Thanks be to God for modern day luxuries, such as air conditioning. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone... Well, we went to bed Monday night, thinking it was a little toasty inside, but thinking nothing of it. After all, it's June and warming up. The thermostat was set, and the temperature inside was just a few degrees warmer. Well, Tuesday, we realized that it had stopped cooling the house. It was 85* inside even though the thermostat was set on 71*, and after flipping the breaker box, the AC still didn't kick on. Thank goodness for generous in-laws who offered their guest bedroom to us. And also, thank God that the fix was just a part repair, not a system-wide breakdown. It only cost us a few bucks, a few days at the in-laws, and a little inconvenience, but we are back in business. With all the other bills and craziness going on right now, I don't think we could have handled a several-thousand-dollar repair.
I was really excited last weekend to go to a family wedding. I love my cousins, and it was good to see some new little faces in the next generation coming up (first cousins once removed, I believe). I guess it's hard to put into words the level of zealous preachiness that pervaded the ceremony and the reception, especially from those family members in my parents' generation. I'm assuming 99.9% of the people there were already Christian, but nonetheless, the "gospel" was "preached" most of the time. It wasn't really about the couple or the wedding ceremony. It was about the "gospel," mixed in with a frat-bro type of pastor who asked us to "give them a round of applause" several times. There was literally not a cross in the entire "church." And their sanctuary was also the basketball court - intentionally - they aren't in a building phase or anything.
While, I appreciate the sentiment of trying to present Jesus to people, I have to agree with Dr. David Anders (see his website, Called to Communion here), that lots of Protestants have a zealous ignorance about their faith and beliefs. Sadly, they think they have the full truth. At least my relatives think most other "Christians" are wrong or suspect, with Catholics at the bottom of the list. They think you're most likely not saved, and that it's their job to preach to you. Forget honest conversation or benefit of the doubt - you're a sinner on your way to hell, and we're here to tell you the "good news."
Honestly, having been away from those circles for years now, it struck me as cult-like in the level of manipulation and the lack of nuance. It was very black and white. Now that I'm "out" as a Catholic, the family is very cold to me (not my cousins, but my aunts and uncles and parents). I avoided being alone with certain people because I knew a confrontation about my beliefs was inevitable. On the one hand, it makes me glad I got out. I can spot the veering off course and manipulation more quickly than when I lived it. They will quote a Bible verse, then jump to an odd conclusion that seems out of context. It honestly made me feel even more secure in my Catholicism. We have centuries of wisdom behind us. We don't depend on the whims of our frat-bro pastor. We love all and never dismay of God's mercy. I need to remember to have mercy for my fundamentalist family who summarily drive me nuts and don't seem to show God's love at all. Just preachy, cheap grace - a simplified gospel that is very self-righteous. I hope I don't sound like the pot calling the kettle black. It's just that Catholicism was founded by Jesus Christ, not a guy that read and interpreted the Bible in a new-fangled way. It's not my opinion. It has survived by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there's no other way it would have survived. It makes sense to me.
It was also somewhat hurtful to me that my parents participated with so much enthusiasm and joy at the ceremony. Tons of cheesy smiles, "amens," and hand-shaking. It's the complete opposite of how they behaved at my wedding, because, even though I'm their own daughter, not a more distant relative, it was a Catholic wedding, and they had to make known to everyone that they were unhappy - starting with their faces. I shouldn't have been surprised, but it was hurtful nonetheless. It's a constant test trying to deal with them.
Gretchen Rubin (one of my favorite authors, who now has a podcast as well), mentioned anecdotally that a friend of hers said, "Now that I've cleaned out my fridge, I realize that I'm ready to apply for a new job." [I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of the story.] For me, now that I've purchased and used this label maker, I feel like I can conquer the world.
Seriously, though. I purchased it a few weeks ago, which led to cleaning out the hall closet and labeling shelves. Then, I dove into finishing the kitchen/wedding gift rearranging (which involves shelf-liner, getting rid of duplicates, and a trip to the Goodwill donation center). Once I accomplished that, I tackled the PILE of mail and junk that has accumulated in the study (on my side) for the last several weeks and months. I also bought some more shelves for my closet when I realized the "piles of stuff" system was really not working, and labeled them. Then, I reorganized and labeled the pantry.
I am free this weekend, and I look forward to (seriously this time) finishing all these little nagging projects and seeing them through to completion! I go through minimalist phases (as my husband calls them, Franciscan phases), but I am looking for a long-term change here. Simplification, organization, and less stuff to deal with all sound like a great idea. Less to maintain, less laundry to do. I feel like I have been living unconsciously. I was so sick off and on after we got married (repeated UTIs). Then I recently had a dental surgery, which is still not finished. But, I'm finally feeling more optimistic and energetic - maybe I can do stuff besides sitting on the couch. And the label maker is the reason why!
P.S. I have had to resist the urge to label EVERYTHING - wall, door, fridge, sink, etc. I love you, label maker.
Elizabeth Scalia is asking people to respond to the this: "Why Do You Remain Catholic"?
See more here. Lots of fascinating stories.
I will be answering in a separate post about Why I Am Still a Catholic. If you fit that description, you should too!
~5~Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner.
I have tons of gay friends, I guess from having a background in the fine arts in which (for whatever reason) a high percentage of the men are gay. I know several guys who are drag queens (which is very different from being trans). I personally know one person who has had a sex change (male to female). I mention this because the trans community is often lumped together with the gay community in the sense of "LGBTQ." (Most male-to-female trans persons are attracted to women and don't consider themselves gay.)
Part of my conversion and re-conversion within Catholicism has been a change on my beliefs toward sex, homosexual acts, and the body in general. I used to think that anything goes - it was all about consent and self-respect and freedom. I thought being gay was like the colors you liked - you couldn't help it, you were just born like that, how could we possibly ask someone to be alone forever because of something they couldn't change? Similarly, I thought that once I got married, I would be open to life, and before that, it was all about living my life and not being a religious freak. I wasn't hurting anyone, and everyone I knew was having sex outside of marriage and/or contracepting. How could I ask my gay friends to be celibate, when no one I knew was celibate (gay or straight)?
Well, fast forward a few years, and something changed. I had a wakeup call. I realized that I was living a very selfish life - not just sexually, but all around. I went to confession and cleaned up my act. I started on the path I'm on now - trying to live truly what I said I believed. I also ended up hearing Christopher West speak on Theology of the Body, which brought it all to life. Theology of the Body and natural law explained the why behind Catholic teaching on sexuality. It made so much sense to me. It was difficult, but healing. It came at just the right time, right before we got engaged and then married. During marriage preparation, when learning about Natural Family Planning, I was actually open to it and became convinced of its truth, rather than dismissing it summarily. (See a summary of my conversion story in four parts: I, II, III, IV. Parts III and IV deal mostly with this part of the conversion.)
All that to say, about 10 years ago, I would have 100% supported someone like Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner. I would have thought it was inconsequential and that any criticism would have been judgment. Now, I recognize that gender dysphoria is actually a disorder that is STILL listed in the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM), the tool for professional counselors. It may go the way of homosexuality, and eventually be discarded as a disorder, but it's still there. From what I understand, a small percentage of the population is born between sexes as a hermaphrodite. Any confusion can be resolved by chromosomal testing, making the body match the chromosomes. Others believe they are in the "wrong body," and most grow out of that at a young age. For the remaining people who don't grow out of it, this is a disorder that can be treated. Our society is not prone to treat it, but rather to encourage the person to have gender reassignment surgery. The suicide rate for trans people is extremely high, and the success rate of the surgery, long-term, is extremely low. To me, this is akin to encouraging a schizophrenic person who believes he can fly to having surgery that affixes wings, rather than dealing with the underlying issue. We are conforming our bodies to fit the reality in our minds (even if it's disordered or delusional), rather than encouraging treatment for this type of disordered thinking.
To be clear, I believe Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner should be respected and treated with dignity. I don't think this is something that should play out in the public eye, as if she's some sort of freak show. At the same time, she is being made the poster child for this process. What if she regrets the decision? Will she have the freedom to change her mind? I worry for her. And the "Christians" who have taken to social media to quote Bible verses at the heathen world do nothing to support the truth. To me, it boils down to natural law, the whole person, healing and freedom on all levels - not just licentiousness. I view this type of procedure as a form of mutilation, and I feel sorry for Caitlyn Jenner.
There is another way. We don't have to live according to all of our desires and feelings, even the disordered ones. We also don't have to condemn others. We can pray for their complete healing, being made in God's image.
Here are some articles:
statistics regarding sex changes
a man who became a woman, then reversed his decision
I am very close to one of my nieces. It absolutely broke my heart to move hundreds of miles away from her a few years ago. We remain close, but it still hurts. I was thinking of my own beloved Auntie, who passed away when I was a senior in high school after a brutal battle with aggressive breast cancer. I remember once saying that she was sort of like "one of us," that is, a teenager. I couldn't really put my finger on why I loved her so much. So many did. She was one of those people whom everyone thought was their best friend. A great listener, the life of the party, wise, normal, funny, welcoming. She could relate to me, across the generations. But, she related to almost everyone.
As I contemplated my relationship with my niece and my relationship with my aunt, I realized that one of the reasons she meant so much to me is that she respected me. That's what I meant by "she's one of us." It's not like she, a grown woman, acted like a teenager when she was around teenagers. It's that, even when I was a child and then a teenager, she respected me as a person. She treated me like I mattered, like my opinions mattered, like my likes and dislikes and desires were interesting, worthwhile, to be respected. She treated me as equal in dignity to herself and others. That was very different for me. It stood out among my adult relationships. My parents emphasized "respecting your elders" and "authority." Women were not equal to men. Children were not equal to adults. We were to be seen and not heard. Our opinions, needs, and preferences were not important or respected. Being a female child was the lowest end of the totem pole, and until you were married, you were considered a "child" (under your father's authority).
It may have taken more than 15 years of reflection, but it finally dawned on me that the chief way my aunt showed love to me was by respecting me as a person, when so many others told me I wasn't to be respected. There were many other ways, big and small, that she showed love. However, underneath it all was a sense that she believed I was valuable, lovable, worthy of respect. She listened. She validated my experiences and viewpoint. She didn't judge. It was such a gift to me, a gift I'm still un-wrapping.
So, from here to eternity, thank you, Auntie. I hope you're rocking in heaven with some of my other friends, and I hope to see you there someday. I love you.
That's all I got.
Peace be with you.