August 27, 2013

Douthat on Bottum

[Bottum] has never been a zealous culture warrior or an eager political scrapper; as long as I’ve been reading him, he’s chiefly been a literary Catholic, a poet and critic and essayist with a sideline in history and philosophy. And coming from that place, especially, there is something that is frustrating-to-the-point-of-exasperation about the role that the Catholic Church has been cast in in so many of our post-sexual revolution debates: As some vast edifice of puritanism, handing down “thou shalt nots” and drowning the varied colors of the world in whites and blacks. That is obviously how any religion that preaches a rigorous moral message will sometimes be perceived, but to anyone who knows Catholic history intimately and has experienced Catholic culture from the inside it is a peculiarly ill-fitting caricature. And the more aesthetically and culturally-minded that Catholic, the more ridiculously frustrating it seems that their faith of all faiths (the faith of Italy! of France!) should be cast as the enemy of bodily pleasure — that their church, with its wild diversity of weirdo, “dappled” saints, should be seen as a purely conformist and repressive enterprise — and that the religion of Wilde and Waugh and Manley Hopkins and so many others would be dismissed as simply and straightforwardly homophobic.
 That’s how I read Bottum’s essay, at least in part: As a literary Catholic’s attempt to wrench the true complexity of his faith back out of the complexity-destroying context of contemporary political debates. He’s writing as someone who loves his church, and wants everyone else to love it as he does — and I don’t blame him for imagining that perhaps, just perhaps, ceasing to offer public resistance on the specific question of gay marriage would liberate the church from some the caricatures that the culture war has imposed upon it, and enable the world to see its richness with fresh eyes.
And Rod Dreher makes a good point:
 I did a count of all the posts I’d written about homosexuality in the previous year...Somebody’s obsessed with the story, and it ain’t me.
That's precisely the issue, that we don't get to choose our issues.  The culture at large has become obsessed with it and that has consequences. 

No comments: