Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Soul Mate from Your Zip Code

Re. the Catholic Dating thing.  A reader wrote to suggest that by using the term "non-sexual hook-up", I could be inadvertently doing some damage, as many guys and gals who at least have friendships with one another will now begin to second-guess themselves.  "Oh no!  This could be a non-sexual hook-up!  Maybe it's not a simple friendship!  Maybe I shouldn't be enjoying myself having coffee with Mindy!"  But, then again, that's part of the problem - this eternal second-guessing.

Another reader sent me a link to a commentary by TV personality Mike Rowe, which has been making the rounds, but which is worth quoting ...

I had drinks last night with a woman I know. Let’s call her Claire. Claire just turned 42. She’s cute, smart, and successful. She’s frustrated though, because she can’t find a man. I listened all evening about how difficult her search has been. About how all the “good ones” were taken. About how her other friends had found their soul-mates, and how it wasn’t fair that she had not.

“Look at me,” she said. “I take care of myself. I’ve put myself out there. Why is this so hard?”

“How about that guy at the end of the bar,” I said. “He keeps looking at you.”

“Not my type.”

“Really? How do you know?”

“I just know.”

“Have you tried a dating site?” I asked.

“Are you kidding? I would never date someone I met online!”

“Alright. How about a change of scene? Your company has offices all over – maybe try living in another city?”

“What? Leave San Francisco? Never!”

“How about the other side of town? You know, mix it up a little. Visit different places. New museums, new bars, new theaters…?”

She looked at me like I had two heads. “Why the hell would I do that?”

Here’s the thing ... Claire doesn’t really want a man. She wants the “right” man. She wants a soul-mate. Specifically, a soul-mate from her zip code.  She assembled this guy in her mind years ago, and now, dammit, she’s tired of waiting!!

I didn’t tell her this, because Claire has the capacity for sudden violence. But it’s true. She complains about being alone, even though her rules have more or less guaranteed she’ll stay that way. She has built a wall between herself and her goal. A wall made of conditions and expectations.

Many of my devout Catholic friends have done exactly the same thing.  They're looking for a soul mate within their own zip code (so to speak) - and worse than that, within their own extended, highly specified nine-digit zip code.  They think that they must marry a devout Catholic mate.  Now, granted, religion is a crucial part of a family, and disagreements on matters of faith can be fatal, but having said that, if you're only going wading in the devout Catholic pool, you'll find there's hardly enough water to swim in.

After all, guys, if you meet a woman who loves you and she's not a devout Catholic to begin with, she'll be drawn to your faith, as it's the center of who you are as a devout Catholic man.

But more importantly, marriage is about character.  Find a mate with a good character.  Because (duh!) religion is also primarily about character - or at least it's supposed to be.  Rebirth in Christ is meant to reform our characters - eternally.

What this means is that people who are Good without being self-consciously Christian get their Goodness from Christ without knowing it.  Christ is the source of all Goodness, and all Goodness comes from Christ.  Period.  Don't fret about that.  To do so speaks of your insecurity, not God's.

And then there's the odd corollary - that most religious people are far from Good.  And sometimes a serious "devout" streak is the sign of some serious psychological issues, or at least some very bizarre character flaws.

My friend Sean Dailey observes ...

All the reeeeally devout Catholic women here, married or single, peddle Juice Plus and think that gluten is the spawn of Satan.

This gets to the fact that God's story is always bigger than our story.  There are a lot of "anonymous Christians" our there, whether that fact suits our expectations or not.

Let me illustrate this with a true story.


One of my actresses is an agnostic.  She's also very politically liberal and an out-of-the-closet Lesbian.  She would, therefore, be a kind of horror to many of my Devout Catholic friends.

When she was a teen (and before she started dating only women), she got pregnant - and this was back in the day when this was a rare thing.  The baby's father never publicly acknowledged his son, and never provided financial assistance to his upbringing, and my actress never pressed him for it.  For years, this man lived in the same town as my actress and their boy, and even became a pillar of his Protestant church a few blocks down the road - all the while, remaining entirely out of his son's life.

When the boy was 18 or so, his unknown father's mother was dying.  Her death bed request was that this man acknowledge his son.  So he did, and suddenly re-appeared in the life of my actress.

Now, in all this time, what had my actress been doing?  Had she spent her days bad mouthing this absentee sperm donor, as she certainly must have been tempted to do?  Had she expressed her anger and loneliness by poisoning the well, and ruining this boy's image of his missing father?  And then, when the man showed up, a kind of Christian hypocrite on her doorstep, 18 years late and thousands of dollars short, did she throw something at him and show him the door?

No, she did none of these things.  She told her son that this was his biological father, and that if he wanted to try to build a relationship with him, that was his prerogative, and she would not get in the way.

Now, dear readers, what is this an example of if not of holiness?  This agnostic Lesbian made an 18 year sacrifice out of love, and I know of very very few self-styled Christians who would even have attempted to do the same.

I've been a Catholic for 14 years, and I've never done anything that good.


The grace of God is active in this world in ways that we keep denying, in ways that we can't comprehend, in ways that we deliberately narrow down and truncate.

Yes, as Catholics, we have the sacraments, we have the fullness of Truth, we have the Church - but we are still sinners, still isolated individuals, still hungry for giving love and receiving love: and that's the human condition.

Don't limit God's grace.  Find Goodness where you can - and it's all over the place.  Find Truth and Beauty while you're at it, even in the places where you'd least expect it.

Throw away the Juice Plus and the gluten free pasta and venture out of your own zip code.

When Mother Teresa and her nuns would help a dying person on the streets of Calcutta, they would not stop to ask his or her religion.  They would simply love that person.

Start doing the same, and this dreadful ice will begin to thaw.


BeenAroundTheBlock said...

Wow, your recent posts really resonate with me and help articulate some of what I've been seeing in friends and family over the past 3-4 decades.

I'm long out of the Catholic dating scene (and thankfully never really had to do much of it, having met my husband when I was 18), but I went to one of those small orthodox Catholic colleges that are supposed to be one of the Things That Are Going to Save Catholicism, and I can tell you that the dysfunctions you are describing in the Catholic dating scene don't 1) magically go away with marriage, and 2) play out well over decades of marriage.

Now I'm looking at this from the perspective of a mother of six, some of them nearing serious dating/marriageable ages, and I am disturbed by what I see. I've scandalized a few of my Catholic friends when I've told them that I've made it clear to my kids that if the choice comes down to either kind or Catholic, take the kind person any day of the week. And I don't mean some namby-mamby form of "nice." I mean true human kindness--a virtue sorely lacking in many of the Catholics I know. I am grateful every day of my life that I married a kind, masculine man who is sure of himself and not a sexual weirdo. Not perfect, by any means, but then again, neither am I. Having a sense of humor about it is an indispensible survival skill.

Anyway, thanks for teasing out some of the weirdness going on in orthodox Catholic circles these days. Anybody who cares about the state of the family should be disturbed by these trends. It's not normal, and it's not conducive to human flourishing (or to evangelization! please! who wants to sign onto such dysfunction?!), no matter how many rosaries, divine offices, and daily masses one attends.

Chris said...

When I saw the zip code reference I immediately thought of those "Catholic" on-line dating sites where one searches by zip code, and one can input a bunch of search criteria to find the "perfect" partner, including exact physical characteristics.

The opening lament of causing undue damage and the recognition of the eternal second guessing, perhaps brings us back to Tolkein's letter to his son about male-female friendships and the very possibility- or not- of truly platonic ones. If one finds that their interaction/friendship is a possible source of second guessing, that is a "touché" moment: it should be an alarm bell and lead one to think more deeply about such friendships and their dynamics, as Tolkein did, including their potential dangers and re-evaluate one's friendships/interaction accordingly.

ck said...

Script for dating Catholic girl:

Boyfriend to Catholic girlfriend: You’re so kind, so fun, so understanding. You’d make a great mom.

One month later…

Some random girl: Hey, look here, free sex!

Boyfriend to Catholic girlfriend: Gotta run.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

ck said...

This video sums it up nicely:

jvc said...

I always get tripped up by the free sex.

Anonymous said...

In cases like these, one must remember the following canons binding to Catholics:

Can. 1086.1 A marriage between two persons, one of whom has been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it and has not defected from it by a formal act and the other of whom is not baptized, is invalid.

Can. 1086.2 A person is not to be dispensed from this impediment unless the conditions mentioned in cann. 1125 and 1126 have been fulfilled.

Can. 1125 The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:

1/ the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;

2/ the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;

3/ both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.

Can. 1126 It is for the conference of bishops to establish the method in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, must be made and to define the manner in which they are to be established in the external forum and the non-Catholic party informed about them.