Anselmian path to loving our queer friends

Carter Brannon, Crier Staff

Most of us are well aware that American politics, culture, and society have become deeply polarized. Manipulative politicians and propagandists have played our country into a culture war, in which discourse, institutions, and communities are corrupted by absolute ideologies that are prioritized over the common good. By placing the idol of ideology over the Divine image of humanity, both extremes of this culture war refuse to love God and their neighbors, and are therefore incompatible with Christian faith, despite at least one side’s frequent blasphemous attempts to portray itself as Christian.

Recently, a vocal faction of culture warriors have placed a major emphasis on the dehumanization of transgender people. Hateful and panicked rhetoric and thought have been used to send messages and create policies and legislation targeting trans people. Such approaches clearly conflict with Catholic teaching. The Diocese of Manchester’s Office of Public Policy has stated that “the matter of gender dysphoria is a sensitive topic that requires a compassionate response.”

A “compassionate response” to this “sensitive topic” involves more than the Benedictine hospitality often invoked in conversations about LGBTQ issues on campus. Although St. Benedict’s teaching is good guidance for our college community, our patron St. Anselm has additional insights to consider as well.

St. Anselm was a holy theologian, whose strong faith and love of God drove him to prayerful explorations of truths about God. A humble Benedictine, Anselm knew that his own understanding of these truths could not reach the whole of God’s truths and that he could only understand a little bit, with God’s help.

Anselm describes his theological approach in his Proslogion: “I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand.’”

Anselm’s faith is an expression of his love of God. For that reason, it is his faith that seeks to understand God. He is not so proud that he only loves God only through his own understanding, but he humbles himself to trust and love God.

How does Anselm’s Proslogion help us approach LGBTQ issues? First, whether we are trying to love queer neighbors or our queer selves, we must do so in humble prayer. All our reason and ability to understand ourselves and others comes from God, and we will only ever know and love a little bit of these beautiful pieces of God’s creation compared to the love and understanding of God.

Further, we must not seek to understand “transgenderism” and how it is right and wrong so we can decide what we believe. Rather, we must have faith in other people, trusting that they speak the truth when they describe their feelings and experiences, and that their motives are not to control others but to open themselves. Unless we believe and trust another person through a genuine, open-minded, and open-hearted relationship, we shall not understand or know how to love each other.

I did not always understand queer identities or gender pronouns. It took somewhat of a leap of faith for me to develop that understanding. I was skeptical of using “they” as a singular, I did not think people had the right to say what they wanted to be referred to as, and I did not understand what it meant for gender to be fluid or have something to do with feelings rather than just anatomy. But with prayer and reflection, I came to realize I was not called to defend certain grammatical norms or my own opinions, but rather I was called to love my friends. I learned the language of a queer community, accepting new vocabulary and pronouns, accepting new definitions for concepts I did not quite understand. I soon began to understand and embrace this community.

Some might say I have gone too far, that somehow, I am supporting an evil ideology or rejecting the truth by using people’s preferred pronouns or sharing my own. But it is not an ideology I have come to embrace, but a language that is spoken by a community. There is nothing immoral about using words differently. Far from ideologues, most queer people have the approach of an honest philosopher: genuine pursuit of truth and understanding themselves and everything else.

It is important that these people be wholeheartedly embraced by people of faith, especially those guided by St. Anselm. While the genuine pursuit of truth is always a noble endeavor, and there is certainly much value in the development of understanding of truth about individuals and humanity from queer folk-philosophers, but furthering these developments with a humble Anselmian spirit would be of great benefit not only to the queer community, but also Catholic theology.

A “faith seeking understanding” approach to loving our queer friends recognizes that it is through genuine Christian faith that we come to understand God, ourselves, and everything. With this faith, Saint Anselm College can and should be a compassionate and safe home for all students.