On Being a (Not Quite Good Enough) GLBT Ally

In the last week, a couple of writers have taken to the interwebs to proclaim that my support of GLBT persons is, well, sub-par.  At Religion Dispatches, Elizabeth Drescher takes offense to the closing salvo in my post, “Homoerotic Churches,” in which I imply that some evangelicals’ taste for the man-on-man grappling in mixed martial arts may mask their own longings. Drescher writes,

Jones has apparently missed the homoeroticism of the quarterback snap in football and the rampant ass-slapping across all sports, gender notwithstanding. In any case, the gays-are-rubber-Mark-Driscoll-is-glue approach to confronting Driscoll’s thug-like homophobia is hardly the same as a clear condemnation. And, I might add, while I personally find MMA, boxing, and wrestling in all its forms distasteful, I’m sure there’s little pastoral grace for either LBGTQ or straight kids who do enjoy these sports in highlighting them as ironically effeminate—even for the sake of pointing out that Mark Driscoll is a jerk. Even the Apostle Paul, disciplinarian of the Early Church, attempted to model the practice of admonishment for bad behavior without resorting to shaming. Just sayin’…

There have been several comments along those same lines regarding my original post.  Was it a cheap shot for me to write, “we preach most fervently against the very sin that we are struggling with“?  Maybe.  But there were also many commenters who agreed with that sentiment.

While I believe that there’s ample evidence to make a claim like that, it was not meant to be universal.  Someone who preaches against a sin is not necessarily under the sway of that very sin.  Nor, of course, do I consider it an insult to imply that some conservative evangelical leaders may be harboring various sexual predilections.  In fact, I, like Dan Savage, would encourage them to honestly confront those.

Over at ShipOfFools, my long-time critic, Becky Garrison, who often attempts to disguise bitterness as satire, lists me as an almost-good-enough ally of GLBT persons.  Why do Jay Bakker and I make it only into the penultimate group?

But despite their claims of being inclusive, they continue to operate in a milieu that largely consists of white male postevangelicals who self-identify as straight.

What is Garrison’s remedy?  That Jay and I “join those in the US Episcopal, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian Universalist churches” who are working for bi- and trans- inclusion.  Well, when it comes to whiteness, Becky, it’s tough to beat the Episcopal Church:

Source: The Episcopal Church

Try as I might, I cannot find the gay-straight demographics for the Episcopal Church, but let me venture a guess that it’s a pretty straight crowd.

In the end, I’m not averse to from friendly criticism.  In fact, I welcome it.  But as a “self-identified straight, white male,” I do occasionally wonder if my support will ever be good enough for some…

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  • Tony, You were very courageous with the last post but please do not go too far down this path. Some people have an insatiable desire for Truth and even you cannot satisfy them. You are a good man doing great things, stick to it man! Respect to everyone who has been involved in the conversation this week. “Blessed are the peacemakers for……” Love you Tony and all that you do.

    • Charles

      “…please do not go too far down this path.” Huh? I don’t think anyone can go too far in support of marginalized groups or calling out those who marginalize. Many in religious groups are egregious in marginalizing, they need to be called out! Keep up the Godly work Tony!

  • I think it’s a process. I’m pretty new about being an ally (I was always welcoming, but not affirming until recently), so I know I have LOTS left to learn!

  • Tripp

    I had similar thoughts Tony. Personally I find it odd that people in situations where is costs them nothing financially and institutionally to be a vocal ally get to tell those that do with a cost they aren’t very good at it. Maybe they should start being public defenders of conservative evangelicals’ dignity and reprimand those who make sarcastic dismissals at them.

  • “I do occasionally wonder if my support will ever be good enough for some…”
    It is enough for me & my beloved, and I think that matters. Your support, wit, conversations and wondering aloud means more than you can imagine to some of us queer folks that know you. To us, it is enough.

    Perhaps, like asking if you would marry any ‘ol same-gender couple versus say me and my beloved, it is in putting your focus on those who you are in relationship with—your friends who would call you on the phone or drop an email to ask about posts that we perceive have gone too far or are off base, instead of calling the question / smearing you on the interwebs—that matter. Perhaps.

    Keep doing what you are doing. I, for one, am glad you are an Ally, and think you do a bang-up job of it.

  • Ben Zabel

    I guess this raises a question that I am wrestling with: What is the right kind of support? There seems to be an assumption of a universal right way to support the LGBTQ community at work here, which defines your support outside of that box. The problem is that each individual seems to have a different standard for the right kind of support. Maybe those seekIng to support this community could accomplish more without fighting wit each other…

  • Tony, dear Tony, these people love. Are your lovers.

    More true in the telling-bringing-you-close than in the pushings-away. Pitiable evangelicals so late to the party. A note I’m making to Daniel Kirk. Sure, you’re not omniscient. Not making omni-claims. How weak a retreat? A faint? God help us. I would have “purchased” (bought for whore-hire) some photos from the Wild Goose Festival. But I could not find any whites in the pictures. I felt threatened by all the people of color in the pics.

    Perhaps you are struggling with your own homophobia? And cannot hear my masculine voice?

    I’m not the alpha (goddamit Tony) – just a biophiliac fool. But if my voice is a-turn too-testosterone, then please consider lunch with femme Krista Ratcliffe for her help in knowing how – your witness-whiteness – is an invisible racial category.

    You may drop Ratcliffe’s rhetoric.

    And just listen with empathy.

    Unless that scares you.

    Ever so …



  • … with webstie link “Random Arrow” here restored, previous one mistaken … Peace, Jim

  • For that to occur, Tony would first have to accept my friendship via Facebook – sent one a while back and it got rejected. Over there, I’m having some very fruitful exchanges with folks from a variety of theological perspectives.

    • Alex

      I see Pete’s your friend and he only made 6…

  • … and on whatever .. black lesbian Andre Lorde … might say to my (and your) white-male gendered advocacy of sexual politics …. Jim?

  • … ha Audre … (lol) ..

  • Brian – see Tony’s response to me. This is why the dialogue you desire cannot take place.

    I haven’t burned any bridges that are worth crossing.

  • Zachary W.

    I agree Tony that Becky Garrison is for the most part blowing smoke here. On the other hand, you could have gotten off worse here. Pete Rollins is probably sobbing himself to sleep right now after being referred to as receiving “conservative funding streams.”

    I never thought anybody would have confused him with conservatism.

  • Good news & bad news. It is still normative for most LGBT people in this country to experience church abuse. As an openly gay LGBT pastor in the United Church of Christ my heart breaks for the young people who believe God hates them. When I’m working with these individuals they are usually frank about who taught them the world would be better if they were no longer in it. They name the television broadcast network, newspaper article, radio show, parent(s), pastor(s), and/or congregation. It’s not uncommon to remember your abuser.

    It is because of this acknowledged and accepted persecution of the LGBT community primarily by “good Christians” that we have such high expectations of our allies. Particularly our heterosexual allies. I am a Pastor, but as a member of the LGBT community my voice can not be heard inside the homes and churches where it is needed the most. The voices of our allies, our heterosexual allies, can be heard in these places and they are needed. They are needed because we live in hope. The LGBT community eats, sleeps, and breathes HOPE. In my opinion LGBT community has a faith deeper then any other because they have had to rely on it to just make it through the day, everyday. Yes we have high expectations, because we know Jesus called us down by the sea shore and told us that our world of power and domination would be transformed into one of justice, compassion, and love. We expect the one’s who can bring God’s voice into the darkest corners of the world to do it. We expect it because we want our children to live. It’s as simple as that.

  • Bert

    From my perspective Garrison, as a satirist, has made some very pointed observations of the “emergent” community. The voices in this movement are overwhelmingly white, male, and straight. Rather than address ways in which more perspectives could be added and included in the conversation, you call Garrison “bitter” and say “Well whatever, the Episcopal Church is white too”. This is a blatant dodge of the issue.

    In MLK’s Mountaintop speech he points out that he couldn’t argue with China and Russia because they haven’t committed themselves to human rights, in the same way that the US Constitution does. Similarly, no GLBT couple is going to petition Rick Warren’s church to marry them because he hasn’t committed himself to GLBT rights. But somewhere I read about “A New Kind of Christianity”. Somewhere I read about a Christianity that welcomes debate and a diversity of people and viewpoints. Somewhere I read about a Christianity that welcomes all and turns no one away. All we’re saying to Sojourners, the Emerging Church, and Red Letter Christians is live up to what you say on paper…

  • Carlos Webser

    Tony – you and Jay are both 11’s in this queer boy’s opinion …. (lol) Peace, love and many blessings!

  • Diane D’Angelo

    You can be my ally anytime. There is no “right” way to advocate for the GLBT “community” because GLBT persons are as diverse as any other group. It’s nonsense. Your suspicions have credibility. My own experience as a bisexual person is that many women who love their gay male friends are terrified of being friends with me, assume that I will come on to them, assume that I’m promiscuous, assume, assume assume. These are all projections of their own unexamined sexuality. By default, most people who engage in same-sex relations go through a period of struggle with identity. It’s long and painful, and usually challenges their religious beliefs; in other words, it’s not fun. It’s easier to just avoid the whole thing. However, along with the increase of our visibility, “straight” people are having a harder time avoidng this topic. Be brave and carry on, my friend.

  • darren

    Obviously I do not speak for all LGBT folks, but I gotta say that my hubby and I are both quite pleased with the way you have supported LGBT folks in Christian circles. Honestly, I think you’re MORE than “good enough” for us. As previous commenters have noted, there are multiple ways to be an ally, and I don’t think it does any good for supporters of any cause to battle it out over who is a better ally. As a matter of fact, that’s asinine, and antithetical to the cause. It’s like the lose-lose fight over who has suffered more in life…

  • As an ally to both Garrison and Jones I see both points. Look at history, there are always those who wish and urge and drag humanity kicking and screaming into new understandings of what it means to be a. Human and b. Christian. I would guess Tony’s friendship and personal support is worth more to people like Rachel above up there than some ad.

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  • Pete Zimmerman

    BG–” who often attempts to disguise bitterness as satire”

    if it were true, that is still, from a pastoral perspective, something an asshole, not a pastor, would say. if someone is bitter, pointing it out on a public blog is not cool. or helpful. seriously, I am not a major public figure, and I have trouble with not revising/censoring enough but that really crosses a line.

    however, pointing out such a blatant public slap in the face in public, I think, is warranted, so I have.

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