Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gay and Catholic

by Eve Tushnet

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Orthodox Catholic, yet gritty and real.
  • Written in an amusing and engaging style, drawing much from her own experiences.
  • Discusses really important topics to our times: love, community, friendship. All of which are under appreciated or misunderstood these days.

And Why You Might Not:
  • She doesn't try to explain the Catholic teachings on sexuality. If you're looking for a good way to convince people or yourself, this is not it.
  • Some of this might bother you, whether you agree or don't agree with the teachings of the Church on human sexuality. She is upfront enough with her sexuality, and compassionate to other LGBTQ people, that a traditional Catholic could be uncomfortable (though she is completely orthodox herself), and she is Catholic enough that a normal, non-homophobic, non-Catholic person could think her ideas lacking in tolerance.

Thoughts: This is one of those really, really good books that I don't really know how to talk about. Because I'm worried that either undersell it, which would be really sad, or oversell it and make it seem like the best book I've ever read, which it isn't, despite being excellent. Plus it's so full of interesting ideas that I don't feel like I have the language or experience to talk about properly. So I'm just going to discuss a few points that particularly struck me, and leave you to discover the rest on your own.
  • The main focus of this book is probably the importance of community. And with that comes the importance of passionate friendship. Passionate friendship has always been a strong interest of mine. I think these days most people don't understand true friendship and may even go their whole lives without a true Friend. I LOVED the discussion of the medieval vows of friendship, quite similar to marriage vows in some ways, except for a different sort of love. It could be argued that those were a means to support gay love in a time that wasn't amenable to it, but Tushnet argues otherwise and I agree with her. I greatly wish this kind of vow was common in modern times. I suspect it would help a lot to give understanding of what Friendship as a love actually is.
  • There is this idea that living with your family when you're grown up is indication of a horrible "failure to launch". To say a guy is living in his mother's basement is a pretty bad insult. It isn't quite so bad with girls, but still pretty insulting. Tushnet argues that it can actually be a good thing; "[i]t might make you someone who not only acknowledges her weaknesses but has figured out a way to shore up her weak points while looking after others" (page 154). I have a hypothesis that it might be a little different for guys, although with the essential idea remaining the same, but I'm not sure yet.
  • It speaks to me and my lack of charity. There is such focus on community, hospitality, true friendship. I can get in the habit of thinking I'm pretty good in those areas, so this was a helpful reminder.
I think this is a really important book. The point of view is a rare and much needed one in the whole gay-marriage discussion. Additionally, it's written in an engrossing writing style and was amusing and pleasant to read. To sum up: fabulous book. Read it.
Note, it also includes a recommended book list at the end, which is always a point in favour.

Grade: 5 stars

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