Tuesday, 27 May 2014

It’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it

Here are a few comments taken from here on the article in The Guardian entitled: Against Me's Laura Jane Grace slams Arcade Fire for transgender video that I already mentioned in an earlier post here.

This isn't a video about a transsexual girl, not to me. It's about a transvestite girl. Transvestites aren't welcome in the TG community by many transsexual girls, who resent the sexual aspect mudding up their waters. It's quite odd when you think we're their natural cheerleaders.

received the following response:

Transvestite is to transgender people what the N word is to black people. Please do not use it. I believe the term you were looking for was drag queen. Or transgender (which is a broad term that can refer to a host of types of people, from drag queens to cross dressers to transsexuals).

to which I replied:

Actually, I know many transgendered people that aren't at all offended by the term "transvestite".

to which another replied:

As a trans woman, I am deeply offended by anyone that tries to call me a "transvestite". The term is ONLY properly applied to cis folk that like to dress as the opposite sex for personally gratification, not as part of their actual identity.

I can understand that someone identifying themselves as a trans woman is offended by people referring to her as a transvestite.

I am, though, a bit saddened that a trans woman doesn’t realise that a person that identifies themselves as transvestite might feel offended by someone who refers to them as simply cis folk that like to dress as the opposite sex for personally gratification, not as part of their actual identity.

Maybe it depends a bit on exactly what the word gratification is intended to mean.

But many, many of the people that I know that identify with the term transvestite would also say that it is part of their actual identity. It isn’t just about some kind of gratification. It’s a means of self expression.

Maybe there’s a  difference in meaning of the word transvestite in the UK compared with the USA. Since The Guardian is a UK-based newspaper – as am I (UK based, that is, but not a newspaper) I’ve stuck with the UK meaning of the word.

Here are a few definitions from the Gender Dysphoria section of the National Health Service Web Site:

Gender terminology

Gender dysphoria is a complex condition that can be difficult to understand. Therefore, it helps to distinguish between the meanings of different gender-related terms:

  • gender dysphoria – discomfort or distress caused by a mismatch between a person’s gender identity and their biological sex assigned at birth
  • transsexualism – the desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by the wish to have treatment to make their physical appearance more consistent with their gender identity
  • transvestism – where a person occasionally wears clothes typically associated with the opposite gender (cross-dressing) for a variety of reasons
  • genderqueer - an umbrella term used to describe gender identities other than man and woman - for example, those who are both man and woman, or neither man nor woman, or moving between genders

I think the term for a variety of reasons is important here. Maybe many transvestites also fall into the genderqueer category as well.

Actually quite a lot of people don’t fall into such neat categories at all. 

People are often more complex than that.

Also, this article is interesting: Transvestites and cross-dressing at netdoctor.

To be honest, I can cope with people that use incorrect terminology through ignorance. I’m using the word ignorance in a non-stigmatic kind of way here. If a person has never been told something then how can they be expected to know all about it?

Quite often it’s not the actual words that people use that are hurtful and offensive. Always it’s the way that the words are used and the context that they are used in that makes all the difference.

I thought a lot before using the word “Always” in the sentence above. But I think it’s the right word.

I think that’s the reason I find it difficult to understand why some transgendered people have had such a big problem with the video, and even more difficult to understand the way in which some have expressed their dissatisfaction.

Whatever the video is, I’m sure in my own heart that the intension was good.

But if I had been involved in the production of it I could easily have felt quite offended at the following comment. It uses smooth words, but they have sharp edges:

Yet another attempt by segment s of the cisgender community to marginalize transgender folk. The band's spokesperson made matters worse by slapping whitewash on their video by trying to claim this was really about a gay boy and his father. Caught in a lie and no way out must be very uncomfortable for the band, right now.

Creative license is one thing. Outright lying to save ones "pride" is another. The trans community has every right to be outraged by this latest example of denigration and the subsequent attempt by the abusers to cover their tracks.

Maybe I’m being too picky/fussy in all of this.

What do you guys, girls and genderqueer folk think?

Monday, 26 May 2014

Spiderman, transgender, tolerance and Indigo Girls

As a follow on to my thoughts about We Exist, Laura mentioned this to me:

Arcade Fire Respond to Laura Jane Grace's 'We Exist' Criticism. which includes a link to this: Arcade Fire Interview: 'We Exist' Sends Message to the Mainstream.

Having read through them I have to admit that I’m surprised at some of the comments made by people.

In a world that has a desperate need for acceptance, understanding, love and tolerance … such vitriol.

I know that all people are never going to agree on all things. And there’s scope for discussion and argument about it all.

But there’s a way to disagree about things.

I’m not sure that the way some people are disagreeing here is actually helping anyone very much.

The intensions of the video are, I believe, good.

Maybe it could have been done better.

But there’s a better way of disagreeing with people than by bad-mouthing. Isn’t there?

Reminds me of an Amy Ray song that I’ve mentioned before. It’s a great song. Truly.

Indigo Girls–Second Time Around

Second Time Around

by: Amy Ray, Indigo Girls

The second time around, you know it really got me down
Sister don’t you judge it, just keep it to yourself now
And if you ain’t got nothing good to say
Don’t say nothing at all

I got bitten by the bitter bug, and now I just can’t get enough
Of ill will and my own conceit
I’m weary of the world it seems
I’m weary of the world, weary of the world it seems

It’s sort of always gone my way
I’m just a little bit off these days
Like I’ve had hard knocks all my life, like I’m a Bible belt wife
Like I didn’t see it coming, like I didn’t walk in willingly

See, I never want to sing again
La la la like a butterfly
Without my wits about me, without my heart in line
Third times a charm and this is mine

You said you heard Loretta sing and felt the loneliness seeping in
The cowboys made you uneasy, you’re a god-fearing lesbian
So you learn not to yearn and you take it on the chin again

Here’s what I find about compromise-
Don’t do it if it hurts inside,
Cause either way you’re screwed, eventually you’ll find
You may as well feel good; you may as well have some pride

Come August we’ll go to Cherokee and hear Loretta do her thing
Pack it into the Indian casino and make the hillbilly scene,
Kick up our heels and join in

Are you my ally or my enemy?
Do you have self-loathing or empathy?
Can you keep me in your prayers, sister,
Can you keep me in there somewhere?
And sister if you ain’t got nothing good to say…
Don’t say nothing at all.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

We exist

Earlier this week Laura emailed me a link to a video of  the song We Exist by Arcade Fire. Thanks Laura Smile

It’s here.



The lyrics to the song are:

We Exist

by: Arcade Fire

They're walking around
Head full of sound
Acting like
We don't exist
They walk in the room
And stare right through you
Talking like
We don't exist
But we exist
Daddy it's true
I'm different from you
But tell me why they treat me like this?
If you turned away
What would I say?
Not the first betrayed by a kiss
Maybe it's true
They're staring at you
When you walk in the room
Tell 'em it's fine
Stare if you like
Just let us through
Just let us through
Na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na
They're down on their knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
Daddy it's fine
I'm used to 'em now
But tell me why they treat me like this?
It's cause we do it like this
Na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na
Maybe it's true
They're staring at you
When you walk in the room
Tell 'em it's fine
Stare if you like
Just let us through
Just let us through
Let 'em stare! Let 'em stare!
If that's all they can do!
But I'd lose my heart
If I turned away from you
Oh Daddy don't turn away
You know that I'm so scared
But will you watch me drown?
You know we're going nowhere
We know that we're young
And no shit we're confused
But will you watch us drown?
What are you so afraid to lose?
Down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
You're down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
We exist!
We exist!
Down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
You're down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
We exist!
We exist!
We exist!
We exist!

Na na na na na na na,

na na na na na na na,

na na na na na na na
Maybe if you hang together
You can make the changes in our hearts
And if you hang together, you can change us
Just where should you start?

The song is from Arcade Fire's album Reflektor, and is "about a gay kid talking to his dad." To me, the video kinda illustrates that the same kind of thing applies to the whole LGBT community.

Pandora Boxx added an interesting comment at YouTube:

This is a powerful message marred with hateful comments but it just shows as far as we've come the journey ahead is a long one.  Thank you Arcade Fire and Andrew Garfield for doing this video.

Having said that there’s an article in the Guardian here with the headline:

Against Me's Laura Jane Grace slams Arcade Fire for transgender video.

And the quote:

'Maybe when making a video for a song called We Exist you should get an actual 'trans' actor instead of Spider-Man,' writes the singer.

Together with some interesting comments here.

I’m not so sure that I’d say that Laura Jane Grace exactly slammed Arcade Fire. She just asked a question.

For myself, I think it would have been great if a transgendered actor had been featured in the video. At the same time I have no problem with the fact that a non-transgendered (cisgender – I only just learned this as a word) person feels enough about something to feature in a video like this. So I go more along with Pandora Boxx than I do with Laura Jane Grace.

Oak Hill College and religious experiences

A little while ago I shared a few thoughts about Oasis and the Evangelical Alliance.

Round about that time I also read a post entitled “Steve Chalke or the repentant Rosaria? Whose religious experience?” by Mike Ovey at Oak Hill College.

The blog post reads like this:

Who’s the most unlikely convert you have ever met? Of course, given the ravages of sin in our hearts and minds any convert is nothing short of a miracle, a new creation that only the original creator can bring about. All the same, there are some whose place in life seems to make it especially hard to hear the gospel, and when someone in that position does become a Christian, one stands amazed at the power of God’s grace in encountering them and bringing them home to himself. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield comes into this category. Engaged, as far as one can see, in a stable, long-term, same-sex relationship, and with a glittering academic career premised on a radically feminist approach to Women’s Studies, her life was turned around as she encountered the gospel explained patiently, and faithfully, over a comparatively long period. Her lifestyle, beliefs and relationships changed (and one can only guess at both the huge emotional and the professional cost here) and she came to a living faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, which she recounts in her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Now why should that present Steve Chalke (hereafter ‘SC’) with any difficulty? I imagine in one sense it does not, because no doubt like any other Christian he rejoices at a sinner coming to repentance, as Christ enjoins in Luke 15. It does, though, present a very severe difficulty in view of his recent writings on the Bible. In fact, it indicates a fundamental incoherence. Let me explain why. The Bible, SC comments, is ‘written by fallible human beings whose work… bears the hallmarks of the limitations and preconceptions of the times and cultures they live in, but also of the transformational experience of their encounters with God.’ Quite consistently with this, SC does not have a closed canon of Scripture, because human beings outside the canonical authors have transformational experiences of God. The implication that SC draws is that the canonical Scriptures can be displaced in what they teach and say by the transformational experience of other human beings. Now consider that in the case of Rosaria. Changing the patterns of your sex life and your professional success is about as radical a transformation as you can manifest in Western culture. Does one think that Rosaria has had a transforming encounter with God? On this evidence, yes. And how has she been transformed? She has been transformed in terms of what she thinks about issues of gender and sexuality and how a human being may enjoy a saving relationship with God, through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ in which, among other things, he brings forgiveness through the cross and delivers us from God’s judgment. And here the problems start for SC. He has written in favour of same-sex relationships and has denied that Jesus bears the penalty for our sins as our substitute through the cross, reacting particularly strongly against the notion of God’s wrath towards sinners. Both of these positions – what SC accepts about same-sex and what he denies about penal substitution concerning God’s wrath – are of course extremely popular in modern Western culture. In submitting to the Bible over same-sex relationships, and over what it teaches on God’s wrath at our sin, Rosaria has accepted countercultural positions and lived them out. She has emerged from her cultural surrounds to embrace a countercultural position: this looks like transformation. Now clearly SC thinks she is wrong on these issues. In particular, on penal substitution, he thinks those who teach it and who believe it are saying the wrong thing about God by teaching about his anger, ‘telling the wrong story about God’, as he once put it. Naturally, this entails a negative evaluation of the transformational experience of someone like Rosaria. One possibility, naturally, is that SC thinks she has not had a transformational experience of God at all. Another possibility is that she has genuinely met God but simply got him disastrously wrong in her own encounter with him, so that she is ‘telling the wrong story about God’. Either way, the obvious question that springs to mind is, ‘How does SC know?’ How does he know either that she has not had any genuine encounter with God, or that she has vastly and tragically misunderstood her encounter with God? Now it is absolutely right that we should not take any claim that someone has had an encounter with God simply at face value. Apart from anything else, 1 John 4:1-3 tells us to test spiritual experience. The issue is on what basis one does that testing. The classic answer is that one tests these claims against the canonical Bible, on the basis that God does not contradict himself. But clearly, SC cannot use that benchmark because he thinks the Bible is contradictory and quite possibly that it is wrong in places. So how does he know that the transformational experience of Rosaria on these issues (who is not alone in being transformed to these positions) is wrong? Presumably SC thinks his own transformational experiences of God support his position on same sex relations and the wrath of God. But when SC’s argument is that believers like Rosaria are wrong on those issues, it does seem to require that his own transformational experience is better than theirs or that his personal understanding of God is better. It sounds very egalitarian to talk about people retelling their transformational experiences of encounter with God with no closed canon of Scripture. But rather like the animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, it seems that some people’s transformational experiences are more equal than others. But which ones? And how do you know?

I left the following comment:

Dear Mike,

I read your post with some interest, but I’m not at all convinced that you are being fair to SCs position.

It would have been helpful if you had included some links to the things that you say SC has written.

I believe that the argument that you attempting to present is based upon the experiences of people that have had experiences that agree with the beliefs that you have.

I get the feeling that you’re ignoring the experiences of almost everyone else in the world.

I believe that the vast majority of people that have ever lived have not experienced “a living faith in our Lord Jesus”. In fact I believe that they haven’t been given the opportunity to do so.

I’ve heard arguments that are used to explain this. But they haven’t convinced me.

I believe that almost everyone alive today would find it difficult to understand how anyone could believe that a book such as the Bible wasn’t written by fallible human beings. That it doesn’t contain inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

Since these vast numbers of people don’t have any influence upon how you view the Bible, I’m not so sure why the transformed lives of a small number of people (small when compared with the vastness of human history) should necessarily affect anyone else’s opinion.

I’m convinced that the way people look at the Bible and how they interpret it … the way that hermeneutics works when it comes to the Bible … depends overwhelmingly on what they choose to believe about God. Or is it what God choses to reveal about Himself to them?

Perhaps it’s all about faith.

I’m fairly certain it isn’t all about rationality, logic or science.

Everyone picks and chooses how they interpret the Bible.

I suspect that SC wouldn’t agree with a lot of the things that I believe. But I believe that he would likely listen to my thoughts and be willing to be swayed by them.

I’ve come across Christians who are not at all willing to listen to alternative viewpoints and be in any way influenced by them. They seem to have the answers and have closed their minds to alternative possibilities.

And, I’ve come across Christians who believe that almost every human being that has ever lived will end up spending eternity in hell. And some of these Christians seem to spend more time explaining why this is the truth than they do in attempting to rescue these millions of lost souls.

Ultimately, I think that for you to suggest that there is some kind of an error in SC’s thinking without accepting the possibility that your own thinking is equally likely to be errant is … well … unreasonable.

Of course, I may be misinterpreting what you are saying, in which case please let me know.


Andrea Wright

And it said:

Thanks! Thank you for posting a comment on the Oak Hill blog. All comments are read and approved before they're posted, but that usually happens pretty quickly.

Since nothing has appeared there it looks like my comment was disapproved.

I left an email address but didn’t get any kind of message saying why it wasn’t approved.

Ah well …

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Shack … life changing or confusing


A little while ago a friend recommended The Shack to me.


The Shack


It’s a book that was written a few years ago now.

I recently finished it and am thinking that I need to do some thinking.

So here are some thoughts.

First, if you get a chance to read it I wholeheartedly recommend it.

It’s a work of fiction.

The main characters are a man, Mack, his family, a few of his friends and God.

On a camping trip Mack’s daughter is abducted and murdered. Her blood is discovered at The Shack.

This event marks the beginning of Mack’s Great Sadness.

For him The Shack comes to embody a whole lot of bad stuff. Anger at himself. At God. At life. Almost all that is bad.

Then one day Mack receives a letter from God. It’s an invitation to meet up at The Shack

And so Mack spends a few days with God – Father (Papa), Son, (Jesus) and Holy Spirit (Sarayu) - at The Shack. The place of his Great Sadness.

And his life is changed forever.

Although The Shack is a work of fiction the words “spoken” by God are intended to reflect the person, character and intentions of God. So it’s intended to be more than fiction. It’s a sort of picture of the author’s view of the kind of Person that God is and the kind of relationship that God wants to have with people.

Many people have gone on record as saying that the book has changed their lives. Try using Google or Bing or the search engine of your choice and see for yourself.

I found the book to be very moving. Tears running down my cheeks type of moving.

Whilst reading it … and now having read it … I’m left wondering.

Is God really like that?

Is it true that people can be friends with God like that?

There was a time that I became a Christian. March 3rd 1973 at 144, Forest Road, Loughborough in Leicestershire.

So, in some ways, The Shack didn’t say much to me that I hadn’t been aware of at some point in the past.

And yet there are new thoughts. New interpretations of things. An emphasis on relationships. On being rather than doing. Love rather than judgement.

It stirs inside me a kind of a longing. A wishing that it could be true.

Over the past few days I’ve been doing some thinking about that.


I wonder … if God is really like that, then how come so few people know? Why is it such a big secret?

The Shack did top the best sellers’ lists for a while. So in a way it isn’t a secret at all.

So I wonder why so few people believe that God is like that. And why it is that I struggle to believe that God is like that even though I wish the He were.

Here the beginning of some of the things that I have problems with.

At this very moment the main thing is about why does God  hide the truth about Himself from people the way that He seems to do. Why is it so difficult to know what the truth is?

There are Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses … the list goes on. And there are lots of different brands of Christianity, of Islam … and so it goes on and on and on.

And then taking Christianity as an example.

Many Christians believe in heaven and hell. That people who don’t give their lives to Jesus end up in hell. For ever. That hell is a place of eternal punishment and torment. Everyone deserves to go to hell. It’s divine justice. Yet it’s easy to avoid hell. Just believe in Jesus. Divine grace.

Oh but … you might also need to not be gay – or at least not practicing gay. Or transgendered. You might also need to be a Catholic. Or is that a protestant? Or to be baptised. You might need to read only a particular translation of the Bible. Or believe the apostle’s creed.

Or maybe you need to be a Muslim?

There’s a sense in which maybe a lot of the above might not matter. Maybe you do only need to believe in Jesus … although that should probably be … believe in, trust in and rely on.

But if that’s the case … why so much disinformation and confusion. Lots of apparently very sincere and well-meaning people seem to disagree over all of this.

If any of this stuff makes the difference between heaven for ever and hell for ever and it affects everyone, then why is it so difficult to work out what the actual truth is?

So, OK, why am I asking these questions? And honestly, there are a lot more to be asked.

I think it’s because I’d like to know the answers.

So if you know them … I’m listening.

There will likely be more questions to follow.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Oasis and the Evangelical Alliance

Today Sally mentioned that during the service at the church she goes to it was mentioned that Oasis had been removed from the membership of the Evangelical Alliance.

The Evangelical Alliance say:

It is with sadness that the Evangelical Alliance have discontinued the membership of Oasis Trust.

Having heard the concerns expressed by the Alliance’s board and council as to what has been perceived by some as a campaign to change the Church’s historic view on human sexuality, the Oasis board did clarify their position as having ‘no corporate view on this matter’.

However they were unwilling to fulfil the council’s request to adjust the content of their website/resources and social media output to equally profile the traditional Christian view.

After many months of prayerful discussion, the Evangelical Alliance council concluded that a relationship between an organisation and one of its members in which the member felt it could not comply with a reasonable request from council, was not tenable.

The Evangelical Alliance council remain deeply respectful of the work and achievements of the Oasis Trust and have a strong desire to avoid any unseemly dispute and to speak well of each other.

Oasis say:

"The Board of Oasis is deeply saddened by the decision of the Evangelical Alliance to remove Oasis from its membership. We would like to take this moment to restate our profound belief that the ethos, values and mission of Oasis sit firmly within the evangelical tradition.

"The Evangelical Alliance made its decision following comments by the Founder of Oasis, Rev Steve Chalke, calling for an open and generous acceptance of people with sexualities other than heterosexual as well as to affirm and support all those who seek to live within faithful, lifelong, monogamous relationships. When making these comments, he argued that they had come from a deep understanding of the overarching message of scripture and has subsequently written about the importance of moving towards a more affirming, compassionate, rounded and thoughtful approach to the Bible, humanity and sexuality.

"At no point has anyone within Oasis tried to impose the Founder’s view on Oasis staff, volunteers or church members (let alone anyone else) and, as such, the board of Oasis continues to give Steve their full support in his quest to seek an open and honest conversation amongst the Church on these issues and on how to restore society’s confidence in the Bible more generally.

"Since the publication of his article ‘A Matter of Integrity’ in January 2013 the Oasis board has been in an on-going conversation with the Evangelical Alliance.  At their request, we have made several changes to our online content and believed that we had reached a point where both parties could be satisfied that our relationship would continue.  We are, therefore, disappointed  by their announcement  but will continue to seek and enjoy a warm relationship with the breadth of the Christian Church in Britain and across the world, forming partnerships to lift people and communities out of poverty and exclusion, and seeking to demonstrate the love of God to all through practical service."

I spent some of this afternoon reading around this. And ultimately was left with the feeling that for many people that categorise themselves as being evangelical Christians there is no room for debate about certain topics. Or perhaps there is room for debate. But there is no room to hold a viewpoint that is different than the one defined by the correct and true view.

I was also surprised to find so many people still write stuff arguing about the infallibility and inerrancy of the bible – even when they aren’t just saying it has to be that King James version.

I’m left with the feeling that the days the evangelical are numbered.