Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What is Courage?

In a recent post, Kenan highlighted what he feels is an act of Christian courage. Apparently, a pastor came out as either gay or as being understanding of the gay point of view that sexual orientation is not a choice. Apparently, his view point could have come as a shock to many of his followers. I am not going to comment on this man as I have no idea where he is coming from, what he's said in the past, his orientation or anything else about him.

The post did take a stand that this man was courageous for doing what he did. It led me to ponder the nature of courage.

Fictional Minister Number 1 is a good man in every respect. He is gay. He preaches from the pulpit that homosexuality is wrong while secretly having gay lovers. Is it courageous to preach what he feels is the truth even when he can't practice according to his words no matter how hard he tries? Is it courageous after years of failing to change his own behavior to change his mind and support another point of view? Would it be more courageous to simply admit he is an abomination as he has taught homosexuals are and walk away from the church? I could easily argue all three points.

Ficitonal Minister Number 2 is a good man in every respect and preaches against gays as being ungodly. He says they should be cast out of the church. His son admits he is gay. Is it courageous to hold onto his son and love his son despite the words Number 2 spews from the pulpit? Or, is it courageous to disown his son, no matter how much he loves him, so that the son cannot 'infect' other members of the congregation? I could argue both ways.

Kenan also mentions the pedophilia cover up in the Catholic Church. Given that the Catholic Church honestly believes that an ordained priest is the only one that connect his congregants to the body and blood of Christ and such a connection is vital to one's eternal spirituality, is it courageous for them to do the math? The argument can go like this. We unfortunately sacrifice a few victims to these priests but since they serve five or six hundred people a weekend through mass we find the greater good is to hide their sin. One priest with 5 victims out of 500 parishioners is 495 souls to the good. Those five are not all lost but may be faithful despite the priest's actions. Does it take more courage to out the priests, defrock them and have them jailed? Or, does it take more courage to sacrifice the few for the many given the belief system?

The greater good doctrine is a trap for most religions and spiritual practices. It isn't just a Catholic or Christian problem. Which choice would you make? Would you view it as siding with evil for the greater good is more courageous than jeopardizing the souls of so many by withdrawing priestly services? Anyone that is a pagan leader or a leader of any spiritual group should decide such questions before they begin. In the midst of such situations one has a tendency to make irrational emotionally charged decisions.

I submit that what you feel is courageous versus cowardly has more to do with your perception of the core issue(s) involved and debated than what is truly courageous.

So what is courage in these situations? I have no idea.

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