You won’t find it here

Pretty Christian bloggers with tidy Christian theology are compelling, because we exist within idyllic internet worlds, paradises that we want so badly as a substitute for our own messy lives.

It always comes back to that Richard Sipe study for me, the one where the (recently deceased) ex-priest surveyed the sexual lives of American clergy. He found that the vast majority of priests weren’t so great at the celibacy thing. He found this in a world where clericalism was in full swing, where Catholics looked up to and admired their priests simply for being priests, and assumed they were all good at it. This wasn’t actually the case.

But some did live full lives in accordance with their vows, and even happily. According to Sipe, the ones who had achieved a “mature adjustment to celibacyall had four things in common:

  1. A well-structured prayer life
  2. A commitment to service;
  3. Productive work; and
  4. A strong sense of community.

I think about these things as a gay Catholic blogger, where the temptation is to present to the public a prayer-tastic life; where piety can be something to sprinkle over my verbal world as a kind of generic (even if heartfelt) whitewash; where bible verses can be a sort of substitute, rather than foundation, for personal relationships; and where I might more regularly use the names of theologians than the names of friends and neighbors.

Pretty Christian bloggers with tidy Christian theology are compelling, because we exist within idyllic internet worlds, paradises that many want so badly as a substitute for their own messy lives. When we’re feeling unhappy with our own lives, we can read the pretty things that someone has to say about Catholicism online.

This has a double effect for the reader: it lets him escape his real life to enter into that blog life, but it also makes him more unhappy about his real life. Blog world presents a perfection that he can’t relate to, because it requires the messiness of his life to be absent, or for him to be indifferent towards it. And so he needs a sort of dissociation from his real life to live within that world, and the distance between his actual life and this ideal blog-life increases and increases, until he has a breakdown because the thread between his life and his aspirations has stretched too far.

This media comparison can be toxic and despair-inducing. And it’s not real.

So now, when I look for gay Christian role models, I don’t look for clean words on a pretty website. I look for four things: a well-structured prayer life, a commitment to service, productive work, and a strong sense of community. If I don’t see those four things, in very concrete ways, the cynical side of me asserts itself, whatever that person’s theology may be. And then I close the computer and work on seeking those things in my life.

I don’t want to claim that I have these things all figured out in my own life, because I don’t. But even if I did, in a way it wouldn’t matter for you. Because you aren’t called to have these four things in the way that I do. That’s the thing about vocations. They’re all unique. You won’t find yours on my blog. You’ll find it in the space you occupy as soon as you step away from the screen.

Chris Damian is a writer, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops. 

2 comments on “You won’t find it here

  1. What about a website where the writer openly struggles with one or more of these items?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It depends what you are looking for, I guess. We are all called to be holy, but no-one is entirely holy but God. Are we following a person, or their teachings? I would argue that we are following Jesus. He is the only one whose teachings and person were fully integrated in holiness. So when we ‘follow’ a blog, of course we are going to be disappointed at some point if we idolise that person. As far as theology goes (teaching/the person of Jesus), the main thing that is important is that it conforms to Jesus and revelation, not that the person is living a fully holy life (or open about it). Or if you follow a blog for life coaching (person), then openness is clearly important, and the direction should be right and the struggles real.

    Chris, you are doing a great job. Your direction is right and your struggles are real, and you are very open and honest about them, which I admire. Those 4 “things” are a good basis for integrity in anyone’s life. And I would say, should be a basis for anyone putting themselves out there as a theologian or catholic life coach in any area.

    By the way, I guess I follow you for the “practical application of catholic theology in an area which is controversial and in which I (as a 53 year old wife and mother) have very little experience but ought to understand better in order to be a more loving human being”.!


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