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.

Guest Post on Praying the Rosary

Woo hoo! I got to write a guest post for Carly Gelsinger‘s series From Grape Juice to Red Wine, stories of people shifting from mainstream, conservative, or fundamentalist evangelical to “high church” liturgical traditions.

I had the chance to meet Carly in person at the Faith & Culture Writers Conference a couple of weeks ago.  She’s really cool, the sort of person who makes you feel like you’ve known her forever even though it’s only been a single weekend.  She has a way of putting people at ease with her warmth. The coolest thing was finding someone else who shared my own experience–that of choosing (rather than having it forced on us) a conservative evangelical path before finding our way out again.

I’m excited to add my voice to the conversation, especially because it echoes my own journey so well.  Go check out my post, and while you’re at it, give Carly some bloggy love on her other writing.  Happy Friday!

On being “gifted”

Last night, I read Glennon Melton’s post about calling kids “gifted” and this response to her.  Today, I read Glennon’s response on Facebook.  Because I believe she truly does want to understand, here is my answer.

Dear Glennon,

You will probably never read this, but I’m going to write it anyway because I sense that you honestly do want to know why some of us felt a little (oh, fine, a lot) defensive about your post on giftedness.

I’m going to be honest–I didn’t actually read your blog before unless someone linked to it.  I admit that I always kind of felt a little judged by you.  That might have been because the specific posts I read were often passed along by people who actually were judging me, so please forgive me for that.  That said, I didn’t have an open mind when reading your post on the word “gifted.”

It made me angry at first.  I’m the mom of a gifted child (in the label sense).  My immediate reaction was, “Dang.  How did we become a culture of people getting all tied up in knots over a word?  Let go of your need to have your child be a special snowflake, people!”

So I did what comes naturally–I grouched about it on Facebook.  In the comments, a friend suggested I watch your TED Talk.  I rolled my eyes and replied that I would.  (Yeah, I’m not very nice sometimes; I’m not proud of that.)  And then I watched it.

Oh, my.

I cried.  I cried because I know intimately that feeling of wearing a cape and pretending.  I’ve done it my whole life too.  My cape is being angry and self-righteous.  I’ve mostly shed it, but it sometimes begs to be taken out and worn.  Kind of like how I reacted to your post about gifted children.

So I thought about it, and I decided I want to help you understand.  You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I wonder if you’re seeing the label of “gifted” as being a kind of cape–something to hide a child’s real self.  If that’s so, then I want to tell you that you have it backwards.  My son’s gifted label is not his cape; it’s his freedom.

For us–for my son and for me–being told that he is gifted and has ADHD gave him wings.  Suddenly, he didn’t have to try to be just like every other child.  He could have his needs met, just like the child who has a learning disability or autism or physical limitations.  He could be fully, completely himself.  No pretending.  No cape.

Sometimes, I envy my son.  He loves who he is: highly intelligent, creative, musical, energetic, sassy, cheerful, sensitive, friendly, confident.  Unlike me, he is entirely comfortable in his own skin.  Knowing there’s a name for some of the ways in which his brain works differently is an important part of understanding and feeling good about himself.

I know you believe the word “gifted” is a frustrating term.  Right now, it’s the best one we have.  It isn’t a descriptor of gifts, it’s about the overall way in which children like my son are unique, just like other labels for brain function.  It’s not a reference to specific talents, such as playing the piano or being particularly good at math or art or soccer.  One can be a gifted musician or a talented writer without being given the overall distinction of gifted.  They’re not synonymous.

Maybe someday, we will have a better word that explains the difference between a gift and being gifted.  Until then, children who are gifted should not be ashamed to be given that title, and parents should not be ashamed to use it to describe their children.  Nor should children be ashamed for not being labeled gifted, in the same way no one should be ashamed of not having ADHD.

I hope that helps bring understanding, and I hope I’ve said it in a way that is kind and not shaming or hurtful.  We’re all on this planet together, and we parents have the responsibility to our kids not to make it harder for them by arguing amongst ourselves, particularly over such small things as words.

Much love on this parenting journey,

Amy

WIPpet Wednesday: Party Time

Happy Wednesday! It’s been quite a week, in a good way.  I have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks, but for now, I’m going to enjoy popping around to read all the great WIP snippets.

As for mine, I’m very sad to say goodbye to Phin and Company, but it’s time to move on.  If I don’t, I’ll just keep finding things to fix.  In the interest of not obsessing, I’m going to pick up my next story starting in April.  Which means I’d better get a move on writing it!

Last week when I took a poll, most people wanted to see Phin squirm, so here it is.  In this scene, Alex and the others have brought Phin to a weekend arts festival. They’re at a private party for one of Eunice’s friends. Despite his people-reading skills, I’ve always seen Phin as an introvert; this party is his (and my!) idea of hell.  Also, several people have been giving Phin alcoholic punch but telling him it’s “not strong,” and misfortune ensues.  I may or may not have been present for the real-life situation on which this is based.  My advice: Do not drink the punch unless you know exactly what’s in it.

My WIP math: 3/26/14 = 3+2+6+1+4 = 16 paragraphs, a nice long section in honor of my last post from this novel.

Phin relaxed and finished the second drink then tried again to find any of the people he’d come with. It shouldn’t have been hard, as it wasn’t crowded. For some reason, he seemed to be getting further away from the center of the house where he assumed the others had ended up. Before he could accomplish his mission, another guest handed him a cup of something similar to his previous two. Phin protested, “I really don’t drink.”

The man, who looked like he might have been trying to relive his parents’ hippie adolescence, dismissed him. “Nah, there’s nothing in this one. It’s the one with the blackberries you want to watch out for.”

Just as he was about to move on, the man grabbed his arm. “Where’re you going, babe?” He leered and leaned in a little too close for Phin’s comfort.

Phin had had enough and deemed the man an ass. “Oh, fuck off, will you? I’m here with someone else.” He shook himself free and tried to disappear, not checking to see if The Ass was following him.

On his way through the crowd—which seemed to have grown exponentially since Phin’s last attempt—at least three more people offered him a drink. Someone finally just shoved something at him, and Phin had to take it in order not to slop liquid all over himself. He frowned and looked for a place to get rid of it. What was wrong with people at this party? He couldn’t find a table, so he sipped some off the top to keep it from sloshing over the side while he weaved among people. At one point, he thought he spotted The Ass and quickly ducked behind someone to hide. Unfortunately, his legs didn’t seem to be working properly, and he bashed his shoulder into the wall.

“Ow,” he said loudly enough that a couple of people turned to look at him, puzzled frowns on their faces.

By the time Phin reached Alex, he knew he needed to get out of there. Whatever he’d been drinking was already causing him to feel fuzzy. He hadn’t had nearly enough to eat, and he wasn’t much of a drinker—intoxication tended to mess with his ability to manipulate situations in his favor. This was definitely not pleasant.

“I’m really not feeling great,” he managed. “And a pretend hippie who apparently finds me hot might or might not be looking for me.” The hand holding his cup shook, and Alex took it from him. “What the hell is in that punch?” Phin rubbed his face.

Alex’s eyebrows shot up. “I don’t know.”

The Ass, who obviously had been looking for Phin, appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Phin groaned, and Alex shot him a look of confusion before addressing the other man. “Oh, hey, Dave.” He leaned in, and they exchanged a quick, chaste peck on the cheek.

Phin felt slightly nauseated at the sight. “Wait, you know The Ass?” He hadn’t meant to say that; his private nickname for the man just slipped out. “Shit. Sorry.”

Dave laughed. “Nice. Alex, tell me this isn’t your date for the night.”

Alex glanced over at Phin. “Sort of, yes.”

“You might want to get him out of here before he does something stupid.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Speaking of that, I think I’ve reached my limit for the night. Would you mind telling Renee thank you for us? We’ll see ourselves out.”

Later, Phin couldn’t recall how he’d gotten back to the townhouse. The details were blurry, in part because he spent the entire car ride trying not to throw up.

And there you have it.  You’ll just have to wait to read the whole thing now if you want to see these characters again.

Feel free to join us by connecting a bit of your WIP with the date and linking up here.  Thanks again to K. L. Schwengel for hosting us!

WIPpet Wednesday: His Is Quite Fine

So, this is my temporary bloggy home.  I combined my fiction blog with my regular blog into one place.  In a matter of months, I will have a brand-new page that I built (well, okay, that my husband built for me), complete with beautiful graphics that I’m actually paying someone else to create.  There will be some other good stuff on there as well, and I’m really excited.  For now, all my online writing is in this space so I can keep it nice and tidy until Moving Day.

In other news, I’m sort of dragging my feet over my new story.  It takes me a long time to feel like I really know the characters and settings.  The one I’ve been posting, tentatively titled Lower Education, took me 6 months before I had some good flow.  It started as a vastly different kind of story and evolved.  I have no doubt the new one will be the same.

This is the second to last post about Phin and Company.  I’m running out of things I want to share (I have to save some of my best lines for actual publication!), and I can’t give away too much of the plot.  My WIPpet math: 19 (today) + 3 + 1 + 4 = 27 sentences.  The context is that outside of his work at the school, Alex is a dance instructor.  He’s organized a charity event, and he and the kids have all performed.  This takes place immediately afterward.

They accompanied Dani when she went to round up the kids from backstage.  When they arrived, Dani discovered that Phin had beaten them there and was talking to Alex.

Gia’s expression dissolved into a pout. “Why are all the good ones always taken?” She sighed. “He’s a little old for me anyway. He’s still cute, though.”

“And has a nice ass,” Dani and Eunice chorused.

“You’ve only mentioned that fifty times or so,” Eunice said.

Gia discovered her inner five-year-old and stuck out her tongue at them just as Alex and Phin joined them.

“Great job,” Eunice told Alex. “Very nice. I haven’t seen you do that one before.”

He nodded. “Just a little something I’ve been working on especially for tonight.” He exchanged a glance with Phin, and Dani was sure Phin’s cheeks grew faintly pink.

Phin changed the subject by turning to Gia and saying, “I heard what you said just now, and I’m flattered that you have such high regard for my ass. But you’re selling yourself short. What about that one guy at school who brought you your phone? I think he likes you.”

“Who? Oscar?” Gia frowned. “I don’t think so. He hardly says a word to me.”

Phin shrugged. “Then maybe you need to do the talking.”

All right.  So for my last (*sniff*) post about these people (I am really struggling to let them go!), what do you all want to see?  Here are the options I’m considering:

  1. A humorous incident with Phin really out of his element
  2. A nice (and somewhat amusing) moment between Dani and her teenage son
  3. A steamy interaction (well, part of one, anyway–I don’t want to spoil it)

Leave a comment, and whichever has the most interest, that’s what I’ll post.

As always, thanks go to K. L. Schwengel for hosting.  Come out and play with us by adding your link here.  Happy reading and writing!