That doesn’t sound like love to me

Trigger warning for discussion of homophobia and suicide.

Hey, look, it’s another iteration of the old “love the sinner, hate the sin” argument, this time from HGTV’s Chip Gaines. Apparently there was a dust-up about his and his wife’s attendance at an anti-LGBT church, and he took to the interwebs to blog about, you guessed it, “loving disagreement.”  And Noah Michaelson isn’t having it. 

People disagree about whether New England clam chowder is better than Manhattan clam chowder or what to name their new iguana or whether or not Kylie Jenner has really gotten butt implants. But a church or an individual or a government telling a queer person that they are a sinner or that they don’t deserve to get married or that queer people should be treated any less or any differently than non-queer people merely because of who they are is not “lovingly disagreeing.”

“But, but…we don’t want to hurt gay people,” the disagreer might say. Unfortunately, this is one of the many, many cases where intent is not magic. Here’s a little secret. The rate of suicide attempts is four times greater for LGB youth than for straight youth.  Half of trans youth have seriously considered suicide, and a quarter have made an attempt. One of the biggest risk factors for LGBT youth suicide is family rejection. Youth who come from highly rejecting families, those who “disagree” with their orientation or gender status and think it’s sinful, are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. (All stats from The Trevor Project.)

You may not want to hurt LGBT people with your “loving disagreement,” but you are. You’re killing them. If they’re your kids, or you’re an important mentor they look up to, you may be literally driving them to suicide. Even if you aren’t close enough to an LGBT kid to have that direct an impact on them, by “disagreeing” with who they are, you close off a potential avenue of support. They know you’re yet another person who isn’t safe to come out to. You lose the chance to provide hope and encouragement to a kid who may be struggling.

This might seem harsh, but Children. Are. Dying. If you aren’t doing anything to stop that, and are actively contributing to the problem, don’t talk about how loving you are.


It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

As a tribute to both Clinton’s loss in the election and Leonard Cohen’s passing, Kelly McKinnon, who plays Clinton on Saturday Night Live, performed Hallelujah. It was, of course, depressing, but managed to still be hopeful.  “I’m not giving up,” she said at the end.  “And neither should you.”  She also included a verse that I haven’t heard in other covers of Hallelujah, which fit perfectly:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Since Leonard Cohen passed, and Hallelujah was played all over, I’ve been hearing a lot of versions lately.  And I was reminded how much I flipping *hate* “A Hallelujah Christmas”. Taken by itself as a contemporary Christian Christmas song, it’s not bad.  Kind of blah and predictable lyrics, but the chorus of hallelujahs is pretty.  I can see why they wanted to use it as a Christmas song. But as a reworking of an existing song, it bothers me on multiple levels.

First, Hallelujah in its original version wasn’t a Christian song.  It was written by a practicing Jewish guy, and while it was full of religious imagery, none of it was New Testament or specifically Christian.  David writing Psalms, David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah.  So, turning it into a Christmas song seems really disrespectful.  Sure, making popular songs into Christmas songs is a venerable tradition, but the author of Greensleeves was probably a Christian.

“A Hallelujah Christmas” is also just not as good as the original.  There’s no metaphor, no symbolism, just a straight retelling of the Christmas story. It would’ve worked just as well with its own melody (and probably wouldn’t have botched the rhyme scheme).  So, it seems kind of sad to take a song that’s subtle and sad and angry and full of imagery and turn it into something tired and cliched.

It also seems like a cop-out to write something that’s almost a parody but not quite, reusing lyrics in ways that aren’t really interesting. Particularly taking an ironic use of “hallelujah” and turning it into a straight up “Praise God.” Not that there’s anything *wrong* with praise music.  I really like the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah.  I also like the alleluia version of Amazing Grace.  But those don’t take a song that’s harsh and messy and complicated and dumb it down in the process of Christianizing it.

Happy Bi Visibility Day!

It’s Bi Visibility Week, and today is apparently also Bi Visibility Day!  In honor of that, a couple quick things:

  • First, hi, world, I’m bisexual.  (I’ve referred to myself as “mostly straight: in the past, and why it took me a while to actually claim the label of “bi” is probably its own post.)
  • Second, Samantha Field is an amazing bisexual progressive Christian blogger who you should read.  She does book reviews deconstructing evangelical favorites like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and the Christian romance novel “Redeeming Love.”  (Fat acceptance isn’t her focus, but she calls out fatphobia when she sees it.

Come back, you selfish person, we’re not done hurting you yet!

This post, The Selfishness of Skipping Church, came across a progressive Christian Facebook group I belong to. I was, to put it mildly, not impressed. People don’t go to church, he argues, because they’re selfish and lazy, and view church like buying a car. He does say he isn’t criticizing ” the shut-in, the sick, or those who must work” but he also calls hurts, needs, and disappointments an “excuse” that apparently isn’t sufficient reason not to show up every Sunday, at a minimum.  He criticizes people who only go to church “once or twice a month”:

 Imagine if a construction crew showed up to a building site only once or twice a month.  Think of what would happen if physicians and nurses manned the hospitals and ERs only a couple of times a month.  Consider the problems in education if our teachers worked only two days a month.

How about considering that construction crews, nurses, and teachers have promised to work a certain job, day in and day out, and in exchange for that commitment are being paid. In contrast, church is something people need to fit in around the activities that actually pay their bills, and something that most people have made no promise to attend every time the doors are open.

To me, making it to church every other Sunday counts as pretty regular church attendance, but apparently it’s a “cold, lifeless” and selfish behavior. The author bemoans the fact that people used to go to church “weekly and even several times a week,” which is apparently the expected standard. It may just be my own church history, but when a church wants me to go to two and three services a week, it feels like a red flag to me.  Am I supposed to have hobbies or a life outside the church? If I try to have boundaries, are people going to respect them?

I would even be fine with railing against people who renege on their commitments, like volunteering to serve and then suddenly dropping the ball. But for this author, even serving in church isn’t enough, as he criticizes “church workers who only show up to church when they are scheduled to serve, teach, or lead.” These are the people who are keeping the church running, but that’s not enough if they ever skip church. They might get a pass if they’re sick but being tired, or wanting to go out of town for the weekend, ever, probably doesn’t cut it.  Likewise, if you’re actually scheduled to work the hours that church is in session, that’s okay, but if you just got off midnights Sunday morning, drink some coffee and drag your selfish butt to church because American civilization will be wrecked by “rabid hedonists, religious fanatics, and ignorant young socialists and progressives” if you don’t go to church often enough. This bit had me scratching my head, because I have to wonder what counts as a religious fanatic to someone who expects unfailing church attendance regardless of an individual’s needs. At least I know from the jab at ignorant socialists and progressives that he doesn’t actually want me at his church, which I’m quite okay with.

One of the worst things about this article is that it so narrowly defines valid reasons for missing church or leaving a church. It’s not even enough to attend church regularly; once you start going to a church, you and that church are married, and you aren’t allowed to even consider other churches, lest you be a selfish church-shopper, ” ungraciously and habitually leaving church after church.” No acknowledgment that some pastors are abusive, or that some churches teach harmful theology. No acknowledgment that people’s religious beliefs can change over time, and they might leave a church over serious disagreements, whether because the church changed or because they did. And certainly no acknowledgment that anyone might leave a church because they aren’t welcome, or literally aren’t safe. Nope, you’re just selfish and lazy, with a cold and lifeless faith and a greedy consumerist attitude.

But even worse, in my view, is combining that with the reasons that the author is so dead set that all Christians must attend church all the time no matter what:

The culprits in the current spiritual malaise and indifference in our country are the selfish Christians who fail to consider how they can help, assist, and encourage someone else by coming faithfully to church instead of focusing on and serving their own wants, preferences, needs, and schedules.  That single mindset of coming to church not for what you can receive, but for what you can provide is the key to a true spiritual renewal in our land. When you are not in church the gifts and abilities in you are not made available to others.

That is, your needs aren’t important. We don’t care about your schedule, or your other obligations, or your struggles, but we expect you to care deeply about ours. You must always encourage, assist, and provide, never expecting anything in return, and if you get burned out and want any kind of spiritual nourishment or encouragement for yourself, we’ll berate you for your selfishness.  This sounds less like the body of Christ and more like an abusive relationship.

Some Thoughts on Gluttony

I’ve already mentioned that I get really tired of the conflation of having a fat body with the sin of gluttony. The times that I’ve seen gluttony addressed in a Christian, religious context, “fat” is usually used as a shorthand for gluttony, and eating in any way that doesn’t make you thin (or at least thinner) is viewed as sinful. Particular foods, specifically anything fatty or sugary, are also treated as innately sinful. (And that language carries over into secular discussions of food….sinful chocolate and virtuous salad.)

But I don’t think any act of eating can be sinful in a vacuum. I think there is such a thing as gluttony, but I think it has less to do with eating too many calories and more to do with selfishly taking from others or refusing to share.  And there’s an example of exactly what I’m talking about in Corinthians:

17But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 20Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.

23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

27Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

33So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come.

One interpretation of this that I’ve heard is that the communal meal was supposed to be a way of providing for those who didn’t have enough food. But, the wealthy church members who brought food that was supposed to be shared arrived first.  And rather than actually share, they ate early and finished off everything they’d brought. Then, when the day laborers arrived, after working a full day, there was nothing left for them to eat.

So, is eating a piece of chocolate cake sinful? Not inherently. If it’s the last piece of chocolate cake, and you don’t wait to see if everyone else in the house has had some, then I’d say yes. It’s not the food itself, but how it affects those around you.

I can think of a specific time when I was definitely guilty of gluttony.  We were gaming, and there was a bag of Swedish fish. Another player really liked them, and so the bag ended up by me, partly to rag on him and partly so he wouldn’t just eat them all.  Instead, *I* ended up eating most of the bag.  It wasn’t malicious, more a combination of needing something to do with my hands while the game was going on and unthinkingly eating the food that was in front of me because it was there. (I’m usually pretty good at stopping when I’m full, but I need to physically move the food away from me to do so.)

It’s kind of a silly example, and I’m not wracked with guilt or anything (though I probably will bring a bag of Swedish fish to the next game), but it shows the difference I think is important. It’s not eating that’s gluttonous, but eating more than you need in a way that takes away from other people.

40 Eye-rolls from a Christian who’s been waving that rainbow flag for years

Kevin DeYoung wrote “40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags”, because he was apparently *shocked* and *horrified* when a bunch of people rainbowed their profiles in support of same-sex marriage. So, now he needs to reassert the tribal boundaries and point out how we’re not real true Christians. As far as I can tell, the whole article boils down to “I don’t think you’re a real Christian, so I don’t have to take anything you say seriously. Prove to me that you’re a real Christian who can check off the list of appropriate beliefs. Oh, by the way, no matter what you answer, I will still not think you’re a real Christian.”

It reminded me of a conversation I’d had on Facebook on the same topic. When I didn’t suddenly change my carefully thought-out beliefs because he threw some Bible verses at me, he felt the need to give me the third degree about what church I go to and how often I read the Bible. The implication was the same: you’re not a real Christian, so not only do I not have to listen to a thing you say, but it’s my religious duty to browbeat you back into the fold.

There have been responses to the 40 questions, a lot of them really good. I particularly like Matthew Vines 40 questions of his own. Getting straight to the point, there’s also 1 Question for People Who Won’t Wave the Rainbow Flag. That one question is “When are you going to listen to the answers to your questions?” The author points out that it’s arrogant to constantly expect LGBT people and allies to explain, and defend, and justify. Particularly when they’ve answered those questions again and again and had those answers brushed off and ignored every time.

I’m certainly tired of what feels like shouting at the top of my lungs about things like LGBT teens living on the street because their “good Christian” parents kicked them out, or someone sitting in a waiting room while their partner of decades breathes their last because the hospital didn’t want to recognize their relationship. Without fail, that gets brushed off. I’ve never, never, never, been debating gay rights with a supposed “good Christian” who has said “Wow, that is a serious problem,” or “I didn’t know that; that’s awful.” They just literally do not acknowledge it at all, so they can go back to quoting Bible verses at me. Or, like the last guy, they actually have the gall, when I say that if Christianity loved gay people so very much, it would quit hurting them, that “sometimes love hurts” and bring up someone who’s in love with someone they’re not married to. Because unrequited affection is totally the same thing as having your parents disown you and sleeping on a park bench. If I’m fed up just *talking* about it, imagine living it.

Maybe I’m just cynical because I’m frustrated, but I think the answer to Alise’s “When are you going to listen?” is “Never.” So, at this point, I don’t have the patience for well-reasoned, carefully thought out answers to the 40 questions. I do, however, have snark. Lots and lots of snark. So here’s my deeply sarcastic, eye-rolling take on the 40 questions.

For evangelicals who lament last Friday’s Supreme Court decision, it’s been a hard few days. We aren’t asking for emotional pity, nor do I suspect many people are eager to give us any. Our pain is not sacred. Making legal and theological decisions based on what makes people feel better is part of what got us into this mess in the first place. Nevertheless, it still hurts.

There are many reasons for our lamentation, from fear that religious liberties will be taken away to worries about social ostracism and cultural marginalization. But of all the things that grieve us, perhaps what’s been most difficult is seeing some of our friends, some of our family members, and some of the folks we’ve sat next to in church giving their hearty “Amen” to a practice we still think is a sin and a decision we think is bad for our country. It’s one thing for the whole nation to throw a party we can’t in good conscience attend. It’s quite another to look around for friendly faces to remind us we’re not alone and then find that they are out there jamming on the dance floor. We thought the rainbow was God’s sign (Gen. 9:8-17).

If you consider yourself a Bible-believing Christian, a follower of Jesus whose chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, there are important questions I hope you will consider before picking up your flag and cheering on the sexual revolution. These questions aren’t meant to be snarky or merely rhetorical. They are sincere, if pointed, questions that I hope will cause my brothers and sisters with the new rainbow themed avatars to slow down and think about the flag you’re flying.

Okay, first off, you’re afraid that religious liberties will be taken away because you define religious liberty as “treating gay people terribly and getting away with it because Jesus.” You want to be able to turn people away from your business because they’re gay, but you’d never stand for it if someone wanted to deny service to Christians. Your church isn’t going to have to marry gay people. Much like the Catholic Church doesn’t have to marry divorcees.

Also, that feeling of isolation, of being alone, of having what you thought were friendly faces not be so friendly? Congratulations, you’ve just experienced a tiny sliver of what it’s like to be a gay Christian. Except that instead of just changing their Facebook profile to something you don’t like, they were saying you should burn in hell, and that if you’re bullied, beaten, and mocked to the point of committing suicide, it’s your own fault.

Also, as far as “slow down and think,” wow, I’m so glad you said that. I totally haven’t read and prayed and considered this for *years.* I just saw that all the cool kids had rainbow profile pictures and I wanted one too.

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

Most of the last decade. And I’m actually *late* to the party. Take the Quakers, for example. There were Friends meetings affirming same-sex relationships in the *sixties* and *eighties* for Pete’s sake. But, please, continue trying to convince yourself that this is just some wacky thing somebody came up with later.

2. What Bible verses led you to change your mind?

Wow, that’s totally not a loaded question at all. What Bible verses led you to believe same-sex relationships were sinful? And I’m sure you totally read them in isolation and came to that conclusion all on your own, rather than believing same-sex relationships are sinful because it’s what you’ve been taught.

3. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

“Sexual activity.” Way to make love and commitment sound dirty. But you’re totally not trying to dehumanize people by reducing whole lives and relationships to sex acts you find icky.

4. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

And again with the prooftext game. Never mind that it’s a shallow and simplistic way to read the Bible, let’s just grab some verses out of context to prove a point.

5. Do you think Jesus would have been okay with homosexual behavior between consenting adults in a committed relationship?

Well, he had the opportunity to throw a “Go and sin no more” at the centurion who asked for healing for the servant he may well have had a sexual relationship with (the word pais can translate as “male concubine”). And he didn’t.

6. If so, why did he reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

Okay, since we are playing the proof-text game, how about you show me where he said *anything* about the quantity of wives. Jesus said you couldn’t toss your wife aside to marry someone else, but polygamy was practiced in Israel, and he didn’t say a word against multiple wives.

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?

If we’re still talking about the same verses, the context makes it pretty clear that we’re talking about cheating on your spouse.

8. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

Or, how about you explain to me how you understand Romans 2:3? Was that just tacked on for the heck of it, and the real point of the passage is “don’t be gay”? While we’re at it, let’s totally ignore the fact that people in the first century didn’t know that sexual orientation was a thing that exists, and thought that same-sex sex was the result of an excess of lust.

9. Do you believe that passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

Do you believe that Romans 8:39 teaches that *nothing* can separate us from the love of God? Because, you know, that’s what the verse says. While you’re at it, maybe go ahead and explain why you’re so eager to grab verses that condemn something you have no interest in doing but don’t focus on verses like Luke 6:35 and or 1 Peter 3:34. If you’ve ever put on a nice suit for church or said no to someone who wanted to borrow $500, maybe you’re not in a position to judge.

10. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

Does it matter what I think? Like, really, I could go on for paragraphs about a consistent sexual ethic of mutual care and consent, and back it up with relevant sections from the Bible, but I’m not going to convince you that every mention of sexual sin ever isn’t referring directly to those icky, icky gays.

11. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

Dude, for real? First off, I’m not a “you must not think or do anything unless you can cite chapter and verse to support it” kind of Christian. I’m much more partial to overall themes and ideas. But for starters, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin and Luther *all* had a pretty deplorable view of women. And yet Jesus pretty clearly taught that women are valuable. So, if their being such awesome Christians couldn’t overcome their culture’s sexism, why would it overcome their culture’s homophobia?

12. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

I never claimed my understanding *wasn’t* culturally conditioned. You’re the one who’s claiming that we know being gay is bad because the church condemned it, even as you presumably condemn things the church approved for 1800 years, like slavery.

13. Do you think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were motivated by personal animus and bigotry when they, for almost all of their lives, defined marriage as a covenant relationship between one man and one woman?

No, I think that they grew up in a heterosexist culture and somehow, magically, were untouched by that bigotry.

14. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

Of course. That’s why we should require divorcees, widows, and single parents to remarry. Also, instead of carefully screening potential adoptive parents, we should pass out kids to random opposite-sex couples.

15. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

Let me freaking google that for you.

16. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

See my answer to question 14. *Obviously* we should push gay people into the closet and convince them to marry people of the opposite-sex. Certainly, those relationships, based on lies and fear, will be perfectly healthy for the resulting children.

17. Does the end and purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

Of course not. Who needs emotional and sexual fulfillment? Married people should be miserable.

18. How would you define marriage?

As a sacred and divinely ordained relationship between one man and as many women as he can afford to buy from their parents. Or a commitment between two people to love each other and build a family. But that second one isn’t “traditional” so it can’t be right.

19. Do you think close family members should be allowed to get married?

Ooh, we’re getting into the “slippery slope” questions. Awesome! Are you going to ask if I think someone can marry a toaster? Or a tree?

20. Should marriage be limited to only two people?

I can see valid arguments either way, but strangely enough, the Bible doesn’t have anything negative to say about polygamy.

21. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married

I like how you throw “consenting” in there when talking about incest. Because someone who’s spent their whole life being sexually abused by a parent isn’t under any pressure to consent or anything.

22. Should there be an age requirement in this country for obtaining a marriage license?

Yes. Obviously no one should get married until they hit puberty, as is Biblically ordained.

23. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage?

From a legal point of view, the relationship doesn’t even have to be meaningful. There’s no legal bar to me divorcing my husband, running off to Vegas and marrying the first random man who buys me a drink. So, yeah, equality entails that we not discriminate on the basis of gender when two people get married, whether in a church or by an Elvis impersonator. I’m sorry this is hard for you.

24. If not, why not?

25. Should your brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with homosexual practice be allowed to exercise their religious beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion?

Maybe someday your LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ will be allowed to *exist* without fear of punishment, retribution, or coercion. Or, you know, physical assault. And murder.

And it depends on what you mean by “exercise their religious belief.” Rant on Facebook, attend an anti-gay church? Knock yourself out. Refuse to do their job as a clerk of the court and sign a gay couple’s marriage license? Not so much. Run a business that’s a public accommodation and deny service to members of a protected class based on their membership in that class? How about no.

26. Will you speak up for your fellow Christians when their jobs, their accreditation, their reputation, and their freedoms are threatened because of this issue?

Not “if” but “when.” Not fear-mongering at all there, are we? The gay mafia is coming for you! I will defend anybody’s right not to be fired from a job for religious beliefs that don’t adversely affect their ability to do the job. I will defend a priest’s right not to marry a gay couple, in whatever alternate bizarro world that that happens. But if people criticize your beliefs, you’re just going to have to put on your grown-up pants and deal with it.

27. Will you speak out against shaming and bullying of all kinds, whether against gays and lesbians or against Evangelicals and Catholics?

That depends. Are we talking about actual bullying or the fake bullying where Evangelicals don’t get everything they want?

28. Since the evangelical church has often failed to take unbiblical divorces and other sexual sins seriously, what steps will you take to ensure that gay marriages are healthy and accord with Scriptural principles?

I don’t know, but I do know that preaching against divorce keeps people in abusive relationships. So maybe we could stop fixating on everybody else’s sexual sins. Nah, that’s crazy talk.

29. Should gay couples in open relationships be subject to church discipline?

Sure! Because “church discipline” totally isn’t code for an authoritarian church browbeating people into toeing the line.

30. Is it a sin for LGBT persons to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage?

Considering that they weren’t allowed to *get* married until about 10 minutes ago, I’m not going to judge.

31. What will open and affirming churches do to speak prophetically against divorce, fornication, pornography, and adultery wherever they are found?

See previous statement about divorce.

32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?

Love is patient, love is kind. Love is probably *not* trying to push gay people into pretending they’re straight.

33. What verses would you use to establish that definition?

Ooh, we’re back to prooftexting again! Let’s go with 1 Corinthians 13.

34. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

Oh, I know this one! This is the gotcha where you get to abuse, demean, and discriminate against gay people and call it “love” because you were just warning them about their sins.

35. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions they make?

I tend to think yes, but all those people who decided to take food out of the mouths of poor children rather than have them fed by a married gay person would probably disagree.

36. If supporting gay marriage is a change for you, has anything else changed in your understanding of faith?

Well, I no longer try to force all the parts of the Bible that contradict each other into some kind of sense. Nor do I assume that because Paul said it, God ordained it.

37. As an evangelical, how has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about traditional evangelical distinctives like a focus on being born again, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

As a what now? You never said anything about “evangelical.” You said “Christian.” But, let’s move the goal posts a bit, shall we? I hate to break it to you, but running away from evangelicalism was the best thing possible for my spiritual growth and mental health. See previous statement about mental gymnastics to make the Bible not contradict itself. Oh, and living in deep soul-crushing fear of hell, either for myself or for loved ones, that was fun too.

38. What open and affirming churches would you point to where people are being converted to orthodox Christianity, sinners are being warned of judgment and called to repentance, and missionaries are being sent out to plant churches among unreached peoples?

Gee, I don’t know, how about the Episcopalians? Not orthodox enough for you?

39. Do you hope to be more committed to the church, more committed to Christ, and more committed to the Scriptures in the years ahead?

Nah, I’ve decided to become more committed to orgies and recreational drugs. Seriously, thanks for implying that I’m *not* committed to Christ. Way to love those who disagree with you.

40. When Paul at the end of Romans 1 rebukes “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them,” what sins do you think he has in mind?

I think he was making a larger point. Hence Romans 2. But, you know, let’s stop quoting where it’s most convenient.

Does That Strength and Dignity Come in a 24?…Some thoughts on ethical fashion.

Recently, I read a guest post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog: “Strength and Dignity are Her Clothing”: Making Ethical Fashion Choices. It’s a really good intro to both the problems with mass-produced clothing and some alternatives. Overall, I like the piece, particularly because it takes a non-judgmental “do what you can” approach. I appreciate how she pointed out that Christian morality can often be really superficial, like the example of Hobby Lobby caring so very much about what their employees do with their health insurance, but not really at all about the health or safety of the people who make their products.

Leah does a good job of summarizing the issue:

The fact of the matter is that the global manufacturing system is broken. In the cutthroat world of retail, consumer demand for low prices paired with increasing raw materials costs means companies are eager to cut costs in the only place with a bit of wiggle room: labor. And it’s easy enough to do because, as people in developing countries leave failing farmland to work in the cities, demand for manufacturing jobs increases, creating fertile ground for exploitation. Laborers take what they can get, ultimately being cornered into wage slavery by distant corporations who pretend not to know what they’re buying into. In the best case scenario, entire families go to work and barely scrape by. In the worst case scenario, such as the tragedy at Rana Plaza on April 24, 2013, over a thousand people die when their workplace collapses.

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? – 1 John 3:17

I think that Fair Trade in general, not just in clothing, is a hugely important thing for all kinds of reasons. People deserve a living wage and a safe working environment. Additionally, creating a market for clothing manufactured in countries that have stronger worker protections (like the US) is a good thing economically. I try to buy “Made in the USA” when I can, and it’s really disappointing how few options there are for that, particularly in clothing.

However, I’m not sure that buying a certain way, and trying to get other people to buy a certain way, is likely to be enough to fix broken systems. The people who both have the resources to prioritize ethics in their shopping *and* who care enough to do so consistently will probably always be outnumbered by those who fall somewhere on the “can’t/don’t want to” spectrum.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. The cliched but still kind of heartwarming story of the kid throwing starfish back into the ocean comes to mind. Being one of the customers who helps an ethical company keep running and pay its workers a living wage is a good and valuable thing. I just don’t think changing the way you shop is enough in and of itself.

I’m also a little leery of her assertion that “We have a duty as Christians to protect the poor, the widowed, and the orphan by demanding manufacturing transparency and redirecting our spending to companies and organizations that treat people with the dignity they deserve.” Do Christians have a duty to help the poor, the widowed and the orphan? Yes, of course. But this particular way of meeting that duty isn’t feasible for everyone, and it’s one of countless things people can do to protect those who are vulnerable. I don’t think a Saturday afternoon spent at the thrift store (to avoid buying clothing that supports wage slavery and unsafe conditions) is inherently more valuable than that same Saturday spent volunteering at a food pantry or volunteering with troubled youth. I don’t think she’s claiming it is, necessarily, but I tend to give a little side-eye to any sweeping statements that paint a specific picture what Christian duty looks like.

Granted, I live with an inner perfectionist and a little black yippy dog running around in my head. So part of my discomfort with her framing ethical shopping as a duty might be a mental self-defense mechanism to avoid adding yet another thing to stress myself out over. But at the same time, I don’t think she gives enough consideration to the limitations that make ethical shopping problematic for some people.

I think it’s important to consider that not everybody has the ability to buy fair trade, at least not exclusively. Money is the most obvious limitation, but size is another major one. I like looking at pretty clothes, so I spent some time surfing the links Leah provided, and didn’t find a single thing I could wear. That’s not to say there are *no* ethical plus-size options. Igigi and Kiyonna come to mind right off, and Let’s Be Fair has a great compilation of plus size ethical clothing resources. But putting together a whole wardrobe ethically is a lot harder at a size 14 than at a size 4. And at a size 24 or 34? Yeah…good luck.

The most common answer to financial concerns, or difficulty finding a wide range of ethical clothing in your size, is “We should be buying less anyway.” And that’s true, as far as it goes. But there’s a lot of pressure on women to dress “nicely,” and wearing the same clothes over and over again is a departure from that. You can mitigate that by swapping accessories, but those also cost money and are also subject to all the same ethical concerns as clothing. If you have an office job, where dressing a certain way is part of the unwritten requirements (and where those unwritten requirements are often stricter for women), having a variety of clothes can be an important part of that. Your boss may well consider it part of you “being a professional” and it can definitely have an effect on your career. This is especially tricky for people in lower-paying but customer-facing office jobs, where you’re expected to dress nicer than your paycheck really allows.

I also think that too much focus on ethical buying takes away from the need for political involvement and activism to push for better regulations. As I said earlier, just shopping ethically is important, but not the whole picture. Exploitative business practices will continue as long as they’re profitable. (So even making them illegal isn’t enough—the law still has to be enforced and the consequences have to be stiff enough that the risk isn’t worth it.)

Taking business away from those companies is certainly part of making exploitation less profitable. But as I pointed out earlier, the people who can buy ethically and who care enough to do so are going to be outnumbered by those who can’t afford to, don’t care, or simply don’t have the mental bandwidth to take on one more thing. For that matter, even those people who buy ethically won’t do so perfectly. If 90% of someone’s wardrobe comes from ethical sources, the other 10% of their clothing budget still supports exploitation. Even worse, any given purchase, no matter how ethical, isn’t going to be perfect. Companies may claim more ethical practices than they actually have, or there may be ethical issues further down the supply chain (e.g., good conditions for the workers in the garment factory, less so for those making fabric or notions). It’s not possible as a consumer to fully research and track all of that. At some point you have to settle for good enough.

I agree wholeheartedly with Melissa McEwan’s criticism of “tasking individuals with the solutions to systemic problems.” Can individuals make a difference? Sure. But the idea of voting with your dollar has a lot of flaws. I’m all for tossing the starfish that I see back into the ocean. But most people can’t spend all day on the beach without some other part of their life suffering as a result. And, in this analogy, the tide isn’t a mindless force of nature—it’s businesses who are choosing to put their employees in harm’s way and pay them peanuts, because it’s profitable, and because they can. And to a lesser extent, the businesses who buy from them without paying any attention to the repercussions. The kid on the beach is way at the end of this chain. It’s a good thing for him to do what he can, but he shouldn’t be pressured or guilted to take on responsibility that isn’t his, nor should we act like he can fix the problem on his own.