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Human Nature

It’s Saturday, and I should be finishing up some work and getting ready to take my daughter to dance class.  Instead, I’m writing a blog post because sometimes, things strike me so hard and so fast that I can’t process anything else until I get my words out.

When I woke up this morning, I was scrolling through my social media accounts and I read this piece by Jonathan Merritt.  Now, he’s a person that I respect very much as a writer.  I don’t always agree, but generally, I think he’s got good stuff to say.  The Christianity Today piece, though—that just felt like being stabbed.

My gut reaction was to be upset that it sounded like the same old, same old with regard to “Let’s figure out why people are gay.”  The piece certainly set off another round of arguing about the topic, judging by the reactions.  I had to take some time to process it because I truly don’t want to waste my time blasting one person for writing about his own journey.  It turned out that I was much, much more upset about the reactions to the article than the article itself, though that wasn’t without its problems.

I doubt very seriously that Jonathan Merritt is reading this.  I’m kind of a small-potatoes blogger.  But if he happens to see it, here’s my message to him:

I don’t blame you in the slightest for the things you said that came across as hurtful and dismissive.  It’s your story, and you have the right to tell it as you see fit.  I blame conservative Christianity for creating an environment in which people don’t handle abuse well and where people are taught that their sexuality is sinful.  I blame conservative Christianity for trying to find explanations for something they don’t like in order to “treat” it and pray it away.  How terrible that it sounded like you’ve internalized and repeated such a damaging message.  I hope that over time, you will internalize instead the message that you are worthy and your feelings are good and that whoever you are or choose to be is just exactly that—who you choose to be.  I hope that you will be able to live and love without regret or shame and that you will give yourself time and space to explore that without the heavy baggage of religious pressure.

The specific thing that troubled me, both in the article and the comments, was the implication that child sexual abuse is a possible cause for later sexual orientation.  This is a construct perpetuated by conservative Christianity, particularly of the evangelical stripe.  It gets trotted out a lot, despite the fact that it’s illogical and there has never been even a shred of evidence that it’s true.

I am of the firm belief that sexuality is (or at least can be) fluid and that it’s not any better to argue a “born that way” stance either.  But it is really, really awful on so many levels to continue to promote the lie that abuse leads to attraction.  I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t find that utterly disturbing.

What if we were to turn that around?  What if we were to suggest that the reason people “turn straight” is because they were molested by an opposite-sex offender?  That sounds horrifying, no?  It has a tone of creepiness which suggests three very bad things:

  1. That we are drawn to our romantic and sexual attractions as a way to reenact upsetting and frightening childhood experiences
  2. That offenders are not pedophiles but are including children as part of their overall sexual orientation (another tired assumption: gay men are child abusers)
  3. Abuse is a form of sexuality

I can tell you firmly as a survivor of sexualized bullying that I have no wish to find people who will do the same things to me.  I’m not interested in men because I think I deserve to be treated that way or because I’m confused or because I need reassurance or because of some other reason related to my unfortunate childhood experiences.  I cannot fathom why we wouldn’t see everyone’s sexuality the same way.  Of course it’s complex.  But why do we only ever question the cause of someone’s sexuality when that person is gay?  Why are gay, lesbian, and bisexual people the only ones who have to have a reason for their romantic and/or sexual attractions?

We simply have not achieved a state where we see variance in sexual orientation, preference, attraction, and expression as normal.  We’re still seeking causality because we can’t see the whole spectrum as healthy and good.  And that troubles me, because I believe that it is good—all of it.  The whole wide range of human love and sex is so vast and so beautiful and so amazing, an incredible gift we’ve been given.  How is it that we are still trying to scientifically or spiritually defend what should just be considered part of the human kaleidoscope?

Until we are all convinced that our sexuality (let’s face it, even we straight people now and again have to defend our natural desires in the face of conservativism) is truly good—not merely acceptable—we will continue to peddle half-truths and outright lies about the causes.  And until we stop selling falsehoods, people will continue to believe that they are broken rather than being fully, wonderfully human.

Dear straight conservative Christians: I’m sorry I offended your “biblical worldview”

Actually, no, I’m not.

Yesterday, I posted about World Vision and their change in policy to allow married gay couples as employees. Obviously, I spoke too soon. They’ve hit rewind on their decision. I would like to pretend I’m surprised, but I’m not. Pressure from conservative Christians is swift and powerful. (I will not blame this on “evangelicals,” though conservative evangelicals do seem to be at the forefront here.)

I am angry. Yes, partly I’m angry at the hateful bigots who put pressure on World Vision to change their minds.  I’m angry with World Vision for not having the backbone to see it through the backlash or the foresight to put protective measures in place. But you know what makes me angriest?  World Vision’s apology to straight people.

You read that right.  It’s telling that the apology wasn’t to the 2000 children who lost their sponsors yesterday or to the gay people who lost their job opportunities today. No, it was to the conservative Christians who went after World Vision over their policy:

We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Oh, World Vision. You are “brokenhearted” that your friends were upset? Well, gee. I guess that must be hard. Much harder, of course, than applying for a job and then finding out that your legal marriage disqualifies you. Much harder than the fact that your stupid flip-flopping has led arguing of a strand that calls into question the very humanity of the people you just yesterday promised to affirm.

That must suck.

Well, I’m not sorry for offending any conservative Christians—not even a little bit. Come at me, folks. I’ll be happy to have you tell me I’m spreading a “false gospel” or that my eternal soul is in danger of the fire of hell. Remind me again that I’m leading my brothers and sisters (and people who identify as neither, both, or something else) astray. Tell me how I’m corrupting my children and causing someone else to “stumble” in sin.

Because I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to stop challenging the conservative belief that there is something fundamentally flawed about people based on their sexual or gender identity, and I’m not going to stop affirming every single person’s humanity, intrinsic worth, and right to live however and love whomever they choose.

Lest anyone think that there’s no cost in taking a firm, unapologetic stand, let me assure you there is. But whatever minor inconvenience, and whatever difficulties I’ve faced, that’s been nothing compared to what the people I cherish have endured. World Vision could easily have withstood the criticism and the loss of support, but they chose not to try even for a whole day.

Apologies to the conservatives who had a little of their assumed privilege curtailed for a few hours? No. My apology goes to the people who were harmed by World Vision’s indecision and by the fighting that resulted.

I’m sorry this is hurting you.

I’m glad you are part of my life and my church and my faith.

I love you.

Kyrie eleison–Lord have mercy.

World Vision and Unmasking Priorities

So, this happened.  World Vision is now allowing married gay Christians (and unmarried gay Christians willing to agree to WV’s policy of abstinence until marriage) to serve in the organization.

As you can probably guess, I’m behind this as a step forward.  Is it perfect?  No.  I’m not a champion of abstinence until marriage (and really, are they so sure their employees are all waiting anyway?).  I also understand that this prevents couples in any state not recognizing legal same-sex marriages from employment, since that’s the specific parameter.  I understand the implications that WV appears to be endorsing a heteronormative view of relationships (that’s a whole other discussion).  But in the Christian world, this is huge.

Which, of course, means that the backlash has been huge.  And that’s what I was thinking about when I woke up this morning to see that my friends had linked to several articles, tweets, and blog posts in which WV has been accused of deception, “empowering the darkness,” embracing “the world” (Christianese for “stuff the church considers wrong in society”), presenting a false gospel, and more.  People have questioned whether they should withdraw support or discontinue sponsoring a child through WV.  Lots and lots of people have expressed being “sad” about WV’s change in policy.

To which I say: Wow, people have messed up priorities.

Nothing reveals the true values of people more than asking them how they feel about anything related to same-sex marriage.  Almost no one says, “I don’t really care; whatever.”  The vast majority of people have one view or the other–that it ought to be legal universally or it ought to be banned or called something else so as not to mess with the “official” definition of marriage.

It would be awfully nice if it were a non-issue, but it isn’t, certainly not when people are expressing horror and outrage at WV’s comparatively innocuous change in policy.  I mean, come on, people.  WV did not suddenly announce that they have adopted a policy of beating small children or setting forest fires or shooting sub-par employees or drowning puppies.  All they did was say they’re going to hire gay people.

How about we get back to protesting something that actually matters for a change?  Because honestly, the only reason it makes a difference whether WV hires gay people is if you think being gay and/or being in a same-sex marriage is worse than acts of harm and violence.  It only matters if you think same-sex relationships are more terrible social ills than poverty.

Yesterday, I posted a link on Facebook to a good review of the movie Frozen.  (I promise, this is related.)  A family member joked that I must not be worried that watching it will turn my kids gay.  I replied that I wasn’t, but even if it did, I didn’t care.  I suspect that’s the real fear—that gay missionaries are going to somehow turn the world gay.

I suppose my question, then, is this:  Who cares?  Which is more important—telling people about God’s love and providing people with food and clean water, or making sure no one is threatened by the presence of gay people?  I guess maybe my own priorities are messed up because I sure prefer the former.

And if my kids somehow turn gay* because they’ve been around gay people or watched “gay” (by that I mean “things people accuse of being gay”) movies, so what?  That just means both the church and the gay community get two more awesome members, ’cause everyone knows my kids are the best and anyone would be lucky to have ‘em.

Let go of the warped idea that a small subset of the population is looking to colonize the world and plant their rainbow flag in the dirt of impoverished villages everywhere.  Instead, let’s take seriously WV’s call to come together in Christian unity for the good of all.


*I truly do not believe it works that way; I’m just saying I wouldn’t care if it did.  For real, I could write a whole blog post on why we need to stop saying “But it’s not going to turn them gay!” as a defense regarding gender pigeon-holing.

On stereotyping and pushing back

It’s taken me three days to figure out why a series of tweets rubbed me the wrong way and what I wanted to say about that.  It’s a very dangerous thing to insert oneself into a conversation that is by, about, or for another audience.  In this case, though, I think that I can manage not to alienate the people who started the conversation.  If anyone else is bothered by what I say, then perhaps you are the person I’m talking to here.

I had to do some digging to figure out what started it.  I think it may have been a combination of this post by Rachel Held Evans and the two articles linked in this HuffPost piece (helpfully shared by a friend of mine).  Let me sum up the response (which I completely agree with, by the way): Straight allies are defending LGBT people by telling others that not everyone is a stereotype and by saying or implying that same-sex couples are pretty much exactly like opposite-sex couples only with 100% more gay; don’t do that, because it reinforces the idea that LGBT people must fit into heteronormative boxes.

As far as I’m aware, I have not used any argument that resembles “let gay people get married because then they can prove they are just as moral as straight people.”  You all can correct me if I’m wrong (though I will point out that I’ve been doing this for about 4 years and I’ve evolved, so if you find somewhere I’ve done that, I shall immediately apologize and do better in the future).  Anyway, since I agree with the sentiment–which means the exhortation wasn’t directed at me–then why did it bother me?

Here’s why: It wasn’t the response, particularly to Rachel Held Evans’ post, that bothered me.  It was the original post, but I couldn’t formulate why until I gave it a good deal of thought.  I realized that the stereotype most straight people (particularly those who are not allies, but even some allies do it) is based on what they know/think they know about gay men.

If what we straight people believe is based only on gay men, then of course the pushback is going to be centered on that.  In the process, guess who gets erased?  (In case you didn’t quite get it, that would be anyone under the LGBTQI umbrella who isn’t a gay man and even some who are.) I care very deeply that no one’s voice be lost, especially when those people have consistently been silenced in other ways as well.

Don’t misunderstand me–the pushback is necessary, and the consequences are absolutely not the fault of those who responded.  That’s not what’s flawed here.  The problem is in the fact that anyone still cares about someone else’s life so deeply that they have to find ways to craft their actions as moral in order to support them.

The answer is not really for allies to fight the stereotypes.  It is simply for us to stop caring whether anyone else’s life looks like ours.  So what if it doesn’t?  Why is it so important that everyone share the same belief about what is or is not acceptable for themselves?  And why are we so deeply invested in anyone else’s sex/relationship life, anyway?

If you want to be an ally–really be one, not just be one if you think that the person is morally deserving–then please use a different method.  If you (like me) support marriage equality, then do it because there are people who want it, not because you think the ability to get married will magically make people share your values.  If you (like me) are a Christian and believe that every believer is welcome to love, serve, and lead in the church, then stop wondering about the person taking communion next to you and whether or not they are “just like” you.

Oh, and while you’re at it?  Stop trying to figure out what other people do in the privacy of their lives.  Unless it directly involves you, it doesn’t concern you.  It would be great if we could all concentrate a little harder on what goes on behind our own closed doors.

While I continue to collect stories of accomplished, amazing women who are proud of what they have done, I’m going to write about other things.  (And if you haven’t read yesterday’s post or the comments, please do.  Good stuff is happening there.)

Today, I finally had the chance to catch up with some blogs that I’ve been neglecting.  Over at Registered Runaway’s blog, I read this post (and the ones preceding it; be sure to read all 4 parts).  It made me sad.  Then it made me angry.  I still don’t understand why the way Aibird, the writer, was treated is allowed to continue.

I’ve had Christian friends try to tell me that no one still acts that way–or at least, Christians don’t.  I’ve heard the arguments that anyone threatening “curative rape” isn’t a real Christian anyway.  And yet, here is a woman telling her story, including receiving death threats from people professing to be Christians.

We can’t ignore the parts of the Church (worldwide) that hold hateful attitudes.  They are as much a part of us as any other Christian.  But that’s not actually the thing that bothers me most.  It’s the fact that we’ve chosen–as the rest of the Body–not to fight them.  I can’t help thinking that it’s because deep down, many Christians agree with the underlying beliefs, even if they don’t agree that picketing and threatening and even attempts at curing are the right answer.

It’s not enough anymore.  I have never been of the mind that it’s okay to live somewhere halfway between being an ally and being an enemy.  I’m not entirely a black-and-white thinker.  I’m open to having lots of grey and wrestling with that tension.  I’m willing to talk about what it means to have a healthy sexual ethic or whether it’s okay for Christians to watch violent movies or if tattoos and swearing are acceptable.  We may never agree on any of those things, and that’s okay.

What I’m not okay with is fence-sitting when it comes to personhood and equality.

Too many people have come to the conclusion that they can rest comfortably with the belief that they may not “agree with the homosexual lifestyle” though they would never insist on anyone trying to be “cured.”  There are far too many places where we’ve done what we seem to think is a kinder, gentler version of non-acceptance.  The thing is, though, it’s still exactly that: non-acceptance.  No more “But I have gay friends, and they know where I stand, and they are okay with that!”  Are you sure?  Because when I read stories like the one above, I get the impression that an awful lot of people aren’t actually okay with you disapproving of them, they just hide it well or have learned that it’s an off-limits topic if they don’t want to hear again about their sin.  You personally may not be holding up a “God hates fags” sign, and you may not have threatened anyone with rape or death.  You may not even have given anyone the phone number to a place where they can be “changed.”  But if underneath it you still think they’re in sin, you hold the same beliefs as the people of ex-gay organizations and Westboro Baptist.

If you do call yourself both a Christian and an ally, then why not directly speak up against people who are doing active harm?  I honestly can’t remember where I read it (or I’d link to it; maybe someone else can help me out here), but I recall reading about someone meeting with some people from Westboro Baptist and talking about how “nice” they were.  Not that I want to paint anyone as evil and remove that person’s humanity, but I fail to see how “But they’re so nice!” is in any way helpful.  I also don’t believe for a millisecond that there’s any use in simply leaving people to their own devices because everyone knows how hateful they are.  If you really think these things are wrong, why not speak up about it?  Not merely to your LGBTQ friends–who probably already know–but to the rest of the Christian community.

Things aren’t going to change.  LGBTQ people are not going away, and they’re not going back into their closets.  People who are Christians–whole denominations, in fact–have already become not just accepting but affirming.  Laws are changing.  Meanwhile, people are still being pressured and harmed.  There’s no way to be somewhere in the middle anymore.  That might have worked at one time, but that time has long since passed.

I already cast my vote.  I know that to some people, I’m irredeemable.  I’ve already been told–more than once–that I can’t call myself a Christian.  I’ve been informed that I’m leading people in the wrong direction.  Well, so what?  I don’t consider that a big deal, and I think it’s worth it.  (And let’s be honest, there are people I’m happy are out of my life because they can’t handle the fact that I’m an ally.  Think of all the wonderful LGBTQ friends I’m sparing from having any interaction with them.)

I think I understand being genuinely unsure.  I know there’s a transition between what we might have learned growing up or in some churches and a place of being an ally.  I get that.  But don’t sit there forever, and certainly don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth.  Don’t fake being in agreement with either side (or both).  It isn’t fair to anyone, even yourselves.  Take time, but make a choice–then do something about it.

If you want to know why I feel this sense of urgency (besides the immediate concern for individuals such as the woman whose story I linked above), then read this post.  It’s not just about us, about our nation, anymore.  And, like Registered Runaway says at the end of the post (though I disagree that no one is fighting here anymore),

And I’m beginning to think that instead of having a conversation, a culture war truce, with Fundamentalists and right wing Evangelicals, our work would be better focused on protecting the world from the wrath of these people. Despite the lament from many progressive evangelicals, the right wing is hardly fighting here anymore. They’ve moved on. They’re going after the rest of the world. 

How do we stop this?

How, indeed?

 

More on NALT and being an ally

Yesterday, I wrote about why I’m not making a NALT video.  I want to expand on that a little.  There are some valid concerns about the project, but from what I’ve seen, a lot of those concerns border on what the project might do rather than what it is doing and on assumptions rather than experiences.

One big issue is whether or not the people making the videos believe that’s all they need to do to be good allies.  First of all, it’s a pretty big assumption to think that those people are not already doing other things.  All we know of most of them is whatever they happen to say in a couple of minutes.  We don’t know whether they think they’ve done their part.  Obviously that could be true, but I find it hard to believe that the majority of people who make the videos are sitting somewhere feeling satisfied that they’ve completed their assignment and can now move on.  It also assumes that all of those people are straight and cisgender (hint: they’re not).

I think one of the things that frustrates me is the belief that it’s “easier” to be an ally online.  That has not been my experience at all.  I find it far easier to be an ally in real life; it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort.  It mostly consists of being a good friend–which isn’t usually about someone else’s sexuality anyway.  Sure, there are times when I need to take action.  Sometimes I vote for legislation that extends the same rights I enjoy.  Sometimes I have to ask people not to say stupid, hateful, or hurtful things.  More often, though, it’s about getting a cup of coffee together or chatting while our kids play or having our sons baptized on the same day or attending a wedding celebration.  It’s about sharing together the things that are important to us, including our identities.  It’s not complicated.

When I first started to blog, I stayed anonymous for a long time.  I didn’t do it out of fear.  I’m hardly a person who cares that some church official might decide that I shouldn’t be involved in ministry.  I did it to protect the people whom I was serving.  I wanted to stay web-silent so that I could be a safe person for youth and their families.  I know people who have been threatened and bullied for supporting their gay children, and I believed they and their children needed someone safe to talk to.  If I had been public, I would have been removed from ministry and therefore have been less available for people who needed me.*

When the time was right, I began using my real name.  It was mildly risky on my part, but that was at a point when I knew that I wasn’t putting anyone else at risk.  When people make these videos, they may be doing the same thing.  It may be a first step in being public after a time of flying under the radar.  They may be risking much more than I was in making a statement.

When I named myself, I discovered something: It’s a lot harder to be a good ally online.  It’s tricky to navigate the wide range of needs among people I don’t know anywhere but the Internet. I’ve learned a lot, including that sometimes people’s needs are completely opposite.  The NALT campaign is a good example–some people feel hopeful and encouraged while others feel angry and hurt.**  I’m an incredibly sensitive person, and I tend to absorb other people’s feelings.  That’s a good thing, except when people are expressing such vastly different emotions.  It puts me in a place where I feel like I have to choose between people I care about and respect.  It makes me want to quit the Internet and run back to the safety of doing this only offline.

Here’s the thing, though.  I think that’s as it should be.  It is hard.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  Everyone would know all the right words and there would never be a question.  Everyone would be able to be a good ally offline and on the Internet.  We would never have to work at listening, caring, speaking, or writing.  Taking on the challenge–whether one finds it harder online or off–is important, necessary work if we ever expect social change.

Not everyone can do it on the Internet.  Maybe passing on blogging, videos, and tweets is the best option for some people.  Those who resent having to walk such a fine line are probably better off concentrating on other things.  Those who are so tenderhearted that they are slowly sucked dry by conflicting views might need to back off in order to have the emotional reserve to care for people in their own lives.

For the rest of us, though, it’s worth staying in.  It’s okay that we’re hearing different answers to the same question, because no two people are identical in their experiences.  There is no Hypothetical Idealized Ally.  There’s no perfect way of writing or talking about these things.  I think my first rule of being an ally needs to be, “Don’t tell other allies how to do it correctly.”  I don’t have everything right.  All I can do is point back at those to whom I’m an ally and say, “Ask them.”  Even then, it’s going to depend on the individual.  My default is to individually ask, “What do you prefer?”  and act accordingly when communicating with that person.

Even though I find it difficult at times, I’m not going to be silent on the Internet.  I may get pushed from different directions at times, and that has to be okay with me.  I have to go with it because it’s not about me.  When I make decisions about what I write or whether I’ll make a video, I have to go with what feels right in my heart because sometimes there’s no way to do both of two opposing actions.  I can’t both make a video and not make one.  What feels right to me at this time is not to make one, even though I know there are people who may be disappointed.  If people care so little about me as a human being that they reduce me to being bad or good depending on whether I agree with them or I’ve done exactly as they wanted me to, then those aren’t people I want to spend much time with.

Where have you found it harder to be an ally?  Online or offline?  Where have you found it harder to find allies?  What advice would you give to those who want to be allies online?

______________________________

*I know I’m being vague.  I simply can’t be more specific in order to protect people I care about.

**Or some other combination–say, hurt but hopeful.  All those feelings are valid.  The difficulty is in how to proceed when pulled in opposite directions.

Why I don’t need a video to prove I’m not “like that”

At this point, I’m not sure who’s reading this and also has some knowledge of the NALT (“not all like that”) project.  I also don’t know who’s reading this and also might be either upset by or supportive of the project.  Either way, I want to explain why I’m okay with the project, but I won’t be making a video.

Some years ago, when I was first trying to figure out how to love and serve LGBTQ people, I could’ve used something like NALT.  I was in a situation in which I didn’t know any other Christians who believed same-sex relationships were not sinful (though I knew a few who thought the “condition” of being gay might be okay so long as one didn’t act on that).  I knew exactly two gay Christians.  And trans* people?  Hell, they didn’t even exist in that world.  Just to be clear, I wasn’t necessarily looking for other straight allies–just anyone who had a different view from the conservative one.  When I went seeking, all I found were organizations that wanted my money.  It took about two years of actively pursuing it to find others, and then it was only because I decided to open a Twitter account and follow people who looked like they might be progressive.  Believe me, I understand the desire to find like-minded people.

One of the reasons I kept up the effort is that I have a lot of LGBTQ friends, family, and acquaintances in my offline life, and I had done a lot of damage with my religious posturing.  I’m lucky some of these people decided they still like me.  I suppose I thought I needed to make things up to them somehow.  I had been so trained in “love the sinner, hate the sin” that I wasn’t sure anymore how to just love people.  Of course, I do know better these days, and I no longer need an outside source to tell me how to care for my friends.

I also have a lot of friends, family, and acquaintances who are not LGBTQ.  By now, the majority of those people should be aware of where I stand on things, whether it be in regard to Christianity and LGBTQ people or feminism or the doctrines of total depravity and hell.  I don’t feel the need to explain or defend myself.  The people close to me don’t need me to say anything else; they already know I’m “not all like that.”  In fact, some of them have used those exact words to describe me.  I had to laugh once when my cousin said she was telling a friend about my husband and me and she said we were Christians but whispered, “But they’re not like that“–and apparently, the other person knew exactly what she meant.

All of that is why I see no need to make a video to announce to the world that I’m “not like that.”

That’s why I’m choosing not to participate in the NALT project.  My offline loved ones don’t need it; I’m not a big enough online voice to be noticed by megachurch pastors; and it won’t do anything to help my online acquaintances.  On the other hand, I’m not going to write a blog post condemning the project.  I know far too many people who have found it to be meaningful and powerful.  I know straight allies who have found each other, I know LGBTQ Christians who have, some for the first time, heard the message that their spiritual and sexual identities are not mutually exclusive.  I know people–cis-het and otherwise–who want to use this as a way to stand up to bullying anti-gay pastors.  I can’t slam the project on the grounds that some people don’t care for the terms used or don’t see the project as helping them or their loved ones directly, even though I do understand where those feelings come from.

One of the criticisms I’ve heard about the project is that it’s taking some kind of “easy” way out of being a “real” ally (and yeah, that’s mostly something I’ve heard cis-straight people say).  I’ve seen online arguments about it and a good deal of the sort of rage usually reserved for Mark Driscoll or Hugo Schwyzer.  So tomorrow, I’m going to talk about being an ally, walking that fine line, and what it really means for something to be easy or hard in that context.

What are your thoughts on NALT?  Will you make (or have you already made) a video?  What might be some better alternatives for people who don’t want to make one?

My Gag Reflex Is None of Your Business

Warning: This post is a response to an irresponsible, gross, and damaging article over at The Gospel Coalition in which there is “graphic” mention of gay sex and abusive language towards gay people and their allies.  (There is no specific mention of trans people, as usual in these kinds of diatribes against “LGBT” people.)

By now, you’ve probably read Thabiti Anyabwile’s vile, disgusting piece of shit article at The Gospel Coalition.  If you haven’t, and you’re in the mood for vomiting and/or raging (or, God forbid, you actually agree with Anyabwile), please feel free to read it here.

There have been a number of responses, including by people who otherwise still hold the belief that the Bible condemns homosexuality in some way.  I don’t hold that belief myself, and I’d like to see us move past arguing about it, but at least even people more or less on the same side of the argument recognize Anyabwile’s post for the dung heap it is.

To all my friends, regardless of who your partners/spouses are:  I don’t care what you get up to in bed together.  Since you also don’t seem to be in a hurry to ask me about what my husband and I do, I think we’re good.  Reducing people to sex acts and “gag reflexes” is disgusting and dehumanizing.

While I would love to pick Anyabwile’s words apart one at a time and address every steaming, stinking turd contained in that ugly rant, I don’t have the time or energy. Instead, I have a few words about one specific part of Anyabwile’s post.  He says this:

Reject the unbiblical definition of love. I said, though it was very unpopular, homosexual marriage could not properly be called “love.” You could choke on the room’s tension. “How could I say such a thing?” I pointed out that the Bible teaches plainly that “love does not rejoice in wrongdoing” (1 Cor. 13). That the Bible also teaches that homosexual behavior was wrongdoing or sin. Consequently, though strong emotions and affections are involved, we cannot properly call it “love.” Love does no harm, and homosexuality clearly harms everyone involved.

Well, then.  I guess the Great and Powerful Oz has spoken.  Hear that, people?  Thabiti Anyabwile has declared that he knows for absolute certain what “real” love is!  I admit, I’m really excited about that, because there was some confusion there.  See, I thought that real love kinda looked like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

love covers over a multitude of sins.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.

Silly me!  Who am I to know what love is but a random blogger with a good Internet connection and access to Google and Bible Gateway?

I’m grateful that Thabiti Anyabwile could clear things up so that we’re all on the same page, knowing that gay people don’t really love each other and that deep down–way, way, deep down; so deep, in fact, that I wasn’t even aware of it–we all know the truth:

What we’re really talking about when we talk about “homosexuality” is not just sex gone wrong but wrong sexual behavior. Deep down we all–Christian and non-Christian, heterosexual and homosexual–know it’s wrong.

Without Anyabwile to point it out, I might have gone on for years believing that I don’t actually think it’s wrong.  What was I thinking?  I have obviously been ignoring my gag reflex all this time.  Clearly, I’ve been deluded.  I mean, what about the children???

Well, damn.  I’ve been convicted.  I must not be exhibiting real love whenever I rejoice that my gay friends have gotten married or started families.  The only obvious course is for me to change tracks and make sure that every gay person I encounter knows that they are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Oh.  Wait.   I already tried that once.

I guess the one thing I can praise here is that it’s at least honest.  Thabiti Anyabwile is just taking the advice I gave in a previous post to examine whether our issues with homosexuality are based on squicky sex or squicky sex roles.  Anyabwile seems to have chosen the former.

Now, can we get this much honesty from the lawmakers in charge of allowing same-sex marriage?

Honest analysis

Yesterday, I was catching up on some of what I missed over the last couple of days.  I came across this post from Monday by Registered Runaway.  It’s well-written, and I think the call for people to be honest about where they stand and what they mean is vital if we’re to keep this conversation going.  I absolutely agree that we need to stop talking about merely “loving” our LGBTQI neighbors.

I do not want to take away anything from what RR has written.  He’s at least 10 times more gracious and tender-hearted than I am, and he’s got a stake in this that I don’t.  So if you’re going to only listen to one of us, please make it RR.  But if you’re still reading here (after having read the post I linked, of course), then let me move this one step further.

There seems to be a tendency, particularly on the part of people who are unsure of where they stand or who are trying to be more progressive in their faith, to believe that sexual orientation (and sometimes one’s sense of gender, though usually that gets ignored) is not sinful.  The sin is in acting on this orientation.  Well, let’s examine that, shall we?  What’s really being said here?

It certainly isn’t all about whether or not two people who love each other can or even should build a life together.  So let’s be honest here.  There are only two real things that people mean when they say “acting on” sexual orientation:

  1. Gay sex
  2. Gender roles/norms

That’s it.  There’s nothing else it even could be.  I think it’s time for people to just own that.  (It’s not always the case, but it would also be helpful for some people to admit that they just find the idea of gay sex kinda yucky.)  I’ve seen some conservative people come right out and say it, but I’ve never heard anyone with more liberal leanings do so.  At this point, the conversation is–and will continue to be–stalled until everyone just comes clean about what the real issue is.

The reason it’s important to establish that sexual practices and/or gender roles are at the heart of the matter is that until we’re clear on that, all we’re doing is playing word ping-pong.  One side says, “But the Bible says…” and the other side says, “No, it doesn’t,” until everyone is just fed up.  So we need to examine why we believe the Bible is or is not clear in those passages and why we are driven to find Scriptural support for our respective positions.

I spent a lot of time examining Scripture on this one and reading on both sides of what at that time I considered a “debate.”*  I eventually concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to support what I’d been taught at church.  Once I made up my mind, I set to figuring out exactly why so many people are so desperate to hold on to the position I left behind.  I determined that it all boiled down to one or both of the reasons I listed above.  Since I’m not too particularly concerned with what people do in private, and I’m a raging feminist, neither of those reasons is particularly compelling to me.  I suppose that’s why I found it easy to let go of my former beliefs.

Some of you are probably thinking, “But I’m not bothered by gay sex either!  And I don’t believe in traditional gender roles!”  Okay, then.  Let me ask you this.  If you still believe the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, then what do you believe the Bible says is wrong about it–the orientation or the action?  If you believe that orientation is innate, then you must believe the sin is in “acting on” that orientation, right?  So what exactly does that mean?  Does it mean a failure to have a complementary relationship, or does it mean the sex act?  If you can’t answer those questions with anything that isn’t a variation of one of the above, then you’ve proven my point.  If you can’t answer those questions at all, then why do you cling to your certainty that it’s wrong?

We do this with other Scriptures, after all.  We do it with things that appear black-and-white.  We look for contextual cues to tell us whether there are situations in which even the Ten Commandments could be broken.  We examine Paul’s letters and read his exhortations through a cultural lens.  It’s not enough to simply repeat an English translation of the Bible, brush the dust off our hands, and say that settles it.  That’s often used to admonish people for wanting to have their own way, and it silences anyone who has a personal investment in the matter.**

Until we can be honest about what’s underneath our deeply-held beliefs, we can’t begin to have any kind of reasonable dialogue about it.  We have to break open the conversation about the meaning we ascribe to sexual behavior and gender.  Otherwise, all we have are fruitless conversations in which we compartmentalize people’s humanity into “being” and “doing” rather than integrated wholes.  That, or we reject the integrated whole entirely.

It’s time to be honest about what we mean.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*I no longer view this as a “debate,” because it involves not a discussion of right and wrong but a discussion of people’s humanity and what living life to the full means to them.  It’s not fair to make people into issues.

**I am speaking of heterosexual Christians.  Whatever journey an individual LGBTQI person is on is that person’s own and it isn’t for me to nullify/validate that.

What safe space?

Remember last week when I (probably somewhat rudely, I’ll admit) said, “Fuck living in the tension”?  I just want to take some time to clarify that.  Many thanks to the Christians expressing their “grief” over the SCOTUS decision yesterday for helping me to figure out what was bothering me that led to my statement.

First, I want to make it absolutely, perfectly, 100% clear that I was NOT talking to any of my LGBTQI friends or family or strangers on the Internet.  That remark was solely intended for my fence-sitting straight Christian brothers and sisters.  It’s important that I emphasize that, because dialogue about LGBTQI issues and faith can never, ever begin with me–which is actually why I abhor “living in the tension” so much.  That phrase is aimed at straight people and meant to imply something like, “How the heck do I love gay people when I really think they’re outside God’s will?”  It’s a really bad place to begin any kind of conversation; you can’t go into something with the idea that another person needs to convince you of the validity of their identity and how that looks to them.

What sparked my fury and my desire to try again to explain to the nice straight people what we’re all doing wrong was this post at A Deeper Story.  See, my issue is absolutely not with any LGBTQI people who are learning what it means to honor their identity and be a person of faith.  That’s a respectable journey, and no one–NO ONE–needs my, or anyone else’s, permission to take it.

The problem is that straight people all seem to think we’re entitled to an opinion on someone else’s identity.  That conversation at A Deeper Story?  All about straight angst because we have feels about homosexuality.  This goes for both sides of the “debate,” by the way.  You know that thing people do when you tell your story and the first thing they do is derail and start talking about themselves?  Yeah, same thing.

Here’s a newsflash:  It’s not about you.  Whatever your personal opinion–even if you’re sure it’s “biblical”–about LGBTQI people, that’s all it is; it’s your opinion.  You do not need special times and places to write about it, because there are people all over, on both sides, who share it.  You do not need “safe space” to be sad about marriage equality.  You are not entitled to determine someone else’s humanity or their faith.

What has long bothered me, though I didn’t quite have the words for it, was this idea of inviting people to the table to talk about how we should handle relationship with LGBTQI people.  It bothers me because it’s still the people with privilege sitting in our positions of power making decisions about who is welcome and in what capacity.  That’s not how it should work.

You really want to have this conversation?  Then I suggest starting with actual LGBTQI people who are working out their identities and their faith stories.  You want links?  Come back tomorrow and check out my Friday links round-up, where I’ll connect you with a whole bunch of people.  After that, try doing a Google search for things like “LGBT Christians” and “Queer Theology.”  Whether you agree or not isn’t important; what’s important is that you see what Christians identifying as LGBTQI are saying about themselves.

Before I get hate mail or protests along the lines of, “But I know a gay person!  And that person appreciates my honesty that I don’t approve of the lifestyle!” please take a moment to think about that.  When was the last time you “appreciated” it when someone chose some vital part of your life and disapproved but said “I love you anyway”?  I honestly don’t care whether you approve of my friends and family or not.  Either way, it’s not terribly helpful or loving to remind them all the time what you think, and it’s not your job to have an opinion about someone who has reconciled his or her faith and identity.

I just don’t understand why there’s this need for such anxiety, unless deep down you’re worried that if you don’t help people get this whole gay thing under control, they’ll wind up in hell.  Seriously?  Stop with the hair-pulling already.  Here’s some suggestions for Things You Can Do with Your Christian LGBTQI Friends:

  • Have a nice cup of tea or coffee
  • Exchange conversation about the blessings in your life
  • Talk about ways you’re hurting and listen to theirs
  • Make a play date for your kids
  • Go see a live band
  • Ask them how they see their faith/identity/sexuality, without explaining what you think of any of those things

I stand by what I said: “Fuck living in the tension.”  But it applies to straight people who use it to have discussions about whether we should include them in our worship.  Until we upend the conversation and start viewing it the other way around, we will never be able to come to the table together.