question, and not trolling. As a Buddhist, if I profess belief in the Four Noble Truths and the Four Seals, but do not act in accord with them, then I am not a Buddhist and I cannot be considered to be practicing my religion–belief and action must be in sync.

If this command is binding as you say, how can a person be considered to be practicing her religion when she violates it? Of course, when she fails, the issue is between herself and her God, but there are secular ramifications if she claims that she is exercising her religion when she seeks to establish/enforce legal discrimination against (fill in the blank) which goes against the command of loving your enemies. It would seem to me that you cannot be exercising your religion when you violate one of its binding commands.

#16 Comment By Paige On March 17, 2018 @ 1:04 am

“For the Benedict Option to have actual teeth, those about to hunker down will need land, farming skills, a barter system, medicine, an education system, a safe way to trade with the outside, and a secure information environment, to name a few.”

I have thought about this a lot the past year or two.

I have started learning to sew, with the goal of eventually being able to sew my own clothes.

I have switched from normal toiletries (with the chemicals, so stronger) to natural toiletries (weaker), so that if/when I need/want to start making my own toiletries, my body will make the transition more easily.

I think it will be hard enough for the people of God in the West to endure the practical changes in lifestyle that will come as a result of whatever cultural/economic changes/collapses lie ahead of us. I want to at least know how to live the kind of life we’ll need to live, before we need to live it, so that when people need to make the transition, I can teach and help.

And if I’m overpreparing, I don’t care. I’d rather overprepare and be “weird” than risk underpreparing.

#17 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On March 18, 2018 @ 12:13 am

Siarlys writes “What has been happening the last couple of decades is that this hard-won accomplishment has been torn apart by people who blithely fall back into the notion that ‘the other’ is to be hated, feared, condemned.”

Unfortunately, our society has a long tradition of identifying people as “Others” in order to deny them basic rights. Despite the proclaimed universality of the concepts of equality and liberty, at their first manifestation, only white males of property were able to enjoy them in full, thereby creating a cadre of Others who then needed first to define themselves as a group, and then second demonstrate that they should not be enjoined from enjoying these rights as well. Queers are merely the latest group to follow this trajectory.

“That includes, of course ‘the other’ who believes that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, among many others.”

That is not a case of Othering of a group of people, but identifying a group who wishes to cause harm, in this case to queers.

“… I question that the animus raises grave doubts about your ability to buy a suit of clothes at J.C. Penney’s, buy a happy meal at McDonald’s, or buy a home with your husband.”

There are also the dignitary harms that are inflicted by persistent societal animus.

“…but I object to singling out gays and trans (two very different things) for “’anti-bullying’ campaigns, because we need to emphasize respect for people AS people, not ‘this poor group needs special protection.’”

As I pointed out before, it has been shown that the most effective anti-bullying practices address the aggregate identities of which people consist. It is not a question of special protections, but of teaching that the various aspects of a person’s compound being deserve respect, which then (hopefully) leads to respecting a person as a person (your approach begins at the endpoint and omits the intermediary steps). Humans perceive other humans as compound beings, not as abstract wholes, and often they find one component objectionable which can outweigh other positive elements, leading to a lack of respect for the person as a whole.

“The world is full of deviations… that’s what it means to have a norm. The norm is in part defined by the existence of outliers.”

It depends how one defines a norm. Is the norm synonymous with the majority? If so, then deviations are just instances of minority, not any more or less deserving of equal treatment.

If one defines norm as normal/preferred/correct, then deviations are immediately put under the microscope as not being up to some standard. The question then becomes–who/what established this norm/standard? Deviation implies that something has veered from the correct. In the case of queerness, I do not regard it as incorrect–it is one potential for human flourishing, and, therefore, not a deviation, but a possibility just as non-queerness is a possibility for human flourishing. If kinship studies are correct, both possibilities are part of the greater human telos of DNA transmission and maintenance.

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 18, 2018 @ 7:21 pm

Unfortunately, our society has a long tradition of identifying people as “Others” in order to deny them basic rights.

That is a gross oversimplification. Every “Other” is neither equal nor identical. Some people have CHOSEN to be “other” and been denied some rights because people were annoyed by constant proclamation of this “otherness.” The LDS for example, who were at times mistreated, and at times, mistreated others, both of which sometimes involved murder. Eventually they came to terms with the larger society and became in many ways quite conformist, except of course for the fundamentalist LDS, whose independent existence may be a fit subject for some degree of persecution.

Whatever the treatment of homosexuality has been, it is not facilely comparable to the legal, social, and cultural treatment of dark skin. Nobody ever argued that gays were uniquely suitable to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, or had a child-like mentality requiring that they be enslaved to a kind master who would take good care of them. Nobody fought a civil war over homosexuality.

That is not a case of Othering of a group of people, but identifying a group who wishes to cause harm, in this case to queers.

Not true at all. There are SOME who advocate that “because God Almighty said so” gays should be denied marriage licenses. This argument is darn near moot for the forseeable future. There are others who feel they are persecuted merely for believing, and openly stating that they believe, that two people of the same sex can never constitute a marriage in the eyes of God. The mere fact that they say this does you no harm. Come on Brian, you really are not one of these whining narcissists who sobs in the pages of TIME magazine that you are not truly equal as long as the Roman Catholic Church can refuse to host your wedding.

There are also the dignitary harms that are inflicted by persistent societal animus.

So what?

It is not a question of special protections, but of teaching that the various aspects of a person’s compound being deserve respect, which then (hopefully) leads to respecting a person as a person

That is precisely where I disagree. The child of a Missionary Baptist preacher may sincerely believe that their classmates sexual predilections will lead them to the lowest circle of hell… and still respect that this is between them and God, and they are to be respected as a person and a classmate without regard to one student’s sincere and unyielding disapproval of the other student’s sexuality.

Is the norm synonymous with the majority?

What does majority have to do with it?

A standard, model, or pattern regarded as typical.

a standard, model, or pattern

a real-valued, nonnegative function whose domain is a vector space, with properties such that the function of a vector is zero only when the vector is zero, the function of a scalar times a vector is equal to the absolute value of the scalar times the function of the vector, and the function of the sum of two vectors is less than or equal to the sum of the functional values of each vector

The concept “deviation from the norm” is easily graphed. There are fewer dots as you move further outside the norm. Some deviations are rather small, and the density of dots is rather large. There is nothing wrong per se with deviating from a norm.

One problem with racism is that it assumes some racial group to be “the norm” for the human species, which it simply isn’t. One problem with the LGBTQWERTY movement is that the human species IS heteronormative. Which doesn’t mean we have to be nasty to individuals who are outliers.

It is often cited that Native American cultures recognized a number of inter-sex statuses. There is some truth to this… but they were by and large considered to be some kind of sacred clown or called by some deity to fill a specific religious function, because they were different from the norm.

I don’t regard queerness as a coherent term for anything. But I don’t regard homosexuality as incorrect, nor as particularly relevant to human flourishing. Its a product of the instability and imprecision of human biochemistry, and for those who have it, this is the only life they have to live. Its no more significant than cystic fibrosis… and considerably less debilitating.