01 July 2010

Have I hugged a Christian today?

This post is written by guest writer Adrienne. She is currently attending Texas A&M in the Ph.D. English program.

I Hugged a Man in His Underwear. And I am Proud.

Are people reading this story? And if so, did they read it (like I did) because a friend posted it or brought it up while talking about how wonderful and truly powerful it is? And am I the only one that is still really upset and horrified by the message implicit in these events?

I like leading questions, don't you?

I get why people like this. I understand that the message people like in this story is that Christianity should love everyone and be inclusive and not judge. And that Christians can apologize and be humble and take responsibility. I can see how people would want to be drawn in and believe in this. The message at the parade was probably more powerful and less upsetting than this article. Or I'm willing to give the original message the benefit of the doubt.

But what I can't ignore when I read the article is that it is saying "I'll hug you even though you're sinful." Nathan writes, "Sadly, most Christians want to run from such a sight rather than engage it" and further "I think Jesus would have hugged him too. It’s exactly what I read throughout scripture: Jesus hanging out with people that religious people would flee from. Correlation between then and now? I think so." Unless we're taking this completely out of context (and even probably then), wasn't the reason that Jesus hung with those people was to help those most in need? Yes, he treated them well and maybe would have even if he wasn't trying to help or save them. But it was always connected to the message of helping or saving. This still sits firmly in the "Love the homosexual and hate homosexuality" area for me. This doesn't support gay rights, and supporting individual gays isn't enough. Yes, everyone should treat everyone else as a human being. It is important to know that the man dancing in his underwear is named Tristan. But unlike the article, we shouldn't know this in spite of the fact that the man is dancing in his underwear. Just stop at the "this is a man." Or he's awesome and great because he's dancing in his underwear. And stop being so proud that you hugged the controversial and icky. Nathan takes great pains to remind us that the man he hugged (that he wants to focus on) was in his UNDERWEAR. Nathan hugged a gay man that was being "flagrantly gay!" Like Jesus washed a leper, this author hugged sweaty abs, nudity, and a penis that was only barely covered. Gay is clearly already gross to the author and the reader. But they love gross anyway. I can't really love you unless I love who you are. I don't support you until I support who you are. To really support glbtia people then support glbtia rights and activism.

And even though he mentions the word a number of time- I don't see any real engagement with what reconciliation is going on here. Seems to me like if reconciliation is necessary then full acceptance isn't possible. Even from a loving Christianity mentality, Christianity is about hierarchy, behavior, and judgment.

I do not see this as a step in the right direction. It's a step "forward" that is still on the completely wrong path. I'm glad he apologized, openly and publicly. I'm really not glad he wrote this article about it.


Courtney said...

Oh, Adrienne, you are so going to raise the bar around here.

I love your title especially. Because this story isn't about the gays. Or even Jesus. It's about the dude who wrote it. If the people at the Pride parade had said to these people, "Fuck you. Sorry isn't good enough," or "Are you backing up your sorry with any activism? Because if not, it's not worth a damn," do you think this author would have thought that was wonderful? Of course not, because he wanted to feel good about accepting the gross gays, not actually engaging with them. This story is about the need for gays to accept Christians who are penitent, not Christians accepting LGBTQIA. It was about the right for Christians to feel like good people with minimal effort, despite the fact that their religion has invested countless dollars and time into making sure that homophobia and transphobia exist institutionally at a federal, state, local, and individual level.

Punning Pundit said...

The thing that bugs me about this story is the shear arrogance of the guy in presuming to speak for Christians. According to one of the signs he says he was holding, he has come (perhaps recently?) to realize that hating gays is unchristian. It's great that he figured that out. He does not, however, seem to want to talk about that.

What he does talk about is: 1) gays are lovable despite their gayness 2) unlike other Christians, I understand point 1. When that's your message, it makes the powerful arbiter of right and wrong. It's a heady feeling. It also makes you an asshole.

Fiend of 9 worlds said...

The hug was fine, but it didn't need to linger quite so much.

Ryan said...

Christianity has an inherent "I am better than you and have an inheritance waiting for me" foundation that means any sinner-hugging is done inside a system of privilege. I over You. It is the same hierarchical, acceptable, patriarchal world-on-a-platter stuff that makes it ok for churches to give money to the poor and needy while perpetuating a system that marginalizes them.

He has simply progressed from outright offensive attacks to condescending action. Gays will be his Flavor of the Month until some other "needy" or "sinful" group catches his eye. Nothing new at all.

Meredith said...

This reminds me of the time I went to church on Good Friday with my Catholic grandmother - I was raised Jewish. At some point they prayed for the Jews to see the error of our ways so we wouldn't have to go to Hell.

I was 17 at the time and felt like standing up and saying, "Shove your prayer up your ass. If not going to Hell means I have to hang out with you lot, then I'd rather burn." But I love my grandma and didn't want to embarrass her.

That's what this guy and his signs remind me of. "I'm sorry we think you are going to burn in Hell, even though you seem like FABULOUS and FIERCE sinners."

Amaryah said...

While many in mainstream evangelical circles might interpret Jesus' hanging out with undesirables as a way to save them, I think most liberation theologies would say Jesus hangs out with them to show us that they're not undesirable and really it is those who are prejudiced against them that are being undesirable.

I guess what I'm trying to say with this is that I think mainstream white male-centric evangelicalism has done a lot to make Jesus and being a Christian about trying to convince people who aren't like you to be like you, but POC and Queer and Feminist theologians have done a lot of work to try to expose how patriarchy and white supremacy have used Christianity to oppress marginalized groups, and how Jesus' message actually subverts this "Love the Sinner Hate the Sin" logic that is so dominant.

Whether this is an example of that subversive theology by the folks holding the signs, I don't think so, but I think the response of LGBTQI folks to the Christians is where liberation theologians would point as the example of Christ-like behavior, not the guys with the signs.

Meg said...

This dude has been playing this game for awhile. It seems to be his shtick. Talk nice and inclusive to the LGBT folk, but pander to the evangelicals. He talks about building bridges but he has never once said that homosexuality is not a sin. In fact, when he's talking to predominantly fundamentalist audiences he's a lot more open about the fact that he DOES believe it's a sin. I've been seeing a lot of positive attention and linking of the "I'm sorry" post, so seeing your counter point made me so so happy.

If you want to read some of his past indiscretions with the LGBT community I recommend this:

The preacher lied: Michelangelo Signorile examines the case of Andrew Marin, a lay minister who exploited his lesbian friends to promote himself as a "bridge" between gays and evangelicals. After HRC and others bought into his pitch, his true antigay colors began to shine through.

Adrienne said...

Thanks for all the positive comments. I agree Courtney- that one of the big issues of the original blog is that it IS about him and his mission and not about glbtia rights.

Yup Punning Pundit- totally.

I agree with you Ryan, and this is why... I have a hard time trying to reconcile what Amaryah is writing about. I understand and appreciate subversive theology (of lots of different kinds and flavors), but I just... I have a hard time believing that a) it's a good interpretation and b) I don't think you can disconnect it from the mainstream ideology and theology. I think that this is a problem with using as a base ideology that is horrifying, misogynistic, racist, all ists really, and turning it on its head to be progressive and/or to respond to the ists. It both allows for more subversion and more complicitness (yay for making up words). At least there should be a full and complete acknowledgment of the way this is complicit and problematic.

I had the same kind of experiences as Meredith when I went to churches as a kid. Shove it up their ass indeed.

Like Meg, I'm very disappointed that there has been no strong and fierce "Homosexuality is not a sin" or "homosexuals are not sinners." I'm also VERY glad that a counter point to this post is appreciated because I just keep seeing more positive attention and responses to the original blog.

Thanks so much for the reading!

Ryan said...

After having done some homework on this (thanks Meg), I have no shinier view on humanity than I did before. Religious guy uses foot-in-the-door sales techniques and then reports his conquests to the proper evangelical authorities when a few people fall for it. And the way it's done is so clean, middle and classist that I feel like some of these methods were lifted straight from corporate retail.

Need to go clean the puke out of my mouth now.

Meg said...

No prob, honestly like I said, I was just so happy to see someone calling it what it was instead of giving the guy a cookie because OMG! he hugged a nearly naked gay man! without recoiling in revulsion! amazing!

It's especially grating when you consider that there are already links between the christian and queer communities. MCC and Unity managed to jump this hurdle decades ago and are now leaders in queer theology and back up their words with actual activism. I just want this guy to. go. away.

And as an aside, I actually just found ya'll via the Amanda Hess interview and having poked around a bit, I just wanted to say that I really dig what ya'll are doing :)