Friday, August 12, 2016

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

I may have mentioned to y'all, a few dozen or a few hundred times, that the kid is genderqueer.

And, as you know, Bob, we live in a Red State, and in a severely conservative area, and deeply Evangelical Christian area, of that state.

All this by way of saying that her adolescence has been rough.

Just recently, and once again, she was treated to another adolescent informing her, piously, that while he didn't have anything against LGBTQ people himself, and while he certainly believed that they should have equal rights, nevertheless he believed, due to his religious convictions, that what they did was a sin.

Nothing personal. And he wasn't trying to hurt anyone's feelings.

I've heard this -- as my kid has -- endlessly, and almost always from Evangelical Christians. It never fails to astonish me, both that they can believe this statement makes some sort of sense, and that they can congratulate themselves (apparently) on how loving it is.

They love their gay friends (their trans friends, their Lesbian friends, their bi friends), they assure me, and themselves, and each other.  They just think that those friends are sinners, that what those friends are is a foul and disgusting sin.

But that's okay! Nothing personal! We're all sinners, right?

Let's flip this around, I sometimes say. I like you as a person. But I think being a Christian, especially the kind of Christian you are, is both a bigoted and militantly ignorant way to live. Nothing personal! I'm not trying to hurt your feelings! We all have our blind spots, after all! And I certainly would never try to take away your right to believe hateful and ignorant things!

Somehow this little parable in equal treatment never goes over well.

Yet it's not even equal treatment, obviously. LGBTQ people have not made a choice* -- as Christian Evangelicals have -- to be what they are. Christian Evangelicals make a choice to believe what they believe. They sign up for this religion; they choose to endorse and inculcate their children and one another with this belief system and this behavior. They can quit any time they choose.

It is their decision, in other words, to believe something which says that my child, and people like my child, are disgusting and evil. To then claim that there is nothing wrong with that belief system, and (worse) to claim that they can both love my child while believing she is disgusting and evil?

Well, please. You're not fooling anyone, babycakes.

The harm their belief system does is ignored by them, or brushed away -- the LGBTQ people, and especially the children and adolescents who suffer from depression and anxiety, and other issues. I've confronted Christian Evangelicals with data about these problems, and either they insist these problems don't exist (despite the data) or they claim that the problems are caused by the sin itself, rather than being created by having to live in a culture which treats LGBTQ people as though they're disgusting and evil.

Which, you know, that's not the fault of Christian Evangelical culture! They love gay people! It's just their sins they hate!

It's hard to know what to do when dealing with those who can, with a straight face, make this argument, as I told my distraught child yet again. (And yes, by the way, my child is harmed by people telling her she's sinful, that her very nature is disgusting and evil. She knows they're wrong; but it still harms her when people say these things to her. This is still doing damage to her.)

What can we do?

Tell the truth. Tell the truth again. Tell it again.

It's the only weapon we have.

Update: Data

*Although, even if they had, so what?


Bardiac said...

Those people suck. And not in a good way.

Your child, on the other hand, while I don't know her personally, is a fabulous artist, whose greatest fault, so far as I can see, is that she doesn't update her webcomic quite as often as I'd like. And you can tell her so, from me!

Also, tell her it gets better. It does. That doesn't make the bigots' jerkiness easier, it means that things get better when you grow up.

Hug her for me. From a webcomic fan!

delagar said...

Thanks, Bardiac!

I'll pass this along!

Rosa said...

it doesn't help, but I know so many adults who are deeply regretful of the abusive "evangelism" tactics they were pressured into as kids. Transgender kids weren't visible when I was your kid's age, but gay and Catholic kids were targets. Some of those kids will grow up to be good people despite the despicable parents teaching them to behave this way - and your kid is growing up awesome with good parenting, instead of despite bad parenting.

Anonymous said...

I feel ya.

Though one of the really nice things about being a college professor at a red state university is watching kids grow up and grow out of these patterns as they move from freshman to senior. No wonder so many evangelicals are so scared of education.

(Does your kid read Dumbing of Age? Zie must, even if it's pretty soap-opera-y. Joyce in that comic is going through the transformation we see a lot of our students go through. Though I also tend to see, "maybe it isn't poor people's fault" in my econ classes.)

delagar said...

N&M: My kid *loves* Dumbing of Age! It's one of her favorite comics.

Rosa: We talked about that very point, given the age of the person who pulled the "It's just what I believe" card this time. So many of my students, especially here, have been raised in Evangelical churches, and so many of them have learned and grown through their years at the university.

I love to tell my students what I was like at 19: a libertarian, someone who didn't "believe" in feminism (I was one of those people who said I believed in humanism, not feminism), someone who was against unions and equal pay, because the "market" would work it out. (I was *always* pro-gay rights, though, probably because I had gay friends, and grew up in New Orleans. Maybe because I read so many books with gay characters. Who knows.)

I got better, and so will most of them.

On the other hand, when one of these little tools makes my sweet child cry, it's really hard to remember that.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Oh Jesus Christ. I'm sorry your kiddo got this treatment. It's BS.

But like you, I said some pretty ridiculous things myself when I was a kid, and then I grew up and grew out of those things once my worldview was broadened by a dear friend coming out and by going to college where I met all different kinds of people and learned about feminism. Now, I'm about as left as one can be, but I started as a devout Catholic republican. I regret a lot of the things I said back in the day. Sigh.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Or let me revise that -- you didn't say that you "said" statements like this when you were a kid. But you said that you essentially "grew out of" a libertarian belief system. I should have been more clear.

delagar said...

Oh, I said them. Try and shut a libertarian up! :)

Contingent Cassandra said...

Ugh. I've noticed that one evangelical Christian of my acquaintance (who gets some pushback from family members with different beliefs and experiences, including a gay brother and uncle) is *very* resistant to the idea that sexual identity and orientation could possibly be built-in parts of who we are (dare I say, how God created us?). She avoids the "choice" rhetoric, at least with me (and probably, I'd guess, with herself, since she clearly struggles with this issue), but is very into long-discredited psychological explanations (poor relationship with father --> gay man sort of stuff). I think it's the only way she can cope with the logical inconsistencies, as well as the inherent unkindness, of her position: she's unwilling to blame either God or the two gay men (and their partners) whom she knows best, and knows to be fine human beings, so a couple of now-dead (and perhaps genuinely difficult) fathers are getting the blame instead.

I'm more inclined to the view that God doesn't make mistakes, or deliberately torture hir creations; therefore gender variation must be part of the whole recognized-as-good created order (this approach doesn't, admittedly, work all that well for things like cancer and mental illness and hurricanes, but it's a pretty effective approach to benign variations among human beings, including gender identity/orientation, temperament, and the like).

One possibly-handy comeback, for you or her: ask them what Jesus had to say about matters of gender identity/orientation. The answer, of course, is nothing. All the passages that might possibly be construed as pertaining to same-sex sex or other forms of gender-norm noncomformity are located in either the Old Testament or the Epistles, and probably pertain to various sorts of exploitative, or at least power-disparate, sexual encounters. And Jesus may even have indirectly blessed one of those relationships, when he healed the centurion's servant. In general, he was pretty tolerant of those his contemporaries saw as sexual sinners, much more so than of those who exploited the poor or the vulnerable. Even in the Old Testament, the exhortations to take care of the vulnerable and eschew financial exploitation of others far, far outnumber the condemnations of sexually-related sins. So what would Jesus say if he encountered someone who fell somewhere on the GLBTQ spectrum? Most likely nothing, or at least nothing related to their sexuality. If they were failing to pay a fair wage, or offering usurious loans to vulnerable neighbors, or proclaiming their righteousness on street corners, however, that might well come up.

It can also be handy to ask (or answer) the question beloved of Westboro Baptist Church members -- "what was the sin of Sodom?" -- with a Biblical passage -- "This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it." (Ezekiel 16:49-50). I'm not much for proof-texting, but that one is pretty unequivocal, even when considered in its original context, and does come in handy on occasion. I'm inclined to think that there may be a grain of truth in the WBC argument that the U.S. is becoming dangerously like Sodom; however, I think they've misidentified the sin involved. As far as I can tell, the problem is not sexual behavior (though admittedly same-sex rape was the means in the Sodom story), but failing to welcome (to the point of terrorizing) the alien who hopes to share in the prosperity of a land that in fact has plenty to go around, if only it were more evenly distributed. Exhibit one: a certain presidential candidate and (the really scary part) his all-too-numerous and vociferous supporters.