God’s Defects

“Defective” was the word used by a fellow parishioner to describe homosexuals. I gaped at his callous response and asked him to clarify. This young man had completed his first year as a Ph.D. student of microbiology and he was of the mind that sexuality was designed for procreation and that sex is reserved between a man and a woman.

My conservative comrade’s comments certainly do typify how some Catholics feel about homosexuality. He also believed that sterile heterosexual couples should still be permitted to marry, contradicting as this might seem to the original argument. He also held the view that couples not intent on having children should also be allowed to marry. The Church agrees that marriage serves a greater purpose between a couple than just the propagation of the species.

Perhaps more disturbing was his terminology to refer to same-sex attraction as a “defect”. However, to illustrate his point, my friend said that a person born blind does not possess the full range of abilities that a prototypical human does. In the same way, a homosexual person’s attractions prevent him or her from procreating. I asked him if he thought God makes mistakes. He said, “I believe mistakes were made,” but he did not confess that God Himself makes mistakes. I, of course, do not believe that God makes mistakes.

Due to his expanded definition, I of course had a multi-faceted interest in this argument, not only due to my own sexual identity, but also the fact that my brother has special needs. I am of the mind that life is precious and God does create each individual uniquely, not all possessing the same physical assets, intellectual prowess, or mental and emotional capabilities. I found his assessment to be uncompassionate and unloving.

Moreover, to “other” people as it were, runs very much counter to what Jesus taught. Jesus was not known for catering to the power elite or adhering to societal norms. His “turn the other cheek” notion was unheard of to a people that long believed an eye for an eye was justifiable.

Jesus had a habit of associating Himself with those deemed undesirable by society. He would minister to the lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors, oftentimes to the chagrin of others. However, Jesus did not back down from those marginalized by the world.

I recently attended a retreat in Racine, WI, where Fr. Anthony Gittins of the Chicago Theological Union was the presenter. Fr. Anthony said that God created a world of “we” not a world of “us and them” because this leads to discrimination and violence. He promotes the idea that Jesus lived on the margins and catered to a community of nobodies. And to verify this, we need not look farther than the scriptures. After all, the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew 5:3-10 shows Jesus stating that, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.”

Fr. Anthony expounded that heterogeneity in the community is good and that there is a dignity of difference; we are to glorify God in our identity and our relationships. We create this “Jesus Society” by building up the community, building up the kingdom.

Fr. Anthony’s words… and Jesus’ words remind me that we are all God’s children, and all members of the same unified Body of Christ. Therefore there must be room in heaven for those marginalized by society. There must be room even for those of us who are God’s “defects”.

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About Dick Dalton

Dick is a third generation native of Phoenix, Arizona, and has a BA in political science and a BA in French from Arizona State University. He currently pursues a Global MBA program in marketing at Thunderbird School of Global Management. -- While very local, he does manage to get around, having visited 23 countries spanning four continents. Some of his interests include travel, foreign language, social justice, culture, religion, politics, and writing, of course!

8 thoughts on “God’s Defects

  1. Thanks for your post! I really appreciate the correlation you made between one’s sexual identity and special needs. We are so far from understanding the amazing gifts of each person, and as they were created (if I’m hearing you right), rather than despite how they were created.

    It brings up a question for me. Anytime I see something “bad” I assume it cannot be of God, and in the context of painful special needs individuals, wouldnt be God’s choice. uh? I’m not sure here. I call these my half thoughts. Because if we were to be more accepting and integrate all people into our community, more satisfaction would be present. But when there is awful physical pain for people with special needs, or debilitating anxiety, I have a hard time thinking that it is God’s plan. Any thoughts for me? Maybe you have the other half to my half thought. Great post, thank you!

  2. Two things:

    1) While it’s true that “God doesn’t make mistakes,” the Fall did inject “wrongness” into the world. Without the sin of Adam there may well have been no blindness, mental retardation or other “defects” in human nature (an unfortunate term, I’ll agree). However, our fallen nature means that we are less than perfect, and this manifests itself in various ways.

    2) Jesus ministered to “lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors,” but he did not excuse their sins. Instead he forgave their sins and enjoined them to “sin no more.” You seem to argue that Jesus not only ministered to them but approved of their lifestyles — an interpretation that seems to me to be at odds with Scripture.

  3. Lauren,

    To answer your question, I guess it depends on what one considers bad. I don’t know how pain factors into the grand scheme… that’s from God’s perspective, which none of us possess. Pain does exist and it affects everyone in some way… I doubt that God wants us to experience pain, since He died for us. However, He still allows pain to exist… though I would say the side-effect of pain is an act of permissive will, not of active will. But who am I to say?

    onemorething08,

    1. Our actions can sometimes be less than perfect, and the moral of the “Fall” is that it was human choice that brought us to our state of affairs. While one can make the assessment that it brought death into the world, I would not say that being blind or “disabled” is necessarily a product of that Fall. Yes, we are ALL less than perfect… but no one can say why God made us weaker, dumber, poorer, or having less abilities than someone else. God made us all unique, showing people how to love in a different way. The truth is that God did not create us all equally, but we are all equal in human dignity.

    2. I believe you made a false assumption, because contextually I never said that Jesus said sin was okay. Though, I was concerned someone might make that false assumption. I was focusing on who these people were and how society perceived them, as opposed to what they did. It was one example of how groups can be marginalized and that was not the Gospel that Jesus preached. On that note, with that clarity, I don’t see how that’s really at odds with Scripture.

  4. It is unfortunate that some Catholics view homosexuals as “defective.” That term makes me think of eugenics and Nazi cleansing. It also does seem to disregard God’s plan if someone can think God makes mistakes.

    All things are from God except Evil – which is a product of Satan and humanities fallen nature. Our differences, no matter how painful they may be or seem to others, are in perfect accord with God’s plan. Some of our differences are blessings, some are crosses. It is up to us what we do with them.

    Your friend seems to be squandering some of his blessed intelligence on some very poor thinking!

    Of course Jesus treated the sick, the poor and the sinners with compassion and care. Does a well man need a physician? Of course not, He taught who needed Him most. It is unfortunate that so many people in today’s society are abondoning His teachings, on both sides. Those quick to judge disregard His compassion; so many other sinners abandon His call to conversion.

  5. Oh, permissive will. Anyone else have a hard time with this concept? (not that I don’t prefer it in comparison to ‘active will’!). Most people deal with physical pain in life, and even mental anguish just like anyone with special needs do. But it feels so unfair that an autistic person would have to suffer such debilitating anxiety or a person of small stature suffering terrible pain in their legs.

    So I guess I’m saying I don’t even think I like to think of God as ‘allowing’ these things. I know that means I am saying my image of God is that God is limited, but I guess in the physical sense, I think so. Gasp! heretic. I know. I had a professor, a very mystical dominican sister (who we nicknamed Cosmic Carla) often astounded and confused us with her wisdom. But one day she just hit it on the head for me. She said, “God’s power is purely relational”. Now, I don’t know if she’d go so far as to say God was limited, those are my words, but there’s got to be something to what she said.

  6. great article, compassionate viewpoint much needed like water on fire

    If you would like, read at National Catholic Reporter online latest column by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, previous speaker at CTA….

    http://ncrcafe.org/blog/6987/

    article called: Not A Witch Hunt, A Treasure Hunt” about GLBT persons … with a story about St. Francis, and a support for healing the “you can come to my house but we won’t set a plate for you at the table.’ that has been a narrow-sighted bias in some Christian leaders for some time.

    Keep up the good work
    dr.e

  7. Rick,

    Thanks for the clarification. My point was that, in focusing on “who these people were and how society perceived them,” your use of scripture is incomplete. You point out Jesus’ ministry without acknowledging the purpose of that ministry. Did Jesus just hang out with the outcasts? No: he came to heal them, forgive them of their sins and lead them into fuller communion with the Father. In equating homosexuals with the outcasts, the obvious question is: What would be Jesus’ ministry to them?

    To be clear, we are all “defective” sinners in need of God’s grace. I’m not arguing for the ostracizing of whole groups of people. Nor am I saying that differences should be avoided. But let’s not call sin a “good difference” or a part of our human dignity. Sin has no place in a “Jesus society” (although there is plenty of room for repentant sinners) and I have yet to be persuaded that homosexual acts are in accordance with the teachings of scripture and the Church.

  8. I would like to thank Dr. Estes for her kind comments.

    Onemorething08,

    I feel by what you are addressing that you missed the point of the blog. As I said before, I used that as an illustration of God speaking up for those marginalized. For that point, I also cite the Beatitudes, in which Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth, and the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven. For the point I was trying to convey, I don’t feel there was an “incomplete” use of scripture.

    Again, I did not say sin was a “good difference”. I was discussing differences… I do not feel that those who are blind, disabled, weak, poor, unintelligent, homosexual, or otherwise are sinful simply because they are who they are. And while I did not even bring up “homosexual acts” (apart from discrimination in terms of marriage at the beginning) since you mentioned it, I’m not convinced that homosexual acts in the context of a loving monogamous relationship are sinful.

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