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Bridge to Nowhere

Last night, I was on Twitter discussing the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Summit.  Unsurprisingly, there is still a lot of ignorance in the Southern Baptist Convention about LGBTQ people and issues.  I won’t waste time quoting the worst of it; you can easily search for it if you’re that curious.

What I found interesting was the ensuing discussion about building bridges.  Just the term building bridges is often so loaded that it can be hard to have a conversation about it.  It’s been used to mean everything from asking LGBTQ Christians to make the first move to progressive Christians who won’t take a firm stand but want dialogue to liberal Christian allies sharing the burden for reconciliation.  There’s disagreement on all sides about whether any or all of those things are good.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been much of a bridge-builder.  I’m pretty fierce when it comes to standing with those I love.  When I was new to blogging about these things, I was in a much darker place than I am now.  I was immersed in a church culture that seemed intentionally unloving towards LGBTQ people while putting on a good face.  There was nothing in me that wanted to bring people together—I wanted them to change their minds!

To an extent, I still feel that way.  But now, I also believe it’s my responsibility to use my perceived privilege to reach out to people who might not be sure how to take that next step.  I’m still not convinced that “I don’t care if you’re gay, but you shouldn’t be in a relationship” is terribly loving.  In fact, I’m sure it’s not.  On the other hand, I don’t need to be hostile about it, either.  That’s the point at which I will do more good affirming people’s humanity than arguing my point.

With all of that said, there are some people who will never be able to have rational conversations about any kind of sexuality.  Their condescension, moral superiority complexes, and outright hate prevent any kind of dialogue.  It is impossible to claim, “But I love gay people!” while looking down your nose disapprovingly.  The sorts of people who would compare being gay to rape or who would deliver entire sermons outlining the finer points of gay sex for the shock value or whose gag reflexes are tripped by gay people are not the sort whose table I want to sit at.

I’m not the only one.  I enjoyed tweeting with Rachel Held Evans and Ben Moberg (as always; they are good people), and we had this exchange (it’s hard to read, so the text appears below):

TweetRachel Held Evans: And yet, in spite of all the misinformation etc. I sense a desire for grace from #erlcsummit. How do we build bridges? I really don’t know.

Ben Moberg: @rachelheldevans I’m unsure if we want a bridge going there.

Me: @Runaway_Writes @rachelheldevans I really kind of don’t. This is one case where THEY need to be the bridge-builders.

I’m in favor of working things out.  I may not agree with some of my more conservative fellow Christians, but there can be thoughtful conversations.  These people, though?  They need to make the first move.  It can’t always be us, LGBTQ people and allies.  And it absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, be them reaching out their hands beckoning us to join them.  We’ve done that for far too long.  If they want peace and reconciliation, it’s going to be on our terms, on our side of the divide.  They need to ask for a seat at our table.

These men (let’s be honest; even the women who agree with them have very little authority here) have acknowledged that they’ve lost the culture war.  Now they’re going after other Christians who disagree with them, and most of us just aren’t buying it anymore.  Ultimately, unless they decide to take those steps, they are going to find themselves alone on their island of hate, shouting to no one.  It’s up to them to decide if that’s what they really want.  If it isn’t, the rest of us reasonable people will be over here living our lives, ready to welcome them home if they choose to cross the sea.

Whole

I swore I wasn’t going to do this on my blog.  I told at least three people I wouldn’t, in fact.  And yet, here I am, finding that sometimes, when we speak publicly about things, then we are obligated to be honest about our own lives.  With that cryptic opening, I’m taking a deep breath and plunging in.

In the last six months, a lot of things happened that I won’t get into now but which sent me into a sort of blogging burn-out limbo.  Terrified of saying the wrong thing in the wrong way, I stopped posting much.  It wasn’t all bad; I focused on finishing a novel and starting another one, along with several beta-reading projects and some good, old-fashioned pleasure reading.  I hoped that my time away would be healing.

It wasn’t.

I was still occasionally experiencing mild panic attacks, bouts of having to hold back tears, and general anxiety, particularly related to the various messes on social media and among my fellow bloggers.  I had retreated so far into myself that I buried my feelings, which then leaked out in incredibly unhealthy ways.

Then, over the last several weeks, three things happened.  First, a friend contacted me and asked if I was all right.  At the time, I was cleaning up the final draft of my manuscript, so I was feeling pretty good.  I said I was okay, dismissed the offer to chat casually, and went on with my life.  I was honestly puzzled, as I had no real idea that my online bloggy drama was bleeding over into other places.  After all, I’d already cut myself away from the community that was eating me alive, and I figured my emotional state was just residual from that.

About four weeks ago, this article happened.  I blogged about it, in fact.  But just reading it triggered an entire day (I’m not exaggerating in the slightest) of on-and-off feeling overwhelmed, miserable, and teary.  Being Saturday, I lit my candles, said the rosary, and then collapsed into sobbing.  Even then, I had no idea why I was crying, only that I could identify the feeling as grief and loss, rather than some other emotion.

I tried to piece it together, and it wasn’t until about two weeks later that it all came together.  (In a future post, I’ll explain; this one is too long already.)  First, I talked to my husband.  Then my sister and two friends.  I decided I didn’t really have anything to hide, so I was just going to more or less do the live-and-let-live thing.  Mostly, I had myself convinced that, as I usually do, that I and my feelings are comparatively unimportant.

And then I read this. (You really should read it too; it’s important.)  And said to myself, Oh, shit.  No, actually, I did.  I felt like Janet Edwards was speaking to me.  She called me out on not acknowledging my whole self.  And oh, dear God, that hurt, mostly because I knew she was right.  Three things particularly struck me:

I identify as bisexual because I know I am able to love people of my own gender and of a gender different from me. I’m not straight, but I can pass as straight because I am married to a man.

and

I cannot love God with my whole heart when I am keeping a central aspect of my self—my soul and body—hidden from both myself and from others.

and

Because I am so solidly protected by being in a marriage with a man, this very protection compels me to speak up for those whose voices have long been silenced and whose sense of self or livelihood is still regularly threatened by the church.

I relate to—and agree with—all of that.  Which is to say, like Dr. Edwards, I am a bisexual woman married to a man, living with all the privileges and responsibilities granted to me as such.  If I’m to keep blogging, keep tweeting, and even keep writing novels, there is no way to do that without telling people who I am.

Because I am so solidly protected by being in a marriage with a man, this very protection compels me to speak up for those whose voices have long been silenced and whose sense of self or livelihood is still regularly threatened by the church – See more at: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/confession-bisexual-granted-straight-privilege#sthash.PvbY15QZ.dpuf
I identify as bisexual because I know I am able to love people of my own gender and of a gender different from me. I’m not straight, but I can pass as straight because I am married to a man. – See more at: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/confession-bisexual-granted-straight-privilege#sthash.PvbY15QZ.dpuf

There’s been a lot to process, and I do want to share that journey with you, if you’re willing to read it.  But first and foremost, a big part of me feels like I owe some people an apology.  I am honestly, deeply sorry if my own failure to acknowledge who I am has been hurtful.  Please understand that it’s not because I’ve ever judged anyone else unworthy but because of my own twisted belief that things are okay for everyone else but me.  (It would take a novel to explain how I ended up in that place.)  I have not been lying or pretending or even hiding; I simply refused to see what was right there in front of me.

Please also know that by owning my identity, I am not seeking some kind of authority.  I hold no claims on speaking for an entire and vastly diverse community of people.  I’m not even speaking on behalf of the comparatively small minority of long-time married, liberal Christian women who come to terms with their sexuality twenty years after their adolescence.  I speak for no one but myself.  I do, however, both acknowledge the privilege I’m afforded and stand in solidarity with other LGBTQ people.

I’m sure many of you will have questions for me, and I’m happy to answer them.  I’m equally sure I will lose friends over this.  That makes me a little sad, but I also understand why.  If it would be a point of contention between us, I’d rather we part respectfully than that we waste time talking past each other.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.  I would love to talk with you all more, and if you put any questions you have for me in the comments, I will do my best to answer them.  When I’m able, I’ll share my journey with you.  Being able to embrace my whole self is a process, and not an easy one at that.  But my hope is that in being fully honest, I can return to writing as a better person than when I stepped away.

Much love to you all, and I hope to hear from you.

I identify as bisexual because I know I am able to love people of my own gender and of a gender different from me. I’m not straight, but I can pass as straight because I am married to a man. – See more at: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/confession-bisexual-granted-straight-privilege#sthash.PvbY15QZ.dpuf
I identify as bisexual because I know I am able to love people of my own gender and of a gender different from me. I’m not straight, but I can pass as straight because I am married to a man. – See more at: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/confession-bisexual-granted-straight-privilege#sthash.PvbY15QZ.dpuf
I identify as bisexual because I know I am able to love people of my own gender and of a gender different from me. I’m not straight, but I can pass as straight because I am married to a man. – See more at: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/confession-bisexual-granted-straight-privilege#sthash.PvbY15QZ.dpuf
I identify as bisexual because I know I am able to love people of my own gender and of a gender different from me. I’m not straight, but I can pass as straight because I am married to a man. – See more at: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/confession-bisexual-granted-straight-privilege#sthash.PvbY15QZ.dpuf
I identify as bisexual because I know I am able to love people of my own gender and of a gender different from me. I’m not straight, but I can pass as straight because I am married to a man. – See more at: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/confession-bisexual-granted-straight-privilege#sthash.PvbY15QZ.dpuf
I identify as bisexual because I know I am able to love people of my own gender and of a gender different from me. I’m not straight, but I can pass as straight because I am married to a man. – See more at: http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/confession-bisexual-granted-straight-privilege#sthash.PvbY15QZ.dpuf

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?