👯♂️ Lil Treasures #80: Lil Swipe Directory and Starting Drama in My Healthy Marriage
Plus Pride month, beach read recs, and why Ruth's Chris is insane.
Hello friends. We did it. We made it to another Friday. Maybe we aren’t thriving, but we did survive, so ten points to your Hogwarts House of choice. I know we’ve been on a break, but I wanted to come back this week with some Q+A. Thank you for indulging me.
Some of you asked for various links1, so I’m going to drop those here:
My favorite plant app - PictureThis!
Favorite Olive and June colors - Lava, JJ, Grape Soda, Cockatoo
My “I have an Olive and June problem” nail case
Go-to hair product - I love this from volume spray from Living Proof
Beach read recs - Malibu Rising
Okay NOW let’s Q+A:
Q: Are you celebrating Pride Month?
A: Yes! I would love to take a moment to share my affirming stance, mainly to affirming-hesitant believers. The thoughts that follow are not a step-by-step refutation of exactly how I got there but a look into the why. They also revolve around me and my affirming journey on purpose, since that was the question, and also this week I have had no less than thirty DMs specifically about this issue and I think a nice, generous unpacking is in order. And I know some of you aren’t believers and so this is a non-question. I know some of you are already affirming and you’ve been affirming and so you’ve been here for a long time. But my hope is by sharing this, some of you who might feel caught between a rock and a hard place will see that you don’t have to throw out scripture in order to have a loving, affirming theology. The thing that finally pushed me over the affirming edge was my childhood pastor, who left the SBC and joined a church that was disfellowshipped by the SBC for allowing gay (and female) clergy. Seeing someone I admired, someone I knew held wisdom and learning around God and scripture, someone who was older and changed his mind was honestly deeply impactful. If you want to adhere to an affirming view, but don’t feel like you can do that and also take scripture seriously, I want you to know those two things are not mutually exclusive.
I’m going to be honest with you: I have historically been a lousy ally. I have been to the queer community (especially the queer faith community) like the white moderate Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about in his Letter from A Birmingham Jail:
"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
For the past twenty years, the process of becoming an affirming Christian has looked like asking for forgiveness and repentance in many of these areas. I’ve had to reckon with the fact that my past actions have turned people away from the gospel. If you are reading this and you knew me ten years ago, your jaw might be slightly on the floor at this moment. That I’ve operated from a place of power and privilege and used those to build myself a comfortable space. I’ve benefitted from the witness of my LGBTQIA+ siblings, while not affirming their belovedness.
I wanted to. But I was, I’m embarrassed to say, afraid.
Afraid that scripture would tell me a different story. Afraid I would be disfellowshipped or fired or labeled. I think I was afraid of what I would find.
But as I studied and read and prayed, God began to do a work in me, as God does, of which I am enormously grateful.
I get emails often about how I’ve landed here because we’ve talked about being affirming on The Bible Binge and people really want the step-by-step process of exactly what I read and scriptures and resources and those are valuable (and I will share them below)! And I get that. But I want to say that some of this will require, like so many other aspects of your faith, a trip to your own personal library. What I mean by that is the work in books and commentaries and on podcasts and in articles is helpful and wise, but truly this comes down to your relationship with Holy Spirit and your interpretation of scripture. The scholarly aspect is important, but this is not just a scholarly question. And truthfully, it’s not a question. It’s not an issue. It is people. In the same way the question/issue about whether women should be allowed to teach/preach/lead has real-life consequences for me as a woman, the question/issue of whether our LGBTQIA+ siblings should be able to walk in the freedom of Christ has real-life consequences for them. We cannot lose sight of the fact that this is not an abstract musing. And let’s also remember that it’s not up to me. I’m not the bouncer of this club. I spent a long time coming to terms with the fact that my previously held theology of being non-affirming turned people away from not only the church, but from God. I asked myself what other beliefs I'm willing to hold on to in the name of shutting other people out.
It’s absolutely true that you can read the six verses (the “clobber” verses) that get lobbed into skirmishes about this issue and come away thinking being queer is sinful. You can absolutely read those verses and come away thinking acting on being queer is sinful. I think it’s a valid interpretation of the scripture, even. However, it is my belief, supported by my own study and prayer and research, that we’ve placed queerness on the highest display shelf. And frankly, that’s not something I’m willing to do. I think this whole scriptural argument is tenuous at best, and it’s not something I’m particularly interested in fighting against, because fighting against it means shutting out an entire group of people (recent studies show that 1 in 6 of Gen Z identifies as queer in some way) who are already so disaffected by Christianity in particular because of the hypocrisy they see within the church.
It’s become increasingly clear to me that while I’ve been guilty of wanting to push back the chairs at the table, to make room for people, what I see now is that while I was waffling to “decide” whether a person was “acceptable” for me to invite to my table, many vibrant, faithful, loving, thoughtful and wise LGBTQIA+ believers simply began to build their own tables. And every meal I have at these tables due to gracious invitation has been a feast of the fruits of the Spirit. That is something I cannot deny.
An important caveat: no matter what you decide, someone will be disappointed in you for it. You will not go far enough, you will go too far. There will be bad faith arguments. People will talk about your faith and your adherence to scripture and your research and your lack of understanding and your feelings - that “the Bible is very clear on…” and how you are “walking people into hell” and you aren’t taking the Bible seriously. I take those seriously (I also take the Bible seriously), and I think for straight people who want to be allies, it’s important for us to engage with those conversations (some of them, obviously. Not everyone is using their sanctified common sense and bad faith arguments aren’t worth the effort you put into them). There have been so many excellent theologians (both straight and queer) who have done exceptional work in unpacking and interpreting scripture on this question.
And of course, I love and care for many people who do not hold this particular nuance in their own theologies. You and I can read the same passage of scripture and come away with enormously different interpretations. While of course, I am against using scripture to shame or dehumanize anyone at all, I know many Christians who are genuinely so grieved and perplexed by this issue. They WANT to be affirming, there are people they love deeply who are queer, and more than anything, they want to embrace them in all the ways possible. My DMs attest to this, and real-life conversations.
And a lot of this conversation is tied to my own de/reconstruction: when I think about how Jesus reconstructed so much of what had been assumed and repeated and taught in faith, I know there is room here. Or as Danté Stewart said so well:
The greatest gift of my own disentangling of faith has been the realization that the world is full of thousands of interpretations of scripture, not just one, and our job is to examine those interpretations, to hold them up to what we know of the character of Jesus, and see if they hold. That’s the group project of your life, you and Holy Spirit. You get to choose if your interpretation opens the doors or shuts them. But even if you shut them, even if they’ve been shut in your face, remember there is a place where the doors are open. One of those places is here.
With that being said, I want to repent of all the ways I’ve used scripture and teachings to shut doors, even when the Spirit inside me was pushing me to open them. Of all the ways I chose comfort over a person. Of all the times I didn’t engage when I should have. Of all the people I wounded. God loves you so. I love you so. You are so loved.
Part of my goal with my work on the Bible Binge and personally is to present information and let people make their own conclusions regarding what that means for their faith and their own personal theology. It’s true that for hundreds of years, people have been reading the same scriptural passage and come away with enormously different conclusions. I cannot be the wrestler for you, it’s important that you do it yourself. Holy Spirit works in believers to bring truth to light, and especially in terms of things that could be interpreted within scripture in different ways, that cannot be my job. It does seem as if the Bible is very clear on this subject. However, in my own personal journey (drink), I've learned that the Bible is actually very clear on maybe five things, and I do not think same-sex marriage/LGBTQIA+ leadership/fellowship is one of them.
BUT because I know resources are helpful, and also there is always one person (usually a dude) who needs to know what I’ve read and how I’ve studied, here is how I’ve processed this over the years:
I prayed a lot. I’m still praying a lot.
Having what I call necklace conversations: those talks that are the intellectual equivalent of sitting down and doing the careful work of untangling a necklace all knotted up.
I went back to the clobber passages and read everything I could on them. I went back to the Gospels and dove into the character and actions and words of Jesus. I studied the passage of scripture with Peter’s vision of the sheet2. I went back to the Gospels and read about Jesus reaching out to those on the margins of society (financially and socially), but also saying, "Go and sin no more." I studied a LOT in the gospels, really meditating on the actions and motivations of Jesus. Why did he do the things he did? Who did he hang out with? Who did he rebuke? Why? I re-read Philip's experience with the eunuch in Acts and studied literally every commentary and dictionary available on the passage. Kind of related, but not: I’ve also worked through a lot about Biblical interpretation theory, read a lot of commentaries based in womanist and BIPOC experiences, which has shaped me as well.
Based off one of the books I read (see the list below), I started looking at fruit and the definition of fruit in John 15. What fruit is born from the life of affirming and non-affirming Christians consistently? I often see fruit specifically categorized as fruits of the Spirit emanating from queer Christian spaces in a way I don’t always see in non-affirming spaces. I examined that and sought to understand it.
While I don’t think it’s important for everyone, it was important for me to have a full understanding of many points on the spectrum of affirmation which is why I read the following books3 (but don't necessarily recommend all of them):
Inspired by Rachel Held Evans: I think she does such a great job of tweaking the lens that we maybe default to when reading the Bible. Tweak might be the wrong word. Understand? Yes. Understand is better. There are also a lot of books and podcasts on this subject, but I like Inspired because Rachel was enormously intelligent, but wrote for ding dongs like myself.
Changing Our Mind by David Gushee/Unclobber by Colby Martin: I think these books are helpful for white, heteronormative, affirming-hesitant people just dipping their toes in because they are written by white, heteronormative dudes and while that’s certainly not the entire story (in fact, not even close!), it can be a safe place to start uncovering these questions if you’ve never thought about them before. I also like that Unclobber takes Colby’s personal affirming journey and lays it next to scripture to examine the meanings and interpretations in context.
People to Love by Preston Sprinkle: this one is not affirming, but I think holds a lovely posture of compassion and humility for questions.
Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry: also (obviously) not affirming, but Jackie is a serious Bible scholar with a vested interest in this subject, and I find her to be thoughtful and studious. I also want to pay attention to thoughtful people who come to a different conclusion than I do, while still affirming the humanity of people.
God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines: Matthew is also a serious Bible scholar with a vested interest. One of my favorite quotes from GATGC:
“Neither Peter in his work to include Gentiles in the church nor the abolitionists in their campaign against slavery argued that their experience should take precedence over Scripture. But they both made the case that their experience should cause Christians to reconsider long-held interpretations of Scripture. Today, we are still responsible for testing our beliefs in light of their outcomes—a duty in line with Jesus's teaching about trees and their fruit.”
Some additional reading that in general helped shape my understanding of interpreting scripture:
Reading the Bible from the Margins by Miguel A. De La Torres
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey
Towards Decentering the New Testament by Mitzi J. Smith and Yung Suk Kim
I follow a myriad of Side A and Side B Christians, celibate and non-celibate, trans believers, and affirming allies, who I’ve learned a ton from. Some of them are:
Blake Chastain, Abby Norman, Matthew Vines, BT Harman, Jenna DeWitt, Lisa Sharon Harper, Erna Kim Hackett, Deidra Riggs, Emmy Kegler, Bridget Eileen Rivera, Austin Hartke, Jeff Chu, Meredith Anne Miller, Marcie Alvis-Walker, Laura Jean Truman
I’m reading The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr right now (ALSO SIDE NOTE: HOLY MOLY) and something she quotes really stuck with me. The basic gist is: how can you speak and live out a liberated hermeneutic4 regarding things like slavery, and not one on women preaching and teaching? It’s interpretively inconsistent. I think that applies to this discussion as well. How can I read these scriptures about women staying quiet and not preaching and believe the things I believe about them, and not apply the same unfettered lens to LGBTQIA+ Christians? I don’t feel as though I can. As Reverend Eston Williams said: “I would rather be excluded for who I include than included for who I exclude.” If I am running in error, I’d rather it be down the road of love than anything else.
And very respectfully, please do not email me or comment trying to get me to change my mind. Whatever evidence or alternate viewpoint you bring to me, I promise I’ve already heard it. There is a LOT of nuance here that cannot be contained in a newsletter format. And not that I think anyone in this community would ever be hateful or homophobic, but obviously that will not be tolerated in the comments. Good faith questions and curiosities will always be welcome here.
Okay well. That’s probably enough Q+A for today. 😆
Let’s do some treasures, shall we?
💔 I’m unashamedly into Olivia Rodrigo’s new album, and find myself cranking it up and trying to resort back to my teen years to FEEL the lyrics. I need that teenage angst to really wash over me, you know? I shared this on Instagram earlier this week - but these feelings of angst led me to create a playlist filled with it - so if you want to scream at your boyfriend for breaking up with you (or just pretend), you can listen to that here.
👭 One of my favorite things on the internet lately is pictures of YOU, my lovely Lil’ Swipes, meeting up! The comments section of this newsletter doesn’t offer a great place to share information, so I put together a spreadsheet where you can fill out your info and location so you can see who’s nearby and have the opportunity to get together with some of your favorite internet friends. Happy hangs, my friends! Just tag me when you hang so I can live vicariously through you! (Stay sexy and don’t get murdered! Use your sanctified common sense!)
Y’all ready for some good tweets? I knew you were. Twitter Hall of Legends, let’s go.
I think I’m a doggo and I need to know everyone else’s fake enneagram in the comments.
This is the most beautiful thing:
Okay guys. I hope you have a great weekend! Take care of yourselves and we’ll meet back here next Friday!
Per usual, there are some affiliate links up in this mug.
This will truly mess you up.
For a more centralized location for these resources (as well as other book recommendations), you can visit my Amazon spiritual resources list.
That’s just a fancy way of saying interpretation. Is this Fancy Nancy: Spiritual Edition now?