In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love.
-Marco Antonio de Dominis
For more than a year, I have considered starting a blog where I would be able to explore my thoughts about gender, sexuality, and the Christian church.
I’ve delayed doing so for a long time. That has partly been due to dealing with various fears, and partly due to me allowing myself the space to grow into someone who is both able and willing to speak. Both these processes—facing fears, becoming my own person—are ongoing. I’m not about to pretend that I’ve reached a place of finality or that I write from a higher plane of certain self-affirmation and transcendent knowledge, or even that I am ready at all. I speak out of transition and a transitory state of being. I know that who I am and what I know is changing and will change.
That is related to one of my fears—that in speaking, I will at some point say or enact that which I will later recognize to be harmful (or, more accurately, that which does harm to another, whether I later recognize it or not). I realize that this will happen. Even with the best will in the world, which I do not always have, I am human, with limited knowledge, language, and experience. As Katherine Cross has written, feminist activism (or activism more largely), demands “not only that I show my scars but that I, paradoxically, testify to my permanent perfection from birth.” It is expected that a feminist both prove herself to be affected by systems of oppression and never to have internalized them, never to have been, for instance, sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic. I know that I have no immaculate perfection, and that I will discover ugly scars and innate deformities as I write. I apologize to you, whoever you may be, for when I may harm you in the process of that discovery.
The corollary of that fear had a greater influence in keeping me from writing: the fear that I would hurt myself by distancing those I care about from me. To say “I am a feminist,” to say “I support marriage equality,” or, more recently, to say “I am pansexual”—all of these statements hold the potential for triggering a reactionary exclusion from some. Speaking openly, I know, leaves me vulnerable to recategorization in the minds of some, a recategorization that is intensely painful to me. To be told that I am not a follower of Christ (the center of my existence); to be told that I have no respect for the Bible (indispensable to my faith); that I am immoral, a contaminating factor, not worthy of fellowship: I don’t claim to have the strength of mind or spirit, even with all support that I am lucky to have from many who are close to me, that would make hearing this from others I care about a painless experience.
With such fears, of hurting others and of opening myself to harm, the temptation is simply to persist in silence.
It would be easy to say that in writing, I am motivated by opposing, greater fears. The fear that in remaining silent, I reinforce and perpetuate unjust systems, thus doing greater harm than I could do through speaking. The fear that in remaining silent, I merely exchange the possibility of active rejection for the passive poison of the ever-present worry that this friend, this family member, would reject me if they knew.
And such motivations would not be wrong. But I hope that my active motivations outweigh my self-protective ones. I want to attempt to identify the truth to myself and to speak it. I want to attempt to come into myself as a human being who is open to others and to God. I want to attempt to love. Grandiose as it sounds, my goal is to become someone whose actions and speech are driven by love. In all things.
And so in my forays into the intricate and entangled discourses of theology, of gender, of sexuality, I am seeking a hermeneutic of love, one that recognizes the full humanity of every person. One that vehemently decries oppression, and one that acknowledges that too often, I am the oppressor.
That is why I have taken my blog title from the motto of Christian irenics quoted above. There are essentials, and there are non-essentials. There are divisions caused by disagreements over which is which. But above all, there is love, the core of God’s nature. Love is the impulse behind what Miroslav Volf terms “the will to embrace.” The love that recognizes the humanity of the other breaks down demonizing constructions of identity, as is suggested by the simple statement (by John Green), “There is no them. There are only facets of us.” This is the view that I wish to foster in myself.
I plan to update my blog twice a week, on Sunday and Wednesday. On Sundays, you can expect posts on topics of gender, sexuality, and/or theology that strike me over the course of the week. On Wednesdays, I’ll be putting up companion posts to episodes of the Christian Feminist Podcast, one episode per post, starting with episode 1.1 next Wednesday. I don’t intend for those posts to be recapitulations of the content of the episodes (you can find episode outlines in the show notes), and you won’t have to have heard the podcast for the posts to make sense. I’ll just be using the podcast as a loose framework for topics, expanding on points raised by the panelists or going off on tangents of my own about the subject matter dealt with in the episodes.