Jobs I’ve Worked: A Series

With the current state of the world, I’ve been applying to a lot of jobs that I don’t really want and not getting any of them. All of this employment work has me thinking on the many jobs I have had over the course of my relatively short millennial life (18 by my count), and how each of them was great and terrible for different reasons.

I’m not ashamed of my patchwork career path and as such, thought some reflections on my jobs would be a worthwhile endeavor, and an appropriate way to avoid applying for more jobs.

So, in no particular order: Jobs I’ve Worked

Server at T’s Cafe
Sneads Ferry, North Carolina

Our uniform. There were different colored shirts for different days of the week, but as a temp hire I just had the pink.

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college I decided to live at the beach, because why the hell not? My aunt and uncle have a great place down there with a spare room, so I did.

After calling a few places, cafes and book stores mostly, I hadn’t had much luck finding a summer gig, but my aunt took me to T’s. They had me fill out an application and told me to come back the next day.

Unsure if I was going for an interview or my first day of work, I showed up in sneakers. Which was the right call; they put me straight to work.

Now, about T’s Cafe: while branded a cafe it served diner food with a saltwater southern flair. We did serve coffee, but only cheap stale coffee made in batches. No lattes. Customers ordered their biscuits or hushpuppies–depending on the time of the day–at the counter and then when it was ready we brought the food to their table. Our customer base was 75% locals and 25% lost tourists. The interior had exposed wood paneling reminiscent of a ship’s siding, and the kiosk with all the ketchup and tartar sauce you could ever want was shaped like a little dingy.

But the building and menu was dull as can be compared to the people who worked there. For those that don’t know, Sneads Ferry is located south of Jacksonville (home of marine base Camp Lejuene) and just inland of Topsail Island. It’s long term residents consists mostly of retirees, fishers, and the families of those stationed or working at the base

T’s was staffed entirely by women, most of whom had followed marine there, and stayed behind (willingly or otherwise) when he moved on. They were salty bitches, in every sense of the phrase, and I loved them. I was also terrified of them.

After that first surprise shift, when asked how it was I said, hesitantly, “Good, but I think they might kill me if I do the job wrong.”

I honestly don’t remember too much about the work itself. I brought out food and fetched salad dressings and refilled coffees. At the end of the day we swept and mopped. While not always easy, it was simple.

I was good at the work and they were good to me. They all thought I was adorably young and naive (which I was). I made a decent hourly wage and got cash tips in my pockets.

As with all work places (at least in my experience), there was some interpersonal drama, but at T’s unlike most other work places (at least in my experience) it was all out in the open. Things didn’t fester, the offending employee just got called out and corrected. If they had an issue with it, well, everyone knew what had happened and why.

They weren’t cruel or petty, just not interested in your bullshit.

Every day around 2pm, after the lunch rush had ended and the dining room was empty, the fry cook would yell from the back asking if us floor girls wanted anything to eat. Once everyone scrounged together some food, we would all sit at one of the big tables and eat. The conversation was loud and crass and wonderful. At one such feast was the first time someone offered me weed. I declined but said thanks for the offer, to everyone else’s great amusement.

The State of the Finch 17,18

I have been woefully bad at blogging recently, and it is one of the habits I would like to engender in myself again. So, to begin with an easy post: I found this post from three years ago and it filled me with warm fuzzies. So, I thought I should do it again.

A few of the adventures and misadventures of the past few years:

2016

  1. I pestered the fine folks at Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery until they gave me a job.
  2. I experienced my first hangover (late bloomer, I know)
  3. I met Kendra. (Reader, I married her.)
  4. I grew my hair long enough to put it in a very ridiculous pony tail
  5. I learned under two very different equally incredible directors as their assistant director and decided I liked it.
  6. I directed my first show–a staged reading of a friend’s play.
  7. I found Edwin Ginn and fell in love.
  8. I went CAMPING and discovered what a truly terrible place Salt Lake City was and how truly wonderful it is to be best friends with your sisters.
  9. I got to dress up like a cowboy for a show.
  10. I designed the promotional image for our production of Macbeth (my first–and certainly not last–foray into design)

2017

  1. I cut off my ridiculous pony tale #RIP
  2. Kendra and I got the most perfect betta fish, Mephistopheles #RIP
  3. I directed my first main stage production with the Mary Baldwin Undergraduate students
  4. I finished a really good thesis about Edwin Ginn
  5. I dyed my hair purple-ish and only mildly regretted it
  6. I earned my first Master’s degree
  7. K and I made a home together
  8. I did not look at the eclipse since we didn’t have glasses, but instead enjoyed the eclipse shadows, demonstrating incredible self-control
  9. I directed a phenomenal cast in what turned out to be a phenomenal production that I will never stop bragging about. (I decided to pursue directing as a career.)
  10. I learned how to do digital graphic design and created the promotional images for all the Motley shows

2018

  1. I played one of the most ridiculous characters in one of the most ridiculous plays, and even though it was the worst experience of my graduate studies we put on one hell of a show. (I decided not to pursue acting as a career)
  2. I got back into painting
  3. I met and worked with the Amazing Vanessa Morosco who reaffirmed my faith in humanity and theatre
  4. I finished an okay thesis about directing and earned my second Master’s degree.
  5. Left my job at Cranberry’s and began life outside of school for the first time.
  6. I got married surrounded by some of the best people in the world; we ate Chipotle and danced and all was well.
  7. I directed my first professional production for the American Shakespeare Center’s Theatre Camp and set Volpone in the American West because it made sense to me.
  8. I got my first “real” job at Staunton Montessori School, where I get to work with many fantastic pets and people
  9. I went to my first Pride event in my perfect little town which included a drag show at which I cried
  10. I went back to Georgia for the first time since I was eleven and hung out with dear friends and relived my childhood at the Coca-Cola Museum.

A (Partial) List of Things I Love:

Growing up, when confronted with someone saying that loved something, I liked to snarkily respond “If you loooooooove it so much then why don’t you maaaarrrrrrryyyy it.”

Somewhere along the line as a child I thought you could only love the person you married, and God. Somewhere along the line as an adult, I realized that was hogwash.

In celebration of that realization and Valentine’s Day, I give you a partial list of things I love:

  • Cows chasing the farmer’s tractor as it unrolls a hay bale
  • Squirrels shamelessly stealing bird seed out of a feed
  • Renegade the Hamster trying to balance on top of her wheel
  • Kendra the Wife bringing me coffee every morning
  • Small children showing off their light up shoes
  • Emily the Sister traveling the world on her own
  • Any woman showing off the pockets in her dress
  • Servers who remember and anticipate the idiosyncrasies of my order (bubbling water, extra hot sauce, a side of caper berries, etc.)
  • Theatrical stagings of Shakespeare that surprise me
  • Live bluegrass music
  • Deep sea creatures that make more sense in Sci-Fi than in our world
  • Poorly adopting youth lingo #YEET
  • Comfy clothes and blankets
  • Hannah the Sister doing something dangerous fearlessly (like taking the biggest swing in NZ and asking “Do I have to hold on?”)
  • Millennial teal
  • Birds singing back and forth to each other
  • Birds of prey lazily circling thermal drafts
  • Sleepy Time Sinus Soother Tea
  • Videos of animals asking for scritches
  • Aaron the brother doing yo-yo tricks to EDM
  • The sound of snow falling
  • Feeling both excited by and scared of thunder storms
  • Fresh bread
  • Chasing tiny fish in the shallow waves at the beach
  • Forgotten leaves and petals pressed in books
  • Leaving a good tip on a tab
  • The warm glow of sharing good booze with good friends
  • Watching bartenders make drinks
  • The stars
  • Checking items off of a to-do list
  • Paul the Brother explaining how he made a Thing
  • The gentle lilt of a boat
  • Starling murmurations
  • Moonlight shadows
  • Five chocolate chips and a scoop of peanut butter on a Ritz cracker

SNC Pitches II

More:

  • Adventures of Crab & Launce — this modern day sitcom will explore the life of Crab and Launce, with Launce being a millennial still living at his parents home with his dog, despite him going to college and all that noise. The play explores generational differences, economic anxiety, and why millennials get dogs instead of having kids.
  • The Scottish Play Must Go On — The Macbeths are missing. Without their titular characters to drive the action of the play, the minor characters slowly realize that something is missing from their world–character development. As their self awareness grows, they face their frustrations with their lack of depth. Yes, it’s basically Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead.
  • Plot Device Accouterments — In a tense audition room, actors wait for the turn to wow the directors. Actors are all dressed according to type: young slender women wearing paper boy hats, sexy women have red hair, young men are wearing red leather jackets, and older men have beards. Eventually, the actors notice their types and through discussion realize that Lady Macbeth/Kate doesn’t have to have red hair nor does Hal have to wear a red leather jacket, etc. At long last, they buck convention, audition for the roles they want how they want, and at the end, none of them get cast.
  • One Knocks, Hide Thyself — A high school English class discussion on violence in Romeo & Juliet is interrupted with the school PA system announcing that all classes should go into Lock Down for a drill, which involves not only the students hiding, but the administrators checking the locks, knocking on the doors, and pulling the fire alarm. That’s all I got for this one.
  • Boarded by Pirates is Good — On the high seas, we follow the adventures of Ragozine the Pirate. Shakespeare’s personal plot hole fixer, he rescues Hamlet and send him on his way, he takes over Viola and Sebastian’s ship with the help of Antonio (who abandons the plan upon seeing Sebastian near drowning), he rescues, captures and sells Marina, and finally meets his death just in time to serve as a double for Claudio.

Once again, hit me up if you want to run with one these pieces of mediocre madness.

Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries Pitches

I’m not a fiction writer. I even struggle with blogging (see how infrequently things get published on here). And I am certainly not a playwright.

But none of that means I am not full of questionable ideas for what would be a good Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries Play. So, here are some ideas:

  • Into the Woods — every woman who disguises herself as a man in the canon ends up in the same woods trying to figure out performative masculinity, where they meet Galathea and Phillida who teach them the ways. Puck/Cupid is also around causing mischief. It is all very sapphic
  • The Adventures of Roland Wood — Since Roland de Bois translates to Roland Wood, we are gonna run with the similarity and tell the prequel to AYLI with Orlando’s dad as a Robin Hood adjacent renegade, which will include how Orlando is a bastard child (a headcannon of mine), the story of Duke Senior’s take over, and Rosalind’s choice to stay at the castle. It will be a drama-tragedy.
  • The Calm — Years after Prospero has left the island, we find Ariel and Caliban on the island which is dying due to loss of a Magician to tend it. Together, they put aside their differences and scour the island for Prospero’s books and staff, so they can restore its music, in the process unlearning the prejudice that Prospero brought with him. Heavy handed environmentalism and Garden of Eden tropes abound.
  • Living with Bread — As the first British monarch to facilitate a royal cook book, Richard II takes the audience through the basics of cooking and general table manners. As the cooking show progresses, a growing tumult can be heard without and the servants facilitating the show become more and more frazzled. At the end, Bolingbroke storms the kitchen and kills Richard. There are lots of bread and baking puns.
  • The Comedy of Terrors — A rewriting of The Comedy of Errors but solely focusing on Antipholus of Ephesus, set in the 1950s America, with a classic horror/psychological thriller twist as some unknown doppleganger usurps him in his life, driving him mad and out of his own home.
  • Killing Claudio — Hero has died of shame and someone is out for revenge. This revenge tragedy follows Beatrice’s vigilante path for retribution, and it is a path strewn with bodies. With Count of Monte Cristo precision, she plans revenge on all who have wronged her fallen cousin, including every man on the island.
  • Original Practices my Ass — The King’s Men are preparing to open Pericles which means rehearsing at breakneck paces. Enter the 21st century academic who insists upon correcting anything the troop does that doesn’t meld with their modern sensibilities of Original Practices. Haphazard re-writes, threats of duels, and likely a murder ensues. The play becomes increasing anachronistic as it goes along. As the show opens, the play ends.

I think that’s all I have for now. I’ll likely add more as I think of them.

Wanna run with one of my ideas? Let me know–I can’t write fiction but I sure can edit it.

“Queer Eye”-ing Myself

CW: Discussion of weight and eating habits

The new season of Queer Eye dropped and gods bless it because we need some feel good television.

I won’t spoil anything, but the new episode does start with the guys dolling out advice. Jonathan, Antoni, Bobby, and Karamo all offer inspiring sound bytes, but when the camera cuts to Tan he says, in his perfectly posh accent, “Make an effort.”

Now, due to some life changes–all good–my body has also changed. Since finishing my active grad school studies, and stopping work at my walking distance job, and actually having enough time and money to cook myself full meals, I have gained some weight.

Like most women, I have a complicated relationship with my body. I’ve made it this far without developing any eating disorders, but my relationship has hardly been harmonious. I cannot remember a time when I was not concerned with my weight.

Since my high school days of food self-deprivation, I have gained a conscious level of respect for food and a healthy weight, but it is still a subconscious battle not to hate the way my body looks.

Now, since my aforementioned lifestyle and body shift, I have found myself frustrated with losing muscle tone and gaining some softness, and tried to convince myself to work out in order to combat it. But, that isn’t working. I can’t motivate myself to work out regularly and even if I manage to, I can’t stand living in these body image doldrums until then.

On top of that, I have been moping because I had to toss many of my old clothes, including most of my favorite pieces, since they couldn’t handle curves instead of boyish lines. As a result I was feeling rather generic in my fashion on top of my growing discomfort with my body.

Which brings me back to Tan France looking me in the eye with no sympathy and saying, “Make an effort.”

In that moment, I imagined myself being on Queer Eye, but it wasn’t my usual rose-tinted fantasy of Bobby repainting our dark apartment and Karamo giving me a pep talk in the car. This time, I saw Jonathan looking through my skin care products and Tan looking through my clothes both with the perfect mix of humor and horror.

  • Jonathan: “Oh good, she has facial sunscreen–but it’s unopened. Don’t worry, there are four different mascaras and… all of them are dried out. This is a nice eye shadow palette, if it wasn’t shattered and missing half of it’s colors.”
  • Tan: “Ok, so I am counting about 20 pairs of patterned socks–seems excessive–and 2 sports bras and 2 bralettes, all of them unlined. You said you now have curves, why are you hiding them?! Why are these blazers all pushed to the back of the closet–they aren’t half bad. I’m sorry to tell you this but buying different colors of the exact same Old Navy jean doesn’t count as having different styles to choose from.”

So with their imagined quips in my head, I went shopping. I bought my first underwire bra since undergrad. I bought flowy pants and patterned shirts to replace the ones I donated last year. I bought a fresh eye shadow palette.

And then I got dressed up. And, surprise, buying clothes that fit make you look and feel better.

Obviously, a few new clothing items won’t fix all of my body image issues. I will still have bad days when I am unkind to my body, but accepting it as it is and buying clothes for the body I have is a small step. For so long I had been thinking the only way to feel happy about my body again was to change it–to exercise and lose some of my softness. I had been trying to tell myself my body was okay and still beautiful, but I wasn’t doing it any favors by refusing to replace my favorite clothes and to buy clothes that actually fit.

I still want Jonathan to find me a hair style that’s the right balance of business and spunk, and Tan to show me stylish shoes that are comfortable for summer, and Antoni to appreciate my stocked fridge, and Karamo to make me cry during that car talk, and I definitely want Bobby to repaint our dark apartment, but I think I did an okay job considering there is just one me.

So You Want to be “Welcoming & Loving” to Everyone?

When I first came out to my parents, I apologized*. I wrote that I was sorry for the inevitable emotional pain it would cause them and I truly meant it, even though coming out and being with my now wife was and is absolutely the right thing for me.

I didn’t come out in order to hurt them, but it still did so I apologized for that pain–not for being gay or for being honest with myself and them, but just for that unintended emotional pain.

Now, as churches begin to discuss LGBTQ+ inclusion on various levels (see my previous post) and disclose their policies (which is great #clarityisreasonable), they begin to dismiss the hurt that LGBTQ+ people experience as a result with “we are just being clear”.

That’s heartless.

Not the being clear part (that’s good), but the dismissing of genuine hurt that their policies cause. Clarity doesn’t mean callousness.

Again, I’m not concerned about theology–I’m concerned about human decency. In the same way my apology to my parents wasn’t about apologizing for my beliefs/identity but about recognizing unintentional pain and mitigating hurt caused, churches can acknowledge and mitigate the unintentional pain their non-affirming policies will inevitably cause LGBTQ+ parishioners.

If a church feels convicted that they cannot allow LGBTQ+ people to serve, or to be married, or ___________, they can still practice sympathy in how they share those convictions and empathy when their parishioners express hurt. Anything less of that is cruelty, whether it is intentional or not. Non-affirming churches that insist they are loving and welcoming to all need to show basic decency by recognizing the effects their policy has on any LGBTQ+ parishioners, members, or guests.

Instead of empathy, most LGBTQ+ people encounter some of the following when they learn of their church’s non-affirming policies, whether that happens in a closed-door office meeting or in a sermon:

  • public announcements or rumors through the entire congregation about their orientations and identities
  • exclusion from prayer, communion, and fellowship meetings that would allow for solace and spiritual support
  • quips and jokes about being LGBTQ+ embedded in sermons expressing non-affirming theology
  • promises to be welcoming “when you realize your mistake” (a.k.a. become straight again**, this seldom means adopting Side B theology)
  • prohibitions from sharing your experiences with leadership with others in the church

When someone who encounters these situations expresses the inevitable hurt from both the policies and the way the situation was handled, there is no empathy. Churches shrug their shoulder saying “we love the sinner, hate sin.” But love without empathy… doesn’t exist.

I’m not asking for churches to grovel or apologize for their convictions.

I’m asking for churches, especially those who want to welcome and love everyone while being non-affirming, to recognize the hurt caused by their policies. The first step of healing is finding where the hurt is. If churches can’t recognize where LGBTQ+ people have been hurt by the policies, there is no hope of healing across theological differences.

Actions have consequences. Church policies have consequences. Churches need to take responsibility for those consequences. I don’t run a church. I don’t know exactly what that looks like.

Nevertheless, here are a few ideas:

  • Avoid everything on the above list
  • Learn proper respectful terminology to refer to people in the LGBTQ+ community
  • Offer support for LGBTQ+ members who are Side B and want to practice celibacy (for starters, get rid the preponderance of events labeled as “singles” or “couples” and don’t dedicate a whole sermon series to being a good husband/wife)
  • Be able to point people towards non-religious LGBTQ+ resources in the community, such as an LGBTQ+ Center
  • Be willing to recommend other denominations and churches that are affirming
  • Listen, without offering judgement, to the experience of LGBTQ+ people (think the behavior of Job’s friends for the first 30 days)

Those things take work, but, as the 1990s Christian rap song by DC Talk taught me years ago, “Luv is a verb”. If non-affirming churches want to love and welcome LGBTQ+ people, it will take some work.

*Note: I am not here telling all LGBTQ+ people to apologize to the people who are potentially emotionally hurt by their coming out. I was in a safe situation with my parents where I had the capacity and privilege to have a nuanced relationship. I had the emotional support, financial independence, and mental health to engage in that apology. Not every individual does. Churches, made up of many people, always have more power than an individual member, especially LGBTQ+ members. They do not have any excuse to ignore the pain they cause.

** To be abundantly clear I don’t support or condone any kind of conversion therapy or believe that God makes people straight as a result of faith/prayer/etc.

*** I stumbled across this church‘s list of resources for their members regarding LGBTQ+ policies. While they are still discerning their policies, I hope they leave these resources up once they have come to their conclusions.

“Just Another Damn”

I’ve recently been jamming to Josh Ritter’s “Getting Ready to Get Down” which includes killer lines such as–well, I actually can’t pick just one. Instead, here’s the lyric video:

The fact this song came out the year I graduated from undergraduate feels a little too perfect. Dancing and singing to this ridiculous song fills me with both joy and sadness.

For about the past year or two I’ve felt a bit trapped by the need to be who people might think I am, which means I haven’t been able to explore who I am comfortably and publicly for fear of upsetting or disappointing people.

I’m not eve sure who these mythical “people” I’m concerned about upsetting are, but their spectre haunts me at every blog post, tweet, and Facebook comment.

Two years ago my content creation began to lag because I wasn’t fully out to everyone on my friends list. I now regret that I don’t have the quirky and exuberant Facebook statuses and tweets from the time period in my life when I was falling in love, getting engaged, and planning a wedding. I can’t change the past, but I want to return to the sort of thoughtful commentary and observation I was practicing so I can look back on my archives and memories with fondness.

Now, as I try to rediscover my love for blogging and writing, I still feel stunted and awkward. How do I just jump back into it? After guarding my posts for so long, I don’t know how to be honest. Writing blogs feels better, because I know fewer people are likely to read them.

Going forward, it might be helpful to just get a few things out in the open.

  • I enjoy using “strong” language when the moment seems right
  • I’m queer. I use labels ranging from gay, lesbian, queer and/or ace, and use she/her pronouns.
  • I occasionally use tarot cards for meditation and reflection.
  • I do still have my faith. Despite how damned hard it is, and how many people have told me my faith isn’t enough or real or valid, I can’t seem to let go of it, even though sometimes I want to.
  • I unironically enjoy astrology (Pisces sun, Virgo rising, Aquarius moon)
  • I like drinking, both in the “this is a lovely dry red to sip while I cook dinner” and in the “let’s do tequila shots and loudly sing songs we don’t know the lyrics to” sorts of way.

I think that’s it for now. Some of that may be old news to you, and some of it may be surprising to others. Most of you likely don’t even care, but blogs are really more for the writers than the readers anyways. At least mine is.

Looking at that list, I really like the person I am. I hope you do too.

#ClarityIsReasonable

I used to really enjoy going to church. I went to all different types of churches–Evangelical, Baptist, Catholic, Anabaptist. I loved visiting different denominations because I knew regardless I would find something to chew on and think about. I’ve never been one to lose sleep over theological differences.

I don’t like visiting churches anymore, or, more specifically, since I came out to the world and myself that I am gay.

Why? Because, based off past experiences, I am afraid that as soon as the church finds out about my gayness, they will do at least one of the following:

  • try to change my mind about me being gay
  • try to change my mind about believing God loves my gay self and gay life and gay wife (something I spent a lot of time praying about)
  • stop inviting me to church events (you know, like women’s retreats and couple dinners and stuff)
  • stop allowing me to serve in any capacity

Now, you might be saying “NOT ALL CHURCHES!” which while true (along with the other “not all _____” statements we hear) is not helpful. Because some churches, especially “nondenominational” ones, don’t like to tell you if they are one of the churches that will have your gay wedding and let you sing on stage or if they are one of the ones that wants you there as long as you stay in the pews and never flaunt your “lifestyle”.

Instead of being clear about where they think LGBTQ people fit in a church (pews versus ministry versus pulpit versus worship team) they throw something like this on their website:

I’m LGBTQ. Can I come?


Yes! While Biblical Authority is one of our values, we think you’ll find that we’re not a community that throws stones. It’s our hope that you feel welcome and comfortable when you step through our doors. 

From Flatirons Community Church* FAQ https://www.flatironschurch.com/new/

I’m sorry–what?

I mean, it’s good to know if I show up wearing my pride pins they won’t stone** me as I try to enter the building, but that’s not what most people are concerned about when visiting one of the largest churches in the nation (see my above list).

Talk about a low bar:

“Can I come in?”

“We won’t kill you if you do!”

But more alarmingly, the juxtaposition of being LGBTQ with Biblical authority (not even inerrancy or infallibility which are slightly more specific theological stances) problematically employs a rhetorical device known as syllogismus.

Syllogismus is just the fancy word for when someone leaves the logical conclusion of the statement unsaid. The simplest version of syllogismus is “I’m not going to say he’s lying, but these are the facts.” The obvious conclusion is that he is lying. The speaker has absolved themself of any guilt though by refusing to state the very clear conclusion that the rest of the audience is going to draw.

Also, in some Inception level cleverness, the audience will feel as though they figured out that he was lying–they considered the facts and decided it for themselves. And finally, when our brains have to fill the blanks, we remember things more so that idea about him lying is also going to stick a lot more than if the speaker had simply said “He’s lying.”

So, for the statement from Flatirons the unstated conclusion is that if you are LGBTQ, then you don’t believe in Biblical authority. Now, clearly Flatirons didn’t actually say that, and I don’t know if it was their intention, but they sure did strongly imply it.

Anyone who reads that FAQ will get the impression that LGBTQ folks don’t love the Bible, which is a problem because…

If I may use an imperfect metaphor: A gluten free person asks if they can eat at a restaurant and the owner says “Of course, but you should know we love bread.”

But:

  1. Being GF doesn’t mean you don’t love bread
  2. There are gluten free types of bread

By saying in response “We love bread” and using syllogismus to imply gluten free folks hate bread, the owner has demonstrated a deep misunderstanding about people who are gluten free and of the nature of bread.

Likewise, the Flatirons statement demonstrates that their church leadership seems to misunderstand both LGBTQ people and Biblical authority as a theological concept. Not all LGBTQ people are affirming meaning they may practice celibacy, and there are different versions of Biblical authority.

Maybe if Flatirons as a church followed the Leviticus prohibitions against tattoos***, I wouldn’t mind them thinking that saying they “live under the Bible’s authority” answers the question on if a LGBTQ person can attend the church.

But they had a wall of tattoos in their foyer. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love it, but some might say that doesn’t follow Biblical authority.

(Did you see what I did there? Syllogismus) 

Clearly, celebrating tattoos is different than allowing LGBTQ people to fully participate as members, and that Flatirons recognizes the difference means they do not “simply” submit to Biblical authority. They clearly discern and make decisions about which parts of the Bible are authoritative and which aren’t.

Right now you may be thinking something along the lines of “But they are allowed to have different interpretations of Biblical authority” or “Biblical authority is really complex so they are allowed to celebrate tattoos!” or “I don’t even remember what this blog post was supposed to be about?! Was it always about Biblical Authority?”

Let me get back on track and clarify:

  1. I believe churches should be able to make their own decisions about things such as leadership, participation, and, yes, even membership. #thanksfirstamendment
  2. I am not saying that Flatirons needs to be LGBTQ affirming/inclusive. (See above)
  3. I am saying churches should be clear on their actively enforced policies (Can I be gay and be on the worship team? Work in children’s ministry? What if I were celibate?)
  4. I am saying churches should not make sneaky rhetorical moves undermining the faith of LGBTQ people or anyone else who is affirming by implying they don’t believe in Biblical authority.

Because visiting church is hard, especially when I don’t know what I am walking into. And if I ever want to be a part of another church, I need to be able to grow there as a member, which means having the options to host a small group, and work in a ministry, and talk about how much I love my wife. I need to know they will support me if we decide to adopt. I need to know they will counsel me through any hardship.

If a church doesn’t or can’t offer that to me–that is okay. Really. As we said earlier, not all churches and I only need one, but they shouldn’t hide that they can’t meet my spiritual needs.

If a church doesn’t know if they can be what I need them to be, that’s okay too. But, again, they shouldn’t say one thing if its possible they might “change their mind”.

When I am thinking about visiting your church, I just need to know where you are. And telling me you submit to Biblical authority doesn’t tell me what I need to know, because in my mind I submit to Biblical authority too. Yet the fact that Flatirons feels the need to assure me they won’t stone me makes me think they might not be on board with my wife and I crashing their next couples dinner, but I don’t know for sure because they haven’t told me. 

Which brings me to the title of this blog. Asking churches to be upfront on their policies surrounding LGBTQ people (and women in leadership) is reasonable. If churches are afraid of losing membership when they publish their policies, well they should take a good hard look at where that fear is coming from. Most churches would never tone down or hide language about the divine nature of Christ in order to “reach out” to people–why do they feel like it is okay to hide these policies?

Church Clarity is a group working to hold churches accountable and open up the conversation about their policies. I highly recommend checking out their website and learning more about this. If you go to a church, ask them about their policies, especially before you invite your LGBTQ friend to join you. Saying “They love everyone!” isn’t enough.

*Why am I picking on Flatirons? Well, its one of the few megachurchs of America I am personally familiar with, and when I saw their policy I felt Things. So I wrote a blog. This ambiguity is not limited to them though; just visit churchclarity.org to see how widespread unclear policies are.

** Yes, I know they are referring to the whole “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” moment, but imagine what this sounds like to someone unfamiliar with Christian tropes and jargon.┬áPlus, to be fair, when Jesus said that he was referring to literal stones, so I don’t feel bad taking it literally.

** Additionally, when I visited I don’t remember them observing Paul’s instructions on covering heads during service if you want a New Testament example.

Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Nadia Bolz-Weber is one of those people who has been on my radar for years as a Cool Person, but I haven’t gotten around to reading any of her work because I was getting graduate degrees, and married, and busy coming up with excuses for why I wasn’t reading her work. At long last though, I can confirm first person that not only is she a Cool Person, but also capable of penning words that can break down and rebuild.

As the tag line–“Shameless: a sexual reformation”–hints at, this book addresses sex, sexuality, gender, and all that fun stuff as preached from the Purity Pulpit. However, rather than just being a rant against the Purity Movement or a celebration of Sex (although at times it is a healthy bit of both), Bolz-Weber primarily tells stories.

The stories Bolz-Weber shares are not just stories from her parishioners, but also stories from the Bible and from her own life. The intermingling of the personal and the holy beautifully highlights the Holiness within all stories, and the personal nature within the Holy stories.

For me, these stories engendered a heightened sense of reverence, not a lesser one. Bolz-Weber does not (as I imagine some may assume) diminish the divine nature of sex, but instead she refocuses the conversation about sex onto people, not Purity. She redefines what make sex divine: it isn’t purity; it’s connection. Placing people and care for them at the center of a sexual ethic, rather than Purity, makes room for those who may exist outside the heteronormative mainstream, those who historically have been overlooked at best and shamed at worst.

So if you have felt shame or betrayal at the hands of the Purity Movement, then this book can provide a lens of healing, a way to approach sex that is uncompromising in from both the perspective of faith and your own personal story.

But also, even if you haven’t felt shame or betrayal, even if the Purity Movement was a beneficial approach to sex and sexuality, then this book can provide an alternate story–not one that invalidates your experience, but one that allows you to hear the stories of the people around you, the people who may not be straight, married, or monogamous.

Shameless releases 1/29/19, more information from Nadia Bolz-Weber’s website: http://www.nadiabolzweber.com/the-books

I was sent a free copy of the book to review as part of the launch team for the book–my opinions are my own.