Murmurs and Antagonisms

Orthodoxy via Heresy

Tag: Christian

Letters: A Reply to John

To John,

I will probably just attempt to feel my way around in your thought as best as possibly and not so much respond critically but engage productively (which sounds goddamn trite).

You asked how I could consider myself Christian still. I still ask myself that. Of course, on one hand, the easiest answer is we’re all Christian inasmuch as we’re Western. And, while I think that to be at least generally true, I think it’s an exercise in avoiding the question. The question is still: how can I continue to be a Christian with the body I inhabit? Our bodies are ours and not ours. And I guess by that I mean a body which I had little say over is one I came to inhabit (not that I am anything other than that body). Lacking a “say over” my body has been the tension I’ve existed in. My body is read as male and relatively masculine at that and, similarly though not analogous to your experience with anti-blackness, I cannot escape the trans-antagnostic structure that frame my body while giving it a context under which to make it make sense. So how can I believe in God? How can I identify with Christianity? The answer is to some extent still to be determined.

But I wanted to touch on your tautology. I think your tautology traces a methodological commonness between us, or at least a shared assumption. It assumes that everything, at its core, is theological. And I think I would articulate it differently: namely that theology isn’t so much the study of statements about God (religious confessions) nor is it simply about religious practice but a study of explicit names of God. If your conclusion (via Feuerbach) holds, that theology is anthropology, I think it’s also to some extent fair that theology is genealogy.

Which fits nicely with conceptions of God’s death. God has died yet we require new names for God and I think you touch on this in stating that “God is a socio-instituted concept… God is real, but God did not have to be and does not have to be.” And I think that’s pretty apt. Though, I guess, for me, and here I might have a disagreement. I agree that God did not need to be but I do think the term God has a distinct referent. What that referent is I’m not sure. But if we need to name God and naming God isn’t some reductively Christian argument that “Money is God” I would contend that we are naming an actual Object/Subject. I think this to be true because I think naming God, theology, fundamentally originates in an encounter with something/one (whatever that might be). Along the lines of Julien Baker: “But I think there’s a God and he hears either way/and I rejoice/and complain.”

I like your “Matrix of Man” which seems to be the antonym (or at least a contextualizing partner) of intersectionality. And I say that since I don’t think one can identify as intersectional, or rather, make it an identity claim. Since intersectionality is a method of analysis, a tool to confront crossing forms of material oppression, I wonder if the “Matrix of Man” is a correction or at least a less positive encounter with material. And this is hard to work out in my brain so let me try to put it into this form:

1) Intersectionality is a tool to analyze the criss-crossing points of material oppressions. As such it’s useful to an extent but it has a strange rigidity. It can encounter and define and excavate but I’ve always felt that it was still a bit too rigid to encounter material harms;
2) In complement or antithesis to intersectionality the “Matrix of Man” seems more fluid, more topological and less geographical. Less oriented at a crossing but existing on a plane, a plane that enfolds us.

Are intersectionality and “Matrix of Man” absolutely opposed? No, I doubt it. They are antonyms but complement one another. Maybe intersectional is particular and “Matrix of Man” is more generalized, less centered on a foci or point but on self-justifying institutions that perpetuate themselves.

I find your last few sentences kind of intriguing since it seems to be a weird resignation. But I don’t think it is. I think it’s denying an outside, that we’re always inside this bullshit. And being inside means a refusal, what Beauvoir calls an “explosion in the heart of the world.”

So, why am I still a Christian? I’m not sure if I am or not (depends on how you define that term). I know there’s a God, am inclined to accept that the basic claims of Christianity are probably true-without-being-True, and I want to follow Jesus but following Jesus too often means following a white, cisgender, heterosexual norms (the whole “not called to heterosexuality but to holiness” stuff). And being within a Christian world (your Matrix is explicitly and distinctly Christian for us in the West I think) means to some extent learning to find ways of saying no to that World such that I could exist without it.

Your friend,

Jonas

 

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First post in this series of letters: On God and Theology

On Gay Marriage: Pissing People Off

[This is a follow up to my post On Gay Marriage, just a few various thoughts]

1. The question, or point, the previous post was aiming towards was not one of the rightness or wrongness of gay marriage. Rather, I wanted to suggest that in  being in the world feeling multiple things at once is possible, good even. But ignoring that some of the comments made it abundantly clear that we are discussing surface level issues. Marriage is the idol of our allegedly secular (read: Christian) nation. It’s the project towards which big money has been going these past ten some years. None of this is to discount the lives lost to get us where we are today, but it is to say that marriage is just another Christian commodity, gay or not. Everyone has been sharing Justice Kennedy’s statement about marriage. Other than the fact that he sounded like an idiot high school kid he was expressing a distinctly Christian form of marriage.

2. Like it or not, these issues are uninteresting in many ways to me. It was increasingly clear over the past three years or so that gay marriage would be ruled legal in the US. It’s all centered around discourse that still partakes and finds itself embedded in the Christianity so many people seem to want eschew.  I get it. But when you’re talking about love in an American context you’re still talking about a colonizing, often Protestant love, a love that extends the Christendom project of America.

3. And that’s the rub. The liberal, capitalist elite run the social justice issues of the day and in a sense co-opt the labor of the average person. When you can make your Facebook profile picture a pride flag, when WordPress has a pride flag at the top of the dashboard the other day, it’s clear that this isn’t anything resembling a small person issue. And in many ways I can respect the middle America conservative folks who feel threatened by big money shoving an agenda down everyone’s throats. So, I get it. There’s something to be said when one’s values are threatened. Laughing conservatives off the stage is understandable but at the same time it kind of reifies the discourse.

4. If our single concern is marriage equality I think we’re missing the point. I think I’d rather combat my whiteness and subvert it to the best of my ability than worry about equality especially if equality merely means sharing HRC logos and the passionate speeches of celebrities who have nothing to lose.

5. As Yasmin Nair states, “But the sad truth that many of us learn after years in sexual playing fields (literally and figuratively) is that how many people you fuck has nothing to do with the extent to which you fuck up capitalism.”

6. I’m going to eschew sex positivity if it’s still tied to capitalist, Christian, pseudo-secular discourse. I’ll pass on talking about marriage equality while those in power are murdering the least of these.

7. Gay marriage is part of the commodity forming machine of capitalism at this point. We can definitely do better.

On Gay Marriage: There is No Contradiction

Gay marriage is legalized.

This shouldn’t be news to anyone who reads the news, is on social media, or has friends who do the former two. Gay marriage is legalized and I’m celebrating with my friends who are married, who want to marry, and who need to have their marriages recognized by law so that that they and their families can partake in the benefits everyone else can. But I have some other, more curmudgeonly thoughts. Thoughts directed primarily at Christians who hold a traditional ethic. But thoughts also directed at progressives.

A traditional ethic is fine. Hold dearly to what your conscience dictates, what you interpret the bible to be saying. That’s fine. But at some point maybe ask some questions. At what point does traditional marriage become an idol? At one point does fighting for heterosexual unions distract from other, more important issues? Where’s the outrage about Charleston, Ferguson, Beavercreek, McKinney, New York City, and any other place where Black bodies are under attack? Where’s the outrage about settler colonialism? Where’s the outrage and worry about the capitalist system that’s killing our economy and environment? Where’s the concern for nonhuman animals being slaughtered for our mass consumption by factory farms out to seek a profit? Care about any of those? Or just gay dudes making out? And maybe ask if your view actually is hurting queer folks?

Cause frankly you don’t need to like, support, endorse, or even give a single shit about gay marriage. Like stated, I don’t care if you change your views and in some ways I’d rather you not. But marriage seems to be the hard on of choice and it bugs me. I think Jesus cares a bit more about the Palestinian kid being murdered at the hands of Israeli soldiers than gay couples marrying. Could be wrong.

I’d like someone to tell me how gay people are impeding the bringing of the just kingdom to earth in all its fleshly glory?

But it’s okay. Hold to your traditional beliefs. But if you’re not coming out and fighting against the murder of trans persons, against the workplace discrimination of LGBTQ persons, against police brutality, against nationalistic terrorism done in the name of the red, white, and blue, please step off. Otherwise, I’m going to say you’re making marriage an idol, a bigger deal than St. Paul ever made it, than Jesus ever made it. And wondering why you don’t care about the actual least of these in society.

But this isn’t just anti-conservative Christians. I’m kind of pissed at the progressives too. At one point did we decide it was okay to be a part of a screwed up system? Why do we want equal rights to be in the military and government? It confuses me? I feel like honesty demands that any progressive worth her salt admits that the gay marriage movement isn’t a minority movement, not meaningfully. Sure, go off population stats but then you’re playing into the hands of the conservatives. When Apple, White House, Amazon, Starbucks and basically any other large company endorses you you’re not a minority movement anymore. Not really.

And that’s not always bad. Gay couples can marry and receive benefits, as they should. But it distracts from more pressing issues surrounding trans healthcare, murder, and assault. Big money isn’t gonna save you, it just makes gay marriage another privatized commodity in the capitalist machine.

What’s the point of this point? I’m just pissing on peoples joy and sorrow. Yep. That’s right. Mostly I’m registering publicly that the work is not done for progressives at all and that conservatives need to get their priorities in line.

I rejoice with the couple who drive me to church on Sundays in Michigan. They’re two of my heroes and I admire, love, cherish, and appreciate their friendship and for welcoming me into their lives. Appreciate all that more than they can know.

I love my conservative friends who challenge me and push me to do better. More than I have ever made clear or probably ever will.

But I can’t get behind either side full heartedly, not when queer people are being murdered and killing themselves, not when people are being killed by the police, not when sentient beings are being slaughtered for our pleasure and enjoyment.

I rejoice and mourn. Both are possible.

Conservatives: rejoice in your gay friends today and mourn the loss of a traditional ethic. There’s no contradiction.

Progressives: mourn with the conservative Christians and rejoice. There is no contradiction.

I rejoice with my progressive, gay, queer, friends and mourn the continued loss of life.

I mourn with the my conservative friends, because they feel attacked and regardless of whether they are or not they feel something and I mourn and suffer with them.

That’s being human. This isn’t just a piss party. It’s a post to try and get us to focus on bigger issues, on issues that are pressing still, demanding attention, and to move on from our victories and losses and use them as motivation to move forward, to learn to think the unthought and work from within difference.

An Apology and a Promise

I’ve been thinking about the focus of this blog. About it’s design, layout (which I’ve updated to something far simpler), goal. And while there really is no express goal (as such) I want to focus my writing more. I’ve failed, twice, in abiding by my own standards about blogging. Actually, just by my standards regarding social media. Twice I engaged in the Christian blogosphere. I criticized Matthew Paul Turner in a post that was unfair, harsh, and mocking rather than constructive. The other time I criticized, rightly (I think), the tendency to be bland and inane in Christian blogs. I focused specifically on Rachel Held Evans. Both times were different. In one I was in error, the other I don’t think I was. But both posts have been removed. Not because I’m ashamed. Not because I am upset. Rather, I do not want to engage in little spats within a tiny culture. I’m not interested in (sometimes helpful) but rather bland blog posts. I’m definitely not interested in perpetuating little twitter wars over blog posts that will pass within six months time, or less.

Now, this is not to say I don’t think harm was done by the MPT post in reference. I think he made a lot of people feel unsafe. Mix that post in with the Tony Jones fiasco and you have women not feeling safe in the progressive circles which claimed to make safe space for them. But I can’t, in good conscience, continue the endless tirade of blogs and criticisms. Criticism is rightly placed and used, and ought to be used. I applaud it. It’s what good journalism does: pushes back, discovers, tells a story. It must do so, however, with integrity (the way Rolling Stone handled their reporting of the UVA scandal as an example). It’s what good blogging ought to do. Or, maybe not, since the nature of the blog is such that it just creates echo chambers of hits and shouting. [Note: I am not a journalist, the use of this is simply a comparison to how stories of a serious nature ought to be handled. See this post by Caitlin Flanagan as an example of what I think is good journalism.]

The reason for writing this post is that I am done with using twitter as a tool for litigation. I am done using twitter as a tool to start uproars about bullshit, like the “Christian Cleavage” fiasco. I understand all of the reasons for being mad, I do. But I can’t use twitter like that. So, I won’t. Nor will I use my blog to just call out others in the Christian blogosphere (unless I have an actual, meaningful criticism and not a mockery). That isn’t my interest at all. My blog is for my intellectual pursuits, what I’m thinking through, and sometimes my poetry. And maybe eventually the stories of others if they feel safe enough to share.

So, I apologize for turning this blog into an angry, rant space. I’m going to do better. As a friend told me, (paraphrased and slightly reworded), “Some things are best left in a journal.” I am done being bold for the sake of boldness. I want to to push Christendom where it needs to be pushed, at its underbelly. I don’t want to push on the surface at bloggers. And I definitely do not want to push at what I see as surface issues that describe deeper problems. I want to push against the thinkers of Christendom that stand the test of time, that are shaping conversations now.  That’s where I want to wage my little battles, engaging seriously and effectively. So, I promise to try to do better. To always side with victims. To not give an outcry where my voice isn’t needed. And I will try to care less about the popular Christian blogosphere…especially since they nor I will be remembered when we die. Hopefully, some day I can share stories of survivors. I want to share stories. I want my blog to be a safe space. And I want those stories to be emphasized. But I do not want to weaponize those stories. But for now that is not the focus of this blog. As such, I will leave it to other, better equipped and knowledgable bloggers to raise stories and share them.

[As a former homeschooler and conservative Christian, I am fully aware of the abuse/injustice plaguing those communities. I am specifically concerned about the homeschool community within Denver and how they’re shaping so much of America. The ideologies advanced do harm, do damage, oppress, and are abusive. And I want to combat that at its core. And people within Christian circles are doing so. If requested I can provide a list of resources, and will probably create a page on my blog for resources and links.]

 

The Least of These

[Trigger warning: homophobia, suicide, Christianity, religion]

Today I was told I wasn’t a Christian because I was a jerk.

I was told I’m irritating.

I was told that my refusal to adhere to God’s law spoke more about the state of my soul than any words I could speak in my own defense. Today, once more, I saw the true heart of evangelical Christianity. At least, the false evangelical Christianity. And I’m pissed. And I think it’s okay for me to be pissed off.

The conversation came about because this kid posted an article by Al Mohler in which he deals with a congregation within the Southern Baptist Convention who chose to affirm gay folks.  And the thread on this kids Facebook page devolved into the same poorly formed, half-thought arguments too often perpetuated by the conservative end of Christianity. All I said was: lol. I laughed. Not at Mohler’s point, the SBC can do whatever it likes (though kicking that church out seems to me to be the height of inane action), but at how quickly the thread devolved, at the very simplistic understanding of our relationship to scripture. I was then messaged by this guy and asked, and I quote, “Do you think sin is hilarious bro?” to which I responded harshly. But I think I have a right to be harsh.

I understand the arguments for an against same-sex marriage, for acceptance or not. But my opinion changed not because of great arguments (frankly, both sides have mediocre arguments mixed with a good one here and again) but because of stories, art, and listening. I remember reading this article and nearly sobbing. It tells the stories of gay teens, kids, who have killed themselves because of bullying. And then this:

Anti-gay backlash was instant. Minnesota Family Council president Tom Prichard blogged that Justin’s suicide could only be blamed upon one thing: his gayness. “Youth who embrace homosexuality are at greater risk [of suicide], because they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle,” Prichard wrote.

I remember reading those words. “Greater risk because…unhealthy sexual identity…” and I paused.

I had to rethink my own developing thoughts on LGBTQ issues. If people die is that ok? Through it all I kept hearing, Love the sinner but hate the sin. Like a song on repeat: lovethesinnerhatethesinlovethesinnerhatethesin, the voice of “right” and “wrong” echoed onwards through my head. I went to camps where I heard people say we need to take a stand for biblical marriage, fight the decline of Christian morality. But I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all a crock of lies? If you can really love someone but not their actions when it comes to sexuality and gender.

It seems to me to be a distinction founded on air. I realized then that when people are dying because of a belief and no one does anything that that belief is inane, wrong even. And I quit fighting against gay people and tried to love on them and embrace their beauty. But all this goes deeper and is ten times more personal.

Berdyaev states, “No man can be an incarnation and personification of evil, the evil in him is always partial. For this reason, there cannot be a final judgement upon anybody.” And reading that line and re-reading it gives me pause. And it brings me to the realization that I cannot be judged except by God. My lack of biblical faithfulness, or my biblical faithfulness, are not the determining factors of my salvation. Just because I don’t buy into one interpretation held by the Church for centuries does not make me any less likely to be saved. And like the Ethiopian eunuch my brothers and sisters ask, “Here is water. What prevents me from being baptized?”

So, someone tell me. What prevents me from being baptized?

What prevents me from partaking of the grace of God?

Unrepentant sexual sin, is the answer too often given. But I don’t put my stock in my faith in God, when I confessed Jesus as lord. I put faith in my baptism by which, and through which, Jesus chose to lay his grace on me.

So, tell me. Why am I jerk for not tolerating beliefs which have caused no end to suffering for my brothers and sisters?

Why am I jerk for refusing your interpretation of the bible?

Make my day, Christians. Go ahead, make it. I dare you. Because as long as kids are dying, AIDS is an epidemic running rampant without anyone caring, as long as people are being murdered and imprisoned for things they cannot change, I refuse your biblical faithfulness. And that might make me less a Christian, it might make me a heretic, it might mean I’m not saved. But somehow, I think Jesus still loves me, flaws and all.

So, make my day. I dare you.