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Author Topic: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)  (Read 2704 times)

EclecticWheel

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I have noticed over time from meeting neo-pagans and reading experiences of others who turn to new religious movements (or Buddhism, etc.) and leave Christianity that often there was tension with predominant Christian beliefs about gender, gender roles, and sexuality.  When I distanced myself from the religious beliefs I was taught by my grandparents, I was still a kid and had not yet conceptualized of my sexuality as gay or any other orientation, though I did later come to identify as gay.  I also did not have gender on my mind, but later in my life I did come to see how conceptions of these matters had always put me out of sync with the general worldview I was taught, especially since the Christian background I was coming from was in many ways much more patriarchal than mainstream Protestant Christianity and in some respects more patriarchal than Roman Catholicism with some exceptions.

When I later joined the Episcopal Church -- from which I have lost much of my connection as the theology and worldview I am still developing has become increasingly postmodern -- I did not struggle with these issues as much as the church increasingly adopts more secular attitudes regarding gender and sexuality, but as I have developed my understanding of traditional Christian thought I have come to see that my reasoning is different and leads to different moral conclusions.  Now, I have come across some really good Christian writers who are helping me develop my thoughts further, such as Margaret Farley, although usually these writers are drawing on sociology, anthropology, other religions and cultures, and in essence reconstructing the older traditions in light of new knowledge.  I have no problem with that, it is very interesting, but Margaret Farley at any rate is not claiming to represent church teaching or orthodoxy.

It seems that in Christian thought the subservience of women to men is a part of the created order, and this has led to the reasoning that if this is a matter of divine creation, women are also excluded from ordination as some scriptural references prohibiting women from teaching or preaching tie this directly to creation.

This type of reasoning also leads to prohibitions of birth control or forms of sex that cannot possibly lead to procreation -- creation is ordered to certain divinely ordained purposes, and while sex has purposes other than procreation, procreation is still the primary end and should not be purposely frustrated through artificial means.  (Not all churches prohibit birth control but it was a pretty consistent teaching amongst even Protestants until recent times.)  According to this logic, since aging and death are not really a part of human nature as it was intended and created, having sex even after the age of fertility or when illness or medical complications make pregnancy impossible, is still permissable -- the act is still "according to nature" and there could be a miracle leading to pregnancy as has happened in the Bible.  This is why to a more traditional Christian mindset (at least one rooted in the catholic history of the church) can accept a heterosexual marriage that cannot lead to procreation without a miraculous intervention, yet a homosexual marriage is always barred -- it is not according to nature and because it is contrary to the moral law, God could never grant a miracle to bring about conception.

I can respect the coherence of the argument, but as I continue to evaluate my own views on these complicated issues, I have begun to see what the difference is between my moral reasoning and that of the traditional Christian mindset (of the catholic variety).  It seems to me that the only way this line of moral reasoning holds up is if certain beliefs with no basis in reason are assumed or taken on faith -- that the universe was actually created and did not arise through purely natural processes, that everything was created with a divinely ordained purpose, that aging and death are not a part of the true human nature, and that males and females have divinely ordained roles, women are subservient to men by the very order of creation, and sexual relationships are ordered primarily toward producing children.

Working through these issues, I do realize that I don't think a belief necessarily has to be rooted in reason or logic to be a good one.  Reason is an important tool, yet I do not think it is the highest form of perceiving in a heirarchy of truth.  But with that possible difference, in my basic view of the origins of the universe, the way matter behaves, the supernatural, dualism, and so on, I pretty much agree with Secular Humanists.  And given that the traditional line of moral reasoning seems to lead to some morally problematic conclusions given my Humanist bias in regard to morality -- patriarchy, the belief that the only option for gays is to remain celibate or enter a heterosexual marriage, the belief that even husband and wife should remain celibate if for medical purposes vaginal intercourse should become impossible (even though traditional Christianity also says that celibacy is a gift only granted to some individuals), a condemnation of masturbation even for medical purposes or to relieve pain from blue balls, and so on -- it makes no sense to me to accept the traditional orthodox account of creation, nature, and so forth.  Such an account already conflicts with the knowledge I have in any case about how to make sense of the cosmos, which for me at least is problematic in itself, but for such a worldview to also lead to problematic moral reasoning makes it an impossible one for me to adhere to in good conscience.  That is not to say I haven't learned anything positive about my body or sexuality from Christian theology even as a gay person, quite the opposite, but I cannot agree with the system overall.  And I am also not addressing other forms of working with Christian imagery, themes, or ideas that fall outside of orthodoxy, some of which may come to different conclusions than traditional Christianity -- Christopaganism, forms of esoteric Christianity, attempts at deconstructing and reconstructing Christian theology and liturgy.  Depending on what those forms take, I would not have the same moral complications.

And so, finally, I will reflect on what I do think about gender and sexuality according to my own beliefs, although much of it may be tentative and still in process.

For me, like orthodox Christians, embodiment is still important.  It is important to the life and experience of a person whether (s)he can carry a child in the womb or impregnate a woman.  Some abilities and limitations are intrinsic to one's biological sex.  This is important in the perspective a person will have on life, but such an observation does not lead necessarily to the conclusion that women are subservient to men or that our basic concepts of "maleness" or "femaleness" are anything other than social constructs.  And because I am not a creationist, in any form including the more moderate form that doctrine takes in some forms of Christianity such as Catholicism or some mainline Protestant churches, I DO believe that aging, death, and illness are a part of human nature.  Thus I cannot come to the conclusion that a heterosexual marriage involving sex when a woman is 85 years old has any more possibility of leading to conception than a same-sex marriage, and unless sex cannot be moral without a possibility of procreation which I do not believe, such a situation actually is quite similar to a same-sex marriage that will never produce children.

Given that aging, death, illness, deformities, genetic anomalies and so forth are a part of what nature is to me -- not just an abnormal state caused by a fall -- it is not true that "male" and "female" are the only proper categories of sex.  There are also intersexed people who cannot be classified as male or female based on their physical anatomy, hormones, or genetics.  It has led me to wonder in the past, given the traditional Christian worldview that genetic anomalies are not a part of true human nature, and true human nature is either male or female, what does that make an intersexed person?  Does such a person not fully share in the Divine Image?  Is such a person in their true nature actually male or female?  Does such a person have to wait until the Resurrection to actually find out which sex (s)he is?  Is such a person prohibited from marrying (since marriage involves a man and woman) or ordination in those churches that still follow the ancient orthodox practice of only ordaining males to the priesthood?  And how could such views and practices actually affect such a person and their basic self-image?

While I am LGBT and gender-queer friendly and identify confidently as a gay man, I do have reservations about the notion that someone is "born" gay as it seems to me that such an identity is a social construction and had I been born in some other culture, even if I had a preference for the same-sex, depending on the culture I was brought up in I might have an entirely different conception of myself -- after all, some cultures have multiple genders and do not adhere to a gender binary.

In that regard, I actually have more respect for some of the older Catholic theology that refrained from referring to any passion as intrinsically disordered, as it could be channeled in such a way as to become a virtue or a vice rather than, say, Theology of the Body, which has bought into the essentialist notion of a sexual orientation, thereby pathologizing an attraction to one's same sex, elevating heterosexual passions and sex to a type of sacred language or reflection of the Divine while defining same-sex attraction as intrinsically disordered, that is, a tendency that in itself leads to only vices, which is quite a departure from the older Scholastic theology, even though I also disagree with the conclusions of the older theology regarding homosexuality.

I intuit that my thoughts and reflections on these matters are similar to how many others feel about the traditional Christian teachings on gender and sex (within and outside of Christianity) which is interesting in regard to how religious practices and ideas are changing to accomodate our shifting perspectives.  It would be very interesting to hang around for another 500 years and see how the orthodox position developed, but I don't really have the time for that.

I am keen to hear other ideas regarding these issues.  I know this post is long, but sometimes I have to let my thoughts out.  :D:
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Materialist

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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2014, 11:22:42 am »
Quote from: EclecticWheel;146447
I have noticed over time from meeting neo-pagans and reading experiences of others who turn to new religious movements...


"There are also intersexed people who cannot be classified as male or female based on their physical anatomy, hormones, or genetics."

That sex can be determined by any of these things is ideological, not biological. During the Middle Ages, during the rite of first communion, a child was asked what his or her sex was and that ended the matter. And that is the only way to determine what a person's sex is with 100% accuracy.

"I do have reservations about the notion that someone is 'born' gay as it seems to me that such an identity is a social construction..."

Personally, all the evidence that I have seen leads to the conclusion that sexual orientation and gender are popular fads with no basis in biology. I protest anyone trying to tell me that I have a sexual orientation. As someone once told me: "I don't have sex because of my genes." It's just one more to segregate people that are felt to be inferior.

HarpingHawke

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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2014, 02:44:06 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;147871

That sex can be determined by any of these things is ideological, not biological. During the Middle Ages, during the rite of first communion, a child was asked what his or her sex was and that ended the matter. And that is the only way to determine what a person's sex is with 100% accuracy.


 
Do you have a source for that? I've never heard that before; I'd like to do some research on it.
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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2014, 07:02:26 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;147871
Personally, all the evidence that I have seen leads to the conclusion that sexual orientation and gender are popular fads with no basis in biology. I protest anyone trying to tell me that I have a sexual orientation.

 
So do I correctly infer that you experience attraction to people of many/all genders and physiological morphologies?

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MadZealot

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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2014, 10:17:34 pm »
Quote from: EclecticWheel;146447
I do have reservations about the notion that someone is "born" gay as it seems to me that such an identity is a social construction and had I been born in some other culture...

 
How much is "nature" and how much is "nurture."  I think the long and short answer is "it's complicated."  
I do think being "born" gay (or not gay) is true for a portion of the population.  Personally, I didn't choose my orientation.  It just is.  Would a more permissible social construction make me want to 'be' gay?  Maybe part-time gay?  On the weekends?  Hmm, can't say I'm wired like that, any more than a gay man is wired to be part-time straight.
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Redfaery

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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2014, 08:21:42 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;147871

Personally, all the evidence that I have seen leads to the conclusion that sexual orientation and gender are popular fads with no basis in biology. I protest anyone trying to tell me that I have a sexual orientation. As someone once told me: "I don't have sex because of my genes." It's just one more to segregate people that are felt to be inferior.

 
Oh. Nice to know I'm just following a fad, then. I shouldn't have worried so much back when I was a teenager and my mom kept trying to convince me I was really just going through a phase. Nice to know she was right about that.

I'm not even going to get started on the idea that gayness is caused by a gene, or that if you raise kids a certain way, they may or may not become homosexual. I agree there's likely a genetic component, but I think the "trigger" is probably prenatal. I've heard the suggestion that hormone levels in the womb might be a contributing factor.
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Scales

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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2014, 02:35:31 pm »
Quote from: EclecticWheel;146447


 
Assuming you haven't, I highly suggest that you read Tess of the D'Urbervilles. It is fairly accessible to read as far as both classics and metaphor-heavy works go, and is very much about spirituality, virtue, and gender, written in a predominantly christian setting (both as story setting and the author himself's setting).

It is sad, but it is a good story. It follows Tess' life, and the writing is heavily driven by what different people want from her:
Her parents, Christian but poor and uneducated, see her as property, her younger siblings, who can for a moment see her as a divine being, despite her femininity and 'impurity,' a suitor named Alec, nouveau-riche and not that religious, who only wants her body, but understands her, another man, Angel Clare, a pastor's son who sees her as pure and perfect and never sees her real self.

-and it follows how this contradicts the very being of Tess, who does not see herself as property, does not see herself as impure, knows she is not 'pure' as Angel Clare wants her to be but doesn't care, knows she can make choices, and so forth. That is as much as I feel safe to say without either spoilers or huge discourse about the meanings of various passages.

It was banned when released, unsurprisingly, but since it's old you can get digital copies for free from Project Gutenberg and second hand paper copies cheaply and easily.

If you do read it I want to discuss it with you. Just, might as well say that while I'm already imposing all my thoughts about this book on you.

elephunky

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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2014, 07:56:43 pm »
I am gay but I did not come out until years after I left christianity and it wasnt the main reason for my leaving the religion. I did have an issue with their view of homosexuals but it wasnt because I thought I was one. To be honest, the thought never even crossed my mind. I thought it wasnt fair, even though I didnt really understand anything more than it was two people of the same gender engaging in a physical relationship.

When it comes to the topic of same sex relationships, transgender, gender queer, and that kind of thing, I think it is important to look at what psychology says about it, and what science has found out about it.
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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2014, 12:24:07 am »
Quote from: elephunky;148683


 
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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2014, 02:57:24 pm »
Quote from: Scales;148564
Assuming you haven't, I highly suggest that you read Tess of the D'Urbervilles. It is fairly accessible to read as far as both classics and metaphor-heavy works go, and is very much about spirituality, virtue, and gender, written in a predominantly christian setting (both as story setting and the author himself's setting).

It is sad, but it is a good story. It follows Tess' life, and the writing is heavily driven by what different people want from her:
Her parents, Christian but poor and uneducated, see her as property, her younger siblings, who can for a moment see her as a divine being, despite her femininity and 'impurity,' a suitor named Alec, nouveau-riche and not that religious, who only wants her body, but understands her, another man, Angel Clare, a pastor's son who sees her as pure and perfect and never sees her real self.

-and it follows how this contradicts the very being of Tess, who does not see herself as property, does not see herself as impure, knows she is not 'pure' as Angel Clare wants her to be but doesn't care, knows she can make choices, and so forth. That is as much as I feel safe to say without either spoilers or huge discourse about the meanings of various passages.

It was banned when released, unsurprisingly, but since it's old you can get digital copies for free from Project Gutenberg and second hand paper copies cheaply and easily.

If you do read it I want to discuss it with you. Just, might as well say that while I'm already imposing all my thoughts about this book on you.

 
I will try to read that soon.  I will let you know if I get the chance to read it so we can talk about it.  Thanks!
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EclecticWheel

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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2014, 03:06:36 pm »
Quote from: MadZealot;147937
How much is "nature" and how much is "nurture."  I think the long and short answer is "it's complicated."  
I do think being "born" gay (or not gay) is true for a portion of the population.  Personally, I didn't choose my orientation.  It just is.  Would a more permissible social construction make me want to 'be' gay?  Maybe part-time gay?  On the weekends?  Hmm, can't say I'm wired like that, any more than a gay man is wired to be part-time straight.

Well, that is not quite what I meant to address.  I don't know if I was born attracted to the same sex.  I cannot remember my infancy, and I can't ask other infants.  What I'm saying is that whatever the source of my preference in partners or sex, my socialization has shaped my interpretation of it. I came to understand myself as "gay."  I did not understand myself as gay in infancy or even in my early teenage years.  I had not come to view my personality or sexuality through such a lens.  Had I been born into another culture, it is quite possible I could have come to have a different lens to interpret my feelings.  There is nothing wrong with the gay identity I have developed, but that is what I mean when I say it is a social construction.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2014, 03:10:13 pm by EclecticWheel »
My personal moral code:

Love wisely, and do what thou wilt.

Monstera deliciosa

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Re: Kind of Random Thoughts on Gender and Christianity (Long Post)
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2014, 04:39:05 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;147871
That sex can be determined by any of these things is ideological, not biological. During the Middle Ages, during the rite of first communion, a child was asked what his or her sex was and that ended the matter. And that is the only way to determine what a person's sex is with 100% accuracy.

What was the source you found for these statements? And which society did the first communion question? I would be interested to read more about it. Thanks.

Quote from: Materialist;147871
Personally, all the evidence that I have seen leads to the conclusion that sexual orientation and gender are popular fads with no basis in biology. I protest anyone trying to tell me that I have a sexual orientation. As someone once told me: "I don't have sex because of my genes." It's just one more to segregate people that are felt to be inferior.

You may wish to read recent peer-reviewed scientific articles on these subjects. Any of the national Transgender, Intersex, or LGBQA organizations could be good starting points, or Google Scholar.

Also, you may, perhaps, wish to interact with people who identify within the Trans, Intersex, and LGBQA communities, and ask them how they feel about this subject. We (I am FtM and gay, personally) wouldn't be fighting so hard for basic rights if they were simply "fads." Trying to tell people like us that it's all a lie made to make us feel inferior does, in fact, make us feel even more inferior, because it invalidates our core identities. We are not all the same. And that's okay. The bad thing is not recognizing the existence of differences; the bad thing is using those differences to make people feel inferior.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2014, 04:48:37 pm by Monstera deliciosa »

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