This Is Normal Now

The above landed on our doorstep yesterday morning. At breakfast, I held it up and asked the kids what they thought. They thought nothing. There was no change on their face, there was no “yuck factor,” there was no reaction of any kind. There was, instead, a sense from a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old that this gay kiss was normative.

Some will argue that even though this is now culturally normative, that doesn’t make it biblically normative. To those I say, we were also eating bacon at breakfast.

Meanwhile, over the weekend we heard from Rachel Held Evans and Scot McKnight that Bryan College (Rachel’s alma mater) is cracking down on profs who do not affirm so-called “young earth creationism.” While sad for Rachel, I think it’s not surprising that in the face of change, some institutions are retrenching. It will ultimately be a losing strategy (it always is, even for the church), but it seems that some people are incapable of learning from history.

I’ve been heartened in my recent travels that mainline groups I’m talking to are more open to transformation than they’ve been in the past — at least in my experience. And I fully expect that some evangelical organizations (colleges, seminaries, and the like) will continue to ask Rachel to speak. I even think that some that used to have the likes of Brian McLaren and Your Favorite Blogger will begin to invite us back as the stigma against gay-friendly theology fades.

In any case, I found it intriguing that at 9 years of age, I don’t think I’d even heard of gay people, and my 9-yo was completely unconcerned by two men kissing above-the-fold in the Sunday paper. I’d say that’s progress. I’d say that’s a victory for love, equality, and tolerance.

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  • Ratchet

    The Star-Trib picture was a great start to my Sunday, and this post is a great start to my Monday — thanks!

  • http://www.themolinist.com/ Matthew Simmermon-Gomes

    Queer sexuality is far, far from culturally normative. It remains heavily marginalised while a sanitized homonormativity is both pushed by advocacy groups controlled by the privileged within the queer community (primarily white cis gay men but, to a lesser extent, white cis lesbians) and appropriated (not to mention exploited) by non-queer media (like this newspaper, using a ‘provocative’ image of two white men kissing to sell papers). Queers who cannot or will not conform to homonormativity, such as bisexuals, queers of colours, and trans* individuals, continue to be marginalised and oppressed, the nonchalance of 9-year-olds at homonormativity notwithstanding. Homonormativity being all-but-synonymous with assimilationism, its victory is a victory for queers whose bodies and lifestyles conforms to heterosexist norms. Your sons response represents progress for the queer community, not the end of our structural marginalisation and not cultural normativity for the lived experience of the majority of queers.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Matthew, of course I’m not saying that all is now well for the progressive vision of our cultural future, nor am I saying that no one is marginalized, nor am I saying that all of our problems are solved, nor am I saying that we should stop fighting for equality. I am simply saying that we’ve come a long way, and this newpaper is a cultural touchstone.

      • http://www.themolinist.com/ Matthew Simmermon-Gomes

        I’m not denying the progress, just seeking to add that it’s relative. There’s been more progress for those whose queerness can conform to homonormative norms, white, cisgender gay men and women in monogamous, two-persons, (upper) middle class relationships, than those who queerness does or cannot. For those of us in the latter category, seeing acceptance of homonormativity touted as victories for us all reinforces our own peripheral or even outsider status in the mainstream LGBT movement and community.

  • http://www.culturemonk.com/ Kenneth Justice

    I just returned from visiting 5 different coffee houses in Atlanta and I suspect that we are nowhere close to ‘normalizing’ homosexuality in the U.S. Every coffee house I walked into was filled with young adults and their massive bibles sprawled out, study notes, and many of the bloggers I met with who were Atlanta natives had clearly defined notions that homosexuality is inherently sinful.
    One young woman I talked to at length who recently converted to Christianity explained that the first thing she had to resolve in her new Christian life was the subject of homosexuality and how to deal with the fact that she had so many gay friends…… so in Georgia; one’s view toward homosexuality appears to be a major issue connected to being a Christian
    So Tony, i can’t help but think your observations, while expressed well, are nothing more than an example of how big the divide is between the North and the South….. and for that matter the red states versus the blue states

    • Fred Peatross

      I’m certainly not hating on the gay community as I write this, I’m just look for clarification as to exactly how the christian community is going to define the LBGT community now & in the immediate future? I’m not against what goes on in the privacy of one’s bedroom but I don’t really like the methods culture is employing to legitimize homosexuality. Again I try to keep an open mind as I look at both sides of this issue. But If we’re going to call this normal how do we deal with the many passages (Rom 1, 1 Corinthians, Jude, etc) And how do parents who hold to the view that homosexuality is a sin teach their child when the POTUS calls NBA player & we use sport venues to push this as normal. Not being argumentative just would like to read thoughts on this.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

        Fred, what do you mean by this question: how are we going to *define the LBGT community*? Who says we need to do that?

        • Fred Peatross

          probably I could have used better phrasing – but do we look at this as ‘beyond the norm’ (sexual deviation) or will it & should it be accepted as just as normal as a heterosexual marriage?

          • Fred Peatross

            Thanks for the book recomendation “A Time to Embrace” It looks good!

          • Giauz Ragnarock

            I don’t see why not. The “best” reason anti-LGBT-rights Christians have ever had for calling LGBT and homosexuality “unnatural” (despite by definition occurring in nature rather than being a construct of sentient minds) is that Jesus will torture you for being LGBT, and if you believe you could possibly be mistaken as showing support for LGBT people, Jesus will torture you and possibly ruin the lives of all your descendents for ten generations (quite meaningless if you decide not to reproduce or if your family doesn’t even go ten generations. If you adopt, the kids are not descended from you, so would Jesus’ curse be nullified or would it only take effect after those kids reproduced?).

            • Fred Peatross

              that’s crazy stuff. torture? Please. I’m looking for comments that I can draw from

              • Giauz Ragnarock

                Do you deny that your theology says that Jesus is omnipotent and thus would have control of every flame in the lake of fire, like he’s keeping you alive while grinding an infinite amount of hot cigarette butts into your skin?

  • https://twitter.com/RollieB RollieB

    The title of this blog post, as a declarative statement, is causing me to pause and and ask if the title is true. Kenneth and Matthew seem to think not. Unfortunately I agree with them. While full acceptance of LGBTQ folks is the goal for many of us, we’re a long, long way from full acceptance as the norm. As enlightened as some of us think we are, there are still those moments when it is obvious full acceptance of the other is not yet here. That said, THANK YOU, Tony, for your work toward true equality for all people, especially in the church.

  • Thursday1

    Hmm, not so sure. I really wish you’d take my advice and read some religious psychology. Religion is based on seeing personal causation, as opposed to mechanistic causation in the world, which is why creationism continues to be so popular among the religious. Indeed creationism often breaks out in the most unlikely places, like in Italy, where the religious authorities are pro-evolution, or among American Indians, where there are no unified religious authorities. It will always be with us. And I say all that as someone who opposes creationism, and generally considers it a blight.

    Likewise, religion is strongly bound up with notions of teleology/purpose and purity, which are at the root of opposition to gay sexual activity. I don’t expect the most active and alive churches to change much of anything on this issue.

    Anyway, read thy Guthrie, Boyer, Atran, Haidt, Naranzayan etc.

    • Lamont Cranston

      If the most active and alive churches can’t manage change then they will wither and die. I don’t care either way.

      • Thursday1

        Conservative churches are declining, but progressive churches are imploding. The course you are advocating simply does not work, if your goal is to reverse decline. In fact, it seems to accelerate it.

  • http://quijotefelix.blogspot.com/ rick allen

    It is arguably not so much the new normal as the very old normal, i.e. the Hellenistic normal. “Progress” is a funny thing.

  • Lausten North

    I’d heard the word “gay”, as a kid in the 70′s, but it was just one of those words used to insult other kids. We didn’t know what it meant.

    • Thursday1

      It’s somewhat ironic that in this day and age “gay” is now the go-to insult on the playground. That insult was around when I was growing up, but it wasn’t the preferred weapon of choice like it is today.

  • Rick Presley

    I guess what I find disappointing is the sexualizing of it. I guess there’s no such thing as a platonic kiss? Wasn’t that the ancient norm?

  • Sofia

    Of course the full spectrum of sexuality is not “normal” to everyone yet (Tony mentions this). I applaud him for making his own normative statement in an effort to normalize that which actually is normal. ;-)

  • toddh

    From what I hear, the yuck factor is natural for some, and happens for gay as well as straight people.

  • Carl S

    Bacon yucky. Kissing not yucky.


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