If you’re trying to make a problem worse, I have trouble believing you when you say you’re solving it.

The New York Times recently published an op-ed arguing that all economic problems with abortion can be solved with private charity. It should be obvious to anyone paying attention how false that is.  It’s nice that, in the course of lying to you about breast cancer and depression and withholding your test results, a crisis pregnancy center might also hook you up with a low-cost car or help you with utility bills. But that only scratches the surface of the economic issues–everything from life-long medical costs from pregnancy complications to lower earning potential as someone with a kid to take care of. Crisis pregnancy centers frequently stop helping women as soon as they can’t obtain a legal abortion.  They’re certainly not going to help with daycare costs when the kid you didn’t abort is five, or help you out with the cost of insulin for the next twenty years if gestational diabetes never goes away.

It occurred to me that crisis pregnancy centers are, as far as I’m aware, the only charities working on an issue who are actively trying to make sure more people need their services. Every other organization at the front lines of addressing a problem at least encourages measures that would prevent the problems they address in the first place. Animal rescue groups hold free spay and neuter clinics and encourage people to get their pets fixed. Groups who help homeless people find places to stay are also often trying to address substance abuse, mental illness, and economic issues.  And you won’t see crisis hotlines for LGBT kids saying, “Sure, go ahead & reject your kids for being gay! We’ve got this covered.”

Crisis pregnancy centers, in contrast, actively oppose measures that would result in fewer unplanned pregnancies. The author of the NYT Op-Ed wrote an abstinence-only “sex ed” curriculum—the very kind that drives up teen pregnancy rates. Additionally, by trying to make abortion illegal, they’re looking to massively increase the number of people who need their assistance.

There were about 660,000 abortions reported to the CDC in 2013, and there are between 2300 and 3500 crisis pregnancy centers. Divided evenly, that’s a couple *hundred* additional people in need of help per clinic per year, without even counting the increased abortions if schools that are currently teaching medically accurate sex ed switch to abstinence only.

An American Independent article lists some statistics on the number of people seen by crisis pregnancy centers. According to the Family Research Council, approximately 230,000 ultrasounds were performed at a thousand centers, 230 per clinic.  Even if those centers only did ultrasounds for *half* of the pregnant people they see, providing services for the 650,000 people who currently have abortions would be a 50% increase.

Any other charity might panic at the idea of 50% more people needing their help.  Ask a homeless shelter to add 50% more beds or a cancer treatment center to see 50% more patients, and they’ll be frantically trying to figure out where the money, staff, and resources will come from. But a CPC’s apparent response is a shrug and a blithe “We got this.”  The op ed doesn’t mention any such numbers, or any concrete plans for how the author’s organization would handle such an increase, only the vague generalization that conservatives “must sacrifice their time and treasure to serve women in need”. It’s worth mentioning that this sacrifice of time and treasure is totally voluntary, with no guarantee it’ll actually happen if abortion rights disappear.

To me, that’s a pretty strong indication that CPCs aren’t looking to solve the economic problems associated with unplanned pregnancies as much as they’re trying to put a fig leaf over them. “See, women don’t need abortions! Crisis pregnancy centers will provide them with charity so they can take care of their babies.” Whether their help is sufficient for the actual needs of the pregnant person isn’t really their concern, as long as they prevent that person from having an abortion.

(Hat tip to @AnaMardoll for her thread on how disingenuous the idea that abortion isn’t an economic issue “because private charity” is)

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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.

If You Celebrate When People Are Denied Medical Care, You’re Doing Christianity Wrong

Trigger Warnings for transphobia and denial of medical care

I spent a lot of time in church as a teen and young adult, and I was pretty sure bearing false witness was a sin.  Apparently not when it’s against trans people, or government organizations advocating the controversial position that trans people deserve medical care. The Gospel Coalition put out an article celebrating an injunction against a  “regulation that would have forced doctors to perform gender transition procedures—including on children—even when it violated their conscience.”

Except, that’s not remotely what the regulation does. To start with, the author spends a lot of time talking about how horrible and dangerous it is to perform gender transition procedures on children, as if that’s a thing that’s actually done. They completely neglect to mention that the WPATH standards of care don’t allow gender transition surgery on minors. Up until the latest version, they didn’t even allow hormone blockers to delay the onset of puberty. But the Gospel Coalition would have you believe that doctors are performing genital surgery on children willy-nilly.

In the rare cases where this surgery is performed on children, it’s not due to gender dysphoria, but to intersex conditions. Genital surgery for intersex conditions is a whole other can of worms (particularly if performed cosmetically on infants), but suffice it to say that some intersex conditions are harmful and surgery is medically necessary in those cases. Denying treatment to those kids because their existence as intersex threatens your binary view of gender is sadistic.

The second crucial point is that gender confirmation surgery is a very specific specialty. No one is performing these surgeries without having deliberately chosen to go into that field, any more than random general practitioners are asked to perform brain surgery.

So, the doctors who are worried about being “forced” to participate in transition care are *not* the ones performing gender confirmation surgery. No, these are doctors who don’t want to participate in any part of a trans person’s care because they object to their being trans. Apparently, refusing to treat a broken arm because you disapprove of someone’s gender identity is a protected religious freedom.

There may also be doctors who perform procedures that could be included in transition, but that don’t want to do them for trans people. For example, a doctor who does breast augmentation and reduction might balk at surgery to enhance a trans woman’s breasts, or reduce the breasts of a trans man.

But, if TGC provided that example, it wouldn’t come with the same assumption of “protecting children” and “avoiding medically unnecessary surgeries” as trumped-up fantasies about gender confirmation surgery on children.  And it might bring up inconvenient questions, like how a doctor who’s happy to perform medically unnecessary procedures on any cis woman who wants a D-cup suddenly has grave medical concerns if that woman is trans.

Another major point is that both this article and the lawsuit conflate religious objections and medical objections. There is no language whatsoever in the regulation stating that a doctor is expected to go against their own medical judgment or perform procedures where they believe the risks outweigh the benefits. And yet, the lawsuit states “Under the new Regulation, a doctor must perform these procedures even when they are contrary to the doctor’s medical judgment and could result in significant, long-term medical harm.” I can only assume that at least some of the doctors represented were proctologists, considering that they appeared to have pulled that argument out of someone’s ass.

But probably the worst thing that this ignores is that healthcare discrimination against trans people is rampant:

According to a 2010 report by Lambda Legal, 70 percent of transgender respondents had experienced serious discrimination in health care. And a 2011 study of more than 6,000 transgender people by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force found that 19 percent said they had been denied health care because of their transgender or gender nonconforming status. Many of them avoided the doctor’s office altogether: 28 percent had postponed getting health care when they were ill or injured, and 33 percent had delayed or not sought preventive care because of their past experiences with doctors.

Cosmopolitan has a Twitter roundup from the hashtag #transhealthfail – things like insisting on using a patient’s legal name and thus dangerously outing them as trans to the entire waiting room, or asking invasive questions about genitals to a patient who’s there for a sore throat.

Trans people *die* because medical personnel don’t want to treat them. In one case, EMS allegedly allowed a trans woman to die by refusing to treat her diabetic emergency. This was after a hospital didn’t perform the tests that would’ve found the diabetes in the first place.

This is not about trans people wanting to force unwilling doctors to perform gender confirmation surgery. Seriously?  You think people who are shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for a major surgery that will affect everything from their emotional health to their sex life wants anybody working on their private parts who isn’t fully committed to doing the procedure properly and taking good care of them?  Come on now.  This is about trans people wanting to receive actual medical care when they’re sick or injured, without doctors having the legal right to refuse care *because* they’re trans. And the Gospel Coalition should be ashamed of pretending that it’s anything else.

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.

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.

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.

Judging and Being Right

So, Matt Walsh says Jesus wants us to be judgey. He makes a couple decent points, but I don’t really agree with his conclusions.

My first big bone of contention with this article is the part where he does a lot of proof-texting where he grabs one verse out of context, with the implication that it supports his politics.

In actual fact, there are a lot of urgent truths and important moral lessons in the Bible. Interestingly, almost all of them have fallen out of favor in modern American society. Here are just a few verses that aren’t particularly trendy or popular nowadays:

(WARNING: Politically incorrect truths ahead)

[snip for just the quotes I’m referencing, there’s also the badly translated gay clobber verse in there]

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.”

Funny how the “inconvenient truths” line up with conservative politics, isn’t it? (Never mind that proof-texting is lazy theology and you can make the Bible say anything you want.)

God said to a prophet that he knew him before he formed him in the womb; therefore a blastocyst is morally equivalent to a born person. Paul said to a group who were sitting around doing nothing because they figured the end of the world was coming any day that they needed to work if they wanted to eat; therefore we should get rid of welfare.

I do agree that “Judge not lest ye be judged,” doesn’t mean “Don’t hold moral opinions on anything” or “Don’t criticize evil.” But I doubt, very seriously, that when he says he “judges rightly” that he holds himself to the same standard he holds others. When he talks about “standing up for truth,” it’s pretty clear that it’s about condemning homosexuality and abortion—all very easy for a straight male. It’s easy to feel brave and righteous when condemning actions you would never be tempted to. (See Rachel Held Evans’ “Everybody’s a Biblical Literalist until You Bring Up Gluttony”.)

But what sins does he talk about here that he admits he’s guilty of, or tempted to? Not a one. He makes a vague statement that, “I am a sinful person. If you would ever consider accepting and celebrating my sins for the sake of being “non-judgmental,” please do me a favor and stop doing me that favor. I don’t want to be made comfortable and confident in my wrongdoing. I’d rather have you hurt my feelings as you help me get to Heaven, than protect my feelings as you usher me right along to Hell.”

This statement does two things. First, it pretends that the only thing pro-choice women or gay people have to complain about from the church is “hurt feelings.” It glosses over gay kids being bullied and kicked out of their homes, it glosses over women being denied medical treatment in the hopes that the fetus growing inside them will survive. It pretends that judgment, as long as it’s right by *his* interpretation of the Bible, can’t hurt anyone. All the people who are “judging rightly” are doing God’s holy work, and anyone who’s harmed by that is just whining about “hurt feelings.”

The second thing it does is to assume that God is not strong enough to save us if we’re wrong, and makes salvation a matter of other people’s intervention rather than God’s. If my friend sins, and I don’t call him on it strongly enough, often enough, loudly enough, then it’s my fault if he goes to Hell. (And yet, I bear no responsibility if he cuts off all contact with me because all I ever did was criticize him.) Jesus’ death on the cross was not partial or conditional. It’s not only the sins you stop committing that you’re saved from. Yes, you’re supposed to repent when you know you’ve done wrong, and try to do better, but you *will not* become perfect in this life, nor are you expected to. Every human being on the planet dies with unrepented sins, and I doubt their salvation will hinge on whether someone gave them enough grief about one of the many things they did wrong.

This second bit also puts me in the position of supposedly knowing God better than my friend. Because sin is always supposed to be clear and black and white, despite the fact that the Bible is complicated, nuanced, and subject to a whole range of interpretations. But the assumption is not just that my interpretation is right, and I must educate my poor ill-informed friend, but that said friend has clearly not considered what the Bible says on the topic, clearly hasn’t prayed about it at all. It *must* be that I’m the virtuous defender, pointing out evil, and they’ve chosen to ignore God. It’s a nice story, but reality is more complex than that. Sincere Christians come to different conclusions about sin and morality *all the time.*

How about we don’t assume we’re judging rightly? Yes, call out wrong-doing when you see it, but be humble enough to accept that your view may be distorted. Accept, maybe, that other people have thought and prayed and wrestled with these things as much or more than you have. And accept that it’s not your job to drag them, kicking and screaming, down the path of righteousness.

I also find it interesting that the verses that support his politics (or kind of maybe do, if you squint) can be trotted out as “politically incorrect truths” that obviously apply across time and culture, but that a different standard applies to this one:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?