About five years ago, I taught a course called Christian Beliefs at a Catholic university. During each class period, we would discuss a different topic that connected in some way to the ideas presented in the Nicene Creed. On the first day of class that semester, I gave the students index cards and asked that each fill his/her entire card, front and back, with as many responses to the following question as possible: “What do Christians believe?” I taught that course twice and have not since been assigned to teach another like it, but being the pack rat that I am, I kept those cards and flipped through them last week while planning an activity for my current freshmen. I had almost forgotten just how troubling the responses where.
As I perused these index cards last week, I was taken back to the shock I experienced as a second-year teacher reading the responses my class had provided. A few were easily predictable:
- “Christians believe in Jesus.”
- “Christians believe in Jesus as the savior.”
- “Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins.”
- “Christians believe that baptism washes away sins.”
- “Christians believe you need to ask Jesus into your heart to go to heaven.”
But those accounted for such a small percentage of student responses. When asked “What do Christians believe?” almost every student in the class included at least two of the following on his/her list:
- “Christians believe gay people are going to hell.”
- “Christians believe gay people are sinners.”
- “Christians believe gay people are pedophiles and shouldn’t be priests.”
- “Christians believe that if you’re gay, you can’t have sex.”
- “Christians believe that you have to choose to be straight if you love God.”
- “Christians believe abortion is a sin.”
- “Christians believe abortion is murder.”
- “Christians believe in protecting unborn babies.”
- “Christians believe you have to be pro-life.”
- “Christians believe you have to vote pro-life.”
The point isn’t that issues like these aren’t important; it’s that there are serious problems with peoples’ understanding of the Faith if they can only articulate it in terms of hot button issues like homosexuality and abortion.
A lot of the fault of this, of course, can be laid at the feet of craptastic catechesis. But I really do loathe this zero-sum game. Will there ever be a day where we will have a Pope article that won’t be about how the Pope said such and such about gays or the divorced?
One of the reasons why I was previously a bit worried about talking too much of homosexuality on this blog is that it would derail things. There are ultimately far more important, and far more interesting aspects of Christianity than “no gay sex”. The reason for why I run on about it is that it isn’t an ‘issue’ for me – it’s an everyday reality that I live with. That, and the fact that there isn’t much of a voice for people like me, so I feel a bit more compelled to say something.* But if this doesn’t connect back to the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, then it is pointless. “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
*These are interesting times, though. Far more Side B Christians* are speaking up than in decades past.
*Why yes, I am footnoting a footnote. Deal with it. For those who don’t know the lingo, Side A is often used to refer to same-sex attracted Christians who see no problem with acting on their desires, while Side B Christians do.