Christian Blog Says Close Friendships Are Bad

brunette, fashion, friendsI’m still Facebook friends with a lot of my former homeschooling friends and acquaintances. Sometimes they share articles and posts that I have a hard time not saying something about, so I write about them here instead.

Someone I knew from a homeschooling organization shared this post in all seriousness with a comment that went something like, “Yes! This is me! This is extremely important.”

In short, the post she shared argues that friendships that get too close can be a problem. I think what the author is trying to say is that God should be number 1 in a person’s life, and friendships can become such a big part of one’s life that a person can rely on the friendship in times when he or she should turn to God.  But the way she goes about saying it sounds a little different. At the beginning of the post, she gives examples of friendships in which women are so close to each other that they can’t imagine making decisions in life that would put that friendship at risk or make it more difficult for them to spend time together.

I understand how that could potentially hold someone back from making big life decisions. But none of the friendships she gave in her examples sounded toxic to me. They sounded like close, sisterly bonds. Like women offering each other their unwavering support and companionship as partners for life in a purely platonic way. The way this post nonchalantly devalues human relationships is something I haven’t even thought about much in relation to religion, but I suppose when your goal is to be in this supposedly incredible relationship with your creator, if you compare that relationship to human friendships, you’ll end up devaluing those human friendships in the process.

I do understand where this is coming from, at least to a point. God is supposed to be number 1 in a Christian’s life. Anything that distracts one’s focus from God is considered an idol or false deity. As a kid, I was told these were things like television and video games.  I always thought for adults a major false idol was often money. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Christian make this point about friendship before.

This post literally discourages people–especially women, if you read between the lines–from having best friends. I sincerely hope that most women who read this don’t take it to heart.

According to the post, there’s a reason these too-close friendships are forming these days: it’s because LGBT people exist, and are being acknowledged by the community at large.

The disintegration of the family and blurred lines of gender and sexuality have left our society with less and less stability. What can you rely on if your sexual preferences continually change and marriage and family relationships become increasingly unreliable? Under these conditions, friendship becomes crucial. In fact, the world’s model BFF is, by all accounts, a functional savior — someone who rescues you from the instability and trials of life, someone with whom and to whom you belong, who is committed to you “forever.”

So um–because LGBT people are gaining awareness and rights, straight people suddenly started becoming best friends? I highly doubt that the prevalence of close friendship is a development of the last 50 or so years.

After that gem about how LGBT people somehow fit into this, the post seemed to discuss these close “friendships” in ways that don’t exactly sound platonic. For example, in the list it includes of 15 ways to know if your friendship has gone too far, 5 of them sound like they’re describing something a bit more serious than even best friendship:

  • Do you experience jealousy when your friend spends time with others? Do you feel a sense of possessiveness toward her?

 

  • Do you prefer to spend time alone with your friend, and are you easily frustrated when others join in?

 

  • Do you have frequent sleepovers, often preferring to share the same bed?

 

  • Do you operate like a couple? Do others see you as inseparable?

 

  • Are you more physically affectionate toward this friend than other friends? Are you physically affectionate in a way that makes others uncomfortable?

Not gonna draw any conclusions about the author from these, but seriously, this is uncomfortably homoerotic for a clearly homophobic blogger.

The conclusion of the post killed me, though. This is some sad stuff. She writes:

A Christian friend understands that, ultimately, she has nothing irreplaceable to offer you and that you have nothing irreplaceable to offer her. Instead, you can link arms together with the goal of pushing each other toward the wellspring of Christ.

Can you imagine how you’d feel if your closest friend said something like this to you? Rather than say that human relationships are good, but a Christian’s relationship with God is greater–a point most Christians would agree with, and that up until now I would never expect anyone to take to this extreme–this post says that human relationships are replaceable. I guess grieving people can rest easy now. Their loved one can be replaced like a dead goldfish.

Have you encountered anything like this before? I’m curious, and a bit concerned that these ideas might be popular among some groups.

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

Thoughts I Had After Watching Star Trek Beyond with my Parents

There are two things every single member of my immediate family enjoys: science fiction, and Broadway musicals. Strange combination? Definitely. But Catholicism also used to be something we all had in common. While I’ve been dealing with family tension since I started to form my own opinions about religion and politics, I’ve still been able to enjoy science fiction and musicals with my parents, and I love that.

Sometimes though, a science fiction film or show does something progressive, and talking to my ultra-Catholic conservative parents about how awesome that is runs the risk of creating more conflict, so I’ll be reacting here instead.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see Star Trek Beyond with my parents. As is often the case in Star Trek, there’s a scene where the characters are coming back to Starfleet after a mission, and greeting people they know. In one such scene, we see Sulu coming home to a man and a little girl. There’s no major PDA or anything, but you can tell the girl is meant to be their daughter, and Sulu and the other man walk together with their arms at each other’s backs. It’s subtle; the characters never talk about it, but it’s there: Sulu has a spouse or romantic partner, and it’s not a woman. For the first time ever, Star Trek has included a gay character, and they chose to make that character be Sulu–an important character on the bridge of the Enterprise–in a nod to George Takei, the actor who played Sulu in the original series. Takei came out as gay in 2005.

If you’re not a big sci fi fan, you may know George Takei from his Facebook posts. He’s amassed a huge following by sharing interesting tidbits of internet hilariousness, and you know, the weird stuff that gets shared on the internet. He’s also been vocal since he came out about gay rights. What I find particularly interesting though about this story is that Takei wasn’t happy with this decision to make Sulu gay in the new films. Takei explains:

I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene [Rodberry]’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.

Takei says that Sulu was always a heterosexual character, so this is a pretty big change that he doesn’t think makes much sense. This whole thing is fascinating to me as a former English major and total sci fi nerd. Takei has a good point. Sulu, as a character, has existed for a long time as a straight man. While it’s wonderful to have gay people represented in one of the most popular science fiction franchises ever, does it really make sense to change one of the franchise’s beloved characters in such a substantial way? Why not just introduce some new characters to the franchise? Part of me is a bit bothered by this, but it’s a very small part of me.

Today, when it seems like every other move that comes out is a sequal or remake of something pretty old, we’re going to have to accept that one of the ways the new versions can really stand out from the old ones is diversity. There was a time when no one would bat an eye to see an all white, mostly male cast, but that’s just not the case anymore. As much as I appreciate fan loyalty to a franchise and to the original versions of these beloved characters, I can’t help but think that maybe the progress we’re seeing is also improving these franchises in this one sense: showing that even in fictional worlds, people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, sexualities, and so forth.

Star Wars Episode VII, which debuted many new characters, was the first Star Wars episode I found particularly relatable. For the first time in the live action films (yes, I know we had Ahsoka in Clone Wars), we finally had a female force-sensitive character (Rey) who is portrayed as a hero rather than a sex object. While I loved some things about Leia in the original films, her character was so tainted by the male gaze that it was sometimes difficult to relate to her as a woman. She was portrayed as a sex object half the time. But there’s none of that with Rey. And knowing how I felt watching Rey kick ass in episode VII, and get taken seriously by all parties, I can’t help but think how much MORE incredible it must have been for the young black women watching the original Star Trek series when it first came out in the 1960s to see Uhura working as an equal to the other main characters. Uhura was a crew member on the bridge of the enterprise at a time when black women on the screen (and often in real life) were servants and could be nothing more. The series first aired in the 1960s, right around the time that Jim Crow was coming to an end. Decades later, maybe this moment with Sulu is Star Trek carrying on its tradition of progressiveness. Somewhere in the audience of Star Trek Beyond, there may be a gay man thinking, wow. Finally. Someone I can relate to.

Perhaps the most important thing about the scene in Star Trek though, is the fact that the characters didn’t talk about it. No one makes a big deal out of it. No one makes a joke about Sulu being gay. There are no awkward moments, just acceptance that this is part of Sulu’s life. We need more entertainment media like this. Where something as natural as people’s sexuality isn’t a joke or something to obsess over. It’s just part of life.

Since seeing the film, I kept waiting for my parents to say something about this brief moment showing Sulu’s sexuality, which was very obvious to me. My whole life, my parents have been the sort of people to say “is that really necessary?” out loud in response to everything from sex scenes that are a big part of the plot to characters being open about their sexualities–basically anything remotely related to “icky” sex. They didn’t say anything this time though. Which means either they didn’t notice at all, OR they did notice but don’t want to talk about it with me. I’m trying hard not to bring it up, but I’m curious which one it is.

Do you have thoughts about diversity in film, or about Star Trek Beyond? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

The Strangest Homily: “Gay Marriage Means No More Babies”

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead of discussing the ridiculous situation regarding Kim Davis, a Kentucky County Clerk who has refused to do her job and issue marriage licenses in light of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, I’d like to go back to the root of her contempt: anti-gay preaching by Christian ministers, pastors, and priests. One can argue that the Bible, with its anti-gay verses, is the root problem, but ultimately it all comes down to interpretation, and while there are plenty of Christians who eat shellfish despite Biblical rules against doing so, too many consider fighting against marriage equality to be their moral duty. Worse, when they try to give secular arguments against marriage equality, their inability to apply reason to the issue becomes apparent.

The homily I’ll be discussing in this post is one that I remember from back when I was in 9th grade. I was homeschooled for the majority of my education, but I attended Catholic High School for one year, and during that year, every month, there was a day when the entire high school (roughly 800 students) would be marched a few blocks away to the nearest Catholic church in order to attend mass. We sat down in our uniforms on the hard, wooden pews in rain or shine, and the same priest would walk in, say mass, and give the same homily (sermon) he had given the month before. It jumped around a lot in topic, but one topic he always discussed for several minutes (after a lecture on how inexperienced high school students are) was gay marriage. It was a bad thing, he insisted. His argument against it, however, was ridiculous.

“What we’re seeing with gay marriage,” he would say, “is that it’s spreading. More and more people want to do it. I shouldn’t have to tell you all why it’s bad for society. It’s bad because gay people can’t physically have children. The biological components that unite a man and woman through God to make a child aren’t there. So what’s going to happen? As more and more people become gay, there will be fewer and fewer children being born. We can’t have a gay society. It’s not sustainable. The church’s stance on gay marriage is clear, and it’s logical, because without heterosexual unions, humans won’t survive.”

Even back then, when I was strongly opposed to gay marriage, this argument didn’t make much sense. I knew not everyone was gay. I was straight! I had friends who were straight. My parents were definitely straight. Why did he think being gay was such a temptation for everybody that if given the freedom to be openly gay, everyone in the world would do it?

Then it hit me:

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I realize this is a fairly common accusation from liberal people, but in this case I really do think it’s true. It’s the only logical explanation. A straight person considering his argument could stop and think, “This doesn’t make sense. I don’t fit that rule,” and most would be intelligent enough to conclude that they aren’t the only exception. Either he’s not bright enough to make that obvious intellectual step, or he was simply using the experience he spent so much time raving about to us, and applying it to gay marriage. In his experience, being gay was a real temptation because it was part of who he was, and he was suppressing it because of the church’s teachings.

That’s one of the strangest and saddest things about gay Catholic priests, and other gay active church members. They buy into a lot of the nonsense even though it actually applies to them. For all of his rants about high school kids being inexperienced–a fair point–he had a lot to learn about himself. Like many priests, he was starting to really advance in age. I wonder if he’s still around, and if so, I wonder how he took the news of the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality.

What’s the craziest argument you’ve heard against marriage equality? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome, just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

What’s Wrong with Gay PDA?

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I like to think I’m not homophobic at all. I consider myself an ally. I support gay marriage and dislike discrimination. I don’t just think these things, I vote that way. I argue that way, and I have friends as well as professors who are LGBT who really are just ordinary people to me. Something happened a couple of months ago, though, and it made me question whether or not I’ve completely eliminated my old homophobia.

I was walking on campus with my boyfriend when I noticed another couple sitting on a step, kissing. One had long, flowing hair, the other a more short, cropped cut. I found myself staring longer than I normally would at a kissing couple, because I quickly realized that despite the fact that one had a more “feminine” and the other a more “masculine” appearance, they were both women. I had to actively remind myself that, just like with any straight couple, I should give them some privacy by not staring them down, and keep going about my business. While I didn’t feel my old knee-jerk reaction of disgust from my homophobic upbringing, nor did I think that that couple should be expected to only share kisses in private, I was a little surprised to see a public display of affection between an LGBT couple. I was so surprised, in fact, that I stared a little. Why is that?

Granted, different people have different feelings about public displays of affection (PDA). I’ve always found it to be fine, so long as kissing is as far as it goes. I’d be very uncomfortable if I saw anything beyond that, but a hug, a kiss, or hand holding are all completely acceptable ways to be affectionate in public in my opinion. I just typically picture a heterosexual couple when I think about PDA. That doesn’t make sense, though.

To be fair to everyone, my opinion about PDA should extend to all couples, and even poly groups. If kissing is an acceptable behavior in public, then it shouldn’t matter who’s doing it, as long as it’s consensual. Why did I stare then? Why does it still matter who kisses who in public?

In the process of writing this post, it took me a long time to find a photo of a gay couple on the photo site I usually use. The photo I decided to use for this post was actually titled “Female Kissing Her Friend,” so it really might not be a gay couple at all. Or it might be, but isn’t being presented that way. Frankly, the only stock photos I could find of two women or two men standing next to each other, either clearly weren’t pictures of a couple, or they looked almost pornographic, and there weren’t many of them. Everything else was just one straight couple after another.

We truly do live in a heteronormative society. Despite the many efforts to raise awareness of LGBT people and the challenges they face, we (at least in the US) still haven’t succeeded in making being LGBT normal by society’s standards, especially when it comes to PDA. While gay people are free to talk about their sexuality, and express it through their clothing or hair, they aren’t allowed to share affection publicly. That doesn’t make any sense.

Part of the problem is that, especially in some parts of this country, it’s considered OK to be homophobic–it’s even encouraged. In places like that, and even in more liberal places, gay people might not feel that PDA are safe for fear of discrimination, and even violence. There are still too many people out there who would willingly beat up two men for holding hands. This makes it a rare thing to see, creating situations like my aforementioned experience. If we don’t see gay PDA, it remains unusual. It remains surprising. It remains abnormal. We need to make this country safer for LGBT people. They shouldn’t have to fear violence or discrimination as a result of PDA, and the rest of us shouldn’t be surprised to see two women or two men kissing any more than we’d be surprised to see a heterosexual couple doing the same thing.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy