Heaven – we have a problem! (with sexuality)

This was a week of controversy in the Blogosphere – at least in my neck of the woods.

The topic of gender, femininity, and sexuality were the touch points.  I am going to highlight 3 controversial blogs from this week … but first I want to acknowledge that it mirrored (albeit in a much smaller way) something happening in the larger culture that we are embedded in.

This was also a week that saw the Penn State football sexual abuse scandal rock the nation, the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations, and several other national news story related to discrimination, abuse, and harassment.

These three christian conversations that follow are not happening in a vacuum – perhaps that is why they illicit such a heated response and so much attention. It impacts all of us.

Post 1:  from Stuff that Christians Like – a post called ‘Girls with a Past’ was a little test (written by a man) that women could take to see if one qualified as intriguing or not.  It was satire (which not everyone gets or likes) and it pointed out a real problem. Now, some people were offended and took it out on the author. I just want to say that the situation is infuriating but we can’t take it out on the person who illustrates the problem, Jon was articulating a severe inconsistency between what we say and what we do in the ‘church’.

Here is his post: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2011/11/stuff-christians-guys-like-girls-that-have-a-past/ let me know what you think.  It got over 500 responses.

Post 2: Rachel Held Evans (one of my favorite bloggers) put up a post called “13 things that make me a bad feminist”. It is part of a series that she does from time to time – she has also admitted to being a bad ‘evangelical’ and ‘progressive’.  This post went over like a lead-balloon . This led to a guest-post the following day.

Here is the post: http://rachelheldevans.com/13-things-lousy-feminist . It got 149 responses.

Post 3: my co-host Tripp Fuller came out of the closet as not being ‘open and affirming’ on a video from Two Friars and a Fool. His contention was that affirming letters – whether L, B, G, Q, T, I or any other dash or asterisk – is an inherently limited response. It has two great dangers:

  1. it makes us feel like what have really done something, when all we have really done is 
  2. conceded the initial ground rules to the entrenched system.

The problem is that the system is capitalism and that means that ‘acceptance’ is becoming both something to market and a new group to be marketed to.

Tripp’s point of contention is that the gospel of Jesus calls the whole system into account. We can’t concede the rules of the game and then think that we are going to bring about the best-of-all-possibilities. The structure itself must be contested. The system can not be catered to – it must be undermined and subverted. People are too valuable to God to be classified by their genitalia or the genitalia of who they are attracted to. This was not received too well for the most part.

Here is the post: http://twofriarsandafool.com/2011/11/identity-politics-are-not-the-gospel/ it got 84 responses.


My take:

  • The 3,000 year old gender roles in the oldest parts of the Bible merely reflect that culture’s understanding and are not the last word on ‘natural’ design.
  • The 2,000 year old gender roles in the New Testament were written in context where women were basically property. They need to be revisited and revised.
  • The idea of ‘original sin’ is a constructed idea and not biblical. What it is addressing, however, is real and I think we all acknowledge that. It needs to be addressed in better ways without pre-modern understandings imposed upon it.  
  • Until we address these three subject the conversation will always circle around and around in endless and unhelpful loops of misunderstanding: 1) social conditioning 2) constructed reality 3) biological implications of being mammals.

I would be very excited to enter into this conversation if we did not live in such a contentious and acidic ‘Argument Culture‘.  Thoughts? 

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Rachel G, I grant the concern that you're writing here; what's always concerned me is the fluidity of the category "identity" and its deployment to contain entirely too many phenomena. I'm going to leave my answer there (I actually wrote about this earlier this calendar year at CHB and got some really interesting responses to it), but one of the many reasons that I like Rachel Held Evans, even as I resent her meteoric rise ;) , is that she's speaking for a wide swath of folks who don't any more identify with the Falwell-Dobson faction of evangelicalism but don't have much of an urge fully to throw in with (to use another phrase that's entirely too liquid) liberal Protestantism.

Rachel Gipson
Rachel Gipson

Hmmm...really interesting. First of all, my internet got messed up at the 4 minute mark of his video and never recovered, so forgive me for only addressing the part I saw. I hear what he is saying. And part of me feels that, sure, in a perfect world (or church) no special initials would be needed. As he said, we are all made in God's image. So, no need to specify who is welcome, right? Except the church has historically, and is currently, making open judgments about what identity is necessary to be "compatible with Christian teaching." Should someone look at the social principles of the united methodist church they would find statements on homosexuality, what constitutes marriage, and what self-identities are permitted to be ordained. The Church (capital C) is making distinctions based on identity. I feel this needs to be actively countered whenever possible. Should there be a system where each church NEEDS to make specific their belief that all are welcome to experience God's grace? No, and in that sense I understand that it is the structure that should be changed. However, until the language of The Church is changed, I feel it is important to make explicit that all are welcome. Not because I am progressive or liberal and want to "market" to certain crowds. But because I am Christian, and disagree with The Church's view on this, and feel those two things should be made explicitly known. (I am posting this without proof reading for errors or general stupidity. Good luck.)

Bo Sanders
Bo Sanders

My friend Shawn (and mother of two) sent me this note: Bo- You know I’m so very ready to have this conversation. I read all of the posts and also watched Tripp’s video clip, and was not offended once. I’m not sure what this says about me. I was birthed into 4 generations of Free Methodist pastors, and NEVER learned at home that gender was a liability or a limitation. I never heard that till pastors outside my family had my ear, and quoted snippets of scripture (WAY out of context) AT me (mostly after I disclosed my academic intentions). Painful journey, sure. Thank God for sensible, affirming parents. The question of gender identity is even more dicey, and I know Tripp’s comments aggravated a few, but the idea of questioning a STRUCTURE that gives credibility to the idea that there is any question of who is welcome in our churches (or allows for a list of who is not) appeals to me. I have so much to learn here. Really looking forward to this conversation.

Bo Sanders
Bo Sanders

Aric from Two Friars and Fool sent me this note: Definitely an interesting week. I’m actually pretty happy with where the conversation on Tripp’s article eventually went. It became more conciliatory over time and with Rebekah replying on her own blog, and Brian Ammons then offering a counterpoint which demonstrated they largely agreed I think we did finally get to some productive discussion. But I liked Tripp’s original point an thought the way he delivered it was hilarious and engaging and appropriate. If we can’t joke about these things then there is no hope of having a serious discussion with any merit either. On your take above – the gender roles of the Bible definitely need revisiting and revised, but there are a lot of seeds there which suit this work. The gender roles of the Bible frequently upset and contradict the gender roles of the ancient near east which provides us the paradigm for how we can go about upsetting and contradicting the gender roles of our day. Have you read any James Alison? His book on original sin “The Joy of Being Wrong” is superb.