Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

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​An Open Letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

26 October, 2016

Thank you, Mr. Paxton. Thank you for making your opinions on transgender people so clear. In a cultural climate that does not question the unfounded fears and hatred lobbed against those who are different, it is good to know we can count on you to lead a national campaign of hatred and toxic Christianity against us. Thanks in large part to your bigotry we cannot use the bathroom, we cannot get an education, and, now, we cannot even expect our health care officials to use our names and pronouns much less give us medical and psychiatric care.

Mr. Paxton, your rhetoric against us has stirred the coals of hate and fanned the flames of a national Salem witch hunt. You have declared the transgender medical condition “evil.” You use debunked pseudoscience to incite hatred and promote very non-Christ-like attitudes. You have sounded the cry of discrimination against yourself and those who believe like you, but I ask you, are you truly being discriminated against? Have transgender Americans sued the federal government to prevent you from using public accommodations? Have transgender Americans sought legal methods of stripping you of your rights? Are transgender Americans filing suits to prevent you from receiving timely, appropriate, and life saving medical care? How can you consider yourself oppressed when you are the person doing these things and more to a vulnerable population both in your home state and in your country?

Mr. Paxton, you have brought forty-three (43) suits against the government all intended to curtail or remove laws protecting one of the most discriminated against populations in the United States. You sow division and approve rhetorical methods that paint those different than you as malicious, evil, and destructive. Your rhetoric and abuse of power has turned family against family. I know because I have experienced the result of your hatred and propaganda. Your campaign against other Americans, the legal actions you have taken against us, the ads you have supported that spread lies, hold up pseudoscience, and are filked with malicious intent has twisted the thoughts and attitudes of a brother who once stood beside me into a holier-than-thou, self-satisfied bigotry. I would ask if you are pleased with this result, but we both know the answer would be yes.

We, also, know that this is not really a letter to you because even if it found its way to your door, you would not read it. This is a letter besseching my allies to take a stand against bigotry. This is a letter to encourage those whose voices have been trampled by your culture of hate. This is a letter to those still undecided, those riding the fence of public decision, those who believe they can stay neutral in the face of active hate and bigotry. Ultimately, this is a letter to my few remaining family and friends in hopes that they, too, shall not be swayed against me by the rhetoric of a tiny, fearful man with too much authority.
In relation to this article by ThinkProgress.org: 

Providing Transgender People Health Care Violates Religious Beliefs, New Lawsuit Claims

From the article:

The suit claims that even providing “psychiatric support” as part of a medical transition would violate its “best medical judgment and its religious beliefs.” Even simply providing insurance coverage for such procedures would “constitute impermissible material cooperation with evil.”

Combined with a court decision last week that justified a funeral parlor firing a trans woman for religious reasons, this lawsuit sets a terrifying precedent for transgender people. If these cases reach the Supreme Court and it follows the same reasoning it used in Hobby Lobby — perhaps less likely without Justice Antonin Scalia, but still possible— it would create a society in which transgender people could legally be denied the necessary foundations of life simply because of their identities.

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A Call to Divine-Love

18 April, 2015

In her new book, Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans writes of baptism, The Christian’s descent into the water represents a surrender, a death, to the old way of living. Emergence represents a resurrection, a starting over again. Her words made me pause and I wondered what it is we die to and what we are resurrected into. These are difficult questions and I know that many people far smarter that I am, including Ms. Evans, have struggled to answer these questions. As a teacher, however, I am wired to clarify my thoughts and to share them with others. From my experiences with love and faith and reflection on when I have felt closest to the Divine, I find myself wondering if what we die to is our hindrances and what we are born into is the practice of Divine-Love.

Learning to accept God’s love is a process of little deaths. It is allowing anything that hinders us from having a relationship with God, anything that limits or dampens our experience of Divine-Love, to fall away. There are some things that we can mutually agree are hindrances to our experience of Divine-Love, such as the harbouring of hate and me-centred behaviours, but more often, the things that separate us from Divine-Love are specific to us and our frailties. What separates me from God may not be what separates my sister from God. I struggle to see God’s love when I watch shows with bitter, cynical heroines; they are a stumbling block for me because they encourage a very pessimistic view of the world, but for my sister they may only be entertainment because such shows do not affect how she sees others. For my sister it may be alcohol or spending, violent images or popular music, excessive intellectualism or shallow relationships. What matters isn’t an agreed upon list of what interferes with a God-Centred life but how we respond to our hindrances and to each other. We are called to limit or eliminate things that will hurt us and we are called to encourage our sisters in their walk. What we are not called to do is determine for them what their stumbling blocks are nor are we to make our frailties their frailties by extension. If I struggle with alcohol, it would be kindness from my sister to not drink around me, but it would be cruelty on my part to say my sister should never drink. Conversely, if my sister struggles with loving herself unconditionally she should not resolve her struggle by defining who I am or can be, but I should respond to her with compassion and encourage to see herself and others as God does. We cannot judge what is in the hearts of others, we can only address what dampens our own heart’s receptivity to love. This is why the attempt by Christians to categorise acceptable and unacceptable sins or to limit church membership to certain individuals defies the very nature of Divine-Love.

If we are constantly shedding our hindrances, our dead behaviours and attitudes, we must replace these things with something better. We must allow ourselves to be resurrected into the compassion that sought us out, the non-judgemental love given to us without expectation. Divine-Love reaches out for us regardless of our flaws and imperfections. God does not say “I will love you if… .” This is a very difficult concept for us to grasp because human-love, no matter how pure, is always conditional. There are many things that our love survives but there are limits. Perhaps that love hits its limit when our significant other cheats on us, when the child we sacrificed for makes choices we can’t agree with, when our parent changes, or when we grow apart from our friends. As much as we don’t want to admit it, we have limits and those limits are there because we love through reciprocity; both sides give and both sides get. Divine-Love, however, is different. Divine-Love is given without the need for reciprocity. This is not the love of a hopeless lover, because even she hopes the person she loves will love her back. The closest we can come to understanding it is found in compassion for those who have hurt us. It is radical mercy. Desmond Tutu demonstrated such love when he urged Nelson Mandela to show mercy toward those who benefited from and perpetuated apartheid. Tutu called it reconciling forgiveness. Reconciling love is offered without regard to what will be returned. This is the love that we are resurrected into and because we have received it and been shaped by it, we are able to give it to others. Unfortunately, we are not perfect vessels for Divine-Love; we are mentally and physically incapable of its constant expression. Thankfully, we have not been called to be. Instead, we are called to move toward it. Having been born into reconciling love we are beholden to move ever deeper into it. As we grow and mature, we should express this love a little more consistently and a little more purely. A few might progress great distances, but all of us will gain ground. Through practice and patience (with ourselves more than anyone else) our capacity for compassion will grow; we will each be able to hold a little more and in response give a little more to everyone else.

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Trans* Theology: On Trans* Individuals, Inclusion, and Christianity

3 January, 2013

One of the most vexing questions for trans* and cis Christians is how God views trans* individuals. Both inclusionists and fundamentalists turn to the Bible for support, however, the passages that support inclusion are rarely addressed in sermons or in the media. Below you will find the passages that argue for inclusion and the interpretations that support inclusion not just by trans* individuals or local churches but also by entire denominations.

Key Verses:

So God created humanity in God’s own image, in the image of God, God created humanity; male and female God created them. — Genesis 1:27

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. — Galatians 3:28

Let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says YAHWEH: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off.’ — Isaiah 56:3-5

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it. — Matthew 19:21

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture [Isaiah 56:3-5] he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?’ And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. — Acts 8:35-38

A Note on Language:

When the various books of the Bible were written across the cultural and temporal timespan they cover, there was not a word for transsexual or transgender. The word eunuch, however, included three categories, only one of which was what we understand as a modern day eunuch. The other categories included under this umbrella-term were men who chose celibacy and birth-assigned males who dressed and lived as women (in other words, trans* individuals).

A Note on Formatting:

Anything directly quoted will appear in italics and any commentary from me will be in plain-face.

Site Reference 1 (Presbyterian, Reformed):

http://www.whosoever.org/v2Issue2/starchild.html

This Biblical commentary on Isaiah 56:4, Matthew 19:21, and Acts 8:35-38 (along with other passages) specifically addresses the idea of trans* individuals in a context of Christianity and explains why the Presbyterian, Reformed church feels their inclusion by the Church is part of God’s plan.

Important Passages:

 

  1. We see this new inclusion and celebration in the unfolding of Salvation History in Acts. Before the marvelous stories of the enfolding of the Samaritans and of the Gentiles into the Church we have the wonderful little story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. It is interesting that when he meets Philip, the Eunuch, most likely a Jew who probably knew that Deuteronomy excluded him from the covenant, was reading the prophet Isaiah, which envisions the inclusion of eunuchs. Unlike Peter, who needed a vision from heaven to cross the boundary of including Gentiles, Philip needed no prodding to know that the Spirit was calling him to include eunuchs in the Kingdom of God. Philip proclaims the Good News, the eunuch believes and is received into the family of faith immediately by Baptism. Thus the first boundary that was broken down in our Baptism in Christ was not one of religious differences or race, but one of unusual gender conditions.

 

  1. Sin, of course, does enter the story and it wrecks havoc with this mutual enjoyment. But the story of our redemption is a story of returning us to our original blessings. The goal of the Christian life is not for us to feel alienated from our True Selves, from one another, from all creation, and from God, but instead to be restored to a state of connection and the original sense of “rightness”. Transsexuals, in seeing that the relationship between their persons and their bodies is incongruent and in seeking to create a congruency where one didn’t exist before, are in a real sense fulfilling the mandate of Genesis is [sic – *in] a way that people without Gender Issues are not capable of doing. Transssexuals are people who are able to continue the task of creation and to take up the task of subduing the earth to make it fruitful within their own bodies. In a real sense, then, Transsexuals have a direct and powerful connection to the creation as creatures made in the image of God, for this connection is within their own beings!

 

  1. If God calls us to be farmers, shop-keepers, house-wives, lawyers, craftsmen, pastors, laborers, or whatever, God expects us to find fulfillment in that calling. If something stands in the way of that inner fulfillment and satisfaction, it stands in the way of our ability to serve God and God’s world well in our calling. A sense of Vocation would drive us to remove whatever barriers make it difficult for us to fulfill our calling. If Gender Dysphoria keeps one from being who they truly are and fitting into the reality around them, then it keeps them from serving God to the best of their ability. Vocation then demands that the individual do whatever they can to change this Gender Dysphoria. We now know that the body’s gender can be changed to fit the mind’s gender, but the opposite cannot be done. [emphasis added]

 

  1. So these two Reformed doctrines, Creation and Vocation, not only support people with unusual gender conditions having a freedom within the Church to change their outward gender, but in a sense they teach us that such folk are actually engaged in a sacred and holy task when they undertake such a difficult passage. Rather than attempt to see this passage as something shameful and guilty, we must see it as children of God taking seriously God’s creation of them as creatures who are made in the image of God being therefore co-creators with God and see it as children of God taking seriously God’s calling of them to ruthlessly remove any hindrances to their being whom God desires them to be so they may serve God to their fullest.


Site Reference 2 (Transsexual Road Map > Spirtuality):

http://www.tsroadmap.com/mental/spirit.html

Written by trans women for trans women, this section of the Road Map explains how trans* individuals have an accepted place within Christianity.

Important Passages:

 

  1. See the section Passages from Scripture for a commentary on Deuteronomy 22:5. Read it in its entirety as it is too logical, contextual, and supportable to paraphrase.

 

  1. Isaiah 56:4-5

In contradiction to the rules against eunuchs in Deuteronomy stands this passage from Isaiah:

“For thus says the Lord: to the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths [sic], who choose the things that please me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument better than sons and daughters, I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”

“Shall not be cut off??” Who says the Bible doesn’t have much humor! That’s a pretty bad pun! This passage is especially useful for transsexuals, since it appears in the Old Testament along with the Deuteronomy passage.

 

  1. Matthew 19:12

This passage has Jesus speaking directly about eunuchs:

For there are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, who were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Many interpretations of this passage have arisen. Some believe it is a discussion of voluntary celibacy, but the fact that Christ mentions people born that way indicates to me a birth condition. Some have also interpreted this to mean gays, which doesn’t seem out of the question. However, I think the most literal interpretation would include intersexed (born that way) and transsexual persons (made that way). Regardless of interpretation, the main point is that anyone able to receive the Kingdom of Heaven may do so.

 

  1. Mark 9:43-47

[For those who feel the “body augmenting” of transsexuals goes against the idea of your body as “God’s temple” (I Corinthians 5:19).]

This passage has Jesus speaking directly about altering one’s body:

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.

Many interpretations of this passage have arisen as well. While it is rarely taken as a literal exhortation, it does seem to say that your bodily form does not matter, and that altering it will not exclude you from entering heaven.


Site Reference 3 (Episcopal):

http://www.believeoutloud.com/latest/episcopal-church-transfigured

This site is a recounting of the Episcopal church’s choice to allow trans* individuals to participate in church life and to also allow their ordination.

 

Important Passages:

  1. [T]he House of Deputies—one of the two Houses in The Episcopal Church’s bicameral system of governance – passed resolutions D019 and D002. D019 garuntees trans* individuals access to the life and governance of the church – so, for instance, it clarifies that transgender people can be Eucharistic ministers, vestry members, retreat attendees or leaders, etc and D002 allows trans* individuals to serve as ordained leaders in the church.
  1. A Deputy from Alabama (yes, that’s right, Ala-Bible-belt-bama) quoted Isaiah 56:4-5 and said: These were a people that formerly had not been allowed access to the assembly.  They had been a people cut off—unwelcome because of what we might refer to as their gender identity and expression—but now they were welcomed.  We must name what God has named.


Site Reference 4 (A Sermon for Transgender Day of Remembrance):

http://www.camposiris.com/a-sermon-for-transgender-day-of-remembrance/

I’ll leave you with this quote from a sermon delivered by Shay, a trans man who is also a pastor. It is taken from the the sermon he gave on his seminary’s first TDoR service during which he addressed Isaiah 56:3-5. I think this sums it all up:

 

Some scholars have said that the eunuch is the closest biblical example we have to modern transpeople [sic]. Whatever the case, eunuchs were outcasts from society. They were denied a place in the holy assembly. They were looked down upon and despised. And yet here God is saying that they will be given a name that is better than sons and daughters. Friends, this is good news to transgender and gender non-conforming people. We know what it means to have names chosen for us that don’t fit, or to be called names that are hurtful. We also know what it means to choose names for ourselves that represent all of who we are. And we honor one another by using those chosen names even when others refuse to.

But to have an everlasting name; one that will not be cut off; this is hope for those of us who feel like outcasts. This monument is hope to those who have been killed and to those who worry they will be forgotten. This passage brings me great comfort: to know that I am a beloved son of God and that God gives me an everlasting name, even if my family rejects me, even if the church doesn’t want me, there is a place for me in God’s eyes. This isn’t just some cheap hope. I don’t offer it as a placebo, to say that we should stop fighting for our place at the table, our place in society and the church. Instead I offer it as a raft in the ocean for when the fight gets too hard. I offer it in response to the fearful hallelujah. I offer it because it’s the best I have to offer. We are beloved children of the Universe and no one can take that away from us. We are beloved children. We are beloved.