Recovering from internalised transphobia

Perhaps only the unexamined life is worth living. You are brought up by loving parents, you grow up, find a job and a partner, have children, contribute to your community, help bring up your grandchildren and perhaps meet your great-grandchildren before you die. Each life has heartache, puzzlement, difficulty and loss, but that would be a life well lived. I envy it because I have no children.

I wanted to do a meaning of life post. I wanted to articulate the value of my life, because it has value. My start was with the life I do not have. Communities can be oppressive, and can change so completely during a lifetime that someone in a strong supportive community at marriage could be unmoored by old age- I have both an intense desire to be Normal and resentment that I am not, and a desire to attack that Normal as illusory even for those who most approximate it. Starting writing helps me understand who I am, and find what is behind my conscious thought.

A woman who had been bleeding for twelve years touched Jesus and her bleeding healed. Jesus turned, saw her, and said “Take heart, daughter: your faith has made you well”. Matthew does not mention it, but Luke and Mark say Jesus felt power go out of him. Someone explained this: a woman seen as unclean, so outcast, who had no business touching anyone, acts as if she is not outcast, and is healed of her outcast status.

No, that wasn’t how he explained it. That’s me explaining it in a way that omits what is the most important thing about it for me now: when he explained it, I felt a weight was lifted from me: I am that woman. I have outcast status. Come into my full humanity or power and I have it no longer.

In that moment I felt a weight lift from me. A day later I am trying to recapture the feeling. I want to make it permanent. Loving acceptance helps: then I was with people, now I am alone. I was on Zoom, but that counts.

This is a blog. I am allowed for my thoughts to be inchoate, to start typing, find my thoughts wandering, publish it anyway. To struggle towards what would be the first sentence of an article. To reassure myself that it is true, and I mean it, and bring myself to write it, and note the process:

The meaning of my life is recovering from internalised transphobia.

Or, possibly,

The meaning of my life is recovering from my ingrained sense of worthlessness, a lot of which is internalised transphobia.

If I can do this, see how I am doing this, and communicate it to others in such a way as they might see their own value, then my life has value. If I can do this, only a little, even so I do not fully step into my power, even though I tell nobody, no one sees, and no one else benefits,

my life has beauty and meaning and value simply because I exist. Everything that is, is holy, as William Blake says.

I am not sure I have that first sentence yet.

And, how does the story help anyone struggling with self-rejection? I don’t want to make a dogmatic statement about that, but a suggestion. There is a power of Love which loves and values you. Possibly if you are completely alone you can access that love within yourself and heal yourself. Possibly some other person will love you, and communicate that so it gets through to you. I am thinking of an observation a woman made, that changed my perception of myself for the better, and my friend was talking about that particular story and not particularly addressing me and I took what he said and applied it to me-

I am just getting more confused.
Take from this what you will.
Recovery from self-loathing is difficult.
Recovery from self-loathing is worthwhile.

Others have said things which I have seen the value in, but not seen the value in for me. Years ago a hypnotherapist told me to say “I am loved, loving and lovable”. I have only really accepted that intellectually. Periodically I get the phrase out and consider it.

I want to heal myself.
I want to heal everybody.

I saw two wise men, filmed, talking of wisdom, and I thought, I want to be the third there, talking equally with them. I wanted it more than anything.

Quakers and God

Do British Quakers believe in God? What might that mean?

Ours is an experiential faith. We have spiritual experiences which we share. They start as peak experiences, a moment of wonder, and become integrated into our daily lives. We develop language to communicate them to each other, and it appears they are similar for each person. They include a sense of presence in the moment when all the senses are heightened; a sense of the unity of all that is, and of being my own part of it; and a sense of being suffused by love, which some might call the love of God.

Then there are the spiritual experiences we have together. We know of the gathered meeting, where we are together in our spiritual experience, and of unity, where we come together to know what is right, what some call God’s loving purposes. Our worship is not meditation, but a common endeavour. It’s not like sitting in a waiting room. We know we may sometimes feel “angry, depressed, tired or spiritually cold”, but the effort of- whatever it is that we do, in worship- is worthwhile.

If you attend Quaker Quest meetings, you will have heard the phrase “for me”, for Quakers have all sorts of opinions, and a wide range of disagreement, and I have the temerity here to speak “for us”. We share practices with quite complex rules, and experiences. Then we ask what is behind them, and disagree wildly.

Some of us believe in God almost as in the creed, or in the Christian concept of the trinity, or different ideas of God. Some of us, like me, are materialists. I believe I am an evolved creature in a random universe. I don’t know how life could come to be through non-living chemical processes but I believe that is in principle knowable. I don’t think consciousness is in itself spiritual, but a manifestation of the mammalian brain.

Our understandings of God are not hypotheses in the scientific sense, capable of making predictions or being proved wrong by evidence, but stories. They are stories created by some of the finest human minds, addressing common spiritual experiences, progressing from a God who demanded Abraham’s son as a sacrifice to a God who offered God’s own son to die for us.

It is my perception that British Quakers squabble less than we did over these beliefs. Some of us argued it was ridiculous for someone who did not believe in God to belong to a Religious Society. My Friend answered that: “The question is not why we join a religious society, but why we stay”. Now we find language to share the spiritual experiences, and I feel the explanations behind them- God, psychology, or Don’t Know, seem less important.

I was baptised Anglican, grew up reciting the creed without a qualm, and around 2009 slowly realised I no longer believed in that way. It felt like a great loss, and I was in slowly reducing denial for months. Just after I admitted to myself I do not believe in God I was broken open by a residential personal growth course. I went into a church as a tourist, to see the art, and a sense of its holiness brought me to my knees.

This was a difficult experience to fit into my understanding. I say: “I am inconsistent. I could only be consistent if I were inerrant”. I say, “I am rationally atheist and emotionally theist. I have a strong emotional relationship with the God I do not believe in.” I read philosophical ideas of how well humans might see the world as it really is- not well, it seems.

I know that unconscious processes in me can form poetry, so that it seems to come to me by inspiration. My being, this process taking in food, water, oxygen and ideas, is capable of more than I consciously understand, and it is tempting to call all that is greater than my own consciousness God. Quakers have talked of “that of God” in each person since the 1650s. Or I should abandon the word, because it means such different things to different people. Or I could use the word “God” honestly to talk with someone who believes in the Trinity, because we both mean things we cannot know.

In Quaker worship you may see the Living God. Insofar as those words can have meaning, I know they are true.

(Instant) Gratification

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I believe this. It is not just hollow consolation. I know, sometimes, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ are full of passionate intensity”. Alastair Campbell gives one view of the Brexit conspiracy against the British people. I liked this discussion of the quote: Mychal Denzel Smith argues we have to do the work to bend it, and we have to define “justice”.

We were discussing the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5. They are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. I disagree with Paul’s contradiction between “the flesh” and “the spirit”. Possibly this comes from my culture. Paul may have been a dualist, believing we are material bodies and immaterial mind/spirit/soul, though he believed in the resurrection of the body. I am not, though I don’t know how much of my certainty comes from my personal experience of being human and how much comes from the cultural understandings I have imbibed. Opposing flesh and spirit leads to asceticism, where you only eat food you don’t like and see the world as ugly, grey and sinful rather than fruitful and beautiful.

I could parrot the words “sarx” and “pneuma”, even find their Greek spelling, but not say Paul “really” meant something I can live with. But the distinction I can live with came from Mary Linda’s group: ego and spirit. The Good in me produces love, joy, peace, etc. The Ego in me produces jealousy, anger, envy etc. And a lot of that seems to come from a desire for instant gratification.

Instant gratification is not all bad. Working in advice centres, I realised that I could, simply by listening sympathetically while people told their woes, make them feel better, and this made me feel really good. It was simply me, acting in accordance with my nature, achieving something I found valuable. But then at the Northern Concord TV/TS club a trans man began talking of his difficulties, and three of us leaned forward, in unison, with our sympathetic listening faces on, and I realised how much I got from such encounters.

Rosa Parks sitting down at the front of the bus can expect nothing like that. She knows she will face vituperation, contempt, and violence. If she resists at all that will be the excuse justifying unlimited violence against her. The Montgomery bus boycott lasted more than a year, and while it was a great step forward arguably the arc of history has not reached justice yet. All that walking, not using buses, was a sacrifice.

It is possible that seeking instant gratification, and planning for the future, inhabit different circuits within my neural structure. I can bring them into dialogue, and there often seems to be some sort of presiding intelligence which sees when instant gratification is possible, and not too costly, and when I should hold back or start laying foundations for gratification later. That needs me to believe in the possibility of gratification later, and people who have little experience of it can’t be expected to work towards it.

Ooh! σάρξ and πνεῦμα. There you go. A little fairly quick gratification for me.

I remember little of Habakkuk, but what I got from it when I read it was that God really does have some vast eternal plan, it just is taking longer than we might have hoped.

Pictures for a bit come from Yan Liben. It’s a new year, and I am looking back to the 7th century: he was a Tang dynasty artist and politician. We read these pictures right to left, rather than left to right.

Be still and cool

I awoke to a social media storm. The first thing I saw on facebook was, “Woke to find the Government has declared war on my existence. Stress, shaking, panic, fear.” Oh. What’s happened now? The Sunday Times’ main front page article was about trans. It said nothing new about the government’s plans on trans recognition, in the most obnoxious way.

I read the article, and wondered whether to blog about it, or go cycling before Meeting. I decided to blog about it, and share that blog, so I did, and then felt wound up. I needed to calm down before Meeting, and knew the passage: QFP 2:18.

Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God, whereby thou wilt receive his strength and power from whence life comes, to allay all tempests, against blusterings and storms. That is it which moulds up into patience, into innocency, into soberness, into stillness, into stayedness, into quietness, up to God, with his power.

Considering that was not enough, so I phoned a Friend. She knows a lot of the Bible. God challenges Job:

Deck yourself with majesty and dignity;
clothe yourself with glory and splendour.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
and look on all who are proud, and abase them.
Look on all who are proud, and bring them low;
tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them all in the dust together;
bind their faces in the world below.
Then I will also acknowledge to you
that your own right hand can give you victory.

Job, sitting on his ash heap, cannot do these things. So Job says, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. Then, he gets wealthy again, with sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys and beautiful daughters. He is a bright, active man, and he does what works for him.

I still need to calm down. There is a lot to wind people up, these days: the deaths from the Pandemic, Brexit, the George Floyd demonstrations, and, for me in particular, JK Rowling’s statement and that Sunday Times article coming after Liz Truss’s statement. Others have been outraged about Miriam Margolyes. For years Donald Trump has been fomenting the outrage through Twitter, and it seems Boris Johnson is following the same route. So there were far-right demonstrators “defending statues”,

I find the source of the Fox quote, which is his letter to Lady Claypole, at p346 of Nickall’s edition of his Journal. I read it, before and during Meeting, and considered its predictions. “Looking down at sin, and corruption, and distraction, you are swallowed up in it,” he says. Ain’t that the truth. Of course I knew “Be still and cool” before, but today it speaks to my condition in the clearest way. But- “Looking at the light that discovers them, you will see over them. That will give victory; and you will find grace and strength; and there is the first step of peace.”

A Beatles song comes to mind:

Dear Prudence, won’t you open up your eyes?
The sun is out
The sky is blue
It’s beautiful
And so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you open up your eyes?

Saturday, my personal growth workshop was about Yin. Yang goes out, does stuff and achieves things, and Yin receives, notices what is, including what is inside me, what I feel. Jamie Catto says our education is far more for Yang than Yin. Mmm. So, “I awoke to a social media storm”. Well, why? Because the first thing I did on awakening, before showering, dressing or breakfast, was to scroll facebook. One answer would be to spend less time on facebook. However, I want my voice to be heard. I shared about JK Rowling, and had 1,163 views of it on the post’s first day. I had a lot of social media love. It is nothing compared to in person friendship or affection, but it can be a delight- “Love the way you write. Hate the way you hurt,” said one person, once.

So, my voice is calling for peace, about Rowling and the Sunday Times. I feel this is worthwhile, and may even be worth the costs of “looking down at distraction”, in order to coax others from it. I might find other ways for my voice to be heard.

I am still with Victorian genre painters. Here’s George Goodwin Kilburne:

A Christian view of trans

Christian theology supports trans people and transition unequivocally. The Bible recognises and values trans people. As Peterson Toscano said, a man carrying a water jar was doing women’s work, which was beyond shameful for a man in that culture- she must have been trans.

The Bible values bodies as good. God created humanity in God’s image, and everything God had made was very good. Male and female God made me! God knitted me together in my mother’s womb- I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And after my transition I was freed to see my body as beautiful and wonderful, not inadequate as I thought before. As God does not have a body, whether like in the Sistine Chapel with a grey beard and pink shirt or otherwise, the image is of our nature- like God, we are loving, creative, powerful and beautiful. It is that nature, made in God’s image, that drives us to transition.

Philip baptised the Ethiopian eunuch. Eunuchs were condemned in the old testament, but not in the new dispensation of Christ.

Jesus identifies with the lowly and downtrodden: whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me. When the Church spits hate, such as the Pope inveighing against “gender theory, which does not recognise the order of creation” calling it as bad as the use of nuclear weapons, he continues the oppression of the strong against the weak that Christ condemned. Francis was pleasing his conservative followers then, the modern equivalent of the scribes and pharisees who Jesus said locked people out of the Kingdom of Heaven. For them, morality is a set of rules, to be used to condemn others. However the Kingdom of Heaven is completely different: we have one Father, who is in Heaven, and one teacher, one instructor, who is the Christ. Jesus will send the Teacher, the Holy Spirit, who will be in us.

You know who you are and what is right because Christ has sent Christ’s spirit to be in you. Your conviction that your gender is not that assigned, your conviction that you are of the other gender, which you know despite all denial, which eventually you have the courage to assert despite all the mockery and hostility others rain down on you, comes from Christ, who says, In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!

Paul confirms this: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. In Acts, we read of the holy spirit coming on all kinds of people. Peter’s epistle predicts the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts– which is the moment you commit to transition, and fully expressing who you are.

The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. That is, the Kingdom of Heaven is among us, here, present, now, when we follow the Spirit of Christ within. You know your transition is right through the Spirit of Christ leading you.

This post is not written for atheists. If you do not value the Bible, it will not convince you that God leads you to freedom through transition. You know that transition is good for other reasons. Rather I write for people when the Bible has been used to condemn them, for that is a false use of the Bible. The words of Jesus within us confirm that we are right to transition.

Quaker unity

The idea of Unity is at the heart of Quakerism, yet we rarely try to define it. Instead we use the word as if we all know what it means. There are about seventy uses of the word in Quaker Faith and Practice, and from the context of each we might gain an idea of it.

In the Bible, NRSV, it appears seven times:

Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life for evermore.

Here unity is in our common life, and it makes that life bright and beautiful. It is God’s anointing, and life-giving water.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Ephesians 4.11-13 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

I read this as having maturity, the same faith and knowledge that Christ had, which will bind us together in unity. If we are in touch with what Quakers call the Inner Light, as Jesus was, we will live in unity together.

It was a Quaker word from the beginning. Edward Burrough wrote in 1662 of making decisions in love, coolness, gentleness and dear unity. All these words are aspects of one way of relating. Isaac Penington might find unity with anyone he meets, when he found the spirit and life in them. Francis Howgill repeatedly echoed the new testament in his description of worship, including 1 Peter: We met together in the unity of the Spirit, and of the bond of peace, treading down under our feet all reasoning about religion. George Fox wrote of our “unity in the Spirit” and Margaret Fell of “peace, love and unity,” both to people outside the new movement: it is a common English word, and Christians would understand it just as they understood Christian love. For William Penn, when someone ministered in meeting the rest, recognising the leadings of Christ, would adhere with a firm unity. Elizabeth Fry feared the snare of spiritual pride in the sense of religious unity.

Unity is a state of our being in eternity: Job Scott wrote of everlasting unity shortly before his death; we are in unity with the living and the dead. And unity is a process. We continually achieve it, in our meetings for worship as they gather, (when two or three gather together I am with them) and our meetings for worship for business. It is not in words and doctrines: We have sought unity through agreement in doctrines and institutions; and the track of church history, like some new road through the desert, is strewn with the parched skeletons of our failures. For John Punshon, we might find it with Methodists in communion- I am like you, and we share one faith in God- though Friends might disapprove, or counsel against. It is from God, and it is part of our wordless human, primate, mammalian way of being with each other when our words and our conflict fall away. Our differences are always present. How we deal with those differences is our continuing work, with God’s help. Iain Law feared breaking unity and his friendships if he ministered of his experiences in his meeting.

In business meeting we sometimes all join together in a certainty of immediate rightness and sometimes one will acquiesce in the discernment of their Friends, after they have been heard. As a worshipping community, particularly in our local and area meetings, we have a continuing responsibility to nurture the soil in which unity may be found. John Woolman found Quaker work best done with the discerned assent of the Meeting.  The Yearly Meeting struggled to find unity on sexuality in 1994, and found it sixteen years later. There is unity in the search and the struggle together.

In the struggle to find unity, in finding the beauty of what one other has found and valued, we may grow. One Friend’s boldness leads us on. We might seek a feeling of safety from uniformity of outward practices and observations, or from creeds, but that is not true unity, which we find in Jesus.

Our differences persist, though mostly unexpressed, so in considering membership we need trust and a sense we are safe enough, for the moment. Rufus Jones wrote of the “hidden seed of God”, and for me our current exploration of privilege becomes relevant: we have differences of culture and of personality, and worldly ways of enforcing hierarchy come naturally and mostly unconsciously to us. We recognise we are at different stages along the way. We don’t require great achievement but sincerity of purpose. Boundaries are sketchy, because they cannot be defined beforehand in words but must be known in relationship in the moment: there are broad principles of belief and conduct on which unity is essential… even though precise agreement on every point is not required. Thomas Story wrote, The unity of Christians never did nor ever will or can stand in uniformity of thought and opinion, but in Christian love only.

Unity, and the sense of the presence of God, is our experience outside meeting: Anne Hosking found it kissing her children, and from the earliest days of Christianity we might find it in coitus. It is in our shared humanity- with everyone- so might be found in our most painful experiences such as bereavement.

Janet Scott wrote, This is the truth which we know and try to live … that every person is capable of response to the divine Spirit; that this Spirit, or Light, or God reaches out to each one directly and freely; that if we follow the leadings of this Spirit faithfully we are led out of sin into unity with the divine will; that this unity leads us into love of and care for all humankind, who are our kin; that what the Spirit shows us is living truth which cannot be fettered by words.

Two chapter headings include the word. Chapter 25 is Unity of Creation, arguing that All species and the Earth itself have interdependent roles within Creation. Humankind is not the species, to whom all others are subservient, but one among many. And, This is a marvellous world, full of beauty and splendour; it is also an unrelenting and savage world, and we are not the only living things prone to dominate if given the chance. In our fumbling, chaotic way, we do also make gardens, irrigate the desert, fly to the moon and compose symphonies. There is a unity of the human species, and of the biosphere.

Chapter 27 is Unity and Diversity. God’s truth is too wide for one person, or even perhaps one religion. John Woolman found it among the “Indians”, and Robert Barclay in the Turks. Henry Hodgkin, a Quaker missionary, wrote in 1933 I believe that God’s best for another may be so different from my experience and way of living as to be actually impossible to me. I recognise [a change] to have taken place in myself, from a certain assumption that mine was really the better way, to a very complete recognition that there is no one better way, and that God needs all kinds of people and ways of living through which to manifest himself in the world. We might also find truth among other Christians, for example in Thomas Merton’s contemplative prayer, but these things may be too close to us, and QFP does not say this. We value the Bible, and the Spirit which is above it. We have our reasons for rejecting specific consecrated sacraments, and ordained ministry.

Richard Rohr

Catholic priest tolerates gay men, and even trans people shock!

Rohr’s daily meditations reach millions, and recently he tackled LGBT folk, or SOGI, Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity issues. He started by assuming his audience was hostile.

With all the changing ways of understanding gender and sexuality, most of us truly need contemplative eyes and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to “rupture simplistic binaries” and be compassionate and respectful of difference and diversity. It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead.

I found it almost impossible to read. He is challenging his queerphobic Christian followers, saying that while he has to make a continual effort to be “non-dual”, his instinct and theirs is to judge gay as unacceptable. Jesus, he says, ruptures and transgresses simplistic binaries between self and other, but most people dismiss and judge every thing that does not fit neatly in their simplistic categories.

He wants to teach the Mind of Christ by getting readers to think about SOGI, which he has no doubt they will instinctively reject. This week is a good test case for one’s ability to think in a nondual way.

So he decides to preach that the church should include and accept LGBT people not in hopes that they can force us into a normal, celibate, straight-acting box but accept us as part of God’s beautiful diverse creation, and he starts by othering all his LGBT readers.

He says some good stuff. God’s will is that people and things become their true selves, and then live in “supportive coexistence”. Conservative Christians, however, want to control God’s good creation which they fear, seeing it as chaos.

Institutional religion tends to think of people as very simple, and therefore the law must be very complex to protect them in every situation. Jesus does the opposite: He treats people as very complex—different in religion, lifestyle, virtue, temperament, and success—and keeps the law very simple in order to bring them to God… Love God, and your neighbour.

Jesus, and Rohr, allow people to be ourselves. Do not let the labels trip you up—woman, man, transgender, cisgender, straight, bisexual, gay, queer. I note he does not mention lesbian. There is a reason we bring L to the front. Formerly people wrote GLBT.

He goes on to use queer folks to teach about the Bible. Yes, Leviticus commands stoning gay men to death, but the Bible records a developing understanding of God from Abraham’s attempted human sacrifice to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ harsh words are reserved entirely for those whose certainty about their religious rectitude causes them to condemn others. Jesus is all about inclusion, forgiveness, and empowerment. In the light of his compassionate presence, people are set free to live their lives in strength and hope, regardless of whether they be considered outcasts by those in the “religious know.” Rather than complex rules teaching us what is OK so we feel safe with no need to think, or even to see clearly, the only law is Love.

Just as the Bible supports slavery and we don’t, so also we find deeper themes in the Bible support LGBT acceptance, and even oppose Patriarchy. Rohr writes, God sides with the powerless. God liberates the oppressed. God suffers with the suffering. I resent that. Many LGBT people flourish despite oppression. We are not his exemplar group of powerless and suffering people, and his attitude encourages others to look down on us and pity us- perhaps he does himself. We do not need his support, but justice.

He claims the secular culture “celebrates” us. Perhaps he has not read The Times’ articles on trans people. It is almost as if he shares the homophobic Christian’s shock when we are shown in a good light.

God, he says, creates each of us unique, with different gifts and challenges, and desires us to live into the fullness of our humanity and our identity.

Rohr’s example is Episcopal priest and lesbian Liz Edman, who aged five wanted boy’s shoes and was supprted by her mother. Everyone wants things forbidden by the complex rules humans create. From object of pity, we change in an instant to patterns and examples for others, who should all Know who you are. Be who you are. Be the person God created you to be. It is deeply uncomfortable for me. I am as enchained by convention as anyone. I have no wish to be forced to teach others any more than be pitied by them.

At the end, he quotes Liz Edman on Jesus turning water into wine. The water was used for ritual washing, the wine intoxicates and liberates us from rules. This is a queer interpretation, which might get her fired. To liberal straight Christians, she says, Let us be ourselves, and assure us that you will have our backs when our proclamation unsettles and afflicts those who are comfortable in a dualistic worldview.

Yes, Queers can be free as Christ intended, and our freedom help liberate others. But our experience belongs to no-one straight. We are not your teaching tool. And the idea of sheep and goats, the binary division between in group and out group, is everywhere reinforced in the church. For example:

Later, Rohr quotes an Asian man:

Now that new voices are being enunciated about him by those . . . outside the traditional framework of Christianity, Jesus must be experiencing an emancipation from the confinement of orthodoxy that has immobilized him. . .

Being discombobulated

The doctor makes me feel ill.

Like the battle between trans and terf, the battle between biblical literalists and atheist rationalists continues on the blogs. I blog to get things clear in my mind, and having dismissed creationism to my satisfaction I have moved on. You can’t win against them: they seem happy to continue asserting their rubbish, backed by their tight communities of Evangelicals. They twist and distort. So the truth-teller comments, and they respond in an arrogant way, a beautiful example being the assertion that trilobite fossils offer at least as much proof for the creation/flood scenario as the old age earth cosmology.

I remain proud of this comment: The more I interact with you, Tim, the more I see how pitiable you are. How much more beautiful my world is! I hear words like biostratigraphy or palaeothermometry, and learn what they mean, and think- How wonderful! How beautiful! People are finding these things out! And you think, They must be wrong. It is all rubbish. Here is a dispute and there is an inconsistency, and all scientists are FOOLS!

How much more beautiful my Bible is! My Bible has story, and metaphor, and poetry, and poetic imagery, and allusion. Your Bible has a series of propositions, more or less ridiculous, which you have to Believe. My Bible leads me to God, and your Bible mires you in lies.

And my Christian argument against creationism: God created people in God’s image, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful, and scientists seek understanding, assessing the evidence. From presuppositions of a young Earth and a Flood, geologists in the 18th century established evidence of an old Earth, and how the Flood could not have created the strata visible all over the world. They seek the truth. That academic science, involving millions of people, should have produced such a detailed account of the Earth’s history, continually being refined, is one of the wonders of God’s creation. They do so based on evidence in the Earth’s rocks, as astronomers observe electromagnetic radiation falling on the Earth and its satellites, and geneticists, genomes. A God who created all this evidence to delude God’s people would be a monster, creating a stumbling block that uses our good qualities, curiosity and commitment to truth, against us. Alternatively, a God who allowed Satan to deceive us in that way would not deserve my worship. My God does not send ane to Heaven and ten to Hell.

This towering achievement of humanity is airily dismissed. Here that doctor uses the diversity in the oldest evidence of the Cambrian explosion to argue for creation. Schizochroal eyes are indeed complex. But earlier life has been found, in the Ediacaran biota, too soft to create fossils without exceptional conditions. As life began to move on legs and fins, and detect light and sound, an evolutionary arms race began between predators and prey creating the Cambrian explosion. Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of eyes. Isaiah quoted by Matthew describes the person who would dismiss that explanation.

And yet this Emergency Room physician dismisses all this evidence, all this analysis, as “Arrogant, prideful and foolish”. He turns his back on the truth. Challenge him, and he will answer you. Anyone wanting to find the truth, or deal with argument fairly, has an impossible disadvantage- for I want to show him the wonders of God’s creation. Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes. He is a blind guide.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.

The cascade of wicked falsity makes me feel ill. He is a physician! He writes in grammatical sentences. I dare to hope that Christians can seek truth together, in love, and his torrent of gibberish, told with a straight face, belies that. I get stronger, though. Yes, people are trapped in delusion, and try to delude others, but also some seek truth, and we can approach it if we are committed to it. When starting this blog I wanted to analyse why I find an arrogant series of assertions, stated as if the speaker believed them but clearly untrue, was so disorientating to me. It is like motion sickness. And I can’t. Why do I find it so unpleasant? I just do.

One of my exercises is the Agreement Challenge: what can you value in something you disagree with? Violet introduced me to his blog, this post. So I was glad to be introduced to this article on how the value of scientific evidence is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one. Indeed. I like Violet’s prescriptions for education, and am sad I even considered anything that physician said.

There is a limit to the value of pointing out the foolishness of fools. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, the way is to promote birth control and education on human relationships and consent. US Republicans oppose this. We like to think rationality will prevail, but they’re not listening!

I am less discombobulated than I was by such vileness. Yesterday, at a conference I was discombobulated in a completely different way: I glimpsed that if I could better understand what these speakers were saying, perhaps reading the paper rather than hearing it, my understanding of the World would be enriched. Good advice: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. I will spend less time worried about wicked rubbish!

Vulnerability

-What are you afraid of?
-My vulnerability.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. That’s in Mark, and bears the imprint of an editor: some authorities miss out “for my sake”, but the words “for the sake of the gospel” damage the symmetry of the phrase, and the explanation damages its poetry.

I am losing my life. I fritter it. I hate sitting here watching television. I liked going into London to speak at Quaker Quest, taking in several interesting encounters and lots of Art. One told me, gratefully, that what I said was like ministry, at least worship-sharing. That had an air of holiday about it, but in a job I hope I would not merely be ground down, and even now I could go out to encounter people and beautiful things locally.

And, I sit here because I am afraid, of judgment which is so awful as to be as bad as death. I know this is an illusion, but the fear of it is still real. Of course I will die, and I could die in an accident at any time- though fearing death and planning suicide is a strange combination. There is something about the moment of death which is fearful and horrible, but death itself is not. After death, the horror disappears.

The moment of failure, the moment of getting caught out, terrifies me, whether it leads to death or mild embarrassment. I can see I am not being sensible, that I am losing my life, that my way of saving myself is an illusion, but being rational about this does not save me from the fear.

There’s nothing to fear. I know that. I still fear it.

-Why were you screaming?
-Because I felt seen and accepted.

More paradoxes. I rationalised it immediately- it is the delight which reminds me of past lack; but it could be deeper than that. It means I am wrong. If I am acceptable, all I know and believe about myself is untrue and my world falls apart. If I am seen, I will be despised- and judged. None of this is rational, so it could be both, as my madness can survive internal contradiction.

I will tell you here. I could not tell K face to face, but it might be worth working on.

I am beautiful.

Not- this thing, this process, all that is within my skin, whatever- I. People value and accept me. People even admire me, and sometimes express that.

This is all quite binary. All or nothing, Heaven or Hell, the marriage feast or gnashing of teeth, admiration or condemnation. It is also instant. I rarely judge other people like that. They’re mostly all right, I add little pieces of experience with them to a picture, and normally run away rather than cast another out. It’s not a perfect analogy for how others are, but it does tend to refute that all or nothing God-like power I ascribe to them, which only a mother has over a baby.

I am beautiful
beloved of God
highly gifted
facing my difficulties squarely.

Maybe I could tell other people this, and see how they react. I am judged, repeatedly, and cannot anticipate how others will judge me or what consequences that judgment will have for me. I am sometimes seen as wrong or bad, but not in the way I anticipate.

I fear making mistakes. If I can’t make mistakes, then I can’t do anything.

I record my counselling sessions, and this recording was silent. I don’t know why it didn’t work. But these two moments were the core of it- I fear vulnerability, I was hurt when I felt accepted. I want an instant solution, I want things I can work at for self-improvement, but looking back I perceive I am improving (hard though that is to claim).