“Renewed and Expansive Hope”

Wanting respect is reasonable. I think folks who support Gay/LGBT Pride Month for that reason have a point.

I don’t agree with much of what’s said on the gay/LGBT pride issue — and explained why I won’t spit venom in today’s earlier post.

Basically, I should love God, love my neighbor, and see everybody as my neighbor.

No exceptions.

Loving and hating my neighbor isn’t possible. Not at the same time.

If I was a perfect person, living in a perfect world, loving each of my neighbors would be easy. I’m not, and this isn’t, so it’s not. Easy, that is. But I have to try, anyway.

Like I said, love matters. That includes caring about other folks.

For much of my life, I’ve known folks who care about my health and well-being.

Sometimes their love meant telling me that something I do is a bad idea. I generally didn’t enjoy the experience. Not at the time.

Good Intentions

Loving someone by ‘being nice’ won’t turn a bad idea into a good idea. A few things are bad ideas, no matter what.

Lying is one of them. It’s a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it. (Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 24642499)

My gluttony, a disordered interest in food, doesn’t define my personal identity. But it’s an issue I deal with. It’s also a bad idea.

My wife knows that I like food ‘way too much. She’s told me that it’s a bad idea. A doctor said pretty much the same thing.

I didn’t like hearing that, but I agree.

My wife is a wise woman, so she has been working with me to change my eating and exercise habits. I haven’t consistently cooperated, but I’m learning.

But let’s say that she didn’t want to make me feel bad, and kept quiet. Or, worse yet, encouraged me to keep eating. That might feel good, for a while.

I’d still have the weight and health issues that my behavior caused. Lying to me would have been a bad idea.

So, I think, would labeling me a wretched glutton, and saying that God hates me.

I don’t think that’d a reasonable response to anyone’s undesirable behavior. Besides, I’d be concerned about anyone who’d enjoy that sort of treatment.1

Bottom line? ‘I meant well’ won’t turn a bad idea into a good idea. (Catechism, 1753)

And saying the equivalent of raqa to someone is a bad idea. (Matthew 5:22)

Gluttony and Social Stigma

I talked about respect and dignity earlier. Basically, I’m obliged to show respect for the dignity of each person.

That seems reasonable.

Gluttony isn’t generally considered a good idea in today’s America, but my appearance doesn’t make me a pariah.

That’s a bit odd, or maybe not so much.

My weight isn’t what’s odd. It’s simple cause-and-effect. I’ve eaten too much, and not exercised enough. My obesity probably isn’t just caused by gluttony, by the way. It’s complicated, and that’s another topic.

What’s odd is not being shunned, or worse, because of my weight. I’m pretty sure that fitness fiends wouldn’t use me as a role model, not a positive one. But they’re easy to avoid or ignore.

The point is that I haven’t spent a lifetime dealing with folks who seemed determined to fill me with guilt and shame. I’ll grant that some health fanatics can be a tad overbearing.

That’s what’s odd, since obesity hasn’t been a status symbol since the Renaissance. Current American culture views gluttony, an obvious cause of obesity, as a bad idea. The attitude isn’t entirely wrong.

But I don’t remember running into anyone who attacked fat folks for ‘religious’ reasons. Not with the hatred I’ve seen expressed against folks with unusual sexual desires. Why that is, I don’t know.

Seven Sins

Gluttony is one of the seven capital sins. The others are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, and sloth. (Catechism, 1866)

“Sloth,” in this sense, isn’t laziness.

It’s acedia, a lack of spiritual effort, refusing to ‘work out my salvation.’ I figure that would include my job as someone with dual citizenship:2 in America, and Heaven. (Philippians 2:12, 3:20; Catechism, 1949, 2094, 2733)

“Pride” in this context is self-esteem above and beyond the call of reason.

Humility, acknowledging reality, is pride’s antidote.3

One reality I must acknowledge is that letting my desires and impulses control what I eat is a bad idea.4 No amount of positive self-talk will change that.

Neither would throwing myself into the fat acceptance movement’s silly side. I’ll admit that I might enjoy organizing a ‘fat pride day’ protest. For the wrong reasons. There’s a sardonic streak in me that’s not good.

I must not let other impulses lead to indulging my gluttony, or expressing rage against folks like the Westboro bunch. (June 18, 2017; February 12, 2017; July 10, 2016)

The problem isn’t the impulses. (October 5, 2016)

Condemning someone whose impulses aren’t like mine seems silly. Self-righteous indignation at the actions of other sinners seems imprudent, at best. My own track record is far from spotless.

I think homosexual acts are not a good idea.5 I emphatically also must think that everyone deserves respect and reasoned compassion; not unjust discrimination. (Catechism, 23572359)

Imprudent over-corrections of past injustices are, I think, understandable. But as I said, good intentions won’t turn bad ideas into good ones.

Nothing I say or do can solve every problem we face. I am equally powerless to undo injustices like last year’s murders at the Pulse nightclub.6

But I can suggest that love is a good idea. So is acting like love matters.

Tradition and Nostalgia

Even if I could, I wouldn’t take America back to the ‘good old days’ before 1965, 1954, 1933, 1848, or some other imagined ‘Golden Age.’

Today’s America is far from perfect, too.

That leaves one direction: forward.

Not yearning for a bygone era may seem odd, coming from a Catholic.

I’ve been asked why I think my beliefs matter in today’s world.

The question makes sense, given all-too-common attitudes.

Some Christians act as if nostalgia and faith were synonyms.

Sometimes I run into a Catholic who says Vatican II ruined everything. Some of these folks formed their very own little churches, convinced that they’re the only Catholics left.

I wasn’t a Catholic before Vatican II, so my childhood memories include pleasant experiences in a Protestant church.

Even if I was a ‘cradle Catholic,’ I hope I’d have the good sense to see a difference between Tradition and tradition. (June 2, 2017; July 24, 2016)

Tradition with a capital “T” is the living message of the Gospel, maintained and passed along through the millennia. It doesn’t change. (Catechism, 7583)

Some of our traditions, lower-case-“t,” are important, too. But they’re not set in stone. Sometimes they stop being useful. Then it’s time to change or drop them. This is okay. (Catechism, 83)

Moving Forward

America in the 1950s was a ‘Golden Age’ for some folks.

I remember the trailing edge of their ‘good old days,’ and my memory’s pretty good.

I remember when someone had to look more-or-less like me to get a decent job, and “she’s smart as a man” was supposed to be a compliment.

The ‘good old days’ weren’t.

And I thank God they aren’t coming back. (June 4, 2017; May 12, 2017; February 5, 2017; October 30, 2016)

Many long-overdue reforms which were new in my youth didn’t turn out as I had hoped. But on the whole, I like living in today’s America. It’s not perfect. But that’s true of every society, today or in the past.

I must do what I can to help make tomorrow’s America, and world, better. (Catechism, 19131916, 2239)

There isn’t much I can do to change my nation, much less the world. But I can do something about myself.

Changing the world starts inside me, with an ongoing “inner conversion.” (Catechism, 18861889)

Unless I act as if I think people matter, I can hardly expect folks to take me seriously.

Not when I talk about love, justice, charity, and respect for “the transcendent dignity of man.” (Catechism, 19281942, 24192442)

And I certainly shouldn’t imagine that I’m one of the “righteous” few. Life isn’t that simple. Neither are issues we’re dealing with.

“…Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity….

“…A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners….”
(“Visit to the Joint Session of the United States Congress,” Pope Francis7 (September24, 2015))

What I said earlier:

Acting like love matters:

1 Deliberate, consistent, self-defeating behavior may eventually be recognized as a disorder. That topic has been discussed for at least three decades. I’ve run into folks who act as if they think it’s a virtue. I think it’s a problem, and inconsistent with love:

2 Part of my take on citizenship and doing my job:

3 Humility, in the Catholic sense, is acknowledging reality, giving God due credit:

4 Experiencing desires and emotions is part of being human; so is thinking, or should be:

5 Insights from:

6 As the song said, “nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong:”

7 About freedom:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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3 Responses to “Renewed and Expansive Hope”

  1. Pingback: "Renewed and Expansive Hope" ~ Catholic Canada

  2. irishbrigid says:

    Something missing? “I figure that would include not my job as”

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

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