Talking to the Bishop

I have a recurring fantasy at the moment. There will be a fringe meeting with a Roman Catholic bishop at Yearly Meeting. I think of quoting some of his catechism on us queers at him, then saying something like, if you are not doing all you can to get this evil rubbish expunged from your religion, then you are responsible for the suicides it causes.

WHY SHOULD I LISTEN TO YOU????

Considering such an encounter, normally I would repeat my question many times beforehand, to get it as elegant and expressive as possible, but here I just express my bitterness and vitriol. The bishop shrinks, as with Alice’s Drink-me, and I stamp on him then scuff my shoe repeatedly over him until he is just a smear on the floor-tiles.

Hazel quoted the Gospel of Thomas: Jesus said: if you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. That translation is in Elaine Pagels‘ book; it makes it accessible and pungent. These scholarly translations do not bring out that meaning so clearly. It could be true, though.

I might go to Jamie Catto’s workshop at the weekend. Oh God, not more personal growth. At his TEDx talk, he gave this exercise: think of a person you detest, and one word to describe what you loathe about them. You are projecting. Label yourself with that word and act it out. Mmm. Arrogant. Camp. Striking. Forceful. Loud. I am feminine– soft, gentle, peaceful, and recognising that was the great gift of the Essence process, but I should not imagine I am consistent, at least until I can express myself. There may be consistency, beauty, whatever there, eventually, but I should not think that I can imagine what it would be. I do not know where I am going, or I would be there already.

1000 Voices speak for compassion is on about Nurturing atm. I suppose I will stick this on their link. I am nurturing myself. If you ask me about it, I make myself as unattractive as I can imagine possible- while still being me. You do not nurture if you want me to pretend to be otherwise, or if you simply want a quick whizz of feeling good about yourself by chucking me a crumb of niceness.  Here am I in my messy glory. And finally, a Koan.

I do not know where I am going, or I would be there already.
I know where I am going. I am there already.

How profound is that?
Nigeria, Ejagham headdress

Grace Anarchy

It has been a long journey for me, away from my self-hatred and contempt. In the war within myself, religion has been on both sides. I love this:

It’s like we Christians love the idea of grace, but we don’t want it distributed indiscriminately- we want make rules about it and dole it out carefully and strategically. It’s like we’re worried that if everybody knows that she’s loved and accepted by God – it will be Grace Anarchy! I want that. I want Grace Anarchy. I want people to be free to be who they are. It makes sense to me that the free-er people are, the BETTER people are. I believe in people because I believe in God. I think God knew what God was doing when God made each of us.

Peter, who is over ninety, does not understand me. He asked me once whether F, who is lesbian and butch, was a man or a woman. I confuse him by arriving at the Quaker meeting in a cycle helmet then appearing later in my wig. Once, when I was overheated and he saw me without my helmet he thought I was a man. I was irritated. I thought, I do not want to explain to Peter. I could ask someone else to explain to him. So he came up to me, again, this morning, and said “I thought you were two people”. I told him I wear a wig, and took it off to show him. I did not start on being trans. Maybe later. Ernest, who is over ninety and nearly blind, mistakes my voice for a man’s.

It was much easier than I had feared. Just because he does not understand, does not mean he condemns. It has seemed to me he lives among so much that he does not understand, and I took that as an important lesson to keep as flexible in thought as I can, hearing the world view of the next generations: because I will still be around when the world is theirs.

My trust levels are low. I need to practise trust. It is alright. As I accept and trust others, I am freed. I could almost be glad that Peter asks: he is my example.

My friend confessed a compulsive obsession to me. I am so glad to hear it: it shows she trusts me. I am glad to be trustworthy.

Just for bloggers: I always use the useful editor, rather than the beep-boop, because the beep-boop does not always record posts, and is generally horrible. With The Penguin’s script, you can too. All links will go to the useable editor, rather than the beep-boop. WordPress is generally user-friendly, so its pointless, arrogant attack on its users irked me.

Eugénie Salanson-Marquise de Croix

Eccentric Freedom

The test of the freedom of a society is the freedom of its LGBT members. No one is free, if I am not.

In thinking of this, I came across the Simone de Beauvoir quote “No one is born a woman. She becomes one.” That led me to Philosophy Talk. Following Sartre, Existentialists seek to make choices in “good faith”, that is, proceeding from and expressing their authentic selves.

It is harder for women who are oppressed by their society into second class status, and not educated, as they are expected to be wives and mothers. Laura Maguire herself escaped to college but most of the girls she grew up with repeated the pattern. This is all the more shocking as she was born around 1980.

Maguire thinks Beauvoir’s quote can be extended to the oppression of any group, such as people of colour, told constantly that they are second class. Maguire’s interpretation seems economic: can the person reach their potential as an earner. She overcame oppression in going to college, taking her PhD, and becoming a director of research at Stanford- so she overcame it because she was exceptional. Most of her female contemporaries became wives and mothers, with only secondary education. They were held back by the expectations of others, which they internalised, and perhaps by force, such as being taken out of school by parents.

Had Maguire not been a girl, her Irish society could have seen hers as worthwhile ambitions and good outcomes. That is the difference with us queers. My ambition to transition does not make economic sense, only existential sense. Even before I could bear it, I wanted to express who I am.

My decision inspires disgust in some people, and some of those would seek to prevent it.

For me, expressing my authentic self was more important than any economic progress. (I make excuses for myself, now: my current damaged and vulnerable state is the result of my upbringing and society.)

I would change that first sentence. At the moment, the test of the freedom of Western society is the freedom of its queer members, to make choices others find nonsensical or disgusting. Even when life paths of transition, or of gender neutrality, are well mapped out there will still be good faith decisions which others find incomprehensible. The measure of freedom is the level of acceptance of those decisions: do people find their diversity blessing, rather than threat?

OK.
If that’s what you want
Go ahead.

Simone de Beauvoir

An anchor of stability

If I were to write to her, to express desire or resentment
the best I could expect would be indifference
the worst, mockery and disdain.
I still think of it-

I fear for S., starting work again. I fear she will find the idiocies and vilenesses of the situation- no respect for her professionalism, no care for the good of the pupils, as far as she can see- too much to bear. She may do it for the money, which makes a certain amount of sense. I beg her, look after yourself. Healthy children test boundaries, so you should be expert by now- push them as hard as you can, without overstepping. After months off work, she is only just now relaxed. She fears being stressed within five minutes, and counts the weeks until Summer.

She gave me a copy of an article on Quaker membership from the Friends Quarterly. For some, membership is a life-line, a connection that provides an anchor of stability in times and situations of personal challenge or isolation. So it was for me. It gave me the sense of support, and so the courage, I needed to transition. I needed somewhere to belong. We have our usual conversation about membership. She finds it divisive, I a necessity.

It comes to me that because I needed the life-line, I was prevented from seeing the Society as it actually is. I needed rose-tinted spectacles, because I needed a sense of safety. I was like that with HAI, come to think of it.

I still think of it, but I would be better to phone J. I could write to her, but my main need is more reassurance, someone else for my Support Network, and J offered.

S’s Sufi group, by contrast, refuses entry to people who need a life-line. They are there for spiritual- something, and the Spiritual cannot be emotional. Here I disagree. I am intensely emotional, so my spiritual experience is emotional. I get the point, I see the value, it is not for me.

I am only just relaxing into my quiet lifestyle, two years on.

Am I projecting when I say Quakers locally do too much work for too little value added, too little joy in service? Is it just me? S reassures me, I am intuiting not projecting. She also finds me extremely feminine. I fought and denied that for so long, and it created my every action though I did not see it.

S says we have to be able to trust. I think, but do not say,

NO.
I need to KNOW.

Then S mentions the parable of the talents, which I use to beat myself up, I weep.

I feel drained after that. I could just cycle home, but I decide to face the supermarket.

It is not she I should write to, but he.

van Gogh, corridor in the asylum

Daily Mail morality

How wonderful to be a Daily Mail reader! You can feel morally superior not only to immigrants and benefit claimants, but also the Prince of Wales’ wife! Their Saturday headline was Camilla shouldn’t be queen, say public. Morally superior, but only at the cost of being permanently angry, and daily apoplectic: yesterday’s headline was “Labour’s Queen of Hypocrisy“- Labour MP says something moderately sensible, having bought a housing association house in an auction. How that might make wanting housing associations to maintain a stock of affordable housing hypocritical is a mystery.

I asked the coffee bar owner if that was his politics. Diplomatically, he said they used to get the Daily Mail all the time, and he’s not entirely happy with that, but now they get random newspapers. It’s an election campaign! That means you can offend everybody!

Mail morality is based on hating, fearing and feeling superior. On 27 October 2010 it cried “75% of Incapacity claimants are fit to work”, not bothering to state that the test had been rewritten with precisely that purpose. It has been made worse since, but then someone unable to use a pen to “make a meaningful mark”, such as a tick or cross, would only score nine points, insufficient to get the benefit.

March 4 2015 neatly linked two hate groups: “Jihadi John family’s 2o years on benefits”.

Thought or analysis is rare. Mail readers are told the emotional reaction they should have. A measured response, on the one hand this, on the other hand that, is unheard of. Mail readers are told that their thoughtless bigotry is courageous: on 16 March it screamed “At last! A man who dares tell truth about race”. Occasionally it gives a useful tip, though long after you heard it somewhere else. For example, you should shop around when you renew insurance; but it couched it as Shock! Horror! “The betrayal of loyal customers.” You are a good, “Loyal”, person, and it counts for Nothing! What a wonderful opportunity for self-pity. On the same page, familiarly, and with mocking condescension and fake pity, it addresses the Duchess of Cambridge: “Oh Kate, are you really showing grey roots at 33?” Do we care? Mail readers are obsessed with the Royal Family.

A large part of the front page each day is a picture of an attractive woman, usually in her thirties, because the readership is older. The top third gives a Special Offer: “Free bag of compost delivered free to your door!” As opposed to the usual delivery of manure.

I know it is an old joke. Dan and Dan nailed it brilliantly. Who’d live in a democracy, eh? I choose my picture to give us something beautiful.

Monet, Impression, soleil levant

In the town

Wig part 2: I locked up my bike, and a man came to admire it. He thought it classic, I just haven’t bought a new one since 1986. I knew it had dérailleur gears, but he knew the precise type, and told me what was the last lightest, strongest steel frame before graphite superseded it. So I got my wig out, took off my helmet, mopped my brow and put the wig on. He has exactly the same mud-guards, he said.

What is the done thing, to be policed by looks and comments? Putting on a wig is clearly OK.

Thence Olivers. I am privileged to have an Aspie friend, and we discussed spiritual experiences. A fairly standard one is feeling a sense of connection with all the World, feeling one with it and aware of it. I explained this with the analogy of a bird, its head on one side, with one eye looking for worm sign, the other aware of 360° around and every angle of elevation, to be aware of any threat. Humans normally are paying attention to our thoughts, or paying attention to one task, our eyes focused on that one object, like the worm-sign. So when we become aware of everything, our response is awe. He tells me that he is constantly aware of his surroundings, the conversations of the others in the coffee-shop, and near a 170° view (mine is closer to 100°).

Sitting outside in the sunshine, I met my new neighbour, Chris. Steph has left for the only slightly brighter lights of Zhuzhkov. He has a bantam look, appearing in a singlet, showing heavily tattooed arms, an ornate black cross on his right upper arm. The punch-bag and golf clubs are his, he does not have room for all his stuff.

-What’re you reading? A touch nervous, but not apologetic, I tell him of Paul and the Faithfulness of God by NT Wright, seeking to show the culture, Jewish Greek and Roman, in which Paul wrote and what his world-view and assumptions were. “Quite in depth, then,” he says. He is glad to move next to a Christian. He is a Pentecostalist. He works as a delivery driver, away from home about twelve hours a day, and notices the intervention of God everywhere. He did a delivery and the man gave him a torch advertising his business. He stuck it in his pocket. Later that day, he found another van stuck in mud, and helped the driver get it clear. This meant he was late, and had to do his last deliveries after dark- but he had the torch. He would have been struck by God’s blessing, on the other he helped and on him with the torch, “But now I just go, ‘Hmm. Yeah’.” He smiles. Another friend said, “Coincidence”. He gave up smoking ten months ago: in front of the congregation, he threw away his cigarettes. It was a blessing for them.

I say how Quakers are quiet, but we are both led by the Spirit.

Side chapel

What would you lose?

Not even a baker, just someone ranting on about how bakers who refuse cakes to gay couples are persecuted. So I asked her, what would you lose if you baked the cake? And she answered,

my fellowship with God.

She would be separated from Him and grieve the Holy Spirit. She would be demoralised. She would have sold out. In marrying, the gay couple are flaunting their sin and she must not approve or participate.

Wow. It is a poor thing to gain the World and lose my soul- no sanction or promise will beat that. She is like the brothers in 4 Maccabees. But gay couples are infinitely dangerous to her, carrying the risk of separation from God, because they flaunt their sin in other ways than by marrying- by handholding, or a peck on the cheek, perhaps. Imagine if she thought, well, that’s not so bad, really. Even such a thought might grieve the Holy Spirit.

And yet adulterous couples, marrying for a second time where the first spouse is still alive, do not bother her at all. She simply imagines that there is an excuse for such a marriage.

The thing about Eliazar and the seven brothers, though, is that they were subject to law. In Jesus, God is revealed as Love. However, she has an answer for this: love for the gay couple means proclaiming their sin, and shunning them as long as they persist with it. She “Loves” them by doing what anyone else would call hate.

She has an answer for everything. She is hermetically sealed from the Gospel. Her God is the God of Hell, delighting in torturing creation and calling it Love- made in her image, in fact.

I worried that she would be constantly needing to proclaim the sins of the people she meets, to avoid condoning that sin and betraying God; but only the gay couple, and only their sinful union, merit such condemnation. Everything else might have a perfectly innocent explanation.

This Slate article has a measured response to the ridiculous pizza restaurant which would not hold a gay wedding reception. And Gronda the Republican reassures me that not all US Christians are like that: I am just tired of these far right Christians giving other Christians like myself a bad name. I can’t help but believe that the my God That I know wants to welcome everyone into his arms including the poor, the sick, the sinner, the downtrodden, etc. no matter whether they are gay, from another religious background, the immigrant population, white or people of color or whatever. These far right peoples who call themselves Christians and spout their hate and bigotry are blocking this path and are doing real harm.HarpieI lock my bike to the bike-stands in the town centre, and affecting insouciance, take my wig from my saddle-bags, take off my helmet, mop my sweaty brow, and put my wig on.

Jayne thinks I should go into the toilets thirty yards away to do this. Someone might see me wigless and abuse me.

I have met a few arseholes who would abuse a complete stranger merely because I am trans. I will not fearfully constrain my life like this in case one is walking past Bright House and happens to notice me.

I met a man who had been walking through the station when someone psychotic leapt on his back and drew a razor blade across his forehead. He could have been blinded. Thereafter he was terrified to leave his house.

Satan

Evil swallows most of its own venom and poisons itself, wrote Montaigne. I do not believe in Satan.

Milton’s Satan tempted Eve and Adam, and precipitated the Fall. Blake said Milton was of the Devil’s party, and did not know it. But in Genesis 3:1, the “serpent” which tempts Eve is “more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made”. Its motivation is unclear but it is not a fallen angel.

In Job, Satan is “The Accuser”, one of the heavenly beings, not the Enemy we find in Milton. He is the Accuser in Zechariah 3, and a tempter in 1 Chronicles 21. The word “devil” does not appear at all in the Old Testament. In Revelation, though, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Jesus watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.

In the Gospels, Satan tempted Jesus, proposing other ways of gaining followers, entered Judas before his betrayal, and causes mental and physical illness.

CS Lewis’s Screwtape liked two attitudes in humans- an unhealthy interest in devils, or disbelief. Wormwood seeks to draw his victim from things of lasting value to lesser things. Wormwood delights in the destruction of the World War, but Screwtape is wary, as war can bring out virtues of honour and courage in human beings. The professorial Screwtape even gives a lecture. In Perelandra, though, the spirit which possesses Weston and fights Ransom for the soul of the first woman created on Venus is mindless, silly in a way which is less than childish, destroying because that is what it does rather than for any purpose.

And there is Mephistopheles and Faust. Hell is here, nor have I left it. He is a deceiver, whispering to Faust of things which have no value in reality. The Hesychasts imagined themselves surrounded by tempting demons. The start of sin was to pay attention to one, from which the sinner slid down to constant indulgence without shame. However, I doubt there is any a co-ordinating intelligence plotting this.

A man left his wife, and had an affair. She would not let him go, and they are back together. Now, he might see the affair as a lack of trust and respect for himself as well as his wife. He was running away. Then, he would not see it like that, or he might not have left her in the first place. His sin arose from his failure to see his situation and the people in it clearly.

It is tempting for the Evangelical to imagine “Civilization” as a whole is in fact NOT the glorious by-product of our marvelous Christian heritage, but rather the construct of an entourage of fallen angelic beings, led by Lucifer himself, a construct which in fact serves as the mechanism by which he ultimately aims to use in order to establish his fully-realized kingdom on Earth. It puts him at war with God’s creation.

William Blake, Satan before the throne of God from illustrations to the Book of Job

Sonnet: to a friend contemplating suicide

 If you should think of dying, think of me.
There'd be some corner in another mind
That was forever sadness. There would be
A rich potential lost. In you I find
The laughter learnt of friends, and gentleness
and think, your heart, all goodness shed away
without which England always will be less
its love, its brilliance, choosing Night o'er day.
I know your hurt, the inescapable part
of that fey softness where your beauty lies,
The vulnerable you is my sunshine.
If you despise the grandeur of your heart
so what was made God's image cruelly dies
'twould shadow all your sweetness with your crime.

It has a clear debt to Rupert Brooke.

Ruth

In the Bible, the book of Ruth is a lesbian love story.

Ruth’s husband has died. Naomi is Ruth’s mother in law, who prays The Lord grant that you may find security. But where? The only place is in the house of your husband. Then Ruth makes her famous declaration of Love, often read at weddings:

Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.

At Bethlehem, Ruth meets Boaz. He does not speak to her at first: he asks the foreman, ‘To whom does this young woman belong? But Ruth does not belong to any man. So Boaz has to order the young men not to bother her. They might sexually assault a lone woman like that.

How are these two women to survive? Naomi tells Ruth to find where Boaz sleeps, and lie down by his feet. That is, she offers herself to him, and he accepts. But after the declaration of love between the two women, there are no words of love between Boaz and Ruth, only gratitude. After she has lain at his feet, he gives her a gift of barley.

A woman cannot own property. Only a man can. So who shall redeem Elimelech’s land, which his widow Naomi holds? Boaz is the only kinsman who will do so, and with the land he acquires Ruth as his wife. The purpose of this law is that the name of the man Elimelech will not die, for Boaz effectively will give him sons to inherit his land, through Ruth.

The only place where these two women will not starve is the house of a man, and it is better to have one man to protect them or any man may sexually assault them. (Marital rape was legal in England until the 1990s). The final proof of their love: the women say to Naomi your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons. Naomi took Ruth’s son and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.

This post is for deorl, who boasts of being “a degreed student of the Bible” and accuses me of eisigesis, which by etymology means “reading [my] own biases into the text” but is more often used to mean interpreting a passage in a way the speaker does not like. The text is clear, and only his homophobia prevents him from seeing the love of two women celebrated in the Old Testament. That is, his is a cultural interpretation from conservative evangelicalism, not an open-minded interpretation seeking the meaning of the text.

Ruth is the Bible at its best, challenging the extreme oppression of women. In the Torah, we see women as chattels, so that if a woman is raped the solution is to marry her to her rapist, on the principle of “You break it, you buy it”. The Bible supports the rule-based oppressive religion that deorl still craves. However it also continually subverts it, as with this story.

Gentileschi, Susannah and the Elders 1