When conscience and ‘obedience’ pull in opposite directions

When conscience and ‘obedience’ pull in opposite directions June 17, 2013

A couple weeks ago we looked at a helpful short post from Danny Coleman in which he discussed the anxious conflict gnawing at many Christians who are reluctantly convinced that obedience to God’s Law requires them to be unkind, unjust and unloving to LGBT people. Coleman pithily describes those Christians’ dilemma:

They do not hate or fear LBGT people. They fear God. They carry a perception of the wrathful Old Testament God who will destroy cities or nations if “sin” is found in the camp. … Attempts to reconcile this ancient God of wrath with the God of love and inclusion that Jesus represented tend to create a sort of cognitive and spiritual dissonance. And so, most Christians don’t hate and fear gays — they really want to love them. What they fear is God’s wrath and what they hate is the idea of the destruction God will bring down if LGBT people are accepted — if “sin” is allowed.

The problem is that even for Christians bound by such a stunted view of sin, conscience says something else. Conscience tells them that even if they don’t feel fear or hatred, behaving as if they fear or hate others is still wrong. So they feel trapped — torn between the conflicting demands of conscience and “obedience.” If they avoid the guilt of sinful disobedience by allowing “sinful” others in the camp, they incur the guilt of mistreating those others. Conscience pulls them toward love of the other; “obedience” pulls them in the other direction.

You can see the enormous strain of this being-pulled-apart in a recent guest-post by Peter Wehner at Tim Dalrymple’s blog on Patheos’ evangelical channel. The post, titled “An Evangelical Christian Looks at Homosexuality,”* reveals Wehner’s struggle to reconcile the tug of conscience with what he perceives as the demands of obedience. He begins by stating that “I’d associate myself with the views of Timothy J. Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City,” linking to a recent discussion in which Keller inadvertently restated, endorsed and underlined the point Danny Coleman made above. Keller said:

If you say to everybody, “Anyone who thinks homosexuality is a sin is a bigot,” [Jonathan Rauch] says, “You are going to have to ask them to completely disassemble the way in which they read the Bible.” Completely disassemble their whole approach to authority. You are basically going to have to ask them to completely kick their entire faith out the door.

That, in a nutshell, is the fear Coleman describes. And it is the fear that pervades Wehner’s argument.

But Wehner is also more honest than Keller. Keller pretends as though the accusation of bigotry arises solely from the belief that “homosexuality is a sin.” Wehner recognizes that, in reality, the accusation of bigotry arises from Christian support for legally enforced bigotry. He seems to recognize that the problem is not so much that Christians like himself believe “homosexuality is a sin,” but rather that this belief has led many such Christians to deny full legal equality to LGBT people. I am an enthusiastic, almost obsessive, coffee-drinker. I don’t think Mormons are bigots because they regard drinking coffee as a kind of sin. But if the Saints suddenly lost their minds and began lobbying for laws denying coffee-drinkers like myself the right to marry, or insisting that it should be legal for employers to fire coffee-drinkers, then, yes, that would be bigotry.

Wehner doesn’t explicitly call out Keller for the self-serving disingenuousness of his “Anyone who thinks homosexuality is a sin” straw-man nonsense, but I give Wehner credit for acknowledging the legitimate substance of the complaints about anti-gay bigotry. The main thrust of his argument is to challenge that substance without challenging the belief he shares with Keller, that homosexuality is a sin.

Wehner’s conclusion isn’t wholly conclusive. He seems extremely cautious not to be perceived as advocating “disobedience” lest he incur the wrath of God or of the tribal gatekeepers of evangelicalism. But he’s clearly pointing toward a solution that I think can work for conservative evangelicals like Wehner or Keller or Dalrymple. They don’t need to change their theology or their hermeneutics in order to stop denying other people full legal equality and civil rights:

I think it’s reasonable to say that even for orthodox Christians,** how the Scriptural injunctions against homosexual behavior should manifest themselves in modern American law and society are not self-evident. For example, you might believe homosexual conduct is not what God intended but (like idolatry) that view should not be written in law.

I’d be quite pleased if more anti-gay Christians would settle on that view. (Keller calls this a “Neo-Anabaptist” position, but really it’s just plain Baptist — more Roger Williams than John Howard Yoder.)

My main point here, though, is not the conclusion of Wehner’s argument or the logic he uses in getting there. What strikes me more is the impulse compelling him to make this anguished argument — which, again, is the strain of being pulled in opposite directions by the demands of conscience and the demands of “obedience.” For Wehner, as for many white  evangelicals, “their whole approach to authority” compels them to believe that God demands a “firm stance” opposing homosexuality. Yet Wehner’s conscience is pulling him the other way — he seems to genuinely regret the harm that is being done to LGBT people by Christians who advocate laws denying their civil rights.

The pangs of conscience are clearest toward the end of Wehner’s post, when he recalls a conversation with former InterVarsity president Steve Hayner:

“I doubt whether God will have much to say about our political convictions in the end,” Steve said to me, “but I’m quite sure that he will have something to say about how we loved the least, the marginalized, the outcasts, the lonely, the abused — even when some think that they have it all. Political convictions that lead toward redemption and reconciliation are most likely headed in the right direction.”

Hayner describes a trajectory leading “toward redemption and reconciliation” and emphasizing the powerless, “the outcasts, the lonely, the abused.” And Wehner says, “It seems to me there is great wisdom in his words.”

It seems that way to me, too. But I should warn Wehner that the gatekeepers of the white evangelical tribe don’t look kindly on anyone who allows this wisdom to shape their hermeneutic. That, they say, would be disobedient. It would “ask them to completely disassemble the way in which they read the Bible. Completely disassemble their whole approach to authority.” You’d be asking them to kick their faith out the door and they’d prefer, instead, to kick you out of the tribe.

Just ask Steve Chalke. Chalke’s evangelical credentials were beyond question — even more than Keller’s or Wehner’s or Dalrymple’s. But he was judged to have headed too far “in the right direction” of reconciliation and love for the outcast, and he was banished from the evangelical tribe — cast into the outer darkness with the mainliners, the “progressives” and the Episcopalians.

But here’s the joyous thing that Steve Chalke discovered. He’s not anguished. He’s not torn between conscience and obedience. For Chalke, obedience to God and conscience are pulling in the same direction. That unity of direction is at the root of the meaning of the word “integrity,” which is why Chalke’s farewell letter to the tribal gatekeepers — his manifesto in support of marriage equality — was titled, “A Matter of Integrity: The Church, sexuality, inclusion and an open conversation.”

When conscience and obedience are integrated — when they are pulling in the same direction — then faith becomes something that perpetually challenges us to become better people. It calls us to constantly expand our love and our capacity for love and to move ever onward, ever outward and ever Christward.

Peter Wehner is clearly aware of the discomfort and anxiety that comes from the kind of faith Danny Coleman described and Tim Keller endorsed — a form of faith in which conscience and obedience are at odds, pulling in opposite directions. It’s like being stretched on a rack. And, one way or the other, such faith will always entail being racked with guilt.

Maybe Steve Chalke is right. Maybe God is a better person than you think. Maybe obedience to what God wants doesn’t have to produce a queasy, uneasy conscience and the nagging sense that treating others unkindly and unfairly is still wrong, even when it’s done out of a sincere attempt to be obedient.

I’ve experience both forms of faith — the fearful kind Coleman describes and the fearless sort Steve Chalke advocates. The latter is a lot more joyful.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* I had a hard time getting past that title, which seems like the archetypal headline for any in-group discussion of out-group people. You could fill a bookshelf with the unspoken assumptions packed into and conveyed by those six words: An Evangelical Christian Looks at Homosexuality.

Here are some potential alternate versions of that title:

• “A Member of the Tribe Observes Outsiders.”

• “I am a legitimate person. You are an issue and an abstraction.”

• “The Myopia of Privilege.”

• “Jonah looks at the Ninevites.”

• “Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has not made me a homosexual.”

• “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. And you’re welcome.”

That actual title — “An Evangelical Christian Looks at Homosexuality” — includes something of all of those, and more. And that’s before we even consider the false assumption that “an evangelical Christian” must, by definition, be looking at homosexuality from the outside — that no evangelicals are LGBT and no LGBT persons are evangelicals. (Here are links to more than a dozen blogs written by people who are both.)

While there’s something of that attitude pervading the whole post, the general spirit of Wehner’s piece is better than that title.

In general, though, I’m way beyond tired of articles and blog posts titled “An Evangelical Christian Looks at …” It’s long past time for a new wave of articles titled, instead, “An Evangelical Christian Listens to …”

** The colloquial use of “begs the question” to mean “raises the question” leaves us without a term for what Wehner is doing here. “Orthodox Christians,” he says, are those who believe the Bible declares homosexuality to be a sin. And we know that the Bible says so because this is what “orthodox Christians” say the Bible says. He’s assuming the initial point. Or presuming it, actually.

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  • MarkTemporis

    Hey, nobody’s FORCING him to drive his car into his house! Most people I know are quite happy to keep their car parked outside or in a garage.

  • MarkTemporis

    Having the Greek myths read to me did spark an interest in other gods and such, but what really flipped the switch for me into expanding my perception of what religion could be was that shitty Planet of the Apes movie where they worship the atom bomb.
    As a kid, I thought that was like the most awesome thing EVER.

  • Alix

    Ah. Fair point.

  • Lori

    There can be a sort of opportunistic element to the attraction as well though. Some people who feel a great deal of inadequacy will search for partners who they feel will not be able to recognize or criticize their failings. Children can be the ultimate expression of that desire for someone who is too unsophisticated to see them for who they are, or fear themselves to be.

  • Lori

    More to the point, no one is forcing him to have that particular license plate on his car. If OK is like Indiana the “In God We Trust” plate doesn’t even cost extra*. He just needed to check that box on the form instead of the standard one.

    *It’s the only plate, other than the standard one, that doesn’t have an extra cost. US Christians are the most persecuted people in history, my ass.

  • David S.

    Is there any evidence that any sexual attraction is chosen, that even things as minor as being attracted to brunettes is something chosen? Saying that pedophilia may be a choice seems to be a salve to deal with the fact that it’s easier to condemn something that’s a choice then something that’s not.

  • David S.

    Actually that’s part of the legal case; it’s the only plate in Oklahoma that doesn’t come with an extra charge.

  • Lori

    I think there’s evidence that sexual attraction is mutable, which would generally indicate at least some degree of choice.

    That’s assuming anybody choses anything at all. There are people studying the brain who have come to the conclusion that free will as we have generally understood it doesn’t exist.

  • Drinking coffee is not at the heart of your being. Sexuality is at the heart of anyone’s being.

    I find this reductionist and kind of insulting.

  • Albanaeon

    Still kinda sounds like something a gaggle of 12 year old boys might be doing…

  • Carstonio

    The issue with saying “homosexuality is a sin” is that it wrongly treats one sect’s teachings on human behavior as though they apply to the entire human race. (“Sect” meaning the subset of Christians who hold this belief.) Yet the members of the sect stubbornly refuse to offer any secular arguments for why everyone should eschew homosexuality. They’re asking everyone else to kick their faith out the door, to disassemble how they read their holy books.

    I’ve said many times that this would be so much simpler if they defined sin on the tribal level, like the Amish do for modern technology. That would allow them to keep their reading of the Bible and their approach to authority while showing respect for the individual’s moral right to decide the course of hir own life.

  • Alix

    Well, and here we cycle back to an earlier part of the discussion – does it being a choice matter, if the person in question is not harming people or doing things to them without their consent?

    I don’t think it does. And that goes for unsavory things like pedophilia, too. It’s actions that count in the end, not inner states.

  • Alix

    At least some aspects of sexual attraction are cultural – it’s been known for a while that beauty standards and other standards* for who makes a good/attractive partner vary wildly across human societies. That includes the ages of acceptable partners, too.

    Of course, individual choice also comes in here, and the intersection of cultural notions and individual choices is always hard to navigate.

    *There is some evidence that some things are near-universal, symmetrical features being the most obvious, but it’s damn hard to tell.

  • arcseconds

    I think you’re missing the point.

    Sure, people are interested in lots of other things, and think about other things all the time.

    But not the same things.

    If you’re interested in getting the attention of the vast majority of the population and don’t care much about how you do it, sex is probably your best bet in our society.

    For advertisers and people making summer blockbusters, this is all that matters. They’re not trying to show the incredible diversity of human nature, or to make huge amounts of sense, or even to show off their wondrous creativity. They are trying to sell stuff, and that is all.

    Ubiquitous appeals to sex has been normalized in society, sure, but that’s also to be expected when you have an industry with bottomless pockets seeking mass appeal and don’t care much how it’s done.

    And yes, people aren’t aware of this, but that’s not exactly surprising. People take social norms for granted! News at 11!

    There’s also a degree of conditioning here, too, I suspect. Cool stuff always involves dark glasses, black clothes, hot women, and cigarettes — they’re cultural markers as much as anything else.

    I’d expect to see this anywhere where the people with disposable income have one thing that they’re pretty assured to all be fairly interested in.

    And that is, I think, what you see. The 50s were not so much concerned with sex exactly (there were social barriers to making explicit appeal to sex) as with social norms such as social status, nuclear families, gender roles and the suburban lifestyle, and that’s what you see promoted in advertising from that period.

    We don’t think men need to show they are manly men by smoking the right cigarettes, and women need to make their husbands happy by having a good meal ready by the time they come home at 6, so these kinds of concerns seem like laughable hangups to us, but they made sense at the time.

  • Alix

    I got your point. I do actually understand how advertising works** – that still doesn’t stop me from finding the mechanics of how it works weird and even creepy. Same with cultural norms.

    My whole point, in this entire subthread, has been about how strange it seems on a personal level that sex seems so important to sexual people that it ends up everywhere, even tied into completely unrelated things. I was trying to explain what that’s like, how it feels – honest to god, I do not need a lecture on how it’s all really truly totally normal, okay?

    I still find humans and human sexuality weird*, okay? I still find advertising bizarre, I still find the requisite romantic subplots annoyingly clunky, and I still feel, often, like y’all are teetering on obsession. I cannot go five fucking minutes, it seems, without someone bringing up sex, sexuality, romance, whatever, unless I’m hanging out with my equally ace friend and we have the TV off.

    This will never seem normal, to me, no matter how many clunky analogies people try or how many internet lectures I get. That doesn’t mean I don’t follow these things intellectually – it means there’s a non-intellectual level where I just. won’t. get. it, because my entire lived experience runs contrary to that.

    *I find humans weird in general, even myself. It’s just a thing.
    **Given the number of people I know who really like to light stuff on fire, I sometimes suspect advertisers might get more attention if they blew up their products on live TV.

    ETA: To clarify for what seems like the millionth time, what baffles me is not that sexual people find sexuality important, attractive, and want to talk about it/whatever. What baffles me are a) how very many things sexual people manage to add sexuality to, and b) that sexual people seem to find sexuality so very central to absolutely everything that you’re baffled I’m baffled that you won’t shut up about it!

    I’m being deliberately hyperbolic, but not by much.

    And I am getting really crazy frustrated right now, so I should probably go take a breather. (Dammit, self, you should know better than to get into conversations on sexuality. It never ends well.)

  • ohiolibrarian

    Works for me!

  • Baby_Raptor

    Nah, they don’t advocate that because it would inconvenience THEM. Look at the stats: The divorce rate among evangelicals is equal to (maybe even slightly higher than) the general population’s.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Annnnd, there’s a recent article that posits that free will is biologically based. So, there’s that.

  • Alix

    See? Humans are totally weird. The answer to the old “free will or predestination” argument is, apparently, “biology says both, so nyah!”

  • arcseconds

    I’m not giving you a lecture about how it’s all normal, and I’m not trying to tell you how to feel about it.

    (I’m not even sure of what you mean by ‘normal’ here, actually, so I’m not really sure of what you’re accusing me, let alone why you think I’m doing it)

    I’m saying that the situation is explicable.

    That involves an explanation about advertising, and that seemed warranted because you seem to have expectations that advertisers should or could be doing something other than advertise stuff (like, make sense, or be creative).

    I didn’t seriously expect you to not understand advertising, but it didn’t seem to me that you aren’t fully applying that understanding, because you still seemed to be baffled by it, whereas how advertising works goes a very long way to explaining what you see.

    You say you have my point, but your still saying things like ‘y’all are teertering on obsession’. One of the points I’m trying to make is that it’s not necessary for everyone to be obsessed with sex for advertisements and movies to look like everyone’s obsessed with sex. All that’s necessary is for many people to have a strong interest in it, and for there not to be another stronger, more common interest.

    Now, it may be that people are obsessed with sex apart from this. That wouldn’t be surprising, either, given the amount of effort that’s spent informing everyone of how important it is. But you can’t read it off the movies and adverts themselves.

    It’s seeming more and more as though by ‘weird’, you don’t mean ‘inexplicable’, but rather are referring to your particular emotional reaction to this aspect of society. In which case my attempts at explanation are obviously beside the point — but I’m not the only one giving analogies as though some kind of explanation was needed :-P

    It might be worth noting, though, that plenty of sexual people feel the same way.

  • Alix

    Weird = strange.

    As in, I find it rather weird people latched onto the advertising comment as if that was the entirety of my point, and not just one supporting example.

    It feels very much like you’ve latched onto one thing you can sit there and explain repeatedly, in great detail, to the point of ignoring what I was actually driving at. Advertising and the Required Romantic Subplot were not the point of my earlier comment; they were examples – and I only mentioned advertising at all ’cause it was already an example in the thread.

    It’s a rare ad that has no sexy content. It’s a rare book that has no sexuality or romance. It’s hard not only to find clothes that aren’t some variant of “attractive” – or even to find people who understand that I don’t fucking care about how sexy I look. It’s impossible to even have a fucking conversation with people without sex and romance coming up, in completely inexplicable contexts. (“How’s that new computer you bought?” “Oooh, it’s so sexy!” …I hope to god that’s ironic.) (Or: “How was work today?” “Sue and Bob totally hooked up!” “…You’re out of middle school, right?”) When trying to get my hair cut, the very first thing I’m assured is that I can still be sexy. Fine, not what I asked.

    And so on, and so forth.

    It might be worth noting, though, that plenty of sexual people feel the same way.

    Not stupid, did notice. Though it seems a lot of times like sexual people love to complain about how oversexualized society is, then turn around and revel in it.

    My whole point, this whole damn subthread, was, well, to quote myself:

    From where I sit, it all looks like an incomprehensible obsession that bleeds into everything if people let it. (I’m not saying that’s exactly how life works for sexual people – I’m just trying to illustrate how it sometimes seems to someone who just doesn’t share that aspect of humanity.)

    In other words, this is what it feels like, being a stranger in a sexual land: even saying how strange the constant focus on sexuality is leads to people deciding that means I need an explanation as to why that focus exists. I don’t need an explanation. Honest to god, I really don’t. It’s not like I can miss how important sex is to sexual people; y’all ain’t exactly subtle.

    But every. single. goddamn. time. I try to get a sexual person to see what it feels like to be me, I get lectured, as if being asexual means my eyes fell out of my damn head.

    It is hella frustrating, I gotta say.

    (I concede on the bad analogies. I’d make an excuse for it, but no, that’s how my brain really works. Three-eyed Martians and dinosaurs in advertising, go me.)

  • Alix

    I will try one last example, one that has nothing at all to do with advertising, and see if that makes my point clearer:

    I bought a swimsuit the other day. It’s a one-piece, because a) I like one-pieces, b) it has awesome flowers on the print, and c) if it’s not a one-piece, the top goes goodbye in short order. (There must be some inexplicable trick to swimming in a bikini, is all I gotta say.)

    It took me fucking forever to find a one-piece, though admittedly it was a lot easier finding one in my size than it would’ve been finding a bikini in said size.

    And then every. single. person. I showed it to tried to tell me that it was totally okay for me to wear a bikini, didn’t I want something sexy? Why was I “ashamed” of my body? And every time I explained that I don’t care about looking sexy, I like what I got, and bikinis have a serious design flaw (in my experience) … I got blank stares and a slow blink, and more reassurances about how my body was totally okay and I should feel comfortable being sexy. I could practically hear the whoosh.

    And then I read a blog post by a feminist, talking about how it was totally awesome to wear bikinis, and one-pieces and covering up at the beach are oppressive. That women need to, in essence, take back their power by feeling and being sexy.

    And, well, that’s not necessarily a bad message. And it’s not like I care if some people go to the beach to look sexy. But when legitimate personal preferences are slammed? When people look at a female-bodied person buying a one-piece bathing suit and think “I need to let her know it’s okay to be sexy!” as if that’s the main purpose of a suit for swimming in, when all the ads and salespeople and friends and acquaintances and even feminist writers all act like the main purpose of a swimsuit is to look sexy … something, at that point, to my brain, is really skewed.

    And yet so many sexual people don’t seem to get that. It seems to baffle people when I find that kind of reaction odd or skewed (or whatever term you want to use). Like they honestly can’t get why I might actually be more concerned about whether a swimsuit stays on during swimming than whether or not I look smokin’ hot in it – and honestly can’t fathom why I find their bafflement baffling.

    I am not sure this makes anything clearer. At least we’re not talking about advertising anymore…

  • arcseconds

    No, it’s that I thought there was something that you didn’t understand cognitively about society, and I tried to explain it. It now seems pretty clear that it’s more that you feel alienated by this aspect of society.

    If it was clear to me from the outset that that was the real concern, I wouldn’t have attempted an explanation. I can see that getting a sociological explanation of a phenomenon when you were trying to explain how it felt to be you is frustrating.

    Was I remiss in not picking up on this earlier? Maybe, but you could have been quite a bit clearer. You engaged with explanations when given as though they were apropos. Even your initial remark uses the term ‘incomprehensible’, which suggests that there’s something cognitive your not getting, not that you intellectually understand the situation fine, but it alienates you emotionally. And you said you ‘got the general shape of it’, but hadn’t picked up on the importance of advertising, so it did really seem as though you were seeking further explanation.

    This kind of misunderstanding is perfectly understandable — dammit, pressed reply by accident.

    It’s a perfectly understandable misunderstanding, but it is a misunderstanding, and you’re misunderstanding me at least as much.

    You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about me, by the way, that aren’t warranted and probably aren’t helpful, with all your ‘y’all’s and such.

  • Eric Boersma

    “And yet so many sexual people don’t seem to get that. It seems to baffle people when I find that kind of reaction odd or skewed (or whatever term you want to use).”

    Respectfully, you have spent the majority of this comment thread discussing how baffled you are that sexual people think about sex a lot. You seem to understand that there is an incredible cognitive disconnect when it comes to thought patterns between yourself and the majority of people that you interact with, but yet you seem to be entirely missing the connection that this disconnect operates in two directions.

  • Alix

    There was something niggling at me here, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until just now.

    There is something incomprehensible to me about ubiquitous sexuality in things like advertising, but it’s not the part you kept trying to explain to me. You kept explaining the advertiser’s side of things, which, well. It’s pretty obvious.

    That’s not what confounds me. What confounds me is that sexual people keep telling me that sexuality’s not some magic brain override or hugely predominant factor in their lives … and yet in order for things like sexy advertising to work, it sort of has to be. I mean, are you really more likely to buy a fucking toaster just ’cause it’s got sexy people using it during 30 seconds on the TV?

    Either sexuality is some huge, overriding, all-consuming factor, or it isn’t. People keep saying the latter and acting … sorta like the former.

    This kinda goes back to how sexual people keep telling me they find society oversexualized, yet constantly seem to play right into that and even enjoy it in the way they act. It’s not the, hm, economic mechanisms I fail to understand – that was part of what I meant by getting the general shape of things, way upthread. It’s not the mass cultural dynamics.

    It’s the individual ones. More specifically, it’s how the individual dynamics I’m told are in play become the mass dynamics that are entirely different, and sometimes the complete opposite. Either the world really is ruled by a secret cabal of people who don’t care what we think and I owe my friendly neighborhood conspiracy theorist a $20, or there’s something here in the individual psychology of people about which I’ve been misinformed.

    As for the rest of your comment: the only time I directly addressed you specifically in the comment to which you are replying was in the third paragraph, where I was explaining what it seemed like, to me, that you were doing. I do my damndest to make sure I phrase stuff like that specifically because I have no way of knowing what you’re actually doing, not being you. When I used “y’all,” I was using a generic pronoun that seemed appropriate to the antecedent “sexual people” – are you a sexual person? I made one assumption there, and if I’m wrong I do apologize.

    As for engaging as if the arguments were apropos, this is my first reply to your first attempt at explaining advertising to me:

    …This does nothing but cement my belief that people are weird.

    I get what you’re saying, though.

    And then, from where I sit, it looked like you went on an epic sidetrack over the word “weird,” which was … weird … and from there we descended into a mass of talking past each other as I kept trying to re-explain my points and figure out what we were even talking about anymore. And it turns out the problem seems to be differing definitions of the word weird? (Also, apparently, incomprehensible.) It really, honestly does feel like you seized onto two minor things – one example and a word choice – and ran with them while missing the actual gist of my comments.

    While I could probably stand to cut out the three-eyed martian comparisons, I’m not sure how much clearer I can be. I do my best, you know. And that’s why I keep trying to engage with people, even when it seems to me like they’re really not getting my point – because if they’re not it means I haven’t made myself understood, and I want to figure out where the failure point is so I can explain better.

  • Alix

    Fair point, and I do actually get that there’s a disconnect both ways. (It’s kind of hard not to, when the first reaction you get to people learning your orientation is generally “there’s no such thing.”)

    I will say it gets really damn frustrating, though, when every time someone asks me to explain what it’s like being ace, or whenever I try to express annoyance at something being (to my mind weirdly) sexualized – there’s immediate pushback. It seems less like a disconnect, sometimes, and more like a refusal to even try to understand.

    And then I get told two conflicting messages from sexual people: that sexual people feel the same way about, say, sex in advertising, and that this is just one of those things where I have to accept sexual people are different. I can easily follow either one of those, but not both simultaneously, as they seem mutually contradictory to me.

    If I came off as hostile or reductive, I apologize. Rereading this thread this morning is interesting – apparently, I had a hell of a lot of pent-up frustration over this and it all seeped out.

  • EllieMurasaki

    And then I get told two conflicting messages from sexual people: that sexual people feel the same way about, say, sex in advertising, *and* that this is just one of those things where I have to accept sexual people are different. I can easily follow either one of those, but not both simultaneously, as they seem mutually contradictory to me.

    Going back to the chocolate cake metaphor: chocolate cake is a marvelous thing, I would be perfectly happy to eat it three times a week, but why would I want it for breakfast? Like all things, chocolate cake is best in moderation.

  • Alix

    And I honestly do get that. I’ve said repeatedly that I do get sexual people being sometimes interested in sex, wanting to read sexual plotlines, whatever.

    My disconnect isn’t so much on that level. It’s that individuals tell me they like it in moderation, but somehow this translates to liking a constant bombardment on a group level.

    And frankly, I still don’t get how the fact that you like sex or chocolate cake in some circumstances leads to you being more likely to stop and look at an entirely unrelated ad just ’cause it’s pictured there, and also makes you more likely to buy the thing that’s advertised. If you really like chocolate cake, and people did start featuring it in their ads all the time, would that really make you more likely to watch a car commercial?

    Although I do have to say, I’m wondering if the “forbidden fruit” aspect to sex (which is … stupid and somewhat morally indefensible, in my mind) isn’t playing into this somewhat.

    …It probably is rather telling, that it’s taken me damn near a day to even consider that idea.

    On a slight tangent: as frustrating as this thread has been, it’s also been really useful*, so thanks to y’all for putting up with me.

    *If still somewhat confusing.

  • Alix

    Replying to my reply: The really interesting thing in this whole sprawling mess, to me, is what you* have found clear and what you haven’t. Several times, I’ve been somewhat taken aback by what people have argued over or found confusing in my comments, things I thought were perfectly obvious – which is interesting, because it helps illuminate the disconnect.

    Like I said … somewhere … every time I discuss sexuality vs. asexuality, something else crops up to demonstrate that sexuality is even stranger and more pervasive than I thought.

    *General “you.”

  • dpolicar

    Another thread through this (sorry if I’m repeating earlier comments) is that many people who have sexual desires have experienced being shamed for those desires, which can lead both to them understating the strength of those desires and to them reacting defensively to any attempt to discuss sexual desire as a marked case.

    Not saying this is justified, merely that it can happen.

  • SonjaFaithLund

    This is why when left to my own devices for church-going, I go to Episcopal churches. You all are wonderful.

  • Alix

    True. And this is the other reason (besides it simply not being my topic) why I usually only speak up when someone swings too hard against that shaming culture and hits me in the process.

  • Jamoche

    It fits the definition of the words better than the 16th century translation of a Latin phrase does.

  • dpolicar

    Well, for what it’s worth, I’m glad you speak up.

  • He’s the pastor.

  • Guest

    Bigotry -a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices… Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin ..not only that they believe that anyone who thinks about or participates in homosexual activity should burn in hell forever. So implying that Christians aren’t bigoted for believing that gay people are bad is basically ignoring the text of the bible. The bible is bigoted against gays. It says gays should be punished and thrown in a fiery pit forever for their nature, thoughts, and what they are programmed to do unless they apologize to an unchanged God who also happens to be Jesus who said that gays should be put to death in the past but now just wants to throw them in hell. The denying of rights and hate crimes are all a results of the bigotry the bible lays out. it sickens me when people give the religious text a pass when it is the source of the injustice.. the discrimination in laws are the components. Christianity is a hateful religion masquerading as loving. A religion that punishes people for sim

  • Allen

    Bigotry -a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices… Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin ..not only that they believe that anyone who thinks or participates in homosexual activity should burn in hell forever. So implying that Christians aren’t bigoted for believing that gay people are bad is basically ignoring the text of the bible. The bible is bigoted against gays. It says gays should be punished and thrown in a fiery pit forever for their nature, thoughts, and what they are programmed to do unless they apologize to an unchanged God who also happens to be Jesus who said that gays should be put to death in the past but now just wants to throw them in hell. The denying of rights and hate crimes are all a results of the bigotry the bible lays out. it sickens me when people give the religious text a pass when it is the source of the injustice.. the discrimination in laws are the components. Christianity is a hateful religion masquerading as loving. A religion that punishes people for simply not believing but rewards a murder who has a true dead bed conversion. Your religion is worthless and is truly sick. it’s almost as bad as the religion of peace… Give me a break!!!

  • phranckeaufile

    I beg to disagree.

  • And yet so few of the Christians in here believe any of this to be the case.

  • Allen

    Why do u think so? Given that when asked Christians will willing say that they agree with with the bible and agree with the terms of there religion. Why do you think they say on one hand they aren’t hateful while believing in hateful things?

  • EllieMurasaki

    …have you read any of the top-level posts on this blog? At all?

  • Rather than answer that directly, I propose that you take time to consider what sort of Christian blog would have a community filled with people of many different callings. We have atheists, pagans, Satanists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Unitarian Universalists and probably several more I don’t recall off hand.

    I think your first problem is that you feel comfortable beginning a sentence with “Christians” and then ascribe a generalizing assumption in the direction of 2.1 billion people of vastly different, contradictory and heterogeneous beliefs about their religion.

  • Allen

    Well this is a Christian blog is it not? The comment was directed at the blog post. Also Episcopalians and Catholics are Christian sects so im not sure why you divided those like they aren’t related. Sure Christians have different views on rituals etc but they all use the same book which my comment was pointing 2. My post had nothing to do with non Abraham religions or knowledge positions. It specifically targeted Christians/Christianity because this is a Christian blog……

  • stardreamer42

    For people who have studied either law or Latin, certainly. I was looking for something a bit more inclusive.

  • Actually, they don’t all use the same book, and it wouldn’t matter much if they did. The Bible is an anthology of many books, and different denominations of the religion consider certain books to either be part of–or not part of–the canon, such as the Meqabyans, the Jubilees, Psalm 151-155, etc.

    Even if they had all these books in common, each denomination has a different perspective and interpretation of various books. Some think a section should be taken literally, others change the meaning altogether. Different denominations argue about how far Acts 10 should be interpreted in regards to Christians treating non-Christians like brethren, while there are some who argue that all Acts 10 means is that Christians can eat pork and bacon. Some believe that Genesis proves that the Earth is only 6000 years old and cannot possibly be destroyed by human hands, while others believe Genesis is nothing but an origin story, not to be taken as historical fact in the slightest.

    In short, you’re lumping all Christians together when they have very little in common. Again, what do you think would cause so many people of so many different faiths, religions and beliefs to join together in a community? It has something to do with the type of place this is, and I’ll direct you to a big hint about it: the host’s About page.

  • Allen

    Ok so Christians don’t think gay is a sin . They don’t think homosexuality is a bad thing. They have nothing against it…..

  • EllieMurasaki

    Some Christians do. Some Christians don’t. This is why you are being chastised for treating Christianity as a monolith.

  • Allen

    Right! now what does the Bible say about gays?

  • EllieMurasaki

    That David, who had I’ve lost count how many wives, loved Jonathan more than women. What’s your point?

  • It sounds like you agree with christian fundamentalists on a lot of things, such as how the bible should be interpreted and who’s allowed to define what christiantity means for other people.