LGBTQ

1st Year Reflections from a 1st Year Mennonite – Gonna be a long one folks

A friend of mine invited me to a Mennonite church with her to experience their message this past November of 2006. I looked into the history; I examined the theology. And it made sense to me. As a result, I had a Christian conversion.

And then I spent some time in the church, and found that faith can smolder even among Mennonites. Despite a great theological understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit, I rarely hear Mennonites talk about the Spirit in their lives. Though preaching pacifism, some Mennonite lives out passive-ism. And still others cling to an ethnic identity which, while certainly important to heritage, is also exclusionary for those folks who don’t share that history.

I found this blog and thought perhaps it could be a helpful spiritual outlet for me. And, indeed, it has been.

But even us folks I think warrant a bit of constructive criticism, which I do submit comes from within my limited worldview, so take it with a grain of salt. YAR ain’t perfect. I may love this space, but I don’t unflaggingly support it. In the upcoming year, I would suggest the following to be considered by us folks: (more…)

Biblical Authority in the Global South

I am currently reading The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South by Philip Jenkins. It is a fascinating book and if you have a chance to read it, I would highly encourage it. You can also hear Philip Jenkins give a little bit of an overview of the book from his address at the Berkeley Theological Union.

I would like to share a few quotes for discussion. From the end of the the chapter “Power in the Book” which surveys contemporary African and Asian perspectives on the Bible and its striking conservatism in relation to Euro-American “scholarly” understanding of biblical interpretation, Jenkins writes:

By what standards, for instance, do churches decide whether particular biblical verses or passages carry special weight, or might be less authoritative than others? Except for the hardest of the hardcore fundamentalists, American Christians rarely believe that each and every verse of scripture carries the same degree of inspiration, and hence the same value. Instead, many assume an implicit hierarchy of texts, based on what is commonly viewed as the best scholarly opinion. So, for example, the assumption that St. Paul did not really write the Pastoral Epistles attributed to him – the letters to Timothy and Titus – means that these can be treated as less serious, less authoritative, than the apostle’s undoubted words in Romans or the Corinthian correspondence. To claim that “Paul didn’t really write this” consigns the Pastorals to a semi-apocryphal status. At one synod of the Church of England, a clerical presenter made the remarkable argument that since no scriptural texts prohibited the ordination of women, modern conservatives should not “set up artificial and inept lines that no one can defend”. Apparently, in such a view, the explicit prohibition on women’s leadership or teaching authority found in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 no longer ecen counts as part of the New Testament. Opinions can differ about the authority that such a passage should command, but for many believers, it literally has been read out of scripture. (Jenkins, 40)

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On the Separation of Church and State

I wrote this for the Brethren Mennonite Council blog but thought I’d cross-post it since it’s been quiet here for the last few days. If you need more context, you might check out the previous post on the BMC blog about the Human Rights Campaign/Logo Presidential Forum that j alan meyer mentioned here a while ago.

At this point, it seems somewhat likely that beginning January 21, 2009, a new Democratic administration of the United States will start working to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and beef up Hate Crimes laws. Glad to hear it. What isn’t clear yet is whether the discussion around same-sex marriage/civil unions will be about “what is achievable,” “states rights,” “a man’s journey,” or “the separation of Church and State” (all themes from the recent HRC/Logo forum). The Democratic front runners (the Republicans declined the invitation) want us to know that they are all for lgbt equality … as long is it doesn’t interfere with their chances of getting elected by including marriage equality. It is encouraging to hear that in the coming election, the most electable Democratic position is 90% gay friendly (not as good as 100% gay friendly but I’ll take what I can get for now). We’ve come a long way in the last few years but plenty of work remains.

I don’t have more to say about either Edwards or Richardson for now but I think Clinton should fire whoever came up with those states rights talking points. Didn’t we learn anything from the civil rights movement? States Rights is code language for “long, painful, tortured journey to someone else’s equality” now just as much as it was forty or fifty years ago. She should know better than that.

What I really want to address is Obama’s call for the separation of Church and State, which, for him, somehow means separate but equal (he, of all people, should know where that gets us). I first heard him go down this road during the CNN/YouTube debates. He didn’t seem to have a very good grasp of his own talking points and he ended up confusing even himself with his tortured explanation. He did quite a bit better in the HRC/Logo forum as he seemed to have prepped with his aides more and at least didn’t confuse himself. When he was done I said to myself “well…that’s almost a good idea.” (more…)

Kill the Indian, Save the Man

As it happens, I didn’t manage to keep writing throughout the week at San Jose. For that, I am sorry. I do want to share one little bit I found interesting during one of the presentations at the conference. One of the items that the delegate body voted on was a resolution (pdf) in support of bill in the US Congress to “acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the United States government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States.” Part of the presentation before this vote included some words from Steve Cheramie Risingsun, a Chitimacha Indian who leads Native Mennonite congregations in Louisiana and Alabama. You can read more about it at the Mennonite Weekly Review article.

The thing that I found particularly interesting about this was a comment made by Risingsun. He was talking about the various ways white colonizers mistreated Native Americans, tried to take away their culture, and were generally pretty nasty. He said that there was a phrase that was often used by these white folks: “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”

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Caution: Mennonite Church USA Institutional Politics Ahead

One of the items discussed by delegates at the Mennonite Church USA churchwide assembly this month in San Jose was an resolution proposed by a group called Menno Neighbors. It is an informal group that meets once a year and they have a pretty active listserve. The resolution was changed to a statement for discussion by the resolutions committee of the executive board so there would not be a vote, just discussion. I was one of delegates that signed in support of this statement (didn’t get on the printed copy because I signed to too late).

The resolution is a call for conferences to stop disciplining congregations for differences in interpretation of the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective and was written largely in reference to a number of congregations that have been disciplined or expelled from their conferences for being publicly welcoming and affirming of LGBT members (most recently Hyattsville Mennonite in Maryland).

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Democratic candidates will debate lgbtq issues

I don’t know if I should be bringing politics into this already-heated blog that’s taking on lgbtq, extra-marital sex, and abortion issues, but hey — why not? So here it is.

According to the New York Times, the Human Rights Campaign — an lgbtq rights advocacy organization — and Logo — a cable tv network geared toward the lgbtq community — will host a one-hour Democratic presidential candidate debate focused on gay rights issues on August 9. What impressed me most of all about this is that Clinton, Obama, and Edwards have all agreed to attend already.

Here’s the official press release from the HRC, and here’s the NY Times article.

Blog from San Jose

I’m writing from the Mennonite Church USA Churchwide Assembly in San Jose. I’ll try to keep some updates coming as I have time and content. I’m here more as a delegate from my congregation than as BMC staff but of course I still have similar concerns whether I’m wearing a BMC hat or just the Katie hat.The speaker at tonight’s adult worship session was Juan Martinez. I didn’t know of him before but you can read a bit about him here. As I listened to him speak, I was reminded once again that the church has a long way to go. The reason I say this isn’t because I disagreed with much of what he had to say, I felt he was right on as he spoke of the need for the church to deconstruct boundaries and break down walls. He spoke of the church needing to able to change and deal with diversity and I was there with him. I wish I took notes at these kind of things because then I would be able to give a better idea of his words to those gathered tonight. I’ll try to get my notebook out more the rest of the week so I can give better synopses.The thing that bothered me was that as he was talking about deconstruction and breaking down walls, and boundaries and such it was clear he was talking about language, race, and culture boundaries (maybe even gender, wish I had those notes that I didn’t take) and anything outside of that gets a little fuzzy. When I hear a good speaker talk about themes like this, I tend to apply the inspiring words to my own experience and think how well it all fits but, as far as I could tell, he wasn’t talking about some walls the church needs to deconstruct (or if he was, he wasn’t making that clear with his words). He wasn’t talking about the boundaries that push lgbt people out or tell them they are unworthy. He wasn’t talking about the walls for heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia. (more…)

Sexism has never been so much fun.

Ba-ack step, tri-ple step, tri-ple step, ba-ack step, spi-in left…

I had way too much fun swing dancing this weekend. When I sat down to blog about it on my personal blog today, I started realizing just how much gender roles are infused into that seemingly-innocent passtime. I thought back to my comment in response to Tom’s giving-up-music post, how it was admirable to be willing to give up something you like because something else is more important. I realized swing dancing might be that for me. Now, I know I only just got back into it, and it’s not an ingrained part of my life (yet; it very well could be soon). When near a thrift store today, I stopped in to see if they had any heel-less shoes I’d want to wear dancing.

The difference between music/secular music and dancing is the music is a personal morality issue, which the prolific YAR posters tend not to be concerned about, while the dancing definitely could contribute to social sexist pressures and all that. (more…)

What can a GMB possibly have to do with rage? (written at 5 a.m.)

I woke up way too early this morning from a strange dream, as I knew I would when I went to bed at 1. Whenever I go to bed in a distressed emotional state (thankfully this doesn’t happen too often) I sleep my physical tiredness off in a couple hours and then wake up right before the light starts to come, toss and turn for a while. I decided to get up and do something useful. My original idea was of something useful was studying for this huge test I have to take in about a week… but then I thought I’d elicit some words from you all instead. Still useful, right?

The dream was pretty funny, actually. I found myself forced to sit in a kind of revival-style worship service, surrounded by male friends from my hometown, kids my own age. I realized that we were all gay (in my dream), and that this was a service to try to convert us (to holiness and heterosexuality, I guess) The service built to a kind of altar call. A line of young men (who I recognized as older boys from my hometown) were marched in to surround us “sinners” and all assumed a kneeling position of prayer – they were to serve as beacons of virility and heterosexuality and virtue while we responded to the call. Defiantly, I got up and tried to make my way to their line and assume their same posture, to show that they had no exclusive claim on prayer or virtue. One of them got angry and pointed me back to my seat. (more…)

Faith: Nature or Nurture? Is it a choice? Can people change?

I was watching CNN today as I was eating my lunch (black beans and saffron rice with piccadillo and spinach salad – awesome) and they were playing a rerun of an Anderson Cooper special on Christianity and faith. One portion of the show touched on recent findings that a person’s capacity for faith and spirituality may be genetically related. The story was based on the idea proposed by Dean Hamer in his book, The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired Into Our Genes. I haven’t read the book, and probably won’t but I did check out a couple reviews of it (Scientific American and Washington Post).

It turns out that Hamer’s science is a little dodgy as it is full of caveats and contradictions and has yet to stand up to the rigors of peer-review. Maybe he should have done a bit more work before publishing, but that’s not really my point. Whether or not Hamer’s work is grounded in what we like to think of as “reality,” it brings up some interesting questions for discussion. And since the blog has been spookily quiet for about two days, I thought I might stir the pot a little (I’m sure you’ve all realized by now that I enjoy stirring it up). If you are game, follow me down this rabbit hole and we’ll see where it comes out.

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Is it really a sin?

OK. I had originally thought when I came to this blog that there was consensus on the issue of “homosexuality” (a term which I don’t like using, as it is often conflated with GLBT when it is a term that doesn’t refer to that whole spectrum). I don’t entirely like “GLBT” either (is there a privileging of groups in there?). I usually use queer and gender queer, I hope it is clear what I mean when I say that.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. I thought we had consensus on this issue. Yet from previous posts, it seems we don’t. There are others that I’m not linking to because I don’t have the time to search.

So, though I know Katie has sounded off on this many times and very well, even to me, I want to ask:

Is being queer (or gender queer) really a sin, as understood biblically?
As a related question: does it even make sense to look at it in this context?

Maybe this is a question for the sidebar.

If you’re arguing this either way, cite verse.

I’m not sounding off on this until I get at least 5 responses.

Also, all of the materials that Katie has linked us to should be in the sidebar if possible. They are invaluable.

Do We Look Like Jesus?

So many times we find a way to take the easy road out. It is easier to fight against something than to love someone. I am just as guilty as the next person. What do I mean? I mean sometimes we it’s easier to protest and petition than to take the time to love and care for those whom we are petitioning against.

Instead of trying to hold power over people by fighting against gay marriage, maybe we should come under and beside homosexuals and love and serve them. Show them their unmeasurable worth in God’s eyes. Allow God to transform hearts and minds. That’s what he does. Instead of telling homeless guys to “get a job” (or at least thinking it), maybe we should pull up a chair and spend time with them. We can find ways to get them work and a safe, warm and dry place to stay. Maybe even restore some dignity in the name of Jesus.

See, it is a lot easier to protest and petition than it is to love. It is alot cleaner. No one is saying we can’t believe in a cause or vote for what you believe, but have we tried to reach out to those people we rail so hard against? I know we say we love them and it isn’t about attacking them, but let’s put ourselves in their shoes. Jesus didn’t fight and protest against the tax collectors, prostitutes, outsiders and sinners. He embraced them. He served them. He showed them their unmeasurable worth. Do we look like Jesus?
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On the Choice of Sexual Expression – for clarification

I seem to be having a discussion on the same issue in two different threads and I think some folks might be confused. Therefore, I want to clarify an argument I was making.

Here is my argument: sexual expression is a choice. For everyone, regardless of orientation. I don’t think I’m making assumptions on particular sexual practices here or pejoratively ranking different types of sexual expression. There have been terms in the debate on this issue that have become ambiguous.

I have heard the argument levelled often that people who are queer have “chosen” to be that way. When you hear this argument, it is made by someone attempting to prove that they have left their “straight” ways and gone to “the dark side” (i’m a Star Wars geek, I can’t help the reference). However, as Walter Wink has noted, this does not allow the possibility of a homosexual orientation (thanks Katie).

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Who needs hate crimes protections?

The US House of Representatives just passed hate crimes legislation that would extend hate crimes protections to be based on sexual orientation and gender identity in addition to current protections for race, religion, color, and national origin. It still has to go through the Senate and then face veto by you know who.

The thing that really blows me away is that people are actually against this, and that those people happen to call themselves Chrisitians. Now, if folks have a problem with the idea of hate crimes protections in general, eh, I would be happy to discuss that. But the idea that some groups of people should get protections while other groups (groups which happen to experience a disproportionate amount of hate crimes) should not is completely ridiculous. As it happens, the religious right is coming out en force against hate crimes protections for lgbt people. I linked this article about this in an earlier post.

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“Sex” – More on bigoted language

Why is there so much talk about “sex” around here? What is this “sex” thing that we are saving for marriage? And what is this marriage thing?

The whole conversation is based in hetero norms and assumptions. Dictionary.com mainly defines “sex” the way we talk about “gender.” It also links to Coitus, which it defines as hetero intercourse – a penis penetrating a vagina. According to all that, I don’t have any gay friends who have ever had sex (coitus) in their lives (though most have had sex (gender) since birth or soon after).

So much for promiscuity. By hetero norms, Gay and Lesbian people are generally celibate, and it all gets confusing when you start talking Trans-gendered.

And don’t say “you know what we mean” because I don’t. Where’s the line? What’s the definition? Holding hands? Kissing? Petting? Nudity? Orgasm? Genital to genital contact? It’s not only a continuum without clear delineations, it doesn’t all even line up. Which is worse, clothed orgasm or nudity without touching? What about orgasm without touching? Where is oral or anal sex in the mix? What makes them more “sex” than, say, petting? There is no answer. Coitus is a hetero concept, and a false delimiter.

Language is important.

And then you have marriage. (more…)