Oct 16, 2014

#HERO, Self-Directed Gender, and Orphan Black

So there's this law - the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance - that says you can't discriminate on sexual identity, genetic information, all kinds of other stuff. Problem is, the law extends to bathrooms, and seeks to meet those who are half-gendered or other-gendered (transsexuals, etc) by allowing individuals to pretty much choose which bathroom they want to go into. The idea here is "hey, there are people who are between genders or who self-identify as something other than their birth gender, so let's let them go potty where they are most comfortable."

Odd thing, this ordinance: first, it basically puts the burden of proof on the a business owner to determine whether or not someone is a pervert or just in-between genders (or whatever). And you can't really do anything when a pervy-looking fellow is hanging out in the ladies' room for hours when he can just say "I'm a lady in a man's body." What can you say to that, when the law is on that pervy-looking fellow's side?

Second, and even more odd: there's this religious exemption, which is kind-of only going halfway with this thing, isn't it? I mean, if those who are transsexual or other-gendered or whatever are TRULY a protected class (like, say, blacks or hispanics, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs are and should be), why exempt churches? We would never say to a private Christian school "hey, you can totally go ahead and exclude all black people because of your religious beliefs. Go ahead." Nope, nope, nope. There is a ministerial and employment exemption to the Civil Rights Act, but no general religious exemption for public facilities. To me, the Houston Ordinance is not a compromise but waffling, a backing down in the face of what would be a much larger battle.

Third, though, here's the thing: the very IDEA of the gender spectrum (as opposed to the old-school, traditional duality of male/female, you know, that you grew up with), while being so clung to by those in the LGBTQ community as a basis for protection and allowing people to pursue a "lifelong" coming-out process, is not going to be the end-point for these folks, because they are beginning to rightly recognize that gender and sexual orientation, when NOT tempered by an outside restricting moral force (as in a culture that says "no, that is wrong, don't do that" or a Church that gives some rules), will happily pursue every kind of sexual ambiguity! Sexuality becomes quite fluid when not re-inforced by culture?! WHO'D'VE THUNK IT?

Think of sexual identity and sexuality as some non-fixed thing, like water: without a container, water goes where it pleases. Folks will pursue pleasure where it takes them when not restricted by morality or faith.

This will be the end point of the folks who brought about #HERO: the destabilization of gender and sexuality into a fluid spectrum wherein you self-direct your sexual behavior based on preference, because why not?

Funny, how these liberals are all secretly moral libertarians.

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Where does the hit new show Orphan Black come into play? (Disclaimer: this is not a show you should watch, likely, unless you are extremely unaffected by all kinds of deviant sexuality. I was quite shocked)

First, it is an amazing show: well acted (incredibly well acted (did I mention well acted?))), beautifully shot, and well acted.

Second, and more importantly, it is the most sexually deviant mainstream show on TV. One of the main supporting actors is a gay prostitute, and there's some gay sex, straight sex, lesbian sex on here, all done by the main actress (who I would love to see in any other context, because this stuff is so dehumanizing). There is an agenda pouring through the whole show: all kinds of sexual behavior are A-OK. In fact, the most uptight, rude, least self-controlled, generally bad personality in the lot (other than the murderous Ukranian) is the most sexually-straight (operating as she does in a traditional marriage). "See!" the show screams, "marriages aren't all that --- the gay prostitute is even happier than her!"

The conceit of the show (SPOILER ALERT) is clones: the main actress plays like eight of them and does so with gusto. These clones have vastly different lives but identical genes.

Thus, we finally settle nature v. nurture: by way of a TV show.

Seriously: identical genes, but one is transsexual, one is bi-sexual, one is murderous and largely a-sexual, one is promiscuously straight but uses her sexuality as a defense mechanism, and one is aggressively straight but exists in a sexually frustrated marriage. Same genetic material!

Why does this matter?

One of the counter-arguments for sexuality has been - for years! - that sexuality is hardwired, to some great extent, in the brain. This show reveals quite the opposite, intentionally or unintentionally. Sexuality is, by Oprhan Black, the result of upbringing, circumstance, and self-direction. And every kind of sexuality is A-OK. The genes don't determine our futures.

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What's happening is this: the old switcheroo. While the hardcoded argument for sexuality and gender identity has been used for years to prop up the argument that folks cannot "choose" their sexuality but must discover it through whatever process in whatever time it takes, soon we will begin to hear, read, and see more of what we see in Orphan Black: sexuality and gender are NOT hardcoded -- they are instead somewhere between nurture and choice and can be chosen and discarded at will. This is the new Sexual Revolution: be what you what to be, and everything will be just fine, because it's all good, baby. It's all good.

Nevermind Born This Way, Lady Gaga: this is America.

We are self-made, all of us, apparently even down to our sexual organs.

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(now if somewhere down the road, we see that Orphan Black suddenly reveals -gasp! - that gender identity was written into all these clones, we'll just assume someone read this blog...)




Oct 6, 2014

Gay Marriage is Here... So What?

The Supreme Court declined to take up the same-sex marriage issue.

The impact of the move will in short order be even broader. 
Monday’s orders let stand decisions from three federal appeals courts with jurisdiction over six other states that ban same-sex marriage: Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming. Those appeals courts will almost certainly follow their own precedents to strike down those additional bans as well, meaning the number of states with same-sex marriage should soon climb to 30.

In other words, gay marriage is here.

So what?

so what 
(colloquial, rhetorical question) A reply to an unimportant or irrelevant statement, indicating indifference on the part of the speaker. 
I lost my old red shoes. - So what? Get a new pair.

The following realities have not changed in the wake of this "tacit victory" for gay marriage:

1. God
2. God's sovereign rule over the world
3. Man's innate depravity
4. Jesus' salvific work on the Cross
5 - ∞. Everything else dealing with ultimate spiritual realities.

So I say "so what?" because nothing in this world ought to cause us anxiety save our own sinfulness in the face of the omniscient Creator God. I am not anxious over this decision because anxiety is not something I am called to experience as a Christian. I have nothing to fear, for even death itself has been conquered. Let's not see this as a world-changing event, because the world only changed once, and that was at Calvary.

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That being said, there are some serious answers to the "so what?" question that bear discussion. Here are my

predictions for the inevitable gay marriage discussion in churches:


1. Churches are going to be forced to decide one way or another over the gay marriage issue.

I think there are presently three kinds of churches in America (vis-a-vis the homosexuality question):

a) Those that reject gay marriage and ban open gays from participation in church life
b) Those who wholly accept gays and gladly perform gay marriages
c) Those who try to toe the line and find some middle ground.

Many churches fall into (c), but I think this category will disappear completely in short order as churches are forced to decide where an openly gay (or married gay) person is or is not allowed to participate in church functions, become a member, take communion, or participate in leadership. Anything less  than a firm "yes" or "no" to all of these is going to cause a great deal of confusion and inner conflict. Some denominations have seen these internal battles coming and already changed their statements of faith and/or by-laws to prevent gays from leading or being members, but others are still deciding. The hardest cases are going to be the "seeker-friendly" churches who abhor the idea of turning anyone away for any reason. Joel Osteen has waffled on the subject already, for example, as will other massive megachurches with attractive lead pastors. Imagine if you are a gay couple who is warmly welcomed into a seeker-friendly congregation only to find out down the line - say a year or more later - that you cannot participate in leadership. You will feel lied to. Better, I think, for churches to say what they mean up front.

This question - how gays will or will not be allowed into church life - will likely fracture the modern evangelical movement.

2. Churches that reject gay marriage will feel increasingly culturally isolated and will have to craft a response.


The demographic divide is massive:
Support for same-sex marriage in the U.S.[77]
[hide]Age% of U.S. population
18–39 years old72
All adults59
40–64 years old54
65+ years old47

As those 18-39 year olds continue to take over American culture and politics, churches who oppose gay marriage and restrict the activity of gays in their churches are going to hear it from culture and from their own younger members. I think we see the foreshadowing of how conservative churches will respond to legal gay marriage and the resulting cultural pressure:

a) Cultural isolation / the creation of an alternative isolationist culture. This is how many family-integrated churches have gone. These folks will become like the modern Amish: more restrictive on cultural intake, more rural, less visible in political activities and culture, more inwardly-focused. These churches will only intake cultural output that is put out by "trusted friends" and will essentially create closed alternative culture.

b) Cultural backlash / massive political participation. These churches are already pushing the line on what is allowable under non-profit tax rules with the pulpit freedom Sunday. These churches will push hard enough to get the IRS to respond at some point, and we will likely see the first real wave of court cases over church taxation in the coming decade.

c) Cultural outreach / treating the USA as a missions field. I dearly hope this is how most churches go: instead of assuming dual citizenship and full cultural participation in both US and Christian cultures, I pray that many churches will examine the US with the eyes of missionaries and would become Resident Alien Missionaries to America. These folks will have cultural output that is missiological in nature that still holds to solid theology. Tim Keller is on the vanguard of this kind of church thinking.

3. The link between American evangelicals and the Republican party will erode.

Again, the demographics: the next generation of republicans seems to be more open to gays and gay marriage, and some states are even running Republican candidates who are openly gay. As the next generation increases its voter participation, there will be some states where you cannot be elected (even as a Republican) unless you are pro gay marriage. Republicans in these states will alienate the churches in their districts and begin to sever the party/church linkage that has ruled for the past few decades since Reagan. This erosion will take decades, but at present seems inevitable.

4. Many Pastors will separate church and state marriages.

Presently any minster can act as the agent of the State for the certification of marriage. I imagine that many pastors will begin to reject this position, choosing instead to see marriage either as an act that belongs principally with the state (as in Luther's view) or a sacred ceremony to take place within the church. This separation will allow pastors to protect themselves from charges of bigotry or violations of the Civil Rights Act.

This would work out pretty easily, really: I will marry you, I could say, but only as an agent of the church. To finalize the deal, you will need to go to the Justice of the Peace to get the paperwork signed. Some Pastors already do this.

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And a few things that I think you will NOT see:

1. You will not see this issue discussed in Evangelical theological debates to any meaningful effect. 

Why? Because the fundamental question in the gay marriage debate is over hermeneutics, and the most lacking area in theology in Evanglicalism is.... hermeneutics!! Evangelicals have basically relied on the statement "because the Bible says so" without significant hermeneutical backing for that statement for decades. Those evangelicals who end up being pro-gay marriage are basically going to say "because the Bible says so" and those who are anti-gay marriage have basically been saying the same thing. Nuance is not our forte, dear evangelical brothers and sisters.

Most of the decisions for/against gay marriage in parachurch ministries will likely be solved by money talking. Most of the decsision in churches themselves have been made or will be made soon through established church polity and the subsequent shuffle of disagreeing feet out the door. Theology will not rule the day in these discussions.

2. You will not see a clampdown on freedom of speech from the pulpit as you have seen in other countries.

I am not at all afraid of the idea of anti-hate speech legislation having any effect on sermons. The appellate courts and rights organizations that allow gay marriage have also tended to be very pro-free speech as well, allowing all sorts of speech that other countries with no first amendment protections would shut down or punish. I think pastors will retain the ability to say what they want in their congregations.


3. You will not see the debate suddenly resolved by a judicial decision.


Everything in Christendom is fluid. We're not the same today, and we will not be the same in ten or a hundred years.

 Conservative organizations and churches are not going away, nor are the vats of money pouring into election-related coffers. It will be very interesting to see how this issue plays out in the Republican party come 2016. Most pollsters are not convinced that a strongly anti-gay marriage candidate could ever win a national election. Rand Paul is already moving toward the middle. The next three years will be very interesting as the Supreme Court's decision reverberates.


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Whatever happens, our obligations remain: love God supremely, and love our neighbors as ourselves. We have been given the freedom to love without fear of earthly consequences by the Cross, and we are given the Cross to give to others as an act of love. Today's decision does not change these truths one bit.