jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that


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I Believe Every One

It’s begun. The protests from people I know that so many accusations of sexual harassment can’t be true, that women are too sensitive, that it’s all witch hunt, that good men will suffer.

But me? I believe every woman who has come forward.

I believe every one, because I’ve seen it happen.
I believe every one, because as a child when I ran, scared, to the nearest neighbor to report creepy behavior I was scolded for saying bad things about someone she knew, and I learned that no matter what the movies they showed me in school said, no one will believe you.
I believe every one, because I’ve heard my friends talk about their experiences.
I believe every one, because once I didn’t and I was wrong.
I believe every one, because the least sexist man I know is blind to the rampant sexism and harassment around him simply because he’s lived his 59 years in this aggressively patriarchal society.
I believe every one, because every woman who speaks up is trashed left and right.
I believe every one, because when a co-worker wouldn’t take no for an answer, I felt I couldn’t take action because I’d said yes to the first date.
I believe every one, because women are still asked what they were wearing.
I believe every one, because my brilliant friend worried her career might be harmed for speaking up.
I believe every one, because too many people are still more worried about a man’s reputation than a woman’s safety.

I believe every one.

 

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South of the Border

One person you know tells you something unhappy about their relationship with another person you know. What do you do?

The answer could depend on your geographical location, as I found out when I shared fiestathis dilemma with a friend who spent the last decade in Mexico. If I were Mexican, she told me, I would know when the first person told me about the problem, that it was now my duty to go to the second person and tell them about the problem. It’s part of the social contract that you do this for one another, acting as a kind of buffer to protect the relationship. I am not Mexican, and so this idea horrifies me. My struggle is more along the lines of “it might help things to tell, but it’s probably a violation of the trust of the first person to do so, and everyone could end up hating me because I meddled in things.”

I don’t know how dishes are washed in Brazil these days, but twenty years ago they were washed in cold, running water. If you’re from the US, you might find that idea disgusting. How can dishes get clean with cold water? But if you’re Brazilian, you’d be disgusted at the idea of dishes sitting in a sinkful of water with other dirty dishes, no matter how hot, and speaking of hot water, you only get that a few hours a day, so why are you wasting it?

We can see how understanding a culture is necessary for correctly understanding what people in that culture say and do. And that’s what I mean when I talk about interpreting Scripture within the context of the time and place in which it was written.

This is why, when people talk about the Bible ‘plainly’ saying homosexuality is wrong, I urge them to look deeper, beyond the lens their own culture has taught them to use. And it’s funny, because I’ve seen pastors encourage the same thing…until the topic of homosexuality comes up. Then the principles of sound exegesis get tossed out the window and condemnation rains down from the pulpit!

I like to compare queer people to tax collectors. Tax collectors were villains in the New Testament! Folks were appalled that Jesus would even speak to them. One Pharisee prayed “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” What does this say about IRS agents today, or the person who does payroll at your office? Should we preach against them and call their occupation evil? Of course not. You and I understand that it isn’t the act of collecting taxes that the Bible was talking about. It was the practice of the tax collectors to collect more than was required, and profit from impoverishing others!

Likewise, I don’t think it was gay sex that was being condemned, the few times it comes up in the Bible. When we look into the times and places those passages were written we find that there were specific cultural practices–things like keeping boys as sexual slaves, practicing sexual rites during idol worship, temple prostitution, etc.–and that within that context, the Scriptures are more logically understood as speaking against those specific instances.

Letting go of your own understanding is a hard thing to do, I know. It took me a very long time, but I’m oh so glad I did. I dare you to give it a try 🙂


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Patterns, Part 2

playdough heartIn Part 1, I wrote about the parallels between the “Christian” application of Biblical patterns (real or imagined) to support slavery, segregation, and white supremacy, and the “Christian” application of such patterns to support an anti-LGBTQ agenda. I also mentioned logic issues with such applications, and that’s what I’d like to expand on here in Part 2.

Nothing so trite as “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” has been said to me, but again and again I’ve been told that God’s plan is for men and women to marry each other and have children. You can see this in the creation of man and woman. You can see this in the (highly unimaginative) act of insert-tab-A-into-slot-B sex. Homosexuality can’t be legitimate because it doesn’t involve this type of fitting together, and because it can never result in children.

Okay…shall we follow this line of thought and see where it leads? By this logic, what else might we consider a corruption of God’s pattern?

The most obvious would be celibacy. Genesis 2 clearly states “It is not good that man should be alone.” 1 Corinthians states, “because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.” 1 Timothy warns us that demonic teachings will lead to celibacy. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” Celibacy and dieting…now that can only come from demonic teachings!

Where are all the sermons railing against singleness? Where are the “Adam and Eve, not Eve with a good book and a hot cup of tea!” picket signs? Most people recognize that remaining single is both a legitimate choice and a possible outcome even for those who wish to marry. The Apostle Paul even recommends it! And those anti-gay Christians who recognize that gayness can’t be cured believe celibacy to be the right answer to homosexuality. So, in this case at least, the pattern doesn’t seem to hold.

Now, how about procreation? After all, the rightness of heterosexual relations is all wrapped up in how that makes babies but gay sex does not. Do we then condemn those married couples who remain childless by choice? What about being fruitful and multiplying? Are they not failing to follow God’s pattern for the world by refusing to do this? What about couples who have one or two or three or four children, and then prevent additional kids? If you read your Bible, the pattern laid out seems to have been having as many kids as possible…and definitely at least more than your husband’s other wives and concubines.

Of course, that does bring up the sticky issue of infertility. Is the couple who wants children but cannot have them failing God, being punished, or what? I mean…they don’t adhere to the pattern! But the Bible dealt with that issue, did it not?

And then there’s *cough* sexually pleasurable activities other than the tab-A-slot-B variety. They do not result in pregnancy, after all. I’d be willing to bet that the Christians who would preach against these activities are quite small in number. Many believe the imagery in Song of Solomon points to erotic activities, as well. (Also, I hate to break this to you, but every last item on that list is practiced by homosexual couples.) No one is preaching against sex outside of fertility windows, either near monthly ovulation, or confined to a woman’s fertile years. And pastors gave up preaching against masturbation decades ago. So it seems procreation is not actually a guiding principle after all, biblical pattern be damned.

Another interesting consequence of this line of thought is that it becomes sinful for adult children to remain at home. Back to Genesis 2 again, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Living with your parents is quite obviously not following this pattern. Nor, it seems, is moving out before you get married. I feel like this leaves many people in rather an impossible situation! Clearly we need to go back to arranged marriages…which, if you think about it, follows the biblical pattern to a T, since God Himself arranged that first marriage!

It’s increasingly clear that The Pattern so many folks see in their Bibles cannot be applied to every individual and situation. This leaves one asking why they think it ought to be applied so strenuously to the subject of homosexuality. Could it be that they see in the situations above something of themselves and their own life, but they simply have no empathy or understanding for homosexual people, and thus apply that lens to their understanding?


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Patterns

One protest I’ve heard from Christians, perhaps more than any other, to support their anti-homosexual stance, is about (read this in a booming voice): God’s Pattern For The World.

They argue that, even if the scant mentions of homosexual behavior can’t be made to condemn all homosexual relationships, it’s crystal clear that God has laid out a pattern for society, and homosexuality is a corruption of that pattern.

There are, undoubtedly, patterns within the Bible. The number 7, for instance. The notion of sacrifice. Adoption. The chiasmic literary structure in many Psalms. People having their name changed. Late-in-life children. Hanging out on roofs. Problematic men named Saul.

You see, finding patterns in the Bible is a lot like finding pictures in the clouds. cloudsWhat you and I see as we lay in the grass gazing upwards is going to be very much dependent on what we already know. This is why the Rorschach test is a thing, right? What you see can reflect who you are and what’s going on inside your head.

When we try to impose the patterns that we see upon others, or upon society in general, logic begins to break down, but this doesn’t seem to stop folks. I’ve been pondering this issue lately, and trying to find spare moments for research, and it’s clear that one post isn’t going to be sufficient. But I wanted to share some of the more disturbing things that I have found so far (references listed at end).

Many prominent Christians quite recently (and perhaps even currently) believed that God’s Pattern For The World was one of racial segregation, racial supremacy, and even slavery.

From C. R. Dickey:

“The point of importance here is that some kind of infiltration did take place which resulted in marriages contrary to God’s established order and His expressed will. Therefore, the sin responsible for the death sentence was a widespread and forbidden mixing of dissimilar peoples…”

“We are hearing much idle talk these days to the effect that there must be no such thing anywhere as “second class citizens.” This nonsense is based on the assumption that God created all human beings equal in every respect, and that He has drawn no lines of distinction among them. But in the Bible we find inequalities that segregate into classes members of the same family, to say nothing about distinctive qualities of race and color.”

“These chapters establish proof of discrimination in God’s plan, discrimination which bears directly on the segregation controversy today.”

From Bob Jones:

“If you are against segregation and against racial separation, then you are against God Almighty because He made racial separation in order to preserve the race through whom He could send the Messiah andthrough whom He could send the Bible. God is the author of segregation.”

“When you run into conflict with God’s established order racially, you have trouble. You do not produce harmony. You produce destruction and trouble, and this nation is in the greatest danger it has ever been in in its history.”

Robert Lewis Dabney held the belief, as many did and do–I have heard this, here in the North, in my own lifetime–that the Curse of Ham is upon certain races:

“But while we believe that ‘God made of one blood all nations of men to dwell under the whole heavens,’ we know that the African has become, according to a well-known law of natural history, by the manifold influences of the ages, a different, fixed species of the race, separated from the white man by traits, bodily, mental and moral almost as rigid and permanent as those of genus.”

And of course, white ladies and children must be protected from contact:

“…this Negro of yours, reviewing and censuring the records of white sessions, and sitting to judge appeals brought before you by white parties, possibly by white ladies!…Do you tell me that after you have admitted this Negro thus to your debates, your votes, your pulpits, your sick and dying beds, your weddings and funerals, you will still exclude him from your parlours and tables?”

Do you see the parallels between the “Christian” protests against equality, even personhood, for racial minorities and the “Christian” protests against homosexuality? Because what I see?  It’s a pattern.

References:

When ‘Religious Liberty’ Was Used To Justify Racism Instead Of Homophobia

The Bible and Segregation By C. R. Dickey

Is Segregation Scriptural by Bob Jones

How the Bible was Used to Justify Slavery and White Supremacy

 

 


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To Err is Human; Love is Divine

A lot of churchgoing people these days seem to be edging wishfully toward an acceptance of homosexuality. They get as far as “hey, this does seem a bit ambiguous…” but can’t seem to take the next step. If you’re one of those people, this post is for you. (If you aren’t, you may want to go read this, or this, or watch this, and come back another time.)

I had intended to keep a list of ridiculous things people said to me when I came out. Sadly, like my list of books I’ve read this year, my plan to plank every day, and the dress I started sewing back in March, my intentions did as intentions do. But one thing that stands out in my memory is one of the church elders, at the kicking-me-out meeting, tried the slippery slope argument: “What’s next, polygamy?!” First, if you’re using slippery slope, it’s because you lack support for your position. Second, show me the commandment against polygamy.

Go ahead, I’ll wait while you run a search on your eBible. Find it? Didn’t think so.

“But!” you say, “it clearly never works out well! It causes all kinds of problems!” And I agree! In fact, that’s one of my two reasons for rejecting it. When we investigate the stories of polygamy, we find confusion, selfishness, envy, bitterness, hatred–bad, bad fruit.

By their fruit, you will know them.

Now, let’s take a look at the traditional stance of the Christian church against homosexual behavior. Specifically, what is the fruit we see proceeding from it?

Our youth are at risk: “LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth.” and “LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.” LGBTQ youth are also more likely to be homeless and/or sexually exploited.

The church has a bad reputation: “Nine out of ten outsiders found Christians too “anti-homosexual,” and nearly as many perceived it as “hypocritical” and “judgmental.”” (note that 8 out of 10 Christians felt the same way!)

Church attendance is down, and young people are less likely to attend after graduation, or once their parents give up trying to force them. (I’m citing no reference but have heard many a pastor complain about this.)

Church and denominational splits occur over this issue.

Countless people like myself find that they are excluded from their church families, and from their very faith.

Countless people are seriously mistreated in the name of ‘curing’ their homosexuality, a thing that cannot be done. The most prominent organization, “Exodus International shut down in 2013, with an apology from its leader for giving “false hope””.

Where is the good fruit? Who is being saved, helped, loved?  Unless you count standing firmly against something as good fruit, I have seen none.

So, if there is ambiguity, if we cannot know for sure what the answer is, where do we err? I think the Bible-specifically the New Testament-is clear on this one: We err on the side of God’s grace and mercy, which is billions of times bigger than any mistake we make. We err on the side of freedom. We err on the side of love.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Love is Love


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Us vs. Them

flagsToday I did an uncomfortable thing: I showed up at the local Veteran’s Day parade, found the PFLAG group, and marched with them. Why uncomfortable? Well, I didn’t expect to know anyone, and groups of people I don’t know scare me a bit, and I knew that there would be others around us who hated what they saw.

I shouldn’t have worried (this won’t stop me next time, I promise you). When I found the group, I said, “I think I’m with you,” and they cheered. One woman lent me a beautiful rainbow umbrella, and the group gave me candy to throw to children as we walked the parade route. I have no idea if any adults disapproved of our presence there, but the kids loved me.

This experience was an interesting contrast to my recent experience at church.

When I came out, I was immediately removed from my ministry position. It was explained to me like this: “When a police officer kills someone, they’re put on administrative leave while everything is sorted out.”

Yeah, you read that right.

Three weeks ago, I was asked to leave the church entirely (well, they gave me the option of lying about my beliefs instead, but I could have sworn there was a commandment against that). This time they told me it was to avoid division in the church body. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how forcing someone to leave isn’t division.

When I told a little of my story to the PFLAG group today, their response was to invite me to a support group, and suggest churches they’d found to be gay-friendly. They weren’t at all bothered that my beliefs might not match up perfectly with theirs. As far as they were concerned, I belonged.

And that’s a thing I’ve noticed more and more lately. This ‘us vs. them’ thing? It’s not coming from queer people. It’s coming from the church. Take the Nashville Statement. It doesn’t just state that homosexuality is wrong, it claims that if you disagree, you can’t even be a Christian. And I’ve seen some people say that gay folks have appropriated the rainbow from God, and how dare we. I can’t think of a more ridiculous argument, especially in the face of 1980s children’s cartoons, Lucky Charms cereal, and Lisa Frank school supplies. I’m fairly certain one is allowed to be both Christian and a carrier of colorful Trapper Keepers. But Christian and gay? Hell no.

Well, people, your Christian Agenda is working. I’ve noticed lately that when the topic of “Christians” comes up in conversation or in my thoughts, I think in terms of “them” rather than “us” or “me.” Don’t get me wrong, my faith in God remains intact. But my identity as a Christian? It’s been stolen…by the church.


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Einstein, Electrons, and God

Einstein.  It’s hard to think of another word that so succinctly embodies the idea of human genius.  We toss it around as a descriptor (“She’s no Einstein”) and use it to sell things (Baby Einstein, anyone?).  Einstein: the human yardstick used to judge the smartness of every wanna-be smarty-pants.

erlenmeyer

It’s hard to take a picture of electrons with my cheap Android phone, so here’s a flask of poisonous gas I made.

So you might imagine I was a tad surprised when my introduction to quantum physics included a short segment on how Albert Einstein never could wrap his brain around it. My gosh, if Einstein couldn’t get quantum physics, why is my professor expecting me to?!  Is it too late to switch majors?

But when it came down to it, the problem was not that our old pal Al wasn’t bright enough to understand quantum physics.  It was that he couldn’t force quantum physics to fit into his idea of How Things Are, and more importantly, How God Is.

I’ll try not to bore or confuse you (the truth is, I don’t understand enough to drone on about this…yet), but basically it goes like this: the behavior of electrons can be explained—kind of—by probability.  You know, heads-or-tails, roll-the-dice-in-Vegas, rock-paper-scissors odds.  And this made Einstein deeply uncomfortable.  “God does not play dice,” he protested.

Oh Al, I get it, I really do.  I know you wanted to Explain All The Things, and predict every outcome.  Life’s a lot more comfortable that way, isn’t it?

Electrons move from point A to point B without passing between point A and point B at any time.  Which is impossible, as we know. Except that apparently it’s not, because it’s happening, like, everywhere, all the time.  I mean, on the one hand, this gives me hope that one day Scotty really will be able to beam me up. On the other, it is never, not in a million years, going to make sense to me.

Like electrons, God is something we’re never really going to wrap our brains around.  Oh, we should definitely keep trying, don’t get me wrong.  But too often, we create our own picture of how God is and what He wants, and then discard anything that doesn’t fit.  Like Einstein, our discomfort can halt our understanding, our learning, and our progress.

Quantum physics is so totally going on my Things I Probably Won’t Care About When I Get To Heaven But Just In Case Here Are My Questions For God list.

Einstein died still trying to explain away the probability that unnerved him.  This may be the first time anyone’s said this to you, but: don’t be like Einstein.  Don’t let how you think things are keep you from seeing what really is. And don’t put God—or electrons—in a box.  They don’t tend to stay there.