In his brilliant introduction to artificial intelligence, Max Tegmark describes our existence as the universe waking up from a zombie slumber. As I’ve struggled to understand what I believe about God and the universe around me, I’ve found myself finding wonder and hope in the material universe itself.
In this episode of Sacred Tension, Eleventyseven frontman Matt Langston reads the anti-gay Nasheville Statement to me to get a blow by blow response from a real-life gay person. In the process we discuss a wide range of topics including sex, the Bible, and growing up gay in the south.
Link to the Nasheville Statement.
We live in frightening, polarizing times. Put more bluntly, we live in a horribly incurious time: we are incurious about the experience of others, the contents of their skulls, and what motivates them. This incuriosity is stoked from a thousand directions, from social media to bloggers to news outlets, all preying on our baser, animal instincts.
Into this fray comes David Dark. In his book Life’s Too Short To Pretend Your Not Religious, he writes that nuance is sacred:
I want very badly to challenge the ease with which we succumb to the false divide of labels, that moment in which our empathy gives out and we refuse to respond openhandedly or even curiously to people with whom we differ. As I see it, to refuse the possibility of finding another person interesting, complex and as complicated as oneself is a form of violence. At bottom, this is a refusal of nuance, and I wish to posit that nuance is sacred. To call it sacred is to value it so much and esteem it so highly that we find it fitting to somehow set it apart as something to which we’re forever committed. Nuance refuses to envision others degradingly, denying them the content of their own experience, and talks us down tenderly from the false ledges we’ve put ourselves on. When we take it on as a sacred obligation, nuance also delivers us out of the deadly habit of cutting people out of our own imaginations. This opens us up to the possibility of at least occasionally finding one another beautiful, the possibility of communion. I happen to live for these openings, and I suspect I write “NUANCE” in the margins of research papers more than any other word. It could be that there’s no communion without it. I hasten to add that the communion I’m hoping for isn’t a retreat from the everyday or the realistic but a more profound engagement with it. This brings to mind Iris Murdoch’s definition of love: “Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real. Love, and so art and morals, is the discovery of reality.” The work of consciousness, we begin to understand, is never done.
In this episode of Sacred Tension, I talk to former Salvation Army officer Timothy McPherson about his journey from conservative minister to being excommunicated from his church for coming out as bisexual and progressive.
Artwork is by Justin Caleb Bryant
Music by The Jellyrox
Growing up gay in the conservative church, I believed I was barred from ever having a gay relationship and that, unless something truly miraculous happened which allowed me to marry a woman, I would spend the rest of my life celibate. This wasn’t because my Christian community overtly hated gay people – though many did. It wasn’t even because of the “clobber passages” – the handful of passages that allegedly directly mention homosexuality.
No. I and my Christian community believed I was barred from a gay relationship, first and foremost, because of gender complementarianism: the belief that the union of male and female within the covenant of marriage creates a morally exclusive spiritual state, and that such a state is the only valid and virtuous “container” for sexual activity.