Reading, Writing, & Religion

English Language Arts & Queer Christian Musings

Archive for the month “March, 2019”

Response to Marcia, Marcia, Millennials!

I used to subscribe to the Baptist Messenger (BM), the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s weekly newsletter, back when I was a member of a Southern Baptist Church. Even after I left the SBC for the UCC, I continued to get this newsletter, so I could read my dad’s weekly column in his church’s wrap that surrounded the BM. Earlier this year, the BM discontinued the wrap service to all Oklahoma churches, and they also scaled back from weekly issues to biweekly ones. I helped my dad figure out some ways to get his weekly column out to the world since the wrap service was discontinued. It no longer made sense to subscribe to the BM, and my dad assured me he would get me removed from the mailing list. I still keep receiving issues, though, and I can’t help but read the editor’s column, “Sword & Trowel.” Like a moth to a flame, I find myself drawn to a conservative, evangelical man’s opinions about the world, almost certain he will write something I find offensive or misguided.

In the March 21 BM issue, Brian Hobbs shares some facts and opinions about Generation Z in his “Marcia, Marcia, millenials!” column. Hobbs mainly just copied and pasted direct quotes from this Facts & Trends article from September 2017, including this one about Generation Z:

They’re more accepting of sexual fluidity. Gen Z supports gay marriage and transgender rights. For them, such things are part of everyday life. It would be rare for a Z to not have a friend from the LGBT community. “

The implication here is that gay marriage and transgender rights are not part of everyday life for evangelicals who oppose these things. I don’t see the SBC moving to an affirming stance on LBGTQ+ people in my lifetime. What I do see happening is people from the SBC learning more about queer people from media, friends, and family. There are lots of queer characters in television and movies. The popularity of Queer Eye, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Schitt’s Creek cannot be denied. Plenty of evangelicals have family members who are queer, out or closeted, whether those evangelicals are open about it or not. I would argue that Boomers and Gen X and Millennials also have a very high chance of having a friend from the LGBT community. It’s just that that friend might be closeted or in a mixed-orientation marriage.

Hobbs did not have enough room to share the rest of the Facts & Trends quote on Gen Z and sexuality, which goes on to say:

Additionally, a 2016 survey of gender and sexuality by J. Walter Thompson Company, a New York-based marketing firm, found only 48 percent of those 13 to 20 years old described themselves as “completely heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of those 21 to 34.

In his book, White describes the Gen Z attitude as “an increasing sexual fluidity that refuses either the homosexual or heterosexual label. The idea is that both labels are repressive.”

To me, it seems these people are not sexually fluid, but are rather bisexual or pansexual. I have met bisexual men and women. Our culture doesn’t get a lot depictions in media of bisexual people, but I have read from multiple sources that bisexual people are the biggest group in the queer/LGBTQ+ family. I learned earlier this year on Twitter that even Mr. Rogers confessed to finding both women and men attractive! Just because a person says they aren’t completely straight or gay does not make them “fluid.” It makes them bi. Or pan. (Right?)

At the end of his column, Hobbs reflects on the seven facts about Generation Z he shared. He writes:

“[G]rowing up in a culture that embraces the LGBT worldview, as well as full exposure to pornography, will undermine the biblical sexual ethic and wreck lives. As Christians, though, we know that the world’s sexual ethic makes empty promises, and God’s plan is the only authentic and fulfilling way. “

I correctly predicted that Hobbs would attack LGBT people in yet another column. As a gay Christian, I worry about the hurt caused by writing like this. I worry about the LGBT teenagers and adults who are members of evangelical churches like the SBC.

Let’s unpack what Hobbs wrote. First of all, I would like to know what he means by “the LGBT worldview.” Is this one in which LGBT people are free from bigotry and hate? One in which they are free to love and marry who they choose? One in which they are granted civil rights? Moreover, if there is an LGBT worldview, it seems there might be a straight worldview. What is that like? One in which every person on earth is straight? And only straight people are given civil rights?

Hobbs links LGBT people with pornography in his first sentence. LGBT people do not choose to be LGBT. It is their identity. Pornography has to be chosen to watch. There’s way more straight porn in the world than there is queer porn. Also, what does Hobbs mean by “full exposure to pornography”?

Hobbs also uses the phrase “biblical sexual ethic,” which is problematic because there are plenty of scenarios from the Bible (like David and his concubines and Lot sleeping with his two daughters) that are not one man + one woman.

Hobbs posits this untrue formula: LGBT worldview + pornography = wrecked lives. I’ll tell you what kept me in the closet until I was 34. Crockery like this. The SBC made me feel that I had to keep my gay identity a secret. That I was unworthy to be my true self. I’ve now been out for two years, and I’m still figuring out the dating world. I feel free and happy to be who I am, and I’m glad I have a church home at Mayflower Congregational UCC that is affirming. The SBC did not wreck my life, but it did delay my love life.

Hobbs concludes by saying God’s plan is good and the world’s sexual ethic is bad. Who is Hobbs to speak for God? Who is Hobbs to say what God approves? What exactly is God’s plan exactly for sexuality? I have now read numerous books on this topic, and I am comfortable living as both a Christian and a gay man. I claim them both as my identities.

Time to Shout

Yesterday after work I drove to Tulsa to hear Laurie Halse Anderson speak about her new book, Shout, a memoir and manifesto in verse. I actually got a seat on the front row! It was definitely a book nerd moment. Kimberly Johnson, the Tulsa City-County Library CEO, conducted the interview.

Early on in their conversation, Johnson mentioned that Halse Anderson was a recipient of the Anne Zarrow Award. The award, presented by the Tulsa Library Trust, has been around since 1991 and was awarded to Halse Anderson in 2017. The award’s purpose “is to give formal recognition, on behalf of the Tulsa County community, to nationally acclaimed authors who have made a significant contribution to the field of literature for children and young adults.” The Zarrow website even has lesson plans and resources for the three most recently honored authors: Rita Williams-Garcia, Pam Muńoz Ryan, and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Halse Anderson reads a poem from Shout.

Lots of the conversation was about sexual violence, the basis for Shout (and Speak). It’s a delicate topic, but Halse Anderson acknowledged that America uses sex to sell dish soap. It’s time for Americans to learn to talk about sex. Besides, she said, boys as young as eleven and twelve are learning about sexuality through pornography, sometimes scenes that do not depict consent. She suggested we watch the TED Talk from Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement.

“We have a responsibility to be honest with kids.”

Laurie Halse Anderson

She told us about RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. They have lots of statistics, including this sobering one: “Every 92 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child.” Halse Anderson was clear that men can be victims too. There is an even a website for them called 1in6. (1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted this year!)

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

When it came time for audience Q & A, I explained I was a former creative writing teacher who always started class with ten minutes of silent reading because good writers are also good readers. I wanted to know some of LHA’s favorite books. She said Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 gave her inspiration for writing Speak. She enjoyed the humor in Watsons and described it as the best YA book of that decade. She also praised Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger and anything by Louise Erdrich. Kimberly Johnson told the audience that Laurie had recently written a By the Book column for The New York Times in which she goes into further detail about some of her favorite books and authors.

Halse Anderson explained that students need to read books about characters who are like them. “We can make our table bigger,” she said, explaining that expanding diversity in YA literature in regards to race, religion, LGBTQ characters, and more is becoming a reality. To help reach that goal, she explained there is an organization called Project LIT, founded by Nashville teacher Jared Amato. Project LIT is a “national, grassroots LITeracy movement, a network of dedicated teachers and students who are committed to increasing access to culturally relevant books and promoting a love of reading in their schools and communities.” [source]

As an added bonus, I learned that Halse Anderson’s father was a United Methodist Church minister. She’s a PK (preacher’s kid) just like me! I had no idea, and I’ve been reading her books for years.

Two preachers’ kids

Post Navigation