Sunday, December 1, 2019

Why I Don't Celebrate Diversity

Thanksgiving Day news articles this year included many pieces about our changed country.  Many quoted past Thanksgiving messages; many noted we don’t give thanks for those things anymore, but regret them.  Many noted that the image of a melting pot is gone; people don’t come here to join us, but to break our country from a union into one of many pieces.  “Celebrate the broken bottle on the floor!  Look at the many shining pieces!”, they seem to say.  But a broken bottle holds no nourishments anymore.  It was unity that made us strong, that made us different from the world, not diversity.  Celebrating diversity today seems to be celebrating that we can’t change from who we are, but my faith says I must grow in holiness, constantly changing.  Celebrating diversity says I must love the things different --- “different is good” --- but I love the things that make us all the same, valuable, God-created beings.  I accept that we are, each one of us, a unique human being, no two looking or thinking alike, yet all are the same and loved the same in God’s eyes, and I hope mine.
This morning I read two readings, which I’ll quote from below.  The apostle Jude writes how even in his day there were those who chose lust in all its forms, and said it was of God’s gift.  St. Jude says how they perverted God’s gift.  Meanwhile, Saint Augustine focuses on the trials of this life, temptations and sin are part of our world, our lives.  But through all our trials, St. Augustine reminds us: “God is faithful.”
Both Saints Jude and Augustine knew of sexual “diversity”.  It is not a new thing.  Running a red light, drinking too much, beating your wife, robbing a store, or killing others --- for some people these are strong inclinations, maybe even justified in their minds as good things, but these urges, they must be brought under control for the common good of society.  Last week a dear friend told me how her young teen-aged daughter was diagnosed with psychotic schizophrenia.  From the time of her birth she was the kindest, sweetest, most saintly girl I knew, and now?  And now her life will be controlled by drugs, to limit her mind’s urges.  Her parents and I don’t “celebrate” her difference; we’ll help her see the good we see in her, despite her differences.
We are, each one of us, a unique human being, like no other.  Some of us have differences beyond our control: the color of our skin, the body’s physical or mental differences, or the way we’ve come to think.  Those differences are ours to bear, to keep within limits, to enable us to bond to communities, to a country, to a church, to celebrate what we are together.  I have epilepsy; I don’t shout: “I am an epileptic!  Epileptics unite and fight for our rights!”  Epilepsy does not define who I am or all my thoughts, any more than a person with homo-sexual urges IS a homosexual first and foremost.  Certainly, his boss would not condone his acting out “who I am” in the workplace, nor would most people accept his acting out “who I am” on children.  His ACTIONS must be limited within the greater community.  And if there are people who so find their actions uncontrollable, so desirable, so “who I am and what I must do”, if they desire to promote with others their urgings, then society must either limit them forcibly, or set them aside in their groups --- not “celebrate” their actions.
I don’t hate anyone; I try not to judge anyone, nor do I wish others to judge me.  I celebrate the good thing I see; I don’t expect you to see things as I do, nor celebrate all I do.  Yet, by my actions, my attempts at loving my neighbor as he is (not only as he acts), I hope that you may wish to celebrate my actions with me, and not TELL ME how I must celebrate your actions.  I do not celebrate diversity.  Not all differences are a good thing, and only I, in my growth in holiness, can choose that which I deem worthy to celebrate.  I don’t wish another’s differences or mine to be the focus of our relationship, but rather the things we do and believe together.
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“Certain individuals have recently wormed their way into your midst, godless types, long ago destined for the condemnation I shall describe.  They pervert the gracious gift of our God to sexual excess and deny Jesus Christ, our only master and Lord.
… Sodom, Gomorrah, and the town thereabout indulged in lust, just as those angels did; they practiced unnatural vice.  They are set before us to dissuade us.  … They join your solemn feasts without shame and only look after themselves.
Remember, beloved, all of you, the prophetic words of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how they kept telling you, “In the last days there will be imposters living by their godless passions.”  These sensualists, devoid of the Spirit, are causing divisions among you.  But you, beloved, grow strong in your holy faith through prayer in the Holy Spirit.  Persevere in God’s love, and welcome the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ which leads to life eternal.  Correct those who are confused; the others you must rescue.  Even with those you pity, be on your guard; abhor so much as their flesh-stained clothing.”
                        --- From a letter of the apostle Jude  (1-8, 12-13, 17-23)

“Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security.  … Can you expect me not to feel anxious when there are so many temptations here below that prayer itself reminds us of them, when we say: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us?  Every day we make our petitions, every day we sin.  Do you want me to feel secure when I am daily asking pardon for my sins, and requesting help in time of trial?
Scripture does not say that he will not allow you to be tried, but that he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength.  Whatever the trial, he will see you through it safely, and so enable you to endure.  You have entered upon a time of trial but you will come to no harm.  God’s help will bring you through it safely.  You are like a piece of pottery, shaped by instruction, fired by tribulation.  When you are put into the over therefore, keep your thoughts on the time when you will be taken out again: for God is faithful, and he will guard both your going in and your coming out.
                        --- From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop

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