Bathroom Boondoggle Part 1: Intersex and Evangelical Denialism
Warning: This series contains graphic pictures of genitalia, frank descriptions of genitalia, sexual development, and sexual behavior.
This is the first installment in what will probably be a multi-part series. It has been distressing to be an Evangelical for the past few years because the movement seems determined to commit intellectual and moral suicide. There are so many examples, but one in which it is currently apparent is in the recent moral panic over the use of bathrooms by transgender individuals. It is so discouraging to see the knee-jerk reaction of fear and hate rather than compassion and sound science.
As I hope to point out, this panic is 1) Not driven by a real threat, 2) A distraction from real threats coming from inside Evangelicalism, 3) The result of a dog whistle used for political purposes, 4) A Trojan Horse to conceal fear and hatred against LGBT people, and 5) Requires a denial of basic scientific reality.
I will start with the last one, though, and a story:
About three-quarters of a century ago, there was a baby born. This baby was healthy and hardy, and would have been a joy to its parents. But there was a problem.
This baby had “ambiguous genitals.” It wasn’t obvious if it was intended to be a boy or a girl, and this caused distress to the parents - and the doctors.
As was common back then (and still all-too-common today), the doctors advised that the ambiguity be “corrected” by surgery. On the theory that “It’s easier to poke a hole than to build a pole,” the baby was assigned the sex of “female,” and its genitals were mutilated. The doctors put “female” on the birth certificate, and the rest of the was swept under the rug. The parents could go home with a little girl, and all would be well.
Later, the baby would grow into a child, and then an adult. Along the way, puberty hit, and this child experienced horrifying changes. Her voice deepened, but she developed some female secondary sexual characteristics. She still identified as a woman, but was sexually attracted to women.
Years later, this person would discover that there were functional testes inside her body. Her androgynous body and deep voice would cause her to be mistaken for a man on numerous occasions, and she would never fit in with either male or female standards.
This story is true.
This person was a client of mine early on in my practice. (Name and identifying details have been omitted or obscured to preserve confidentiality.)
I tell this story because my client is living proof that there are people in our world who are neither fully male nor fully female. The scientific term is “intersex,” as I discovered when I decided to research the issue. I will admit that there was a momentary pause when I heard this story. I had never been taught about intersexuality in school, and most of society - especially Evangelicalism - pretends they don’t exist.
Case in point: Russell Moore (former director of the Council For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood - a thoroughly patriarchal organization) has come out and said that humans exist as male and female only, (because his interpretation of the Bible says so) and anything else is rebellion against God’s reality.
This position has also been taken by Al Mohler and a number of others.
So basically, my client either doesn’t exist, or her very existence is an affront to God. (So, should we kill her? Is that the solution?) It isn’t just Russell Moore either. Every argument I have heard on that side has eventually cited “male and female” as an immutable binary, and most have cited a Bible verse or two to make that point. (As if a proof text taken out of context trumps biological facts…)
This is a classic example of the results of Presuppositionalism (which I discussed here) where Theological “Truth”™ trumps actual objective facts.
When I met this client, one of the first things I did after the interview was to (with permission from my boss) spend some quality time on the internet looking up scientific information to help me understand what my client was dealing with and how I might better represent her.
This is called “being an effective lawyer.”
It is also called “being a decent human being.”
Learn the facts before you go making sweeping judgments. Listen first, make up your mind later.
Well, it turns out that intersexuality is real, and far more common than one would think.
Not only that, even 16 years ago, information was readily available for anyone who had access to the internet or a public library.
The only excuse for NOT educating one’s self about intersexuality before making false, hurtful, and hateful statements about intersex individuals is WILLFUL IGNORANCE.
Actually, come to think of it, one doesn’t even need to look that hard. Perhaps one could, say, watch Oprah. I'm serious. Stop what you are doing, and watch it.
In this episode, Oprah talks with two individuals with intersex conditions.
The first is a young woman with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. In people with this condition, the chromosomal makeup is XY (which would ordinarily mean “male.”) However, insensitivity to testosterone and other hormones produced by the testes lead to a failure to develop external male genitalia. For those with complete insensitivity, they develop fully female externals - vulva, vagina, and clitoris - but lack a uterus. They retain testes, but these are internal, located where the ovaries would be.
For the woman on this show, she probably has the full insensitivity, and identifies as a heterosexual female.
But is she? Well, what makes one male or female? She looks like a female on the inside, and feels like (identifies as) a woman. But she has XY chromosomes, and had testes, before they were removed. So which is it?
On the other hand, if she had been only partially androgen insensitive, she likely would have been like my client: ambiguous genitalia, partial male secondary sexual characteristics at puberty.
This page has some typical presentations for AIS genitals. Note that there is a lot of variation. Some of these children would be determined to be “male” and some “female” based on the shape of the genitals.
For all of these individuals, however, they are genetically “male” - that is, XY rather than XX. Yet many identify as female, some as male, and some as neither.
Just for fun, here is a picture of a group of women who are intersex. ALL have XY chromosomes, but identify as female.
Which ones do you plan to kick out of the women's bathroom?
This is only one kind of intersex condition, however. Now that we understand DNA, we have discovered that biological sex is far from simple.
For example, some have chromosomes that are XXY or even XXXY. And some people have a mixture of XX and XY cells. (One theory is that a set of twins merged early in the developmental process, creating one individual.) I actually have a friend who is a “Chimera,” giving her two blood types, for example. It gets complicated really fast.
Even more odd, there are cases where intersexuality isn’t detected until late in life, as in the man who discovered (after fathering children) that he had a vestigial uterus - when he had hernia surgery in his 80s.
Obviously, biological “sex” is neither a clear binary nor simple at all.
For more on this, here are some resources:
Sex Redefined (From the journal Nature.)
Causes of Intersexuality (A good listing of the major biological causes)
This series from the Intersex Society of North America is excellent. Take the time to explore it thoroughly if you can make time.
Additional Links 8-1-2016:
These were suggested by a commenter, and I believe they are helpful.
A short video explaining how genitals start out the same in both males and females.
A video featuring four intersexuals and their experiences.
Additional Links 8-1-2016:
These were suggested by a commenter, and I believe they are helpful.
A short video explaining how genitals start out the same in both males and females.
A video featuring four intersexuals and their experiences.
How common is Intersexuality?
Pretty dang common.
1 in 1000 infants have some form of “correctional” surgery on their genitals.
Just for comparison, 1% is about the same as the incidence of red hair in humans. 0.1% - the percentage who have ambiguous genitalia - is about that of the incidence of Down’s Syndrome. It is also far more than the incidence of Cystic Fibrosis and other diseases most people are familiar with and that have fundraising organizations.
So chances are, you know someone who is intersex - probably several people.
Even if Intersex people were rare, they would still be worthy of basic human rights and decent treatment, of course. But the fact that they are fairly common should be enough to mean that the Russell Moores of the world should be aware of them.
There is a greater problem for the Russell Moores of the world, however.
If the existence of intersex individuals is admitted, the gender binary on which their worldview is predicated falls apart.
Intersexuality makes for some very uncomfortable theological dilemmas, as I hope to show below. Let’s start with this one:
Intersex individuals raise questions in three areas that go to the heart of who a person is. As I already noted, the issue of biological sex is ambiguous for intersex individuals. Is this person a male or female? What determines that? Is it chromosomes? (In which case, a lot of women may well be classified as “male.”) Is it internal genitalia? (Testes versus ovaries - which would again classify some women as “male.”) If so, what about those who have gonads with both testicular and ovarian tissue? What are they? Is it external genitalia? What about ambiguous genitalia? Who determines who is male and female in that case? (The answer historically has been “doctors,” which hasn’t worked out that well…) If it is external genitalia, then why does non-consensual surgery as an infant determine sex, but consensual surgery as an adult not?
Mind you, this is just for biological sex.
The second question raised is that of gender. (Gender is different from biological sex, and goes both to social gender “roles” and also to characteristics deemed “masculine” and “feminine.”) I have seen a lot of people pooh-pooh the idea that someone might “feel” like a man or a woman. Really? I feel like a man, which is convenient because my genitals match. But what about my client? The genitals didn’t match anything.
So the question remains, if an intersex person feels (identifies) like a man, is he a man? If she feels like a woman, is she a woman? What if ze doesn’t feel like either - just as ze doesn’t look like either. (That’s the second person in the Oprah video, for what it’s worth. Seriously, go watch it already.) Is that identification useful at all, or not? Does the doctor’s opinion of the genitals trump the person’s own identification?
The third is sexual orientation. An intersex individual may well have ambiguous genitalia and chromosomes (sex), view herself as feminine (gender), and be sexually attracted to women (orientation). (As I said, that was my client.)
These all interact in a complex manner, to say the least.
Another problem is that once you admit that biological sex isn’t a clear binary, that opens the door to some unthinkable ideas. What if gender too isn’t a binary, and one’s genitals and one’s brain might not be wired the same way? This might imply that some transgender individuals are intersexual in some way or another, whether chromosomally, anatomically, or in the way the brain has developed. (There is actually some scientific support for the idea that a person’s brain might be wired differently than one’s body. In Sam Kean’s book, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, he describes cases where a person’s brain registers sensations from the penis, but the part of the brain that acknowledges that a body part is part of the body doesn’t. The subjects in these cases also described feeling as if the penis was a foreign object, and that they were female.)
And what if sexual orientation is that way too, something biological about how a person is, rather than the result of sin in their heart?
Needless to say, this makes Evangelicals very uncomfortable. So those like Russell Moore choose to be ignorant and remain in denial of about 1% of the world’s population rather than wrestle with theological discomfort.
As an attorney, I didn’t really have that option.
In my opinion, the major reason that Evangelicals cannot accept the reality of intersex individuals is that the entire worldview is based on a gender binary. From gender roles to masculinity and femininity to power structures to church governance to even their doctrine of Christ and the church, gender is at the heart - and weakening of one link will cause the entire structure to fall.
Let’s start with the most obvious threat that intersex people pose to the worldview: Bathrooms
Which bathroom should an intersex person be “allowed” to use? (As if they should have to ask permission from cisgender males and females to pee…) Let’s be honest. How do you know if that person entering the restroom was “assigned” the wrong gender at birth? Isn’t that a humiliating thing to ask someone? Do you get to demand to see their genitals?
As I hope to point out in a future installment, there will be a lot of people caught up in this gender policing, and very few will be the bogeyman of the “man in a dress.”
And that’s the easy question, honestly. Because the others are even more fraught…
How about this one:
Should intersex people be allowed to have sex and marry? And who can they marry?
Don’t answer too quickly. Remember that young woman on Oprah’s show. She is attracted to and wishes to have relationships with men. But she is XY and had testes. Should she be “allowed” to marry a man? Or is she condemned to lifelong celibacy?
What if she had been classified as “male” on her birth certificate and her genitals mutilated by a doctor? Would that change your answer?
If she gets to choose her gender identity, doesn’t that also imply she can choose who she marries? Doesn’t this have implications for gays and lesbians too?
Since Evangelicals have built their doctrine of marriage on an immutable and vast difference between male and female, the very existence of Intersexuals rocks the foundation, doesn’t it?
How about this question:
Can an Intersexual serve as an elder or pastor of a church?
Most (not all) Evangelical churches forbid women from holding certain leadership positions. So what about Intersexuals? Can they or not?
I find it interesting that St. Augustine (who was far too “liberal” in many areas to be an Evangelical even as his views of women were as retrograde as any man of his era…) acknowledged the existence of Intersexuals. In The City of God, he casually refers to “hermaphrodites” as follows:
“they are certainly very rare, and yet it is difficult to find periods when there are no examples of human beings possessing the characteristics of both sexes, in such a way that it is a matter of doubt how they should be classified. However, the prevalent usage has called them masculine, assigning them to the better sex”
So in that sense, I guess an Intersexual could hold a position a “mere” woman could not…
[Additional note: an intersex person features in some of the Sumerian creation myths - 4000 years ago, long before the Old Testament could have been written. This is nothing new…]
"Hermaphrodite" by Nadar, 1860
Last I checked, this was long before Russell Moore and Al Mohler decided they didn't exist...
Isn’t this fun? And it goes on and on. Evangelicals are often obsessed with clothing - particularly female clothing. Whether it is Modesty Culture or a determination that men dress like men and women dress as women, how should Intersexuals dress? Skirt and tie? Pants and flowery blouse?
How about gender roles? Does the XY get you off from being responsible for the dishes? If Doug Wilson ever brought me up on church discipline charges for not doing the dishes, I’d sure pull my chromosomes as a defense.
Oh, and do you attend the Women’s Bible Study and retreat? Or the Men’s?
For most Evangelicals, biological sex is the single most important thing about a person. It determines everything from their status (or lack thereof) in leadership, who they can marry, what their role in life will be, how they must dress, what jobs are available to them, and whether they have to stay and be beaten by a spouse.
Is it any wonder that the very existence of Intersexuals is a huge threat?
Better to just pretend they don’t exist than to actually have to wrestle with theological discomfort.
I want to circle back again to Russell Moore and Al Mohler.
They deny the very existence of Intersex individuals.
There are only two possible reasons for this. The more charitable is that they are just ignorant. But if so, they are willfully ignorant. A little research would have revealed that they were telling outright and obvious lies about reality.
The less charitable, but more likely true explanation is that objective facts do not matter to Moore or Mohler. Intersex people do not exist because they [thump] read it [thump] in their Bible [thump] and that is the [thump] Truth™.
I have to quote a couple of people again, because they get to the heart of the issue:
Theological needs – better, perceived theological needs – do not determine historical truth. Evangelicals do not tolerate such self-referential logic from defenders of other faiths, and they should not tolerate it in themselves.
As for history, so for science. Enns also says this about evolution, and one could plug in “Intersexuality” and it would be equally true:
The fact that evolution causes theological problems does not mean evolution is wrong. It means we have theological problems.
Just because intersexuals make Moore and Mohler uncomfortable doesn't mean they don't exist. It means Moore and Mohler have problems in their theology.
John Pavlovitz says it so well:
I’m tired of scientific ignorance being treated as if it’s a Christian virtue.
Moore and Mohler and others are speaking with scientific ignorance - denialism, actually. And they are trumpeting ignorance and lies as if they were a Christian virtue. Not only that, they are telling fellow human beings, made in the image of god, that they either do not exist, or are an affront to the Almighty by the very fact of their existence. That’s not just ignorance, that’s evil.
The sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. This is driven by the need to avoid theological discomfort, which is never a good place to start. It never ends well when reality is seen as a threat to theology, rather than a chance to learn and adapt. We have always seen through a glass, darkly. Let us not hate the glimmers of light when they shine through. And let us not prioritize theological correctness over showing love, compassion, and understanding.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of things from the Bible. The Russell Moores of the world love to cherry-pick proof texts and pretend that other texts don’t exist.
Eunuchs are mentioned in the Bible from early on. As Christ himself would later note, “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others--and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” The term “born” is a term that refers to congenital conditions - literally "from the time the sun first shone on a baby." Christ appears to be blessing Eunuchs of all kinds - just as Isaiah did hundreds of years earlier.
I would mention in closing that Saint Paul also made a revolutionary statement in Galatians:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps the point is that in the Kingdom of God, the thing that should matter least is sex or gender.
One more bit to ponder: it has been the practice in our country to mutilated the genitals of infants if they don’t conform to “male” or “female.” Why is that? It surely isn’t because it is a medical necessity.
It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it. The reason is that the existence of those outside the gender binary cause great discomfort to society. We don’t have neutral pronouns. We have segregated many tasks (like housework and child care) by gender. Our society is built on an assumption that women are inferior as leaders and thinkers. Our clothing is segregated. And on and on. Those who do not fit are awkward, and require those of us who are cisgender to experience discomfort. So we mutilate infants. Isn’t that nice? (And then lose our minds when adults wish to alter their genitals…)
A few more links:
Link to stories and videos of intersex individuals
Interesting vlog by a hermaphrodite. (Good bit on the pain of not being believed and treated like mentally ill.)
Another excellent Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome interview. The shame and lies told in an effort to avoid the truth.
Update 8-10-2016: Just another interesting read, on the challenges that intersexuality poses for athletic competition. Daniel Engber explores the history of gender testing for athletic events, and the issues that are raised.
Obviously, this is a completely different question from whether intersexuals exist and whether they should have the basic human rights that go along with that (including the right to marry if they desire.)
Update 8-10-2016: Just another interesting read, on the challenges that intersexuality poses for athletic competition. Daniel Engber explores the history of gender testing for athletic events, and the issues that are raised.
Obviously, this is a completely different question from whether intersexuals exist and whether they should have the basic human rights that go along with that (including the right to marry if they desire.)
Update 7-29-2016: A therapist friend of mine took my challenge to find Mainstream Evangelical voices that affirm the existence of intersexuals and offer an alternative to the theology of binaries. She mentioned Megan DeFranza (who I link to above in the discussion - she's the one who noted that St. Augustine acknowledged the existence of intersexuals.)
Just a couple of words on her. First, she is not an Evangelical in the sense of speaking for any Evangelical organization. (I couldn't determine whether she identifies as Evangelical.) Rather, she is a researcher and scholar.
I was able to find that her book on intersexuality was reviewed by Christianity Today.
The review actually confirmed to me that I am correct about the official position of Evangelicalism on intersexuality - even the ones who are forced to acknowledge their existence. In the review, the reviewer doubles down on the idea that gender binary is a theological truth, and that science to the contrary doesn't change that. This reads very much as "oh, that's nice, but it doesn't actually change anything..." Second, he seems to be advocating for medical "correction" of intersex conditions, clearly placing them in the category of "defects." I'll also note that he doesn't actually discuss the implications - he just notes that DeFranza raises the issues - and insists that his previous view remains: become male or female if possible, and marry the opposite sex. End of discussion...
Update 6-6-2017: An interesting article from the BBC regarding intersexuality in Kenya. It is a reminder that one historical approach to humans who do not fit the gender binary has been simply to murder them. It does have the "advantage" of avoiding the uncomfortable questions and preserving the delusion that the binary is absolute.
Finally, John Pavlovitz really sums it up for me.
In the next post, I want to look at the actual statistics. Short version: No, there isn’t a problem of transgender people assaulting others in bathrooms. But there is a rash of pastors protecting child molesters…
Comment policy: Please read my comment policy before commenting. For this post, I will not tolerate anonymous comments, hate speech, or bible thumping.
When I first read that God created "male and female" I just took it to mean that God created everything, not that there is a clear-cut binary.ReplyDelete
I have a neurological disorder that affects 1 in 3- to 4000 people. This means that there are MORE intersex people than there are people with my condition.
A Facebook friend made the observation that Christians accept the fact that many biological disorders are a result of being in a fallen world. Yet, for some reason, sexual 'disorders' are considered a conscious decision to sin.
A former schoolmate (we were in the same batch, but were never in the same class) now lives in the US as a male. (We went to an all-girls' school.) He gave a TED talk about the gender binary which I thought was very interesting.
Cross posted. I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees Genesis that way! :)Delete
I'll definitely check out the link.Delete
Just one comment. Not disputing your friend's observation that only sexuality is exempt from being considered the result of the fall. I agree with that assessment.
I just wanted to offer another possible view: the various sexual "disorders" from intersexuality to transgender to homosexuality to true hermaphroditism are common throughout the animal kingdom. For those of us who believe in evolution, it isn't much of a stretch to assume that they were present long before humans appeared on the planet. It seems a bit rich to blame them on Mankind's fall, yes?
One last one. I like your take on Genesis, which I share. I find it interesting that those who most insist that "male and female" mandates a gender binary also seem to resist the most vehemently the *other* implication of that verse, which is that male and female are equally made in God's image (which would imply that God isn't male...) and that they were *equally* to rule creation. Just saying...
I agree that sexual "disorders" are common in the animal kingdom and plant kingdom. This is sometimes ignored -- or outright disputed -- by Christians. I was in a Bible Study group where the topic of homosexuality briefly came up. One member said that even the animals know better (or something to that effect). I kept my mouth shut because it was my first time in that group and I was by far the youngest person there.Delete
Among Creationists, I think the idea is that mankind's fall is responsible for all the "disorders" that exist. Since Adam was the head of all creation, his fall meant that everything under him falls too.
Yes, male and female were made equally in God's image and they were equally to rule creation. But then, you know, sin happened. It's all there in the Bible.
It is really interesting that animal sexual behavior has been known for a long time - but intentionally suppressed until the last half century. It was too threatening to societal paradigms...Delete
Your point on beliefs about the fall is a good one. Peter Enns has written extensively on the implications that an old earth has on that theology - one of the places that Evangelical theology refuses to go. As Scarletletters points out below in the comment thread, Evangelicals remain in deep denial about the age of the earth and evolution, particularly the theological implications. As Enns notes, however, the fact that reality causes theological problems doesn't mean that we can disregard reality.Delete
Yewnique, that is a great video. I will probably work it in to a future post in the series.Delete
Thank you once again, Tim, for doing such a thorough job of researching this difficult topic and presenting facts that encourage your readers to further study if so inclined. Looking forward to further installments.ReplyDelete
I don't mean to be flip, but in the best tradition we could solve the Genesis problem (in English) by reading it "male AND female He created them". Like "He created them as both male and female, in a 'Left Hand of Darkness' kinda way." (Actually I'm pretty sure the Hebrew reads different, but since when has that stopped the crowd that's panicked? If I can't get out of skirts by pointing out "modesty" is "respectable" in Greek and applied to dudes elsewhere in the NT, they have to keep the "AND".)ReplyDelete
Honestly I think it comes back to the inability to distinguish between sex (biological, complex) and gender (sociological, also complex) before we even arrive at orientation--because it's profitable for some to insist that sex DETERMINES gender, not in a sociological context but across history and culture as an immutable fact. That there has been nothing like historical/cultural consensus on what feminine and masculine mean doesn't seem to matter. If girls need pink and boys need blue you sell twice as many. (Should someone tell them they could sell intersex purple?)
As you pointed out, it all comes down to consent. They are--if they understand the issue at all--comfortable with doctors or parents assigning sex/gender but not with the actual person doing it as an adult because they're comfortable with authority structures making decisions for individuals in general--the individuals aren't supposed to have anything to add.
They have themselves in a corner. If they admit they're wrong, what's to stop people looking at all the other ex cathedra statements about social issues? And when THOSE are found to be mere smoke and opinion, who will buy their stuff?
There's also a more personal risk. If they admit that sex and gender are complicated, they might have to admit that being dudes does not automatically mean they are smarter/right/should be in charge. Their qualifications (apart from a sterling set of chromosomes) might come into question! In a lot of ways, a woman with dude abilities (or testes) is a misogynist's worst nightmare. That fiction from misogynistic societies always shows matriarchies as hideous and violent--dudes kept in a rape pit or eaten or turned into animals and so on--shows me pretty clearly that they are afraid of what will happen to them should the women (or intersex folks) take power.
Oh yes on the power issue. And on the "nobody will buy our stuff" thing too.Delete
I'm not sure I have the huevos to write about it yet, but the more I research history, the more apparent it is becoming that ALL of our sexual rules too are based on Patriarchy. I'm thinking this may not end well...
A Jewish author I admire makes the point that, until very recently with the advent of DNA testing, nobody could really be sure who their father was and that this has been a giant force shaping society. I don't think it's too big of a stretch to say all our sexual rules are based around regulating/assuring paternity--patriarchy goes with that and kind of is a chicken/egg thing.Delete
Of course, I suppose without patriarchy we could assure paternity by just asking the woman "so, is he the dad?" and, you know, believing her--so there's that.
And I had my eyes dilated today and can't really tell if I'm making any typos, so apologies in advance if I seem to say something that doesn't make sense. :)Delete
Well, or we could skip patrilineal inheritance and go for matrilineal, since one always knows who the mother is. :-)Delete
Boy, wouldn't a matrilineal plan - meaning women control the property - go over well with the Fundie crowd?Delete
Intersex: all the same theological problems as transgender, but without the as-yet inconclusive science to hide behind.ReplyDelete
This REALLY freaks people out. Literally the only counterargument they have is "that's really rare," as if that actually solves anything. We would never apply that standard to anything else. Oops, sorry, that was a really rare kind of cancer and we didn't bother to find out how to treat it, so you get to die. Oops, sorry, only a few cribs had manufacturer's defects, so we didn't issue a recall, sure sucks that your baby died when his crib broke underneath him. Oops, sorry, there's only one venomous species of spider out of the hundreds in your state, so you don't need to know what it looks like and how to avoid getting bitten. Oops, sorry, asteroids don't impact Earth very often and we didn't set up a satellite to monitor them or research any ways to stop them, so now humanity is dying in a Cretaceous-style extinction event.
And speaking of the Cretaceous, the number of scientific issues that present challenges to evangelicalism has just kept piling up ever since Darwin, and they're only just now starting the first baby steps of dealing with evolution. How are they supposed to deal with all this other stuff when they can't even handle the first curveball that got thrown at them 150 years ago?
"Intersex: all the same theological problems as transgender, but without the as-yet inconclusive science to hide behind."Delete
That is one outstanding line!
Thoroughly concur with you on Darwin. 150 years of scientific denialism and Presuppositionalism has done its work, hasn't it?
Thanks for the excellent article on intersex and evangelicals. You have some great information and very helpful thoughts on the issue. As in a number of other areas, conservative evangelicals need to get a clue.ReplyDelete
One might wonder, since God created man in His image, if that image isn't LOVE, since God is Spirit and God is love. It is interesting that the Word places the phrase "male and female He created them," after stating God created man in His image. I believe Scripture teaches respect, but more than respect - love for all. Because I believe Scripture, I follow this as much as possible. But what do I do when I see that the same Scripture teaches that our bodies are God's, not our own? That marriage is between man and woman (homosexuality was well known in both Greece and Rome, and had the Lord Jesus or Paul wanted to, they could easily have said,'A new commandment: marry whichever sex you want...' Instead both restated marriage as between male and female. As an American citizen, I am to live peaceably with all unless to do so would bring me into conflict with the Holy Bible's truths. This will be unpopular, I'm sure, but I think that Drs Moore and Mohler are operating with a bit of wisdom in this area. What they are saying ( as I understand them) is that right now, we have marriage equality in the US. But because samesex marriage is in conflict with Scripture, eventually we as a nation will have to justify all sorts of marriages - for example, who's to say that bisexuals shouldn't marry both of the partners they love? - and this will lead to very real persecution of those who believe Scripture teaches marriages outside of the male-female paradigm are not God's will. I think their observation is astute, far-sighted. This is not to say that very real persecution has not already been experienced by gays or that such persecution is justified (it NEVER is). It is to say that samesex marriages have been accepted by nations with Christian backgrounds (not because of their Christian backgrounds, but because these countries believed in searching the Scriptures, which led to Protestantism, reason, the Enlightenment, etc) and once the Biblical backdrops (including male- female marriage) have been dismissed as mere myths, necessary only as we evolved (in our our minds) beyond the wisdom imparted in the Bible, we will find that anyone who doesn't justify samesexness, transgenderism, bisexuality, and more, will be the ones out of jobs, housing, etc. Equally reprehensible as discriminating against those who do not accept the Bible as inspired truth from God, but I do see it happening, and fairly soon, because while the Bible teaches acceptance, mercy and compassion (however badly these graces may be followed) evolution is and always will be justified and enforced by the law of the survival of the fittest, that is to say, brute strength.ReplyDelete
Well, I mean, the ancient Greeks were not Christians and considered homosexual relationships more enlightened and noble than heterosexual marriage (although they often engaged in both at the same time), and they didn't persecute those who were strictly heterosexual. They thought them a bit prudish or stodgy, perhaps, but the heterosexuals had all the same political rights as your average non-slave, non-female Greek homosexual. And this is in a society that did not have anything like our regard for the freedom of the individual.Delete
I can't really think of any other society in history that had an openly homosexual class with political power, so I guess it's sort of difficult to predict. However, I think it's a bit improbable that the cisgender, heterosexual majority (90%, if you believe Kinsey) will, in a democracy, *soon* find ourselves stripped of legal rights, access to housing, and access to medical care because of how we choose to practice our religion. For example, civil rights laws have been on the books since the 1960s, but it's still legal for a pastor to refuse to marry a mixed-race couple. (Reprehensible, but legal.) That's a much clearer case for most people, but no persecution has arisen. Such a pastor would have to deal with the opinion of society that he is a racist, but not with being arrested, losing his house, or having a doctor refuse to treat him solely because of his faith. Respectfully, I suggest that Drs Moore and Mohler are, sincere though they may be, fearmongering.
I appreciate your gentle tone, by the way. Thank you for being gracious in your comment.
Just a few comments on Diann's comment (thanks for stopping by!):Delete
There is a huge distinction which the Religious Right in general has missed. There is a big difference between choosing not to engage in certain sexual behaviors, and punishing others for doing so. As Breanna points out, it seems highly unlikely that there will ever be persecution against those who have monogamous heterosexual sex with their spouses. The sheer demographics seem to argue against it.
But what Mohler and the political wing of Evangelicalism wants is something altogether different, a really bizarre definition of "religious freedom." Namely, to inflict on others what we would clearly call persecution if it happened to us. If we were denied food, shelter, health care, employment, or access to government services because of our beliefs, we could rightly claim persecution.
But what these laws do - as I will detail more in part 3 of this series - is give government sanction to Christians to persecute those who do not share our beliefs about sex. This includes single mothers in addition to LGBTQ people.
I find it interesting that you have set up a binary here: either we get to persecute others, or it is inevitable that we ourselves will be persecuted. That's really a false dichotomy - and a slander to many LGBTQ people. It assumes that they are out to get us, which has certainly not been my experience.
It's a bit beyond the scope of this discussion, but I would urge you to do some exploration of the key documents of the Enlightenment. I think it is a bit of a stretch to credit the Bible with that development.
A discussion about same-sex marriage can't really proceed if we're unable to define "sex"…which is exactly what the original post was talking about.Delete
I also have a question: Moore and Mohler have said that people are either male or female, period, because the Bible tells them so.Delete
Humans have known that intersexuals exist for at least 4000 years.
How is it "operating in wisdom" to deny that reality?
"for example, who's to say that bisexuals shouldn't marry both of the partners they love?"Delete
Diane, this sentence conflates bisexuality with polyamory, but these are two different things. A polyamorous person, such as myself, may be in love with more than one person simultaneously, whereas a bisexual person simply falls in love with both male & female people (or, depending on the person, with those who fall anywhere on the gender binary. This is often referred to as pansexual, but there's a lot of overlap between bi & pan identities).
Just an FYI, bisexual people are not automatically polyamorous. The reason it's dangerous to equate the two is that this plays into stereotypes about bi people: that they are super horny, less likely to be faithful to their partners, unlikely to have stable relationships...not cool.
Thank you for the clarification. When I wrote about justification of bisexual marriages, I wrote assuming that the bisexual would love both sexes and want to marry both sexes since they would desire to be sexually active with both (i.e., "bi"). I had none of the stereotypes you mentioned in mind.Delete
Your original response reminded me (in the back of my memory) of something that I thought I knew. In researching the next installment of this series, I looked it up and realized that I was right.Delete
We kind of discussed the dichotomy of either laws against LGBTQ people, or persecution of Christians/heterosexuals/monogamists. While you stated it pretty mildly, it is a form of what is *definitely* a talking point of the political movement to overturn same sex marriage. (As I pointed out in another post, this is the justification for laws aimed at preventing LGBTQ people from getting housing, employment, etc.)
I looked it up, and this is very much like an argument that was made 175 years ago (and subsequently...):
If we free the slaves, then there will be a "Negro Domination," and white people would be enslaved.
I look at this and the way that the fear of rape was used to deny African Americans freedom, safety, and equality. It is *amazing* how close the arguments look to the current issue. Basically, it is the same people making the same arguments.
It's the same playbook.
Diann, when I spoke of stereotypes I didn't mean to accuse you of propagating or believing them, I just wanted to point out why the distinction between bi/pansexuality & polyamory is important :DDelete
Thank you all for your comments. I disagree that I have set up a persecute -or -be -persecuted binary. In fact I believe no one should be persecuted in any country, especially where separation of church and state is held. This is not the same as agreeing that samesex marriage has Scriptural warrant. (Personally, I believe that it does not, but I am not the judge of others; I am to follow my conscience as pertaining to God's Word and love all men as pertaining to my conduct.) But here's the problem: in nations where Christians have been the majority, salt has been present both from the Bible's text (and no doubt from the prayers of Christians) to keep that "cisgender heterosexual majority" on the narrow path. When the Bible is removed, we will end up in a place where literally anything goes, because a choice must be made as to marriage as defined Biblically, between man and woman, or a place where we don't really even know what male and female are. My personal opinion is that these 2 paths cannot coexist long; one will have to be denied so the other can continue. As the Bible's words remind mankind that Jesus is Lord, not us, there is no doubt in my mind which way will have the finality in the short run. As to the Enlightenment, John Locke's massive influence (especially in America) was the inalienable rights which are ordained by God, and that God didn't play favorites with men, which is why all men's State of Nature is that they are free and equal.ReplyDelete
But cisgender heterosexual majorities were majorities long before Christianity or the Bible existed, so they can't be held in place or caused by Christians, right? After all the pagan Cannanites described in the old testament are mainly heterosexual, if not exactly monogamous.Delete
I'm not here arguing that same sex marriage is Biblical, I'm arguing that its *legality* won't cause persecution of those engaged in heterosexual marriages. This is because an expanded legal definition can *include* the previous definition by *adding* to it. (Just like when women were granted the vote, that didn't take the vote away from men or diminish their ability to use it.)
You are saying, if I understand you correctly, that you (of course) don't want to be cruel to gay folks or intersex individuals, but you worry that granting them civil rights will cause some sort of lack of civil rights for straight, cis folks. If that's not what you're saying, can you clarify?
Interesting that you cite Locke. (I do indeed recommend reading his works in full. The Two Treatises On Goverment are outstanding, and did indeed - along with Thomas Paine's Common Sense influence our own form of government a great deal.) However, I think that you may have missed exactly *what* his contributions to our founding were. Certainly, it was not that the Bible was to be implemented as civil law. Rather, Locke (like Paine) vigorously advocated for a complete separation of church and state. Locke believed that no person or entity could be relied on to judge between competing religious claims, and that therefore the state had no business judging between them.Delete
In our present instance, we are indeed dealing with competing religious (or irreligious) beliefs. Some believe one way about the sex they are permitted to have, while others believe differently. By granting preference to one set of beliefs, while denying civil rights to the other, isn't that taking a side on a religious dispute?
Again, thank you for your responses. Breanna - you note in your response that OT pagans were "heterosexual, if not exactly monogamous." The "not exactly monogamous" is the part that is important here, because it is that which caused oppression (especially for women), and it is the sexual licentiousness (ashteroth poles, temple prostitution, adultery, etc) that God dealt harshly with wherever it was practiced. Even when you had a cultural acceptance of polygamy and concubinage, the laws of the OT acknowledge them, but give no good examples of the practices. In fact, every single time even heterosexual polygamy/concubinage is practiced, the results are devastating to the practitioners and their children, the nation of Israel, even Egyptian pharaohs. Tim - I do agree with you that in our nation, the Bible is not the Constitution. My point is that, for a time, while we Christians are in this nation, salt is present and decay is slowed. However, as men find a way to get rid of the importance of the Bible and dismiss their need for the Lord Jesus' salvation, seeing themselves as merely highly evolved animals, everything except the Bible's teachings will eventually be justified. The "competing" belief structures are indeed in conflict, and one must prevail. On this earth, until the Lord returns, that will indeed be flesh-centered laws. Personally, I believe the US has the best method for living out my faith until that time; I am grateful for its limiting of those who would force me to follow their beliefs, and I am grateful that it limits my tendency to *make* others believe as I do, even as I am permitted to humbly live out my freedom in Christ as fully as possible, without fear. My point is that soon enough even references to the God of Nature and Nature's God, will be a reminder to men that they are sin-sick, and so will be dismissed. Sure, our rights will still be deemed "inalienable", but it will be because we humans have supposedly evolved beyond primitive impulses. It is at this point that all will be justified, and contrary to your previous post, this is not a "slander" of gays. Many of the Bible's haters and deniers are heterosexual, and many gays have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Moore and Mohler exhibit wisdom in seeing that marriage is between a man and a woman. Even if one disagrees with their literal Biblical hermeneutic, but there's no denying that this is what the Lord Jesus and the beloved Apostle teach. Not averse to scandalizing others, in the habit of proclaiming unpopular truths, accepting physical abuse, shame, cultural dishonor and even death as they spoke the Gospel, Jesus and Paul, in the Gospels and the epistles, against a cultural backdrop which vaunted samesex unions and had a low view of women, both reiterated that marriage is between a man and a woman.ReplyDelete
Okay, I can't let that one go. I know this is a cherished falsehood of Evangelicalism, but no, the Old Testament does not condemn polygamy. Even the prophet Nathan, claiming to speak for God himself, tells King David that, had he asked, God would have given him as many women as he desired. Moses (or more accurately, the compilers of the Torah) assumed polygamy as a norm. That many polygamous marriages turned out badly doesn't mean that the writers of the Old Testament intended to condemn polygamy. (It also ignores that monogamous marriages like Isaac and Rebecca also were dysfunctional.) The reading of this into the Old Testament is eisegesis, reading a later belief into a document whose writers held no such belief.Delete
The second cherished falsehood in this is the idea that sexual license came first, then oppression of women. That is both backwards, and lacks correlation. From ancient times up until about 250 years ago, it was near universally believed that women were vastly inferior to men, and that therefore, men could treat them like property. Thus, polygamy was a natural result of the underlying belief in the inferiority of women.
Christianity didn't change this (although Christ's words and actions *should* have.) Likewise, monogamy was never about the rights of women - it was about how to apportion property - that is women - among men. (Please, please, go and read the actual writings of the period when polygamy gave way to monogamy - Christianity had nothing to do with it - the transition started years before and was a societal decision that men without mates caused violence.)
Likewise, nothing changed about the belief in the inferiority of women until recently. Go back and read what the church fathers said about women. Go read what Martin Luther, Aquinas, Calvin, John Knox said about women.
The change started, not because of Christianity, which was fine with misogyny for over 1700 years, but because of Feminism. Namely, the belief that women are equal to men, equally human, intelligent, and entitled to control their own lives. The social, political, and economic equality of women, to use the dictionary definition.
Shall I continue? I'm a lawyer, and had to study the laws of the past in law school. Do you know the *actual* definition of "adultery"? Most people don't. It is sex between a man and a *married" woman. It is most certainly not sex between a married man and an unmarried woman. It wasn't back in the Old Testament. And it wasn't in Victorian times either. In fact, a man could legally sleep around (as long as he didn't poach another man's property, er, wife) and she couldn't divorce him.
I'll go on. Do you know when the last state in the US finally outlawed marital rape?
Think about that for a moment. Oklahoma and North Carolina (bastions of conservative Christianity) that were the last to change their laws. In fact, for *centuries* Christian doctrine was used to support the law that a man could rape his wife with no consequences.
One more: domestic violence didn't used to be a reason a woman could get a divorce. It also wasn't a crime until Feminism forced changes. And now, in the 21st Century, it is those very people most vocal about "man and woman only" like John Piper who teach that women need to stay and be beaten by their husbands.
Sorry, neither monogamy nor chastity has any historical connection with ending oppression of women. Even today, there is no connection. The societies around the world that most emphasize chastity are the ones that have the highest rates of sexual assault and domestic violence. Want to find the ones with the lowest? Look for places with strong Feminist movements, and laws that punish assault and violence.
Sorry, not going to go along with the propaganda I was fed as a kid any longer. History does not support that claim.
Tim already covered everything I was going to mention about history. I think you and I are just evaluating risk much differently, Diann. Since the actual number of homosexual folks (and those with other identifications) in this country hasn't changed just because the law changed, I can't see that it changes the rate of nontraditional sex being engaged in. (I'm trying to be PG rated, sorry if I'm awkward.) Literally all the law does is make it harder to discriminate against LGBTQ folks. In one area (out of many). If all the behaviors are exactly the same as they were, then socially we are exactly where we were only with more people who have the right of survivorship and whatnot. This doesn't seem likely to propel us into Thunderdome any time soon, just looking at how humans have behaved up until now in history. But I think we'll have to disagree on that--pax.Delete
I'm excited that you're beginning this new series. I've been wondering for while what you're thoughts might be on these subjects. I believe that you, a white, straight, cis-gendered man who knows how evangelical & fundamentalist culture speaks & thinks, have a greater chance of inspiring people to rethink gender essentialism than someone like me (pansexual, polyamorous woman).ReplyDelete
I would like to encourage you to find better videos than the Oprah one, however. I'm unnerved by misinformation like the implication that Hita's clitoris was more male because she gets erections. In fact, all clitorises get erections, which is one of many ways that male & female genitalia are homologous (you can see this video for a quick explanation of genital homology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMztZY21gSA, but I also highly recommend Come as You Are by Dr. Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. for a nice clear explanation of what genital homology means, especially for female genitalia, & how understanding homology can defeat harmful stereotypes about women's sexuality (the clitoris, for instance, extends within a woman's body as far as the vaginal opening. It is the head of the clitoris that we see & that becomes erect, just like the male penis does).
Also, the Oprah video continually refers to intersexuality as a sexual "disorder," & Oprah frequently interrupts her guests with leading questions. The segment where she pushes the first young interviewee to state whether or not she has a vagina (& continually says "vajayjay" because we're all a bunch of first graders, apparently) was particularly painful. Buzzfeed isn't always my favorite, but this video is great: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAUDKEI4QKI. Whereas the medical professional on Oprah's show continually refers to intersexuality as a "disorder" & emphasizes ambiguous "health problems" that parents should fear & look for, this video gives intersex people a chance to talk about what intersexuality is & means (it's not simply "male & female genitalia" as Oprah continually & falsely states) & makes the crucial point that nonconsensual surgery on infants for anything other than to save their lives is wrong & robs those infants of bodily autonomy. It's short & sweet & accurate.
The other point I'd like to make is that Oprah places sexuality, gender identity & orientation on the same spectrum, when these are different aspects of personhood & identity. She was pretty bullying with the third & final guest in trying to put her into a gay or straight box. Perhaps you are familiar with the popular "Genderbread Man" infographic, which does a great job of presenting the many facets of gender & sexual identity: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2015/03/the-genderbread-person-v3/
Thanks again for your work. I enjoy your blog, & actually recently checked out Egg & Spoon from my local library on your recommendation. I've got a book list going based on your reviews alone ;)
Just to clarify, I chose the Oprah video for two reasons:Delete
1. Because anyone who hasn't lived under a rock knows who Oprah is. The point was that ignorance of intersexuality is completely inexcusable.
2. Because even though it has the flaws that you point out (and I agree), it does a good job of humanizing its subjects. Intersexuality isn't just a clinical description. Intersexuals are actual people, with their hopes, dreams, relationships, and so on.
Generally, I have tried to refer to the scientific literature for the biological specifics, and draw from those sources for the most accurate information. For the links, I tried to strike a balance between science and readability. Not everyone is going to read a paper on chromosomes, but could read a layman's summary.
Thanks for the links. I will check them out as well.
Thanks for your reply. I figured you would have seen the same flaws I did. The links at the end of your article were all great, although I wish you'd included part one of the Eden Atwood interview as well, with the great discussion of intersexuality in all of its complexity & how we should take care to avoid simple explanations.Delete
My biggest issue with the Oprah interview is the way she used blatantly leading questions & spoke more than she listened. At times this behavior guided her guests to say what she wanted them to say, or to reveal more than they seemed comfortable revealing. Plus all that interruption is just plain rude. I didn't think that they truly had space to speak for themselves.
Choosing these links is difficult, though, & misinformation notwithstanding the Oprah video definitely makes the point that denying the very existence of intersex people is inexcusable.
Looking forward to your next installment!
Welcome to the Oprah experience. :) And the talk show experience in general.Delete
I'll check out the Eden Atwood interview, and if I find it helpful, I will put a link in the body of the post.
Haha, yeah I never watched talk shows growing up, so her rudeness shocked me. Don't think I'll be going for that experience again ;)Delete
Breanna - you're not awkward at all. Thanks for your reply. Tim - I never said the Bible condemned polygamy. I pointed out that it never gives even one wholesome example of the practice, while it gives many wholesome examples of one man- one woman marriages. (Even Isaac and Rebecca were seemingly happy until Isaac became intent on directly disobeying God by blessing Esau). Feminism did not happen in a vacuum - it happened against the backdrop of Enlightenment equality, and I personally believe that we have yet to attain the equality of women that Scripture puts forth. Also, I'd be interested to know what truly "chaste" societies there are out there, because chasteness certainly seems to be a one-sided affair in all the countries I can think of, the men free to roam and the women punished severely if they are molested, raped, uninterested in marriage, refuse to be a second wife, etc.ReplyDelete
Very much agree on your assessment of a "chaste" society. Purity Culture around the world and throughout history has always been about preserving female "purity" and purity only.Delete
In fact, if I were a betting man, I would bet that male sexual behavior hasn't changed a whole lot since the dawn of time - if anything, males probably have fewer lifetime sexual partners these days now that prostitution isn't a profession containing 1 in 10 women like it did a few hundred years ago.
What *has* changed is that women in a post-feminist world are indeed permitted self-determination. (And you don't need me to tell you that this has caused great gnashing of teeth in many circles.)
I also think you and I agree that Feminism is an outgrowth of the Enlightenment. Specifically, it was an outgrowth of specific Enlightenment ideas. Namely, the equality of mankind, the theory of self and mind, reason as the basis for law rather than religious dogma, science as the explanation for the workings of the physical world, government based on a social contract rather than divine command, and so on.
Where I think we disagree (maybe) is the source of the Enlightenment. I will grant that the Reformation gave birth to the Enlightenment, but for this reason: The Reformation severed the authority of the Catholic Church from belief and religious practice. Basically, the individual was granted the right to interpret scripture, and develop doctrine according to conscience and intellect. From there, it was probably inevitable that other authorities would lose their power. Monarchies fell because government derived from a social compact - the agreement of people as to what their laws would be. Church and State were separated.
But every bit as importantly, reason supplanted "divine revelation" as the basis for determining most truth. This applied in science, where geocentrism could no longer be supported - and soon in geology, astronomy, and biology, where religious truth failed to match observable reality.
In the case of feminism, it was indeed the triumph of reason over "revelation" that gave rise to Feminism. You and I can agree that *we* interpret the Bible in an egalitarian way when it comes to gender. But that certainly isn't how it was interpreted prior to the Feminist movement, and it sure isn't how the majority of Evangelical teachers do today. The change in interpretation (to the extent it has happened) came after and followed from the Enlightenment values of equality and human rights. (As I said, I get the impression we agree on this point.)
[I'll just add one theology-nerd point: I've read through the story of Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Esau multiple times. I can't find anywhere that God commands Isaac to bless Jacob. Rather, God told Rebecca that Jacob would rule Esau, then she took matters into her own hands to fulfil the prophesy. Maybe I am missing something, but that's what I see in Genesis 25-27. My interpretation would be that the dysfunction was caused by parents playing favorites - which seems to run in that family, right?]
Thanks for your kind reply. We are agreed on many of these points, although man- woman marriage ( the Divine alliance) predates all of us ( I believe that Adam and Eve were the first human beings); the Word was transmitted orally before being written, but the Revelation precedes all of us. I agree that the record doesn't say that God commanded Isaac to bless Jacob, however, the Divine revelation had certainly been transmitted to Rebecca (an intimation of equality? Or that Isaac was already not listening to God so He spoke to Rebecca? Or perhaps God transmitted the prophecy to both parents, but Rebecca was the one who took God's Word seriously?) I guess as a younger sibling I can really see Esau lording his firstborn status over Jacob, all their lives, and with the familial favoritism, Jacob constantly worrying about whether he was truly blessed (his wrestling with God, especially seems to drive this aspect home: "I will not let you go unless you bless me!" Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I love theological nerdiness.ReplyDelete
And I as an eldest sibling, find Jacob to be insufferable. :)Delete
Actually it's not "the same playbook." My point is that the Bible validates male-female marriage only. If you'd like to show me where the Bible lifts up another marital paradigm, I'm willing to listen. It's not remotely prejudicial to see that laws that conflict with the Bible's teachings will invariably lead to more laws that conflict with the Bible, nor to comprehend that finally one must give way so the other will survive. So there are some others who also see this coming and use it as a "talking point of the political movement to overturn samesex marriage." That does not make my point either invalid or fear-mongering.ReplyDelete
I already read the 2nd installment, find many of your points fair. I do note, however, that you did not respond to my asking for other Biblical marital paradigms besides male- female. The fact is, there are none. This is important, Tim; and it is fair to state ( due to its forward placement in the Genesis narrative, and the continued male- female paradigm throughout Scripture) that male-female marriage is important. God doesn't gloss over this issue and following His lead rather than (even the most highly evolved) human wisdom in this matter strikes me as eminently reasonable for any Christian, including myself, rather than fear-mongering.ReplyDelete
I think you are mistaking my argument here. I am not talking about a theological conviction as to what marriage or sex they believe God prefers. Believe as you are convinced in your heart.Delete
We are talking about the laws of a government of a nation that contains people of various beliefs. We already agreed that our government grew out of Enlightenment ideals - particularly the separation of church and state.
If Evangelicals want to believe in a particular view of marriage, fine. That is their right.
The problem is that they desire to punish those who do not follow their sexual rules by denying them basic rights, like housing, employment, and so on. They want to insist that everyone else must follow their rules.
That is very much my point.
And claiming that unless you get to force others to follow your sexual rules - on pain of what would be described as persecution if it was happening to Christians - then Christians are somehow being persecuted instead is ludicrous.
That's the fear mongering going on here. And also a concerted political effort to exclude LGBTQ people from access to society which is leveraging those fears.
You can argue theology all you want. We could go around in circles forever on that issue, I suppose. The question is whether your particular theological belief is to be imposed on the lives of those who do not share it.
Great article! I recently started thinking through sex and gender from a Christian perspective too. I wrote a short article just listing some of the basic facts we understand pretty well from science: http://www.stemcellmonk.com/?p=112ReplyDelete
As you point out, popular Evangelical opinion seems obviously divorced from reality. Conservative protestants seem to have a bad habit of getting the "right" answers as the goal instead of doing proper honest research. It's shameful. And its not like there are no qualified scientists or other academics to be found in conservative denominations; you just don't hear from them.
The problem is that to come to a conclusion (about pretty much anything) that diverges from the official orthodoxy gets you drummed out of Evangelicalism really fast.Delete
Thanks for the link as well. Good points. I particularly love #5: "People are human first, and male or female second." I think this is the heart of the issue. As Dorothy Sayers pointed out in her excellent essay, "Are Women Human?" the problem is the assumption that women are not as *fully* or completely human as men, thus the need for a strict gender binary.Delete