On Rainbows

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In a historic vote, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-to-4 to legalize same sex marriage across the country. A victory for the LGBT community seeking equal marriage rights. A Land of the Free indeed.

I woke up this morning with the internet exploding with cheers of victory, praises for the Supreme Court’s decision, and a celebration of love.

And rainbows. Facebook.com took the initiative of merging its users’ profile pictures with a rainbow. Twitter.com puts a rainbow-colored heart emoji for every tweets with a #LoveWins hashtag. Different companies and organizations took the initiative of redesigning their logo on different social media platforms with the colors of this historic day’s victory.

Rainbow colors. The color of the widely-recognizable LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) flag. First used in the 1970’s, these colors symbolize the diversity of the LGBT community. The flag is often used in LGBT Pride Marches all over the world – and we would see more of them in the days to come in marches of victory and celebration.

Whenever there are news and talks about same-sex marriage and other issues concerning the LGBT, I always got used to being asked by my friends about my two cents and whatnots. I spent eight years in the seminary and at present, I am a Christian Living Education teacher in a Catholic School. Questions would range from the Catholic Church’s stand on the issue – and whether there is a possibility of softening her stand to catch up with the times – to my personal opinion as a, er,prodigal son of the Catholic Church (I was asked to take a leave from the seminary formation back in 2009 due to some of my views and opinions on some conservative issues.)

This is a historic moment for the LGBT Community but how should I address this issue to my students studying in a sectarian school?

The other day, I scolded my Grade 9 advisory class after some of my students (the testosterone-driven teenage boys, you got the picture) tauntingly called one student who passed by the corridor “Bakla!”, followed by the usual jeers and discreet laughter. I first gave them a Bruce Banner face. The scolding would come later. After all, they were praying their morning rosary(!) when the incident happened.

After calming my nerves, I reminded my students the basic virtue of respect. We have repeatedly discussed human dignity – that we are creatures endowed with freedom and intellect and that we are all created equal. We should treat each other with respect no matter what his/her color, gender, preference, choices, beliefs, and sexual orientation are. I also reminded them about the very first lecture that I delivered to them when classes opened last June 8 – the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013.

Section 3 (Definition of Terms), B.1.2 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the said law states the existence of  “Gender-based bullying” which refers to any act that humiliates or excludes a person on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI)as one of the types of bullying. What they did is bullying. It should never be tolerated inside the school. It should never be a part of their behavior and subculture as growing teenagers. They should refrain from doing it. It is against the law. It is very disrespectful of other people. It is against their being students of a Catholic School.

All I got were nods of submission, apologies, and a promise never to do it again.

I hope they got my point. I hope they keep their promise.

The issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage had generated incidents and a culture of hatred and discrimination. Even among Christians and Catholics, whose beliefs are rooted the Incarnated God who taught to love and respect other people, the level of hatred and indifference appear to be very alarming and unbelievable. The Catholic Church is also not spared from this issue. The Institution that survived persecution, power struggle, wars, and criticism for over two millennia has repeatedly iterated her stand on same sex marriage – it is only between a man and a woman. Period.

But should Catholics propagate a culture of hate towards the members of the LGBT Community?

No. Plain and simple.

What does the Catholic Church teach on this issue? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2358) teaches that “they must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. 

We are all human persons. We are all intelligent creatures composed of complex molecular structures. We are all creatures endowed with freedom and intellect. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. We are all God’s children. Members of the LGBT Community – and mind you, I have a lot of proud friends – are also called to fulfill God’s mission for them. There is no room for an unjust discrimination and hate. We should all treat them with love.

But how about on the issue of same-sex marriage? Why does the Catholic Church stubbornly stay rooted in her stand amidst the changing of times? Is the Catholic Church still living on the Dark Ages?

No. There are some things that are immutable.To quote Lingayen Archbishop and CBCP President Socrates B. Villagas“the Church continues to maintain what it has always taught. Marriage is a permanent union of man and woman, in the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual fulfillment that the union of a man and a woman bring into the loftiness of the matrimonial bond. If there is an undeniable difference between man and woman, there is also an undeniable difference between the permanent union of a man and a woman.” This goes beyond time and the changing world. This is rooted on the teachings of Christ found on the Sacred Scripture.

But the times are changing, the world is changing. The Church should let go of her old ways and embrace that which is for the betterment of her flock, you may say. Should we teach the next generation of Catholics to embrace what the majoritythinks as right, better, and just?

Part of my duty as a Christian Living Education/Religion teacher is to teach my students what the church they belong to believes and teaches. But how do I reach out to the youth whose values (and maybe morals) are shaped by the fast-changing world?

It is my duty, it is my moral responsibility as their teacher to reach out to these youth and teach them the ways of the Church. But in the event that they do not adhere to that teaching, should they go on their own way and disobey the Catechesis of their Church, I would still show my love, understanding, respect, and compassion just as how I treat my LGBT friends. In the event that they openly go against the teachings and the ways of the Church, I would still treat them as a person worthy of love and respect. I believe all this hate starts from misunderstanding and I would like to be a part of that path towards healing and reconciliation. After all, I believe in a God who is all-loving and all-embracing.

Just this year, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage via a referendum and now, a Supreme Court ruling in the United States. And some groups here in the Philippines are also pushing for the same thing. But I believe that this is an interesting times for the Catholic Church and her faithful. It is time for to step up and choose to be brave amidst these changing world. Stay true to her teachings but at the same time, show love and understanding to people who do things that are against her teachings. Reach out. Show them some love and understanding. Talk to them. Pray for them.

Rainbow. An optical and meteorological phenomenon caused by reflection, refraction, and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum. A visual treat. A source of joy and happiness for some people. Its different colors has been used and interpreted by people throughout history. LGBT groups wave it with pride. Christians remember it as a symbol of God’s covenant to Noah.

A symbol of covenant. A symbol of hope. A symbol of a new beginning. The issue of same-sex marriage and its legalization in the Land of the Free (and subsequently, in other countries too, I suppose) would be a cause of division among its people with different beliefs and choices. But as what it symbolizes, may this event be a start of a new beginning. Let us remember that we are all human persons no matter how different are we. Let us all shine and give color to this beautiful world.

This one is for love. This one is for compassion.

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