Archive for the ‘Sexuality’ Category

Is The Toronto Star Printing Articles From The Onion?


I’m seriously not sure if this is an Onion article or a legitimate piece from the Toronto Star. It’s entitled “The realm between he and she.

Canadian singer-songwriter Rae Spoon identifies not as a woman, not as a man, but somewhere in between.

To Spoon, and what appears to be an increasingly vocal minority, gender is “more like a whole galaxy.”

Which introduces the problem of pronouns. Spoon says “he” has expectations of maleness, “she” of femaleness. So Spoon, 32, likes to be referred to as “they.” Others prefer “ze” and “hir” (pronounced hear) or “per” (short for person)

Australia and New Zealand now allow citizens to be neither male nor female on their passports. Canada and the U.K. are considering a similar move.

“This might be new for many of us,” concedes Sheila Cavanagh, sexuality studies program co-ordinator at York University, “but there is a reluctance to recognize a whole host of ways of being gendered that isn’t determined by our bodies. We have to challenge our presumptions that to be a man is to necessarily be masculine and to be a woman is to necessarily be feminine.”

Use of language can be fluid for some gender-variant people. Ivan Coyote, a writer who sometimes works with Spoon, likes to use “they,” but when performing in schools also uses she in self-reference. “I have a fairly masculine presence, so in schools I use “she” because I want to present as wide a spectrum as possible of what a female-assigned person or she person can look like.””

How does Coyote want to be referred for this story? “An artist. Author of 10 books. An activist with youth. A human being. A musician. I’m so many more things than my gender and so much more than someone who doesn’t fit into a gender box.”

For a while S. Bear Bergman, a writer, educator and storyteller, campaigned for “gender non-specific” pronouns, including ze and hir. Hir could be especially useful, Bergman argues, in applications to avoid awkward constructs such as “when the applicant has completed his/her portfolio . . . ” Why not make it simpler: “hir” portfolio.

But these words haven’t caught on because a marginalized group, “trans and gender-queer people,” are advocating for them, says Bergman. “There’s a part of me that hates the fact that they and them appear to be the words that are going to win and have cultural uptake.”

As for hir, people don’t know how to pronounce it. “I know new things are difficult and require people to stretch themselves, but just because we feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.”

Sometimes the grease on the slippery slope speeds you up when you’re about to hit the bottom of the hill.

Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, (Seven) Years Later

In 2009, I wrote a post called “Seven years of Brian…” after he penned The Last Word and the Word after that. It’s short so I’ll just repost it here:

I have a thought. Hopefully it’s a good one.

If you at any time in the past couple years read Brian McLaren’s The Last “Word”(?) and the “Word”(?) After That and thought hey, this guy is speaking truth to power, you are roughly seven years away from: a) totally apostatizing; or b) being indistinguishable from a mainline liberal Protestant.

I know this is a little punchy but I honestly think it’s going to happen if it hasn’t already. All theologies seem to have a certain drift affixed to them.

If a guy can sit down and stomach something like a John Piper sermon, at the very least I know his temptation isn’t going to drift in that way.

I remember regretting writing this post at the time because I thought my timing was off. I mean, why seven years and not twenty? But I kept the post up, hoping that I had effectively channeled my inner Nostradamus and gained the affections of my fellow blog contributors.

I think that my prediction with a) was a little strong, but b) was bang on.

Don’t believe me?

Consider Brian McLaren’s current stance on sexuality. And we’ve just learned that Rob Bell is now in the same boat. In a recent talk at San Francisco’s Grace Chapel, Bell said the following:

I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.

I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And I think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.

The reality is that the writing was on the wall with this all along. Consider Ben Witherington’s summary of how Bell spoke about this topic in 2007:

The second problem area is ethics, which became very apparent tonight when Rob Bell was asked about homosexuality. His answers was evasive in part, and disturbing in other parts, and clearly unBiblical in other parts and in this he sounds like some other leaders in the Emergent Church movement. Some specifics should be mentioned.

First of all, Rob made the blanket statement that you have no moral authority to speak on this issue unless you have gay friends and understand their struggle …

Secondly, Rob then makes an argument from silence which is in fact misleading. The argument is this— “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality” …

Rob then raises the issue of hypocrisy …

Rob then raises the point that the Bible says nothing about sexual orientation …

What interested me most about characters like McLaren and Bell on sundry controversial topics wasn’t so much what they said as to what they didn’t say.

It looks like what I thought was going to be a long slide down the toboggan hill to mainline liberalism happened much faster than expected. Bell and McLaren’s crazy carpet has some pretty impressive grease. I just hope other people realized this in time before they hit the fence at the bottom of the hill.

Should Evangelicals Be Using Henri Nouwen As Their Poster Boy?

Henri Nouwen has long been a bon vivant of the evangelical world, even before his death in 1996. Nouwen was a Dutch Roman Catholic priest who held prestigious posts at the University of Notre Dame and Yale Divinity School before giving up a promising academic career to work at a home for the mentally disadvantaged in Toronto, L'Arche Daybreak.

His writings are immensely popular, especially with evangelicals. JP Moreland, in his recent Kingdom Triangle has said that Nouwen's work has a different “texture” than many other writers on the spiritual life. It's as if Nouwen had just met with God. I would have to agree.

In my undergraduate days at Tyndale, Nouwen was all the rage. In fact, Tyndale has always had a special relationship with Nouwen, given his proximity to the campus. In Timothy Larsen's history of Tyndale Seminary, For Christ in Canada, Larsen tells the story of how Nouwen was the controversial guest speaker for Tyndale's (which at that time was known as Ontario Bible College) graduation in 1991:

The Academic Dean of Tyndale (OBC) at the time, Ian Rennie, recounts that at his last meeting with Nouwen before his death, Nouwen had requested that he have an office in the seminary after his retirement, saying that “the faculty and students comprised the only academic theological audicence in Toronto that responded wholeheartedly to his message.” OBC's relationship with Nouwen was seen as scandalous by many evangelicals in the early 1990s, but Rennie justified the relationship by saying by aligning himself with “such prominent evangelicals as Alexander Whyte and A.W. Tozer who valued the great Catholic saints in their knowledge of Christ, however we might disagree with some of their Tridentine theological formulations.

One “open secret” is that Henri Nouwen struggled with homosexuality. In fact, evangelicals are now using this fact as evidence to buttress their case that it's possible for a gay Christian to live a deep fulfilling life without having to satisfy those desires. You can see Ravi Zacharias do that in the clip I've posted above. It appears that he's internalized the Henri Nouwen story as a way of responding to questions about sexuality and the church.

I now question the wisdom of this.

In Michael Ford's biography of Nouwen, The Wounded Prophet, Ford tells of the charismatic priest's close relationship to the former Catholic priest, Maurice Monette and his partner, Jeff Jackson. Ford writes:

He (had) talked humorously about what seemed like a set of impossible options, which he discussed regularly with Maurice and Jeff: The first was for him to stay a celibate priest and “come out” as a gay man; the second was for him to leave the priesthood and be open to a loving noncelibate relationship; the third was for him to remain a publicly closeted gay priest and be open to developing a relationship – not really an option, they thought, for a man of such integrity.

Ford implies here that Nouwen actually considered the second as a live option.

Ford goes on to describe Nouwen's relationship with another gay couple. Here he affirmed their commitment ceremony as being “solemn and holy.”

In Toronto, Henri Nouwen became a close friend of a gay Roman Catholic couple, Joseph Stellpflug and David Martin, who offered him their home as a sanctuary from the public demands of his priesthood. “He recognized our relationship as life-giving and we became a safe haven for him where he could just be himself,” said David. When the couple's relationship was formalized at a Metropolitan Community Church ceremony, Henri sent them a Van Gogh print with “an incredibly beautiful letter” affirming that they were making a very solemn and holy commitment. From 1994, Nouwen visited the couple once a month.

The author concludes with what is perhaps his clearest views on Nouwen's personal opinions:

Because of his wounds he was able to be a prophet in his priesthood, his writing, his teaching, … his clear support of faithful gay relationships, especially among Roman Catholics. He said gay men and women had a 'unique vocation in the Christian community.'

Of course this doesn't render Ravi's use of Nouwen's testimony illegitimate. After all, regardless of what Nouwen personally believed on the topic, by all accounts he took his vow to celibacy seriously. And yet, if Ford is right, evangelicals should seriously reconsider using Nouwen as their poster boy, his work on prayer and spirituality, notwithstanding.

So, what do you think about this? In light of this new info, should evangelicals keep recommending Nouwen's work?


The Laws of Nature And Of Nature’s God

One of the characteristic vices of the modern (postmodern?) world is ignorance. This may seem counterintuitive: aren’t we the smart ones? Didn’t we land someone on the moon, build the Internet, develop industrial agriculture? But intelligence in one area does not preclude ignorance in another, as anyone who has met a dumb-smart-person can testify.

And one area where the modern world is woefully ignorant is in the area of ethics. What I mean to say by this is: the modern world is living on the borrowed capital of its premodern predecessors. When it issues moral condemnations, it is presuming a metaphysical foundation that, in every other way (religion, philosophy, science, etc.) it has willfully discarded.

Let me attempt to provide an illustration. If there’s anything that modern activists don’t like, it’s violence. Well, what is violence, exactly? Let’s do a little detective work. (more…)

If Heterosexuality Isn’t Normative Anymore, Why Is Monogamy?

Disclaimer: If you’re offended by this, please at least read the whole post. I’m trying to make a serious point, but you’ll have to churn through the whole thing in order to get it.

Let’s assume that you’re one of those leftish evangelical types who’s gone squishy on sexuality. Yes, Holy Writ might seem to be a tad bit negative on homosexuality, but hey, Paul hadn’t actually encountered a faithful and loving gay relationship, so clearly he couldn’t be against that sort of phenomenon, now could he? I personally think that’s a terrible argument, but let’s grant it for the sake of the point I’m going to make.

So, now you’re ok with homosexual relationships. But soon you discover that (some) homosexual relationships look a little bit different from the heterosexual ideal. It turns out that some of the so-called ‘conservative’ gay authors that you read believe that a little consensual horizontal jogging outside of the marital contract is now on the table. And lest you think that this is one-sided, let’s assume that’s it not. Both parties are consenting to this, and both don’t mind what the other party is up to, as long as they’re told beforehand. If you don’t believe me, read something by Dan Savage or Andrew Sullivan.

I’m assuming that even though you’re squishy on orthodox views on sexuality, you can’t be ok with this. Most won’t be. Gay marriage … ok. But, bending on monogamy or equivocating on it to the degree that the term loses any meaning at all? That’s a bridge too far.

But, why not? How would you respond to Sullivan or Savage if this makes you uncomfortable? It seems to me that the arguments that got you to gay marriage also theoretically dismantle any claim to the normativity of monogamy. There are three you could make and all three don’t work.

1) If you point out the negative consequences of non-monogamous relationships with empirical data, proponents of pseudo-monogamy could just point out that those consequences don’t necessarily follow from the behaviour. After all, conservative voices have been trying to shine a spotlight on negative health consequences to homosexual behaviour for years, but to no avail. After all, that’s not their truth. And if there are negative consequences, well duh. That’s just the thing that we’d expect to find. After all, Western society hasn’t exactly brought out the red carpet for pseudo-monogamous couples now has it?

And by the way, you’re a bigot for even bringing it up.

2) If you point to Scripture, just where are you going to point to? What exactly is normative about any sexual behaviour anymore? The problem with putting Scripture in a guillotine choke for one issue is that when you try to resurrect it for others, you’ll find that, lo and behold, there’s still no pulse. Just where are you going to point to? Adam and Eve in the Garden as an example of monogamy? Puh-leaze. Try and do that without sounding like Jerry Falwell.

3) But, maybe you’re stuck on the Scripture point. Romans 1-3 right? Well, the pseudo-monogamist responds,  “You know what, Paul hadn’t exactly experienced the exact type of pseudo-monogamist relationship that we’re talking about. No no no. When Paul heard or read of extra marital coitus, it was only when one party wasn’t in on the jig. But, we’re both in on it. We clearly love each other and since our situation is different from the specific one that Paul is addressing, well, Romans 1-3 can’t apply.”

So, I’m curious, just how would you defend traditional monogamy?

If you’re left without any resources to do this, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board and abandon the silly arguments that put you in this position in the first place.

In Defense of Offensive Speech

Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institute, on why we need offensive speech. In short, if we protect one another from being offended, we’ll never end up knowing what is correct. Bad ideas are the soil out of which good ideas come.

I wish more liberals would listen to voices like Rauch’s, especially when it comes to matters of sexuality. It’s important to note that Rauch is a gay rights activist who has written Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for AmericaAnd yet, Rauch is clear that he’d never want to see conservative voices silenced. May his tribe increase, though I doubt they will.