My hope is built on nothing less

There’s a bit of a thing brewing over Jim Wallis of Sojourners and his response to an advertisement from Believe Out Loud — a movement “to unite Christians for LGBT equality in the church and beyond.” The always insightful Sarah Posner has an excellent and thorough overview of the dispute at Religion Dispatches.

(For some additional perspective and reactions, see Tony Jones’ “What Jim Wallis Might Be Missing;” Jason Pitzl-Waters’ “Jim Wallis and the Religious Left;” Christopher LaTondresse and Chris Stedmans’ “The Sojourners and Jim Wallis Backlash Misses the Point;” and John Shore’s “Mr. Wallis and His Big Gay Waffle.”)

Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners — both the magazine and the inspiring faith community in Washington, D.C. — is probably the most prominent “progressive evangelical” voice on the American scene these days. You may be familiar with his books, or with the magazine or the good work of his community there in Washington. He has been a longtime, forceful and persuasive voice on behalf of economic and racial justice, peace and care for the environment. As John Shore notes in the piece linked above:

[Wallis] has accomplished a great deal of good in the world. He has fought to free South Africa, to reduce nuclear arms, to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to bring about global economic health, to pass immigration reform laws, and to bring an end to human trafficking.

That list of progressive causes on which Wallis has made progress could go on even longer.

But Jim Wallis has also, for all that time over the past several decades, defended some positions that are not so progressive. He opposes legal abortion and the full acceptance in the church of GLBT people. Those have never been his primary issues, and he seems to have avoided discussing them whenever possible, seeming to regard them as divisive distractions from his core message and the work that has absorbed most of his life. His take on both matters is also far more nuanced and far less strident than the usual American evangelical approach to them. Indeed, a central theme in his message for his fellow evangelicals has been that these issues should not be of pre-eminent importance to them and that they should stop obsessing about them and get busy instead doing the sorts of things that Jesus actually told them to be doing.

Yet the fact remains that Jim Wallis’ position on both abortion and homosexuality is such that he has remained in good standing as a mostly accepted member of the American evangelical community. His views on poverty, racial justice, peace and the environment may put him at odds with the gatekeepers of that community, who often characterize him as a dangerous radical, but in the final analysis they also regard him as One Of Us because, after all, he opposes abortion and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.

Now, it’s tragic and probably heretical that this is how the American evangelical community decides who is and who is not an acceptable and recognized member of the community. Wallis’ long demonstration of a passionate faith doesn’t count in this calculus. Nor does his personal testimony, his church membership or of his long track record as a Bible-soaked preacher of God’s Word. All that really matters is opposition to those two things: Abortion and homosexuality. All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Meeting that two-part standard is both necessary and sufficient for anyone’s acceptance as One Of Us by American evangelicalism. We recently saw this demonstrated yet again in the brief surge of evangelical enthusiasm for Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. Trump is a relentlessly amoral and areligious person — and he’s also loony as all get out — but he had signaled his willingness to toe the line on abortion and homosexuality, and so he received the blessing of Franklin Graham and of Tony Perkins and other evangelical gatekeepers.

Because Jim Wallis complies with that same two-part standard he remains accepted as a member of the evangelical community. The same cannot be said for, say, Tony Jones or Jay Bakker or any of the other relatively younger evangelical leaders and writers who have, due to their full embrace of GLBT equality, come to be designated as “post-evangelical” — or, as LaTondresse puts it, as “recovering evangelicals” — with a nifty dual-meaning to “recovering” (and, yes, I suppose I would include myself in that category, which is why I wrote “relatively younger” rather than just “younger”).

These two pre-eminent issues — abortion and homosexuality — have become the crux of American evangelicalism (pun intended) in part due to the politicization of evangelicals over the past three decades, years in which evangelical Christians have come to be regarded, by both outsiders and insiders, as primarily a bloc of voters. A great deal of money was spent during those years to convince evangelicals to come to think of themselves in this way and that money has had its intended effect.

But the strange elevation of these two shibboleths to creedal importance above all else wasn’t exclusively a product of this political manipulation. They also became the cornerstone of evangelical identity because each is, in slightly different ways, a convenient surrogate for and signifier of what are regarded as essential evangelical attitudes toward the Bible and toward the rest of society. They are regarded both as the most glaring examples of the pervasive immorality that supposedly characterizes the ungodly and as shorthand litmus tests for acceptance of “the authority of the scriptures.” The latter point is much clearer with regard to homosexuality, for which the well-known “clobber verses” provide a binary test of submission to the authority of prooftexts and to a host of unspoken accompanying hermeneutical assumptions. The lack of such apparent prooftexts for opposition to abortion makes that a more complicated question, which I’ll add to the lengthening list of Things I Want to Get Back to in More Detail in Future Posts.

Here I mainly want to highlight the way that the shibboleth of a “stance” opposing homosexuality tends to be, for evangelicals, as much about hermeneutics and the Bible as it is about sex and gender. What I want to suggest here, and in the Part 2 post to follow, is that it’s that difference in hermeneutics, rather than the particulars of anyone’s “stance on homosexuality”* that really distinguishes evangelicals like Jim Wallis from “post-evangelicals” like Tony Jones or Jay Bakker. To try to explain why, I want to tell a story and, since it’s kind of a longish story, I’ll save that discussion for Part 2.

For now let me just reiterate what I’ve said above about evangelical identity in America’s evangelical subculture. It is marked, above all else, by the proper “stance” on homosexuality and abortion. Those who meet that test are regarded as insiders with a voice that will be listened to. Those who fail that test are regarded as outsiders (even if we stubbornly refuse to accept such a designation because we don’t regard this test as legitimate or as a meaningful definition of what evangelical Christianity is supposed to be about).

This is, again, a sad state of affairs. These things are not supposed to be the crux of Christianity and I would think that even those who pass this test — evangelicals in good standing who oppose legal abortion and equality for GLBT people — would acknowledge that. But though this is not how things ought to be with evangelicals, it is how things are.

Given that, this recent controversy between Jim Wallis and Believe Out Loud has for many raised the question of whether his response to the vehement importance given to this calculus has led him, in turn, to be calculating in his own statements. One can certainly see how he might be, but I don’t think he is. I don’t think that Wallis is a post-evangelical timidly masquerading as something else. I don’t think he’s being disingenuous, I think he’s just wrong.

And so, of course, I would like to try to persuade him to change his mind. We’ll get to that in Part 2.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Yes, evangelicals really say this all the time. And, yes, it still makes me giggle.

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  • http://lightupmy.wordpress.com Jessica

    Ummm, weird. First?

    There’s no crickets
    and tumble
    weeds are there?

  • chris the cynic

    Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, but I haven’t seen you around in a long while. It’s good to see your face again.

  • http://lightupmy.wordpress.com Jessica

    Ummm, weird. First?

    There’s no crickets
    and tumble
    weeds are there?

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I read an interesting argument regarding politicians and the gay/abortion issues:

    The conservative voting “block” includes social conservatives, who are mostly defined by what they’re against, not what they’re for. Politicians actually have very little incentive to act on those issues, because if they’re actually successful, they lose a chunk of voters. But by identifying their “position”, they get votes, and once they’re elected, if they never actually take action, well… the votes are still there, aren’t they?

  • Sammy

    Except the practice in recent years has been the exact opposite of the, “swing right on social issues to get votes and then never act on it” approach. Just look at the 2010 elections. Republicans campaigned on two things: Job creation and lowering taxes. Then they immediately used their new House majority to defund Planned Parenthood and ax social programs for the poor and minorities.

    Jobs created, zero. Taxes lowered, zero. Conservative social issues pushed, a ton.

  • Froborr

    This is the problem with any successful campaign of lies. Eventually, True Believers rise through the ranks and take enough of the top positions to completely screw everything up.

    Hopefully, this is the death of the post-Nixon Republican party. Hopefullier still, it won’t take the rest of the country down with it. The Democrats would make a much better conservative party, and that would make space for a true liberal, or at least left-of-center, party.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, evangelicals really say this all the time. And, yes, it still makes me giggle.

    It was made even worse by Larry Craig, whose stance on homosexuality is very wide.

  • Lori

    As an FYI for people who don’t travel in parts of the internet focusing on teh ghay, Wallis’ comments definitely got coverage there. Short version—if left-leaning Christians want people to trust their good intentions Wallis is showing how not to make that happen.
    In a related post for those who might be interested, Doctor Science over at Obsidian Wings is talking today about the what unites fundamentalists across religious boundaries. Surprise, he thinks it’s hating on the gays. Commenters have pointed out some problems with the argument (although I think some off them actually misunderstood the point), but I still found it interesting. http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2011/05/the-women-men-dont-see.html

  • Anonymous

    In a related post for those who might be interested, Doctor Science over
    at Obsidian Wings is talking today about the what unites
    fundamentalists across religious boundaries. Surprise, he thinks it’s
    hating on the gays. Commenters have pointed out some problems with the
    argument (although I think some off them actually misunderstood the
    point), but I still found it interesting. http://obsidianwings.blogs.com

    Thank you for the link. Just for the record, I’m pretty sure Doctor Science is a she. (She is also, AFAIK, not a doctor in any accepted sense of the word. On the other hand, I’m neither a sprint nor a punctuation mark, so, uh….)

    She’s an excellent blogger–I’m pleased that she’s at ObWi.

  • Anonymous

    I really liked this commentary on evangelicalism! It reminds me of an experience I recently had in fanfic (I write stories about the Lord of the Rings characters and publish them online). An archive where I posted them had a policy on stories involving homosexuality that I disagreed with pretty strongly, but I really liked being “in” with that particular group. Recently I realized I had to stop posting my stuff there, and it was quite hard. A trivial example, perhaps, but it gives me some empathy for what drives Wallis to not rock the boat on these two issues.

    Personally, I am of a mixed mind about the ad. I really think this is the kind of thing that needs to be *discussed* (and you can’t dialog with an ad), so from that perspective I would say an ad isn’t the appropriate medium. If that was all that was going on here, I’d say Wallis (who I generally respect) made the right call. But the more I think about it, the more I think he might be doing what I was doing with that archive: downplaying part of myself to still be considered one of us. And that’s not cool, especially with all the very real consequences of LGBTQ still being pushed out of the church.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Which is a little ironic. Some of the earliest (modern) published fanfiction was about Kirk and Spock getting it on, and the tradition seems alive and well in contemporary fanfiction. Heck, there is even an entire subset of fic writers devoted to it.

  • Anonymous

    Slash is indeed alive and well. In the Tolkien fandom where I play, there are a lot of people who don’t approve because of how they perceive Tolkien’s views on the subject; they think homosexuality shouldn’t show up in fic stories about his world. I obviously feel differently, and think it honors him to deal with the topic of homosexuality – but that is a long decision, and best left for another forum.

  • Anonymous

    This is Slacktivist. We have a long and honored tradition of going off on tangents. This is exactly the right forum for your discussion of homosexuality and Tolkein, and I for one would love to read it.

  • Shadsie

    I write fanfiction… my specialties are certain animes and video games.  I like doing odd stuff, intropsective stuff… mostly gen stuff. When I do pairings/romance stuff of any kind… I don’t think I’m good at it and I’m not comfortable writing the “sexy-times stuff”.

    I used to be one of those obnoxious anti-slash people, but as my views changed, I got over it. I still don’t write slash, though, as I just don’t relate to it – I’m pretty much a genfic writer.

    I did a lot of my commenting on the rejected at at Huffington Post – to counter some fundies there and to hopefully show the angry atheist majority that not all people who believe in God are with the fundies. It went something along the lines of “Jesus welcomes everyone” with reference to Biblical happenings.  Dunno how well I got through to either group.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Frodo/Sam isn’t canon? Coulda fooled me.  

  • Sammy

    This is my problem with the “slash” community. You can’t seem to conceive of characters or people having an entirely Platonic close relationship. It would far better “honor” Tolkein’s memory, and his wonderful works of literature, to at least write fan-fiction that doesn’t reduce a complex, and entirely un-romantic, friendship such as that between Frodo and Sam to mere wank material.

  • Izzy

    Oh, Lord. I don’t even read/write slash, but:

    It’s called different interpretations. And I think that Marc’s comment was what we here in the human world refer to as “joking”–or at least that he’s perfectly capable of perceiving Platonic close relationships.

    Also, the original relationship, however you see it, is right there in the book. Slashfic doesn’t go into your edition and replace chapters or anything.

    *Also* also, why don’t you try whining sometime when a non-related male/female partnership in media doesn’t almost automatically get romance plot? Granted, that’ll probably be in the fifty-first century–so much the better for the rest of us.

  • Sammy

    For someone who doesn’t read/write slash, you sure seem to get pretty defensive over it.

    My broader point, however, was that reading anything sexual into a relationship like the one between Frodo and Sam is not just ludicrous. It’s objectively /wrong/, in the sense that Tolkein clearly never intended anything of the sort, and if you seriously think otherwise then at the very least you need to re-read the LotR trilogy.

    I don’t think anyone has any problem with slashfic writers producing what is essentially the modern equivalent of Tijuana bibles, so long as they keep it to themselves. But don’t pretend that it’s anything more than that, and it’s certainly not “honor[ing]” Tolkein to turn Frodo and Sam into lovers.

  • Mark Z.

    Who’s “Tolkein”? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

     An early computer engineer, inventor of the Tolkein Ring network.

  • Loki

    was that reading anything sexual into a relationship like the one between Frodo and Sam is not just ludicrous. It’s objectively /wrong/, in the sense that Tolkein clearly never intended anything of the sort

    I would advise you to brush up on your literary criticism. Most branches of criticism, including rather importantly Queer Theory, consider Tolkein’s intentions to be completely irrelevant. Some only focus on the actual text at hand, while other’s focus on the schema of the reader. Needless to say, viewing Frodo and Sam as a sexual relationship is no where near “objectively /wrong/” any more than viewing Rudyard Kipling through a post-colonial critical filter is “objectively /wrong/.”

  • Anonymous

     “My broader point, however, was that reading anything sexual into a relationship like the one between Frodo and Sam is not just ludicrous. It’s objectively /wrong/, in the sense that Tolkein clearly never intended anything of the sort, and if you seriously think otherwise then at the very least you need to re-read the LotR trilogy.”

    Really? Because Tolkien had one of those fancy British public school educations, and he would’ve encountered many, many relationships exactly like Frodo’s and Sam’s in which homosexual behavior would’ve been expected. (C. S. Lewis has an excellent discussion on the practice in “Surprised by Joy.”)

    As a matter of fact the insult “fag” is thought to have at least some origin in the British public schools, where one boy, usually older and often of a higher social class would make a personal servant of another boy. This practice, called “fagging” meant that the “fag” would have to do whatever the older boy said, submit to his orders mindlessly, and often, provide sexual services.  Frodo’s and Sam’s relationship, especially at the beginning of the book is a perfect mirror of those sort of relationships. For Tolkien to not be aware of at least some homoerotic subtext in those relationships would require a spectacular obtuseness. 

    So, no- given that Hobbits are pretty much expressly modeled on British society, and given the nature of many, many relationships between people exactly like Frodo and Sam during Tolkien’s lifetime, given the long history of cabin boys and captains, public school boys, and “Kiss me, Hardy:” its not at all implausible that there would have been a very quiet, entirely ignored homosexual relationship between Frodo and Sam. )Or Merry and Pippin, for that matter, though they actually reads like a platonic relationship.) It would be perfectly in keeping with the time and the society. 

  • Izzy

    I don’t like idiots. And I really don’t like idiots getting snotty because someone somewhere writes a genre of fiction that they don’t have to read.

    Loki and Cary make damn fine points above: authors write all kinds of things they don’t intend. King does it. I do it. Tolkien probably did it. And even if he didn’t…so the fuck what? What does the original author’s intent have to do with what possibilities someone else sees in the story? To me, the Sam/Frodo relationship *isn’t* a particularly sexual one, but what skin is it off my nose if someone else sees it that way?

    As for the rest of your comment:

    * How are they not keeping it to themselves? Is someone giving you the Clockwork Orange treatment with slash?

    * The hell do you mean “pretending”? I won’t say that *nobody* seriously claims slashfic is definitively canon–I’ve been around dark and weird corners of the Internet enough to know that someone, somewhere, will claim *anything* is definitively canon–but it doesn’t happen in actuality anywhere as much as it seems to within your little mind.

    * Some slashfic–and fanfic in general–is porn, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some isn’t: it’s good storytelling that happens to have gay romance in it. It’s hardly “pretending” anything to state as much. 

    * Why isn’t it honoring Tolkien to explore the various kinds of love that might have existed between his characters? Whether you see homoeroticism as included in the canon or are writing an AU where it exists, as long as you’re not turning the characters into parodies of themselves, I don’t see the issue.**

    *Regardless: the man is dead, Spanky. Has been for years. Whatever afterlife or lack you believe in, one can only assume he doesn’t really care what sexuality people think his characters have. 

    **And if you’re one of those people who thinks that changing a character’s sexual orientation is automatically turning them into parodies of themselves, I’m not sure we have much to talk about.

  • Anonymous

    And if you’re one of those people who thinks that changing a character’s
    sexual orientation is automatically turning them into parodies of
    themselves, I’m not sure we have much to talk about.

    Frankly I’d rather a judge say “Sam/Dean fanfic is parody” than a judge say “Sam/Dean fanfic is not fair use”. Not that the Supernatural powers that be are going to sue anyone over Sam/Dean fic anyway, because Sam/Dean fic is technically canon (Supernatural has a bit of a problem with keeping the fourth wall intact), but you get the idea.

  • Anonymous

    This is my problem with the “slash” community. You can’t seem to
    conceive of characters or people having an entirely Platonic close
    relationship.

    Can so. There is a reason most of what I write is Sam&Dean gen fic (when it’s not the Epic Supernatural Bechdel Fixit Project). Just like there is a reason most of what I read is Sam/Dean slash fic.

    Don’t like slash? Don’t read slash. No skin off my nose. But it’s no skin off your nose whether I read and write slash, either, so don’t insult my hobbies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Firstly, Marc was surely joking. People who claim their preferred non-canon pairing is canon generally are. Secondly, stop being such a killjoy. Some slash is far more than ‘wank material’ and often is written to ‘ship’ a pairing without actually writing any sex scenes, or as few as necessary to advance the plot.

  • Rikalous

    Tolkien once compared your namesake defending Frodo to an animal defending its mate.
    Slashing them is hardly a stretch. Incidentally, a quick jaunt to the
    right (wrong?) corners of the internet told me that Legolas/Treebeard,
    Treebeard/Bill-the-Pony, and Faramir/Shagrat(an Uruk-hai).

  • Rikalous

    That all those pairings exist, I mean. Oops.

  • Anonymous


    I really think this is the kind of thing that needs to be *discussed* (and you can’t dialog with an ad)

    Would you mind clarifying what, exactly, needs to be discussed? The sole message of the ad, as far as I can tell, was that everyone who wants to worship Jesus should be welcome at church, even gay couples. I’m aware that there are Christians who would prefer to keep gays and other “sinners” out of their churches, but I had hoped that they’d be aware enough of Jesus’s teachings not to make arguments like “Those people aren’t good enough to worship God in my church” in a public forum.

  • Anonymous


    I had hoped that they’d be aware enough of Jesus’s teachings not to make arguments like “Those people aren’t good enough to worship God in my church” in a public forum.

    I wasn’t making that statement, or didn’t mean to. (Not sure if you were including me in that last statement or not, so please excuse me if I misread you.)

    In any event, let me clear up my meaning:Once upon a time, I believed that the Bible unequivocally said that homosexuality was a sin. I changed my mind through years of study, maturing as a Christian away from a church culture that emphasized the same thing – but also through discussing my belief with some more progressive friends. When I had to explain why I believed a certain thing I had to think through the foundation for that belief, and I discovered the foundation was pretty shaky. But if I hadn’t had people willing to discuss this with me I probably would have not have come to that realization. I probably would have kept my mouth shut but thought in my heart that there was something wrong with “those people.” If you want real conversion to happen on this issue, I am convinced you need to get people thinking about their beliefs on it and thinking about *why* they believe. The trouble is that ads are short. They are confrontational because they are arguing for a certain position. There is no space for me to talk with the ad-author and figure out whether my belief is wrong or theirs is or whether there is a contradiction at all. That is why I think that ads are the wrong medium for this topic. I would have said the same thing in the 1960s, btw, about civil rights: MLK and the rest were clearly right, segregation was clearly wrong – but if you want people who aren’t already convinced to change their mind, you need to provide an opportunity for real *discussion*. And ads really don’t do that.

  • Matri

    If you want real conversion to happen on this issue, I am convinced you
    need to get people thinking about their beliefs on it and thinking about
    *why* they believe.

    Unfortunately, this is the American right-wing. They have perfected the fingers-in-ears-lalalalala technique down to a fine art, it is nigh impossible to get through to them. There have been the occasional stragglers who managed to see sense, but those are, unfortunately, the exceptions.

  • Matri

    If you want real conversion to happen on this issue, I am convinced you
    need to get people thinking about their beliefs on it and thinking about
    *why* they believe.

    Unfortunately, this is the American right-wing. They have perfected the fingers-in-ears-lalalalala technique down to a fine art, it is nigh impossible to get through to them. There have been the occasional stragglers who managed to see sense, but those are, unfortunately, the exceptions.

  • Anonymous

    If you want real conversion to happen on this issue, I am convinced you
    need to get people thinking about their beliefs on it and thinking about
    *why* they believe. The trouble is that ads are short. They are
    confrontational because they are arguing for a certain position. There
    is no space for me to talk with the ad-author and figure out whether my
    belief is wrong or theirs is or whether there is a contradiction at all.
    That is why I think that ads are the wrong medium for this topic.

    I wouldn’t say they’re the wrong medium for this topic, as if an issue could only have one right medium. True, discussion is necessary. But, as anyone who has worked with advertising knows, advertising is an excellent way to get discussion going. Some ads are meant to do precisely that–one can hardly claim that the Old Spice ads with Terry Crews are making thoughtful, measured product claims arguing for the superiority of OS to its competitors. The point of the OS ad, as far as I know, was to generate awareness of the product.

    I haven’t seen the particular Believe Out Loud ad rejected by Sojourners, but I suspect the point was to raise the subject in a way that would confirm those who agree with Believe Out Loud and get those who don’t to look at the issue in a different way. And that is one of the things that has to happen before many people are ready to talk about it in a context in which there is real give-and-take.

    (Edited for clarity.)

  • hapax

     For those who didn’t see the ad, a short summary:

    We watch a young boy walks down the aisle of a generic Methodist / Episcopalian / Lutheran -ish church.  Behind him walk two women.  Various parishioners — including a mother with a child and a mixed-race couple — turn and stare and even point, even ostentatiously making it clear that they don’t want these people sitting in their pew. The boy looks increasingly apprehensive.  The two women hold hands, as if in support.

    The pastor / priest in vestments comes before the altar and looks sternly at the family.  He breaks into a smile and says, “Welcome … to EVERYONE.”  Someone makes room in their pew, and the three sit down to begin church.

    That’s IT.  That’s what is so scary and divisive to Jim Wallis.

    I wonder what Sojo would have done two thousand years ago if JesusPac had wanted to run an ad saying “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”  Or “Let he who is without sin  cast the first stone.”  Or “Come unto me all ye who labor and are weary of heart, and I will give you rest.”

  • Anonymous

    Wait, what?! What th–??!!?!?

    I saw that ad over at Believe Out Loud, and I assumed that it wasn’t the ad Sojourners rejected, first because I was thinking of Sojourners as a magazine, so I was looking for a print ad. But second, because, seriously, I didn’t think that ad would be refused. It is so gentle in its approach.

    I found it immensely moving. 

  • P J Evans

    I’m aware that there are Christians who would prefer to keep gays and
    other “sinners” out of their churches, but I had hoped that they’d be
    aware enough of Jesus’s teachings not to make arguments like “Those
    people aren’t good enough to worship God in my church” in a public
    forum.

    The problem is that they aren’t that aware of the teachings of Jesus, or they’d know that their arguments are not at all Christian. (Pauline, maybe … but very definitely intolerant of any kind of difference.)

    I’ll add that the most restrictive of these very-conservative-evangelical-Christian churches don’t even consider other evangelical churches to be Christian – I’ve met some (assembly of God, I think) who wouldn’t go to secular (as in completely non-religious) events held at Baptist-owned facilities because the Baptists were sinners who were going to hell.

  • Anonymous

    I have really mixed feelings about this.

    Wallis was clearly in a no-win situation. If he’d outright endorsed LGBTQ equality or even run the ad, he would have instantly lost credibility with many of the people who most need to hear what he preaches–i.e. evangelicals. He would have immediately lost influence, and many evangelicals would have started to dismiss all the things he says about poverty and social justice as worthless because they come from someone whose views on homosexuality are “heretical”. In saying he supports “civil rights for LGBTQ people” and has gay people on his staff, he went about as far towards supporting gay rights as anyone can do while still being recognized as “one of us” by evangelicals.

    However, his statement was obviously inadequate with regard to earning the trust of LGBTQ people or of people who distrust Christianity due to the widespread homophobia within it. He didn’t even say what the hell he meant by civil rights for LGBTQ people. I’m guessing that he means he supports laws that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but he’s–probably deliberately–left unclear and unstated whether he supports gay marriage, even though it’s a logical consequence of many anti-discrimination laws. Ultimately, he had the chance to stand up and be counted as someone within evangelical Christianity who supports LGBTQ people, and he weaselled out of it. While trying not to alienate evangelicals, he avoided taking a stance on LGBTQ issues that is substantive or clear. He seems to be deliberately obfuscating his position, whatever it is, and he has shown that ultimately he is NOT willing to stand up and be counted as an ally of LGBTQ people.

    Wallis definitely didn’t do the principled thing here. I’m inclined to think he didn’t do the right thing either, since LGBTQ people are a marginalized group and thus supporting them should take precedence over pleasing the people who condemn them. The problem is that the people who most need his influence would reject it out of hand if he declared himself an LGBTQ ally, and the U.S. REALLY needs those people to listen to what he says on other social justice issues. He had to make a difficult calculation on what would cause the least damage, and while I think he probably made the wrong choice, I can certainly understand possible reasons for him making it.

  • Aliaras

    Agreed that the views on homosexuality are as much about the bible as the gay. Almost all of the arguments I’ve gotten in about this end up turning into an argument about reading the bible “literally”, a statement which rarely means reading anything literally.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EarBucket David Coulter

    “Suffer the little children to come unto me,
    unless their parents are dykes.

  • Anonymous

    First off, the ad itself was very lovely, (and I’d love an mp3 of that cover of “For Once In My Life”) Secondly, this is why evangelicals are losing numbers in droves. They’ve made it a zero sum game where you can either be a Christian or you can love your neighbor as yourself.

  • http://profiles.google.com/anoncollie Anon Collie

    In Catholic circles, this same lithmus test is also applied.

    “Are you against abortion and homosexuality? No? Then you’re not really in concert with the church.”

    It leaves those Catholics, like Wallis, who find their practical Christianity in social justice, equality, and all the other “sinking sand issues” hanging. We don’t feel less Catholic as those who subscribe to that lithmus test, yet we are treated like we are. Some of the hyper-conservative Catholics treat us we’re like they would treat Protestants – they see us as traitors, rejecting the message of the “true” Church.

  • Loki

     

    In Catholic circles, this same lithmus test is also applied.

    Which is somewhat ironic as the Catholic Church’s stance on social justice would be considered radically liberal for America. And that’s after two popes who are hard-core conservatives.

  • arc

    It’s interesting to hear from a ‘recovering evangelical’ the observation (and regret) that ‘stance on homosexuality’ and abortion have become such an important measure of one’s acceptability in evangelical circles.

    They’re also prime markers of evangelical Christians from the outside, and in many non-Christian circles (in western countries) they’re taken to be emblematic of Christianity as a whole.  Partly of course because of the fact the largest church in the world (the Roman Catholic church) officially also opposes these things, but also because it’s often all people hear about Christianity – they hear a lot about evangelicals saying crazy and regrettable things in political contexts thousands of miles away in a different country (America), but they hear nothing about the local presbyterian charity helping out the elderly lady two doors down.

    It’s a pity, because at least in some parts of the world this really is not what Christianity is about – here (in New Zealand) churches seem to me to generally have fairly progressive attitudes, at least officially, and these two issues are not very important ones to them.  In fact, I wonder whether they are actually kept off the table because they can still be quite divisive.  This never gets much press, of course, because being ordinary and nice is never as exciting as being a strident bigot.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4B35JU4NRPV47L67HXDU4BWRB4 Christopher

    I find it supremely ironic that evangelical Christians can’t see that their litmus test for True Christianity™ is actually heresy in its purest form.  Follow me here.

    If you are a believer in classical Christianity, then you know that the central tenets of the faith are the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the atoning work of Christ on the cross and salvation by grace through faith alone.  Everything else is tertiary.

    Yet, these same evangelical Christians will not hesitate to partner with Roman Catholics and Latter-Day Saints to “protect marriage” from the gays, even though many of those evangelical Christians would consider part or all of the faith systems of Catholics and Mormons to be heresy, and their adherents in danger of going to Hell.  So, if the main purpose of evangelical Christians on this earth is to, oh, evangelize the Gospel in order to save souls, their main intent should be evangelizing Catholics and Mormons, not partnering with them on anything.

    The fact that evangelical Christians would do so with no overriding mission of challenging the theology of the other two groups demonstrates in practical terms that fighting the equality of gay people is actually the defining doctrine of evangelical Christianity.  And any objective, rational person would know that to be a heretical theological position, whether one accepts the basic tenets of the Christian faith or not.  And this new doctrine is only made uglier by the fight against anyone’s equality, something that is not in keeping with the spirit of Christ.

    I can’t possibly be the only person who has given thought to this.  To borrow from the Apostle Paul, I can’t help but exclaim, “Oh foolish Evangelicals, who has bewitched you?”

  • Guest-again

    Maybe some people don’t understand what the concept ‘evangelical’ means? Then let’s have a certain married man (though he had to leave the U.S. to get married) explain the concept, in his own, not exactly polite nor refined, way –
    ‘If progressive Christians can’t unite behind the concept of welcome
    then, gee, what the fuck good are they? … The ad doesn’t endorse gay
    marriage. It recognizes the existence of same-sex couples and the fact
    that many gay couples are raising children and it endorses welcoming
    them. Just welcoming them. A gay wedding doesn’t break out, no rice is
    thrown, no bouquets reeking of the gay agenda are tossed, no groomsmen
    are bent over and fisted. It welcomes gay couples and their
    children—most of whom will grow up to be straight—to come to church and
    meet this Jesus person they’ve heard so much about. The same Jesus who
    welcomed lepers and prostitutes and Samaritans.’
    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/05/09/nalt-watch-the-ad-that-was-too-controversial-for-sojourners

    That’s right, a think of the children appeal from a gay married man – because he is raising one, after all.

  • hapax

    Phillipians 4:8 — Finally, brethren,
    whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever
    things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are
    lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue,
    and if there be any praise, think on these things.

    On the one hand Sojourners could be thinking on the love between two adults, their love for their child, and a warm welcome in the name of Christ Jesus to the love that comes to meet Him.

    On the other hand, they could be thinking of scandal, division, and suspicion — “what will the neighbors think?”

    Why did Jim Wallis choose to look for the small, petty, and fearful, when he could be looking for “these things” instead?

  • DaGreatJL

    I am becoming concerned with how evangelical Christians in the US seem to resemble less the teachings of Jesus of charity and humility, and instead seem to take after the self-righteous and judgmental practices of the pharisees, demanding that others follow the letter of religious law while actively ignoring its spirit.

  • wendy

    So if anyone here reads/writes scripture fanfic (yes, there is such a thing, slash included)… how many of you think David/Jonathan is canon, and how many think the fans are making it up? 

  • Anonymous

    So if anyone here reads/writes scripture fanfic (yes, there is such a
    thing, slash included)… how many of you think David/Jonathan is canon,
    and how many think the fans are making it up?

    TOTALLY CANON YO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    Oh, blow stuff up, why don’t you?

    :)

    I think it’s certainly not out of the realm of the possible that they were romantically or sexually involved on any number of possible levels. The emotional intensity of the relationship is clear, and the degree to which Jonathan is willing to transgress social norms to protect David. That doesn’t necessarily mean a romantic/sexual connection, but it doesn’t rule one out.

    It’s not ‘canon’ in the sense that the text never tells us they’re lovers. But I think it’s not pulling something out of thin air. 

  • hapax

    It’s not ‘canon’ in the sense that the text never tells us they’re lovers.

    It’s very possible that the text in fact does.

    I’m not saying I’d stake my hope of Heaven on that translation.  But it’s not outside the realm of plausibility.

  • http://lightupmy.wordpress.com Jessica

    LOL  It’s good to know that Izzy is still here, defending us from trolls.

  • http://lightupmy.wordpress.com Jessica

    And why is the blank avatar photo automatically a man?  I feel…. offended.  Hee hee….

  • Izzy

    Aw, thanks!

    The blank avatar photo looks like Lorne from Angel to me, weirdly. The dude has horns.  

  • Aaaargh

    Not to detract from the Tolkien slash conversation, if that’s your thing…

    My feelings on the Wallis issue are similar to what kisikileia shared.  Yes, I wish that Wallis had taken a strong stand in support of LGBT rights, and I can only imagine how betrayed LGBT Christians might feel–people who have faced rejection at every turn already.  But I also feel a little bit sorry for the guy, to be honest…it’s sort of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

    If Wallis takes the moral high ground by accepting the ad, he also immediately gets blackballed as a heretic and throws the message he has hammered home over decades–essentially that it’s possible to be both a “bible-believing Christian” and somebody with a strong social conscience.  Most of the people he’s trying to “convert” to his “stance” are conservative evangelicals or even fundamentalists who have some doubts about the equation of faith with right-wing politics, but honestly feel troubled about supporting left-wing causes because of the “litmus test” items (that was me a decade ago as a teen–“God’s Politics” was pretty instrumental in my long transformation to a social democrat/LGBT affirmer/bleeding-heart liberal/pinko/whatever you want to call it).  Wallis essentially has to choose between his chance to influence this constituency, or his progressive credentials.  A really tough choice: either put your money where your mouth is as far as your beliefs about minority rights and oppressed people are concerned, or lose the prophetic witness built up for decades.

    I, for one, am glad that I’m not in his position, and grateful too for being a member of a younger generation where these issues aren’t understood as quite the bugbears they were two or three decades ago.  At least evangelical support for gay rights is increasing in the younger generation (although I’ve heard that the opposite is true where abortion is concerned).

  • http://semperfiona.livejournal.com Semperfiona

    If it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, then the only thing one can do is follow one’s own conscience and damn the torpedoes.

    From which I am forced to conclude that Wallis feels that standing with the anti-gay evangelical establishment is the right thing. Are those other goals worth closing the church doors to QUILTBAG people and adding yet another prominent voice to the racket of disdain already hammering us from the evangelical “leaders”? A voice from whom we might have hoped to find more love and welcome? It feels like betrayal from here.

  • Aaaargh

     Semperfiona:  Understood, and I don’t disagree.  While bestowing “sympathy” is always problematic, I certainly have more of it for QUILTBAG people than for Jimmy-boy.  I don’t think that all of the progressive sources taking him to task necessarily understand the forces he finds himself caught between (at least the more “secularly” inclined ones), but by any stretch, this comes across as a betrayal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    If it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, then the only thing one can do is follow one’s own conscience and damn the torpedoes. 

    As a practical matter, it seems to me that sometimes following your own conscience will entail choosing what seems to be the lesser of two evils, which is how Wallis’ choice might be charitably viewed.

    I’ve got a good deal of respect for Wallis, generally speaking, but I’ve noted before now that he seems to have spent so much time dealing in politics that he’s prone to thinking like a politician sometimes; triangulating, looking for the “safe” position.

  • http://semperfiona.livejournal.com Semperfiona

    choosing what seems to be the lesser of two evils, which is how Wallis’ choice might be charitably viewed.

    It’s hard to be charitable toward a choice that paints “respecting my civil rights” as the greater evil. I do understand his not wanting to undermine his admittedly good work on other social issues, but it sounds an awful lot like “I’m not a bigot but my customers are, so your kind are not welcome here” which is just a mealy-mouthed species of bigotry and reinforces the opinions of other bigots, comforting the comfortable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    True.  Like I said, that’s the charitable view on what he’s done, and there are plenty of less-charitable ways to look at it.  I can see where, from his angle, it might look like the reasonable thing to do.  Being honest, it’s very easy to envision a slightly different version of me (say, one that hadn’t read a couple of key books in his early twenties) whole-heartedly agreeing with his stance.  But Wallis and his organization did wrong here.

  • Anonymous

    How is it “betrayal” when he was never with you in the first place?

    Sojo has been all about poverty since I was reading their stuff in Utne Reader in the ’80s. QUILTBAG rights aren’t their bag, never have been. So what?

    Wallis is a very good floor wax. Does he have to be a dessert topping, too? Can’t he leave it to the Lutherans and the UCCers to handle the dessert topping duties? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581585394 Nicholas Kapur

    It’s a “betrayal” because they are ostensibly a progressive Christian organization, and they didn’t just not go out of their way to support LGBT rights (although I would regard that as a failing in itself, from a presumed moral authority such as a church) — they actively refused to run the pro-gay ad at all.

    What’s more, the ad was merely about acknowledging that gay couples exist and attend the church, while the explanation for the rejection was a bunch of weaselly crap about not having a position on gay marriage or other matters of rights or respect. Frankly, that entire equivocation is itself offensive.

    Or, to extend upon your flippant analogy, nobody cares that Wallis is a poor dessert topping. We care that he is an excellent floor wax that QUILTBAGs can’t use. He does not get to leave the gay stuff to someone else, because there is not a single church in the country that does not bear the responsibility, again as a presumed moral authority, of explicitly and actively acknowledging and supporting GLBT persons.

    EDIT: It’s a little late, so my non-cis-/heteronormative-alphabet-soup is kind of all over the place. You get my point.

  • Anonymous

    How is it “betrayal” when he was never with you in the first place?

    Sojo has been all about poverty since I was reading their stuff in Utne Reader in the ’80s. QUILTBAG rights aren’t their bag, never have been. So what?

    Wallis is a very good floor wax. Does he have to be a dessert topping, too? Can’t he leave it to the Lutherans and the UCCers to handle the dessert topping duties? 

  • cyllan

    While I understand that Wallis may have had a difficult choice, in the end, he chose to not go to hell.*  While I can understand someone making that choice, I don’t think that it makes it the correct choice. 

  • Aaaargh

    Yeah, I know.  I don’t think he made the right choice here, either.  I’m probably reacting more out of my sense of loyalty to a figure who has influenced me positively and done a lot of good.  The good, of course, doesn’t negate the bad that he’s done here.  Like you say, I understand the choice without agreeing with it.

  • Ai Nony Maus

    Screw Wallis, I was promised Tolkien slashfic!
    *taps foot* WELL??

  • Shadsie

     
    *Skims.*  What, no Legolas/Gimli?  

     Interesting discussion of the “Death of the Author” theory, here.  I used to get into hellacious fights in fandom over slash (as I said below, I used to be anti-slash and I still don’t write the stuff as a general rule… I have experimented with it a little, though).  Most of my fighting was, however, over people’s treatment of others over interpretation – I mean, I’d fight with people who’d say “If you don’t think these two manga characters are fucking somewhere between the panels/off screen, you are the stupidest idiot who ever lived and if you pair the main character with the woman-character I don’t like, you’re EVIL!!!”  For a manga that wasn’t about romance at all – (more about gun battles and staving off the extinction of the human species, you know, stuff like that).  A friend-turned-sort of pathetic enemy of mine in this fandom.. it didn’t even matter to her if another fan *liked* and actively wrote/drew her favorite pairings, if they didn’t think they were *canon* it was cause for her to scream “You’re just like Fred Phelps!” at them. I am *not* kidding.  She did this even after the creator said in an interview when outright asked by a similarly obsessed fangirl said “No, they aren’t a pairing.” 

    To be fair, the manga-ka did write an interesting, close and contentious friendship between two of the main male characters, and gave the villain some *interesting* interactions with the hero (the villain and hero are twin brothers which makes some of the villain’s behavior really creepy to most readers), but you know, when the guy says of the friend-characters, that they’re friends, I’ll believe him over an obsessive who writes bad fanfic. 

    So, I think there’s a fine line between having fun and playing with your own interpretation of things and trying to say one’s own view is something all other fans must OBEY.  I like “live and let live.”  Most slash fans know it, as do most fans of various het pairs or weird interpretation of this or that gen thing in fandom. The few who do not know live and let live cause the nasty shipwars and wafting burning geek odors.        
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/Blotzphoto Louis Doench

    I don’t mind slash fiction (it’s not my cup o tea, but its a free countrym unless it isn’t where you are). However,  I have grown weary of the Frodo/Sam slash meme because its gets thrown in my face in a very juvenile and hurtful way by non-tolkien fans a lot.  I’m not even really talking about actual fan fiction. It’s simply become a mainstream insult that fans of tolkien hafta deal with from the burgeoning douchenozzle population. So we can get a little bristly about it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

     @facebook-809806725:disqus 

    I don’t mind slash fiction (it’s not my cup o tea, but its a free countrym unless it isn’t where you are). However,  I have grown weary of the Frodo/Sam slash meme because its gets thrown in my face in a very juvenile and hurtful way by non-tolkien fans a lot.  I’m not even really talking about actual fan fiction. It’s simply become a mainstream insult that fans of tolkien hafta deal with from the burgeoning douchenozzle population. So we can get a little bristly about it.  

    Admit it, you’re just a pervy hobbit fancier, aren’t you?

    (Sorry, I’ll stop.)

  • wendy

    OMG! I hadn’t thought of that meme in years, now it’ll be stuck in my head all day. Still the prettiest. Stupid orcs. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlotte-Griffin/100000268700809 Charlotte Griffin

    Really? You deal with more douchnozzles than I. Then again, I am surrounded by Tolkien fans. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

     Sorry. Didn’t realize it was such a controversy. Was meant as a one-liner. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

     Sorry. Didn’t realize it was such a controversy. Was meant as a one-liner. 

  • Anonymous

     In terms of slash that is much, much more than mere porn, may I offer one of my favorite stories, set in the Stargate Atlantis ‘verse: A Farm In Iowa. I’ve never seen more than an episode of the show, but it requires no prior knowledge of the stories beyond the basic “Hey, there are Stargates, man.”  It’s simply about two people falling in love and making their own little family.  Beautiful, heartwarming, and in my opinion, a damn fine piece of writing?

    http://sheafrotherdon.livejournal.com/80587.html

  • Amaryllis

    In Catholic circles, this same lithmus test is also applied.

    “Are you against abortion and homosexuality? No? Then you’re not really in concert with the church.”

    It
    leaves those Catholics, like Wallis, who find their practical
    Christianity in social justice, equality, and all the other “sinking
    sand issues” hanging.

    Have you seen this?

    You  know how conservative Catholics are always objecting when a pro-choice or pro-equality politician is invited to speak at a Catholic college? It seems a group of Catholic professors have written to John Boehner, who’s scheduled to give the commencement address at Catholic University, reminding him of the church’s teachings on social justice:

    “Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the church’s
    most ancient moral teachings…From the apostles to
    the present, the magisterium of the church has insisted that those in
    power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your
    record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the
    poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should
    have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work
    in opposition to it.” 

    In fact, they go so far as to call him “anti-life.”

    (His response, I believe, is something about cuts to social programs being necessary to keep our children from becoming slaves to China. Weak, if you ask me.)

    Anyway, it’s interesting to see the shoe on the other foot for once.

  • Shadsie

    Even more off-topic than the off-topic:  I’ve long thought that if I were ever to write Left Behind slash that Nichoale/Leon would make the perfect couple. From what I remember of the books of the series I’d read, Leon struck me as having the hugest crush on Nicholae – though one wonders if it’d turn out to be a sad Smithers longing for Burns thing.  

  • renniejoy

    So the not-a flamewar thread is about QUILTBAG rights, abortion, and fanfic? Cool.  :)

  • ako

    *Also* also, why don’t you try whining sometime when a
    non-related male/female partnership in media doesn’t almost
    automatically get romance plot? Granted, that’ll probably be in the
    fifty-first century–so much the better for the rest of us.

    My fanfic tastes run heavily to slash and gen partly because I’m completely sick of the “OMG, it’s a man and a woman who are friends/acquaintances/enemies!  They’re bound to have sexual tension, and probably date or hook up at some point, because all male-female interaction must be about the romantic prospects!”  Fanfic makes a nice change, both because it’s comparatively more likely to acknowledge that QUILTBAG people exist, and because it’s easier to find stuff where the possibility of a nonsexual relationship between a man and a woman is acknowledged.  (Although I’d really like it if the contingent of slash writers who think the only way to deal with a might-conceivably-be-a-romantic-rival woman is to wallow in misogyny and try to force readers to hate her would just drop off the internet forever).

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I generally do not read fanfiction, but it is not so much that I do not like slash so much as I do not like shipping.  As @Shadsie illustrated, a lot of the writers and readership in such communities take shipping way too seriously.  I realize that the worst of them are a vocal minority, but they do have a disperportionate effect on the community’s image, and seperating the wheat from the chaff in a community like that is more effort than I care to expend, especially since Sturgeon’s Law is in full effect in any medium with a low barrier to entry.

    I find the comments on the Death of the Author here interesting, the idea that the author’s intended message or central idea for a work is irrevelant.  I suppose that you could do that with Left Behind, with the Slacktivist commentary community as an example.  The message of the books is arguably that RTCs are the only truely righteous people on Earth and everyone else is wrong, wrong, wrong, and deserve everything that is coming to them.  While the message that we here tend to take away from it is that RTCs are a bit dickish, and we all know what Jesus would say about that.

  • Loki

    I find the comments on the Death of the Author here interesting, the idea that the author’s intended message or central idea for a work is irrevelant.  I suppose that you could do that with Left Behind, with the Slacktivist commentary community as an example.

    This is very true. If we looked a Left Behind from a strict authorial perspective, we would have to take it at face value when the books proclaim Buck or Rayford to be wonderful people. Of course we would be ignoring the actual text of the books in order to adhere to that particular viewpoint.

    Ultimately the text is the source of our understanding of the literature. The author can illuminate or clarify aspects of the text, but their statements are not “cannon,” to use the simplest term. A wonderful example comes from Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling states after the publication of the seventh book that Dumbledore was gay. That certainly clarifies and illuminates his relationship with Grindelwald, while still leaving it ambiguous. But if a reader chooses to overlook that aspect of the character, he or she can. Though I find it doubtful anyone could make a particularly good argument that Dumbledore was heterosexual.

    Once the material is published, the ownership of the literature (here in the broadest possible context to include things like TV shows) is transfered from the author to the readers. And they basically lose any say on how their work is interpreted. Ellenjay might want their books to be about heroic Christians, but that’s not what they wrote and that’s not how we interpret it.

    Shipping actually bothers me quite a lot, mainly because it causes people to get so worked up over it, and it can get to the point where shippers start affecting the actual work themselves. Take the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, the writers decided to explore the show’s compulsively womanizing character, Barney, dealing with romantic feelings for another character, Robin. Eventually the two get together, and then after a few episodes break up. It was a smart choice, acknowledged by the writing team, because everything that made Barney interesting revolved around his constant state of trying to get women to sleep with him. Putting him in a relationship just would have made him boring, and basically indistinguishable from the main character. However it led to apocalyptic fits of rage from the shipping fans. Since then there have been several hints that Barney and Robin are “the one true pair” as the shippers annoyingly call them. Icky.

    I think it stems from the incessant “will they/won’t they” sitcoms and romantic comedies that have completely preprogramed people to view any two people in a given piece of literature as a potential match and then root for them. I can understand wanting two people to get together, but it shouldn’t devalue your enjoyment of the work if they don’t. A recent example from my life was Parks and Recreation. In the second season main character Leslie Knope had a few episodes with supporting character Andy. Andy basically viewed all of the traits most people find annoying about Leslie as awesome, and I felt they would be a really fun match. The show went a completely different direction, and it was just as good.

    Another recent example the fantastic show Community had Jeff and Annie kiss in the season finale, and then in the first episode of the second season resolve their kiss by stating they are friends, but not romantically attracted to each other. Since then every time there is a storyline that pairs Jeff and Annie up, even when there is no romantic or sexual undertones, all anyone can talk about, including professional critics, Jeff and Annie as a romantic pairing (one particularly galling example specifically stated that nothing happened that could possibly be interpreted as romantic or sexual… and then went on to talk about Jeff and Annie’s romantic/sexual relationship). They wound up mocking it towards the end of the season with a montage of completely asexual clips shown in slow motion set to a love song (clips like Jeff saving Annie from choking, and Annie being attacked by a robot) and then showed a slow motion montage of similar clips of the two least sexual (particularly with each other) characters on the show, old man Pierce and high functioning autistic Abed, set to the same love song. It made me laugh.

  • Anonymous

     the two least sexual (particularly with each other) characters on the show, old man Pierce and high functioning autistic Abed

    *cough* mind the ageism and ableism.

    On the flip side, that sounds hilarious, clearly I have not been catching up with Community fast enough.

  • Loki

    *cough* mind the ageism and ableism.

    As a high-functioning autistic myself, I find the idea that I could offend myself by describing the only TV character that remotely resembles me in any way with my own condition, hilarious. :-)

  • hf

    Pauline, maybe

    Nope. Paul wrote that all valid commandments without exception stem from the principle of love (Romans 13:8-10). And lest anyone think that only the authors of the ‘New Testament’ get to apply this principle to judge commandments, he already told the readers of 1 Thessalonians to test all new ‘prophetic sayings’ and hold fast to the good. Presumably he meant test them according to the principle he gives you, not some competing principle that a preacher invented.

    Now I’m guessing people have sincerely prayed for guidance and ‘received’ the answer that homosexuality is not a sin. (If that doesn’t seem like enough for you, go and produce a revelation to order!) I don’t know if this approach can yield a consistent form of liberal Christianity. I do know that an honest biblical literalist would need to address it in a way that touches on reality, addressing the principle of love in the real world, and not relying solely on Bible quotes.

  • random person

    I’ll just say: my main issue with most slash fanfiction is that, at least in the anime/manga world I usually hang out in, it’s all generally male/male, and the female characters tend to be totally cut out of the picture. And then all the female/female stuff is written by horny teenage boys, so yeah.

    Personally, I just wish more fan works were non-romance, and just expanded out the universe, like Rufftoon’s awesome “Avatar the Last Airbender” comics that you can find on deviantart. Epic stuff, I love her work.

  • Anonymous

     *female femslasher raises hand* *gen author raises hand* HI WE EXIST

  • ako

    Shipping actually bothers me quite a lot, mainly because it causes
    people to get so worked up over it, and it can get to the point where
    shippers start affecting the actual work themselves.

    The more fanatical shippers in fanfic communities are not fun to deal with.   I enjoy playing around with “What if these two were paired off?” up to a point, but when it becomes “Everything about the original work must be interpreted in terms of how it affects my favorite potentially romantic relationship, every character is either good and actively enabling that ship or evil and harming it in some way, whether the series is going in a good or bad direction depends entirely on whether or not they’re doing things that validate the ship, and the point of fandom is to convince everyone in the whole word my ship is best and fight with the enemies who don’t ship it/ship it incorrectly/don’t ship it hard enough!”, then it really sucks the fun out for a lot of people.   It makes me want to grab them, point them a Twilight, and go “Hey, a whole series where it really is primarily about which guy the main character hooks up with, and everything else really is secondary and purely a way to enable the relationship!  This is far more suited to your taste than an adventure story with a secondary romance plot/no actual canon romance!”

    In a lot of fandom, people like that are only a fairly small subset, but they’re an incredibly loud subset, and after a few encounters with fanatical shippers screaming “You don’t like my OTP?  You monster!  You hate women and have no capacity to love!” or something equally melodramatic, there’s a tendency to interpret even a mild “I love that pairing!” or a joking “That’s totally canon!” as more of the same.  (I think there’s a metaphor for Christianity, the loud and nasty subset, and the tendency to interpret everything that sounds even vaguely similar as an extension of the hateful screamers here.)

  • Loki

     For anyone curious, here’s the sequence in question. It’s pretty hilarious how completely asexual moments like handing someone change for a vending machine suddenly become laced with romantic subtext and sexual tension when slowed down and set to a cloying love song.hilarious how completely asexual moments like handing someone change for a vending machine suddenly become laced with romantic subtext and sexual tension when slowed down and set to a cloying love song.

  • Flying sardines

    In other vaguely related news that may or may not be of interest to some folks here :  

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/05/14/3216987.htm 

    A small group of homophobic douchebags claiming to be “christian” attacked a gay rally in my hometown of Adelaide.

    One person was dragged from her wheelchair.

    This person :

    ***

    Lesbian and church minister, Reverend Sue Wickham, says it was an awful end to a peaceful demonstration. “… Anyone who carries a banner that begins with the two words ‘God Hates’ is to my mind is not representing the Christ that Christians believe in.”

    ***

    Summed it up perfectly in my view.

  • Anonymous

    Any chance of firing the idiot who wrote the headline? As I read the story, there were self-identified Christians on both sides. “Gays and Christians Clash” has about as much validity as a description of the event as “Gays and Australians Clash” or “Members of the Christian Street Church Attacked Humans.” 

  • Lori

    Speaking of ads that have some people’s undies in a bunch, Penny Nance, the president of Concerned Women for America is concernstipated* about the Google ad in support of It Get’s Better that aired during last week’s . Yup, trying to prevent suicides among QUILTBAG kids has her clutching her pearls.

    From her blog (emphasis mine):

     
    Ga-Ga-Gamerican Idol

    May 12th,
    2011 by Penny Nance

    American Idol + Lady Gaga = One Bad Romance

    American Idol is one of TV’s top rated shows, with millions of viewers per week.  My family and I often watch it together and enjoy voting for our favorite contestants; and we are not alone.  Parents Television Council routinely lauds it for its family friendly tone.  This
    week I am disappointed to say that Fox really forgot who was sitting in the audience.  They were so excited to have Lady Gaga as their celebrity coach that they allowed their programming to be hijacked.

    Lady Gaga, who by the way is no lady, consistently spewed foul language and instructed the contestants with helpful hints like “pretend the microphone is your girlfriend and see how far you can stick your tongue down her throat,”  or something very similar.  Okay, she could have been much raunchier — and routinely has been — but most of her comments weren’t helpful when viewing with my ten-year-old.   The problem here is a bait and switch.  Just when you think a show’s producers have your back as a mom, bam!  Lady Gaga.

    Thank you for cleaning up the Viagra commercials Fox, but PLEASE what’s with the new tolerance for homosexuals campaign disguised as anti-bullying? Bullying is wrong.  It is wrong for any reason. Apparently, American Idol, with the help of Woody from Disney’s Toy
    Story, thinks that my 4th grader needs to be fully aware of the plight of teens who view themselves as “gay.”  I am sorry, but he doesn’t even know about heterosexual sex yet.  Can you give me some room here?

    I am ticked because I feel tricked.  Fox blew it last night.  I love my Idol and Steven Tyler is the best judge ever, but I digress.  The point is parents felt secure in allowing our entire families watch this show.  They lured us into a false sense of security
    and broke trust with us last night.  We will probably give it another try, but trick parents again and you will find my poker face switching the channel.

    You can see the ad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7skPnJOZYdA.  (Woody made me cry.)

    So she’s complaining about the moral horror of an ad that simply says the word gay while praising Steven Tyler, he of leering as judging style. Smell the irony. I guess Tyler is OK because he’s only engaging in the wholesome pastime of opposite sex leering.

    *I did not make that up, but oh how I wish I had. I got it from gay blogger Joe Gervais.

  • Rikalous

    I like the assumption there that a fella thinking another fella is cute is as inappropriate for children as heterosexuals having sex.

    Or maybe it’s that little girls can have innocent crushes on little girls and vice versa, but if they “view themselves as ‘gay'”, it’s straight (no pun intended) to the buttsex.

  • Amaryllis

    I love my Idol and Steven Tyler is the best judge ever,

    In a hurry, and I haven’t watched the ad, but, wait, what, this Steven Tyler?

    Not to mention, um, this Steven Tyler? Family friendly?

    Well, I guess he’s not gay.

    Sheesh.

  • Lori

    Amaryllis—your 2nd link seems to be broken. Were you trying to link to the story about how Tyler, then in his late 20s, got himself named the guardian of a 14 year old girl because he was having sex with her and wanted to take her on tour with him without getting arrested?

    Yup, he sure is family friendly.

  • Amaryllis

    I love my Idol and Steven Tyler is the best judge ever,

    In a hurry, and I haven’t watched the ad, but, wait, what, this Steven Tyler?

    Not to mention, um, this Steven Tyler? Family friendly?

    Well, I guess he’s not gay.

    Sheesh.

  • Lori

    Well. First there was the whole Glenn Greenwald thing. Now Doctor Science from over at Obsidian Wings disagrees with Fred about this post. I’m not sure if Fred should be excited that people are reading him or kind of bummed that the only people talking about reading him are doing so because they disagree. 

     

  • Dan Audy

    I realise that I’m a bit late to this conversation but I had a couple thoughts I wanted to share.

    (This post may contain white hetero cis-gendered priviledge, if so feel free to point it out or disagree with me as normal)

    Even assuming that Wallis disagreed with Evangelicals on homosexuality and abortion, an assertion that seems to me to be primarily based on the assumption that he is a good person and good people (by definition) are supportive of QUILTBAG and abortion rights, should he have come out and alienated any potential support for his cause?  Obviously he has decided that economic justice and helping the poor are the most important biblical messages since he has devoted himself to that.  Is it more just and moral to sabotage his work with getting evangelicals to begin having economic justice interests instead of solely focusing on hating the gays and women simply to take a stand with the QUILTBAG community in a way that does not advance his goals at all?  We all are forced to make choices about which worthy causes we are going to support due to the limited nature of our time and money and tend to focus it on helping or focusing on one or two well rather than spreading ourselves across many and being poor help or representation for them all.

    There is a big difference between the Sojourners passivity regarding QUILTBAG issues even in regards to the church and active opposition to them like most Evangelicals engage in.  It feels a lot like the Believe Out Loud folks felt that the Sojourners were close enough on many stances that they were trying to force them to take a supportive stance – which frankly was kinda dickish of them.  I don’t particularly fault them however for doing so since they have chosen to prioritize QUILTBAG rights and gay acceptance in churches in particular over other important issues like economic justice and poverty.  The fact that they hurt the Sojourners capacity to act as an intermediary between Evangelicals and more liberal churches working on poverty and economical justice is an unfortunate side-effect from their perspective of zealously pursueing their goals.

    Ultimately I’m not thrilled that working with Evangelicals requires at best abivalence towards social justice issues but I would much rather have people with good goals to divert a portion of the Evangelical effort to worthwhile causes and offers an inroad towards teaching them to actually follow Jesus’ teachings (which include respecting QUILTBAG rights) rather than the litany of hate that dominates the Evangelical community.  By making a big issue of this rather than quietly accepting the Sojourners decision, the Believe Out Loud movement have harmed a organisation that offered hope of changing the face of Evangelical churches with no benefit to themselves or their issue.

  • hapax

     Considering what Jesus spoke and taught mostly about, obviously he had decided that economic justice and helping the poor were the most important messages, since he had devoted himself to that.

    Should he have come out and alienated any potential support for his
    cause? Was it just and moral for him to sabotage his work with getting the Jews to begin having economic justice interests instead of solely focus on hating the Romans and the Samaritans simply to take a stand with the foreign community in a way that does not advance his goals at all? 

    Not that I blame that Centurion for asking healing for his servant, and that woman getting stoned — she didn’t really request anything at all, just to be left alone.  Still, it feels sorta dickish of them to trade on Jesus’s proclaimed compassion and wisdom to be demanding  that “justice” and “mercy” be extended to their kind.  I don’t particularly fault them however, since they have chosen to prioritize their petty personal concerns over other important issues like economic
    justice and poverty.  The fact that they hurt Jesus’s capacity to
    act as an intermediary between the ruling religious authorities and more liberal Jews
    working on poverty and economical justice is an unfortunate side-effect
    from their perspective of zealously pursuing their goals.

    By making a big issue of this rather than quietly accepting stoning and death, the Gentiles have harmed a movement that offered hope of changing the face of Judaism with no benefit to themselves or their issue.

    Frankly, I think somebody ought to be crucified over this.

  • Anonymous

    Not to mention hanging out with prostitutes, tax collectors, and other assorted sinners. Selecting Matthew/Levi the tax collector as one of his disciples was, in particular, a bad move and may account in part for why his mission to the liberal Jews was not as productive as it might have been. 

  • Dan Audy

    I see what you are getting at and the snark is quite impressive.

    I just have trouble seeing the value of deliberately sniping at groups who may not agree with our priorities but at least support ideology which favours thinking which logically leads to our premise too.  Getting evangelicals to actually read the bible and listen to what Jesus says is going to lead them towards loving everybody not just caring for the poor.  It seems to me that an awful lot of time is wasted on the liberal end of the spectrum attacking each other for insufficient ideological purity rather than actually working towards the stated goals.  Sniping is easy and changing society is bloody hard so rather than invest the hard work to actually make changes the lazy solution is to yell at someone for being not good enough and create the appearence of accomplishment.

    Maybe I’m blinded to what BOL accomplished by making an issue out of this.  I see two major responses to the event (1) among Evangelicals it reinforces (unfair) stereotypes about gays and lesbians ‘pushing’ themselves where they aren’t wanted (2) among BOL and gay friendly activists it creates a self congratulatory attitude about being not backing down.  While BOL shouldn’t have to consider the impact their behaviour has on others if they don’t want to I simply don’t see how this benefits them in anything other than a completely superficial way.  Could you explain how you see this as benefiting the cause of getting greater acceptance of gays and lesbians in more churches?

  • hapax

    I just have trouble seeing the value of deliberately sniping at groups
    who may not agree with our priorities but at least support ideology
    which favours thinking which logically leads to our premise too.

    I work with and encourage and support with my talk, time, and treasure all sorts of groups who do not agree with all my priorities.  In fact, MOST of the groups I work with I disagree profoundly with on one issue or another, some of them quite important to me.

    I have no problem with an organization that claims to be founded on Christian principles and promoting a Christian vision of the Kingdom of God on earth choosing one aspect of that Kingdom to nurture as their priority.

    I have huge problems with them rejecting those that Jesus would welcome, rejecting them in the name of furthering Jesus’s message, and claiming to be true to the Christian way of life.

     Getting evangelicals to actually read the bible and listen to what Jesus
    says is going to lead them towards loving everybody not just caring for
    the poor.

    Yes, that would be lovely.  I am surrounded by evangelical Christians.  I am pretty sure I could not walk five feet out my front door without literally tripping over an evangelical Christian (this is assuming I have my dog with me — she does love the neighbor children!) 

    I assure you they all read their Bibles daily.   They have Bible study sessions once or twice a week to discuss the meaning of Jesus’ words.  They hold coat drives every Fall for the homeless, food drives every month to support their church’s soup kitchen, and lemonade stands to support those who lost their homes in the recent storms.

    Then they go beat up a kid behind the school for being a “f*g”. 

    Could you explain how you see this as benefiting the cause of getting
    greater acceptance of gays and lesbians in more churches?

    Well, *I* wouldn’t have seen the ad if it hadn’t been for this controversy.   Nor would I have e-mailed it to any number of friends and colleagues.  Nor would I have showed it to my kids, who posted links on their Facebook pages…

    Can you explain how sitting down and shutting up like good dogs when this (very non-confrontational) ad was rejected would have benefited the cause of getting greater acceptance of gays and lesbians in more churches?

    How long are QUILTBAG  Christians supposed to wait until the Sojourners feel that it’s “safe” to not ignore hate and abuse?  If “the poor we always have with us”, I doubt that Wallis & co. will EVER feel they’ve accomplished enough on their priority mission to throw a bone to those of their brother and sisters they’ve abetted in rejecting, marginalizing, and excluding.

  • Dan Audy

     [blockquote]
    I have huge problems with them rejecting those that Jesus would welcome, rejecting them in the name of furthering Jesus’s message, and claiming to be true to the Christian way of life.[/blockquote]

    That is probably the best point regarding this.  I hadn’t considered it from this perspective.

  • Anonymous

    OK, I found it easy to snark, but I think your point deserves a more careful response. I’ll take issue with your last sentence:

    By making a big issue of this rather than quietly accepting the
    Sojourners decision, the Believe Out Loud movement have harmed a
    organisation that offered hope of changing the face of Evangelical
    churches with no benefit to themselves or their issue.

    I don’t think either of these things is necessarily true. Wallis only gains among conservative evangelicals by coming out against civil rights for gays. So it improves his ability to act as an intermediary, if one assumes he’s speaking for liberal evangelicalism and trying to be taken seriously by conservatives.

    I also question the claim that BOL’s being public about the event gives them no benefit. By showing the ad, they open the Sojourners decision to the court of public opinion–“public” being narrowly construed, of course. Even for those against QUILTBAG rights, there is nothing–nothing whatsoever–in that video that any Christian should have a problem with. (Well, aside from what looks like a negative attitude on the part of the members in the pews to new people coming into their church.)

    BOL was right, in my view, to make an issue of the ad: it was the right decision both ethically and strategically


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