Let me start with a caveat – I probably shouldn’t publish this because it has the potential to be taken wrongly, but I never did have a lick of sense. Our daughter called us yesterday from Lake Calhoun, where she had gone to take a walk. Now I haven’t been to Calhoun for five years or more, but having spent a fair amount of time over the years around Uptown generally, and Lake Calhoun in particular, it was always clear that there is a relatively high concentration of, well, folks who don’t hold with nature’s design for sexuality. In fact, Uptown is the place some years back where this self-same daughter first asked the question that no parent would ever hear in a rightly ordered world, namely “why are those two boys holding hands.”
The reason she called yesterday was to talk about the same issue, although unfortunately long past innocent of its reality. She had just walked past two women who were, in her words, “making out” by the path. Just a little further down, there was a woman down on one knee proposing to another woman, complete with photographer and a crowd of friends. The people running, walking and roller-blading on the path were shouting out words of support. Our daughter said that she was feeling “creeped out.”
I’ve been thinking about this response, that of being “creeped out” by in-your-face homosexual activities. Many people (most people?) would automatically jump on my daughter for this comment and accuse her of being an intolerant hater, possibly throwing Pope Francis’ out of context “who am I to judge” into the mix for good measure. Those people of course, know nothing about my daughter, a truly kind and gentle soul who wishes only good things for all people (no doubt from a recessive gene). In fact, I’m convinced that being “creeped out” is the proper, rational response in this situation. It is a sign of being attuned to the proper order of creation, of God’s original intent for mankind.
All objectively sinful behavior is a violation of this original intent, so why should some things make me feel “creepy” when the majority do not? Why doesn’t it bother me to watch a hired assassin kill someone in a movie, or a thief steal a million dollars, when reading about Nazi experiments on prisoners or watching the Silence of the Lambs does indeed leave me “creeped out?” I’m not sure. Is it as simple as saying the sins to which I am personally attracted do not bother me, but that the others do? No, there are far too many sins, some of them serious, which do not tempt me personally, yet which do not leave me so unsettled. There is something deeper going on.
Perhaps it is more of an existential question, one of being versus doing. Hannibal Lector is creepy because we recognize something fundamentally at odds with human nature in the true sociopath. He is a parody of humanity, a demon in human form that should not be; it is intrinsically wrong (please do not accuse me of equating homosexual behavior with serial killer/cannibal – I’m merely looking for an example that I hope 99.9% of people still find repellent). But when we no longer know what human nature is, there is no benchmark to measure against, and so less and less is left to fall into the “creepy” category. It is why so few people are shocked that a renowned “bioethicist” (Peter Singer) claims that monkeys have rights but that a baby born with a cleft palate does not. Like the frog in hot water, we eventually become inured to things to which we are gradually exposed in increasing intensity. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked. … It may be that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal and that you are a paralytic.” My daughter was “creeped out” because she is a lively and vital animal, whose reason has not been paralyzed by the culture; a culture which is deeply corrupt because “this generation is an evil generation…” (Lk 11:29).
It is critical to make two distinctions. Feeling “creeped out” by something does not imply a lack of love. That’s another fallacy of the modern culture; conflating love and approval. Love is an act of the will, of desiring good for the other person. Like my daughter, I admit to being “creeped out” at an instinctual level whenever I see blatant homosexual behavior, because it is a twisting of human sexuality in the wrong direction. It is like wincing when I see an athlete’s leg bone going the wrong way. I don’t hate the athlete because his leg got bent the wrong way, and I don’t hate people with homosexual attraction because they are bending their sexual natures in the wrong way. I do avoid whenever possible looking at things like Bruce Jenner’s glamour shots because they are unsettling to the natural order of things. But so are beauty pageants for five-year old children, and so I am also “creeped out” by glamour shots of JonBenet Ramsey. Both are offenses against my reason. But that same reason demands that we rise above instinct, and so when I stumble across public homosexual activity, what I feel consciously and deliberately is mostly sadness – sadness for people confused about the simple reality of their humanity, and who are carrying a particularly difficult cross (possibly invisible to them). Lastly, when I do see these things, I always offer a Hail Mary for the individuals, asking nothing more specific than that God grant them whatever particular graces which He alone knows they most need. If praying for God to bless someone makes me a hater to the world, I can only respond as St. Thomas More did in the movie A Man For All Seasons. “I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live.”