A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

LGBTQ Christians, Shame, and Love: Interview with Dawne Moon and Theresa Tobin

March 25, 2022 Randy Knie, Kyle Whitaker Season 2 Episode 18
LGBTQ Christians, Shame, and Love: Interview with Dawne Moon and Theresa Tobin
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
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A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
LGBTQ Christians, Shame, and Love: Interview with Dawne Moon and Theresa Tobin
Mar 25, 2022 Season 2 Episode 18
Randy Knie, Kyle Whitaker

In the conclusion of our four-part series on LGBTQ people and the church, we speak with Drs. Dawne Moon, a sociologist, and Theresa Tobin, a philosopher, who research and write collaboratively about the experiences of LGBTQ Christians in non-affirming church spaces. This conversation is frank, profound, heartbreaking, and, somehow, funny. We discuss their concept of "sacramental shame" and how it's used against LGBTQ people, what binary gender has to do with sexuality, the origin of gender complementarianism, whether it makes sense to be egalitarian but non-affirming, the importance of relationship for identifying love, how love and pride are related, and more.

You can find some of Dawne and Theresa's work together at these links:

The whiskey we tasted in this episode is Oppidan Four Grain Straight Bourbon.

The beverage tasting is at 1:27. To skip to the interview, go to 4:42.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.

Content note: this episode contains discussion of clergy sexual abuse and spiritual violence.

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Cheers!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In the conclusion of our four-part series on LGBTQ people and the church, we speak with Drs. Dawne Moon, a sociologist, and Theresa Tobin, a philosopher, who research and write collaboratively about the experiences of LGBTQ Christians in non-affirming church spaces. This conversation is frank, profound, heartbreaking, and, somehow, funny. We discuss their concept of "sacramental shame" and how it's used against LGBTQ people, what binary gender has to do with sexuality, the origin of gender complementarianism, whether it makes sense to be egalitarian but non-affirming, the importance of relationship for identifying love, how love and pride are related, and more.

You can find some of Dawne and Theresa's work together at these links:

The whiskey we tasted in this episode is Oppidan Four Grain Straight Bourbon.

The beverage tasting is at 1:27. To skip to the interview, go to 4:42.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.

Content note: this episode contains discussion of clergy sexual abuse and spiritual violence.

=====

Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.


Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com

Cheers!

Randy: [00:00:00] Welcome friends to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. We're excited to share this time with you, as usual, and I'm really excited to share this interview with you. This was a delightful interview. I knew nothing of these two ladies before we talked to them, and I was blown away. It was a really, really wonderful and important conversation.

Kyle: Yeah. So today we're talking with Drs. Theresa Tobin and Dawne Moon. Both are professors at Marquette University, where I did my PhD, and actually Theresa was one of the first professors I had. I remember showing up on campus and going to my first ethics class, and she was kind of my introduction to graduate school in many ways. And I couldn't have had a better one, frankly.

Randy: I mean, no wonder you went into your PhD for philosophy because I would've done that if I had her as a professor.

Kyle: I was still pretty [00:01:00] obnoxious and she put up with it. So, uh, and then, so she's a philosopher and then Dawne is a sociologist at Marquette as well. And so they collaborate, have written several papers together and writing a book together, and their focus is the experiences of LGBTQ Christians in conservative spaces.

Randy: What do we got here, Elliot? 

Elliot: Yeah this looks exciting. This is Oppidan. This is a Four Grain Small Batch Straight Bourbon whiskey, and fairly young. It's aged only two years. So this is Oppidan Spirits. They're in Wheeling, Illinois. So not quite as far south as most everybody else. So it's primarily corn, but also has wheat, a bit of rye and malt. So it's 50% ABV.

Randy: Which maybe, like, some whiskey snob can write in, email or comment, about what is malt ?

Kyle: Oh it’s just barley. [00:02:00] So 15% wheat...

Randy: Is it malted barley?

Kyle: Yeah.

Randy: Okay.

Kyle: So same thing they make scotch or Irish whiskey out of. So 15% wheat, I guess, would classify this as a wheated bourbon in the same category as something like Weller.

Elliot: Yeah, should we try it?

Randy: Yeah, let's do it.

Elliot: Looks deep amber colored.

Randy: I'm just going to admit right off the bat I don't like the nose. It's like hay and musty books and that’s, like, all I get right, right there. It's like a one-noted nose for me, but it doesn't smell very hot.

Kyle: No.

Elliot: The corn is huge. 

Kyle: I’m sad to say, I like the nose better than the palate. 

Elliot: You dislike the nose as much as Randy, or you’re saying that…

Kyle: It was just kind of one-note and, like, sweetness, but not much going on, but…

Randy: It tastes like a two-year whiskey to me. I mean, it's young for sure. Got that new-makey sweetness to it. 

Kyle: Now I can't get the book thing out of my head. It tastes like I bit into a library book. 

Randy: I mean, I've had worse bourbons, you know, descriptors.

Elliot: So, this is interesting that just looking at the, the [00:03:00] primary or the, I guess probably the more well-known offering of this distillery is the Solera Aged bourbon whiskey. So we're having the Four Grain, but the Solera—I didn't know this, maybe you knew what solera was—so it's, you never fully empty the barrel and then you’re reusing, and so it just builds this consistency. This isn't that, but it's interesting. So it's not my favorite, but I feel like there's actually a lot, like what is here for me is like, it feels like being in a haymow like, there, there they're good memories behind the tastes here, even if it’s not what I...

Randy: It’s getting more pleasant for me. Like, as I sip on it, it's one of those where, you know, at first you're like, eh, and then it grows on you a little bit. It's got some caramelly action.

Kyle: If I was… 

Elliot: It's not a single note. It's not like what you, what you're thinking from the nose. Like there's, there's enough going on. You can swirl it around and pick out some different stuff.

Randy: It tastes like it’s from Illinois too, let me just say that.

Kyle: Geez, Randy, low blow. If I was on a hay ride in October and someone handed me this, I would not be [00:04:00] offended. It would, it would fit the experience. 

Randy: Yeah. I mean, I'm insulted for Oppidan for that backhanded compliment.

Elliot: Tastes like a hayride.

Kyle: I mean, yeah.

Randy: I'd say this is a good Manhattan whiskey. This is a good, you know, I would mix this without feeling too terrible about myself, that I profaned something sacred.

Kyle: Yeah. Which for a two year old whiskey, that's about as much as you can hope for.

Randy: And I think, you know, that'd be a damn good Manhattan with, with this, so. Yeah, all right. What is it one more time Elliot?

Kyle: Especially if you’re into dry vermouth, I think that would probably accompany well.

Elliot: Yep. This is the Oppidan Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Small Batch.

Randy: Cheers.

Kyle: So we're joined by Dr. Theresa Tobin and Dr. Dawne Moon, both professors at Marquette University. Dr. Tobin is a professor, ethicist, former professor of mine, actually, and Dr. Moon is a sociologist, and they both work together on a topic that [00:05:00] Randy and I have been discussing for probably a year or more, and that is the contentious issue of LGBT people in the church, particularly, uh, conservative Christian churches.

Uh, and you guys have written several papers together on this. I understand maybe there's a book in the works that I would like to hear about if you're willing to tell us about that. So, uh, thank you guys so much for joining us.

Randy: Yeah, welcome.

Dawne: Thanks, it’s nice to be here.

Theresa: Thank you.

Kyle: Are you guys drinking anything you'd want to tell us about, so this is a theme of our podcast, we try to share what we're drinking with each other.

Theresa: What are you drinking? It looks like water.

Dawne: That’s gin. That’s how they fool people.

Kyle: Oh, this is an almost empty glass of bourbon… This is, what is this? Evan Williams?

Randy: This is Evan Williams. This is before our, this is the swill before our tasting that we do. 

Dawne: I am drinking a fine Guinness stout with the toucan on the can.

Randy: That's a good can.

Kyle: That is, I like that art. Theresa, anything? 

Theresa: I’m drinking Four Roses bourbon. I like bourbon. Yeah, cheers. But [00:06:00] it's in a coffee mug and that's a long story, that talks about strong women needing coffee, but I've got booze in it.

Dawne: And really that’s just left over from your breakfast right?

Theresa: Correct. I mean, this is with me all day.

Kyle: That's a rich metaphor. We, yeah, we featured a Four Roses on the podcast previously, it’s good stuff. Okay. So why don't we get started by, you just tell us a little bit about yourselves, how you got started working together on this topic, how, specifically, what's it like having a philosopher and a sociologist collaborate on something like this and what kind of dynamic does that bring to this topic? Does that make it better? There must have been a reason you guys decided to collaborate. So how did that all go?

Dawne: Money, actually. So I had, I've been studying Christian debates about sexuality in the U.S. since the nineties, and an opportunity came up to apply for a grant that was calling for an [00:07:00] interdisciplinary team. The project had to be led by at least one person in the social sciences and one person in the humanities. And I had met Theresa one time, right? Someone, someone else, a colleague of ours, was like, you two should talk to each other sometime. And we had had coffee. And I was like, who can I work with on this, who, you know. And I was like, maybe that Theresa person. And, like, she was on leave, and you know, like I was, I didn't know if it was going to happen or not, what, I didn't know what was going to happen, but we started talking about it and it seemed like a good idea. And as we were working on the application for this grant, we realized that our work really spoke to, you know, our projects really spoke to each other really well and resonated really well.

Theresa: And just to add some detail, I was on parental leave with three month newborn twins when I got her email. And I remember, I think I was holding both of them sitting in this chair in my living room. And I remember thinking like, oh yes, I have to do this, but how am I going to do this? But I did it. [00:08:00] You know, I was like, I absolutely want to do this, and so glad that I did. It's been life-changing and, I think, career changing. And I come to, to this too, considering myself a survivor of what I now call spiritual violence. And so for me, the work that we were doing together and the explorations and learning with Dawne and from Dawne about the work she had already done and how it was converging with work I wanted to do more of was also very, it just felt like a personally really important work to do too. So for me, personal and professional really coming together.

Randy: Theresa, you said that you're a survivor of spiritual violence. Can you describe spiritual violence for us? 

Theresa: Yeah. So I use that term to name the way that religious communities and in particular for me, Christian communities—I'm Catholic—use religion, use faith formation to make people think that God despises them, or God wants them to suffer, or God thinks they're inferior, so use religion to draw people away from God and God’s expansive love for them rather [00:09:00] than drawing people toward God and toward healthy relationships. So ways that people use religion to do that.

And I, I came across the term for the first time in 2010 I think, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter named Jamie Manson was writing about some recent Vatican teachings that were about women, and she used the term, and it just really resonated with my own experiences. And then in talking with Dawne, realizing that she was, had been researching and thinking about a phenomenon that we both came to see was another form of spiritual violence. So, yeah.

Randy: So you were a victim of spiritual violence, but you stayed in, you said you're Catholic, you stayed in the church.

Theresa: I am, yeah.

Randy: I mean, that's, that's quite a thing.

Theresa: Yep. Ongoing. Um, uh, open, but yeah, still, yeah, still really important part of my, who I understand myself to be.

Randy: That's remarkable. 

Kyle: So how did the emphasis on LGBTQ Christians come up? 

Dawne: Well, that is what I've been studying kind of all [00:10:00] along. When I was in graduate school, I was trying to figure out what am I going to write my dissertation on? It was going to have to be something that was rewarding in itself to me, that was what I was thinking about anyway, because you know, there's not necessarily a job at the end of graduate school. And what I was thinking about was homophobia. You know, and so, you know, I was like, where, where are people really talking about it and not just like spitting sound bites out? And so then I realized that was churches. And, you know, it took me a few months of doing participant observation in a church to realize like, oh, I'm studying religion. Um, and I had to like, you know, kind of really get caught up on like, what is all this about?

And, you know, for me, it's really about people trying to figure out how to live life and what life is about and what their purpose is. And, you know, so people do that explicitly in religious communities, but, you know, everybody's doing it in some way or other for the most part. [00:11:00] And I had studied in the nineties, I'd studied debates within the Methodist church, which was, and still is actually, very much split down the middle, um, with half really moving in a, in an embracing and affirming direction and the other half saying like, that is not where we should be going. And then in the, in, I think 2013, 2012-2013, because a family member who grew up evangelical was in the process of coming out as gay, I realized that there's this whole conversation going on among evangelicals, and I was like, this is what I have been working toward. Like, I didn't know it, you know, but this is really where everything that I'm interested in comes together. And so just like trying to figure out what is going on in this movement and what are the dynamics within evangelical and fundamentalist churches was just like, zoop, this is what I have to do. And it's amazing the work that's going on and what people are doing. 

Randy: So Dawne, [00:12:00] personal question. You don't have to answer it if you don't want, but would you identify as a person of faith or not, or atheist, agnostic, whatever? 

Dawne: No, I grew up, uh, I grew up going to a Methodist church, actually. My mom is a retired Methodist pastor, but she didn't become a pastor until I was older. But I mean, and it was interesting because I didn't know if my church was conservative or not, you know? There wasn't like hellfire and brimstone being preached. It was like, you know, a bunch of nice people trying to do nice things. And, uh, you know, like, they just, the way they talked about love never felt like love to me.

And as soon as I could, I just stopped going. Like as soon as I was too big for my parents to, like, get me out of bed and dress me, I didn't have to go anymore. Cause they had to get there; that was making them late. Um, and so I just stopped going.

Kyle: So for all the children listening that would like to stop going to church, this is your strategy.

Randy: Hopefully there's not a whole lot of children listening.

Dawne: Go limp! Um, yeah [00:13:00] so, no, I don't. And what's interesting actually, is that it's really only been in studying this movement that I've actually heard a message of love in Christian teaching or Christian talk. You know, it was the first time, like there there've been times, I was at a training one time doing field work observations, and you know, the way that the pastor who was leading it was talking, I was like, oh, when you talk about Jesus, he sounds like a good guy.

And I really had never gotten that before. Really. I mean, he didn't seem, sometimes terrible, like, maybe he'll have to torture you forever, you know, but sometimes, you know, nice or whatever, but like I had never gotten anything that felt like love at all from it. And, you know, actually what's interesting thinking about it in terms of spiritual violence, I mean, and not just because I'm queer, but also because I grew up poor in a middle-class community, and you know, a lot of things, when we were actually, we had the, this [00:14:00] grant that we were applying for, there was like a, an American Idol audition part where we had to present our proposal in front of all of the other finalists for this grant, um, and this board of like 12 people. So Theresa had laryngitis for this conference…

Theresa: I was actually vomiting. I was like, really, really sick.

Dawne: There was some reason that maybe she wasn't going to be able to actually stand in front of this room full of people and present our spiel. And so I was practicing it the night before, over and over and over and over.

And like the 25th time I was like, maybe I’ve suffered spiritual violence. It only took defining it, you know, 95 times to kind of let it sink in, like, that's why I'm actually not part of this because I did not experience it as positive in really any way. And that's what I'm so fascinated by is that people can, like, people do [00:15:00] find hope and strength and love even while they're experiencing this torment. You know? I mean, it's really, I mean, it's just, it's beautiful and terrible, you know, I mean I think it's really, uh, what's that word? What's that Kantian word? That oceanic feeling, you know. It's… Whatever, I can't remember the word. But it's immense. 

Kyle: Yeah.

Randy: We'll have Elliot on the edit, like, drop that word in, and it won't sound about like you Dawne, but we'll get it. 

Kyle: So if you think of it later, that's fine. How did, how did you research on spiritual violence, Theresa, dovetail into this LGBTQ study? Was that always part of the focus or no?

Theresa: Yeah, so I had independently been working on, um, trying to conceptualize this term, actually, after reading testimony from clergy sexual abuse survivors and the spiritual violence that they were naming, that was going kind of under discussed and underappreciated and theorized.

And so I was really thinking through what it was that they were trying [00:16:00] to name and in these contexts, in the Catholic context in particular, but recognizing that some of my own experiences, not with that, but as a woman in a, in a community that experienced spiritual violence, that the narratives around gender and sexuality that were sort of generating these different forms of spiritual violence, that somehow these different forms were sort of unified in a certain way, by a narrative around gender and sexuality that played itself out differently for differently situated people.

And so I saw this happening to queer people in my own community as well, and seeing these connections, and then when Dawne and I began talking and began thinking about this as something I really, really wanted to explore that I hadn't done.

Kyle: Yeah. And a significant part of your focus seems to be on the experiences of conservative LGBTQ Christians, which to some of our listeners might sound like an oxymoron. So, like, how many such people are there and why did you choose to focus your research there?

Dawne: Well, you know, estimates of like, I [00:17:00] mean, how many people are gay, how many people are trans, right, like, all of those numbers are, that's, there's not like a direct count, right, because it's gonna vary depending on, like, who's going to say yes when a stranger asks them if they're gay, um, or if they're bi or if they're non-binary, right, and who is going to check that box when, given that question, like, what is your sexual orientation? You know, so, like, estimates for the U.S. population as a whole put LGBT, I think, people at 4-4.5% of the population, and there's no reason to think that people who might in some ways fit into that category wouldn't also be evangelical, you know?

And so if you have that feeling, but you don't want to be that, and that's not your identity, and you're told that, that, that claiming that as an identity sets you apart from God, and is you turning your back on God, then you're not going to say I'm that because you think that's sinful, right, but then you're going to have [00:18:00] those feelings, right?

I mean, and the reason to focus on them now is in a progressive church, or even in a liberal affirming church, it's a non-issue, for, in a lot of situations, it's just like, great, you know, I mean, and there are lots of churches now where the bishop is gay or the pastor is gay or they do same-sex weddings all the time, and it's just, it's not, it's not the kind of issue that it is in this evangelical movement.

I mean, and what's, what's amazing to me is that this movement has been building, you know, for decades and is still growing and is reaching out and, like, giving love to people who are really feeling, not just unloved, but that their capacity to love is damaged and that their love is harmful to the people that they love, so they should not do it. And anybody they really care about they should get as far away from as possible, because there, there's something so fundamentally broken [00:19:00] about them, that they should really not love anyone until they fix themselves.

And, you know, like, that's a really important dynamic to be looking at, and a lot of really powerful testimony comes out of that experience that sheds light for all of us about what it means to, to give and receive love, what it means to be a relational creature, which as a sociologist, I would say all human beings are. And I think there's a lot of Christian teaching that supports that too.

And so, I mean, I think it's a really important group to look at because A. because of their own experience and how they're navigating this impossible situation, and because of what they make so obvious or more obvious, that is true for, for a lot of people, that's true for, in a lot of situations. 

Theresa: And I'll just add to that. I don't have any scientific or quantitative number, but when Dawne and I were doing participant observation at [00:20:00] some of the organizations, with some of the organizations’ annual conferences that we attended, they were numbered in the thousands. I mean, these were huge conferences that were serving a need and where people were coming together under some description of what we were talking about and interested in learning about.

And I'll just also add to the point about the broader lessons and the things that we've learned, you know, including to broader social justice movements that are, are more secular in their orientation, because there's so much, I think, really beautiful and important to learn in how this population is navigating spaces that just has broader import for how to do justice work, the work of justice rooted in radical love and radical inclusion. So it's just got a lot of, it's very fruitful for all kinds of things, I think.

Randy: Dawne, you mentioned that you've, you've been researching this in some way, shape, or form since the nineties, you said earlier. Between here and the nineties, there has been, in my observation as someone who grew up in the church, has pastored for 15 years, there's been an [00:21:00] immense change, but can you speak to what you've seen in the church as far as churches moving towards affirming, like, have you seen that or is that just me? 

Dawne: No, I think that is what's happening, and I think it's been happening. I think there's a lot of big historical changes that are going on that are making that manifest, you know, in what we see when we look at the world, like, you know, like that there's more representation of different kinds of LGBTQ people means that it's easier to find role models earlier on and easier to see that this is a thing and easier to have friendships, you know, with people who are out and who have never had any reason to question that they're good and that they're fine and that they're, you know, whatever problems they have are no different than anybody else's problems, you know?

And also I think a lot of cisgender heterosexual people are just sort of accepting LGBTQ people as, as normal. And so, [00:22:00] yeah, like, that's happening in churches too. And there's like a demographic issue where people, you know, younger people, even, even millennials, you know, have more, have friends who are LGBTQ, and they don't want to be part of a community that is hurtful to their friends, you know? And so, like, that change is happening and that's how it happens. It always happens through relationship.

I mean, it happens through policy as well. You know, once same-sex marriage, really, it was really when same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015, that is when all of a sudden, you know, there needed to be a new, you know, a new group of people to, to pick on. And so trans people became a problem that before that, I mean, there, there are people in our research who've been around and like very prominent evangelicals, who have noted that before 2015, asking a room full of evangelical pastors, like, what the Bible had to say about trans [00:23:00] people, they would have been like “Nothing? It's not, I don't think that's a problem, I don't think that's a thing…” And then all of a sudden in 2015 trans people became the problem because gay people couldn't be the problem anymore. And so, I mean really, it's a way that this normalization, it's kind of the ugly side of normalization, is that then there's someone else that then gets pushed out to the side and picked on.

But yeah, I think that change is happening, and I think it's, it’s happening because relationships are more possible, because more people are out, but also because policies are changing.

Randy: Yep. And I mean, well, I, I swim in circles with lots of evangelical pastors and I can tell you, unfortunately, gay people are still a problem for many of them. Um, and you know that, cause you talked to many, many, it sounds like. But I hope all of our listeners are listening to the words that Dawne is using, but I hope in particular, our non-affirming friends who are, maybe are wrestling with this, are listening to the words that Dawne is [00:24:00] using, words and phrases like gay or lesbian people feeling normal, inferring that in the church, many gay and lesbian people feel abnormal or are told you’re abnormal, or that, feeling like you're good. Like what's the opposite of that? Growing up in a church environment where you're centered around this higher power who says you're bad, inherently, because of your orientation, because of something that just is natural to you. I hope you're listening to these words and taking them in and listening from the perspective of somebody other than you. 

Elliot: Friends, before we continue, we want to thank Story Hill BKC for their support. Story Hill BKC is a full menu restaurant, and their food is seriously some of the best in Milwaukee. On top of that, Story Hill BKC is a full service liquor store, featuring growlers of tap available to go, spirits—especially whiskeys and bourbons—thoughtfully curated regional craft beers, and 375 selections of wine. Visit storyhillbkc.com for [00:25:00] menu and more info. If you're in Milwaukee, you'll thank yourself for visiting Story Hill BKC, and if you're not, remember to support local. One more time, that's storyhillbkc.com.

Kyle: All right. Was the word you were trying to think of “sublime” by any chance? 

Dawne: Yeah.

Kyle: Okay.

Randy: There it is.

Kyle: I feel better now.

Randy: Just say “sublime” and then Elliot will get it in. 

Kyle: So let's, let's dig into the work a little bit then. So, uh, in, in one of your papers, maybe more than one, you coin a phrase, uh, “sacramental shame.” So I'm hoping you can describe what that is and what role it plays in the populations that you have observed and studied. And why, why is it important to you? Why, why did you write about it?

Dawne: Well, it was hearing people's testimony, reading, thinking of a sacrament as, I mean, different, different churches define that differently, but as a tangible sign of [00:26:00] the presence of the divine, and in some people's traditions, it's necessary for salvation. That's a sacrament, right? And as I was reading and hearing people tell their stories, it really started to seem like shame, like a performance and an avowal of shame constantly was being treated almost like a sacrament for LGBTQ people.

That if you aren't constantly proving that you hate this about yourself, that you're trying to get rid of it, that you're trying to fix it, then you've turned your back on God or you're identifying with your sin. And so, you know, just this, this need to, like, constantly be beseeching God to change you, and testifying to that, and accepting that you have different rules than everyone else.

That, you know, we, we talked to one person who was in an, in a welcoming but not affirming church where it was [00:27:00] okay for him to be a member if he was gay, and it was okay for him to, to be a worship leader and teach the classes and whatever. But he would be called in all the time for these things that nobody else would ever be called in for. Like one time he got called in to, you know, you know, we need to meet, you know, with the senior pastor because someone had seen him in a restaurant with a man.

And they're like, you know, someone saw you on a date and if you're dating, you can't be teaching and you can't be leading worship because that's part of your, your, you know, your deal with us is that, you know, you can't be practicing gayness or whatever. You can't be a practicing homosexual. And he's like, so what do you mean I can't be on a date? Like, am I allowed to go out and have a nice time with another person? Can I only go out in groups? Do I have to be alone all the time? Like, can heterosexuals who are not married eat in restaurants together? You know, and that, if he wasn't constantly, even in a, in a welcoming church, if he wasn't constantly [00:28:00] displaying shame and like this, you know, that, like, he needed to deny himself regular stuff like eating at a restaurant, then he was in trouble, then he was not right with God.

And so it just started to seem like these constant displays of shame. And usually it wasn't in a, you know, a welcoming church, you know, often it was in a, in a community where it's like, you can't do anything except, you know, let us try and fix you because you're broken. And you can't love, you can't try to be like Jesus, until you fix this.

And so it really started to seem like that shame was the only thing that would indicate to everybody else in the community that this person had not turned their back on God, that this person was trying to get right with God. And when we asked people about it, you know, like it's kind of seeming like this, it kind of seems like, you know, like a couple people, like, you know, people with, you know, three masters, in divinity, theology and something else, you know, it might be like, “Well, hmm, I think,” you know, “I think a [00:29:00] sacrament is different in this way or that way,” but a lot of people were like, fundamentally, yeah. You know, yes, that is it. That's what's going on.

And for me as a sociologist, the only way that I know that I'm really understanding what's going on is if it makes sense, you know, if my description of people's experience sounds right to them. So that's kind of where that came from. I mean, that's not kind of where it came from, it is exactly where it came from, Trying not to do that, that thing where you pretend you're not really saying what you're saying. I am saying that. That's where it came from.

Kyle: Theresa, anything to add?

Theresa: Not to the point about sacrament, but I'll just, to elaborate about maybe the shame part, you know, shame is an emotion that signals fear or, or the idea that you are unworthy, that there is some, some unworthiness for belonging or for relationship or for connection.

And so to make shame—chronic shame, right, this isn't episodic shame—but to make chronic shame become the disposition, the orientation that a person has to take as a condition for relationship is really, I'll just say perverse. I mean, to make [00:30:00] an emotion that is about unworthiness for relationship the condition for obviously conditional belonging and relationship is, is so harmful, and we've seen the harm play out.

So to make it sacred then on top of that, right? So it's, I think it's an abusive dynamic. And then to make it, try to make it holy or sacred and connect it to God…

Randy: I just want to frame, frame up that phrase a little bit more for our listeners because that is a powerful couple of words you put together there, “sacramental shame.” When I hear that word, I just think, a sacrament is the means, the thing that brings about God's grace and the divine presence, like you were saying Dawne. And so for non-affirming, evangelical churches, conservative churches, the thing that brings about the presence and grace of God in a person's life is shame about who they are. That's what you're saying. That…

Dawne: And feeling that they're unworthy of relationship with God. And so it's this impossible, like, this is what causes, I mean, not just psychological trauma, but sometimes even [00:31:00] health problems, is this completely impossible position. Like, you are only acceptable to God to the extent that you know that you are absolutely unacceptable to God.

Randy: Yup. Whoa.

Kyle: Yeah. So you, you note in one of your papers that there's a sharp difference between the way that shame is experienced, as Theresa put it, episodically versus dispositionally, but, like, a sharp difference between the way that it's experienced by a straight, cis Christian, for example, versus how it's experienced by LGBTQ Christians.

And you even acknowledge that in some instances, feeling shame over wrongdoing can actually lead to virtue. Um, but that that's disallowed in the case of the LGBTQ Christian. Can you say a little bit about how it's different? 

Theresa: I think when your community, when your faith community automatically, and by default, and without even having to say anything, when you feel like you can show up as a flawed person, but a person, right, then, and you're [00:32:00] not living with a disposition of shame, that your personhood and your worthiness are just constantly in question—as a person, not necessarily as a person that makes mistakes or a person that fails—but you can just show up and belong, you know, then when you do break relationships with people, when you do mess up, when you do fall, and you experience shame as an emotion that episodically responds to the reality that you broke a relationship, or you damaged a relationship, or you harmed a relationship that you care about, that's a very different experience than being in a dynamic where you're actively shamed routinely and chronically for your capacity to be in relationship. Right? So there's a difference between feeling shame in response to a misuse of your capacity for relationship and being chronically shamed for your capacity, for the capacity itself; it’s sort of saying you're not fit for relationship. So that's one important difference.

However, I do think [00:33:00] that with respect to gender and sexuality, there's probably a lot of shame going on. A lot of, a lot of shame for a lot of people. I speak, I mean, I'm in a different context, I'm coming from a Catholic context, but I mean, I think sex and sexuality itself, you know, especially for women, you know, it was for a long time, I mean, I was in a faith formation situation as a child in a, in a community where it was taboo, unpleasant, you're not supposed to talk about it. It's not, you know, and then of course, this long history in the church of attributing sexual sinfulness to women, and if anything does go wrong, it's my fault, and internalizing a lot of that.

So I think that, that there can be, there are, there's plenty of shame to go around around these issues in particular, but I think there's a real difference between being taught that you're failing to live up to a standard of who God made you to be and being taught that you're somehow outside of that altogether. Um, that your question, you know, that your personhood is questioned because of the [00:34:00] experiences, how you experience yourself and how you experience intimacy and human connection.

Kyle: Yeah. And love itself, right? Like you say—I jotted down a quote here from your, um, “Sunsets and Solidarity” paper—you say “Not feeling loved by those who appear so clearly loving can compound the feeling that something is wrong with the person's capacity to give and receive love.” They, they, they must get it and they think I'm not, so…

Theresa: Yeah. And especially when it's coming from people that you do have close relationship with, right? That you had trusted, affectionate, close relationships with as friends or family members, right? That you would say, “I believe that you love me. And this doesn't feel like love. Man, I must really be messed up. You're right. I am really damaged.” The, the toxicity of that and the way it's internalized in people. Yeah.

Dawne: A lot of times, you know, like, if you think about parents, like a healthy parent-child relationship, whatever, the kid comes out, as gay, say—I'm thinking of a particular example—and [00:35:00] I mean, actually you could find this testimony; there's a website called “Just Because He Breathes” where these parents, Rob and Linda Robertson, talk about when their child came out to them, they were, you know, evangelical, you know, devout family and, and they tell their story, which ended tragically, because they want to spare other parents from having this experience and other kids from having Ryan's experience.

And you, you see these, like, you know, this loving, big, wonderful family, and the minute Ryan came out to them, he became a problem that had to be fixed, and the whole family’s, every, you know, like, they had binders of Bible passages in the bathroom so that no moment would go without praying for Ryan to change.

And he was memorizing scriptures and he was giving his testimony in front of a hundred people and he was signed up for guitar lessons with manly role models, you know, who would teach him [00:36:00] proper manhood, and it didn't work. And he ended up running away when he was 17 and being gone for 18 months, and they didn't know if he was dead or alive. And he was, you know, developed addictions, and it was, it was a terrible situation.

And in their testimony, you can see that, you know, like, they had a relationship, and he tried so hard to be worthy of that relationship when he, to them, you know, they, all of a sudden he became a problem to them and, you know, they had to fix him and he had to fix himself to try and go back to having a relationship again.

They didn't think they weren't having a relationship; they thought they were just trying to, like, fix a problem. But they actually stopped listening to him and stopped learning from him when he said he was gay. All of a sudden he became a different thing. Right? And that, like, that intimate connection that they had had as, you know, a loving family became, you know, [00:37:00] this, like, you're an it now; we have to fix you. But it doesn't seem like it because they're so loving and they're trying so hard to make everything okay. It looks like love, but it didn't feel like love because when he called them finally, after 18 months, he said, like, can you ever love me again? And they're like, we never stopped loving you, but he didn't feel loved.

He didn't feel loved in that because they weren't listening to him. They weren't learning from him. They were trying to fix him, meaning trying to make him conform to their idea about what a good Christian boy would look like.

Randy: Yeah. So can I ask two follow up questions? Well, one might be an observation; the other is a question, Dawne. I want to, like, our listeners to be making this connection between what we hear from conservative Christian leaders—and by conservative, I don't mean politically, I mean, theologically. I mean, I'm thinking back to watching a YouTube video of John MacArthur, who is a giant in the conservative evangelical world, telling parents who wrote into him, who said, [00:38:00] “My son came out as gay, what do I do?” And he said, very simply, shun him. Like, this is love. This is, this is what love looks like. This is to, to address the sin in his life, you shun him and pray for the Holy Spirit to bring him back and to get him to repent. Next question.

And it's really easy to create soundbites, theological, doctrinal soundbites, that we just reduce all of these experiences down to these doctrinal soundbites. That makes it sound very easy, neat, black and white, very, very friendly. And then you hear a story like this where the actual reality of “shun them” or “pray the gay out,” or just do everything, all, all that stuff, actually rips a person's identity and who they are right out of their body, out of their felt experience. And this is what happens.

So like this is really, really important. I think this is a gap for many Christians who have been given soundbite after soundbite doctrinally and said that, well, this is why it's a sin, this is what you [00:39:00] do, this is, it's very simple, right? And then you hear a story, and it gets very, very complex and very, very painful, heart-wrenching, a lot of things that our Jesus stands against and preaches against. So I, it's never easy when you hear personal stories.

And then Dawne, I wrestle with this because in some little way, and I feel dirty even saying this a little bit, but in some little way, I do feel sympathy for Ryan's parents in that I do really believe them when they say “We never stopped loving you.” Like, I think their idea of love, their way of loving Ryan at that point, was doing what they were supposed…they were, felt like they were doing what they were supposed to do in order to be fully loving. That's a disconnect. That's a really hard thing to get beyond when your idea of how to love is, makes that person feel unloving.

And then I know there are people who are listening, who are thinking “Well, is it unloving when I tell my alcoholic dad to stop drinking and take all his booze bottles?” You know? [00:40:00] That's the argument that we use. “Is it, is it unloving to, to tell my daughter who's anorexic…” Whatever, you know, there’s tons of scenarios that, that Christians are really good at saying, to say, this is what love looks like. But let's just stop that argument and hear what you have to say about that, that argument, Dawne.

Dawne: Yeah, I mean, that argument has... I've, I mean, I've been hearing that argument for decades now because I'm an old person, I guess. Um, and you know, I mean, it's, I actually thought of this earlier when we were talking about, you know, how shame can be redemptive. A lot of times people will say, “Well, maybe I want to cheat on my wife, but you know, I can't. And I have, my shame about that is what makes me not cheat on my wife. And so that makes me a better person.”

But you know, when you're talking about things that, that break relationship, right? When you're talking about who someone is in terms of gender or sexuality, you're talking about their capacity to create a [00:41:00] relationship with anybody in the, at all, and not just a sexual relationship, but to relate to other people at all, like a sense of who they are.

And the only way to get that, I mean, really, it's a metaphor that doesn't seem like a metaphor, I know. And, and I just want to put out there right now before I forget, I agree with you completely. I, my heart is broken for Rob and Linda Robertson. They're, they share their testimony because their hearts are broken and they want to spare other people from that experience, and, and, you know, people will be like, you know, “You suck! You're the worst parents in the world!” And, you know, um, you know—I'm, I'm making little typey fingers—like, that's the, you know, those are the comments that they get on their website. And I mean, they know that. They don't need anybody to tell them that.

And yeah, they wanted to spend eternity in heaven with Ryan and they wanted him to be able to get there with them. And so. But the problem is that there is such [00:42:00] a thing as sexual orientation, and there is such a thing as gender identity. And if your sexual orientation and your gender identity fits the story of your community about what you're supposed to be like, then it's smooth sailing. You know, obviously, there's ups and downs and life is hard for everybody, blah, blah, blah. But you know, fundamentally, you're starting from an okay place. You know, you're a person like the rest of us.

The problem is that the idea that homosexuality, any kind of sexual orientation diversity, any kind of experience of gender that is other than, you know, like, the two kinds of people, sort-of polarized binary story, that that story leads being LGBTQ to seem like a sin akin to murder, akin to cheating on your wife, akin to stealing from your business, whatever.

And, but those things all break relationship. You know, I was interviewing somebody back in the nineties and she was like, you know, like, “That's what [00:43:00] sin is, sin hurts people. And you know, if my brother were to be gay, uh, that would hurt people.” And I was like, oh, okay, how, like, how does it hurt people? And, you know, she said, “Well, my father would be really hurt” because you know, he's homophobic, basically.

And she, she got stuck, right? Like there's this narrative that sins hurt people, being LGBTQ is a sin, therefore, it hurts people. But it doesn't actually. It's not, it does not break relationship in itself. Other people break the relationship and then blame it on the fact that this person has expressed this difference.

And if you listen, if you actually listen in a relational way without being like, “Oh, well, whatever you say is wrong and evil and the devil's got you and you, we got to fix you because we want to spend heaven forever with you”—then you're not relating to them anymore—but when you really relate to them and listen, then you understand that they're not making this up. They're [00:44:00] not, you know, like, giving themselves over to sin. They're not turning their back on God. Like, this is their capacity to relate to other people. And then when you say, like, that is actually worse than murder, because murderers can be forgiven, like, then you're really putting people in a unlivable place.

Theresa: I would just add that, to the analogy, you know, I don't think that, you know, the alcoholic isn't shunned. Shunning is, this is, this is different. Th, they’re not, the alleged sins are not treated the same. And I also think, part of what's interesting to me…two things. One is a really narrow definition of sexuality when you're attributing simple sexuality to other people. You want to have this broad understanding of sexuality as really central to intimate human connection when you're talking about it in the framework of, kind-of, heteronormative binary gender that is compatible with your worldview. But the minute that—you know, in a broad sense of really foundational for relationship—but when you want to attribute sexual sinfulness, [00:45:00] it, it suddenly becomes a lot narrower. It becomes about, you know, narrow activity or, you know, desires that are, you know, sexual or carnal in nature. And really…so that's the first.

And the second thing that's always been really interesting to me is I'm really interested in understanding the fear and the panic. Like, no other sins evoke this kind of fear—alleged sins, you know, this is not sinful—no other activity that's defined as sinful provokes this kind of fear and panic. And I think that pursuing and trying to understand what is, what are people so afraid of? What is at stake? What is really at the root of the fear and panic around this alleged way of deviating? When, again, we've had people who really were taught that, yeah, murder is forgivable, but this isn't. Like, what is it about this?

Randy: So what do you think, Theresa? What is it about it?

Theresa: Well, I mean, one explanation that we pursue that I think has some plausibility is that binary gender and [00:46:00] sexuality are intimately tied to recognitions of personhood in this community.

And so people don't come right out and say that, but I think people who experience expansive ways of experiencing human connection and expansive ways of experiencing gender appear as threatening to that narrative that is a theological anthropology—and I'm no theologian—but an anthropology, a kind of conception of what the created order, you know, is supposed to be, what personhood is. And so they don't appear as persons.

And there's something really, I mean, I actually think it's rooted in power and fear of giving up security and stability and a framework of understanding and worldview that makes sense and a lot of people's identities are rooted in ultimately. But I think it's connected to this, an anthropology that implicitly makes binary gender essential to personhood from a particular worldview.

And so people don't appear as persons and then that's just, there…the word is used, “abomination,” right? [00:47:00] So, yeah.

Kyle: Yeah. Can you, can you, just for our listeners who aren't familiar, can you maybe just describe what you, what you have in mind when you refer to that kind of anthropology? What it's based in? And the title of one of your papers actually references this idea, right? The, the sun, sun, the idea of the sunset versus the binary anthropology that you're talking about. So can you maybe describe just a little bit for listeners who may not be familiar? 

Dawne: Yeah, I think, I mean, what, I think, I think this will answer your question. Um, what became clear to us is that like, when someone hears, someone grew up knowing that, you know, a murderer could be forgiven, but not a gay person, it really makes clear that in effect, a lot of these churches are treating this binary conception of gender—God created male and female—as, as a commandment that is actually more important than the Ten Commandments and came before the Ten Commandments. And, you know, if you read things, you know, like, coming out of the Southern Baptist [00:48:00] Convention and things like that, there's this, uh, concern that without a binary conception of gender, there is no need for redemption, there's no such thing as sin, like, everything will fall apart because “God created male and female.” Right?

But it doesn't actually say that; it says—Genesis 1, you know—says God created the heavens and earth and sea and dry land and, you know, there are all of these distinctions that… You know, this very poetic description of, like, where this all came from, that no one says like, you know—like, it mentions creatures of the air and the sea and the dry land—but, like, no one says amphibians are a problem. You know? No one, uh, you know, says that the… I mean, I guess people probably, someone must say that, like, the platypus is an abomination, but it's, you know, like, they're not going out to kill them all, it exists, we [00:49:00] accept that.

I mean, the, the reason sunsets appear in the title is because people have brought up the point that God created day and night in Genesis 1, but no one thinks that these in-between times of sunrise and sunset are abominable times, you should go hide in your basement until it's over so you never see this in-between time. Like it's not, it's not an abomination. It's beautiful. Right? It's, people feel closest to God standing on the shore in the space where you can't draw the line between sea and dry land and looking at the sunrise, you know, like, that's, that is sublime, right? Like, that is beautiful. And that is where people feel the presence of the divine.

And then, but then when it comes to gender, it's like, no, no, no, two kinds of people, that's it, men, women, they complete each other. And without that, you, you have nothing. Like, the, there is no need for love. There's no need for redemption. There's no need for salvation. There's no need for anything. We might as well all just, like, wither up and die. Because [00:50:00] God actually depends on us to reaffirm this commitment to binary gender that is really unique to European Christianity and was imported around the world in the moment of colonization. Right?

Where societies all around the world recognize that some people are born not distinctly male or female, and that some people feel different ways, you know, and societies all around the world, thousands of societies just in the Americas, had some kind of intermediate role that people could fill if they felt called to it.

And that was one of the first things European settlers worked to eradicate by, like, throwing those people into pits to be eaten alive by dogs and, and used that as a justification for stealing their land, saying this is “terra nullius,” this is no one's land, because these people aren't people, because they don't recognize our binary [00:51:00] understanding of gender, right? And our conception of male as superior to female and these two incomplete parts that go together, right? That whole narrative is propped up, and that itself becomes a commandment, almost. You have to, God will be threatened, right, unless you support this fiction that men and women are opposites, that they're from different planets, and that they're incomplete without each other.

Randy: Oh man. Dawne, you're, I mean, just so you know, what you're doing right now for many people, many listeners, is undoing years of fundamentalist preachers who were ranting with, like, really bad arguments, both theologically and anthropologically. You're undoing so much of that. I can feel the relief of our listeners as they listen and the, the, the jaw, the chins hitting the floor when you talk about sunrises and sunsets, cause that’s…

Kyle: That, or they turned it off five minutes ago.

Randy: I hope not. I hope not. Come on, listen, stick with us. You don't have to agree. Just [00:52:00] listen, stick with us.

Kyle: I mean, hope, hopefully this contextualizes and explains a bit why, when a well-meaning, sincere, conservative Christian tries to have a conversation about gender identity, and the LGBTQ person says, “Why would I want to have a conversation where you question my existence?” And the person trying to have the conversation says, “What are you talking about? I'm just trying to have a good faith conversation here. Are you not willing to consider the evidence?” Hopefully this contextualizes what's happening there psychologically. There's a background to this. It's not just a thing that we just thought of and brought up.

Randy: Yep. And I want to say though, I, I literally thank God for my gay friends who were willing to sit in that excruciating place that I asked them to sit in as a naïve, ignorant, you know, young adult who was non-affirming and conservative Christian, because the, the night, my perspective [00:53:00] changed on all of this regarding sexuality, the night my journey began towards loving and affirming LGBTQ+ human beings, was over drinks with my friend Brad, who was gay, and who would just let me ask really dehumanizing questions, even, and really stupid questions. And he just sat there and answered each and every one. And my world changed in that, like, two-hour conversation.

So I completely affirm the right of LGBTQ people to say, “I can't sit in this space. I can't let you ask those questions.” But I want to say thank you to the ones who have, because you are literally changing so much, changed my life. 

Theresa: And I just want to say quickly that we've, we've talked to, to people who are allied in this, in these communities we're learning from, too, that have had very similar experiences, friendships or relationships that could no longer keep going in the way they were going with realizing they were harming their, their friend. 

Kyle: Yeah. Um, can you talk a little bit about gender [00:54:00] complementarity or complementarianism, however you wanna put it, and how that undergirds, in your view, heteronormativity. So maybe just define those big words and explain their connection, because I'm thinking we probably have some, some listeners who—in fact, I know we have some listeners, I can name them—uh, who, who definitely think that they are egalitarian and not complementarian, uh, and they're not affirming of LGBTQ people, and they don't, probably, sense any tension in that at all.

So can you tell me what you think the connection is between heteronormativity and gender complementarity?

Dawne: Yeah. So, I mean, the way we use the term is the way that we hear people talk about it, like, at these conferences that we've been going to, et cetera, the idea that, you know, God created two different kinds of people to complete each other, and…

Theresa: As opposites.

Dawne: Yes. Two opp… complete… Yeah. And, of course, [00:55:00] hierarchically. They're not just… but they're hierarchical.

And, you know, heteronormativity is… It's, I mean, it's a word that came around, I want to say in the early nineties, to replace the concept of homophobia, because there are people who believe that homosexuality is sinful who aren't afraid, necessarily. You know, it's not a clinical phobia, like agoraphobia or arachnophobia or something. It's a conception of what is not just normal, but normative. But those are related, right? The idea that, that things are only good or people are only good if they're normal is part of it—which I think is the main kind of ethical flaw, if I can use that language, because that is not really a great basis for human rights or whatever—but the idea of, that heterosexuality is not just normative, like what should, what should happen, what, how things should be, but also that it is just what is, right, and what has always been, [00:56:00] and what happens in, well, you know, animals and, you know, just this idea that heterosexuality is this timeless universal.

And so they relate to each other because if you think of heterosexuality as, you know, male-female marriage, then complementarity is male-female marriage, males and females complete each other in marriage.

And so, yeah, like, the idea that, you know, like, people will talk about how, like, animals are all heterosexual or…

Kyle: Have they never watched the Discovery Channel? I don’t…

Dawne: …you know, like, animals have sex chromosomes and X and Y chromosomes or whatever, when actually a lot of animals have W and Z chromosomes, you know, they don't have the same chromosomes, they're not like us. Or, you know, animals have all kinds of ways, like, there's animals that, their eyeball moves across their head, like there's all kinds of, you know, it's, it's an allegory to try and make heterosexuality seem like it just comes from God and nature and everything, and any deviation from that is sick, wrong, you know, evil, um, illegal, you know, whatever.

You know, and [00:57:00] just to put it out there, like, the concept of heterosexuality, that some people are defined by an attraction to people of a different sex from them, like, that only came about in the late 19th century. Right? Like, before that, marriage was about, like, you have obligations to get married in these ways, but it wasn't about, like, your attractions defining who you are as a person. Now, well, I, I'm told that heterosexuals really feel like they're heterosexual, and that, you know, their attractions define who they are. But that hasn't always been, that's not the way it's always been. These, it's actually a fairly new understanding, right?

I mean, and it goes along with the idea that, you know, the word homosexual wasn't in the Bible until 1947 with the translation of the Revised Standard Version, I think, if I'm remembering that correctly. These are not, like, we think, because they're so pervasive in our lives and our thinking, that all this is new, but actually [00:58:00] heterosexuality and heteronormativity—the idea that heterosexuality alone is natural and good and true and of God and all that—that's actually new.

Kyle: Yeah. 

Theresa: And I would just add to that, that the way that this narrative of binary gender operates is to build heterosexuality into gender. Right? So that what it means to be a real woman is to be heterosexual, meaning have these attractions to the opposite sex and, and vice versa. And then there's all kinds of narratives about what that means and how that plays out femininely and masculinely.

And one of the ways we saw this playing out was when we interviewed people who were trying to disclose their being gay. For instance, I'm thinking of one person who—well, many people—gave stories about how their communities tried to fix their sexuality with gendered behavior, right? So in, in the story about Ryan or in other stories we heard, you know, a woman coming out as, as, as lesbian trying to say, look, this is just who I am and her community saying you gotta put [00:59:00] on tighter jeans, and we got to learn to shake your hips, and I couldn't wear vests, and I couldn't play softball. Like, all of this gendered behavior. What's wrong is your gender. We gotta get you gender-corrected so that your sexuality will come into align with that. So this kind of alignment of sexuality and gender that's in this narrative as well, so that to be a certain gender and to perform it means to have a certain kind of sexuality. So it's connected in that way.

And I would ask a question. I, I'm puzzled by pers… I don't, I think it's use of terms, but I would like to understand how people, what they mean when they say they are egalitarian and non-affirming? Cause I think maybe I would use those terms, to me, I have trouble holding those terms together. So I think I maybe don't know how they're using them. 

Kyle: Typically, at least in the, in the context I've experienced these terms being used the most, egalitarian has to do more with women's role in the church and in marriage specifically. So women can be ordained or be an elder or something like that if you're egalitarian, but not if you're complementarian. And it's a [01:00:00] kind of, I mean, I see it as a mark of privilege personally, but it's a kind of easy bifurcation between that and “Look, the LGBT thing, it's a totally separate issue, uh, let's, you know, consider each on its own merits.” Uh, so we can, we can pretend to be really progressive because we let women be on our boards and stuff, but—and maybe we even welcome the gay people insofar as they can't have any leadership roles or something—but we don't see any tension in that. There's no contradiction there because they're fundamentally separate issues because we haven't thought deeply about what gender is.

Theresa: I see, okay.

Randy: Yeah. I mean, honestly, I would have held that position, egalitarian, non-affirming until not so long ago, um, and didn't see any problem with it really. I mean, I, I, the only way that I saw them as related was that they both fall under the camp of progressive Christianity. You know, like I know that, um, I knew that I was a little bit of a progressive Christian because I was egalitarian, and strongly egalitarian. But in, that’s similar to sexuality in that, if you're affirming, you're quite progressive in your faith, in your [01:01:00] Christianity, but that would be the only way I would have related them or, you know, thought of them together. I would, I would have had no problem and would have argued with you that, like, you can't be one without the other. And I would still argue with you that you can't be one without the other, because I was that for a long time.

Kyle: Oh, sure, sure. Yeah, as a descriptive fact. So it's almost like, um, you have the complementarian thing, which is hierarchical, and so the, the egalitarian and a lot of these progressive evangelical spaces have made it horizontal, right? It's no longer hierarchical and we feel real good about that. And, but we haven't actually, it's still a binary, right.

Theresa: Got it, yeah. Yeah. And all the baggage that comes with that.

Kyle: And we're comfortable with the binary being equal, but we are not willing to say this might be a constructed thing all the way down. We’re not willing to go that far.

Randy: And where, I think the moment where it dawned on me that they were related was literally as I was preaching a sermon several years ago. You know, we, so we, we have, we're privileged to have a decent amount of LGBTQ+ community in our church. And as I'm preaching a sermon about women in the [01:02:00] church actually, about women's roles in the church, I made the statements that, I don't remember exactly what I said, but I just basically made the statement “If you were to tell me, a person who's a preacher”—and I experience a lot of life by preaching, writing sermons, delivering them, getting people emotionally invested and spiritually alive—"if you were to tell me that I can't do this because of my gender, because I'm a man, I can't actually do this. I would walk away from the faith. I couldn't do it, like, that, I couldn't.” And as I said it, I looked at a gay man who was listening to me and I was like, I got some thinking to do here. And then it dawned on me.

Kyle: So I'm gonna ask one more question and then I'm done and Randy can ask any, any follow-ups. Um, you talk quite a bit about humility and its connection with pride, and there is a longstanding tradition going back at least to C.S. Lewis, but I know much further, uh, of thinking of pride as the, it's not just a sin, it's the [01:03:00] source of all sin. It's the meta-sin. It's, it's the, it's just another way of describing the break with God. It's the root of the whole thing. And that is very deeply ingrained in evangelicalism. It's still difficult for me to think differently, really. And humility of course, being the opposite of pride, what Jesus is like.

And, but then again, you have a community who has defined itself in many ways with that label “pride.” And so you talk a bit about differentiating what Christians, particularly conservative Christians, mean by pride versus what LGBTQ people mean by it. And consequently, what you think humility actually is as a virtue. Um, so can you talk a bit about those terms and what you think humility looks like?

Theresa: I think, so the equation or the, you know, defining pride as hubris, basically, right, as, as a vice and as the vice of all vices, when we were talking to people who had experienced chronic dispositional shaming, and then they were, on top of that, told, actually, that they were [01:04:00] arrogant, that this was the sin of pride, the sin of hubris, to try to name that, that they were somehow elevating themsel, their, their sexual identity or their gender identity above God or above their identity as Christian, they were told that they actually couldn't be both Christian and who they said they were. And then, so that, you know, that, that sort of, that was used as part of the weaponry to continue the shaming dynamic. And so many of them felt really cut off from being able to simply just affirm their basic worth and goodness as people created in God's image, like that was fundamentally cut off.

And so we were noticing that on the one hand. On the other hand—and people saying like, you know, that this was harming them, they were being charged with arrogance and the sin of, of hubris. On the other hand, a lot of people think that shame and humility are connected because they think that, you know, shame, if you're vulnerable to feeling shame, then it indicates that you're liable to humility, that you're open to being affected by other people's experiences of [01:05:00] you and being open to having people point out to you that you're flawed in some way or that you hurt them in some way. So it's a sort of indication of your humility.

But for people who are chronically shamed, shame in that sense—chronic dispositional shame--doesn't teach humility. It teaches self-abasement, it teaches self-abnegation, it teaches self-loathing. And so you've got people who have learned from their churches what we would call, and in some places we do call, vices of deficiency, right? This, this idea that they're fundamentally unworthy. And then on top of that, being told that they're arrogant for trying to just name a simple, descriptive truth about who they experienced themselves to be.

So that the whole mechanism of virtue and Christian virtue and Christian vice is operationalized as part of the sort of shaming dynamic, that keeps people, you know, breaks people and leads to these toxic effects. So in our experiences talking to people, the thing over and over and over again that helped people heal, helped people [01:06:00] experience a way out, a way forward, was a recognition of their own value and worth as human beings. And it often came from community or relationship with other queer people, like meeting other queer people and saying, wait, you exist. You're human. You're good. I see you. That means I exist. I can exist in the world. So finding and affirming the humanity in other people who were like them enabled them to affirm just their own basic humanity and goodness.

And so it was a sense of worthiness and basic sense of confidence in my worthiness as a human that was achieved in relationships. So it was a relational experience of basic worth, not an elevating of self over other people or over God.

And this book by Elizabeth Edman, who's a—it’s called Queer Virtue; she’s an Episcopalian priest—really began to articulate this idea of relational pride that we were seeing. And one of the most, I think, powerful stories or [01:07:00] things that we heard over and over again was very often, the person on the other side also—if it wasn't other queer people who was, they were hearing affirming messages from about their own basic worthiness—was God in their own prayer lives.

So very, very often, I mean, they have their whole community telling them that it's worse than murder, and they're going to God over and over again. It's submission to God. It was the most beautiful act of, of humility in that sense, in the Christian sense of submission to God's will. And over and over, in their prayer lives, experiencing God saying, “Be who I made you to be. I love you.” And then choosing eventually to trust that, trust that inner knowledge and that inner connection with God. So that, and meeting other queer people, and finding that it was these relationships with the divine and with other people that was instilling in them a basic sense of their own humanity.

This was a different kind of pride. It was not hubris. And that if anybody thinks that they have the market on what pride is, there was something else going on here that's really important to human relationships that, that this kind of pride is essential to relationship. And we were beginning to see that [01:08:00] it was the other side of virtuous humility, which wasn't just about a self-oriented virtue that, where people can kind of own their limitations and own their weaknesses, but was really about people—and you see this in a lot of the stories of parents or allies that eventually kind-of have conversions or have their hearts changed—it was because they prioritize relationship. It was the relationship, again, that enabled people to open up to listening and loving their child or their friend and saying, “Okay, I'm not going to choose allegiance to a narrative over allegiance to a relationship.” And it opened them up to be vulnerable.

And so we began to see pride and humility as operating as two sides of a really important emotional scaffolding for genuine and authentic loving relationship, that a self has to feel worthy of relationship and has to be able to be worthy enough or have a sense of that in order to be open and vulnerable in a safe and healthy way. Right. So that the [01:09:00] vulnerability doesn't become doormat and also a sense of worthiness doesn't become superiority or control or, right? So that these two emotional dispositions that people were naming as pride, I mean, frankly, they name it as pride, and I believe what they say, that they're experiencing a kind of pride that is, is absolutely critical to healing resistance and really developing, I think radically—for me, at least—new interpretations of Christian love that have made my faith richer for it.

I mean, I have learned more about the love of Jesus from this community than I have in any one of my catechism classes, theology classes, or church experiences. Like I, my faith has been renewed because of the experiences of humility-pride in relationship, sub-love that these, these people are fostering as God's love. So, that's a long answer. I'm sorry, I babbled, but I'm drinking Four Roses and it's nine o'clock, and I usually go to bed at nine. 

Randy: Theresa. First of all, I [01:10:00] found my fir, we found our first, that we've known, truly humble philosopher, and like, really just like… I’m kidding.

Um, but we have these soundbites that we, when we drop our episodes on social media, we, we put a sound in and hopefully it's like 30 or 45 seconds or whatever, and it's enough to grab the audience and make them want to listen. I want to put that whole six minute, uh, explanation of pride and, and that whole thing that you just said, I want that to be just the soundbite right there. That was incredible.

And I hope—I know, I don't even hope—I know our listeners, as they were listening to you talk just brilliantly, they were recognizing the work of the Spirit in what you were talking about. Because when we're talking about, and I'm speaking as a pastor now, when we're talking about the redemption of a person's humanity, when we're talking about a reclamation of a person's value and dignity and goodness and worth, when we're talking about these things, we're actually talking about the work of the Holy Spirit, just period, for me. [01:11:00]

And so that means that perhaps, what if the Pride movement—this is going to get me in trouble and we're going to have a really bad review because of this on Apple Podcasts…

Kyle: I welcome it.

Randy: But to me, you just, you talking made me think, “Wow, is the Pride movement a work of the Holy Spirit? Sounds like it, because that's what the Holy Spirit does. 

Theresa: Yes. That's what I I'm… Yes. I mean, that's my experience of what I’m…yeah.

Randy: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, just, and speaking to the last half of what you just said, I mean, last, last year, Elliot, myself, and my daughter marching in this, um, Black Lives Matter, uh, protest to, down Bayview and into downtown and all that stuff, and it was put on by the LGBTQ community. We, you know, it, tons of trans people, tons of, you know, gay, lesbian people. And I was reflecting with my daughter as we were walking out after like four hours, sweaty, marching, and greasy and all that stuff. And I just asking her what were her thoughts and what were her thoughts of the people that we were marching with.

And she just looked at me and she said, “They [01:12:00] really loved each other, Dad.”

Theresa: Yes.

Randy: And, and I said, “That felt like the church, didn't it?” And I mean, again, we're talking about, if you zoomed in there and walked with us, it was very clearly the LGBTQ community. And that was just my 13-year-old daughter’s easy observation. They just loved each other well.

Thank you, Theresa. Dawne, do you have anything there?

Dawne: Well, I mean, I was actually just thinking about, you know, what you were saying and I mean, it's so clear to me that “Black Lives Matter” is a saying and a movement so firmly rooted in love and the same kind of relational pride, like, because I know you don't deserve this, I know that I don't deserve it. And it's, and when, I am a white person, and when I hear other white people saying that, that it's hateful, it's just, it is, like, I mean, that fills me with shame for white people and whiteness and how the [01:13:00] creation of whiteness is really the opposite of love and the opposite of humility.

And yes, like, I mean, any, any movement for justice is rooted in love because without justice, you don't have love, but love compels you to seek justice, right? I mean, that's, if, if love's not compelling you to seek justice, it's not love. And for, for us, this, this whole thing, like, we, like I wrote, uh, you know, at one point we were like working on this, you know, book and, like, getting lost in the weeds, and I, I finally had to just make a big sign on the bulletin board across from my desk… 

Theresa: Show ‘em. Show ‘em your sign. It's going to be our book cover.

Dawne: …that…”It’s all about love.” It's about this, like, wild, beautiful, uncontained, not boxed-in love. That love, [01:14:00] you know, grows beyond all that. And that's, what's so compelling about this movement, is that, like, for me, I was just like, uh-uh, not doing it, see ya, and checked out of the church, you know, to avoid what a lot of the people that we've been talking to have been through. And they're staying because of their love.

And plenty, I mean, I have no criticism, I mean, you can also leave because of love. Like, it's not, you know, that's not a bad thing. Like, absolutely you can leave because of love. But you know, the love that, that compels some people to stay is really just profound.

Randy: I want to, I want to take back and apologize, my joke about you, which was about Theresa... 

Kyle: Oh it’s fine, you’re not totally wrong.

Well, is there anything you want to plug? Where can people find you online? Tell us about this book you're writing. Any, any idea when that might be available?

They’re laughing.

Dawne: Well, there's this little thing that [01:15:00] happened called COVID-19…

Randy: Never heard of it. I don’t believe in it. 

Dawne: …that just, like, totally just derailed all of life's plans, but we are gonna get back on track real soon.

Theresa: We’re gonna to get back on it. And we did our very first virtual research poster presentation for which I learned what a QR code was and how to develop a website, and so made one, poorly, but we have one, and I don’t recommend…

Dawne: Infinitely better than what I have made, which is zero.

Theresa: I'm not sure I would send people to it.

Randy: I’m feeling such a deep connection with you ladies right now. I get made fun of so consistently from these two about my technological clumsiness and ignorance that…thank you, thank you.

Theresa: Yeah. Yeah, but we'll get there. We have a space. We just, yeah. A web space, but I, it’s probably not ready. 

Randy: Would we be able to, uh, Dawne and Theresa, would we be able to link your articles on our show notes if, just in case of somebody who's interested in reading them?

Theresa: Yeah. [01:16:00]

Randy: Awesome. 

Dawne: Yeah. Like, I mean, I think some of them might be protected by a firewall…

Randy: They’re, their academic.

Kyle: Well, there was a blog I read that was pretty accessible.

Theresa: Oh yeah.

Dawne: The whole goal of writing this book is to make it not a academic…

Theresa: Yeah, not a “Methods” section, there won’t be a “Methods” section.

Dawne: Understandable to people…

Randy: Send us, me a copy.

Kyle: Yeah, for real. We'll have you back when that comes out, that'll be awesome. Do you have a working title for the book?

Dawne: Um, possibly something like The Motivation to Love or something like that. Um, and that's on this sign that also reminds me of what we're doing. This is my high tech, uh…

Kyle: That's awesome.

Randy: Awesome.

Dawne: It's actually right next to the big thing we drew up on scrap paper and took a picture of to put in a PowerPoint because we didn’t know how to use, like, all the shapes and things in PowerPoint.

Theresa: Yeah. It was at the high point of… that was good, yeah.

Kyle: Yeah. Well, thanks [01:17:00] so much for joining us. This has been delightful and really important and honestly moving at times. So, uh, can't wait to read the book whenever it does come out. When it does, maybe we'll have you back on.

Theresa: It will. It's coming out. Yeah. Thank you for, yeah, for inviting us and for your patience as we figured out how to schedule it.

Kyle: No worries.

Randy: No, yeah. Thank you. It was delightful.

Dawne: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for this conversation. It's been a pleasure. 

Kyle: We hope you're enjoying the show as much as we are. Help us continue to create compelling content and reach a wider audience by supporting us at patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher, where you can get bonus content, extra perks, and a general feeling of being a good person.

Randy: Also, please rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. These help new people discover the show, and we may even read your review in a future episode. If it's good enough.

Kyle: If anything we said really pissed you off, or if you just have a question you'd like us to answer, or if you'd just like to send us booze, send us an [01:18:00] email at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com.

Randy: Catch all of our hot takes on Twitter at @PPWBPodcast, @randyknie, and @robertkwhitaker, and find transcripts and links to all of our episodes at pastorandphilosopher.buzzsprout.com. See you next time.

Kyle: Cheers.

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