Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Re-thinking the Bible and LGB/T People

The purpose of this post is to preserve some remarks I made on this subject on Facebook a couple of days ago. Some readers ask that I record them in a sharable format and so I shall. But first, a couple of paragraphs to provide context for other readers.

There is an incredible amount of really good material out there right now, and a new wave of some incredibly bad material, addressing how one reconciles Traditional Christian doctrines about human identity and sexuality with a modern understanding of these identities and the physicality associated with them. I do not propose that what I will write for this humble blog to be a contribution to the conversation on that level. But I have some thoughts.

It seems to me that the recently published material out there takes a pretty binary position. The repressive material such as recent works by Andrew Walker and Ryan T. Anderson, or the infamous Nashville Statement (which I addressed at length here) obviously takes a hard line against any expression of LGB/T identity. Even though they have shifted grudgingly off the denial that there is something innate about being gay or trans (barely) they still maintain a strict "repress it" position which effectively amounts to the same thing, except more cruel. They do so of course because, assuming you impart noble motives to them, they are absolutely committed to the Traditional doctrine that the Bible forbids both. As Article 10 of the Nashville Statement makes clear, they view it as a non-negotible litmus test of authentic Christianity to affirm that view. On the other end of the spectrum, most of the progressive material (which I endorse) argues that at a minimum the Bible CAN be read without finding condemnation for either trans or homosexual identities, if not must be read thus. The remarks that I am about to share present a point of view that falls, in a sense, between these contrasting positions.

 Much of the Traditionalist literature that acknowledges there is something beyond choice in being trans or homosexual still insist that with God's help, such a person can be "delivered" from acting on those "desires" as is argued in Stephen Black's book "Freedom Realized." The unaddressed question though, is to what is the person conforming - the edict of God or the tradition of men?

Yes, people can force themselves to conform to the demands of human tradition - either sincerely or as an outward facade - but such conformity does not (a) prove an actual change in the underlying nature; or (b) represent a validation of the
 tradition being conformed to. While I recognize that as one who's career and livelihood is completely dependent on being an officer in the anti-LGB/T army and thus, Black (or Walker or Anderson or passionately anti-trans Denny Burk) is wildly unlikely to actually give thoughtful consideration to the possibility they have been in error, I will nevertheless offer you the counter-argument that I offered in repose to the Nashville Statement, if as nothing more than a general response for the benefit of more fair minded readers.

While I recognize that there are passages in the Bible that can be interpreted as condemning all same sex relationship (there are not any against being trans, but I'll lay that aside for now) and I recognize that if the Bible is of any value at all, there is one objective reality when it comes to God's opinion on any given topic... the reality is that after 2,000 years Christians do not have unanimous consent on it (God's opinion) - on any given topic concerning human behavior or, indeed, very much else. So here's a question that deserves consideration:

Various Christian denominations have fundamental disagreements with each other about the nature and method of salvation, arguably the most important doctrine communicated in the Bible, yet well educated well intentioned and Christ seeking scholars cannot arrive at a unanimous consent on the details. Even so, the vast majority of Christians show deference and respect to their fellow believers who differ on this key topic, recognizing it is possible for sincere believers to disagree in their interpretation. On the single most important thing God revealed to us.

This is also true of a great many other doctrines big and small such as Baptism, the time and nature of worship, use of alcohol, how to dress, and so forth, and in the vast majority of cases (a couple of denominations are exceptions) there's obvious mutual respect. And yet according to these folks on this ONE issue - two actually, gay and trans are distinct and separate things, but they think of them as one - there can be NO deviation from their preferred interpretation of the relevant Scripture. 

So here's my question: how is it possible that an Omniscient God left room for his imperfect creation to disagree among themselves about the single most important message he ever authored for them, BUT at the same time was unmistakably clear about his view on the use of the penis? How does that make ANY sense? Do we REALLY think that's the model Christ walked for us in the Gospels? Prioritizing the Doctrine of sex and gender above all else in Scripture? How can anyone believe that?

Christ ministered to the outcast, the marginalized, the pariahs of society - Pharisees created pariahs by their traditions.He rebuked the Pharisees repeatedly, his "go and sin no more" remark was to a woman who was caught in an act that literally EVERY Christian recognizes as sin you can rightly infer that message to any person involved in actual sin, but that message does not give Black et al the last word on what IS sin. Christians of good faith have a GREAT deal of disagreement about what constitutes sin. Unless the SBC (and others) wants the holiness churches haranguing them because their wives wear makeup and jewelry and pants and their men sometimes wear beards because it's okay to impose YOUR concept of sin upon those with a different view? 

I was a preacher myself for 20 years, I know the drill. It's understandable that a congregation will be taught doctrine according to their denomination's views and their pastor's understanding, that process is not at issue here (even though that environment can be toxic for LGB/T kids) What is at issue is Pharisees taking THEIR definition of sin outside the congregation and trying to enforce it as a requirement upon the entire society, regardless of differing views even among Christians. The fact that Christians can come to the conclusion that "x" (whatever X may be) is sinful is natural, the notion that therefore EVERYONE must agree and comply that "x" is sinful and must be avoided is arrogant Phariseeism that looks nothing like what Christ modeled for us. The folks are very intent on LEGISLATING their doctrine upon all, even though both Paul and Peter specifically said "don't do that" and Christ said "my kingdom is not of this world". And failing that, using the power of collective shunning and shaming to force into compliance those they mark as deviant, even in the absence of legal recourse. 

For example: if you sincerely believe the Bible forbids interfaith marriages, then your task is to only marry a Christian - NOT to go about finding every person married to someone of a different faith and lecturing them about their sin, Scripture says each of us will give an account of our OWN sins, and that there is no man who is a mediator between man and God. If that person believes that God does not forbid that marriage, that's between them and God. It doesn't concern you (and so much the less so when Pharisees try to enforce their doctrines under color of law). Remember, too, that what a given church - say the SBC - or a given person is absolutely convicted is sinful changes over time. 60 years ago millions of "Good Christians" were absolutely convinced race mixing was sinful. Did God change his mind? No.

Rather, failing and imperfect human beings were forced to realized their traditional doctrine, no matter how sincerely held, was in error (or perhaps in some cases simply recognized their ministry would suffer if they kept preaching that) and that has happen many many times in church history, and it continues to in our generation. 

I'm not even finding fault here with your interpretation of those relevant passages, rather I'm finding fault with the arrogant assumption that you can't POSSIBLY be wrong - on this ONE subject there is no mistaking God's word. That, folks, is the way of the Pharisee. 

I have, as you can see from my other infrequent posts her and my regular posting at The Girl Inside, quite a bit else to say on the subject of the intersection of traditional religion and trans identities, including prominently some theories about the motivations of the Traditionalist Pharisees.  I want to make clear here that my intent is not to impart credibility to the arguments of the Traditionalists, but to present a different angle on viewing the topic which steps outside the "You're wrong/No you're wrong" debate. Ultimately, one has to be able to at least CONSIDER the possibility their view is in error if they are ever going to grow in wisdom and knowledge. My appeal to people like Mr. Black (however doomed to failure) and those who might find their arguments persuasive (perhaps softer ground for the seed) cannot start with "let me tell you why you are wrong" unless the question is first asked - will you even consider it possible that you might be?

Feel free to share this material as you see fit. Link backs to either blog (or both) are appreciated.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Nashville Statement: A Rebuttal

(Note: cross posted from another site for which I write)

Regular readers of this site are familiar with my continued confrontation with the unsound and abusive decelerations of "Evangelical Christian" (falsely so-called) Traditionalists towards LGB/T people and particularly as they make reference to trans people. For some of you then, you will have seen before some of the points I intend to make here but for the sake of a comprehensive response, it is necessary.
Likewise, you may have seen this preliminary disclaimer but it bears repeating: When I respond to an abusive religious act I do so within the context of assuming the overall theological system for the sake of argument. It would be a futile pursuit and well beyond the scope of my interest to attempt to defeat either the entire Christian worldview, or that particular flavor thereof known as "Evangelical." Rather, I make my case within the assumption that the larger theological claims (A creator God for example) and that even within this theology their attacks are unsupported. If you read this from a skeptical, or even atheistic point of view, it's necessary for you to understand this.

What follows then, are excerpts from today's "Nashville Statement" issued jointly by the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and an outfit called the "Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" made up, as you might suspect, of the usual suspects when it comes to political Phariseeism. This document seeks to be yet ANOTHER manifesto from the Traditionalist position raging against the growing acceptance for the moral free-agency and legal equality of LGB/T persons. A thousand words could easily be written about this crowd's fixation with this subject above all others but...I've probably written a thousand words about that more than once so I'll move on to the document at hand this time. Along with each excerpt, a brief rebuttal. I purposely write this before having read anyone elses response so that the thoughts are, insofar as I can make them, my own. Due to the quoting, the article will be considerably longer than usual, about three times as long, I hope you find it worthwhile anyway.
From the preamble:
"As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being."
No, sirs. Rather Western Culture is increasingly understanding of and accepting of the reality that their are biological exceptions to the general principles of the sexual and gender binary. There is no significant movement towards any philosophy which revises or redefines humanity in general.
"Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female."
No, sirs. The Biblical witness is not disputed (even by yourselves in other contexts) in that it minimizes God's concern with our physicality and prioritizes the spiritual inward person. Has not God said "Man looks upon the outward appearance, but God looks upon the heart"? Other than Paul's reference to one's body as a temple, there's virtually nothing in the New Testament that can be interpreted as God's having an overt interest in one's physical structure. Indeed, later in the Statement you make direct reference (in Article 6) to words of Christ which speak to the exact opposite conclusion.
"The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God."
Here we find the overt telegraphing of the real intent here - to read into Scripture the extra-biblical conclusion that accepting one's gender identity (or sexual orientation) leads to ruin. The very great many healthy and fulfilled lives of LGB/T persons - many if not most of them Christians themselves - bear witness to the contrary, but because human religious tradition has declared that ruin awaits, it is necessary for the 21st century Pharisees signing this Statement to declare the Bible has said so when it has not.
"This secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age?"
How often has the church down through 2,000 years repeated this question to it's later shame? Especially the SBC? Indeed did not this very question ring from the rafters of churches across the south (and elsewhere) a mere 60 years ago on a different but similar subject? How often will the church repeat the error of assuming that because a concept violates tradition it therefore violates God? Since before the days when Galileo (and others) ran afoul of the Vatican (and others) by saying "and yet, it moves" the church has been repeating this error and still they rush headlong to do so again.
"Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be."
This alludes to the Traditionalist cliche that "God made you (individually) what you are" - this is a persistent bit of pseudo-doctrine that does not stand even a little bit of logical scrutiny. If we assume that every detail of one's physicality is personally and specifically custom designed for each child by God during pre-natal development, then we are forced to affirm that when a child is stillborn, or born with some horrific developmental defect which causes their death within minutes, that that is precisely the outcome God designed and intended. Do you know ANY one who would agree that this is the case?
Moreover, later in the Statement (Article 6) the writers acknowledge the existence of Disorders of Sexual Development which place some people clearly outside the parameters of a strict sexual binary of the sort the entire statement is designed to defend. Once these conditions are recognized as legitimate and real biological outcomes, then the inescapable logical outcome can only be one of two conclusions: (a) Either God does NOT custom design every detail of every individual born (with the intent of a strictly binary outcome); OR (b) God specifically designed these non-binary outcomes which, if true, defeats the entire rational for this Statement.
"We believe that God’s design for his creation and his way of salvation serve to bring him the greatest glory and bring us the greatest good."
I'm just going to leave this right here until I get to Article X. Hold this thought.
From Article 1
"We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God."
So, those of you who got married in any sort of civil ceremony - you're not really married, according to these folks. In reality, the question of marriage settled by Obergefell is one of CIVIL marriage which is not beholden to or under the authority of any religious authority. These folks are perfectly free to restrict the sacrament of marriage within their individual houses of worship according to any traditions and doctrines they may hold applicable. They are NOT entitled to nor justly empowered to extend their traditions and doctrines to the administration of civil marriage. This is a distinction the Pharisees refuse to recognize.

From Article 2
"We deny that any affections, desires or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage."
Laying aside the extreme unlikelihood that the signatories of this Statement are uniformly in compliance with this sentence and always have been (there's a lot of arrogance in the concept of "yes when I was young and foolish I did it too but God forgave me so it's all good"), If this is a teaching they wish to affirm they are entitled to, but they set up their trap by then denying the person in question a legitimate marriage and ask that person to take on a burden they themselves never have to consider. From

Article 3
"We deny the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth"
Remember what I said about things the church used to teach that they have come to deny now? Yeah, that's one of them. If they were wrong about this point back then - and they were - why are they so arrogant in their position now?

From Article 4
"The divinely ordained difference between male and female reflect God's original creation design and are meant for human good..."
Yeah? That's swell because their is no movement of any significance to mitigate the distinct physical differences between male and female. You are reframing the trans discussion in terms that give you license to oppose it but your terms are a lie. About 1% of the population finds in themselves a gender identity that is incongruent with their outward physical construct, virtually all of those people seek to conform the outward appearance to the inward identity by conforming to the gender binary - simply on the other side of it. A tiny minority of those folks are uncomfortable with either binary classification but even they (with a tiny fringe of exceptions - and if we're going to talk about a tiny fringe I've got a few C"Christian" pastors like Fred Phelps or Kevin Anderson that we need to discuss) are not saying "None of you can be binary, being binary is completely wrong for everyone!" Rather, they are simply asking for your empathy and respect as the deal with the difficulties in their own life.
Also? According to your own creationist dogma, NONE of us perfectly reflect God's creation design as described in the Eden story because of an event known as The Fall with which I believe you are familiar. Adam and Eve, insofar as the Bible describes, were perfectly healthy without any physical defect. And yet we know that no human exists who can be described thus. The Bible says they were innocent in that they had no need even of clothing - yet there you stand, not only dressed but prepared to be outraged at any sign of nudity. So let us dispense with the deception that just because a state of being existed in Eden it is therefor rigidly incumbent upon all post-Eden humanity.

From Article 5
"We affirm that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God's design for self conception as male and female"
Now we're getting into the meat of it. In the very next Article you acknowledge the existence of people born in a physical state that is an exception to this binary arrangement you here insist upon. IF in point of fact a clearly binary "reproductive structure" is indispensable for one's self understanding as male or female, then whence comes any gender identity or role for intersex persons? And if in fact you acknowledge the legitimacy of these exceptions to the rigid binary, from whence comes the insistence that trans people cannot possibly represent a different manifestation of "exception"? I'll tell ya whence - from human tradition.
The statement goes on to deny "that physical anomalies...nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception." Essentially this fully admits that they know full well what the counter-argument is and the only response they can muster is "is not!" To be clear, no one suggests that the existence of intersex person - or trans persons - proves that the typical congruence between physicality and gender identity is illegitimate or not normative. What it DOES demonstrate, indisputably, is that exceptions exist.

 From Article 6
"...those born with disorders of sex development are...acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about 'eunuchs born that way from their mother's womb'"
And THIS, folks, is how you know that these are not men making an innocent mistake of hermeneutics but people deliberately and with malice aforethought misusing Scripture to serve the purpose of defending a human cultural tradition. The walk right up to the single most crucial passage in all of Scripture for determining God's view of trans people and selectively quote it while ignoring the rest. That verse (Matt. 19:12) goes on to say that some eunuchs are "made that way by men" and others "made themselves eunuchs." Now, it is true that a eunuch in the Biblical sense is not entirely a perfect analogue for a modern trans person but it is very close. As noted in the statement, the first group would seem to be intersex person, but the second group - whether made by force or voluntarily - are surgically modified persons who do not play the social and cultural role expected of one of their birth sex. And the third group, while traditionally assumed to be those who'd taken a religious vow - this is only a retroactive assumption. Christ does not make further comment which would clarify that. Jesus goes on to say "accept them" but the 21st Century Pharisees wish to pick and choose which they will accept.
Bonus point - the God these people profess to serve himself ordered an entire people group to enforce upon all males a surgical modification of the "god designed" reproductive organs. Likewise the same God ordained as a prophet and a Scripture writer a man who, by virtue of his position at court, was most certainly a eunuch. Hmmm.

From Article 7
"...that self conception as male or female should be defined by God's Holy purposes in Creation and Redemption as revealed in Scripture."
Nothing in Scripture describes any such purpose at odds with sexual transition. The typical tactic is to default to reproduction (which has nothing to do with the doctrine of redemption) but this dodge falls apart when one notes the absence of condemnation for, for example, voluntary sterilization.

From Article 8
"We deny that sexual attraction for the same sex is a part of the natural goodness of God's original creation..."
And? Neither is divorce. Neither is, say, diabetes or autism. So what? Post fall, remember?

From Article 9 (nevermind - circular reasoning)

 From Article 10
"We affirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness. We deny that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree."
There are actually 14 articles but I'm going to conclude with this one because I do not want any reader to miss the gravity of this statement. These men have written, and mostly men (and a few women) have attested their name in affirmation, that complete rejection of trans identification and same-sex relationships is AN ESSENTIAL COMPONENT OF SALVATION.
Are you getting this? If you accept an LGB/T person YOU CANNOT BE SAVED.

Laying aside difference of organizational structure there appears to be about 40 different distinct variations of Christian belief. Certainly their are a number of major groups with readily identifiable doctrinal difference which, for the most part, Christians "agree to disagree" about, including numerous behavioral matters.But let me take just one. There are a number of distinct and contradictory doctrines within the body of Christianity about how an individual is redeemed to God.

The Church of Christ, and the Charismatic doctrines, and the Baptist, and the Catholic and the Presbyterian formulation and more - cannot possibly be reconciled collectively into a single unified doctrine of salvation. Yet you guys are not at constant warfare declaring all others to not be legitimate Christians if they do not share your position (some do, but not all of them).

So - and I want to direct this question specifically at the authors - it is your argument that God Almighty in his wisdom communicated in such a manner about the single most important doctrine in Scripture that disagreement about it is tolerable, BUT he communicated so VERY clearly about his view of the penis that to dissent from that doctrine puts one outside the sphere of legitimate Christianity? Remember that quote from the preamble about "God's way of salvation"? Shouldn't there be unanimous consensus on what exactly that is before you presume to lecture people on their innate identities?

 Seriously? I have my doubts, sir, that your motivation here is in any sense the desire to honor the revealed will of God as faithfully as possible. With all due respect, one does not have to be a theologian to see the obvious and unmistakable errors in your case. That being the case, one is forced to speculate about your true motives. But I'll leave that speculation aside for another day.

In conclusion - I'm willing to recognize that the verses related to homosexual activity are open to a variety of interpretations, among them your hardline view; I'm certainly willing to acknowledge the verses supporting the strict marriage confines of sexual activity (to the extent that I acknowledge various other standards which are imperfectly applicable to humanity such as the standards for divorce); and in contrast I've yet to see any of you make even a vague and shaky case using sound biblical exegesis for classifying being trans, or transitioning, as sinful. However, the unmitigated arrogance of declaring that those who interpret these passages differently from yourselves are by definition not Christians at all is breathtaking. If there had ever been any doubt that modern American traditionalist Evangelicalism (and their political allies) are firmly committed to the path of the first century Pharisee, rather than Jesus Christ - this Statement firmly removes those doubts.

 May God have more mercy on you all then you are willing to extend to those with whom you disagree.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Perfect Scam

Wow. Over a year since I made use of this blog space. Such a waste. I really should do better!

Okay, here's today's lesson. It's called The Perfect Con and no, in this case, it's nor directly about Donald Trump (although the implications of it worked to his benefit). Before I get into the details, though, let's define some terms I'll be using.

Many people on the left, particularly LGB/T persons, have had a rough experienced with organized religion and are pretty alienated to it. So when politically active Evangelical Christians (and their allies among Catholics, Mormons, Fundamentalists and Charismatics) behave badly, they generalize and say "All Christians...". I don't think that's fair. Whatever one might think of organized religion in general, or any particular theology, there are in fact a great many people who identify as Christians who are very kind, compassionate, and loving and who let their religion motivate them to good works and self sacrifice. 

So when I speak of the sort of folks who channel their religion into the sort of political activism that works to drive partisan conservative politics (even on subjects which have nothing to do with their religious views, I need another term. I can't simply say "Evangelicals" because not all Evangelicals run in that crowd and not everyone in that crowd is an Evangelical. I wanted a term that described anyone within the nominal sphere of Christian religions who's belief system and worldview motivated them to involve themselves in politics with the goal of invoking the secular political power structure to enforce their doctrinal rules and traditions on everyone, whether or not that person believed those things themselves.

As a brief example of how this works, take same sex marriage (and before that, interracial marriage). It is a historical truth that in this country the government's definition of civil marriage (and that's all the government has the authority to speak to - the marriages it recognizes in civil law) has not necessarily been conjoined to any specific religious tradition. When racists in the 20th century had laws against interracial relationships, they tried to defend them with religiously informed traditions but it was rightly determined that one could not legislate their religious views on those who did not share them. The state needed a secular reason for the ban and it had none. The same applies to same sex marriage. When someone argues that the state must defend marriage "as god intended it" they are asking the state to enforce a religious view on people who may not share it. Which is what these folks unabashedly wanted, still want, to do.  

So we are speaking of people who expect all people to obey the religious rules they determined to be correct by force of law and actively seek to manipulate the political system to lay that burden on the public. Sounds to me very much like the Pharisees described in the New Testament. For awhile I called them NeoPharisees but it works either way. When I say Pharisees, then, I mean the politically active professed Christian, of whatever sort, who seeks to manipulate the political system to support laws and policies that enforce religious traditions upon all by force of law, whether or not any individual subscribes to them, with little or no secular rational for the law or policy in question. Their history goes back to blue laws, anti-gambling measures, prohibition, so-called "decency" laws and segregation. In the current hour, they are almost uniquely obsessed with crusading against LGB/T equality.

Who are the Pharisees of our day? The most prominent face of this crowd is Tony Perkins. I'm not going to make this post that much longer by telling you about him, if you are reading this you already know. Anyone allied with, or in agreement with Perkins in the religious community in a leadership position is a NeoPharisee. The leadership of his organization, the Family Research Council and their mother organization Focus on the Family, the leadership of American Family Association and all their on-air personalities on the radio network. Prominent "ministers" such as Franklin Graham, literally hundreds of self-described "ministries" from NOM, to FML, scores of  pundits like Michelle Malkin and Erik Erickson, anyone associated with Liberty University, several legal defense organizations like Liberty Council and Alliance Defending Freedom. The whole scope of online "Christian" media like Charisma News and OneNewsNow (owned by AFA) and LifeSiteNews (a Catholic outfit). Basically anyone in a position of prominent political or media influence claiming to speak from a "real" or "genuine" Christian authority who exclusively supports conservative "culture war" political issues.

But there are millions more who follow these leaders wherever they are led. I don't speak of these as Pharisees because they are not the "lawgivers" but those being dictated to.  The term I use here is "Traditionalist" because inevitable the Pharisee appeals to the follower by asserting that their traditions are under assault. Indeed, very often the moral cause they are fighting for is rooted in human tradition that's simply been grafted onto their Christian doctrines (for example, there's no real Biblical support for opposing trans people, the whole doctrine is of human traditional origin). These folks have unwittingly shifted their first allegiance from the God they claim to worship, to the body of tradition they are indoctrinated into. Sometimes I'll refer to these people as "sheep."

Now, with that said, the purpose of this essay is to expand upon something I allude to in various conversations. It may only serve to be a resource I can link back to from time to time but there's value, I hope, in having it laid out in somewhat exhaustive terms. What I'm saying here I base not on an outsider's point of view. I spent most of my life as a loyal Traditionalist, so much so that I willingly allowed and supported the premise that I myself was a deviant and pervert  and hated myself for it. Whatever the Pharisees told me I believed and I was willfully blind to any info from the "liberal" sources outside my echo chamber. Not that I'm out of that trap, I have the wherewithal to analyze their con from all angles, and this is what I see. There's a sort of three point circuit in operation which requires all three to function properly. Pharisee leaders, Conservative - usually Republican - politicians, and obedient sheep Traditionalist voters.

Since the 1970s, Pharisee leaders have evolved a sophisticated machine which generates for them financial gain and political influence. I won't take time here to crib the excellent work down by others about the origins of this machine, for that see this excellent piece at Politico, and watch this segment (and part two) by the wonderful Samantha Bee. My comments are about the structure of what has developed since. Have you ever noticed that virtually everything that any Pharisee group set out to crusade against eventually gets worse, as they define "worse", the longer they oppose it? There's a reason for that: success isn't really their goal. As the linked resources above demonstrate, the original goals were political and they still are.

So herein, let me describe to you how the Machine operates.
1. Pharisee leaders declare the X (whatever "X" happens to be in the given moment, at this time you can easily think of "X" as crusading against the equality of trans people) is a grave threat to good people, and liberals are pushing X. "You," they say to the listener/reader "should be afraid of X and angry and those trying to force it."
2. Listener/reader becomes angry and fearful, wonders what to do
3. Pharisees say "vote conservative and send us money so we can fight against X"
4. Sheep obey
5. Pharisee goes to Republican politicians "here's a bill we want you to pass, if you do we promise you big greasy piles of votes. If it goes to court, our allied legal team will defend it for you at no cost to the state."
6. Republicans pass bill, regardless of whether courts will allow it. Think HB1523 in Mississippi, or HB2 in North Carolina, both written by these very organizations.
7. Pharisees to sheep: "See? Republicans are fighting X, vote for them and send us more money so we can keep fighting"
8. Sheep obey
9. Law is taken to court, Pharisee lawyers defend it, while soliciting donations for the cost of the fight which total much more than they would have made had the state paid them straight up.
9a. Law upheld "Victory! Send us more money so we can keep up this great work"
9b. Law struck down. "Outrageous! Send us more money so we can fight the evil liberal judges!"
10. whether or not X is ever defeated, Republicans get elected, Pharisees get richer and more politically powerful, sheep remain afraid and angry and ever more gullible.

It's a perfect scam.

There are, of course, variations on the model. For example, when Democrats attempt to pass pro-equality legislation (for example) and the Pharisees rush to crusade against it they basically play the same game "Send us money so we can fight it!" If they win "We won, send us more money (and vote like we tell you to) and we'll keep fighting" and if they lose "this just shows our evil opponents are strong and well funded so send us more money to fight harder." Either way, same set of results. Actually changing the law or policy is a bonus, even if they eventually lose that progress, the real goal is money and political power. This Machine will continue to operate as long as the sheep stay gullible and ill-informed.

Most observers believe that what turned the corner on the "gay rights" movement was when so many gay and lesbian people came out over the last 20 years or so, because people found it harder to hate people as a group when they knew and liked (or loved) a member of that group. Not that we don't still have examples, like the attorney general of Louisiana, who find it in themselves to be hateful even when it's towards someone the claim is a loved one, but many people can't do that. The knowledge that, for example, their sister is a lesbian opens their mind to rethink the traditions of thought they'd be saturated in all their life. That's why the Pharisees invest so much of their resources into keeping the sheep ignorant and gullible. Their greatest enemy is knowledge. So our greatest weapon against them, is knowledge. It may seem as if we're banging our collective heads against a wall, put it's the engine that is changing our culture, little by little, for the better. But don't think for a moment that the Pharisees are going to give up their Machine any time soon.

Photos by flipchip /

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What kind of future?

So. My wife and her (supposedly) most understanding family member saw fit to remind me of my place in their hearts with this little gem.
(this is going to be quite long, but you can't say this right in 20 words)

I'm not even going to get into an angry argument, and I'm asking right now for my actual friends to not go there either, however tempted you may be. But I did want to share it to make this very important point:

It is absolutely and unequivocally true that my transition has caused her indescribable pain and loss. She seems to believe that I can't imagine that or simply don't care (if I simply didn't care I'd have seized the moment and ran at the first of the year or, more exactly, left empty handed years ago, but nevermind that) but she couldn't be more wrong. I'm far more aware of the pain she's feeling than her or any of her allies could possibly hope to understand of what they would have me accept and live with, moreover, I doubt seriously any of them even think they need to try. Yes, I do in fact understand what she's feeling - a loss she would feel in one form or another whichever solution to me no-win dilemma I might have chosen (or could chose now) - but more than that I know how and why we got to this place, and THAT is the reason for this post, not any desire to hold her and her supporter up to criticism.

Here's why:

Because I, and everyone else in my generation trans or not were raised and formed in a world which was almost completely ignorant on the condition I'm dealing with. Even the "experts" were just reacting to outward signs and flailing for explanations, often getting it wrong - one of the most notorious explanations of it was entirely wrong. BECAUSE I was completely ignorant, I was SHAMED into fighting an impossible battle to deny this reality. BECAUSE the world was ignorant, it doubled and tripled the shame. Reveled in it. Wallowed in it. Took great pleasure in humbling and humiliating the very few of us willing to endure it in order to live the truth of their heart and soul. Those of us ashamed and afraid not only saw that shaming but even learned to do it to our own selves.

And so, like so many others, I tried desperately to "do the right thing" - hide my shameful secret and be "normal" - dare to fall in love, have the temerity to get married and have kids, and (in my case) become the very sort of shamer that had made me hate myself. And because I dared. Because I thought, honestly thought, that being what I am with something that could be controlled, repressed, repented of, I involved an innocent and unsuspecting woman in my life. I made her promises - in LOVE - and in all sincerity, that I'm not able to keep.

Because. !. Was. Lied. To.

Lied to by the whole world I lived in, the whole culture that surrounded me, all of it. Jokes like the one in this image were "everybody knows" and "common sense" and THAT is the lie. THAT is the shaming that everyone like me learned from their mother's knee and THAT LIE is why she is in pain tonight. Because of THAT lie, I put her in a no-win situation right along beside me.

It is an absolute abomination that one so desperately hurt BY that l;ie now thinks it makes sense to stand among those trying to push that same lie on a new generation of trans people.

You know what that means? A whole new generation that feels shamed and disputed and degraded by even those very people they trust most to love them; a new generation of parents ashamed of and abusive towards their own kids because they feel shamed to have a child who's trans; a whole new generation of people who, far more than half the time, will try to take their own lives rather than endure it (and far too often succeed)...and a whole new generation of trans people who will subject themselves to THAT LIE and try to "do the right thing" and fight it...and they will dare to fall in love...have the temerity to marry and have kids..and someday come to the breaking point and do to some other woman just what was done to my wife.

And yet in every single word and act in which she, and those who support her, and those who simply don't understand, and those who are still mis-informed about what the Bible says - all with the best of intentions! - that seeks to shame, humiliate, and mock trans people, all those well intentioned folks join hands with the hateful and mean-spirited folks to ensure that some innocent woman in the years to come will be hurting just like she is now.

And the worst part of it all is - she can't conceive that any of what I just wrote is true.

Those of you who REALLY want to be good, do good, treat people like you think Christ would have you treat them - please, for the love of the God whom you serve, STOP POSTING HATEFUL, CALLOUS, COLD-HEARTED BULLSHIT LIKE THIS!!!! When you do, it says far more about your heart than it does about mine.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Face Off

Less than 3 months and already another blog post? What's the world coming to?! My stars and garters!

So let me preface these comments with a very prominent disclaimer: I'm not in these comments attacking or disputing the existence of God as you - if you - believe him to exist. Those who know me know I've grown up in mostly Southern Baptist Churches, and those who know me reasonably well are aware there's still a license to preach in a box 'round here somewhere with the name I no longer claim on it. I can't say that I am, any longer, a fan of man-made orthodoxy. While the Bible says that Scripture is not of any private interpretation, it also says that each person gives an account to their own master, not to other people.

I have spent some time sorting out whether the things I believe are supported more by Scripture or by religious tradition, and that alone can cut away a lot of weeds, but also, I've tried to re-examine some on-the-surface irrational things and reconcile them with a point of view that doesn't go so far as "made-up-by-sheepherders." To the traditionalist believer, it's "falling away" at best, to the skeptic it's rationalization. Be that as it may, I still believe there is a real deity behind the New Testament concept of God  (i.e. a God of grace, not a god of law). But for the purposes of the rhetorical conceit of this post, I'm laying that aside. In some points here I'm saying "you" or "they" when technically it would be correct to say "we" but I think that would get confusing.

Hat-tip, by the way, to Jillian Page for her post which inspired this one - hopefully I can elaborate on the thought, and not just re-word it.

One of the fundamental premises of Traditionalist (i.e. Fundamentalists, Evangelical, Orthodox Catholics, Mormons and most Charismatics - as distinct from all Christians) hold about trans people is that we suffer a "delusion." Basing their entire concept of sex/gender on genitalia (except when they style themselves clever and bring in DNA) they insist it is self evident that one who believes they are authentically the gender that doesn't align with their genital sex is delusional. But as Page points out, there's a big elephant in that room - they believe in something much less objectively proevable than I do.

Go back 30 years and it would have been hard to say that. Until recent innovations in medical technology, claiming that a transsexual was "born that way" was necessarily a highly subjective claim. Most of the available evidence to be analyzed relied on the patients (collective) account of their internal perception of self, and the manner in which they dealt with it - and that reaction too subjective in that it couldn't be divorced from environmental factors (for example, in 1980 it wasn't the same thing to come out in California - difficult - as it was to come out in Mississippi - virtually impossible). It's only in the last couple of decades that we begin to accumulate objective observable evidence that there is a biological basis for the condition.

But that evidence has now been observed and the database of such is constantly growing. It is not entirely conclusive how it happens yet, though there are some pretty good hypotheses, but few things in science are conclusive. So the claim of the trans person is no longer entirely based on subjective "feelings" and, moreover, as more and more trans kids come to light the more popular "alternate explanations" for transsexualism can be objectively demonstrated to not be credible. In short, my so-called "delusion" has scientific credibility that is objective and not dependent on my subjective opinion.

Now contrast this to any system of organized theistic religion you might wish to name. For example, the religion I was brought up in. That system of belief holds that the Earth and all creation are considerably younger than the scientific evidence would suggest (by many orders of magnitude), it holds that the origin and history of life (as we know it today)  was radically different than what the science seems to suggest, and from there it holds one long series of claims after another than to the rational mind seem insanely improbable (i.e. that it's possible to cover the entire surface of this planet with water for just one example) and along the way cite the infallibility of a book they then have to work very hard to explain on some points (the idea that the sun stood still in the sky, for example, or that God commanded a pack of bears to kill children for mocking the baldness of his prophet). Yes, it is possible to rationalize much if not all of that and not kill the whole point of reading the book at all, but what I mean is the things that are held without being explained away (for example, taking the Noah story at face value rather than as a fable with a moral lesson.

Beyond that, the whole Christian experience, in the best light, could - by the unbeliever - be called delusional. You'd believe, at a minimum, that there is a being whom no one has ever seen, and for whom all evidence is subjective; a being wo, among many other puzzling aspects, was able to both pray to himself and answer his own prayers, to sacrifice himself to himself and resurrect himself from death; to whom the prayers of the righteous are persuasive even when they pray for contradictory outcomes; one who is always to be praised if we survive the tornado but not to be faulted when our neighbor does not. Some of you believe that being placed under the water for a few seconds is the difference between eternal bliss or eternal pain to name one of a hundred variants of ritualistic behavior, none of which have any objective evidence for their claims. Heck, the very claim of eternal bliss/damnation has no objective evidence.

But it is nevertheless passionately believed. To many people, including many who once believed it, that's the ultimate in "delusional" and yet it is THOSE people who MOST passionately condemn what they see as "delusion" in the trans person.

Am I arguing that religious beliefs ARE delusional? No, I'm not. Rather, I'm arguing that if the Traditionalist critic of trrans people is evaluated according to the very calculus they wish to apply to trans people, they score FAR worse on the "potentially delusional" tally. I'm suggesting that given that their belief system, AND MINE, is based on a big steaming pile of subjective experiences and speculative conclusions, that any such person is poorly positioned to question the legitimacy of my gender identity claims. Put another way, if you want to believe that the Earth was created in a week six thousand years ago, and you want to believe that any day now the true church will be Ruptured out in advance of Seven Years of Tribulation and you want to believe that all of humanity save eight people were destroyed in a flood - GREAT! Knock yourself out. That belief alone does me nor anyone else any harm (there are religious beliefs that do others harm, but lets not get too far into the weeds with the comparison).  I'll not call you delusional or try to get in your way.


You are not then in a position to criticize people who have actual objective tangible scientific evidence
in their favor as being victims of delusion who must be saved from their own error. At least have a little bit of intellectual consistency and self awareness.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

About Zoey Tur and Misplaced Priorities

So, we're apparently at it again. Once again some high profile trans person is going off the reservation appointed for us by the arbiters of what trans people are allowed to say and think. I've tried to confine my remarks on this to short (for me) replies on various sites where the brouhaha is...brou-ing? But at some point their gets to be more to say than can be confined to a tweet or a Facebook post.  So knowing that (a) hardly anyone pays attention to my blog (and why should they when I post so seldom?) and (b) if they do this will catch hell, let me wade in anyway.

First, a disclaimer: We all disagree with everyone at some point on some score. Rare indeed is the valued friend in the trans community, or respected "leader" with whom I haven't disagreed on some point. I'm absolutely certain Zoey Tur has said or implied something lately which I simply don't accept. This post is NOT about defending Zoey Tur from measured and appropriate disagreement. However, the ongoing controversy over Tur brings to light (again) some other unsettling realities that need addressing. If you read this as a fangirl defense of Zoey you are missing the point.

I'll taken it as a given that anyone who's read this far is at least somewhat familiar with the nature of the dust up but I do have a few followers who are not tuned into the massive soap opera that is internal politics among trans celebrities. By the way, for clarity, by "celebrities" I mean both celebrated folks who have transitioned and thus have platforms, AND those celebrated as trans "leaders" whether or not they enjoyed any notoriety previously - I'm not prepared to concede to the latter group the title of "leader" whatever their self professed qualifications.

Zoey Tur is a national correspondent for Inside Edition who has been employed in journalism for decades before her transition (I'm not going into the whole business of what her name was and what she did, other than to note she has experience and is not just a "famous face" fake correspondent. She's transitioned relatively recently, as compared to some of the other celebrated trans folks, and that provides ammo to her critics in that she's perceived as "wet behind the ears" when publicly addressing trans related news, as she is being repeatedly called upon to do.

So, first the news story. In a Planet Fitness location in Midland Michigan, a person since identified as Carlotta Slodowska entered the women's locker room, s/he says, to stow her coat and purse, and later again to retrieve them. Unbeknownst to her at the time, another patron named Yvette Cormier saw her, clocked her as a male, and protested to management who told her Carlotta was within company policy. Cormier, having failed to receive satisfaction proceeded to spend a week harassing other patrons warning them about the "man"(?) allowed to enter the ladies locker room. Finally PF had enough and terminated Cormier's membership because of this behavior, so she turned to the media. It was only then that Carlotta realizes it was sh/e being discussed and, naturally, went to the media as well.

Now there are SO many layers to this initial story even before we get to Tur's remarks. There's "pretty privilege," i.e. if Carlotta had been pretty and passable this never happens; there's the fact that Cormier acted badly regardless of whether her concern was valid; there's the point that Carlotta purposely avoided being in any state of undress in the locker room; there's the fact that advocates tend to latch on to any story, no matter how problematic, that advances the narrative - and lest you misunderstand I'm a vocal proponent of private-space access by sincere gender identity so don't think I take issue with that goal - but there's the rub: it IS a problematic situation. Enter Zoey Tur who had the temerity to notice and in so doing she tread on the third rail of trans advocacy.

Seperatism, and/or the accusation thereof.

Of course, Now I have to divert and provide background on THAT for the uninitiated. Did I mention this stuff was complex? Okay, how do I make this brief but clear? Within the broader transgender community, there are some competing schools of thought - with different shades of extreme in each. In the broadest terms, the great majority of the politically active (that is, those who control the accepted narrative via media access or widely popular writing) religiously adhere to the concept of "transgender" as one unifying term applying without distinction to any gender non-conforming behavior, condition, or presentation.  "Conforming" in this case would be to societal expectations associated with your "biological sex" (I will NOT go down THAT rabbit hole or we'll be here for 5,000 words). This has the political advantage of maximizing the number of affected persons, and the emotional advantage of avoiding the possibility one might inadvertently marginalize someone.  It is, however, not as simple as that.

The minority view (at least among those with a platform) is that the expression "transgender umbrella" ought to be a bit more of a literal analogy than the majority folks seem to apply it - which is to say that just as varying sorts of people with varying needs may shelter under one umbrella, likewise not everyone under the Transgender Umbrella has the same issues and needs, even if they are of the same value and worth. For example, to use another celebrity name, RuPaul has no need of laws designed to ensure insurance companies cover transition related medical expenses - because he is a self-identified man who has no need to transition, despite his "gender non-conforming" profession.  Different sorts of folks under the umbrella with different sorts of needs. Seems prety common sense, right? But THAT sort of thinking is the third rail of which I spoke.

Enter Zoey Tur.

The touchstone is an interview with Dr. Drew about the aforementioned PF story. You may view the critical portion (for the purposes of her critics) of the interview here.

Let me be clear, I do not personally know if what Tur reported concerning the background of Carlotta Slodowska is correct or not. It's got some traction in online discussions but such discussions tend to be incestuous with a circle of people referencing, ultimately, each other. It is not necessary that the report is true for the point I wish to make to apply - because Tur is not standing accused based on having falsified those claims. Rather, her critics are after her hammer and tong because, they argue, it doesn't matter if they are true. Tur believes that it does matter and, full disclosure, so do I. But I do not write tonight because I agree with that position. Read on.

Tur's comments point out that Carlotta Slodowska identifies in his/her own posts on Facebook and elsewhere as a MAN. Moreover, it seems that many of those posts contain some rather sordid material (as such things are judged) of the sort that the majority advocates had rather not exist. But they do, according to Tur, exist. Like it or not that changes the complexion of the situation. Let's acknowledge that not a few trans women came to a place of transition via a journey through "I'm just a crossdresser" denial, and let's also acknowledge that a lot of people, trans or no, have more than a little bit of kink in their present or past. But Carlotta Slodowska has, we are told, a post history that reeks of the ugliest stereotypes thrown at trans women by our critics both among radical feminists and Pharisaical Traditionalist Christian activists. If Tur had not reported the evidence on that they surely would still have become very public.

The uncomfortable (for the majority position) but logical truth is that if a self-identified male, particularly one with a publicly displayed track record of fetishization of crossdressing is proudly defended as entitled to the protections which are absolutely necessary for transsexual women, then he becomes Case Study A1 for the political movement to keep trans women out of sex segregated spaces for women. Zoey Tur had the temerity to state the politically incorrect but obvious conclusion. Let's think back to the umbrella analogy above. A male-to-female (or vice versa, but we all know who's the accused threat here) transsexual who is in transition or has transitioned has a legitimate, non-negotiable NEED to access the ladies room (bath or locker) for a host of reasons which one would hope needn't be explained. A self-identified male, crossdresser part time or no, does NOT have a NEED to do so. One may argue it's best to allow it and that's a discussion that can be had but I speak of health and safety need of a sort that can't be addressed any other way. Again, remember, the critics are not saying Zoey Tur was wrong about Carlotta Slodowska's self-professed identity, but that she's wrong about whether it matters. But on tat point, at least, she's right - it does matter.

We are a very tiny minority of people (even under the very broad "transgender" definition) and we are asking the massive majority to revise a deeply set cultural tradition in order to accommodate our health and safety needs. They have the political power to squash us like a bug and legislators in some half dozen states (and growing) are attempting to do just that.  We have the high moral ground but the grip on it is exceedingly tenuous.  Already the "pro-family" groups (and the "gender critical radfems") are tripping over themselves to point to this story and say "See? See? We TOLD you these policies would bring out the perverts!!!" I'm not saying Carlotta Slodowska is a "pervert" by any means, but HE says "I am a MAN" and then proudly displays his kink in public, there's no other way it could have ever played out.

Still, Zoey is considered off the reservation for having reached the obvious conclusion: we don't need that kind of help! Since my own transition I have tried to educate my friends and acquaintances in small town Mississippi about trans people, starting them from a knowledge base of essentially zero since almost none of them had ever met a trans person before me. Universally, what they THOUGHT a trans woman is reflects pretty much exactly what Carlotta Slodowska has said of himself. That perception will never lead to our very real medical and safety concerns as transsexual women being addressed. Tur nevertheless has become a pariah among the "right" people because she violated the cardinal rule that insists that all transgender people are exactly alike.

Thus, this battle become a proxy war for the real fight - the Crusade to destroy "Seperatism" (or any perception thereof). But that war itself is misguided. There are those out there, a fringe, who think that "legitimate" transsexuals are superior to, and ought distance themselves, from "lesser" transgender people such as crossdressers. Maybe Tur is one of them (I've not heard her claim that) or maybe she's not, but admitting that there is a distinction, a difference in nature and needs, between transsexuals and crossdressers (or other parts of the transgender community) is not a case for seperatism but a case for clear communication and wise goals. We don't need ordinances that make it possible for RuPaul to pee in the ladies room, we need ordinances that protect people with actual female gender identities to do so.

After all, have we not built the entire case on gender identity? Do not proposed laws and policies routinely say "sincerely held and consistent gender identity" or words to that effect?  Now comes a self-identified MALE and yet our "leaders" rally and say "it doesn't matter!!" of course it matters! It's what the whole thing was built on! Who are we to deny Carlotta Slodowska's self-reported identity because it furthers our otherwise worthy agenda? Have we not then become hypocrites?

It can be rightly argued that crossdrerssers, while presenting as females, are also in danger in men's rooms -  and from that further argue this justifies defending Slodowska as entitled here. There's a discussion to be had there, but I've gone too long already to divert into detailing it. But even allowing that point of view, that means the one who holds it and Tur have a DIFFERENCE OF OPINION not a difference on the facts. The crusade against Tur is about suppressing OPINIONS that do not align with the script. Tur has expressed opinions on other subjects (all the guns are being brought to bear now so a lot of stuff is suddenly appearing that was not discussed a month ago) which are now being eviscerated, and on some of those I strictly disagree with her. She's also being called out on points which are lightly if at all supported (a lot of yelling, not a lot of links). IF all the accusations were true, I'd have many points of disagreement with her.

Most notably, it's accused that she's saying only post-op trans women are legitimately trans. I'm 90% certain that's not her position and wasn't her intent but if it were, I'd be very unhappy with that and would happily debate her on the point.

But this whole business isn't really about any specific comment, it's about the Proxy War. Plus a couple of side dishes of human weakness. Tur went off script, she acknowledged that there's a difference between someone with a female gender identity and someone with a male gender identity and that smacks of Seperatism. Layered onto this ugly beginning is a war of competing egos, arrogant people calling other arrogant people arrogant for not changing their minds and agreeing with them, "veteran" activists resentful of "newbie" faces in front of the camera, those without the financial wherewithal (or prevented by other circumstance) to have GRS resentful of the one who has and looking suspiciously to see if she's lording over them (maybe she is?).

It's all very sordid and ugly. But it's worse than that and this, at long last, is the reason I wrote so much on the subject tonight: it's distracting.

As I noted, in state after state legislatures are moving forward bills specifically targeting trans people. Culturally we have never been more visible and we stand on the ragged edge of moving towards general acceptance, or towards tremendous and vicious backlash - WE DON'T HAVE TIME TO ATTACK EACH OTHER!

Disagree with Zoey Tur? Great! Hell, maybe I do too. but why oh why do we take our eyes off the ball and start trying to destroy her? Damn let's try to destroy Tony Perkins or somebody instead. If you disagree with her say so. I'm perfectly sure Dr. Drew would be happy to book a guest with a famous face who could explain to him in great detail how she disagreed with Tur. But do well to remember that disagreements WILL HAPPEN. Not every Democrat agrees with every other Democrat, not every Methodist agrees with every other Methodist, not ever Latino agrees with every other Latino. The question is - what will you do wen that disagreement arises? State your case, or angrily try to destroy the one with whom you disagree? Disagreement and the vibrant exchange of ideas is GOOD. Group-think is NOT. Right now many higher profile trans activists have seemingly become devoted to the group think above all else and as a result we are putting the worst possible face out there just when the spotlight is brightest and the opposition most motivated.

Please be careful, you leaders, where your priorities are. While your petty rivalries run rampant, all us peons still have a lot of REAL needs to address. I don't ask you to agree, i don't ask you to keep silent about your disagreement, but I do ask, no plead, for CIVILITY. Zoey Tur, however legion her faults may be in your view, is not your enemy and if you have made it your mission to destroy her it is YOU who are off mission.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Clobbering the Clobber Verses

[this content is a re-posting of, and expansion upon, a couple of blog entries which I posted elsewhere that I have cross-posted here in order to expand upon the thoughts which were constrained by size limitations over there.]

Let me offer a disclaimer at the very beginning of this column: if you are a hard-core skeptic when it comes to the subject of religion, this is probably not the best reading material for you. I do not presume to entertain the question here of whether or not any given religious view is correct. Rather I want to take this time to speak to those who do believe, particularly within the context of Protestant evangelical religion, and speak to them within the context of the faith which they hold to be true. If that's not you, I apologize but I probably don't have anything for you this time.

In the wake of the vote by the Southern Baptist Convention (which is the denomination in which I spent most of my life) this month in which they took the time to express their formal disapproval of transgender people and medical or civil actions which  support that which they consider to be "delusion" or "mental illness," I have been involved in not a few conversations with traditionalist Christians who approve of that action. As always in that sort of conversation, my foundational argument is that you should first make an effort to prove that the thing that you are condemning is, in fact, sinful before you can call on the church and Christians to disapprove of it. Most of those I interact with don't even try, but those who do will usually first resort to the familiar "anti-gay" verses which forces you to disabuse  them of the idea that being trans is essentially being "Super Gay." if you can't get them to see the error in that concept than they are likely beyond hope of reason. But if you can than they usually will still turn to a very limited set of references which each have simple and specific rebuttals. There are essentially four major "clobber verses" that come up in these sorts of conversations. two in the Old Testament and to in the New.  I'm going to take them (almost)in order and gives you the answer which debunks each one as a weapon against trans people. If you are feeling the mental and emotional pressure that comes from having your fellow believers reject you and struggle with whether or not they are right and you're wrong, then this is for you.

Genesis 1-2

Various verses from this chapter might be cited but they all are used in some way to support the idea of the inflexibility of the original created binary order: male and female sexes and gender roles. The argument is that since transition (or cross gender behavior) violates God's intended order it is therefore sinful. This has two parallel faults, both of which reflect the fact that those who cite this verse are not consistently apply their "reasoning" to other aspects of human life and activity. First, if you're making the argument as many of us do that being trans is a biological condition present from birth, then you force them to explain why other birth conditions which deviate from the creation story (which would be pretty much all of them) are not subject to the same condemnation. However, many of them will immediately dismiss the claim that this is a biological condition from birth but that still does not get them out of the box. The reason for this is essentially the same reasoning, logically, as in the above case: that while they condemn this "behavior" they do not apply the same logic to other areas of human behavior, the most obvious example of which I will save for another passage coming up soon.

Deuteronomy 22:5

A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.

 You might also get a citation here from some other book of the Torah, but any citation here is going to be in reference to cross-dressing, basically "a man shall not wear that which pertains to a woman, or woman that which pertains to a man, it is an abomination". The problem here is should be obvious: inconsistent application. The places were such a verse appears always have within the same chapter another verse which they have no such passion for enforcing, including versus about clothing.

11 “You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together.

 Indeed, in the same chapter it speaks of stoning women who were not found to be virgins when they married, and forcing a woman who is raped to marry her rapist.

20 “But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, 21 then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

28 “If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.

Oddly, I've yet to find a modern Christian who is enthusiastic about enforcing that one.
Moreover, this introduces the problem of variant interpretations. One of the best arguments against being overbearing in your application of your particular theological interpretation is the reality that not even all Christians agree on practically any important theological subject (and on the scale of theological subjects this one is certainly not that important). Of course it's obvious that if various denominations can agree on the major points of doctrine, there should be room for disagreement on the minor points. How does that apply here? Simple. In many charismatic denominations, they cite this verse as support for the concept of barring their female membership from wearing pants at all. Any Christian who does not believe that that is a valid interpretation, and yet respects the right to disagree therefore obliges himself to respect your right to disagree about the legitimacy of applying this verse to you.

One overriding point in these sorts of conversations is that the person you are discussing with need not be convinced that their view is wrong, merely that others may read the same passage and draw a different conclusion and that the modern Christian tradition is to respect each others right to disagree on doctrinal questions. One of the wisest acts of the Founding Fathers was to recognize that there was a difference between being a moral people and enforcing by force of law any sectarian doctrine upon those who held a different doctrine. That is a principle which in most realms of doctrine even the most ardent evangelical implicitly understand what seem to forget when it comes to LGB /T people.  If you find yourself in one of these discussions remember that you don't have to change their doctrine so long as they are willing to apply this principle.

 For the purpose of clarity, I'm going to reverse the order in which I discuss the New Testament two because the second one if taken in order of appearance in Scripture is very minor but the first one is the one which they are most likely to hang their argument on and the one that requires the most discussion.

1Corinthians 6:9

 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals...

This is a citation which seldom comes up because basically it's only one word and the word which is subject to interpretation. That alone is enough to question the legitimacy of their argument, however there is more. The King James translation is the primary source for the use of that word for the Greek word in the original text, and there is strong critical evidence that the word is a poor choice for the concept being described in the original language. There is not space here to get into the textual criticism discussion but suffice it to say that there is tons of room to question whether or not they word "effeminate" is a word that even belongs in the Bible at all if properly translated. Now, let's move on to the elephant in the room.

Matthew 19

3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery”

This is passage from that key chapter which is supposedly, in their view, the New Testament confirmation of the Genesis 1 creation account I referenced last time. According to their logic, since Genesis refers to a strictly binary creation and Jesus in the New Testament affirms that model of creation therefore we can assume that any deviation from that model is not allowed.
However their own citation defeats the proposition because in this very passage Jesus describes a circumstance wherein it is permissible to divorce (and later in the New Testament Paul will expand upon this) and yet it is self-evident that the pre-fall creation model made no provision for divorce. So in the passage they cite, Jesus affirms that what is permissible in the eyes of God after the fall does not necessarily have to align to the perfect creation before the fall. But wait, there's more! Let's continue to read in chapter 19.

10 The disciples *said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

Let's be clear, it is too much of an assumption to suggest that the eunuch in biblical times was a direct equivalent to the modern trans person. There may have occasionally been some parallels but not in most cases so far as we know. However, the passages relevant all the same. Let me explain. The traditionalist will argue that it is sinful for a person to actively either by conduct or by actual physical "mutilation" deviate from the creation model.
However we know as a certain fact that those which the Bible refer to has "eunuch" were men who, either by nature ("from their mothers womb" i.e. intersex persons), or by some physical alteration ("made by men") or by the way they choose to live ("made themselves") were people whose lives deviating significantly from the pre-fall creation binary model of manhood. And Jesus references these people without any hint of condemnation. You might also note that in the Old Testament the prophet Isaiah specifically speaks positively of these individuals.

Oh by the way, one more bonus point just to seal the deal at the end of your discussion: to the one who says that there is no way that God would affirm the surgical alteration of human genitals from the form in which they were born, you need only answer with a single word – circumcision.

In summary, not only does the Bible not, properly understood, say anything negative about transsexual individuals either directly or by implication, but indeed the only reference from which an implication might be drawn is a positive reference.