Kevin DeYoung’s Hermeneutic

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Some time has passed since answering DeYoung’s 40 questions. What my friends Keegan, Tapji, and I noticed was that one must accept DeYoung’s hermeneutical framework in order to answer his questions. Each of us, I am sure, felt a sense of emotional exhaustion due to accepting this hermeneutical framework. Likewise, I felt that the who point was that one would throw up their hands and just not do the 40 questions, and in that way, it would make DeYoung’s questions look unanswerable (and in my mind, that seems like a tactic of “look my questions have stumped those liberals!”). John Short offered an alternative 40 questions that get somewhat at some of my own questioning throughout answering the questions. But I just wanted to offer a reflection on answering those stupid 40 questions.

At this point it seems like a broken record, since I have asked this question continually but it is worth repeating, in that listening to a record repeatedly, for me, indicates an important message: conservative Christians focus so much on their queer antagonism being accepted as a legitimate part of Christian tradition, yet rarely speak out against other forms of queer antagonism. There is a significant disavowal on their part that their emphasis on “traditional marriage” (whatever this term really means) they do is marginalize a whole group of people. Yet rarely do they speak out against other forms of oppression against queer people.

Here, I think about the fact that queer people are more likely to be in poverty or homeless than their cisheterosexual counterparts. Moreover, there are more cases of drug abuse, and mental illness, which in my mind correlates with the ways in which society excludes and marginalizes people. Also insert issues like job discrimination, housing discrimination, or the fact that queer people of color still face police brutality. Or that queer immigrants face violence against the US state in detention centers, as Jannicet Gutierrez recently protested before President Obama. I cannot help but think about the racist and transphobic violence inflicted against CeCe McDonald, and that because she defended herself against this violence she still was deemed guilty by the judicial system. Transwomen continue to be murdered. Pastors will say that queer people need to caged up, and unsurprisingly conservative Christians either offer a tepid response or none at all.

These are all issues conservative Christians are often silent on. None of them deal with same-sex marriage. To be honest,  I care little about Same Sex Marriage because of all of the issues enumerate by Dean Spade and Craig Wilse. Nevertheless, it is difficult for me to accept conservative Christians who say their opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in Christian tradition alone (as if religious tradition is somehow exempt from producing bigotry or enforcing it). Why? Because they’re silent on all the other forms of oppression that queer people face on a daily basis. It is as if their opposition to same-sex marriage symbolizes their opposition of the moral goodness of queer life and culture.

What does not surprise me is that DeYoung asks if one will support Christians who will face bullying and the potential lack of religious freedom. This willfully ignores the violence faced by many queer people today. So it is not just that DeYoung has a rather myopic hermeneutic, but he is also a revisionist, ignoring the actual violence and oppression faced by queer people, as this huffington post article critiques about Christians “being oppressed.” Again, unsurprising because many conservative Christians frame their struggle as somehow akin to the struggles faced by minorities under Nazi Germany (again ignoring that LGBT people were among those persecuted and sent to concentration camps by the Nazis, or even that Nazi ideology was buttressed by the anti-Jewish teachings found in Christianity).

Here is where DeYoung and I differ hermeneutically. The Haggadah plays a central role during Pesaḥ, recounting the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt. The exodus is central both to me personally, and functions as the national founding myth in Judaism (to the extent that Rashi wonders why the Torah begins with creation not the Exodus). The exodus plays a central role in my political imagination, and in my desire to see the liberation of various groups of people. For Christians, Jesus is the image of God’s character. For me as a Jew, it is through the liberation in Egypt and the desire for new ways of life. As Moses says, החיים והמות נתתי לפניך הברכה והקללה ובחרת בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך “life and death I have set before you, a blessing and a curse and you will choose life so that you and your offspring may life” (Deut 30:19). Here, I take life not just to mean a physical way of life, but the way life is conceptualized, in the hopes that lives that are typically not valued will be valued, and advocating for a society that values the lives of those who are marginalized.

Lastly, I think our hermeneutic differs to the degree that Judaism has put more stock in historical experiences than Christianity. For many Christians, it always comes back to “doctrine.” Jews have overwhelming supported SSM, at least I believe, because of the lived experiences of oppression. This in part ties into the experience of exodus, but it also ties into the anti-semitism that Jews have faced in Europe and the United States. As Yitz Greenberg notes, “Judaism is a midrash on history.” Thus, lived experience plays a central role in how one practices Judaism, and lives faithfully to God.

I am sure that these interpretations do not adhere DeYoung’s hermeneutic, but then again, I find his interpretation of Scripture to be rather bland, simplistic, and lacking a depth of flavor like mayonnaise.

Indoctrination, Yes

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While I am obviously pissed at Queerty for its constant assertions that Minneapolis queer culture is somehow less than San Francisco queer culture, I agree with one of yesterday’s posts about indoctrinating children. The basic argument of the post can be summarized as follows:

They accuse us of exploiting children and in response we say, “NOOO! We’re not gonna make kids learn about homosexuality, we swear! It’s not like we’re trying to recruit your children or anything.” But let’s face it—that’s a lie. We want educators to teach future generations of children to accept queer sexuality. In fact, our very future depends on it.

and,

I and a lot of other people want to indoctrinate, recruit, teach, and expose children to queer sexuality AND THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Hell, our opponents even do the same…Anti-gay opponents are already unabashedly indoctrinating our children with the church and conservative politicians on their side and they make no bones about it.

Combine this with Foucault,

[One] thing to distrust is the tendency to relate the question of homosexuality to the problem of “Who am I?” and “What is the secret of my desire?” Perhaps it would be better to ask oneself, “What relations, through homosexuality, can be established, invented, multiplied, and modulated?” The problem is not to discover in oneself the truth of one’s sex, but, rather, to use one’s sexuality henceforth to arrive at a multiplicity of relationships. …. The development toward which homosexuality tends is one of friendship (“Friendship as a Way of Life,” Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth, 135-6).

I agree absolutely with Queerty, we need to be honest that we are attempting to teach and expose children to queer sexualities and queer cultural practices. I wrote a lot in my one semester as a graduate student about the moral worth of queer sexualities and cultures. This Foucault quote was one of my mantras throughout the semester, particularly his statement about the “use of sexuality henceforth to arrive at a multiplicity of relationships.” Queerness is a way of life, one that, while sometimes intersecting with the heterosexual matrix, contests the cultural norms of our society. Queerness is a Midrash on cultural norms and practices. I’m okay with that. I want future generations to have a critical lens and I want them to learn the beauty and power of queer culture.

As a side note, I agree that we need to be conscious about pointing out how the theocratic Right employs indoctrination. It is something that many people rarely do when engaging, if one can actually engage, with the theocratic Right. Politics of truth, right?

justification, gurl

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I have been in a perpetual fog for the past couple of days. I’ve been tired, weak, and particularly shaky. I am still shaken about the events of the last week. I am not sure if I had a seizure, or rather seizures. Nevertheless, the events stress me. The experience has helped me recognize a problem I will face if I ever decide to become a leader of any sort, which is stress management and learning to say no. It has made me realize just how maternal I am.

I don’t want to leave people behind, nor do I want to let them down. It’s a fact of life that we will leave people behind. The thought is an unsettling one. We have to make those choices, however. Moreover, we need personal lives. We need time to rejuvenate. I am not quite sure how King did it, leaving Coretta and his children behind. In my mind, that’s an impossible task and perhaps my justice work will never take me that far. Especially at this time, I cannot imagine justice work without having a life with Sean. It’s hard to be a part from him a month at a time. If I were to ever be a leader or a model of any sort, I think I would need him in my life as comfort. I also need him in my life because even when I’ve been out here, I have taken his loving presence for granted. I know two things, if I ever want to lead, I will need to learn how to say “no” and be realistic about my expectations. Moreover, I think we need to emphasize the sabbath in our own lives. The personal life, or the private life is not severed from living a life of justice, especially when we’re advocates for a queer life and queerer culture.

We become queer through our acts of intimacy. We engage in intimate relations that the society at large finds unnatural. Moreover, these intimate relations breakdown social norms and offer a means of transformation both in our personal lives and a community that embodies our culture. Our identity evolves, developing in and through the intimate relations we experience. These experiences are the transformative because not only do they allow us sexual charged experiences, new ways of discovering ourselves. Moreover queer experiences offer new modes of kinship, with import to the wider society. Our acts create richer forms of social life, a richer culture. In the end, the way I fuck my boyfriend translates to the way I encounter culture and form relationships with other human beings.

Ultimately, these are just a few notes that I will likely merge into my Leadership portfolio. In the next couple of days I would like to do a few things in my blog. First, I want to write the first part of my Leadership portfolio. I am sure I will articulate more than a few thoughts. Since the first section, especially, deals with our background and what shapes us, a blog is right for that. Second, I would like to start the writings of an artist statement. My own work is a discipline of constantly discovering who I am as a person but this is basic, I think, to any works we create. They’re ultimately about us, or at the very least, ideas we wish to articulate, if not for an audience, then for our selves and the artists with which we collaborate. Right now, I am interested in the apocalyptic, specifically blaspheming in relation to the apocalyptic. I am interested in blasphemy and how it is essential to creating more vibrant forms of religious life. Specifically, I like using art to discuss religious culture, ideologies, values, texts in order to broaden the scope of what the mean. In some ways, my work attempts to become an apocalyptic, using past concepts but breaking them and arguing for richer, more vibrant, and more inclusive categories. I believe in the process of radical democracy. Deal with it.

 

It’s called the break of day

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Swollen Lymph in the throat. Yes, just one. I am attempting really hard to be productive today. It’s not working too much. I have been taking naps on and off today. I imagine that I will have a rough draft of my paper on Love in the Gospel according to John but it might not be too superb. I am attempting to reformat my blog a bit. I have a new look, although who knows how long I plan on keeping it. I also put up my academic resume for reference. I would would love to focus on intellectual issues, although I rarely have the time to do so, at least at this point. I hope to post some pages that outline my basic intellectual orientation, as well as a list of some of the goals I have for this blog.

It’s weird to think that tomorrow is November. This means that I have a month and twenty-one days until I am back in Minneapolis.  I am excited to be back in Minnesota. I am excited to just do work and then have free time. There is no tension between the two and I am able to dedicate my free time to my own intellectual pursuits. I am trying to be alright with not being in school and taking time off for myself. I think it’s mostly a paradigm shock. I am so used to academia being a way of life for me that it’s difficult for me not to be in it. The more I talk to my friends at the school of theology, the more they agree that taking time off is a good idea, especially once they realize that I am a year younger than them. It’s time for Chance McMahon to take a sabbatical.

Yes. This is what I have been journaling about for a while. I want to and am ready to be home. I am ready to live with cool people, spend more time with my family. There’s an instinct in me that fears something will go wrong in between now and December 21st. But I think this is just an old instinct in me that prevents my excitement from being too unrealistic. All in all, my experience at home taught me that I will enjoy living with Kai, Yoshi, Andrew, and Sean. Encountering conflict almost immediately solidified my view that the Universe did not want me in Boston at this moment. I think the various conversations Sean and I had about our love for one another, was a more positive identification of such a fact. Lastly, I found out today that my niece is again pregnant. I am really excited about such news.

It’s intense writing a paper about love in the Gospel of John because I am jaded by John’s Gospel, particularly its afterlife. Themes of Love and Truth are themes that I attempt to live my life by. So does John. However, John uses love and truth in a polemical way. Jesus as Revealer represents the Truth but at the expense of the Jewish people, who John conceptualizes as spiritually blind and the rest of the world, who persecute the disciples. To be fare, there are parallels between the Beloved Community as conceptualized by John and multiple queer communities. Queer communities consistently persist that our truths about our alternative genders and sexualities as legitimate should be staunchly supported. We should not waver in this conviction, and perhaps this is why John’s extremism is so apparent. The Johannine community was convinced that Jesus is God’s logos. This conviction led to bitterness once the group was kicked out of their synagogue. One can understand the need for the community to emphasize love as loyalty between the disciples. If they are marginalized from both participation in Jewish society and the Roman society, then this sort of loyalty is understandable, even necessary for survival.

We might even argue that the notion of realized eschatology might be liberating because it roots conviction in the present, not in the future when there might be an eventual judgment day. It de-emphasizes otherworldliness. Nevertheless, I am troubled by John’s polemic against Jews and the rest of the world. Perhaps, I am more inclined to be sympathetic of John’s sociology if John’s afterlife was not so brutal. Many scholars have argued that John should seen as only in relation to the Christian community itself. In other words, the Gospel of John, rather than an explicit polemic, functions as an effective polemic. When an entire regime of truth is promoted by an empire, it marginalizes those who do not fall within that regime of truth.

The question I ask is can we do truth in a way that is not a winner-take-all conquest? I am increasingly under the realization that truth is merely that which we give power over our bodies. Furthermore, even the truth claims that we use to revolt against power structures are formed by those very power structures. This is all becoming a very muddled reflection. However, how can reconciliation be brought about by the very fact that the human body is not controlled by one regime of truth but rather multiple regimes of truth, or rather multiple experience.