Pride of Place

First things first, there is still need to fight for racial justice. Look into your local sheriff/police chief/whoever election, donate to bail funds, read minority voices. This will not go away because white people say they’ll do better and then forget about it.

Our learning link for the week is here. Not the most comprehensive description of microaggressions in the world but a handy introduction if you’re not familiar.


This Pride Month has been substantially different than I expected–first because pandemic, second because protests for justice (which, to be clear, I absolutely think are the thing to do right now, and all our liberation is tied up together) but I did want to have a time set aside specifically for this, for me.

June is a good time to think about the stories I tell regarding my sexuality and things. Stories I tell others, stories I tell about myself, stories I tell to myself. This past year or so has been interesting on that last front and I hope you’ll pardon me if I muse here about it for a while.

I feel like I’ve come a long way since coming out four-ish years ago, in terms of coming to be a part of a community. I have resources and relationships now that have brought me into a deeper understanding of myself, others, sexuality, faith, justice, intersectionality… you name it. There is a kind of belonging in that community that can’t be matched anywhere else because there’s a common bond that is unlike others I, at least, have ever experienced. But at the same time, I feel a bit like an outsider at times.

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Camaro doesn’t feel like an outsider

I guess part of what I’ve been trying to understand is how to be a part of a community while having a different story. Sometimes, minority communities can become very rigid in their definitions of self. That is, they have an identity that creates the community and, to preserve that community, adherence to that identity is sometimes overemphasized.

For a majority culture, that’s called assimilation. In some respects, it’s the same principle in operation though it takes on very different mechanisms and meanings when working on a sub-culture or minority group. But the message is mostly the same, in one way or another: your belonging here is dependent on you exhibiting the behaviors and attributes that we have deemed acceptable.

Sometimes, these are pretty overt things. Cultural referents or shared norms of socialization that can cause outrage when transgressed. Take, for example, two gay men talking. When one hears that the other has never seen High School Musical or something (it’s true that I’ve only seen parts myself), he exclaims jokingly, “I have revoked your gay card!” Like, it’s a joke but also very telling the way in which that joke it told. Again, your membership in this community is contingent. Fragile. It’s insidious, if you ask me.

That kind of stuff annoys me but generally, in the circles I move in, it’s not super prevalent and I do feel confident in people really not meaning it when it does occur. I try my best not to do anything like that but I do slip up from time to time. Forgive me those times. There are other things, subtle and totally unintentional, that do strike me a little harder, however.

In many conversations with friends in the queer Christian community, I am made aware of how different my experience of both those things has been than how I see sexuality and faith interact in most others. A recent example: talking about the difficulty of father’s day as many gay Christian men have a strained relationship with theirs. Or talking about the struggle of reconciling faith, the anguish of being closeted, the pain and fear of homophobia and rejection.

There is so much for me to learn from those friends. And I do strive to learn, and to comfort and to care as I am able. And I rejoice that those things can be healed, in part, by sharing with friends who understand. But there are questions that I ask in the silence of my mind. How do I relate? How do I listen? How do I make room for others but maintain space for myself? I feel it’s important to keep quiet in those times when I can’t really empathize, but when things that are really different from my life dominate conversations time and again, should I really be there at all? How can I participate without bragging or minimizing pain or seeming either preachy or self-centered?

The thing is, after all is said and done, that I do belong. I belong to those people in ways that I can’t explain to others. Those spaces are my spaces–not all the time, not for everything, but my voice is welcome there. It is a kind of fitting in that I have lacked in most all other environments I’ve been in and that is the kind of pride I want to celebrate today.

In the midst of all our current difficulties around community (the impossibility of gathering, the stress of life and events, the uncertainty of it all), I have been lucky enough to be welcomed into a group where I have pride of place. Not that I am most important but that I can show all of myself, all of my story, and know that I will be welcomed unconditionally. That’s Pride and, while we’re at it, that’s love.

Job, Growth, Lips, Kitties

So I guess I should start off this week with the biggest personal yikes that has happened to me since I last posted. Which is that, unfortunately, I was not flown anywhere. Nor did I fly anywhere. Because my prospective employer decided that, what with a big virus threatening and extraneous travel not advised, a video interview (like my first one with them) would suffice. Understandable but not ideal. At least it still happened.

And I’m very grateful that it did. I think it went really well, I feel like I came across as very personable and very suited for the position. They all seemed really nice as well. Hoping that their willingness to fly me out (even though it didn’t happen) and having a two hour second interview are good signs. Now, once more, it’s a waiting game. But I should hear from them relatively soon. Here’s hoping. Hoping real hard.


Things otherwise have not been particularly thrilling. I also have not had any big thoughts about anything.

Mostly, this week, I have been daydreaming about moving and having my own place and purchasing household goods and putting up framed artwork on the walls. (Re)Building a routine around even the most mundane things.

As I’ve said before, I know that whatever comes next for me, it won’t automatically solve my problems and it will bring new problems of its own. But I am just really ready for those problems. Those opportunities. Those new things, whatever they may be. If this job turns out to be my job, then I will really look forward to all the changes that that new start will bring. Gasp! I’m looking forward to changes! Maybe this means I’m maturing.


The sermon series that the church I’m going to is presenting during Lent is about big questions people have about the faith. So far, we’ve covered Hell/End Times and politics. This coming Sunday, apparently they’re talking about homosexuality, what a joy.

I said that with that tone because I know neither pastor is personally affirming, nor is the denomination as a whole. Very not, in fact. But because I really just don’t care what they have to say about it (it’s not that I’m ignoring their perspective or anything, it’s more that I have heard it all before, thought about it, and rejected it) I don’t mind going and just kind of existing near them as a very gay, very affirming person. Visibly. So, you know, manicured and lipsticked.

A friend and I recently went lipstick shopping so I could try it for the first time. Trying on lipstick in the store is so weird. I get it but also yikes. Seems like too much work to wear regularly (sorry about the patriarchy) but it’s a fun little accent. I got a pretty nice berry type shade, very eye-catching if you ask me.

So I’ll wear my lipstick and my random shade of nail polish and just generally do my best to radiate the message that God loves everyone, no caveats.


And of course, I would be remiss if I neglected my cat picture duties so here’s a quick little fix for you.

Story

Books about books is one of my favorite genres. I immediately feel an intimate kinship with the bibliophile main character, almost as though we’ve talked through many late nights together reveling in the power of stories. And I semi-secretly semi-suspect that all lovers of books semi-wish for miraculous, mysterious, magical things to happen to them because of their deep and loyal affection for books. I know I do, at least, and most book-centered stories I’ve read agree. We want the magic we know exists on the page to leap out and become manifest and tangible.

I read a fantastic book this past week. It’s a new book by Erin Morgenstern called The Starless Sea and I so enjoyed it. Ten out of ten would recommend to fantasy-minded book lovers and also anyone who can appreciate the interweaving of stories. A couple quotations and a moment of thinking about them.

Strange, isn’t it? To love a book. When the words in the pages become so precious that they feel like a part of your own history because they are.

There is a certain joy found in kindred spirits who have loved the same stories. With Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and others, there is an enormous group of people with whom I share an immediate bond of a sort. At the very least, some conversational common ground. By the same token, how much more delightful is it to share a corner of my heart with another by discovering that we have treasured together a much more obscure title; relived the same scenes, adored the same characters, gazed upon the same landscapes in the mind’s eye.

I think the best stories feel like they’re still going, somewhere, out in story space.

This is at once the best and most difficult part of being a book lover. When I get invested in a story and/or characters, I always want more. Sometimes it’s because the story ends before all of my questions have been answered (which can be frustrating when done poorly but can be done well, too). Other times, it’s just because I’m so in love with the setting or the characters that I don’t care if the story is all wrapped up, I just want to hang out in that place with those people more. And so this makes me feel better, imaging the story ongoing, even after I’ve read every word.


There is a second reason I wanted to talk about stories this week. Last Thursday, I headed up to Seattle for the Reformation Project‘s Reconcile and Reform Conference. If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, they’re definitely worth checking out. In brief, they’re an organization that advances LGBTQ inclusion in the church and is particularly interested in the bible-stuff relating to that mission.

It was much smaller than the conference I went to in Chicago last January, through Q Christian Fellowship, and it was a lot more focused. The historical, social, political, linguistic, cultural foundations of many of the conversations the church is having (or not having) around this topic. Much of what was covered through the speakers and sessions was information that I was already familiar with but there was a great deal of new as well.

It’s been difficult to decide what I want my post about that conference to talk about because so much ground was covered. Every time I’d hear something that I wanted to share, I’d think about how I really wanted to do a whole post just on that particular thing. And, to be clear, I thought that for a whole host of things (maybe a series of posts in the future, we’ll see). But I really wanted to see if there was a way for me to kind of give a singular summary, or one particular thing that I want to highlight.

And so, having finished The Starless Sea and dwelling in that feeling for a little while, I decided to tell you about my experience through the lens of stories. In particular, three kinds of stories: those we tell ourselves, those we tell others, and those we hear from others. Just a couple thoughts for each. Distilling the conference is hard so we’ll just have to let be whatever word-vomit comes next.

First, the stories we tell ourselves. How does our interior monologue talk to us? Who do we think we are? Why do we treat ourselves the way we do? I know some people are uncomfortable with the idea but it says it right there–if we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, the implication is that we must love ourselves. If God loves each of us–completely, unconditionally–then so too ought we love ourselves. We are all of us flawed but we are also all of us inextricably bound up in bearing the image of God.

Second, us to others. By this, I mean two things: what we say to others about ourselves and what we tell say to others about themselves. For the former, I’d like to just focus on one thing, honesty and authenticity. Growing up in Christian circles, lots of people love to talk about authenticity. And if you want me to be authentic but don’t want me to marry a man in your church, that’s a big yikes. For the latter, unsurprisingly, is also about love. I mean, Jesus literally told us to love our enemies.

And third, the stories that we hear from others. Again, thinking about two aspects of this. Hearing and understanding and empathizing with queer stories changes things. When you learn about another’s life–their struggles and the ways in which you, personally or corporately, have been complicit in those struggles–it should change how you live your life. But you have to listen to people who don’t often get listened to. The corollary to that is, being intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually honest enough with ourselves to a) challenge what we hear and evaluate it for ourselves and b) know when we are wrong, apologize, and change. Because changing your mind happens sometimes when you genuinely seek the truth of a question.

I really feel like I’m not doing the conference (or the book, for that matter) justice but that’s what I have for the moment. I really do strongly urge you to read the book, if that’s your scene, and to investigate The Reformation Project whether it’s your scene or not. Much of the conference was recorded and you can watch parts on their Facebook page.

One final thought on stories, to conclude. As many have noted before, stories are powerful. They have their fingers in pretty much every pie of human existence including, importantly, faith. And because they are powerful, we must think about them critically, with our minds and our hearts.

Do not believe a story that has been told to you; believe a story that you have heard, evaluated, and lived in. We can all be a part of the great, ongoing story of love, reconciliation, and reformation.

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.