QUOTE TO NOTE: Changing Minds and Changing Hearts

About a month ago, I had a conversation with a younger friend who is contemplating an advanced degree in theology.  He wants the degree to help move the church on LGBTQ issues.  He was unsure if this route was was still a feasible one, asking me:  “But, haven’t all the theological arguments about LGBTQ equality already been made?”

I assured him that they had surely not been, with the evidence being that church teaching, and in many places church practice, still treats LGBTQ people in second (or third) class ways.   But I understood his uncertainty.  Hasn’t there already been enough words, information, and conversation over the past 50-odd years to help church teaching change?

Later that week, I came across a section in my daily meditation booklet called Give Us This Daywhich helped me realize that the question of knowledge in regards to LGBTQ people is somewhat moot.

The meditation, by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, a spiritual writer who blogs at There Will Be Bread.  Reflecting on Luke 7: 31-35, Fran quickly summarizes the passage and then offers a reflection:

“People flocked to the desert to see John, the precursor to the Messiah, but many recoiled at his prophetic proclamations, his unusual presence, or both. Then came Jesus, who consorted with people on the margins, those shunned by the pious and rich. He made a home with those not welcome at the temple. Like John, Jesus was also judged for his actions and appearance.

“A fixed vision of salvation is anything but. When we possess a rigid view of redemption, we might feel clarity of mind, but we close our heart. We define God for ourselves, leaving God little room to be God.

It was the short second paragraph quoted above that struck me.  When we presume to think that we know how God should act, we are definitely NOT talking about salvation–our own or anybody’s.  Salvation happens by God’s grace, and it can happen any way God wants it to happen.  And it often comes from people and places that we least expect.

I think the reason some people of faith find it so hard to accept LGBTQ people is that their “clarity of mind” keeps them frozen in a certain way of thinking. But what can change their attitude is not more information or better information.  They will be changed only by opening their heart.  The answer to solving the church’s LGBTQ problem is not primarily a matter of mind, but of heart.

Of course, education is still, and will always be needed. I think part of the problem with some church leaders is that even though there has been so much information about LGBTQ people, issues, and theology, they haven’t even begun to absorb it.  Time and again, their statements on LGBTQ issues reveal their lack of solid information.  While getting information to them is important, we must also always be ready to help them open their hearts, as well as their minds.  That’s why, I believe, a gentle and loving approach to people who disagree with LGBTQ equality is so important.  Approaching them in such a manner helps them open both their minds and hearts.

God is always the god of surprises, and our salvation often comes from places we least expect. Fran’s closing line helps us to remember that when we keep our hearts open, we do much more than learn new information.  What happens is that we “welcome and make room for the God who so often is not the God that I imagine.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 3, 2020


3 replies
  1. Gaetano
    Gaetano says:

    Dear Mr DeBernardo,
    your email is the first one I read every day in the morning as I wake up in a different time zone in Italy, I read your email because I try to keep my mind open on the LGBTQ subject. Speaking of clarity of mind the church moral teaching distinguishes between being homosexual and having homosexual relationships so I beg you to clarify for me if you are pursuing acceptance and welcoming Of homosexuality in the church or Or the change in moral teaching about homosexual acts in a sense like a Henry the VIII did. Platonic relationships are fine and should be accepted. Now you can mock me or explain to me. Thank you

  2. William Kennedy
    William Kennedy says:

    We need theologians to explore the mystery of the Body of Christ. What is the criteria for membership in his Church? What is the place of certitude in matters of faith and morals? Given that the Physician of our souls came for the sick, what is Jesus’ standard for wholeness in the Kingdom? Humility is called for as we seek answers from sacred scripture and tradition. My human desire while on this earth is also my hope. As a friend of God, I also want to see all saved. My prayer with the psalmist shall remain “Let everything that breathes praise Yahwey! Alleluia!”

  3. Sarasi
    Sarasi says:

    You’ve identified some important ideas here and the statement “A fixed vision of salvation is anything but” struck me as well. However, if we were to substitute “policing” for the church leaders and African Americans for LGBTQ Catholics, it might be easier to recognize that the exhortation to apply “a gentle and loving approach” may not be the right one for the times. Anger is always the first step in reform and the hierarchs should not be protected from the anger of LGBTQ members of the church. In addition, they must not be allowed to make false statements stemming from ignorance and/or a refusal to take seriously the findings of modern science. This is particularly evident with respect to three key claims: their bogeyman “gender theory”–a term that does not mean what they claim it means; the idea that same-sex parenting is inherently deficient, when good parenting actually hinges of character and skill, not male-and-female; and, perhaps their most vicious claim, that same-sex couples can never have genuine affective complementarity. (This, of course, raises a fourth false notion, that male-female complementarity exists outside of reproduction but let’s not t go there or I’ll get a massive headache.) I think the best it is possible to do with people who believe such things and who insist that they are correct and everyone else is wrong is to bypass them and to continue to form whatever communities can be formed without their involvement. This too is a loving response in the sense that it encourages LGBTQ people not to waste their time on hate while avoiding “rules” and claims that have no basis in fact or in God’s love and mercy. At some point, we are not responsible for what other people, including church leaders, think. We can give them the information, the tools … we can share the experiences, but the hierarchs as a group (there are exceptions, of course) have been notoriously resistant to receiving information that contradicts their frozen outlook or hearing the experiences of LGBTQ people. And it is the very notion that they “know best” that is also at issue and goes to the heart of what the church should be … and no longer is.


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