Reformation Redux: Eight Ways Indulgences Then = the Gay Issue Today

The splitting of Christianity in two—what I (and others, somewhere, I assume) call Christian Reformation II—is being occasioned by the gay issue, which in many ways is to the Christian church today what the sale of indulgences were in the days of Luther.

Like the sale of indulgences then, the condemnation of gay people now:

  1. is morally wrong.
  2. is an institutionalized abuse of power.
  3. is founded upon gross misreadings and misapplications of Scripture.
  4. capitalizes on people’s fear.
  5. terribly victimizes untold numbers of everyday people.
  6. calls for the shucking off of religious authority and the reclamation of a personal, one-on-one relationship with God.
  7. is fueled by a new and widespread communication technology. *
  8. was always destined for the dust heap of history.

*The printing press then; the Internet now.

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  • Really appreciate your consistently strong words in support of LGBTQ folk. I also really wish you would use LGBTQ instead of gay. It’s sort of like saying Methodist when what you really mean is Christian.

  • I’ve thought that the church has found itself at a crossroads for awhile. I really like how you’ve shown some parallels to help spur things along. I would hope and pray that the coming schism is less filled with anger, and bitterness as the last great shift of the faith, but I doubt it. Considering how the clarion cries to quell the voices of the LGBT community, the forays into politics to stem their rights and to reduce the rights of women, and the seeming disregard to the plight of of the hurting, I am pretty sure that things are going to be ugly for awhile.

    And to think we are called to be people of love.

  • Valerie

    I so totally see your point and it is appropriate since the current political candidates mean to take us back to the Middle Ages.

  • Tom Backus

    Maybe we are missing the mark here. Maybe the answer is to bring back Indulgences and sell them to gay people. Heck, I know I would buy one. Then when someone comes to me and says, “You’re burning in Hell because you are gay.” I can reply, “Nope, sorry, you are wrong, I bought my Indulgence. I am good to go. See you in Heaven.”

    OK, maybe not. John, I couldn’t agree more with you on this. I have seen the split coming for years. It has already split the ELCA, which may not be such a bad thing. Now the ELCA can quit its focus on trying to make everyone happy and we can get back to the mission we were called to do.

    As always, thanks for your continued support of all things oppressed in this world.

  • I like this. It is short, concise and to the point. I do wonder at times what will become of it all, but am glad for those individuals that call themselves Christian who welcome me into their church, community and families. I think I will forward this to my Dad. Thanks!


  • Amy

    I also appreciate what you do, John. When I first took a stand as an ally, I thought I was in the minority because the antis are so vocal. Thanks to you and others, I’ve grown a spine and I’m not embarrassed to be an ally. Through that, I’ve discovered there are a whole lot more of us. Keep doing what you’re doing, it IS making a difference!

  • Lymis

    I don’t fault John for not using the alphabet soup thingie (and you left out the A and the I, as well as the second Q).

    I fault us as a movement for not successfully coming up with a useful and pronounceable umbrella term. Gay was supposed to be that word, but nobody got around to coming up with a male parallel to lesbian (though a few were tried, like urning and androphile), so it defaults to male homosexual people only. Queer had too much baggage, but is still holding on and may win by default in a generation.

    Gay may be somewhat inaccurate and lack some inclusiveness, but it has the advantage of making us seem like people rather than a classification. Whatever else is true, something like LGBTQ simply cannot be the final answer, and frankly, it wouldn’t be understood by the vast majority of the people who most need to hear what John has to say to them.

    I salute him for consistently using it as an adjective rather than a noun, and calling us gay people rather than gays.

  • LSS

    Gay is also acceptable as an umbrella term, at least to many in the LGBTQ community.

  • Audrey Smith

    Also, to use LGBTQ implies that the discussion has something to do with trans people as well. The T is about gender identity and expression — NOT about sexual orientation. I am pretty sure John believes in the full inclusion of transsexual and transgender (and there is a difference) folks as well, but so far I have not seen these groups of folks and their issues within the church addressed outright in this blog.

  • Audrey Smith

    It is NOT acceptable to the Ts.

  • LSS

    Oh! Urning? that one is new to me. I’m not sure if i should ask about it.

    I’m sorry *i have* used “gays” as a noun. I didn’t know it was rude, even when you didn’t use a certain tone or say “the gays”.

    I’m used to those kind of adjective/noun same-meaning things, but that may be an influence of other languages i work with, where the meaning doesn’t change as much when you switch parts of speech.

    I also resist person-first language for my own neurological differences (“persons with autism” sounds silly and long to me when i can just say “autistics”) but will use if it the person in question prefers it. and i know being gay is not a disability but i assume there is some version of person-first language going on there.

  • LSS

    Oh, sorry. will keep that in mind when i do awareness stuff.

    Do you think Queer is ok as an umbrella term?

    I know this is a big topic because Trans folks get left out a lot when the emphasis is on gays or lesbians. (*_*)

  • Lymis

    This is one of those things that is absolutely true, but I wonder if it doesn’t still miss the mark a bit.

    As much as I agree that this new reformation is being occasioned by the gay issue, I can’t help but wonder if the Holy Spirit isn’t using LGBT people as the wedge to fix a far deeper disconnect, which is the failure to recognize women as people and rigid gender roles as unChristian.

    The whole dialogues about the rights of non-straight people and the rights of trans people force people to look at their unquestioned assumptions about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, and what it means for one person to be in a committed partnership with another person. The prophetic witness of same-sex relationships is that gender roles within relationships aren’t fixed, aren’t Divinely Ordained, and are best dealt with as unique to the people involved. The prophetic witness of trans people is that gender roles with individual people are similarly far less rigid and far more imposed than most people are willing to acknowledge.

    Being forced to face the realities of people who simply cannot pretend to fit the stereotypical rigid straight gender roles, and being forced to realize that we shouldn’t even have to try necessarily means facing what we have tried to impose on straight men and women as well. The limits we’ve put on women as leaders and guides, especially in religion and politics, and the constraints we’ve put on men, especially in emotion and relationships will come crashing down right along with the oppression of LGBT people.

    I’ve often felt that the incredible hostility to gay rights has never been about gay people, but about maintaining the ever-fraying constraints on straight people to conform to rigid roles and identities. If you let people just be who they were meant to be, how do we know how to pigeonhole and judge them? Madness! Chaos! And, heaven forbid, Happiness!

  • LSS

    This article makes a great point, which i don’t know about others but i would never have thought of it like that.

    But i am not sure indulgences are gone. In the sense of something official by the majority ‘ruling’ version of the church, yes, they are gone and removed from the burocrazy of the catholic church and most protestant churches.

    But there are a LOT of money-based religious organizations out there, where people are encouraged to feel that they could benefit in the afterlife from gifts to the organization in this life. In these ecomonic times, but really any time, because there will always be vulnerable people, i think that’s pretty troubling.

    I hope that the 2nd reformation does at least have the effect of pushing the haters out of the mainstream into some kind of fringe, anyway.

  • Audrey Smith

    Some people, including myself, have been using queer as the umbrella term for Ls, Gs, Bs and Ts. Not everyone is happy with this nor in agreement, because many in the T community do not wish to be associated with the sexual orientation folks. Many in the transsexual community do not even wish to be under the same umbrella as those in the transgender community. Nevertheless, we are all considered “queer” folks by society at large, and I claim it.

  • LSS

    That’s wild.

    My husband and i have untypical gender roles in some ways, and we have felt societal pressures because of it, but never from glbtq friends.

  • Lymis

    May I sympathize in advance?

    Truly, all snark aside, you won’t find a term that is acceptable to everyone. That’s at least a part of the problem.

    Queer offends a lot of people, especially dinosaurs like me, because I grew up in a world where it was literally only used by the sort of people who said it with fists and baseball bats. Used by people who are calling themselves queer, it gets a pass and very little hostility. Used by someone else, it generates far more hostility and skepticism.

    Gay is widely accepted, but as Audrey points out, is generally seen as deliberately excluding trans people, and often as ignoring lesbian and bisexual people.

    Homosexual is almost exclusively used in academic writing (where it gets a pass, but feel ponderous) and by anti-gay bigots. Call someone a homosexual and the first impression will be that you are a homophobe. As a parallel, imagine calling someone “colored.”

    Katie is absolutely right that at this point, the most inclusive thing you can use as an umbrella term is LGBTQ, but that’s far from trippingly pronounceable, and most bigots won’t have a clue what you are talking about.

  • LSS

    Makes sense from here.

    I do get that there is a big controversy about the different kinds of ways of being Trans and i found it so complex (even some trans friends could not simplify it completely) so i am actually afraid to use the full words, not wishing to make disrespect.

    I’ve also been afraid to use Queer unless a lbgtqai/etc person used it first and said it was ok, because it seems like one of those words that could only be reclaimed “from inside.”

  • Christy

    Thanks for this perspective, Lymis. A friend of mine has pointed out how in her Queer Studies the issue was framed as one of radical equality and egalitarianism and has shared her own theories about institutionalized gender roles and GLBTQ discrimination having grown from the roots of misogyny.

  • Lymis

    Using “gays” as a noun isn’t offensive or rude, but it’s worth being aware that very, very few people who are anti-gay use “gay people” when discussing us, while it’s more common for anti-gay people to do so – the ones who don’t limit themselves to “homosexuals,” that is.

    It’s a really find distinction and not one worth worrying over. It’s more that “gay people” is a sign of an ally than that “gays” is a sign of anything at all.

  • LSS

    In other languages that i work with, it seems to be even worse… All their own words are rude unless the person using it is actually glbt/etc and so the default non-rude word may be to use english and say “gay” (this is what i was told in Spanish but, like everything else it probably varies from country to country). Otherwise educated and literate people also had trouble pinpointing a word in Spanish to distinguish between transvestism and the Gender/Identity-based kinds of being Trans. partly this is because English has more political correctness but for me, wanting to find the right word is not about that, it’s about respect. In spanish they seem better able to respect a person while calling them a possibly inaccurate term. not sure that makes sense… (?)

  • I so agree Lymis, the push to a particular conformity is rather difficult for people who cannot or will not conform to that particular set of ideals. The ironic part is the non-conformists have so much to offer the church, yet they are are often not welcomed because of a silly set of “you must be this tall to ride the ride” rules.

    Scripture mentions that when it comes to God, human social structure is of little use. The last part of Galatians five comes to mind. Apparently this is not a new problem, but you’d think we would have learned after a few thousand years.

  • LSS

    This is actually how i end up doing some awareness stuff, because gender comes up so much in Spanish class especially because Everything has a Gender. So i wonder how the higher-inflected languages will deal with the whole thing where english is just starting (xe, hir, etc. Which i like the idea of but find hard to pronounce) for intersex folks.

  • “I hope that the 2nd reformation does at least have the effect of pushing the haters out of the mainstream into some kind of fringe, anyway.”

    That would be nice, LSS, but a long church history doesn’t show otherwise. What is the hope however, is that we know its possible, and why we should persist.

  • Lymis

    What a great observation. You are right, there are still plenty of people trying to buy their way into heaven and plenty of people willing to sell it to them. Or sell them something, at least.

  • Lymis

    I’ve come to wonder how anyone can reconcile “In Christ there is neither male nor female” with any sort of anti-gay or anti-trans bigotry.

  • good comparison.

  • K.E.

    Thank you for this post, Lymis. You beautifully stated what I was thinking but having a difficult time putting into words. I took several queer theory/gender studies courses during my undergrad studies, and you summed up many of the most important take-away points from those classes! Really well put.

  • Keetcha

    Lymis, what you have written above perfectly articulates what my personal history of growth as a lifelong Christian has been. I’ve just never seen it so simply and perfectly outlined. It is so good to know I am not alone. Thank you for sharing your clarity of word and insight. I see and feel this shift taking place, continually and increasingly so with the passage of time.

  • Kirsten A.S. Mebust via Facebook

    There certainly are similarities. However, I hope this one won’t result in a hundred years of all-out religious war (I mean real war, not the overused-metaphor kind) and the ugly redefinition of humanity along polemical lines that the last one did. The Christian Left needs to be careful to recognize our own apocalyptic zeal and subvert it.

  • Christy

    The fundamentalists and evangelicals I talk to compartmentalize this passage. “It means spiritually before God” they say, but not here in this world. They rely on Paul and his admonitions for wifely submission and church structure to prop up their ideas of gender roles that support male headship and complementarianism. They also rely on their interpretation of Eve as created for Adam from Adam while ignoring leadership roles of biblical women like Miriam and Deborah and Jael and Esther and Judith and Phoebe and Priscilla and…and…and…

    They reconcile it by being sure that that is not what it means because they don’t want to give up what they would have to give up if it truly means what it says.

  • That’s awesome, Lymis. I think you’re absolutely onto something. I’m not gay, but I am not comfortable with pigeonholing people (or being pigeonholed) into “traditional” sex roles. And from a legal analysis perspective, the best attack against anti-gay legislation is actually the concept of equal protection regardless of sex.

  • Leslie Marbach

    There are probably many subtle indulgences being sold as well. For example, everyone in a church–any church really–knows which people tithe more, give more, whatever. They often end up being the “pillars” of that community whether they are morally upstanding or not. They end up buying their way into a higher status in the church.

  • Kai

    I couldn’t decide where to reply, so.

    I, personally, feel left out by the term “gay”. I’m not gay and I don’t find it an acceptable umbrella term for everyone who is non-straight, but that’s just me. I also don’t feel that it has any connection to non-cisgender folk (myself included), which is okay if we aren’t being talking about along with non-straight people, but a lot of the time, we are and using “gay” is sort of… erase-y, if I can be left to make my own words. Anyway, the short of it is, when someone uses gay, I don’t feel included at all, not for my gender identity and not for my sexuality.

    That said, there are a few terms that I don’t think have been mentioned here (I’ll be honest, I haven’t read the whole thread). For instance, as a way to make all the various letters more easy to remember, I know of many people who use the term QUILTBAG (Queer, Unidentified, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans*, Bisexual, Asexual (or some put Allied here, but I definitely prefer asexual), Gay). My favorite, though, is GSM (or SGM), which stands for sexual and gender minority/ies. Neither is without their problems, but at least they are somewhat easier to remember and more inclusive of those who feel they don’t belong under the term “gay”.

    And, like, I’m pretty well aware of the fact that the anti side of the Christian GSM debate frames it all as being “gay” stuff (or, much more often, “homosexual”), but I think that those of us on the pro side continuing to frame it that way (often to the neglect of those that are being harmed that aren’t gay) is not helpful in any way. But that’s just my opinion.

    Also, if you couldn’t tell, I really like parentheticals.

  • Lymis

    Aren’t Parenthetical Churches the ones with all the side chapels?

  • Cory

    I concur

  • You are awesome.

  • LSS

    oh crap, so it’s NOT marginalized to the crazy sects? (>_<) i think you are right, though.

  • LSS

    i like QUILTBAG(S) –and had heard it in this forum before, maybe from Lyn? but i can’t remember– because it has a good imagery, sewing together all the parts of humanity, and with a quilted bag, you can fit any/all of us inside there. maybe we can promote the use of this? unless there are groups that reject it?

    i think Lymis was right in implying that a lack of a catchy group name is not the greatest for PR.

    cisgendered… i thought that word was known now, but i don’t think enough people are using it yet… a colleague who has a PhD and is really into being an ally, had never heard of it.

  • LSS


  • Wow, when you put it into context like that, it makes perfect sense. So evangelicals is like the Catholic Church, and people like Marc Driscoll is like the Pope. So instead of Catholics and Protestants, now we have Catholics, Protestants, and Emergents. Nice answer!

  • Chris

    Thank you, Lymis. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Donald Rappe

    I looked cisgender up on google the other day, but, can no longer remember what it meant. I recall a gay friend laughing at (with) me when I referred to people with other than standard gender preferences. Why must every possible grouping of people have a name?

  • Brian W

    The biggest difference however, is during the 1,000 year pre-Reformation period the Catholic Church influenced or controlled virtually 100% of the European population and by some historians estimates, murdered 50 million “heretics” over their 1,000 year reign of terror. I don’t wish to make light of the LGBT plight within mainstream Christianity – it is certainly real – but few are actually being murdered (compared to the pre-Reformation days) for being gay or transgender. Furthermore, the Gay Issue does only effect perhaps 3% – 8% of the population directly, compared to the 16th century Reformation that effected almost 100%. Does Christianity need to “practice the teaches of Jesus to the GLBT people”?YES!!, because for the most part, few really are and that is a tragedy. We need more than a reformation, we need a spiritual Revival.

  • Thank You again, John…each day you give the gift of hope that maybe in my lifetime, All people will be treated the same, with love! I look forward to your words of insight every day in my e-mail box. Keep up the work of good and understanding. If you can turn just one person away from hateful thoughts, you have saved a soul! Again, THANK YOU!

  • Adara Pallady via Facebook

    I am digging it & am pleased to be a part of it!

  • Christy

    Nice to see you here again, my friend. I hazard a guess that I will be far more gentle with your post than likely many others.

    Re: “Furthermore, the Gay Issue does only effect perhaps 3% – 8% of the population directly, compared to the 16th century Reformation that effected almost 100%.”

    I disagree. Martin Luther King Jr. would disagree. Injustice effects ALL of us, including the ones doing the oppressing. The mindset that allows it is detrimental to the one who holds it as well as to all those who are the victims of it and to Justice itself. We all suffer in an unjust society.

    Hatred, Bigotry, Inequality and Injustice ARE the real enemies and they do us all harm.

  • cat rennolds

    I like QUILTBAGS – that was me and…..I forgot too! I’ll have to go back and look.

    but I think GSM might be more functional. I hadn’t heard that one. Of course, I’m curious to see, once the stigma is gone, if bi and/or pansexuality fall out of minority status. Just how closely we’re related to bonobos, that is.;)

  • Diana A.

    By ignoring it. 🙁

  • Christie L.

    I think it affects more that 3-8% of the population. Sexuality is a spectrum where most people are not either 100% gay or 100% straight. Gender identity is something altogether different. There are a lot more of us out there than is obvious.

    For example: I look like a heterosexual female. Seeing me go places with my male fiance supports that observation. That’s just a visual thing. I don’t look bisexual or genderqueer, but I am both.

  • Diana A.


  • Diana A.

    “Maybe we are missing the mark here. Maybe the answer is to bring back Indulgences and sell them to gay people. Heck, I know I would buy one. Then when someone comes to me and says, ‘You’re burning in Hell because you are gay.’ I can reply, ‘Nope, sorry, you are wrong, I bought my Indulgence. I am good to go. See you in Heaven.'”

    Too funny! In a sad way, I mean.

  • Thoughtful comment Kirsten

  • Diana A.

    Yeah, like the “N” word or the “B” word (for those of you who are wondering what the “B” word is, Barbara Bush explains it best: “it rhymes with ‘rich.'”)

  • I don’t think there’s any danger of armies forming around this and going to Actual War.

  • DR

    Why would numbers even matter here? That we are aware of the massive amount of gay kids who commit suicide would seem to point to everything John’s offered. This isn’t an automobile company taking percentages of casualties and figuring out if they should do a recall on the brakes as a result, Brian. Your axe to grind with the Catholic church is clear, but your approach based on just how many got hurt hurts my heart – it’s as if you’re suggesting the majority of GLBT people suffering is too small to be compared to the other atrocities of “faith” John’s compared them to.

  • DR

    We’re already in a war.

  • John, really love this. Some of the wording seems ‘awkward’ tho’. Shared it anyhow. <3

  • Thank You DR!!! you said what I was thinking! KUDOS

  • Brian W

    How LGBT are being treated by the vast majority of main line Christian denominations is a tragedy, I agree. Any suffering is bad and not “too small” to matter. Allow me to use another illustration; what war had a more drastic effect on the US population as a whole, the Vietnam War or the Civil War? Both resulted in deaths but certainly one had far more effect on the population than did the other. The Protestant Reformation effected nearly the entire European population, it was one of the most historically influential events in the last 2 thousand years – because of the vast numbers of people it effected. My point is to equate that the Reformation of yesterday = the Gay Issue today is a bit of a stretch, because the Gay Issue really only effects probably less than 10% of the population, when the Reformation was almost everyone. Again let me reitterate that does not mean it is any less important (change, acceptance and love is needed). We don’t need to reform Christianity, we need to revive it, back to what Christianity is at its core – love of people, the Good News that Jesus saves!!

  • Lymis

    Oppression is never a contest, and it isn’t a situation where the standard to be used is something like “Is it worse than the Spanish Inquisition?” or “Is it worse than the Holocaust?”

    The standard that things should be measured against is “Is this loving my neighbor as myself?” and “Is this doing unto the least of my brothers and sisters the way I would treat Jesus?”

    That’s a pretty clear no, whatever they got up to in the 16th century. And, conveniently enough, now is the time we can affect, not then.

  • WOW, DR…Right On! We are…and…why? Because someone said it was o.k. to make an objection of what we do in our bedroom a political platform.

  • Allie

    Brian, you’re wrong about those numbers. The 90% of people who are not gay are hurt badly also. It’s a terrible thing to make people believe that if they don’t hate and ostracize others they are opposing the will of God. 100% of human beings are hurt when any human being is hurt.

  • Linda Burton via Facebook

    I have been for a while searching for a way to express, who i am as a Christian. I wanted to tell you, you speak to clearly to me, and all I believe. Thankyou, for expressing and sharing how so much I feel.

  • Allie

    Yeah, I ran into an otherwise good-hearted person the other day who kept referring to “the gays.” He was an older person who was using what he thought was the appropriate language.

    I can’t stand the alphabet soup, not because of any special principle but because it’s idiotic and hard to remember. For those reasons it will never become the standard term for most people, and thus insisting on it is basically setting up to be offended. Imagine if racial minorities insisted on a similar alphabet soup including every ethnic group in the world, updated constantly depending on which name for each group was the accepted term.

  • MAB

    I would suggest that every person alive is affected by how the Church has treated the “gay issue.” It isn’t that different from slavery, where one group of people feels superior to another, whether by genetics or “morals.”

    As Edmund Burke stated, “Where there is a vast multitude of slaves, as in Virginia…those who are free, are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom. . . To the masters of slaves, the haughtiness of domination combines with the spirit of freedom, fortified it, and renders it invincible.”

    I submit that this is exactly what we are dealing with now. Where those who would deny gays their rights are now the most vocal, touting their own superiority of morals. And insisting that everyone else follow them. And this will affect all future generations. Either we move forward to love, compassion and brotherhood. Or, we fall into the trap of hypocritical legalism and “I am better than you.”

  • MAB

    Well said. While the LGBT v Church gets a lot of attention, the issue of Women in the Church is an even larger schism in the making. But, on the whole, while fundamentalist churches will shout from the rafters about the LGBT issue, they will not directly come out and address the issue of women. I believe most of them are scared to do so, considering how many churches are run by women in the background. Just look at what has happened to the Southern Baptist Convention since 1979 and the fundamentalist coup. This is where we are headed.

  • Diana A.


  • Diana A.


  • Diana A.

    This is true too. There are people who are hurt by anti-gay attitudes and behaviors because they themselves are gay or perceived as gay and there are those who are hurt by these bad attitudes because they love someone who is gay or perceived as gay. And, as Allie has said, just encouraging people to hate and ostracize others (in the name of God or for any other reason) is hurtful to the spirits of those doing the hating, those who feel pressured to hate, and the human race as a whole. So it’s just ugly all around.

    Finally, lower down in the thread, someone (I think Lymis) talks about how the whole anti-gay thing is really about pressuring other people to conform to gender “norms,” even when those “norms” are all wrong for them as individuals. Men, women and all those who don’t fit comfortably into either category have been hurt by this for years. It’s time to knock it off and just let people be people–whatever kind of people they are.

  • LSS

    I’m actually not sure which war had a bigger effect on the US. Cases could probably be made for both, depending who you are and where you live. Also, if, as Lymis points out elsewhere, it’s not just about glbtq/etc folks but about the whole gender binary, well, that effects EVERYBODY.

  • Melody

    Exactly. Sooner or later, SOMEbody will claim to feel left out. I like the QUILTBAG acronym, because it covers all sexual preferences outside heterosexuality. But the plain truth is, you can’t please everyone.

  • LSS

    That, too. And it’s like that White Privilege Luggage that someone linked to here last week… Some of the cis/hetero privileges like marriage are things everybody of consenting adults should have access to, but other things like thinking there is only one way to be male, one way to be female, and no 3rd or more choices, THAT distorts the reality and humanity for the privileged as well as taking away rights from the deprivileged.

  • LSS

    What about in Africa where those preachers (from HERE) have the possibility to influence legal systems on a greater scale? I think the whole kill-the-gays movement is kind of war.

  • Kai

    See, the thing with cisgender is that it basically means “not transgender”. It sort of came about, in part, as a way to talk about not-trans*-people without always saying “not-trans*-people”. In a way, it’s a much more functional term than some of the others. But, ultimately, every possible grouping of people must have a name to distinguish themselves from others and to find others who are like them. That’s why I, for instance, identify as pansexual rather than bisexual; there is a distinction there that is really important to me.

  • Allen

    You win the Concise Award here, John! And, in the same way that I only have a vague idea what “selling indulgences” actually was, I hope someday our current split issue looks quaint and laughable (even to people who remain on the non-splitaway side).

  • LSS

    Yet another solution biased against blue collar glbtq people.

    Your comment was funny but the socioeconomic unbalance is just as bad, especially for Trans when they can’t afford to transition but really need to, and it tears them up psychologically. … Just like it would be for the people in the pre-reformation that couldn’t afford to buy their folks or theirselves out of purgatory.

  • Kai

    It very well may have been Lyn. I mean, she is my mother. 😀

  • Kai

    And some non-binary/genderqueer folks. Like me. Ze/hir are my preferred pronouns.

  • LSS

    I first heard it as an “opposite” for Intersex.

    But yeah, i’ve heard it defined like this: that your physical body and your psychological gender and your identity gender and your expression of gender all line up with each other *and* with the most usual expectations of society.

  • Diana A.

    Hey MAB!

    You now have a new fan. Namely me!

  • LSS

    My brain isn’t liking GSM, it’s confusing with GMO (genetically modified organisms?) but that is probably just me. ALSO i don’t think minority is a good basis for things. In the US we think of minorities as underprivileged because that’s how it worked out here. But there are loads of countries where the Majority was or still is oppressed by a minority, i mean, look at the 1% even here and now. And women slightly outnumber men. So… You see where i’m going with this, right?

  • LSS

    Oh and sorry i mixed up who had brought the term QUILTBAGS.

  • LSS

    Oh duh. I forgot who you were.

  • LSS

    Yeah, there you go. I like genderqueer, it sounds vigorous.

  • Kai

    That is quite a good definition, I must say.

  • Brian W

    MAB and LSS,

    Perhaps you’re right and the issue effects far more people than I realize.

  • Kai

    Yeah, definitely see where you’re going. That’s definitely the most common argument against GSM and I think I tend to agree with the argument, though I wish the perception of minority as meaning underprivileged weren’t a thing. But I still use GSM because it is the best term I have heard so far.

  • Brian W

    Well everyone, I guess I learn something new every day!!

  • Audrey Smith

    A ha! Awesome! Thanks for the links! I stand corrected!

  • MAB

    : )

  • No, no; you just didn’t know they were there. Nobody knows HALF the stuff on this blog. I sure don’t.

  • Donald Rappe

    I think if you throw in the straight parents, siblings and children of gay people you should find that it affects 50% or so of the population.

  • Tom Backus

    Dear LSS:

    I am truely sorry that my words were offensive and hurtful. That is that last thing I meant them to be. I forget that sarcasm doesn’t always translate well. Please note that this is not one of those “that you took offense and you were hurt”, but rather a true and sincere apology that I used words that inflicted pain. That is one thing I don’t ever want my words to do. I love people too much for that.

    I am the first to admit that I can’t understand the pain and anguish that a Trans goes through. It is well beyond my realm of understanding in this world. Ask me about the plight of a gay man in the Church, and I can tell you all too well about that. What I can feel is love and compassion for my fellow human beings. I can wish for them the same peace and comfort I have found in my friends and family. I pray for the day when the transition operation is seen for what it is, a medical procedure of personal health, just like any other, tonsiles, appendix, etc, and that insurance covers it properly, not half heartedly. All people deserve to be themselves.


  • Donald Rappe

    I always like a little Bible quoting if it’s in context. I think this is. The universality of the Gospel message is one of Paul’s better ideas.

  • Brenda R


    You sound like John Donne in “Meditation l7″ when you say that 100% percent of human beings are hurt when any human being is hurt”. I’m not looking at that piece of writing now, so I can’t quote it exactly, but Donne made quite a convincing and beautiful case that we are all part of one whole. What affects one of us affects all of us if we are part of humanity at all. I’m going to take free license with his words right now, so forgive me John Donne, but if the bell tolls for the LGBT community, it tolls for all of us. Impossible that it wouldn’t. We are all made smaller when anyone is made to feel less than the rest of us.

  • Brenda

    I’m straight, so I won’t even attempt to offer suggestions for this linguistic tangle. Let me just say, I am so happy that people can use any of these words/terms without the fists and baseball bats. I pray that given time all “the straights” will get it. I have many close friends in the QUILTBAG and hope that someday (in my lifetime?) gender, and racial, terminology will be obsolete. I want us to just be known as people.

    If that’s alright.

    (Oh, I think GSM has been taken by the worshippers of the Giant Spaghetti Monster.)

  • Brilliant.

  • LSS

    one of a team working on “thegenderbooklet” was explaining it on facebook.

  • LSS

    oh i have to admit i like that. Parmesan be upon him.

  • LSS

    i am straight but the linguistic thing is fascinating because of how versatile is language and yet how limited. And the ways of using language to show respect for each others’ reality.

  • LSS

    BUT it happens to be the Flying Spaghetti Monster. So i think we’re safe on that count.

  • As UFC transsexual woman, please let me say that I am deeply encouraged by the many supportive and sensitive comments I read here. I live in Canada and perhaps trans people have it a little easier here, but not by much. We still don’t have a Federal law that makes discrimination or crimes based on sexual identity illegal—and would’t you know—it is the conservative right Christians who are opposed the passing of such a law. They have reduced the whole argument of transgender rights to the ‘bathroom bill,’ claiming men in dresses will be able to used women’s bathrooms and little girls will be put at risk. This argument would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. This same argument has been made in the various states that have recently passed transgender rights laws, such as Massachusetts and California. John’s comparison of the LGBT issue to the Reformation is valid, as is the comparison to the challenge the early church had with respect to uncircumcised gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit; their theology was out of whack with what God was doing and in the end it was their theology that had to change. Who were they to tell God what was acceptable?

  • Christie L.

    Your figure sounds more appropriate. 🙂

  • Since Pat brought it up first I’ll dogpile on: In future versions of this you might wanna make sure everything on the list agrees with the sentence “Like the sale of indulgences then, the condemnation of gay people now”. It’s a little unclear re points 7 & 8.

    Don’t look at me that way. You knew I was I editor when you met me.

  • cat rennolds

    well, it wasn’t me FIRST. I still don’t remember who it was.

  • Crap!

    I made my living as a mag and newspaper editor for ten years!!


    okay, how’s it look now?

  • Kai

    Also lol’ing.

  • Soulmentor

    This is what you are thinking of:

  • cat rennolds

    I will TOO look at you that way: You knew I was *AN* editor when you met me.

    Grammar Paladin rolls a 20.

  • Wow. This is an awesomely good information, Lisa. And so sad/angering, to hear that it’s Christians who are clogging up the pipelines of justice. And you, as devout a Christian as ever lived.

  • What a lovely thing to say, Keith. Thanks for it.

  • Very nicely said, MAB.

  • Your passion is so invigorating, DR.

  • And what I was meaning to point to is certainly one of the most manifest truths about what is going on with Christianity right now relative to the gay issue: it’s being split in half. That’s what makes it the second Reformation: once all the smoke from this very clear Christian civil war has cleared, Christianity will never again look or be as it was before this began.

  • Soulmentor

    All of this coalesces in my mind with the dawning of a new spiritual age. In the book THE ALPHABET VS THE GODDESS-The Conflict Between Word and Image, Leonard Shlain lays out a very convincing case for that dawning by way of our changing modes of communication from how the development of hand written language changed humanities brain side uses from visual imagery, feminine brain, goddess development, matriarchal societies, to written communication(generally right hand use), masculine brain, god development, patriarchal societies and the highly competitive, conflictive, warring , Abrahamic religious era we’ve been living thru, to a newly dawning era once again balancing the brain sides with the more visual imagery again of dual hand and visual uses of communication, first with the typewriter and now with the visual/dual hand computer age, once again trending to balance the masculine/feminine brain sides. It’s a fascinating read.

    Now combine that with astrology and the very real fact that, if you give any credit to astrology, we are in the transition period between the “competitive” Pieces era to the the more peaceful “Age of Aquarius”, then look at what’s happening with humanity world wide and you can see it all falling into place.

    And it won’t be pretty til it’s over because humanity, as a whole, can’t see it. There will be much fear, confusion, stress and strife, war and death. “Revelations”?

    A rebirth. A new “spiritual” age. None of the current world religions will survive it as we know them now. Nor will systems of govt, nations, current societies.

    I will not live to see the worst of it and may be lucky for that. But my grandchildren…….I fear their world will not be a good place.

  • cat rennolds

    I am reminded of something one of my professors said in a history of art class; human beings go through periods of “thesis” – a new idea, “antithesis” where the pendulum swings the other way and everybody goes against the thesis, and “synthesis,” where the two integrate and balance. eventually synthesis will stale, or conditions will change, and a new thesis emerge. It’s not always obvious, because sometimes one period will last so long that its inhabitants forget they are in antithesis to a previous thesis, and then you get antithesis to the antithesis….which nonetheless eventually results in synthesis.

    We had matriarchy, where women were in power because they were the lifegivers. We had patriarchy, where men were in power so they could CONTROL the lifegivers.

    Quite often, too, you’ll be seeing the interaction of more than one idea cycle. We are reaching a point where we’ve had so many new ideas and understandings so fast, that synthesis is rapidly becoming necessary to our survival as a species.

    side note – Pisces is less about competition and more about reconciling opposing factors through a common viewpoint. Jesus is said to have been a Pisces. Aquarius is more about DOING something with that reconciliation – reforming old ways of thinking and behaving, and creating new, functional systems. John, when’s your birthday again?;)

  • DR

    It’s not a stretch, B. You’re focusing on numbers. Jesus was about the one lost sheep.

  • DR

    Lymis for blog president. Wait. Maybe for President, period.

  • DR

    This is good feedback. Thank you.

  • Soulmentor

    ******Pisces is less about competition and more about reconciling opposing factors through a common viewpoint.*******

    OK, well, that didn’t work out too well did it. Even a quick look at the warring and strident history of the Pisces era belies your point.

  • LSS

    Oh i didn’t think you were being mean at all, and as a joke it was a great idea.

    My comment started out as sarcasm, too. it’s just that when you brought the idea of indulgences into the modern times, it reminded me of bills and that reminded me of things the Trans folks i know on facebook were talking about. I know at least 1 MTF and one FTM who said “i will probably never be able to transition because of the expense” and they are already middle aged. For the MTF woman, it was just making her crazy to not be able to do anything about it.

    And i guess it just reminded me how much money actually matters, i mean it “can’t buy happiness” but it sure can buy related things like not having to worry if nobody will give you a chance at a job because they think you are too strange, or being able to live in a body that matches your mind.

    Or, back to your original joke, being able to get some church people off your back.

    And i think that’s a worse thing than indulgences… Not just the next life but this life… Probably this isn’t a surprise to anybody else. but for me, i was raised by hippies and they “didn’t believe in money” for decades so i never understood how things really worked until very much later.

    There’s so many things that i could have done better to help my husband (as a new immigrant with some particular neurological issues that most immigrants don’t have) if i’d had a higher salary, or hadn’t had to take care of a family member at the same time. He ended up getting stagnated for a while, education and career-wise, for a variety of reasons, but they could have been solved by money. i can’t 100% understand what the Trans friends are going through either, but the stuck-ness, i can understand.

  • Brenda R

    Soulmentor, for some reason I can’t get that page to open for me, but if it’s “Meditation l7”, then yes, that’s what I was referring to in my post. Thank you! I have copies in my classroom, but apparently not in my house. I’ll try the link again when I get back from school…..I’m off to plant seeds of knowledge, and I usually wait and come here once I’m home. Thanks again for sending the link. John Donne happens to be a favorite of mine! Smart man. Flawed like everyone else, but what a writer he was.

  • Lymis

    What in the world have I ever done to you that you’d wish that on me?

  • Lymis

    It leaves out pansexuals. Some of them get quite testy about not being lumped in with bisexual people.

    Somewhere out there is a two-year-old who’s going to grow up and come up with the new umbrella term that sweeps the planet. Probably via FaceBook.

  • Lymis

    Safe from the acronym, or safe from the Parmesan? I lose track.

    Anyway, Praise Cheeses.

  • Allie

    The problem with Alphabet versus the Goddess is that there’s no evidence the world was ever the way he claims it was before the invention of the alphabet. In fact, the trait most common to ancient goddess-centered religion was human sacrifice, not kindness or compassion. It’s a fascinating book but please take it with a grain of salt – he’s basically making up the way he wishes things were, instead of observing the way they were.

  • DR

    One more thing, Brian. If you aren’t deeply affected with the knowledge of how this church of ours drives children who are gay to suicide and impacts adults in ways so many have said here – if that doesn’t impact you personally – that’s a good example of what people have been teaching you about the concept of “privilege”. That this is all happening outside of you, that you can choose to take it in as your fight – your war – your kids dying – your family being shunned, pushed away and condemned – all of that happening to *you*, even – or walk away because you’re straight and you’re not impacted. You, unlike those who are GLBTA (hope I got that right), get to choose how much you are impacted. That’s a very privileged place to be in. When gay men and women truly become your brothers and sisters in Christ, you won’t see any differentiation.

  • DR

    Good point. Lymis for something really fantastic. Just not President.

  • DR

    Love that you’re here! You’re so awesome!

  • vj

    OK, I’m sure that what you describe does happen (maybe even a lot – I’ve read so many descriptions of church dysfunction on John’s blog that I’m not sure I’d be surprised by anything anymore!), BUT there are churches where this doesn’t happen… In my own church, the pastor specifically DOES NOT know who gives how much, so that he is not tempted to allow that to influence his relationship with anyone.

  • vj

    100% of Christians are affected by this issue. The Church is the Body of Christ – if ‘just’ your estimated 10% are suffering directly, the whole body suffers indirectly. A blister on my toe or paper-cut on my finger might not be as ‘severe’ as a broken arm, but my whole body is nonetheless impacted (e.g. playing tennis with a blister vs. playing tennis with no ailment). Those who are not directly impacted might be more removed from the immediate impact of the suffering, but how can we know what gifts the Church is lacking because of the exclusion of some believers?

  • vj


  • Michael

    The Reformation was never really about indulgences anyway. The point (if you can boil down a 500-year long process into a single point, which you really can’t, but I’m going to anyway) was to determine how a person could have a relationship with God. Does God connect to us through the Church’s hierarchy, or one-on-one? The indulgence was one example and a potent symbol of the hierarchical model. People today misunderstand how indulgences worked–it wasn’t just that you could buy your way into Heaven, it was that the Church had sole authority to decide who got into Heaven and who didn’t. The flipside is excommunication–an excommunicant was not just expelled from the Church on Earth, they were literally damned to Hell by official decree. God had, essentially, delegated the workaday mechanics of salvation.

    Another thing that people gloss over is the profound effects that the Reformation had on the Catholic Church. I had a professor who liked to say (this argument was basically designed to get students angry) that the Reformation started in 1520 and ended in 1965, that the Second Vatican Council was the negotiated surrender, and all Western Christians are Protestants now.

  • Diana A.

    This is very true!

  • Diana A.


  • Diana A.

    Cool! I think your pastor and/or the rest of the staff is very wise to have made this decision.

  • Brian W

    Thanks DR, please realize I still have baggage to discard and well, sometime its tough to get rid of something you’ve had for so long, again thanks for all your patience towards me.

  • Diana A.


  • Diana A.

    Hey Brian, don’t we all?

  • Soulmentor

    That’s an interesting take on it, but what he says does seem to match what’s happening, so it seems logical.

  • Lyn

    What makes me so angry is to see the billions of dollars sunk into frivolous things like professional sports and into hateful things like fighting against human rights. I can’t help but think how many people could have been helped with those funds. How many transitions could have been funded, how many homeless could have been housed, how many starving could have been fed, how many without clean water could have been given wells and filtering systems, how many facing injustice could have been defended, how much suffering could have been averted. When I look out how we waste our resources as a nation, I understand why there are those in the world who hate us.

  • Interesting points. Thank you. I will share. Christianity, biblicaly speaking is CERTAINLY between God and the individual via John 3:16 (along with others).

  • Diana A.

    Yeah, me too.

  • FishFinger

    “I hope that the 2nd reformation does at least have the effect of pushing the haters out of the mainstream into some kind of fringe, anyway.”

    If that happens, they’ll never stop quoting Revelation verses on how the “true Christians” are a persecuted minority in the End Days. Things will get ugly.

  • LSS

    Somehow i thought they already did this sort of reaction.

  • Brenda

    I stand corrected. Acronym away.

  • Lymis

    Just being able to be around people like the people here is fantastic enough. (Though that Lottery win would be welcome.)

  • mike

    Indulgences. OK, the way the nuns explained it to me was this:

    In order to get past a sin, you have to do a number of things. You have to realize you did wrong. You have to sincerely be sorry about it and do your best to not do it anymore. You have to make it up to those who your sin hurt. Pay some restitution. And among those who your sin hurt is God. Preferably, you make it up to Him by service, but you could also do so by contributing to a worthy cause.

    And that’s where the trouble started. One of the more convenient worthy causes is your friendly neighborhood priest or bishop or Pope – or you can hand the money over to one of those guys and they will see to it that it gets to a good cause, of course they may need a little of it to cover expenses.

    Sincere repentance doesn’t feed the poor or put a new roof on the cathedral, so some priests or bishops or Popes would sometimes emphasize the restitution part of the formula, from time to time. And sometimes Lord Xyz might need to bend a church rule (for the greater good, of course) and somehow Bishop A (who appreciates generosity) seems more holy to Lord Xyz than Bishop B (who is a grumpy stickler for rules and sincere repentance particularly the part about not doing it again, and who doesn’t appreciate generosity as much, and whose cathedral is kind of dumpy and needs a new roof). So down the road, the Pope asks Lord Xyz which bishop to promote.

    Since it is win/win for both Lord Xyz and Bishop A, and the Pope gets his cut of the action, there is no power to push back against the trend.

    Lather, rinse, and repeat for a few centuries, and a you end up with actual printed price lists for sins.

  • Lymis

    It was also hooked into the idea that Jesus gave the Church authority to bind and loose people from the consequences of their sins – “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 8: 18)

    It wasn’t just pay as proof of repentance, it was the Church brokering salvation. After all, they also had the power (granted by God, see above) to keep God from allowing you forgiveness if you crossed them, regardless of your repentance. The individual could not reach Salvation without the Church. Cue Martin Luther.

  • Erin D.

    Wow, fascinating!

  • Erin D.

    Good point.

  • Jenna

    Yes, it’s true, John. My partner is a transsexual woman, and she faces so much. So many trans* women are murdered on the premise that they’re “deceivers” or “sexual predators.” I live in fear of a phone call like: “Jenna…something’s happened. [Partner’s name] met the wrong man, at the wrong time, in the wrong place…”

  • Elizabeth

    I completely agree with this… And then today as I reread it, I had a realisation. I think that the gay thing (fitting into the GLBTQI community as I do) is actually the CATALYST for the reformation.

    Looking around churches and people everywhere, those who are actually moving forward etc, those who have stopped engaging in hate or separation, it seems to me that actually the reformation is about LOVE.

    Love is the motivating factor for those who are engaging with the “other”. For stepping outside the comfort zone. For standing up for the GLBTQI or the refugee or the bullied or the disenfranchised.

    It’s the revolution of love.

    Perhaps it began ‘securlarly’ with the 60s and 70s and took a while for it to spiritually catch up? Perhaps it began with Stonewall? Perhaps it began with the recession of the 90s? Perhaps with people’s frustration with church? Perhaps with emergent/progressive attempts to go back to basics?

    Whatever happened, love has become and is becoming the weapon of choice. As well it should. We should be known by our fruit.

    I for one am glad that this reformation is in process. Though I see the pain it causes some people and have experienced myself, the freedom of love!! Oh the liberty of love!!

    It’s the Revolution that begat the Reformation. As the reformation under Luther was. As the reformation of our Christ was.

    The revolution of love begat the reformation of love. “such a time as this”. Beautiful!

  • Blake

    Well, you just gave me goosebumps. Thanks.