Category Archives: Friendship

Dante’s Seven Circles of Sunburn Hell

Right now, I am pretending to work on my dissertation prospectus. It’s not just for the usual procrastinating reasons, either. Kids, I got badly sunburned this weekend, and I am MISERABLE. In high school, I got made fun of all.the.time for being a pale white girl. What can I say, Irish girls without red hair are all going to look pasty instead of porcelain. We just don’t have enough melanin to look bored and expensively tanned. It’s been a good 10+ years since I felt the need to go fry out in the sun, and this last experience has cured me from ever wanting to be anything but pasty white.

The Chancellor ran an awesome race with obstacles this weekend, and I came along to spectate. We both (wrongly) assumed that I would have a pavilion to sit in, grandstands, areas with shades (and therefore, I did not think to bring sunscreen for myself). Boy, we could not be more wrong. Towards the end of the afternoon (and far too late), I found myself sitting under an underpass reading a doctoral exam book. That evening, I was bright red.

Yesterday, I had meetings galore and some gatherings with friends up in my school town. My best friend J could not stop giggling about how burnt I looked, and one of my colleagues cracked a (super clever, I’ll admit) joke about my appearance. My dissertation director had the good grace to pretend I was not anything but my usual-looking self. My friend S threatened to laugh, but my misery was palpable enough to earn compassion. Last night, I could not sleep because I itched so bad. I’d take a picture to show you, but I’m practically naked right so I can keep slathering on aloe. I do, however, have a somewhat analogous picture for you. If you are at all into True Blood, then you will remember this saucy lady:

About the only family-friend picture of our friend Lilith that I could find...

About the only family-friendly picture of our friend Lilith that I could find…

I feel like being sunburned is an endless loop of pain and discomfort. Allow me to introduce you to Dante’s seven circles of hell for people foolish enough to get as sunburned as I am:

Circle 7: Day 1–you feel slightly pink, and a few hours later realize that you are SUNBURNED. Your skin is burned and itchy, rather inconvenient with your clothes rubbing against all your burns.

Circle 6: Still Day 1–you start to feel feverish, and your teeth chatter, because your skin is not able to process temperature. You slather aloe before bed and sleep heavily.

Circle 5: Day 2–after gingerly showering and layering more aloe, you get dressed and go about your life until you realize that blisters on your forehead are popping and oozing. While you’re in a meeting. Charming.

Circle 4: Still Day 2–layer on more aloe and then spend the entire night awake because your shoulders are too burnt to let you sleep.

Circle 3: Day 3–your forehead blisters have popped and are scabbing, leaving your forehead crusty and discomfitingly discolored. Your scalp is now peeling, leaving dandruff-like flakes everywhere. Still red. More aloe.

Circle 2: Still Day 3–it is a delightfully cool day, and so you open the windows to breeze over your body. That is, until a child wanders into the yard and risks seeing your near-naked body. You shimmy under the covers and pray fervently until she disappears and then you shut the curtains.

Circle 1: Did I not mention you *also* have a nasty cough and pulled a muscle in your foot on top of it?

 

So there it is. My foolishness summed up, and the annoying consequences. I am starting to feel a little better, I promise. The burn on my upper chest has mellowed from a deep maroon to a dark pink, which is highly promising. But it’s not enough to get me out of the house or into some clothes.

And if Samantha asks, NO you do NOT WANT A  CHEMICAL PEEL.

Okay, my face actually looks pretty similar to Samantha's right now.

Okay, my face actually looks pretty similar to Samantha’s right now.

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Filed under Friendship, Life and Living, State of mind

Why (Some) Nice Guys Finish Last

If you’ve ever seen a “chick flick,” “rom com,” or whatever term you deem for a romantic comedy aggressively targeted at women, you’ll often find, in addition to the ludicrous career choices for women (shoe designer, fashion designer, baker, editor at a magazine, handbag designer, you get my drift…), a designated “nice guy” who gets friend-zoned by everyone, including our heroine du jour. Until, of course, a series of misunderstandings and maneuverings land him in bed with the heroine until she ends up with the standoffish but muscular Mr. Right, or (gasp) our Nice Guy ends up being the hero. Wow! Did anyone see that coming???

Okay, so unless that previous paragraph was not enough evidence for you, I admit that I mostly hate chick movies. I have my select few that I adore (apart from my Jane Austen period films, which I don’t count, because they far outstrip most chick flicks). I could pull apart the many tropes that I detest, but I’d like to include one that transcends the chick flick and actually has been seen in other entertainment genres, as well as real life. Ladies and gentleman, I’d like to talk today about the Nice Guy.

We’ve all encountered him at one point. He’s a seemingly decent fellow, stable, dependable, etc, who just can’t seem to “get” the girl of his dreams. Now, by “get,” I don’t mean understand (because if we really understood the objects of our fantasies, they would stop being the objects of our fantasies, amirite?), but rather obtain, win over, other adjectives that imply a he-man conquering of the she-lady. He bemoans to his friends, male and female, “Why doesn’t anybody like me? I’m a nice guy!” And sometimes, he is able to have a relationship, sometimes with the object of his desire. And some women oooh and awww over what.a.nice.guy he is, and wonder why nobody dates him. But yet, their lack of interest in dating him should set off signals about the Nice Guy.

I know a lot more single women than I do single men. It’s a strange phenomenon, really. But for whatever reason, I know lots of great, attractive, professionally successful women who are single and unattached. Not so many guys, however; it seems that when a nice, eligible man is “on the market” so to speak, he finds a partner relatively quickly. My personal theory somewhat dovetails with the pilot episode of Sex and the City, in which the women wonder why there are tons of great single women and not tons of great single men. Miranda Hobbes’ theory is that the [insert undesirable adjective] guys are just as ungrateful and demanding as the hot jerks.

MirandaWhile that is a bit cynical for my taste, she makes an interesting point. The world is not simply made up of hot eligible bachelors and ugly jerks. Rather, those qualities are interchangeable, and we are not promised a fairytale ending. What I also find interesting about this observation is that there’s a subset of guy who’s not necessarily falling over himself to date a beautiful woman—he puts that impression out there, but may be just as selfish and ungrateful as the man who can by society’s standards more legitimately think highly of himself. And that brings me to the Nice Guy phenemonen.

You see, while a Nice Guy puts himself out there as the alternative to the Hot Jerk, he’s not really a nice guy for the sake of it. No, it’s a carefully constructed act, one that makes him seem desirable and attractive, particularly to catch the eye of a woman he’s lusting after. In other cases, he suffers from incredible moral superiority until the stank of his holier-than-thou act drives him away from sane and reasonable people with normal flaws and quirks. In this way, the Nice Guy differs from his counterpart, the Gentleman, a man who is friends with women, and who may just want to date someone, but is actually a great friend.

For example, let’s look at everyone’s favorite Friend, Chandler Bing. Yes, Rachel was the prettiest, yes, Joey and Phoebe were funny, yes, Monica was neurotic, yes, we all HATED ROSS, but Chandler is a cool guy who ultimately stole all our hearts. Why is that?

First of all, when Friends began, we all saw Chandler as a loveable, nerdy loser who could never say the right thing to a woman he wanted to sleep with (unless, of course, that person happened to be Janice).

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Thankfully, Chandler demonstrated a quick wit and an acute self-awareness that transformed from awkward to endearing as the years passed. If he was desperate, he didn’t hide behind a façade of what a great guy he was—rather, his painful honesty made him a relatable figure to those of us who watched.

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And then, when Chandler hooked up with Monica, one of his best friends, he worried that dating would ruin their friendship. Thankfully, their ability to laugh at themselves—and each other—plus a sense of who they were kept them from the “We were on a break!” roller coaster of Ross and Rachel.

Not all Nice Guys are Chandlers, unfortunately. There are varying degrees of Nice Guy, but the three I’m going to talk about today irk me for very specific reasons. Obviously, this is very biased, so feel free to add your own changes or suggestions in the comments.

Bachelor #1 for me would have to be…Aidan Shaw of Sex and the City. Yes, I chose Aidan. I can’t stand that guy. Years before I started watching the show, I heard tons of female acquaintances oohing and ahhing over Aidan, and what a great boyfriend he was. I will admit, Aidan has redeeming qualities, several more than many of the other guys Carrie Bradshaw dated. Aidan often seems like a fairytale, when compared to the alternative.

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Although, in the words of Pitch Perfect’s Fat Amy:

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I spent a lot of time during Sex and the City wanting to punch either Mr. Big or Carrie Bradshaw in the face, depending on whose level of selfishness was greater. And that alternated constantly.

Ahem. Back to Aidan. When compared to the iceberg that is Mr. Big, Aidan seems like The Perfect Boyfriend. He is a furniture designer with a dog and quirky long hair and jewelry. He genuinely wants to be with Carrie. But here’s the problem: it’s a certain kind of Carrie that she puts forth and he lets himself believe is the real Carrie. To develop this analysis a bit further, I need to split Aidan into his Season 3 and Season 4 incarnations, because there are some interesting shifts that may prove my point about his being a Nice Guy in the end.

Season 3’s Aidan is portrayed as an Aw-Shucks kind of guy with the hair and wardrobe to match.

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Charmed by Carrie’s deceit at being a designer so she can buy his expensive chair, he asks her out—but only if she’s a non-smoker (to his credit, he is upfront about his dealbreakers). Carrie panics and lies that she doesn’t really smoke. And Aidan chooses to believe this. Dude. A woman who is pulling out a cigarette during a casual conversation is not a casual smoker. Politely make your excuses and leave. But no. Aidan does later catch Carrie sneaking a smoke on their date and gravely notes that they have a problem. At the end of the episode, we see Carrie sticking on a nicotine patch, musing that she hopes he’s worth it.

To add to that, he likes the country and he has a dog, while Carrie is a fashionista who likes herself. A lot. She also ends up having an affair with Mr. Big, so there’s that. Her nervous, jumpy behavior should give Aidan the hint that All Is Not Well. Of course, when he finds out that not only has Carrie been smoking but cheating on him, he ends the relationship for very valid reasons.

Enter Season 4 Aidan. He knows how he feels—angry and hurt. Yet, he hooks up with Carrie and agrees to try their relationship again. Let’s also note that Season 4’s Aidan has been upgraded to better clothes, better hair, and a lither physique:

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But there’s a particular episode when he and Carrie have moved in together in which he treats her terribly. He slaps on a nicotine patch and makes all sorts of crazy gestures when he hears a voicemail Mr. Big has left. Now, mind you, Aidan has every right to be upset that Carrie was unfaithful. But if he’s still upset, he needs to not be dating her. He can’t be living the past if he’s willing to try out the future again. Carrie is not at all blameless in this story arc, but I don’t want to go there at this point. The point is: Aidan should never have signed off on a relationship he still had doubts about. End of story. And that’s why I was never Team Aidan. Knowing better and still choosing poorly does not make you Mr. Right.

Let’s move on to Exhibit 2, shall we? Meet Ross Geller. Yes, I realize he’s kind of an easy target. Nevertheless, the showrunners poised him to be the hero in Friends without fully realizing that in the end, it would be the prettiness of Jennifer Aniston (because she wasn’t really able to exercise her comic talents until Horrible Bosses, lesbihonest) and the wit and charm of Matthew Perry that would make the show an enduring hit.

But seriously, folks, Ross Geller is kind of a boob.

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The first season finds him wondering why his wife left him (answer: she’s a lesbian and he did not read the numerous signs). And then, his high school infatuation, Rachel Greene, walks back into his life, having run out on her own wedding. And for the entire first season and a half of Friends, we get to witness the delightful tango of Nice Guy pursue Object of Desire. Ross does things for Rachel, but Rachel doesn’t realize it’s a ploy for her to respond to Ross’s overtures with gratitude sex. Unlike Chandler, who listened and sympathized with Monica’s problems with no other expectation of return than the bounds of friendship would ask, Ross schemed to excite Rachel’s gratitude as a means of awakening her desire for him. Eventually, it actually worked.

And then Ross has to Schrute the whole thing up. To be fair, though Rachel is not blameless, either. During a really huge fight, in which their relationship kind of seemed to be ended, Ross had revenge sex with the girl who worked at Kinko’s (or some other post office/copy shop of sorts). When Rachel wanted to patch things up, he guiltily and uneasily agreed. Of course, Rachel found out about the copy girl, and accused Ross of cheating on her. And this  is where his iconic reply comes in:

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Yes, instead of admitting that he might have been a pre-emptive schmuck and misunderstood their fight, Ross defends himself and throws his own mistake back in Rachel’s face. Way to go, guy.

Of course, Ross spends the rest of the series trying to get back together with Rachel, and there’s all sorts of back-and-forth shenangians that wore us all out by the time the show ended. I never forgave Ross for being a manipulative jerk in the guise of a nice guy. Also, never forget the spray-tan incident.

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It’s time to move on to Guy #3, the one who inspired this post in the first place. Leonard Hofstadter, I’m looking at you. I can’t stand you, dude.

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Don’t look at me like that. You know what you’ve done. Leonard, in my eyes, is the perfect trope of Nice Guy. He does all sorts of boyfriend-y and friend-y things for new neighbor Penny, including getting her TV back from her old apartment and facing down her ex-boyfriend, being nice and listening to her many, many guy problems, inviting her over to eat dinner with the guys and switching out one of their routine dinners-out to the Cheesecake Factory, her place of employment.

But are Leonard’s motives innocent? I argue no. Because there are subtle moments when Leonard acts out his resentment that Penny is not eager to go out with him, especially when he can’t seem to work up the nerve to ask her out. He behaves passive-aggressively, especially when Penny obliviously accepts his gestures as markers of friendship—which on the surface they seem to be!

Leonard: if she’s not responding to your boyfriend gestures by becoming your girlfriend, then she’s just not that into you. By now, Leonard and Penny have gotten together and broken up and gotten back together again. But I just can’t seem to get past Leonard’s whiney, mopey, douchey behaviors.

On a separate note: Ladies. Do not feed the bad behaviors! If a guy is constantly offering to do amazing things for you, pause. Ask yourself, “Is he just a great friend, or is he trying to get out of the Friend Zone?” Beware. It can be a fine line. If you think there might be strings attached, do not take up those offers. Don’t take advantage of a Nice Guy just because he offers himself up. You will find yourself in an endless loop of obligations and resentment and regret and drama. And no one wants that.

Guys: don’t think that acting as a friend to enchant a woman is going to instantly win you relationships. Be a friend first. If you are at all a decent fellow for no other reason than being a friend, chances are some lady’s going to notice and reciprocate. Remember: we all liked Chandler better than Ross, because Chandler liked his friends and Ross liked himself.

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Filed under Celebrity, Culture, Friendship, Outlook, Television

The Face of Love: Defending (Gay) Marriage from a Christian Perspective

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. Somehow, time, energy, effort, or courage has seemed to fail me. But no longer. I have chipped away at this post bit by bit, until I can bring you some articulated thoughts. I want to defend marriage…marriage for ALL consenting adults (because gay marriage and straight marriage are not two separate entities. Kim Kardashian’s “marriage” was not the same as mine, though our civil unions have been designated with the same terms…but I digress).

 First, I would like to go over some Bible verses that have often been used to clobber gays and lesbians with. You know the verses I’m talking about: from the Garden of Eden, to Paul’s condemnation of certain behaviors, there are all kinds of verses that Christians have used to defend the man-woman-only stance. I’d like to reopen those for consideration. I want to go beyond a formalist, literalist reading of these verses, placing them within context of the passage, chapter, and book, as well as discussing the reasons for these verses’ inclusion in the Bible at all. Cultural/historical/linguistic contexts matter, too (yes, I am a literary scholar).

Then, after a biblical discussion, I would like to offer a more personal defense: why I, a Bible-following Christian, openly and honestly defend gay marriage, as both a civilian in my country and a member of my church. I will share pieces of my own thought-process, how my own homophobia eventually withered in the face of Christ-centered love.

Part I: For the Bible Tells Me So

Let’s get biblical, shall we? Here are some key texts that have been used to “prove” that marriage is only between a man and a woman. I say “prove,” because I believe that some of these verses have been taken out of context, and that the Bible is not always as cut-and-dried as those of us who follow it would like to think. **A note: I will quoting the New King James Version of the Bible, and many thanks to BibleGateway.com for its assistance with finding passages.**

*Genesis 2 (especially verses 18 and 24): This entails the creation of Adam and Eve, and their union, as proclaimed by God. Verse 18 states, “And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Okay. So we’re not meant to be celibate. As of yet, that helper (or in the King James version, helpmeet) has not been described in detail.

If we look at verse 24, it more clearly declares, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That’s not too much of a surprise, either. As Bible-thumpers are quick to note, this is God’s idealized roadmap: marriage between a man and a woman.

 But lest we be too quick to stop our discussion here, let’s consider all the ways in which the Edenic model was “violated” after the entrance of sin:

  •  Different races, cultures, and languages (let’s face it, folks, Jesus wasn’t white, and neither were Adam and Eve)
  • Polygamy
  • Slavery
  • Shortened life spans and weakened human forms
  • Eating animals

 Clearly, sin threw so many things off the idealized balance. Using this passage to decry homosexuality is narrow-minded, and it ignores a much larger picture: we have all of us sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, being covered only in the grace brought about Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 3:22-24). Thus, heterosexual Christian folk are in just as much need of grace as the rest of the world.

*The Destruction of Sodom: here, I’d like to discuss the notion of Sodom, sodomy, and sodomite. This term has today been conflated with homosexual, and thus, all verses with the words “sodomite” have been translated to mean same-sex attractions. I would argue, based on the context where many of these verses take place, it’s a matter of hermeneutics and translation, not at all related to LGBT people.

 Let’s start with our first references to Sodom, in Genesis 13:10-13 and then again in Genesis 19. In Genesis 13, Abraham and Lot have amassed so much wealth (that is, livestock), that they have agreed to part company, in order to maintain harmony within their respective camps. Lot chooses the plain, in which the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are located. All the Bible says in verse 13 is, “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” It’s a little vague, especially since we aren’t sure just what those sins are.

 Genesis 19 becomes more explicit. As the Lord has explained to Abraham that not ten righteous exist in Sodom, and it will be destroyed, two angels come to Lot’s house to warn him and his families of the impending destruction, and remove them from the city. Lot finds these angels, disguised as men, while sitting in the gates of Sodom, and then presses them to have supper and lodging at his house.

Here’s where it gets interesting: “Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally. So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”

 The heteronormative instinct is to jump on the “carnal knowledge” and say, “Welp, that’s what makes them Sodomites.” But wait…did you notice that Lot offered up, instead of these guests, his daughters? Clearly, what we’re dealing with is not gay sex, but sexuality used in an orgiastic sense. If Lot felt that his daughters were an acceptable substitute (and yuck, I can’t believe I had to type that, but Lot’s family is all kinds of effed up), then these men were looking for sex wherever they could get it, or force it. I read somewhere that when you host a stranger/guest, you must protect him/her at all costs. These men violated the guest code, which is part of what makes them so immoral—they were willing to violate guests of Lot, for their own purposes. If you think about rape, it’s rarely about lust and more often, about the sort of power that comes from physically violating another individual. There’s not a whole lot more we can say about Lot, except that his wife got turned into a pillar of salt, and his daughters got him drunk, so they could get pregnant by him, which, incidentally, is a direct violation of one of the Levitical purity laws that God will later outline in Leviticus 18.

I Kings 14:24 mentions the wicked reign of Rehoboam: “And there were also perverted persons[a] in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.” The footnote clarifies that “perverted persons” in Hebrew actually means “qadesh, that is, one practicing sodomy and prostitution in religious rituals.” Interesting. So does this refer to an LGBT individual? Nope, I think we’re referring to pagan religious practices in the land. The same wording and meaning also occurs, in I Kings 15:12, I Kings 22:46, II Kings 23:7, with an allusion to sodomites in I Timothy 1:10.  

Another mention in Isaiah 3:9 is a bit more vague. In describing the fallen state of both Israel and Judah, the prophet alludes to the people’s evils, noting, “And they declare their sin as Sodom; / They do not hide it. / Woe to their soul! / For they have brought evil upon themselves.” Is this literally referring to acts of Sodomy, or is this a more poetic allusion, to forge a connection in readers’ minds? That’s something readers have to interpret. But there’s nothing direct enough that cannot be drawn without interpretation.

 It gets really interesting in Ezekiel 16:49, where God (through his prophet) actually chides Israel for being more wicked than both Samaria and Sodom. Ouch! What, specifically was Sodom accused of doing? According to Ezekiel, “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.” Keep the word “abomination” in mind. We’re going to talk about that soon.

 Jude 7 uses Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of sexual immortality and going “after strange flesh” as an example of experiencing the Law’s vengeance. Now, what that means is not clear, and going through other translations has not elucidated that. Take from it what you will.

 *Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20: here’s the Bible-thumper’s mainstay. Leviticus 18 discusses sexual morality at length. Here, God explains to Moses that there are certain lifestyle statutes acquired from both Egypt and Canaan, none of which He wants the children of Israel to engage in.

 Verses 6-18 discuss, in detail, not uncovering your relatives’ nakedness. I searched through several commentaries, which seem to interpret this as incestuous relationships. Much time is spent on detailing the mother-son, father-daughter, etc. verboten encounters.

 Then we get to verses 19-23: “19 ‘Also you shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness as long as she is in her customary impurity. 20 Moreover you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife, to defile yourself with her. 21 And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. 23 Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion.”

 Bible-thumpers have a hey-day with this, since it seems to clearly outlaw homosexual relations. But notice the other practices that God has outlawed for the Israelites: not having sex during a woman’s period, not sleeping with your neighbor’s wife, not sacrificing your family members to the god Molech, and not mating with an animal. And notice that God does not call any of these a “sin,” but an “abomination,” or, in the case of bestiality, a “perversion.”

 This leads me to recommend that you spend some time looking up the word “abomination,” as it has been translated from the Hebrew: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abomination_(Bible). Or, for all references and differentiations in translation of “abomination,” here’s a website that does all the work for you: http://www.dragonlordsnet.com/abomination.htm.

 Okay, so “abomination” in a biblical sense does not mean the same thing that it does today. Therefore, while I don’t see God explicitly sanctioning same-sex relations, nor do I see Him decrying it as an outright sin. This is where it gets tricky for followers of the Bible, because we don’t want to say, “Oh, well, that means I can go have sex with a gopher,” or, on the other hand, start stoning our neighbors for having an affair. For me, this is where faith comes in. 

What God Himself makes most clear, is actually in Leviticus 18: 24-29: “24 ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. 25 For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. 26 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you 27 (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), 28 lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. 29 For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.”

Because God was trying to set up a nation set apart from the other cultures around it, He outlined a very specific lifestyle for His people to follow, precisely so they would appear unique to the world.

 Let me also note that God spends way more time on dietary laws (Leviticus 11), bodily discharges (Leviticus 15), and leprosy (Leviticus 13-14) than He does on gay sex. In fact, He mentions having sex on one’s period in the same passage as gay sex. So…I don’t exactly see Evangelicals going round and putting women in red tents while on their periods (unless, of course, it’s an underground society). Nor do I see the Evangelicals mobbing Red Lobster stoning people for eating or cooking shellfish, lobster, and crab.

Leviticus 20 also makes clear that the penalty for infractions of all sexual immorality laws (which include “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them,” in verse 13) is being put to death. In our contemporary society, the death penalty has become an increasingly polarized concept, fraught with warring ideals. What does this passage have to offer? I can’t comfortably rationalize it away, and I don’t intend to. Rather, I point to the word “abomination,” which implies the breaking of a cultural taboo, rather than a mortal sin.

 *Deuteronomy 22:5 declares, “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” I love this verse. In fact, I know church members who used it to tell their teenage daughters this is why they couldn’t wear pants that zipped up front (I’m not kidding), and then forced their daughters to wear jeans that zipped on the side. Using this verse to clobber people seems absurd to me, especially since styles for men and women do have more overlap today. Especially when you consider verse 11: “You shall not wear a garment of different sorts, such as wool and linen mixed together.” Next Sabbath, I am going to check tags on people’s clothing, because NO ONE should wear polyester and cotton mixed together. It’s in the Bible, y’all (I’m done being cheeky; I had to get that out of my system).

 *Deuteronomy 23:17-18. Here, God states that there will be no ritual harlot or a “perverted” son of Israel in the nation, declaring, “18 You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the Lord your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.” My footnotes declare that these refer to the qedeshah (feminine of the qadesh)and the qadesh, which again, refers to those practicing sodomy and prostitution in religious rituals. Other translations of the Bible refer to a “dog” as a male prostitute, or a sodomite (which we’ve established in meaning). Revelation 22:15, also refers to a “dog” in conjunction with sexual immorality.

 *Romans 1:26-32. The apostle Paul, who can certainly seem like an old curmudgeon, has lots to say. Let’s start with this passage, where Paul decries the ungodliness and unrighteousness of certain unidentified men: “26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

What’s happening here? At first glance, it seems as if Paul is openly decrying homosexuality. If you look more closely, though, you might see something different. The men are turning away from female partners they already have…their lust has become so enlarged that they have sex with everyone! Another thing to consider: temple orgies. In pagan temples around Europe and the Middle East, where Paul was writing, people were participating in temple orgies, using sexual promiscuity for religious rituals. I don’t think it’s right to say, “God hates homosexuality” using this passage, because I believe it’s just not that simple.

 *1 Corinthians 6:9-10: here’s a translation issue at play. Here, Paul declares, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” Stop the presses, some might argue—clear-cut proof! Not so fast. The footnote by homosexuals clarifies to mean “catamites.” If you look up what a catamite is (Thanks, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catamite), you can see that it refers to a young, beautiful boy who becomes the companion of a young man, often to be groomed for sexual purposes. That is, a concubine or a male prostitute, something the Bible has already condemned. This text is not referring to an LGBT person, but rather, the grooming of a child (Hello, pedophilia? Is that you?) for an adult’s sexual use/misuse.

*1 Corinthians 7:2-16: This passage refers to Paul’s treatise on marriage, using man/woman language. No surprise here, and in a cultural context, it’s just a way of referring to marriage partners. In my opinion, there’s nothing that outright makes gay marriage unbiblical, nor is this something to be used as a weapon to disprove its civil legitimacy. But interestingly enough, Paul does say, “But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” I don’t have an articulate thought, I just found that rather fascinating…

*What does Jesus have to say about gay marriage, or homosexuality? I can’t seem to find anything specifically on that topic. He does say about the Law, “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill,” which can be interpreted as a binding to the Levitical laws, or even a banishing of those Laws, since He was crucified (and there’s a bit of conflict within the Christian Church about interpreting Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law).

 He does briefly mention celibacy (but does not mention it as extensively as Paul does), and categorizes the different kinds of eunuchs: “ For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it” (Matt. 19:12). So, lest we think that all gay people become eunuchs or celibate, allow for a little compassion, as Jesus does. Not everyone was made to be celibate, nor does that same rule apply to all individuals. Therefore, to those who declare that in order to be in the church, our LGBT members must be celibate, I respond, “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone…” (para. from John 8:7). Don’t prescribe what you yourself are unwilling to do!

My findings from the Bible are not conclusive. But that’s actually okay. If I am searching, praying, and dialoguing, then I am engaging with God’s Word. Also: it’s good to recognize the incongruities and contradictions that arise. I don’t think we can lambast gays and lesbians with Leviticus 18, ESPECIALLY if we’re mixing our fabrics, eating meats God declared unclean, and not undergoing cleansing rituals after each period. Nor, if we are to believe that the Law was abolished under the Crucifixion, should we eat all sorts of meat, mix our fabrics, and still expect our LGBT friends to still follow the law that we’ve merrily banished for ourselves. The Bible is not to be cherry-picked!

Finally, one last verse to consider, from Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” If we are all one in Christ, I would think it’s time to treat each other equally.

Part II: All About Love

I never thought about my sexuality. I just knew that I liked boys. In a similar vein, I grew up Christian without knowing too much about what my beliefs entailed. It wasn’t until I was 15, facing my mom’s cancer diagnosis, that I actually started to take my faith seriously, and took personal accountability for my own spirituality.

It wasn’t till about seven or eight years later that I began to understand the complexities of human sexuality. You see, I’d grown up believing that homosexuality was a choice. But when I thought about it, I didn’t choose my sexuality. I just recognized it, and at a very young age, too. Ergo, how could someone who was LGBT choose, especially if they recognized it early on? A dear friend of mine came out to me in the fall of 2007, which forced me to come to terms with my homophobia head-on. I realized, “My ignorant/hateful behavior could affect someone I care deeply about.” So I set out to educate myself. Learn as much as I could. Take it to God in prayer. Above all, love my friend as that…my friend. Not a project. Not a sinner. A peer. An equal. I have asked honest and frank questions, praying for an open mind and a devotion to God’s will.

It’s not always been easy to be open-minded, or to balance one’s faith community with one’s world community. I struggle with various parts of my identity, and sometimes it’s hard to be open-minded in situations I am unfamiliar with.

But what has demolished the last shreds of my own homophobia has been marriage: the marriage of friends of mine, and my own. To protect their privacy, I won’t mention this amazing couple by name or gender. Witnessing their loving, unselfish relationship and how well-matched they are has shown me what a great marriage looks like. I saw them endure the devastating loss of a child, and then the tremulous hope of parenthood again. Through it all, they strengthened each other, and inspired me to be a better person. 

And then, when I married The Chancellor, I understood love for God and for another in ways I cannot explain. Marriage is a divine mystery that I still find myself dazzled by. I am with someone who understands me almost as well (better, sometimes!)  as I understand myself.

Why would I let anyone try to mandate that or take it away from me? Why should some unrelated person vote on my marriage? What investment do they have in my personal relationship? Why should someone else tell me that I can or cannot manage my husband’s end-of-life affairs, be part of his insurance plan, or receive benefits that belong to our marriage? Does this sound familiar?

Jesus says in Luke 6:31, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” The Golden Rule is a lofty order: but if I am serious about my faith in God, it’s what I must follow. If I don’t want someone taking away my civil rights, then I must not take away theirs. It’s that simple.

I used to differentiate my stance on gay marriage into civil and Christian perspectives. I’ve merged the two identities, because I realize that I can no longer be silent in my faith community. Gay and lesbian members are increasingly leaving places of worship, because they do not feel welcome. It is going to take a lot of struggle, prayer, and dialogue for churches to work through both doctrine and the very real physical/spiritual needs of their congregations. But I would like to start by having an open dialogue on this forum. I would encourage you to respond, no matter what your stance is (and I would urge you to do so civilly).

In the end, I have been instructed to love God first and foremost, and then to love my neighbor as I value myself (Matt. 22:36-39). That is the highest calling God can offer anyone. Thus, in loving my neighbor, I am learning to put aside ignorance, fear, and hatred. Instead, I ask God every day to fill me with His extravagant love and take action.

One last thought: I just finished reading Christopher Paul Curtis’s wonderful children’s novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963. The epilogue finds Mr. Curtis addressing his young readers about civil rights. While geared towards racial equality, I find this passage particularly relevant:

Many heroic people died in the struggle for civil rights. Many others were injured or arrested or lost their homes or businesses. It is almost impossible to imagine the courage of the first African American children who walked into segregated schools or the strength of the parents who permitted hem to face the hatred and violence that awaited them. They did it in the name of the movement, in the quest for freedom.

These people are the true American heroes. They are the boys and girls, the women and men who have seen that things are wrong and have not been afraid to ask ‘Why can’t we change this?’ They are the people who believe that as long as one person is being treated unfairly, we all are. These are our heroes, and they still walk among us today. One of them may be sitting next to you as you read this, or standing in the next room making your dinner, or waiting for you to come outside and play.

One of them may be you. (210)

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It Gets Better…

Today is National Coming Out Day. Though I identify as heterosexual, I have many beloved friends and respected colleagues that identify under the LGBT moniker. I use today as a reminder to be a light to everyone, no matter their race, gender, orientation, or socioeconomic status.

I don’t know how it feels to be bullied for being gay, but I do remember how it feels to be unhappy in high school. I was geek before it was chic. I was nerd long before Big Bang Theory made the mainstream. I felt awkward for liking school and weird for being smart. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t perfect or blameless: I pushed people away who tried to help and set up defense mechanisms to avoid getting hurt. I hurt other people’s feelings, too. It took me years of healing and forgiveness to accept myself for who I was/am, and more time to embrace my life and accept others for who they were, too.

If there is anything I could tell my 15-year-old self, it would be, “It gets better.” Dan Savage started the It Gets Better project about a year ago, and I can find no better phrase to encourage the downtrodden than that hopeful expression of future joy. If anyone had told me that I would find extravagant happiness with the man I am married to, I wouldn’t have been so upset that I didn’t have a boyfriend when I was 16. If anyone could have told my young self that my career would exceed my wildest dreams for myself, I wouldn’t have always felt so awkward in my own skin.

I am a teacher, because I see a mission towards my students. If I can help them find their way in life, then I have not lived in vain. If I can ease the suffering, even just a little, then I can help them guide themselves into bountiful, blessed life. As, an adult, reflecting on life past, present, and future, I can honestly say, IT GETS BETTER. Really.

 

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Filed under Friendship, Outlook