Wednesday, June 1, 2011


One example among many many others. There are so many things wrong with this that it is hard to know where to begin.

And here's a sterling example of the tiresome pedantry appearing in the comments thread of Thinking Anglicans these days:
The simple reality is that using a term like 'gay' because it is a neologism means its meaning is not univocal. RJB puts his finger on the tricky landscape this new language lives in.

The present discussion appears to assume there are distinct categories of 'being' that are more trenchant than gender (or more vague, like the 'genderless' fiction in Toronto, with the young infant 'Storm').

So, one is 'Gay' and that means adopting the acculturation of Gay life (being and acting as conjoined). Or, it means, someone who chooses not to adopt that life and indeed rejects the term, but who also does not identify with 'straight/strait'. Are monks/nuns of necessity either gay or straight monks?

Is Gay a political term as much or more than a quasi-biological term? Hence its appearance latterly but not before the 19th century?

Here we also run into the problem of 'sliding scale.' Does a 'straight' person with 'homosexual' inclinations become 'gay' when these reach __ %? When they have a same-sex encounter?

So on the one hand the terms are used as if they refer to states of being/biological givens. X is 'straight.' Y is 'Gay.' And yet one also speaks of inclinations and desires as semi-autonomous and declarative in some sense.

Add into this the business of social construction, and the *process* of maturation, and at what point is boy X 'gay' and at what point 'straight' and how does that come about?

All these areas of confusion are not the homophobias of 'global south style' incubation, but belong to the welter of our age. To declare terms univocal is not to make them so. This is why it is equally false to speak of 'scientific' facts independently of a sociology of knowledge.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 1 June 2011 at 9:33pm BST

There are long stretches these days where I just don't have patience for the comments threads on Anglican religious blogs. The pious pedantry becomes just too much for me to bear. It seems as if most of institutional Christianity has disappeared down a rabbit hole of almost monomaniacal preoccupation with what Tobias Haller calls "pelvic issues." Christianity is becoming unhinged over the "gay issue" with obsessive and ridiculous arguments over what peg goes in which hole (literally sometimes). The face of Christianity to the world these days is frequently that of obsessed and unhinged (and frequently older) people ranting furiously over what 2 boys or 2 girls might like to do with each other on a Saturday night. Many people these days, when asked what Christianity is all about, will answer opposition to homosexuality, opposition to pre-marital sex, and opposition to abortion. Resurrection and unconditional undying redemptive love hardly seem to get any attention at all in the public forum, or even among the religious themselves. This preoccupation with the mysteries of the bedroom is disproportionate.

As I read all of these people with divinity degrees throwing around proof texts and arguing fine points of law and doctrine like lawyers, I'm coming to the conclusion that God ultimately is practical. God is a pragmatist, and not a legalist. It seems to me that the image of God that these arguments create is one of a kind of monster Santa Claus keeping naughty and nice lists; or a kind of nightmare school master demanding the correct recitation of the correct answer in some horrific oral exam in a catechism class. Such a god would not be our friend, but our hall monitor, and none of us would have the correct hall pass. It seems to me that a God we call "father" (that Jesus called "abba" or "daddy") would not be this way at all. He wouldn't be an exam proctor or a morals cop, He'd be a parent. If we are to really understand God as a parent, then maybe the best place to look for insight is at parents. I am not a parent, but I remember mine, and I've seen others parenting. What strikes me about parenting is that it can be a very improvisatory business based, not so much on what is correct, but what works, what works to make a loving home where children can feel safe, feel loved, and go through the painful and necessary living and learning of growing up. Even the best and healthiest of children tend to make a mess of things. Teens make bigger and more consequential messes because they are on the brink of adulthood, but still are children. Loving parents stand by their children no matter what, as mine did, and they were certainly not "perfect" parents. No one parents "perfectly" and no one grows up "perfectly." We can only do the best we can with what we have in a mysterious world that we can't control. I think that this is really how God works when dealing with very messy mortals and their very messy relationships. Even the most superficial glance at the historical record shows that how people have arranged their lives together and created households changes constantly, sometimes radically, depending on changing circumstances and understandings. That flexibility is not inconstancy, but a quality which is very necessary to our own survival and to the safety of others around us, adaptability.

A friend of mine years ago said that the Commandment against adultery was way over legislated while the Commandments against killing and stealing remain under enforced.

God, like any parent, takes the sex lives of His children seriously, that they should be responsible and do no harm to themselves or to anyone else. At the same time, God like any parent, is concerned first and foremost with His children's welfare, that no harm should come to them. Also, the truly self-sacrificial aspect of being a parent is, in the end, letting daughters and sons go out into the world and make their own lives for better or worse.

We all must make our way through a world where greed, predation, and aggression are crowned with success, where death, and the fear of death, ultimately rule (Santa Muerte). It seems to me that God has far bigger and more urgent things to worry about than peeking into everyone's bed sheets. God is more concerned with matters like these which happen somewhere on earth daily.


June Butler said...

What in heaven's name do gay-straight alliances in schools have to do with sex in prisons? The "Christian" homophobes often use the scare tactics of comparing two quite dissimilar situations to stir up fear and loathing against GLTB persons. It's despicable.

Doug, I'm glad you had loving parents who, though not perfect, parented you well. However, your analogy of God to parents breaks down for those of us with one or two abusive parents, whom we knew did not have our best interests at heart. We'd have to think of TV shows or, as I did, of my grandparents or of the parents of my good friend who permitted me to spend a good deal of time at their house, to make the analogy work.

Counterlight said...

Perhaps I should have been more clear. I think the analogy is loving parents, which we are all entitled to have whether we have them or not.
It seems to me that your grandparents, and the parents of your friends, stepped in and played that role for you.

Counterlight said...

It also seems to me that you were a very good parent to your own children.

June Butler said...

I meant to add that I agree with your description of the attributes of a loving God. We are driving hundreds of thousands of young people away from the church with our arguments about same-sexuality and gender. For the majority of the younger generations, same-sexuality and women and gay clergy are non-issues. They look at the older generations and their quarrels and the focus on who's having sex with whom in wonder and are repelled by what they see and hear. Can we blame them? That's no way to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

June Butler said...

Counterlight, I made mistakes in parenting, but I did my best, and I hope my children knew and know that I love them

Counterlight said...

Our best is all that any of us can do. I'm sure your children, now with children of their own, would agree.

JCF said...

It seems to me that a God we call "father" (that Jesus called "abba" or "daddy") would not be this way at all. He wouldn't be an exam proctor or a morals cop, He'd be a parent.

How does that Country song go?

[para. from memory---probably when I lived in Country land in Central PA in the 90s]

"A daddy's love isn't for sometimes
It's a love without end, Amen."

MarkBrunson said...

A great deal of the reason for pseudo-intellectual diatribes like seitz's is the precise thing that MadPriest pointed out; liberals are too damned polite. Simon Sarmiento will allow anything to be said to, about, at liberals, gays, and gay-friendly folks and balk at simple truths like saying, "You folks can't tell the difference between two gay adults who are in love and someone committing murder or theft or raping a child, and that makes you simply wrong!" But their equating gays with thieves, murderers and pedophiles is just fine!

We just can't be mean to them! (simper, whine, whine) They're just misguided! (simper, whine, simper) Please, brother homophobe, beat me some more!!!

It's not just there. It's pretty much all across the so-called "liberal" blogosphere and in the so-called "liberal" leadership in real life, and it's a disgrace. It's a sick, masochistic self-loathing that masquerades as "tolerance," and its backlash, the unfortunate poisonous outcome it the denigration and rage shown to those of us who point it out. Oh, "liberals" can get intolerant then, believe me!

I say, either stand up and push back or back down and stop pretending to lead.

Murdoch Matthew said...

Mark, agreed that reality-based people (there ARE gay people in the world) must push back against those still peddling superseded world views. But it wasn't long ago that pro-gay views were deemed too objectionable to publish, or even to mention. Progressives DEPEND on free speech; we can't deny it to our critics. Still, the earth is not flat and humans aren't male or female but develop along a female-male continuum. C. Seitz speaks confidently from a long-established and socially enforced paradigm; liberal criticism seems frivolous and self-indulgent to his tribe. People who find themselves living other paradigms know better. Still, we won't shut down established but erroneous world-views overnight. May take a decade more.

MarkBrunson said...

You misunderstand; I don't want to deny them the right to express themselves in a public forum, rather I'm tired - sick to death, in fact - of the idolatry of "tolerance" that allows abusive views to be published and denies the right to respond with the level of anger and sheer truth warranted out of fear of - and it is nothing else - being seen as mean to our enemies. The result is not "fair play" for our enemies, but a craven, scraping and bowing to them at our expense.

That attitude is a betrayal of our trust in those representing us in those public forums.

I can also argue that tolerance is not an absolute. It simply isn't, and, if that's what we're basing our claims on, then we are in the wrong. I will not tolerate someone abusing someone else in my home, or my blog, or my workplace, for that matter. These views, placed in a blog in which gays are certain to see them is abuse. You can't argue, on one hand, that words have power and do damage and on the other that we're so tough and our cause so righteous we won't be hurt by a few words! A thing cannot be its opposite.

I am rather passionate about this because I see in it an element of self-loathing on the part of our spokespeople and community leaders - that we have to somehow earn the right to speak up in kind, to earn the right to shout down lies and abuse. Moreso, I'm a lifelong Southerner so I've seen this in the arena of race relations, and it does hurt your cause - it tells the bully you're beaten down and will back down when those people represent you.

Murdoch Matthew said...

Mark, I would have posted again agreeing with you more, but I had to go out. The Internet was full of sickening misinformation after I left Counterlight -- gay chaplains are going to commit genocide on straight Christian soldiers, same-sex marriage will result in recruiting grade-schoolers to be gay -- anti-gays get to lie constantly, misrepresent reality, and then accuse gays of being intolerant of their bigotry. It is to wretch.

I don't think our side is guilty of self-loathing, more we're the good kids who stay out of the spotlight to avoid trouble. (Is our president the nice black kid who never causes any trouble? Same syndrome.) We're too polite to contradict an idiot directly. We're nice, the bigots are not.

The bigots operate from a long-established paradigm of privilege; feminists and gays challenge that supremacy. Their coherent story is under assault, and the fact that it's under assault by evidence that they're wrong only increases their sense of injustice and resentment. Feelings they project on us.

Commenters on mainstream religious sites like The Episcopal Café regularly dismiss calls for more fact- and history-based faith by touting the wonders of intuition and deriding mere scientific views as impoverished, lacking in a sense of glory. Facts take backseat to a wonderful STORY. But how is one story to be preferred to another story if it's all feeling and no evidence? I think you're right -- with all the lies and deliberate misinformation filling the air, it's about time to stop being polite and to excoriate willful, malicious ignorance for what it is.

Murdoch Matthew said...

In a pluralistic society, we've learned to give respect to all sincere views. The right-wing doesn't just abuse this convention, they exploit it. William Temple, later Archbishop of Canterbury, observed in a 1914 lecture given in NYC that it's impossible to distinguish a deep religious conviction from a mere prejudice -- neither rests on evidence.

Lapinbizarre said...

The Thinking Anglicans post you quote is Christopher Seitz of the "Anglican Communion Institute" (one of convicted felon Don Armstrong's ex-pensioners - remember the "three guys and a website" thing as they dived for cover in the wake of that scandal?) in concern-troll mode, trying to muddy the waters at TA, using the dialectics of a past generation. It's not working and he's not worth bothering about.