The Tyranny of Caution

This is not a theology blog and I am not a theology person. But, being a religious person, sometimes theological things happen in my life. So we’re back to it for this week, sorry if that’s not your cup of tea.

I grew up in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) and, though I’m not particularly attached to any denomination, it’s one that I like. Kind of the main idea is that agreement on the main things trumps disagreements on subsidiary things. They have six ‘affirmations’ about, like, Jesus and the Bible and that stuff. But everything else is less important–baptism and what have you. The denomination is not affirming (they’re not about the gays) and a pastor recently resigned, after an incredibly lengthy and arduous procedural process, after she performed a wedding for two men.

She wrote a letter (which is long but worth a read in general, and specifically if this is your area) and it inspired a lot of thoughts in me. I’ve presented a few of them below. This is, of course, not an exhaustive post and I’m not certain how well I’ve expressed what I mean. But this is one of those times, I guess, where I feel like I ought to say something, even if what I say isn’t exactly right.


I’ve been blessed by a fairly lifelong security in faith that didn’t significantly waver when I came out to myself. I’ve been blessed by the family and friends around me who didn’t waver either. I didn’t feel hurt by the church growing up because my closet at the time was invisible even to myself. So I come at this from a pretty good place.

The church has a lot of issues with gender and sexuality, of which homosexual marriage is only one. But it has become a pretty brutal part of contemporary church identity. Part of the concern is the small matter of burning in hell for all eternity. While relevant, that is an argument for another day.

I spoke with a former pastor of mine on this subject a while after I came out. A good family friend who genuinely wanted to understand and love. But he was confounded when I insisted again and again that you cannot love me if you do not love all of me. It is not love if it’s conditional on a) me being straight or b) me being gay but never having a romantic relationship ever. You can’t say love the sinner and hate the sin (which is iffy in general but I can see it re: a thief, for example) because the ‘sin’ is me.

Here is the essence of the church’s conundrum on this, and many other issues: is it better to err on the side of caution or of grace?

It is not a question of whether this is right or wrong. I reject the notion of fallible human beings being entirely right about every matter of doctrine. It is a question of Jesus having enough love and mercy and grace to accept us even if we are wrong. The answer is clear to me. Besides, I would rather be condemned for loving too much than loving too little. I do not know what else to say.

What does the church stand to lose in this argument? As far as I can tell, pretty much only power from a system built on injustice. A friend of mine added loss of face and loss of comfort, which are valid. Then she said this, as simple as it is true, I think: “Is the church really concerned for the souls of people who are not heteronormative? Or is it a fear of the loss of comfort? ‘What will I tell my children?’ Well damn Karen, you’ll tell your children, ‘You know how mommy and daddy love each other? Those two men love each other too.’ And that will be that!”

This is not my final argument. This is not even the conversation we should be having. But apparently it’s the conversation many in the church still need, and history shows us it’s the needs of the oppressive majority that take precedence over the needs of the oppressed minority. And I feel that I’m coming from a strong enough position to allow that in this place at this time. But come on. I feel disheartened by the extreme apparent ‘caution’ of the ECC on this issue.

When you are part of the empowered majority, caution feels easy–the status quo benefits you so why should it be changed. It is when you are in the minority, just trying to live life as well as you might, that the caution of the majority becomes tyrannical. This is not new, it is intersectional in the extreme. This is just my small corner of it as a middle-class white American cis man.

Authority is not granted to the church to open or close God’s doors. So stop trying. Just love more. Not love if we comply, if we’re righteous, if we fit. There is not simply room for us at God’s table, there are seats reserved with our name: Beloved Child of God.

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Dobrodošli u Veljaču

Sometimes, I recall that many people live their whole lives without seeing snow. And while at this point in this Michigan winter, I’m a little bit over it, I still see incredible beauty in it that isn’t comparable to anything else. An untouched field of newly fallen snow is a wonder. A drift with little bird tracks crossing it is a wonder. A green bough weighed down by a blanketing, yet unbroken, is a wonder. Ponderous, aimless flakes falling from a dark sky are wonders.

These are just some snow thoughts to start us out this week because we remain deeply in winter here. And back home, they’re getting a little taste as well. I don’t want to be one of those people who shames them for how little snow it really is, and how warm the weather relatively is, but the facts remain–it isn’t that much snow and it’s relatively warm compared to our winter so far. Though, I will say, the humidity factor definitely contributes to a cold feeling there even when temperatures indicate otherwise. That lesson was definitely driven home when I lived in Dublin and it was just a cold, cold time while rarely ever touching freezing.

Fact time (you’ll recall that a ‘factoid’ is actually something that is false). Language statistics are particularly difficult to obtain because the numbers are constantly changing and there’s not even a solid definition of what counts as a language. However. Of the ten largest languages by native speakers (generally), seven of them do not use the Latin alphabet: Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, and Punjabi. Some of those don’t use an alphabet at all. The three exceptions are Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

As an American and native English speaker, how odd. I am not shocked by this, but it is still sometimes startling to rest upon that little tidbit.

In a similar vein, Croatian does not take its names for months from Latin. Instead, they derive from older Slavic roots correlated to the Gregorian calendar. So February (in German, Februar; in Russian февраль–fevral’) is Veljača–VEL-yah-chah, which likely means ‘the month when the days get longer.’

ANYWAY

There’s your language facts for the week. You know I love stuff like that and I can’t not share. Plus, any excuse to bring up Croatia. Sometimes, I just really get carried away by the amount of trivia in my brain.

I don’t have a whole lot else going on. We have this coming week off, a little intermission between the school’s January term and the start of spring semester. No plans, just some cozy relaxing times, I hope. I may make split pea soup because I accidentally bough split peas instead of lentils back in September and haven’t done anything with them yet (because I don’t really like split pea soup). Maybe I’ll try to bake something a little more exciting than banana bread (though there were claims my most recent batch was the most delicious yet).

It has been a wonder to be able to check in on Lake Michigan through this season of Very Cold Weather. Watching a skin of ice become feet of ice shelf compounded by floating frozen spheres and icy spray. Little ice-lands (you like my island pun?). Strange and foreign and beautiful and mysterious. I’d give you more pictures but none I’ve taken do the least to elucidate the phenomenon.

Instead, I’ll gift you some cats. Because that is a gift for every season.

We did have a sec where everything warmed up pretty thoroughly but then we went right back to the teens and got a little more snow so now everything is just super icy. Which isn’t ideal. But we survive and that’s all there is to it. The days, as the Croatians know, are getting longer.