Thursday, May 02, 2013

Yet more on misleading voices in the culture wars

I wanted to bring this to the top of the page. A reader has posted a comment in this older thread in response to a...ahem...kerfuffle at another blog. The topic of the original post at that other blog was the work of Rosaria Butterfield, a former Queer Theory professor who is now a married, Christian mother and has become a kind of "star" in the Christian community. She has a book and has speaking gigs in which she tells people how we can (and should) minister to homosexuals. Frankly, I have heard enough about her at second hand not to be interested in reading her book or getting into discussing her. I got involved in the other thread through a sub-issue--namely, whether feminist literary theory and "Queer Theory" and similar post-modern -isms in English departments are something better than trash, academically speaking. (Hint: No, really, they're just trash.)

Anyway, someone who read that thread came and left some thoughtful comments, considerately finding a fairly relevant thread and expressing some hesitations about Rosaria Butterfield. Apparently finding anyone who expresses hesitations about anything this new heroine says is exceedingly difficult. Certainly, the information I have thus far indicates that she's sincere but, on some issues misguided. And the problem is that, as I said in the comments below, Christians get a kind of affirmative action complex: This is one of our token celibate homosexuals or, in Butterfield's case, ex-homosexuals, so we mustn't criticize. I think that is a very dangerous position to be in, especially if they are going to be treated as advisers. More information relevant to that issue and to Butterfield can be posted here.


yankeegospelgirl said...

I'm short on time, so here briefly are a few areas of concern I have:

1. An insistence on respecting her past from an academic perspective, despite rejecting it on moral grounds, which results in some intellectual snobbery towards Christians.

2. A tendency to brush off legitimate concerns about aggressive homosexual activism/behavior as "ghost stories."

3. Multiple snide references to "the Religious Right" and how they're basically getting everything wrong.

4. A failure to recognize that children should be guarded from the reality of this sin for as long as possible, because "it's just like any other sin." Consequently, a downplaying of the need to preserve kids' innocence, all for the sake of showing greater "hospitality" and "reaching out." This goes together with her saying we shouldn't be "grossed out" by homosexuals, and if we feel a need to protect our children from homosexuality, we're being overly protective and not missional enough.

5. In continuation of point 4, a satisfaction in pulling people out of being "comfortable" and "safe" so that they can have "messy conversations" with the people who really need to hear the gospel instead of just preaching to "the four people who don't really need to hear it." She tells young college kids who want to evangelize homosexuals that they should tie in to a local church and invite them to come. By itself this sounds good, but she goes further and insists that these young Christians should NOT put an emphasis on "getting all cleaned up first" (without giving specifics). In other words, that the LGBT students should feel free to come and behave however they like, because they creates a "safe" environment for them. Granted, she does say that they should consult with the pastor of such a church first, but as for the congregation? They apparently don't count and are just expected to roll with whatever.

6. Speaking of, she almost takes some relish out of bringing her male but transgender friend to church with her one Sunday. She said a lot of people were uncomfortable with it. No duh! But still she doesn't say it was wrong a bad idea for her to have done so, even though the guy was quite well entrenched in his apostasy (he had been a minister) and as far as she knows never came back to the faith.

7. Speaking of this transgender friend, she can't seem to decide what pronoun to use in referring to him. In an interview with the conservative blogger Tim Challies, she didn't refer to him as "she" but simply "a biological male dressing in drag." In her book, she still has the phrase "biologically male" in there, but MULTIPLE TIMES refers to him as "she," "her," etc. This is not good. It shows a willingness to adapt her language for a different audience on a matter that's absolutely objective and non-negotiable.

Lydia McGrew said... can you *possibly* say any of these things without having read her *entire book*? ;-)

Seriously, thanks for the info.

On not wanting to protect children's innocence, Tony Esolen has said some excellent things about this. For example, in a thread somewhere I once saw him talking about people he has known who are happily married but who might have ended up as "gay" if they had been constantly surrounded by the message that, in essence, homosexuals are everywhere, tons of people you know just _are_ homosexual, and the like. Kids really do absorb messages about what is normal from what they come to perceive as common and from what others around them take for granted or as no big deal. It really is impossible for young people to be surrounded from earliest childhood with the idea that multiple people they know just "are gay" without imbibing thereby some very confused ideas: For example, that homosexuality is a matter of intrinsic identity. That it is very common. That it isn't so very bad after all. That for all they know, they might really "be gay" and not have realized it before, and that they need to either worry about or explore this possibility. A presumption of normalcy in those around one is _extremely_ important to normal childhood development. My co-blogger Tony M. at What's Wrong With the World has also emphasized this.

That very point is something that ex-homosexuals or "out but celibate" homosexuals find almost impossible to grasp. What it means is that in a sense homosexuals owe it to society at large to stay in the closet! That is nearly impossible for them to accept, even if they have now accepted that homosexual _acts_ are abnormal. To be told to shut the heck up and to not surround kids with the concept that everybody and his uncle (as it were) have this inclination is unendurable for them. They feel rejected personally by it. And in fact, much of the message these token counselors (including, it sounds like, Butterfield) bring to the Christian church is that we *ought* to talk *more* about this sin, *ought* to make it a totally open thing in our churches that A, B, and C "are gay," and that there is no responsibility of discretion to do otherwise.

They have absolutely no idea how destructive all of this is to society and to the normal development of the young. No concept whatsoever. And if anybody in Christian churches instinctively feels that there is something wrong, such counselors make them feel guilty for thinking or feeling that way.

In fact, I myself have found it extraordinarily helpful for Tony Esolen and Tony M. to articulate this idea of an "expectation of normalcy" to which young children are entitled in their social atmosphere. When I read that, I thought, "Yes!" It was something I myself had been groping for but hadn't thought to word so clearly before. When little Jimmy is told that beloved Uncle Harry "is gay" and that Mr. Bob and Mr. Bill who attend church "are gay partners" and the like, and when Mom and Dad just accept Uncle Harry and Mr. Bob and Mr. Bill as approved adult friends, this strongly influences little Jimmy's notions of what is normal in life, in masculinity, and in the world. And that's not right or healthy.

We need to call out people who teach to the contrary. Even Butterfield.

Lydia McGrew said...

And let me add too, concerning "hospitality" and churches, that if some homosexual couple attends a church, the problem needn't rise to the level of their actually holding hands or something in order to be an issue. (Though, if they really do just think of themselves as being just like a hetero couple, why wouldn't they? Don't husband and wife couples occasionally take hands as they walk into church?) But beyond that, what happens when Mr. Bob and Mr. Bill introduce each other at the coffee time after church? "This is Bob, my partner." What does that mean to us and to little Jimmy? He's your business partner? You sing duets together? Then there was the lesbian woman who, as I recall the story, showed up at a Catholic Mass and put it in the priest's face by introducing the other woman as "my lover." If she were accepted she would _certainly_ do something similar to that when talking to other parishioners. There is a strong love of putting things in people's faces in that community. None of this is some sort of "ghost story." This is all only too real.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Butterfield sends mixed messages as far as how private/public church conversations about homosexuality should be. On the one hand, she recounts stories from friends who struggle with homoerotic tendencies but are "afraid" to go to anyone in the church and ask for counsel about this sin, because these friends have only heard "hateful talk about gay people" in sermons/conversations. So, essentially, she's implying that it's "hateful" to use any strong language about the dangers of homosexual activism, the need to push back homosexual influence in our culture, the legitimate concerns about normalizing such relationships, etc. "You're scaring the poor struggling homosexuals in your pew! Bad church, stop it." *nose smack*

On the other hand, she says that when such conversations do take place, the privacy of the people in question should be guarded. So I guess the flip side of that would be that not everyone in the church necessarily knows about what that person is going through, which is a good thing. Nevertheless, as far as outreach is concerned, she definitely expects church members, even families, to "make sacrifices" as far as inviting the unpleasantness and awkwardness that comes with ministering to gays outside the church.

One example story she tells, which admittedly sounds quite thorny and sad, is a lesbian student of hers who tried to set herself on fire and commit suicide. At this time, Rosaria was studying the Bible and attending the church regularly without yet having reached a full commitment to God. But she had enough of a connection with the church to go to them for help in reaching out to this girl. However, the girl's LGBTQWERTY community ALSO wanted to be involved, and this made for some very "awkward" meetings in places like the hospital waiting room. Butterfield describes herself in that scenario as "a bridge that got walked on." But she portrays that as somehow a good thing. Like "Oh look at that, these two communities were forced to 'come together,' and gee I guess it was a disaster in some ways but maybe we need more disasters like that." The pastor's family actually invited the girl to live with them while she was recovering, which Butterfield says was also awkward in many ways. But she mentions one anecdote about the little girl of the family sitting down and solemnly educating the student about fire safety (having been too little to understand how she got burned). But once again, it's this idea of "See how kids can 'minister' if we just let them be themselves instead of worrying whether they'll get gay on them!"

Lydia McGrew said...

Yeah, when somebody mentions so-called "hateful talk in sermons," all my "be specific" antennae go up. Be specific, _what_ do you call "hateful talk"? Then let 'em sputter. And if they do get specific, I'm going to bet dollars to donuts that I'm not going to agree that there was anything wrong with the "hateful talk," or possibly I'm going to be a little dubious that it took place. E.g. If someone tells me that some normal evangelical church pastor is spouting "God hates _____" talk, I'm going to be dubious.

As for the girl in that story, I guess I would say that if you feel moved to have a troubled girl stay in your home (which is a _huge_ issue aside from the girl's sexual orientation), it _might_ be possible simply to have the girl be "someone unhappy who needs some help" to your kids and not "someone gay." Since the girl was apparently "unattached" at the time, the problem of presenting her *as gay* might not arise. Might not. There are other issues, such as the safety of having someone stay with you who is suicidal. But my impression is that in general B. just isn't sympathetic to concerns about the expectation of normalcy. So the whole idea of _concealing_ or deliberately _not mentioning_ this girl's being homosexual in connection with children would be something she would reject. Would you say that's about correct?

After all, Butterfield is the person who is evidently proud of the fact that she brought a man dressed in drag to church. That's extremely rude. Period.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Agreed. What was she thinking?? It wasn't like this guy said, "I've seriously been having second thoughts about my choice to change genders, and I feel like I need to connect to that church in order to see God's true will in my life." It sounds like she said, "Hey, I've been going to this church and maybe you'd like it," and he just shrugged and said, "Sure, whatever, haven't been to church in a while." No real intention of changing. Maybe Rosaria would think this is "nasty" or "unsafe," but I think that if such a person wants to come to church he should take steps to hide what he's done to his body. Dress in male clothes, cut the hair, bind the chest if necessary. Do whatever you have to, but have a smidgen of etiquette about it. I guess for Butterfield, that's the equivalent of "Telling them they have to get all cleaned up first." Too jolly bad. This is about basic decency.

As for children's innocence, I think Butterfield's perspective is limited. She does recognize the importance of sheltering children from the sordid details of sexual sin, but she only seems to have room for the categories of "graphic/non-graphic" or "lurid/not lurid" in her mind. Apparently, she has no problem with telling her own young children that some boys love other boys instead of girls, or some girls love other girls instead of boys. And she teaches them why it's wrong, but still, she's under the impression that as long as you don't go into all the details, what's the problem?

Lydia McGrew said...

Actually, if she referred to him as biologically male, he probably hadn't done anything to his body. Some "trans" people just dress and present as the opposite gender. So all he had to do was to put on a pair of pants and a shirt and not try to pretend he was a woman. Simple enough. Since when is _not_ putting on a creepy Halloween costume to go to church an example of "having to get all cleaned up"? But obviously all that way of thinking is supposed to be mean and cruel.

Right. I know exactly the kind of thing you mean about her and her children. Zero notion of the "expectation of normalcy" or the importance thereof.

Partly this may arise from the idea that you either _are_ homosexual or you _aren't_. Hence, people infer, one's children either are or aren't, and soaking them in the concept of same-sex attraction from earliest childhood can't possibly change any outcomes for them. Well, baloney. I think Tony Esolen is right that there are people who now are happily married heterosexuals who might well have gone another way had they been raised in today's society and taught to question their own sexuality and to think that maybe they just "are gay" from childhood. This notion of a fixed "gay identity" is highly dangerous, and I'm realizing that one of the ways in which it is highly dangerous is that it makes people cavalier about exposing children to the general notion of homosexuality quite early. "What's the harm?" is a question asked by people who assume that if your children "aren't gay," then saturating them in this can't possibly make a difference.

If she uses a phrase like "some boys love other boys and some girls love other girls," that's problematic, too. If we're talking about boys and girls, it just plain isn't true that children, boys and girls, "love" other members of the same gender in a lesbian or homosexual way. For one thing, naturally, there is a period of sexual latency in children, so they aren't "loving" anybody in a sexual way. For another thing, it is possible for a girl to have some sort of overwhelming admiration for another girl, which some might call a "crush," without its being sexual. Nowadays such overwhelming admirations would doubtless be considered a sign of possible lesbianism, but actually they are a type of hero-worship. That sort of hero-worship can be harmful. The more powerful girl can use it to her advantage in unhealthy ways, though those will usually be non-sexual ways. (E.g. To stoke her own ego, to gossip about other people or to make other people jealous, to get things done that she doesn't want to risk doing herself, and the like.) If sexual latency is destroyed and children start feeling disordered sexual impulses toward other children of the same gender, that isn't love anyway.

For that matter, come to think of it, I would never tell my kids that some grownup people "love" others of the same gender. The whole thing is disordered, and applying the word "love" to it simply makes it sound like it might be a good or positive thing after all.

Anonymous said...

What about this scripture:Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Or this one:
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

So we are new creatures, the old is past. That is what you USED to be, but you were washed... The scriptures exhort us: forgetting what is behind I press on... (Philippians 3:13

Another thing: what if we substituted any other sin for homosexuality in this case. So we have a former drunk. They write a book about their former life. Maybe they were even an expert and worked for a distillery! They were experts on alcohol and in bondage to it. Entrenched in the life of a drunkard. On the way to destroying their life and health and family. But Christ saves them. They forsake the drunkenness, the job, etc. But then in their book they still praise their former distillery's business practices, and describe how interesting the science of distilling alcohol really is. They write about the nice drunks they knew and praise them for their hospitality and friendship. They say that the church has misunderstood and mistreated drunks. They bring their falling down drunk, apostate friend to church.

Kinda sheds some light on the subject, eh?

Listen many of us could do this with our former lives. But what would it prove? Why is it all of a sudden "noble" in Butterfield's case?

Lydia McGrew said...

I find that the reason homosexual sin isn't treated as _even_ on a par with continual drunkenness is because of the identity issue. The idea that no one really can get past (and when I say "no one," I mean often not even Christians who believe that homosexual acts are wrong) is this notion that homosexuality is part of a person's intrinsic identity. As a general rule, society doesn't think of "being a drunk" or even "being an alcoholic" as part of a person's identity. Hence Christians who try to help alcoholics tend not to lecture churches for not being more accepting, and they tend (I hope) to realize that coming to church falling-down drunk is not a good idea, etc. But when it comes to a homosexual person or even a "trans" person, the idea is that you have to "accept this person the way he is," so the notion that a man's coming to church dressed as a woman is just rude and inappropriate is out of bounds. Really, Christians are coming to accept the world's idea that these things are matters of personal identity, not disorders.

Anonymous said...

The idea that there are "four people who don't need" the gospel is ludicrously unbiblical. EVERYBODY needs the gospel. EVERYBODY is in bondage to sin. Everybody apart from Christ is under the wrath of a Just and Holy God. Every body is a sinner, and Jesus Christ died for who? He died for sinners. Jesus Christ left us with this command: Preach the gospel to every creature....

The idea that some people "need" it and some don''s a kind of elitism. It's like Butterfield just cannot get away from that mentality.

I submit that even Christians need the gospel. Even if I witness to someone and turns out they are a believer it is a blessing. I see before me a brother or sister in Christ. They are encouraged by the reminder that Christ died for them and they are encouraged to go and share the gospel themselves. Whatever you do, Christian, share the gospel wherever you go!

yankeegospelgirl said...

Good points Anon. Lydia, just to clarify, I don't think she uses the specific words "boys and girls," and in fact would probably applaud the idea of preserving sexual latency in children. But she does tell her children that grownups have these relationships, which is itself problematic. She also does acknowledge that not everyone is born with these desires and can be subjected to social pressure. However, what I do think is feeding into her approach is the meme "We're ALL born this way." That's one of her big talking-points---all of us are born with a sin nature, and at least some people (even if she admits not all who choose this lifestyle) are born with the inclination to homosexuality. True as far as it goes, but the way she's applying it is highly problematic.

As for the trans-gender friend, he actually had already taken hormones so that he had some female characteristics (though his voice hadn't changed). He was an adult case, which makes for a pretty ugly, messy transformation. She meant by "biologically male" to clarify that he was born male. So it would have been a little more complicated than just dressing differently for him. But again, if he was just coming for the heck of it, he shouldn't have come at all, period.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's right Lydia. The church is accepting the world's wisdom rather than God's. According to scripture, it is a sinful behavior, coming from a sinful heart. It is always put in a list along with other sins. If someone is confused about their feelings or whatever from childhood, well it's part of a sin-cursed world. Other people have the urge from childhood on, to steal things, or boast, or hate, or ??? Doesn't mean that's their identity and cannot be changed by the grace of God. It means they are sinners. That is our real personal identity: Sinners.

yankeegospelgirl said...

I would add also that there's a difference between the lonely drunk guy who stumbles into church all by himself of a morning just because he's instinctively drawn to it but doesn't know what to do with himself... and the alcoholic friend who's been invited to church with no boundaries on his behavior. It's one thing for us to look at the first guy and say "Poor guy, he needs help and felt like church might be the place to find it." It's another thing to tell your friend, "Yeah, basically don't worry about whether you're sober or not when you come to church with me next Sunday, 'cuz I understand there's no way to predict or control whether you'll be sober or not!"

Plus, a falling-down drunk guy STILL isn't as innocence-destroying of a spectacle as the result of an adult person's attempt to change genders.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Like I said in the other thread Anon, I do think Butterfield would agree with you about the nature of sin. What I do think should be criticized, and what you're rightly reacting against, is her patronizing approach to evangelistic tactics and her habit of lecturing the church where it doesn't need to be lectured.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I was offended by her criticisms of conservatives and christians. It was like she was an outsider, not a christian herself. If she is trying to help other christians respond to sinners rightly, how about using scripture rather than worldly ideas? The fact of the matter is that the world hates christians, period. Of course they are not going to approve of how we witness, how we address sin, how we act, etc. Christians are not subject to the approval of the world, thankfully.

The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments...1 Cor 2:15

Anonymous said...

Almost every thing that Butterfield says gets to me. Many of her ideas simply are not biblical. The idea that young Christians should evangelize homosexuals by bringing them to church. O.k. here is the question: Is church for Christians or non-believers? Biblically, it is for believers, to hear the word taught and preached,to partake of the sacraments and sing in worship to the Lord. If an unbeliever chooses to come, by all means he or she is welcome. I did, and the Lord used His word to save me. But specifically, according to scripture, church is for believers. If you want to invite your unbelieiving friend, by all means do so. But to try and make this some sort of mandate, sorry this is not in the scripture. It's that thing where I might have a conviction about something but then rather than making it my personal mandate, I try to force it on everyone else.

As for how an unbeliever ought to conduct themselves at example might be how a missionary in a foreign land would handle this. I have read where they did require natives who would normally have worn only a loincloth to put on clothing to attend church.

Anonymous said...

Church isn't safe for the unbeliever! God is not safe! He is a God of wrath. He cannot tolerate sin; He hates it because it is an offense against His holy, pure, loving character. He hates sin so much that He was willing to allow His only beloved Son be put to death, so that sinners could be set free from it and forgiven. Sin was laid on Jesus Christ and He bore the wrath of God so that those who would believe on Him might be saved.

Should the church to try to create some sort of "safe place" for sinners? No.

Fact is, the whole world is a safe place for sin! The world loves its own.