Category Archives: Religion

Side A, Side B, Moralizing, and Heterosexual Silliness

In Christians circles, especially among those associated with the Gay Christian Network (GCN), there’s much talk about Side A and Side B. They’re shorthand for what an individual believes about same sex relationships and how gay people should choose to live their lives. A person who is Side A believes that gay people should be allowed to enter into same sex romantic and sexual relationships — though possibly with some caveats, such as only with a long-term partner with whom one is committed to lifelong monogamy. A person who is Side B believes that gay people should seek to maintain a life of celibacy.

As I understand it — though I can’t find the sources that led me to this understanding to confirm it — the concepts of Side A and Side B originally started among gay Christians themselves and indicated a personal choice of how the individual felt it best to respond to their sexual orientation in their own life. This is reflected in that GCN welcomes both people who are Side A and people who are Side B.

At some point, heterosexual people who started joining the conversation about gay people in the church also began to adopt the labels Side A and Side B for themselves. The thing is, heterosexual people are not gay, so the original understanding of the concept that which “side” they belonged to no longer represented how they chose to respond to their own sexual orientation. Instead, for heterosexual people, their Side A or Side B status mostly began to represent how other people — namely people who actually are gay — should choose to live their lives1.

This has apparently caused some problems for at least one person.  Yesterday, Misty Irons blogged about the misunderstandings that tend to be formed when she identifies as Side B:

A recent article written by Stephen Parelli, who was present at the conference, called “Celibacy at Gay Christian Network: What’s that all about?” characterizes me as advocating celibacy for all gay Christians.

She spends a good deal of time in her post making it clear that she does not advocate celibacy for all gay Christians. She makes it clear that she believes that Side A Christians — even Side A gay Christians — are saved. She states that she believes Christians should follow their own conscience in this matter.

I would argue then, that calling herself Side B is pointless, meaningless, or both. She’s not telling other people what they should believe or how they should live. She’s not making a choice about how to live her own life since — to the best of my knowledge — she’s heterosexual and she doesn’t even have to answer the underlying question for herself.

So why pick a “side” at all? Why not simply say “I believe those who are in a position where they need to make that choice need to pray and follow their own conscience” and leave it at that?

If a heterosexual is not prepared to moralize — that is, tell others how they should live their lives or even look down on those who choose to live their lives differently — then declaring oneself Side A or Side B serves no real purpose. Other than possibly to promote the silly notion that their opinion on the matter is actually important. And who has time for that silly notion and the privilege it represents?


1I suspect at least some gay Christians also feel that other gay Christians should be making the same Side A or Side B choice they are and would like input on how other people are living their lives as well. Moralizing is not the sole domain of the heterosexuals after all. However, at least with gay Christians, there’s still the sense that being Side A or Side B is (hopefully) about a personal choice in their own lives first.

Going to Church and Attending Sporting Events are not Comparable

Yesterday,  Hemant Mehta wrote a post about about meme where some pastor mocks excuses people use for not going to church by turning them into excuses people use for not attending sporting goods. He also posts a video response from someone that is absolutely wonderful. However, I wanted to take a closer look at some of the things that make this meme ridiculous right from the beginning.

A sad meme comparing apples (going to church) to bicycles (going to sporting events).
A sad meme comparing apples (going to church) to bicycles (going to sporting events).

The most obvious is that church attendance is often seen — at least by many Christians — as an absolute and even universal obligation. I’m not aware of anyone who views attending sporting events — either occasionally or regularly — as an obligation. Certainly not a universal obligation. No one has ever questioned my moral character for not attending sporting events. No one — not even exuberant sports fans — have treated me condescendingly for not attending sporting events. No one is trying to convince me that I will be condemned to eternal torment if I don’t attend the Amerks games and believe that their players are the best hockey players ever.

Instead, attending sporting events is entirely optional with little to no pressure on me to do so. I can simply choose not to attend any sporting events. The only “excuse” I need for not attending one is “I didn’t feel like going.” In fact, I’d be hard pressed to think of even five instances in my forty-one years of life where anyone even inquired — let alone demanded to know — as to why I didn’t attend some sporting event.

I have had people ask why I don’t go to church. Several times. And each time, there was a clear implication that the person asking felt I needed a good reason — good enough as determined by them — why i didn’t go. This is why people make all kinds of excuses for not going to church, and seldom make any excuse for going to sporting events. No excuse is needed for the latter.

The excuses in themselves are equally problematic. For example, the first excuse makes no sense because there’s no expectation that a coach at sporting event will come visit me1. That’s not the case for a pastor of a church. There is an implicit — if not explicit — understanding that a pastor is there to provide spiritual care and guidance for the people in his church and even the rest of the community.  When a person says that they quit coming to church because the pastor hasn’t come to see them, this means that the pastor and the church as a whole has failed to live up to their obligations. (John Pavlovitz put it perfectly on Tuesday when he wrote, “If you have no scalable system of pastoral care other than telling people to get into a small group, you have a lousy pastoral care system….
Pastor, if all you want to do is preach from the stage or the pulpit, stop calling yourself a pastor and admit that you’re a preacher or a religious celebrity.
“) So it strikes me that it is perfectly reasonable for a person to leave a church that is failing to meet its obligations to that person.

There are similar issues with the meme-creator’s other “excuses” when you consider the fundamental differences between the nature of church attendance and going to sporting events. Sadly, this is just another case of a Christian leader thinking he’s being clever when he’s really just demonstrating that he hasn’t really thought any of these issues through. This also leads me to conclude that he’s not really trying to convince people who offer these excuses to come to church so much as he’s sharing a moment of smug self-righteousness with those who already agree with him. Frankly, I find that sort of thing ugly when displayed by an alleged spiritual leader.


1Naturally, I’m assuming that I’m a spectator rather than a player. If the latter were the case, then I see that this could be a legitimate reason for not only not attending those sporting events, but quitting that team.

Open letter Christian webcomic artist Adam Ford

[Content Note: Homophobia, transphobia, mentions of anti-gay and anti-trans violence, mentions of suicide]

My niece posted a link to this webcomic earlier today. I decided the webcomic artist deserved a response.

Dear random Christian dude who wants to reassure me he doesn’t hate me by writing a lengthy and completely impersonal webcomic,

Look, I get it. Your uncomfortable with the fact that many LGBT people think of socially conservative Christians as hateful. The thing you need to understand is that A LOT of your fellow Christians do indeed act terribly hateful. Some of them may even be people that you and your church support and revere.

Plus, the other thing you need to understand is that you don’t have to be screaming obscenities or anything equally obvious to act in ways that are hurtful and even come across as hateful. So let me do you a favor and go through your webcomic and point a few things out to you that you get terribly wrong.

I am a Christian who believes the Bible is the Word of God, any homosexual practice is sinful, and marriage will only ever be the life-long union between one man and one woman.

But I promise you, I don’t hate you.

You know, it’s hard to believe you don’t hate me — or at least that you have my best interests in mind — when your first volley in your “reassurance” is to state unequivocally that you will never consider any emotionally and sexually intimate relationship that I might build with someone to be anything other than irredeemably sinful and illegitimate. I mean, you could have started demonstrating your commitment to loving LGBT people by talking about what you are trying to get the church to do about the fact that many states still allow employers to fire  people simply for being LGBT. Or you could have talked about what you’re trying to get the church to do about anti-LGBT violence — especially violence against transgender people who are most often targeted. Or you could have talked about what you want to do about the problem of increased instances of homelessness and suicide rates among LGBT youth.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. There are a lot of very real problems that LGBT people face, and you could be doing something right now to help alleviate and address those problems. But instead, you decided to start by drawing your line in the sand. Or let’s call it what it really is, your chosen battle line. Try and understand just how false that makes the rest of your claims sound.

The world sets us up as polar opposites, though. It says we’re bitter enemies in a “culture war,” lobbing Molotov cocktails at each other on the front lawn of the White House.

Do you know who actually uses the phrase “culture war” regularly, and insists they’re fighting one. Many of your fellow Christians. People at the AFA. People at the FRC. People at Focus on the Family. Pat Robertson. These are extremely visible and powerful Christians. They’re the ones pushing the “culture war” framing. And that’s when they’re not comparing LGBT people to sexual predators, calling us mentally ill, or saying God sent AIDS to punish us. There are a lot of other terrible things they say, too. I encourage you to do some research.

So my question to you is what are you doing to real in your fellow Christians who are pushing this “culture war” frame? Are you pushing back and telling them to shut up? Are you making sure that neither you nor your church supports the Christian organizations that are actually promoting and acting as aggressors in the culture war? Or are you just remaining silent and hoping that I and every of LGBT person will magically know you don’t agree with them and “aren’t like those Christians” (or believe it just because you say so)?

If you are gay, your fallen heart tells you to lust after people of the same sex.

God calls that sin.

My fallen heart tells me to lust after people of the opposite sex who are not my wife.

God calls that sin.

Did you notice the major difference between those two statements. You see, according to you, God offers you a context in which you’re allowed to embrace and explore your sexual desires. But according to you, God offers LGBT people no such context. Any such exploration we may consider is sinful. Full stop. End of story. Try to understand how cruel that makes your vision of God in my eyes.

Also, stop to consider how you’ve just implicitly reduced all same-sex relationships to nothing more than sexual gratification. You’ve completely ignored and invalidated the fact that many same sex relationships also involve deep emotional intimacy, mutual care, nurturing, and many other qualities that I’m sure you value in your own marriage. Again, when you start trying to caricature our relationships to fit your “sin” narrative, it’s rather difficult to accept that you’re as hate-free as you claim.

The liberal “churches” which are now saying, “Oh hey! God changed his mind and is totes cool with the gay stuff now 4 real!” do not really love you. They want your approval.

Sounds to me like you need to write a follow-up comic to let liberal churches know you don’t hate them, too. Though I’m not sure they’ll believe you any more than I believe you. But on a more serious note, I think it’s entirely condescending of you to claim you know the hearts and motives of others. Also, I’ll note that many of those liberal churches have actively backed their claims of love by actively doing things to address all of those serious issues facing LGBT people that I mentioned earlier. You haven’t done that yet. I trust you’re familiar with he phrase “action speaks louder than words.”

Not because I say so; because God says so. (See: entire Bible)

There’s a problem with that claim — and it’s really relevant to your rather disparaging comments that liberal churches say God “changed his mind” by the way. People have been saying “God says so/the Bible says so” for centuries, only to later decide that maybe the Bible doesn’t actually say that after all. I mean, there was once a time when many Christians insisted that the Bible said that it was okay to own slaves. In fact, at least one denomination (hint: it’s the largest and most well-known Baptist denomination in the United States of America) was founded on the principle that the Bible clearly states that slave-owners are allowed to own slaves. I don’t know any Christian who would insist that the Bible says that anymore. I doubt that you or any of your fellow Christians today would phrase that change in belief or interpretation of the Bible as “Oh hey! God changed his mind!”

Truth of the matter is, the Bible is hugely open to interpretation and always has been. There have been huge arguments over what the Bible allegedly says, and people on both sides of many of those arguments have insisted that the Bible “clearly says” whatever position they happen to hold. So please, accept that liberal Christians might actually legitimately come to a different interpretation of the Bible, lest you fall into the hubris of thinking you are the authority of what the Bible says. Trust me, history is rife of examples of why that may not end so well for you.

Repent and believe that gospel.

The word “gospel” means “good news.” I ask you, what “good news” are you offering to LGBT people. Quite frankly, I don’t find “you have to live your entire life without any sort of sexual or emotional fulfillment or intimate companionship” to be all that good of news. Can you do it? Why not? After all, the Bible also makes it clear that it would be better for you to remain unmarried. And yet, you mentioned having a wife. Why are you trying to place burdens on other people that you have not accepted for yourself?

We love you, so we must tell you the truth.

Okay. You’ve told me. You’re at least the 100th person to tell me this. (Seriously, do you really think LGBT people have never heard all of this before? You might want to check your facts.) I’m telling you, I don’t buy it and it stinks like yesterdays garbage after it’s sat in the sun all afternoon.

But while we’re on the topic of how much you allegedly love me, let me ask you something: What good is love without relationship. You don’t know me. You haven’t taken a single moment to get to know me. You haven’t listened to my story or shared in my joys or my woes. To be frank, all you’ve done is preach at me, possibly hoping that the cutesie webcomic format will make it more tolerable. If your love is that impersonal and impersonal, then I think I’ll still with the “vote seekers” and “approval seekers.” Once again, at least they seem to understand some of the real and serious problems I and many like me face and are actively trying to do something. They’ve shown real, tangible acts of love.

So thanks, random dude who knows nothing about me and likely will do absolutely nothing to change that. I hope that your webcomic gave you that sense of “being loving” you were trying to create for yourself. It did absolutely nothing for me.

Best wishes,

Jarred.

A gay man who just doesn’t quite believe you.

Moderation Note: This is a no proselytizing thread. Comments trying to convince me that I need to “repent” will be deleted. Commenters that repeatedly ignore this rule will be banned. But don’t worry, there’s no need for you to tell me the truth. Adam Ford has already taken care of it. You can even see the proof for yourself.

 

Pat Robertson’s world is a scary place

Tuesday, Right Wing Watch reported that Pat Robertson warned pregnant women against putting pictures of their ultrasounds on Facebook.  His reasoning, according to the report, is rather interesting:

“I don’t think there is any harm in it,” he said. “But I tell you, there are demons and there are evil people in the world, and you post a picture like that and some cultist gets hold of it or a coven and they begin muttering curses against an unborn child. You never know what somebody’s going to do.”

This is yet another glimpse into the dark, horrible world that Pat Robertson believes he’s living in. He believes that there are “Satanic witches” who have nothing better to do than scour the Facebook to find random ultrasound pictures from people they don’t know and curse them. In Pat Robertson’s fantasy world, people unlike him run around looking to commit evil for evil’s sake. It leaves one wondering if he also imagines us laughing maniacally and twirling over-waxed mustaches or cackling around cauldrons1.

The thing is, most witches don’t work curses at all. Those who do are really unlikely to curse random strangers for a number of reasons2. If a witch is actually going to work that kind of magic, said witch is going to work it against someone they have a personal investment in hurting.

So why on earth does Pat Robertson imagine evil figures doing all kinds of evil that makes no sense? Does he enjoy the way that it ties his followers to him with fear and terror? Is his desire to paint himself and those like him as the soul heroes of the world so great that he needs to paint everyone else in the world as evil as he can?

Or is he actually trapped in his own fear? Has he warning about evils for so long that he actually sees and fears them wherever he looks? If so, I have to say, that’s a horrible way to live.


1Okay, I’ll confess. The cackling around cauldrons thing actually happens. I mean, every now and then you’re in the middle of a solemn ritual and someone flubs a chant or sends one of the ritual tools skittering across the room due to clumsiness. That’s bound to crack up anyone with a sense of humor.

2The two major reasons are “trying to curse someone you don’t have a connection to is nearly impossible” and “no one in their right mind is going to work with and connect themselves to the kinds of energies a curse entails unless there’s a deeply personal reason to do so.”

 

Movie Review: Impossible Choice

[Content Note: Homophobia]

Last night, as I scoured both Netflix And Amazon Instant Video for gay-themed movies to watch, I came across Impossible Choice, an extremely-low budget film that came out in 2012. The brief description on Amazon caught my eye:

For the minister’s son, Brandon, this is a summer of awakening and acceptance of his homosexuality. For his father, this is a challenge to his roots in the bible.

In many ways, that description reminded me of the movie Rock Haven, which I love (and still wish I could find my copy of). I decided to watch it.

After watching it, I skimmed through the customer reviews on Amazon. This is a movie where it seemed like either reviewers loved it or hated it. In many ways, I agree with the negative reviews, as they all brought up great points. This was an extremely low-budget film. The writing was awful. The story — actually at least two different plots that were only related by the fact that they happened at the same time and in the same place — jumped all over the place. And there were several questions the story left unanswered. (Like whatever happened to the criminal charges that were brought against Lance? You get the sense that they were trumped up, but it’s never shown that the police learn this fact.) Or there was the sudden shift of Captain Dan from being totally opposed to the idea of running a gay cruise (in the first scene or two, he throws around the word “fag” quite liberally) to being entirely in favor of it and defending the idea in front of the people of Palmyra. In fact, I had to go back and verify that the virulent homophobe I remembered from the first few scenes really was Captain Dan, because they seemed like completely different characters.

The best part of the movie — as many of the negative critics noted — was the ten minute “play within,” a play created by some of the movie characters for a college drama class. In the “play within,” Matthew Shepard and Tyler Clementi meet up in the afterlife and tell each other about the events leading up their eventual deaths. It was well acted, moving, and possibly the only truly memorable part of the entire movie. It also really didn’t seem to have any bearing on the rest of the movie, which made it odd in context.

I will admit that despite all its technical flaws, I do have some warm feelings toward this movie. This is partly because its setting is local to me, as the gay cruise that serves as subject matter of one of the plotlines and the setting for the climax of the other takes place on the Erie Canal and starts from the nearby town of Palmyra New York. There’s something about seeing shots of local geography — and having it recognized in the film as such — that’s just touching to me.

Also, the themes of the movie, while poorly executed, are near and dear to my heart. Granted, in many ways, that makes the poor execution of the movie all the more sad. In the long run, I think it would have been better if those who made it would have focused either on the work to get the gay cruise approved or on the story about Brandon’s relationships with his father and his love interest, Lance.

Would I recommend watching it? If you have a couple hours to spare and access to Amazon Prime, sure. Especially if you live in or around Monroe County New York. Especially if you’re also gay.

But if you have access to a movie like Latter Days or Rock Haven (and haven’t already watched it to death), you may want to check one of them out instead.

 

NOM’s “scary study results” are only scary if you lack nuance

Alvin McEwen blogged on Monday about NOM pushing a new Regnerus “study.”  McEwen rightfully points out how dishonest it is for NOM to continue pushing Regnerus’s work despite the fact that he and his work have been heavily discredited over the past several months.

What I find interesting is how NOM presents and interprets this new “study”:

Activists trying to force a redefinition of marriage on America have constantly evaded the question, “what is marriage?” Meanwhile, they have insisted that gays and lesbians simply want access to the same sacred institution of marriage and that they don’t intend to change anything about that institution.

But the survey responses from gay men and lesbians themselves don’t support these claims.

The institution envisioned by those who want to redefine marriage isn’t faithful… it isn’t exclusive… it isn’t permanent… put bluntly, it isn’t marriage.

So basically, Regnerus polls a bunch of people about a number of views and NOM tries to interpret the answers to those views as people’s understanding of what marriage is.  That’s problematic at best.

So let’s take a look at some of those views from the poll.

Viewing pornography is OK.  This one has absolutely nothing to do with marriage.  Some people look at porn.  Others don’t.  Some married people watch porn.  (Some even watch it with their married partner!)  Some don’t.  Some single people watch porn.  Some single people don’t.  Saying that viewing pornography is acceptable doesn’t really reveal much — if anything — about one’s views of marriage.

I’d also like to note that saying that viewing pornography is okay is not that same as saying that viewing pornography is never problematic.  Yes, if viewing pornography is interfering with one’s relationship(s) (by say, changing your attitudes toward the people in your life, especially your romantic partner), that’s a huge problem.  However, that does not mean that viewing pornography in general is a horrible thing.  NOM is effectively trying to use this one statement to cast everything in a black and white argument where there is much more nuance to be considered.

Premarital cohabitation is good.  Again, this statement really doesn’t tell you anything about a person’s views on marriage.  A person may think that living together before marriage is good and important and yet still consider their wedding vows of great importance when the take them.  In fact, some people promote living together before marriage because they take their wedding vows seriously and want to have a sense of how living together will work out before making the final commitment.

No-strings-attached sex is OK.  It seems to me that this one goes off the rails in various ways.  Most notably, I think it demonstrates that NOM is projecting it’s own belief that every person (excepting possibly clergy) should get married onto everyone else.  I don’t believe that every should get married.  What I believe is that LGBT people who want to get married should be allowed to do so.  If LGBT people who prefer not to get married would rather engage in no-strings sex with each other, I say more power to them.  It doesn’t change how I feel about marriage.  NOM fails to understand that the facts that I think I should be allowed to get married and that other people should be allowed to pursue other relationship and sexual choices for themselves are not contradictory.

Also, I’ll note that it’s possible to enjoy no-strings sex while single and still look forward to a more committed relationship in the future.  NOM doesn’t seem to understand that, either.  (Not surprising, as I suspect there’s a lot of ideological overlap between NOM and purity culture, which tends to at least imply that any sex outside of marriage “ruins” you for marriage.)

Couples with kids should stay married except for abuse.  You know what?  I don’t believe in auditing other people’s lives.  I think that individual families need to consider their own circumstances and work out what the best choices for themselves are.  I do not feel qualified nor do I feel I have or deserve the authority to tell them under what circumstances they are allowed to make which choices.  If NOM thinks that this means that I don’t take marriage seriously, then NOM doesn’t know me at all.  I know what my goals are for marriage.  I just realize that (1) those goals may not work for everyone and (2) they ultimately may not work out for me either.  I’m simply open to that possibility.

Marital infidelity is sometimes OK.  Okay, this is a position that I tend not to hold.  I tend to believe that if you’ve made a commitment to be in a monogamous relationship with someone, you should keep that commitment.  If you find you can’t keep that commitment, then you should either seek to renegotiate the relationship or honestly seek to end it.  Yes, I do consider ending a relationship acceptable.  So I will acknowledge that while I see marriage as ideally permanent, I accept the reality that it doesn’t always work out that way in practical terms.  But I don’t see the benefit in denying reality, so I don’t see this as some huge admittance of defeat on my part.

It is OK for 3+ adults to live in a sexual relationship.  I’m totally on board with this one, and unapologetically so.  So no, I don’t see marriage as necessarily exclusive.  I think that’s for the people involved to determine for their own relationship(s).

I just don’t see that as a horrible thing.  Truth be told, I find the idea that Christians — especially Christians who scream about “taking the Bible literally” — being anti-polyamory rather odd, anyway.  The Old Testament is full of men — men deemed Godly by the text and tradition — taking multiple wives (and concubines, no less).  And there are only two explicit prohibitions against polygamy in the Bible, both of which limit the prohibition to specific groups of people.  (That’d be the kings of Israel in t Old Testament and pastors/bishops in the New Testament.)

But setting all that aside, does the fact that I’m unwilling to condemn or criticize people who choose a polyamorous relationship really destroy my own right to enter into a legally recognized monogamous marriage?

Ultimately, it seems to me that NOM’s argument is that they only want to let people into their marriage club if those people are willing to go on policing the choices of others.  I’m not okay with that.

 

When “Christian love” erases matters of justice (and the people affected by them)

A friend on Facebook posted a link to this blog post by Sheri Dacon.  Dacon’s position is that all the hullabaloo over the recent Hobby Lobby decision (and similar “controversies”) isn’t important.  She insists that what is important is love, which is about people:

When it comes to love for other human beings, it’s important to remember the human being part. Love is not a formula that can be defined or summed up in textbook fashion. Love involves people. And people are messed up, flawed and difficult to love. Me and you included.

She further says:

Love has much more to do with how you respond to that homeless woman outside of Hobby Lobby the store as you leave with your purchases. It has more to do with how you treat the people who are different than you, perhaps the ones who live a radically different lifestyle. Love has less to do with judging and much more to do with giving and accepting and welcoming and sympathizing.

You know, this all sounds beautiful.  To a degree, I even agree with her.  I have just one tiny, nagging question though.

What about the people the Hobby Lobby decision is hurting?

What about those who work for Hobby Lobby and may need Plan B, can’t afford it, and now can’t rely on their Hobby Lobby provided insurance plan to cover it?

What about the people who work for other corporations who now may refuse to cover all forms of contraception?

What about the people whose employers may even refuse to give them notice that their insurance plan won’t cover contraception?  What happens to them when they find this out the hard way — because they need it and now have no way to afford it?

What about the LGBT people who may face workplace discrimination by religious organizations seeking government contracts?

These are all people who stand to be adversely affected by the Hobby Lobby ruling and other actions and decisions that have stemmed from that decision.  These are people who Dacon seems either to be unaware of or has chosen to forget about.

That’s the problem with many “Love/People over Issues” approaches.  They forget that issues are also about and impact people.

 

Generous Spaciousness: Whose Space is It?

Earlier this week, i received my Kindle edition of Wendy VanderWal-Gritter’s book, Generous Spaciousness:  Responding to Gay Christians in the Church.  I’m about to start chapter 11 (which puts me a little over halfway through the book), and it’s so far been a pretty good read.  I haven’t decided whether I’m going to do a review of the book itself yet.  I’ll have to wait until I get finished with it and mull over if there’s anything that I want to say about it that other potential readers might find helpful when considering whether to pick up a copy.  (Generally speaking, I think people would do well to pick up a copy, but that statement alone is probably not very helpful to most potential readers.)

As I’ve been reading the book a number of thoughts have come up in my mind.  The one I want to blog about today is related to the question I put in the post’s title:  Whose “space” is it?

From reading the book so far and conversations I’ve had with Wendy1 in the past, generous spaciousness is a concept that is meant to be applied on the personal and institutional level.  On the personal level, it is an attitude of welcome and agreement to live in tension and even disagreement with others.  On an institutional level, it is a formal or informal policy that encourages leadership and members to embody that attitude in word and deed.  The latter, which I’m going to focus on, can be more fully seen in Wendy’s recent OnFaith article about how go engage gay Christian who attend one’s church.  Because the title of that article also points to the one nagging problem I see:  Whose church is it?

While I’m not arguing against the idea that churches need to consider how to be more welcoming of and how to minister to LGBT people, people who are questioning their gender and/or sexuality, or people who are simply wondering what God really says about sexuailty, gender, and same-sex sexual relationships, the very notion of “making space” for such people suggests that the church belongs to a different group of people and not those for whom such “space” is being made.

Ultimately, it becomes a question of how welcoming a space can truly be when the space is controlled by others who get to decide how welcoming to make that space.  Such a space still offers a great deal of comfort, safety, and privilege for those who control it and demands more risk and potential discomfort for those form whom “space is being made.”  Those who wish to truly be welcoming of LBGT people, their supporters, and those who are sorting through questions about LGBT lives and faith journeys need to wrestle with that injustice.  How does one make a space truly welcoming and generous to those who do not share “ownership” or control of a space?

Ultimately, I think that Christians also need to consider that rather than or in addition to “making space” for others in their space, they need to be prepared to completely give up their privilege, comfort, sense of control, and “home field advantage” by humbly2 seeking out those they wish to know in their own spaces, where they can feel safe and truly feel on equal ground or even at an advantage.  After all, trying to meet others only on one’s own terms is not an attempt to meet others at all.  Wendy talks about doing just that in her book when she talks about the first year she attended the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference.


1As an aside, I should point out that I have spoken with, met, broken bread with, drunken wine with, and gotten my butt kicked in a game of Stone Age by Wendy.  As such, my interactions with her do affect how I approach and engage with this book and the subject of generous spaciousness in general.

2As anyone who has maintained or or belonged to any space that caters to and seeks to be safe for marginalized people can tell you, there are different ways for privileged people to try entering and behaving in those spaces.  Some of those ways can disrupt such spaces and even make them unsafe.  Wendy exemplifies one of the better ways to go about this when she talks about how she approached seeking entry to her first GCN conference.

Anti-gay rhetoric and immature morality

Thanks to TWitter user @DeekyMD, I became aware of the following “response” to “Same Love” by Christian rapper Bizzle:

There’s a lot I could say about this video, a lot which is quite exemplary of religiously-motivated anti-gay sentiment at large.  I could talk about the underlying Christian supremacy in parts of it.  I could talk about how Bizzle claims there’s no such thing as “gay oppression” despite stories about anti-gay bullying, violence against LGBT people, and the fact that you can be fired for being gay in 29 states and being transgender in 34.  I could talk about the audacity it takes for him to then turn around and complain about “violence against Christians” (many alleged instances of which are exaggerated or trumped up by the anti-gay industry in an attempt to paint themselves as martyrs I might add) by LGBT people and their supporters.  I may talk about some or all of those things in the future.  (This video is a veritable “goldmine” of such garbage that can and should be laid out for all to see in its complete ugliness.)

Today, I want to focus on the following statement at the 1:09 mark.

And I’m sure that you lust like I do, just in a different form.  But I’m married, so if I give in to mine, I’m a cheater.  But if you give in to yours, you just fight to make it legal.

What gets me about that statement1 is that the man completely ignores the fact that he’s comparing two completely different things:

  1. A married man — who has committed to a woman and promised her sexual monogamy2 — breaking that promise and becoming sexually involved with another woman.
  2. A person — whose relationship status is unspecified and who has given no promises of sexual monogamy — choosing to become sexually involved with someone of the same sex.

The bolded parts of those two descriptions underlies exactly why these two situations are completely different.  The person in the first situation has entered into a relationship built on certain agreements, including sexual monogamy.  Breaking those agreements is a matter of breaking one’s word.  It’s also a matter of undermining the trust that such a relationship is built on and that is absolutely essential to maintaining that relationship.  That’s a big problem.

But the person in the second situation?  There is no such relationship or agreement.  There is no promise of monogamy to be broken.  There is no violation of trust.  There is no relationship that will be destroyed by said (nonexistent) violation of (also nonexistent) trust.  There is no moral wrong being done here3.

The problem with Bizzle’s comparison is that he has failed to draw an analogy to what exactly makes the situation wrong and how that carries over into the second relationship.

I posit that this is because to Bizzle, it’s not actually the breaking of a promise or the violation of trust that makes the first situation wrong either, but the fact that it goes against one of God’s rules.  I’ve noted this tendency of some Christians to reduce morality to nothing more than obeying Divine dictates.  I’ve noted how this sort of simplistic thinking causes them to do horrible things, like erase victims of abuse.  Once more I want to call attention to it here.

I am convinced that one of the biggest problem with certain segments of Christianity — especially those segments that seem far more interested in moralizing about others rather than seeking out what it means to live moral lives themselves — is their refusal to develop a more mature framework for their moral view than “[My interpretation of] God says so.”

Then they get completely confused when (and leap to ludicrous explanations to explain why) those of us who don’t believe in their interpretation of God or his “say so” don’t find their arguments compelling at all.


1Well, besides the fact that yet another anti-gay bigot is immediately reducing all same-sex relationships to a matter of lust and sexual gratification and no one is challenging him on it.

2Yes, I’m pointing out that Bizzle is in a monogamous marriage and want to make a point of noting that not all marriages or relationships are monogamous.  How other people choose to construct and negotiate their relationships is entirely up to them and I refuse to diss those who reach a consensual agreement to build non-monogamous relationships together or throw them under the bus to prove “not all gays are like that” or engage in some other form of approval seeking by being “the right kind of gay.”

3Say a gay man is in a relationship with another man wherein the two have agreed to sexual monogamy, then goes and have sex with someone else.  Then there is the broken agreement, the violation of trust, and the undermining of the relationship he is committed to.  In that case, it is not only analogous to the first scenario, but is identical to it.  But that’s the thing, Bizzle is trying to generalize this into all same-sex relationships.

Spiritual Questions: Life after death?

Over the weekend, my eighteen year old niece contacted me to ask me a bunch of questions for an AWANA project.  I found the questions interesting, if a little simplistic (and maybe slanted), but I did the best I could to give her short, somewhat simplified answers.  I’ve decided to take at least some of the questions and turn each one into a blog post, where I can explore the thoughts that the question brought up for me in a bit more depth.

Where are you going when you die?

I’ll be honest in that this is one of the questions that bothers me.  To me, it’s rooted in a body-spirit duality, and one where the body is seen as unimportant and a shell to be cast off, whereas the spirit or soul is our “real” being.  I just don’t buy into this.  To me, mind, body, and spirit are an integrated whole and all three are necessary to make me the person that I am.  In a very real sense, I believe that when I die, I will cease to be.  While some part of me may live on in some sense (and I’ll talk about that in a moment), without this body, it will no longer be truly me.

I tend to believe in spirit.  Note that I said spirit, not a spirit.  I don’t think that spirits are a basic, irreducible part.  What I call spirit, I see as an enlivening force.  It’s what makes me a living thing rather than lifeless matter.  (Then again, I often doubt that any matter is truly lifeless.)

I believe that this spirit does go on after death.  Then again, I think all of me goes on after death.  My body goes on after death, even as it decomposes.  It is reclaimed by the universe, transformed, and is then used to fuel new life.  I think spirit follows this same pattern.

I envision this as spirit separating from the body at the time of death and making its way back to what I think of as the Heart of the Universe or the Fount of Creation, that place from which life flows.  (Whether it is a physical place or exists in some state beyond our concepts of space and even time is a question to ponder.)  Spirit constantly returns there and then once more flows out into the universe anew, vitalizing new life.