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.

Come So Far/Got So Far to Go

Tomorrow is the day, the dreaded day. The series finale of Nightmares in Dissertation Writing. I will not share with what anguish the series was binged and with what agony each episode progressed, but here we are. I made it, and none the worse for it, I think.

I can say without reservation that writing this dissertation has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. Partially because writing a dissertation is difficult, but mostly because I have apparently gone insane this summer in such a way as to make doing work nearly impossible. Suffice to say that more than being pleased with the final product, I am pleased that there is a final product. In the same measure as I have been stressed, I am now overjoyed. Well, overjoyed might be putting it a bit strongly. But you know, relieved. In all honesty, though, I am really glad it’s over. It’s been a trying experience, to be sure, but it’s also been an adventure and it’s hard for me not to love adventures.

A major thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me, I am so very, very grateful. I honestly could not have done it without you. I love you all. And a special thank you to my incredible mother who, having read that I was missing my blanket, literally mailed it to me so I could hide under it when the need arose.

Now that I’ve got that covered, I wanted to say a few things about the state of the blog. I started this blog for two reasons. The first was because I was moving 4,500 miles to live in another country for a year.

So here we are, a year on. And that reason for writing a blog is close to expiry. I have one week left in Ireland. But I find myself wanting to continue writing. I’ve so enjoyed this blog, writing to you all about my doings and hearing back from you and just having a weekly chat with whoever feels like stopping by on here. I won’t get into the whole ‘millennials-are-narcissistic’ thing (for just so many reasons) and I’ve already admitted I’m perhaps more than a bit vain. But.

The point is this: I’m going to continue writing. Things will probably be less exciting overall, as I won’t be in Ireland come  3 September, but then again, my life never was particularly exciting most of my time here anyway. Because the second reason I started this blog was because I just wanted to. I wanted to journal, to say what I liked to more than the four walls of my room.

Initially, I expected putting it online would allow people to hold me accountable if I missed a week. Instead, I found myself very much looking forward to writing each week and sharing my thoughts and musings and whatever else I felt like writing. And, of course, the cat pictures. So in truth, my reason for writing is nonperishable.

The name of this blog, Journeyman, alluded both to the fact that I was on a journey and that I was seeking to become a master. But, honestly, it was also probably a bit of my trite philosophy coming through–life is a journey, or so I’ve heard. And, near as I can tell, no one manages to become a master in the brief space of a lifetime. We’re all perpetual journeymen.

Лесная Дорога

From the Prokudin-Gorskii Collection at the Library of Congress. Rural Russia, ca. 1905-1915

And thus, whether you want it to or not, this blog will continue into the indefinite future. I’m sticking to once a week (probs Thursdays still). If you’re less concerned with my life after Ireland, no one’s forcing you to stay. But I’ll  be here, speaking into the vast void of the internet, alone if necessary, until further notice.

Hobey ho, let’s go.