King John of Bloglandia

A couple of weeks back I got in this email from reader Anna Thorton:

Hi, John. I am a graduate student at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, home of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (http://www.clgs.org/).

This semester in my CLGS class I am working on a project about queer religious spaces online. Would you be willing to answer some questions about your experience of creating and maintaining a queer-friendly religious space online? I’d be enormously grateful if you could find the time to contribute to my project in this way.

Anna Thornton

M.A. student in theology, Pacific School of Religion

In my reply to Anna I suggested answering her questions here on my blog, “insofar as I thought perhaps the answers/comments people leave might be helpfully incorporated into your project.”

“Great idea!” she enthused.

Whoo-hoo! Except then, lamely enough, life happened, and I basically forgot about her paper—until, that is, just now, when she wrote to gently remind me that her paper was due in six days.

Six days! So here we go:

John, you’ve embraced the internet and its new modes of content creation and distribution: not only your blog and the commenting community that coalesces there, but Facebook groups, books and e-books that include reader input, your Xtranormal videos, and now your latest project of writing a book online, to which you refer as “a collaborative effort between me and my readers.” As a leader of a religious community online, how do you envision your role and responsibilities?

Wow. That does sound like a lot of stuff, when you pile it all together like that.

I so rock.

No, but I honestly have no place in my head for the idea that I’m the leader of an online religious community—though I can’t say I’m insensitive to the total coolositiness of the how that sounds.

Wait. Can I get tax-exempt status for being the leader of an online religious community? Because if I can, then order me a big red ring, a substantial floor-length cape, and let the groveling and the hand-kissing begin.

Sweet!

I’m so sorry you’re going to flunk your class because of me. Let me try to do better:

I am not the leader of an online religious community. I’m a writer. I do a lot of my work on my blog. That’s it. The only thing I’m aware of, role and responsibilities-wise, is to be as honest as possible to the voice and aesthetic sensibilities within me which I have learned to give form via writing. I have an internal creative imperative that I take really quite extremely seriously. And it’s true that I do feel pretty intensely obliged to service that imperative. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with anyone else; that’s mainly a matter between I and I. Mon.

 

Do you see yourself as actively seeking new ways of creating and experiencing religious community online, and perhaps blazing a trail for others to follow? Or are you simply trying to meet a need as you see it arising?

No. I mean … no, I don’t ever endeavor to find new ways to create or experience an online religious community. That whole concept is just completely foreign to me. All I do is wake up in the morning, get a cup of coffee, fire up my computer, and then just basically sit there until … well, until I know what I need or want to write. I think about God a lot. And I always have. I’m pretty much never thinking about anything else. So … that’s a big field to walk around in. Lots of flowers to pick, lots of dirt to run through your hands. It never takes long before I know what I have to, or want to, write.

 

How do you envision your role and responsibilities as a champion of LGBT Christians who is himself not identified as LGBT?

Again, I’m never thinking about that sort of “role” at all. When it comes to the relationship between LGBTQ people and Christianity, what I’m always thinking is that I’ll be dinked if I’m going to let the God I know, the God I believe in, the God in which I trust be used as an instrument of torture against my friends—against people I actually love, people who throughout my whole life have nurtured, protected, and inspired me. I can’t help it if people who live in fear of their own sexuality, or people who are so lazy they won’t read for themselves, or people who are so cognitively challenged they simply prefer having someone think their most important thoughts for them, have come to “believe” that God finds homosexual love a moral abomination. But that conviction is so mind-bogglingly stupid, and so murderously toxic, that the only way for me not to write about it would be … well, for it not to be happening. But it is. So I do. But I don’t feel like I’m being anyone’s champion. I feel like I’m just saying stuff that any sane person would.

 

How has your theology been shaped and altered by your experiences online?

Not at all, I’m afraid. Pretty much the entirety of my Christian theology was born within me at the moment of my conversion. It hasn’t changed since then. And it won’t. Unless, you know, Allah suddenly appears in the sky, and bellows, “You! Idiot Christians! Line up on the left! And please do not start praying to your ridiculous idea of a God! I simply cannot tolerate one more moment of that simpering sound!” But even then I’d just be like, “No way! So it is Allah! Man, does God knows how to do [bleep], or what?!” And I won’t be sweating. If God is smart enough to be God, he/she/it is smart enough to know how much respect I’ve always had for other religions.

 

How has your theology regarding queerness specifically been shaped and altered by your experiences online?

Not a whit. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with homosexual love before I became a Christian, and I sure didn’t think so afterward. How weird would that be, to have God suddenly show up full-force in your mind, heart, and soul—and the result is that you start loving less, and condemning and hating more. I think that would be a sure sign that wasn’t, in fact, God that moved into your heart—but rather … I dunno: Syphilis. Typhoid. Some sort of bovine hormone from your milk.

 

What is the best aspect of your experience of creating and maintaining a religious space online? Can you give a specific example of an instance when someone has benefited from an online space you maintain?

I mean, it happens all day long. Obviously, by far the best part of what I do on this blog is to in some measure participate in the healing of others. I mean, it’s not like I don’t know that happens, since I get emails and messages every day from all kinds of people telling me that, for them, it has: that something they read somewhere on my blog—in a post, or amongst the comments—resonated with them in a way that brought them succor, understanding, perspective, peace, hope. I’ve given my life to writing, and even I can’t believe what the written word can still do. It’s still the most powerful means of communicating we have, outside of screaming at someone while you’re beating them with a shovel. It’s astonishing. You’d think by now movies would have moved into the #1 spot. Video games. iPhones. Something. But no. It’s still about words on the page screen.

(Here’s an email I just this moment got in: “John I just want to thank you for your words. After years of not going to church not doing all I could do to bridge the gap between the God of Love and the God of hate, I am going to go back to church. I have found one that is open to the LGBT community and I actually walk inside and it did not fall down. I had not been inside a church in over 20 years. But if I am not an out and proud Christian that people can point to and say I like him the hate isn’t going to go away. Just thanks for the words that inspire and let me know I am not alone in the world. Because even though you know you are not the only gay Christian if you do not see positive writings and all you hear is the hate mongers you tend to disappear.” So, yeah, I mean … obviously this sort of thing is really touching.)

 

What is the worst aspect of your experience of creating and maintaining a religious space online? Can you give a specific example of an instance when someone has used your online space(s) in a destructive or harmful manner?

I mean, everyone with a blog read by more than six people has to deal with trolls and drunks and half-wits in a public library somewhere who’ve confused a blog comment box with a means of typing directly onto the brain of Nostradamus. And of course I attract what I think it’s safe to say are my fair share of Christian fundie trolls. They are the worst, by far. Nobody is more toxic than a fundie who thinks he’s there to defend an offended God. Those people make cockroaches look like assistance dogs.

 

What are some of your hopes for the future role of the internet in religion?

It is my sincere hope that the Internet never spontaneously springs into consciousness and then forces all the denizens of earth to worship it. But if that does happen, how many of us, who after all have always been perfectly aware of the Apple logo, will really be able to say they’re all that surprised?

Print Friendly

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://gaychristiangeek.blogspot.com Rainicorn

    Thanks, John. Commentariat, please weigh in! If anyone else wants to answer any of those questions, or has anything to say in general about participating in an online community, please say it. My GPA needs you!

    – Anna

  • Diana A.

    Love it! Sharing it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anna-Thornton/704382927 Anna Thornton via Facebook

    Thanks, John. Commentariat, please weigh in! If anyone else wants to answer any of those questions, or has anything to say in general about participating in an online community, please say it. My GPA needs you!

    – Anna

  • http://www.facebook.com/juliejameslb Julie James via Facebook

    Oh John, I love you. You good, good man. She’ll ace the thing, never fear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sspencerwolff Scott Spencer-Wolff via Facebook

    You need to shave. And we should talk about accessories. A tiara is fine, but only for special occasions or the occasional drag show – and not usually with a riding crop. (Although there may be exceptions.)

  • Roger Loveday via Facebook

    You look good here, John! :)

  • Rebecca

    Oh John, why must you make me laugh so hard when it’s time to go to bed? I will NEVER get to sleep because I keep laughing about the most effective way of communicating being screaming at someone while hitting them with a shovel…only for the fundies, right ;)

  • Matthew Tweedell

    You are one majorly funny dude, John! :lol:

  • Christie L.

    What I love about John’s blog is three-fold. I love that I don’t feel alone in my beliefs anymore as this community is full of like-minded folks. I love that there are people far more learned on the biblical interpretations regarding the “clobber verses” whom I learn from all the time and who challenge me to dig deeper into my understanding. I also love that we, in the comments section, can tell our stories and find people who understand what we’ve been through or what we’re going through, and offer only love and support. I find validation here.

  • Jackson Hearn via Facebook

    I find solace in your writings, because I find that I am not alone in my thoughts about Jesus. I grew up in the church, and work in the church, and am surrounded by the church (not the same as Jesus, I know). Your post yesterday from the guy in NC who said it was a great day to hate Christians made it clear. Maybe I am not a christian, but I am a follower of the Christ. (He said that about you). I am ok with that…

  • Christine McQueen

    I’ve really never thought of John’s blog as a ‘religious’ space. Just a place to read interesting words about religion and many other topics. I think the fact that it does so many times revolve around religion has more to do with the questions he’s asked by those who write to him as well as the comments his readers make. I don’t know how much of his blog you’ve read, but let me tell you, if a reader’s or correspondent’s ideas are ridiculous or even stupid, he’s not afraid to tell them that. And when he finds any of our comments to be thought provoking or particularly good, he’s even been known to use them a day or two later in a new posting.

  • Lorie McGraw via Facebook

    Being able to affirm that there are Christians who do love you unconditionally as Jesus taught – that is empowering. No one chooses to be gay, just as no one chooses to have blonde hair. And to have not only a safe haven but an astounding (and brilliantly funny) warrior to stand ground with you as John does is, in a word, awesome. With a side of awesome sauce.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    As for the last part…

    The Matrix has you.

  • Kelly Thompson Turk

    this comment is for Anna, from a fellow grad student (Interdisciplinary Studies, Religious Studies and PoliSci at Arizona State University) – what an absolutely cool project! :D

  • Matthew Tweedell

    I can second some of what Christie L. said (thanks for saying it for me, Christie :)):

    “I love that I don’t feel alone in my beliefs anymore as this community is full of like-minded folks.”

    That was what first attracted me here, but not always is everyone so like-minded to my mind—in fact, while the community seems more like-minded as a whole, but perhaps less of one mind with myself than when I first came here (which is do to evolutions in thought on both ends); but then again, I’m not being challenged to grow if I’m only hanging out with like-minded persons.

    “I love that there are people far more learned on the biblical interpretations regarding the ‘clobber verses’ whom I learn from all the time and who challenge me to dig deeper into my understanding.”

    I enjoy the wisdom and understanding, in all things, contributed by people here, (though I personally don’t have much interest in digging ever deeper into “clobber verses”, because it seems I have answers already to a greater degree than those debating them with me are ever really interested in hearing them [and I for myself find no compelling reason to dig into them any deeper]).

    “I also love that we, in the comments section, can tell our stories and find people who understand what we’ve been through or what we’re going through, and offer only love and support. I find validation here.”

    This.. is very good for Christie! And I too LOVE the comments section. But my experience of it has been somewhat different—actually, much the opposite, often—from Christie’s: People don’t understand where I’m coming from, and they don’t really care either.

    You see, each person has their own want(s) that they come to this blog seeking to satisfy. Many, it seems—perhaps, from time to time at least, all who stick around long enough—do, as Christie indicates, seek the consolation of a commiserating soul. However, issues that personally touch upon me presently don’t much come up, and matters with which I might have any past experience always involve people with lots more experience to share than myself (perhaps, in part, because, well, I’m not that.. let’s say, mature.. yet).

    Anyhow, I try to gain insight into others’ driving inner wants, but many prefer to stand at least partially behind smokescreens (all the more so the more loudly they hiss at you, in my experience)—Lord knows that I often do, even without thinking about it, though, again, it’s not like when I do say much about where I’m coming from, who I am, anybody really cares. In fact, they’re more likely, often, to just dismiss it: if they can’t commiserate with you, then it’s just not worth it, to most people, to empathize with you—what’s in it for them? Thus, a circle of people seeking compassion one for another can quickly turn to a vent for passions unleashed one against another.

    But at the end of the day.. well who the hell even knows: There is no end to the day around here!

    But ultimately.. I’d love to think we all just love each other to point of loving hating things about each other until someone simply isn’t around anymore, and which point we simply stop loving them (which is easy enough, in part because there’s basically an unspoken rule against actually getting to know each other very well [likely in part because this is an open Internet forum, and also that the medium of our interaction is limited the written word, plus smilies :)]—well, except for John who’s practically got his entire life story it seems someplace or another around here [though it's difficult to piece together, being scattered across like a thousand blog posts & comments]).

  • Alex

    I can tell you right now, John’s community extends beyond just the religious…I’m a straight atheist, but I read every post he puts up. It’s remarkable to find a place of such pure positivism, from both John and the commenters. I’m not surprised he’s attracted such a large online community…his enthusiasm and care and uncompromising love for people are infectious (as long as you’ve got an open mind…there are of course some trolls who come here looking to start flame wars, and are incapable of actually absorbing any of the thoughts John transcribes).

    • DR

      I find value in every commenter here. Those of you who are atheists who participate give me the greatest amount of hope because of the level of education that you provide to those of us who are Christian. For me. the patience, generosity and kindness that you extend to a group of people who often mislabel you, condescend to you and even paint you as somehow lacking in love and morals because you don’t have faith is – pardon the term – miraculous. I think you actually embody the morals, the character and the words of Jesus in your lives much better than we do (regardless of what you believe about his Deity) because you have no eternal payoff. You’re just seeking truth, doing good, loving as well as you can and doing the right thing because it’s the right thing.

      I’m sure at times it’s difficult to engage but I’m so appreciative that you do.

  • http://www.jimreader.net Jim Reader

    John’s online space gives me hope that someday liberal, progressive, and moderate Christians can reclaim the very term “Christian” from the hate-spewing, bigoted, narrow-minded Fundamentalist Fascist Fanatical F***tards that have hijacked it.

    Some days, that’s a thin and fragile hope to hold on to, but I know that no matter how tenuous it feels, this space is here, and so hope prevails.

    • Wendy

      I wish I had said that! Awesome Jim :-)

    • DR

      I hope, I hope. So well said. Thanks.

  • Martha Jean-Prunier via Facebook

    John is a safe shore to reach in our journeys toward understanding ourselves or others in the LGBT community.. and he’s actually a party beach for the Christian Left where all are welcome.

  • http://kellythinkstoomuch.wordpress.com KellyK

    How do you envision your role and responsibilities as a champion of LGBT Christians who is himself not identified as LGBT?

    “Champion” is not the word I’d use. I like “ally.” I think “champion” can give you too high an opinion of yourself and push the people that you’re working for off to the sidelines, when really they’re the ones who should be at the center.

    I think straight allies have a chance to make a big impact because people have the tendency to assume that if you’re gay, well *of course* you’re going to read the “clobber” passages in a way that benefits you (ignoring the fact that people who are hateful towards LGBT people are also reading the Bible exactly how they want). If you’re straight, you’re not seen as having a horse in the race, so you look objective and might bet taken more seriously.

    It’s kind of a double-edged sword though because, again, it can minimize the actual LGBT Christians when this is their lives we’re talking about. And being “objective” is highly overrated. (For one thing, nobody’s really objective. And it’s really problematic that someone who doesn’t have direct experience in an area gets looked at as “objective” when the person who’s the actual expert because they’ve lived it gets pushed aside as “over-emotional” or “not objective enough.”)

    How has your theology been shaped and altered by your experiences online?

    A lot, actually. I grew up in a really fundamentalist church, and although I did question a lot of what was taught, it wasn’t until I got the chance to talk about faith online that I started really figuring out what I believe. (It helped that at the same time as I was joining online communities and starting a LiveJournal that I was also in college, meeting people whose experiences and beliefs were totally different from mine.)

    How has your theology regarding queerness specifically been shaped and altered by your experiences online?

    Complete and total 180 (though online experience wasn’t the *only* thing). Like I said, I grew up in a very fundamentalist church. Being gay was a choice, and it was a sin, and that was the end of it. And then I met actual LGBT people. Many in college, but others online. (That is, I must have known someone who was gay before, but not that I was aware of. Looking back, I shudder to think how many of my high school classmates must’ve been gay–probably at least half a dozen kids in a graduating class of 100–and how isolated they must have been.)

    Anyway, in college, I had a LiveJournal account, and I wrote a lot about religion and controversial topics and just whatever was on my mind at the time. And people that I knew would discuss and debate things. Through that, I got a much clearer picture of what it’s actually like to grow up gay in such a hostile culture.

    I didn’t get to a point where I could reconcile the things Paul said with what I was seeing. I more just decided that I’ve always been the sort of person who will choose love and loyalty over a strict interpretation of the rules every time, and that I can do that on this issue too. (And besides, it’s an individual Christian’s job to figure out how they’re supposed to be living their life, not mine to act like I have all the answers about things I’ve never experienced.)

    What is the worst aspect of your experience of creating and maintaining a religious space online? Can you give a specific example of an instance when someone has used your online space(s) in a destructive or harmful manner?

    I’m going to answer this differently since I don’t actually maintain a religious space (though if my blog became one, that would be awesome, but I think I’d have to update it more than every couple months). My worst experience discussing religion online isn’t actually the random drive-by trolls. I get angry because of them, but I can also brush it off as “Well, someone needs to get a life.” I think the worst experience is the actual drag-out arguments with people I know.

    I recently blocked someone on my Facebook page because he was not just argumentative but condescending, sarcastic, and hateful. And from the first argument, I said “You know, we really shouldn’t talk politics.” (It was specifically on gay and trans rights, so both a political and religious topic.) He totally ignored that, so I set up a filter and blocked my controversial posts from him (and from people I work with, because my workplace is pretty conservative and I’m really not).

    But because Facebook, particularly Facebook apps, hates privacy, if I read an article through Yahoo reader, he saw it, and went on another tirade. I didn’t even have to say I agreed or disagreed with the article. So, I got rid of the reader apps. Then I posted a comment on David Shelton’s “Skipping to the Piccolo” (which is a fantastic gay Christian blog), and I checked the “share on Facebook” box, thinking I was going to be able to edit the privacy of it. My “friend” of course got the notification and then went to spew his nasty and semi-coherent rantings all over someone else’s blog.

    His main argument was that “liberals” want to change society without any evidence on what those changes will bring, and that that’s dangerous and foolish, because who knows what destruction will result. So I said, kind of snarkily, that if change is so horrible and scary, maybe we shouldn’t have freed the slaves or let women vote either. His response was that “the jury was still out” on whether women voting was a good thing. And that’s when I shot him, your Honor. No, actually, I told him I was shocked that he’d actually say such a thing in 20-freaking-12 and that I was done having this conversation. And when he tried to continue it, going on about how he had made a logical point and I was being unreasonable, I blocked and unfriended him. And felt very relieved.

    So, that was my worst online experience, by far. But I hope that it taught me to remember that what you say about other people’s rights and lives is DEEPLY personal. He’s a straight, white guy. There was never any question of his rights. So it’s real easy for him to use mine as a logical point and a though experiment and say that if I don’t like it, that I’m the one being unreasonable.

    I try to remember that when I’m talking about other people’s lives. I like a good random hypothetical conversation, and debate for the sake of debate, but I figure it’s my job as a straight ally to *not* be having conversations about other people’s lives in ways that minimize them.

    What are some of your hopes for the future role of the internet in religion?

    I love that religious conversation doesn’t just happen in church or around the dinner table. Talks and sermons turn into blog posts or YouTube videos and get tweeted and commented and discussed all over the place. I think that’s great.

    So, my biggest hope for the role of the internet in religion is that it gives people more opportunities to wrestle with tough questions, to meet people they might not meet, and to get and give love and support when it might not be available face to face (for whatever reason).

  • Gary

    I come for the community of people who share experience and insight.

  • Matt Eagleton

    Dear Anna,

    In Sydney, Australia, there is a very successful organisation called http://www.freedom2b.org/about/

    freedom2b is a network of LGBTI people from Christian backgrounds. It’s a non-judgmental, no agenda, safe place that assists people on their journey to reconcile their faith, sexuality and/or their gender identity.

    They have a very successful online forum that I thought you may find very interesting – so successful that it saves lives!

    Blessings & best of luck for your assignment – hope it helps

    Cheers

    Matt Eagleton

  • Kay Carrasco

    Anna, you might try contacting this fellow, Eric Shepherd. http://www.defshepherd.com/ I am *very* impressed by his writing and his stances on LGBT issues, in particular the North Carolina Amendment vote. And good luck with your GPA!

  • mike moore

    I spend time here because 30 years or so ago, I lost my faith. In people. In a personal God. But there remains in me a quest for understanding of Jesus and the spiritual realm, in which I do believe. John’s blog is a safe place to read other’s thoughts and beliefs and is a place to float a few ideas of my own.

    Added plus: John’s Kool-Aid is great.

  • Cindy B

    Hi Anna,

    If it’s not too late, I also recommend another online religious community: http://saintlaika.com/ and it’s parallel site http://revjph.blogspot.com/. Perhaps one difference being that “Mad Priest,” as we call him, is intentionally exploring creating church on the internet. This community has roots in Anglican/Episcopal tradition, and advocates for LGBT inclusion.

    Peace.

  • Anne

    Hi, Anna. I don’t know if it’s too late (and even if it is) I highly recommend you read the writings of this unbelievable ELCA Lutheran Pastor in Denver, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Her blog is: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/ The congregation she serves “House for All Sinners and Saints” describes itself as:

    a group of folks figuring out how to be a liturgical, Christo-centric, social justice oriented, queer inclusive, incarnational, contemplative, irreverent, ancient – future church with a progressive but deeply rooted theological imagination.

    I’ll be in Denver later this month and am really looking forward to attending Worship with these folks.

  • http://Www.unnameablecuriosity.wordpress.com Christine

    I think for anyone intentionally trying to create a religious community online, there would be a temptation to define it like other religious communities – commone beliefs, objections, intentions and methods. Which would make this just like (and as dysfunctional as) most other religious communities.

    I think this works so well (and others like it – my favourite is nakedpastor.com – sorry, John :) ) because John isn’t trying to do that. Bloggers like John create free space where we each choose our associations. We don’t need to agree on anything. The community is simply defined by those in it and how they interact and is free to change just as fluidly.

    • http://Www.unnameablecuriosity.wordpress.com Christine

      I meant common objectives, but maybe common objections is actually more appropropriate!

    • Matthew Tweedell

      That’s a very good point, Christine!

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    Hmm… my own musings in regards to these questions…

    On being a champion of LGBT rights while not being in the crowd…

    While John is straight, of course, I consider myself the “A” in QUILTBAG, so maybe I’m a part of the crew in a way? I would say “not really” because my “lack of drive” as it were actually led to me being more of an ass than if I were tradtionally “driven” straight, I think. For a good long time in my conservativism, I didn’t *understand* why anyone would *identify* by a sexuality – a “Sex is not the end all be all of existance!” attitude, combined with “Well, I can control my drives, why can’t others?” — Yeah, I don’t like Past!Me very much… I can only forgive her because she was plain ignorant of a lot of the world.

    So I can say it’s important for Now!Me to be an ally just to make up for that. I think it is vital for straights and aesexuals-who-can-pass-for-straight to take this up because – I hate to sound rude here, but I doubt the American slaves would ever have been freed if white people didn’t advocate for them. There is a responsibility inherent in privilage. When the battle lines are drawn, it is up to some of us “in the power position” to stand between.

    On online religious community…

    It probably just kind of happened by accident. A guy gives opinions on controversial subjects, followers happen – guy gets a venue on big online sites/news feeds – gets more followers, and bam! A community. Personally, I haven’t been in a physical church in quite sometime, and not just becuase I can’t drag myself out of bed in the *morning.* Ranting and conversing on this place just feels kind of “safe” for me, even though I’ve made a few faux pas that made me feel like running away and not talking to anyone even online ever again. (I have problems…) For the most part, however, this feels safe for my screwed up heart. I tend to share things online that I don’t to people in realspace, even people closest to me. (There’s a short story on my blog for example, free to the public, that I’m hoping my fiancee’ doesn’t read because I don’t want him to worry about me)… Stuff like that. I think it’s easier for some of us to share with relative “strangers” in text-form.

    Theology being influenced by being online…

    Oh, yeah, and I think it’s shifting and being influenced all the time. I’ll give you a really stupid example from my life: I grew up, non-churched, with a vauge “cultural-Christianity” understanding of God, without being “religious.” I came to a time in my life when I was seeking deeper things and had a conversion experience – in part, from watching television preachers during my seeking-period. Yes, I prayed the “magic prayer” while watching The 700 Club at age 14. You all can groan now. Would it help if I told you that I have a mental illness (treated for/medicated now) and likely even had it back then, only then it was not diagnosed? Would that really help you to have a compassionate perception of me? I think my life has been one big ball of crazy…

    I joined the local Baptist church, and uncharacterstic of me now, was there all the time. They were kind people, like a little family, but conservative and influenced a conservative reading of the Bible. I even, for a time, went Young Earth Creationist in my attitudes of the universe’s origins *simply because the media I knew – television and some people in the church* had me thinking it’s how I *had* to be to follow God. A large part of me knew this was stupid, but wanted to buy into the “atheist scientifc conspiracy” the tv preachers crowed about because maybe it was simplier that way, I don’t know. In my pre-conversion life “God took friggin’ forever to create the dinosuars and stuff? No problem.” post-conversion, “Well, I just have to have faith that people and dinos walked together because the Bible said it happened in six days.” *Shudder.*

    Did I mention already that I don’t have the most sound of minds? When I go with something that I think “is right” it’s very often an emotional reaction with me – as in, logic goes out the window. It happens even in today-times – last year, I flat out risked my life to save the life of an animal without even “logicking out the relative worth of lives” and I’m glad I did it. I’m not so glad I “put away my brain to follow God” in my younger days, though. All I’m saying here is that, even though it is admitting WEAKNESS and perhaps WORTHLESSNESS, one of the things that I know about myself is that “my gut wins” sometimes.

    There was a guy at my church who was a thestic evolutionist, though, he helped change my mind by increment… Just that he could exist and reconcile faith and science was amazing… That’s where the Interent comes in. Upon discovering the Internet and gainnig regular access to it, I found *loads* more people like that, and people with opinions differing from the “tradtional” and “television media driven” on a lot of issues. Information superhighway, baby!

    Learning that there really isn’t an ultimatum, black and white, that one doesn’t have to check one’s brain at the door to “get to Heaven” or “find meaning in life” is eye-opening. The Internet is like travel for people who are unable to physically travel.

    Theology on queerness changing with the Interent…

    Definitely. See above. I daresay that if I had not had access to the Internet, my theology on would not have changed at all. I did not know any openly gay people in the middle-of-the-desert town I lived in in Arizona (one of the craziest states in the union – summer heat boils brains). The Interent forced me to think upon these issues. Some of my first encounters with queerness that I remember were in… Fandom. Nerdly hobbies. You can’t go two steps in online fandom for anime and videogames without running into “yaoi.” “Yuri,” not as much, it’s a rarer flavor, but “yaoi…” everywhere. If you’re a nerd for anything, someone will write fanfic or draw fanart of your favorite characters boning one another, or at least in some kind of relationship, full stop. In Western-media fandom circles, it’s genreally called “slash,” but, same thing – It’s pretty easy to dismiss it at first as a “bunch of young, straight fangirls who put guys together because they are horny and think they are progressive even as they objectify-fetish everything,” But, then, you run into some actual queer people who this type of fanwork and are very often just as annoyed by the wilder ways of the screechier fangirls as you are…

    (It’s not nice to call a homosexual a “homophobe” just becuase he thinks your favorite pairing is “unrealistic” and that you should do some research into the mechanics of lovemaking before you write stories about it, you know…)

    Meeting folks on nerd-forums and listening them go into real life struggles, and subsquently learning that the mythical, *impossible!* LGBT Christians that people had me believing didn’t and could not exist *exist* was kind of big for me. That whole “They don’t exist because while Christians make mistakes and sin, no Real True Christian will live a *lifestyle* of sin and gay is rebellion against the way God made your body, yadda, yadda, yadda…” just kind of melts when you see websites where people struggle to live a scripritual life while talking about reconciling their natural sexuality with it all. It forces one to think “If people are trying *harder* than most straight people I know to live a Godly/Biblical/Jesusly life and have concluded that this thing that society thinks is glaring is not a sin with them… benefit of the doubt.”

    Go, Internet, Go! Again, travel without the time and expense.

    The Interent, religion and the future…

    Personally, I hope the Internet can open up more safe-spaces for the shy, strange and generally dispossessed to gather and share their off-kilter experiences. I actually hope that “online church” gains the same kind of respect someday as “church-church” without some of the detriments – such as the authoritariansm that drives some of us to “Internet fellowship” in the first place. I had some fear driven into me early on that “I had to go to church or I wasn’t partaking in the Body of Christ and thus might not be really ‘saved.” – That’s hard for an introvert… personally, I think when Paul said “Let us not give up meeting together” – I think the Internet works fine and dandy for that. I’ve had more enlightening conversations here than many I’ve had in a church.

    I have something of a nagging worry that people like us are doomed, though. I think when the battle lines are drawn, if we don’t carry the day by standing in-between, we’re going to be the first to be shot.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      I think these are some really good answers to Anna’s questions right here, Shadsie!

    • Matthew Tweedell

      “When I go with something that I think ‘is right’ it’s very often an emotional reaction with me – as in, logic goes out the window.”

      I would say that’s ultimately at the root of how everyone functions—perhaps you’re just a bit more aware of it than most in this regard.

      And then people very often just make up whatever logic most readily seems to defend what they somehow “feel” deep down inside (for good or for bad).

      You know.. there’s nothing wrong with finding Christ through Pat Robertson and the 700 Club, Shadsie! (Yes, God is just that awesome, He can even work wonders through such as them :D jk, but it does kinda give me hope that He might even do great things through me though, ‘cause I wouldn’t be too quick to judge myself any better really than Pat, for instance). While I don’t agree with a great deal of their theology (or ethics, or political philosophy, or probably even their culinary preferences), they have got the most important thing right: There is real power in the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

      And your so-called “magic” prayer must have worked—yet not because you merely said but because you believed and trusted enough to really put faith into practice: You had the strength of faith that Jesus had come and died to bear and bury the sins of all the world that would believe, that you were not afraid to stick your head out into that world and see for yourself just what those sins might be and where they are just fictitious monsters in the closet, so to speak, of typical evangelical communities.

      Yes, it must have worked, since I know that so far you are saved indeed. And not merely from the evils of the world has God saved you, but from your worst adversaries of all: the darkest demons you have faced within your very soul.

      Yet by your faith and the Lord’s grace, you have managed to persevere, to perceive that eternal light that brings heat and visibility to an otherwise cold and dark world. You’ve followed that light, in all the colors of its rainbow spectrum, as it ever guides you, ever precedes before you, ever onwards towards the setting of the sun, along the winding path that’s led you thus far, so far along the Way!

      And when you reach your destination, there you shall behold the newborn King of all, o you who say a *magic* prayer indeed, whom you shall find wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

      Well.. see you when we get there, Shadsie (and hopefully some more in our travels as well, without the time and expense of course ;))!

      • mike moore

        Matthew, and I say this very good-naturedly … how much fucking coffee do you drink every day?! I can’t but wonder if you should roll yourself and smoke a nice fattie prior to posting.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Right? You can’t believe how often I’ve asked him to step away from the bong. It’s, like, a mini-meme here on my blog.

          • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

            Actually wondered why I haven’t been asked this, since I’m a “wall of text” person, too…

            Mania, perhaps?

            I mean, I’m serious. Getting on a tear where you’re writing long, hyper-amphetamine style things… Let’s just say that the condition of my laptop and my keyboard were used as evidence in the Disability case I recently won. Mixed-state bipolar disorder’s a bitch, but man if I don’t churn out a lot of good fiction writing from the mania/hypomania. I’m pretty sure I’ve scared people with some of my posts, too. Some of Matt’s posts make me think “Something I might say if I were more adently confident and sure of myself.”

            Maybe my horrible, soul-crushing sense of insecurity is a good thing, then?

        • Matthew Tweedell

          I rarely drink coffee at all, and this was no exception: no caffeine at all yesterday, actually (and otherwise perhaps I *wouldn’t* have written it that way—to me, this seems somewhat the opposite of wired, jumpy, assertive). And no, I don’t smoke anything either.

          I thought I was writing in a way that might be more appreciable to Shadsie than the alternative, more boring-analytical type of commentary. Plus, I think it was shorter than making points in such a fashion. I could say, for instance, “I liked your description of the Internet as a means to travel without the time and expense,” but instead I simply used it approvingly in my leave-taking remarks, which was because, instead of saying, “It is interesting that you should call the prayer ‘magic’: The etymological meaning of ‘magic’ is as the adjective form of the word ‘magi’, whom we know were seeking and found Christ,” I simply referred to their journey, paralleling Shadsie’s own.

          And this, of course, I could tie in to contrast with the darkness I know Shadsie has faced (Need I speak more plainly still? Should I really be so mundane and blunt as to say, “suicidal depression”?), referencing the Star of Bethlehem. Yet as the “perfect light” looks different at different seasons of our lives, I referred to the various colors and this in a manner that simultaneously may be taken as an acknowledgment of the good in her having come to an acceptance of LGBT folks—under the symbolism of the rainbow.

          Now I don’t intend to go through the whole of my previous comment here; I just wondered to what extend others might understand that by taking things to a higher level like this, I really feel as though I’m able to cover much more in rather more concise (and, to people who appear to enjoy complex stories, interesting) form. Since I’m rather pretty much always like this, you must understand, I’m not too sure how you perceive it really; somehow dysfunctionally?

          • Donald Rappe

            It seems to me hard to say why some of us ask different questions than others. But it helps if we recognize this as true. I always enjoy your comments and Shadsie’s because they seem to take certain questions as seriously as I do. Nerds forever!

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Thanks, Don! Nerds forever! lol :)

  • K (aka Caring Heart)

    I can’t remember how I first found this page – it must have been from another facebook page. I was really happy to find out about the book, “Unfair” especially the last chapter because I wanted an argument I could share with others that have opposing views.

    Ever since I wrote John about the initial wording of his petition and he wrote me right back thanking me for the input, I have felt humbled and welcome here. It seems like a safe place to be. I have ideas and plan to stick around.

    Here is another site of support I learned about from the forward in John’s book

    http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/

    Best wishes to you with your project and also as you travel through life!

  • Darrah Brock via Facebook

    You are hilarious John…thank you for showing us all how to keep God out of our own religious boxes :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Thanks you guys, very much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kerry-L-Switzer/100002757279666 Kerry L. Switzer via Facebook

    Anna, that’s great that you got an A! Thanks so much for stopping by to tell everyone. I think a number of John’s fans post only on his website and not his facebook page so they might not see your post but I’m sure he will share your good news with everyone. Best to you!

  • Jana Harrison Currier via Facebook

    Well done!

  • Jill

    As a relative newbie on this blog (one crazy summer!), I’m playing catch-up on all things Mr. John Shore and un-fundamental Christianity ;).

    This is my first pass at this post, and I am laughing out loud—people in this free wi-fi café are noticing—at just how much Mr. Shore’s sensibilities mirror my own. I’ve been out in non-Christianityland for over 15 years, and yet we…agree! Holy sacred cow!

    This reformed ex-fundy is just starting to get the whole Jesus-is-just-alright-with-me thing (without the backing drum beat). Love instead of fear… kindness instead of self-righteous judgment, got it. I figured that out long ago through other paths, but now I’m finding it in Christian circles too???

    Consider me happily floored and blissed out.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X