It recently came to my attention that my open letter to Christian/homeschooling parents has attracted some negative attention. Hip and Thigh blogger Fred Butler has thrown down his fucking glove, so to speak. A friend who read this post before I did strongly urged me not to read it, as it had upset him and he suspected I might find it triggering as well. So naturally I read it right away, and while I completely understand why some find it difficult to read (take care when reading; TW for hatespeech), honestly? I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. A real live homeschooling mother has already responded, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to do the same. Quotes from Butler in bold.
Butler, of course, is obviously extremely well-versed in the art of mature conversation, as you can immediately see when visiting his blog. (“Smiting theological Philistines with a great slaughter” was always my favorite way to share the love of Jesus, that’s for damn sure.) The first way he reaches out to us black sheep is with the title he chose for this piece: “7 Truths LGBT Kids Need to Hear from Homeschooling Parents.” This is a nice counter to my own post’s title (“7 Ways Christian/Homeschooling Parents Can Support LGBT Kids”); in that where I invoked action, Butler makes grandiose truth claims. It works because when faced with things like facts, and the faces of individual queer kids, and attempts at human connection, he’s now able to simply say, “Fuck you, I’m right.”
He also takes a hell of a lot for granted. Seriously, there are so many personal assumptions about me in his piece. In Butler’s mind, I must be gay; I was raised in the IFB denomination, but am now traveling on some kind of woo-woo “faith journey” (and it is necessarily false, even though he doesn’t know what it is); my parents are “wacky” and I not only hate but shun them; I’m ashamed of and embarrassed about my religious childhood; my life is ruined and I blame it all on the “twisted” things my parents did to me in the name of religion; I have a poor understanding of Christianity; &c, &c. It’s hella ad hominem, and while I don’t feel the need to justify my existence in any way to Butler, I would like to clarify that I am not taking some kind of “faith journey.” (I have completely left my parents’ religion. My post addresses Christian parents from my position as a formerly-homeschooled child in a similar setting, not from some kind of “superior” understanding of Christianity.)
Butler also attempts to discredit me by dismissing my work as “one of those cathartic rants dripping with emotion that complains” about my homeschooling experience. In fact, I spent several days writing that post, taking great care not to infuse it with irrelevant emotion or backstory. I do write more cathartic, personal pieces sometimes–Butler may find them disgusting, but both writing and reading them can be valuable in the healing process. Anyone insinuating that “emotional” people’s voices don’t belong in debate, or that highly expressive people (or, tellingly, personally-involved people) are less capable of rational thought, can simply go fuck themselves as far as I’m concerned.
There is also this honest-to-fuck gem: “The Homeschool Apostates, I mean, Anonymous blog […] cross-posted it…” I can understand why a guy like Butler–high on control and suspicious of compromise–might feel angered or threatened by the Homeschoolers Anonymous collective. But there is no way in hell he’s getting a free pass on equating it to an apostasy blog. In the first place, the HA bloggers are many and varied; our backgrounds are diverse, and our numbers continue to grow. No one claims to speak for the others. Some of us have changed religions or abandoned it altogether, but some hold onto their Christian faith, and to call us all apostates is incredibly irresponsible. The second (and I believe more problematic) implication here is that to speak critically of any aspect of homeschooling is apostasy. Guess we can pack up and go home now, a Christian home educator’s just admitted it. Christian homeschooling has become an unofficial cult.
I’m going to step over a lot of patronizing bullshit–there’s simply too much to address–to focus on the more trainwrecky parts of Butler’s seven “truths.” (He warns that they “will sting,” which is, I think, a little too self-important for my taste. You can shove some word vomit in my face and call it “the truth,” but I am not obligated to accept your argument.)
“Consider the fact that you may be wrong–fatally so….You believe your shunning of your parents and their ways is sophisticated, so if they shun you…the feeling is mutual….[Y]ou are just as equally wrong….[Y]our rebellion against your parents’ form of Christianity extends to rebellion against the genuine truth: that homosexuality is a damnable sin against our Creator.”
One of the biggest differences between myself and my parents is that I am open to change. I actively seek information, instead of running from it and covering my ears. I try to listen thoughtfully, and sometimes I revise my views in light of newly-acquired knowledge. That’s why I am where I am today. So telling me, a deconvert, that obviously I would believe as you do if only I were less afraid to examine my beliefs is ridiculous. Furthermore, I reject the rebellious/obedient dichotomy. It hurts children and it has no place whatsoever in adulthood.
“Declaring homosexuality as sinful and being pro-family values is NOT bigoted. I know you probably would say you would never think a Christian is a ‘bigot’ for standing against homosexual sin, but you do. When you are by yourself with your friends, you all sneer at those ‘stupid Fundies’ and those ‘family values ret*rds’…[s]o don’t act all self-righteous when you tell homeschool parents, who you hate to begin with, to ‘prove’ their love to you.”
Fuck that. I absolutely do think of you as a bigot, Fred Butler, and I’m not afraid to say it. You don’t get a free pass on discrimination and inciting hate just because you’re religious. You also don’t get to own “family values,” because the values you preach are explicitly and violently against many, many families. Queer people grow up in families and then form families of their own. It’s also quite telling that you think of (and apparently use) mental challenges as an insult, and I’m not afraid to call you on that either. It’s offensive and ableist–dare I say, bigoted. And although your entire post is a flaming trainwreck of “divine” hatespeech, this is what I most want an apology for. Apologize for using our developmentally disabled and mentally challenged brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, children, selves, as pawns in your disgusting argument against human rights, and apologize for publicly associating the use of this reprehensible slur with people who believe that absolutely everyone has human rights.
“If you believe your parents are wrong about textual criticism, do your own research into textual criticism. You’ve probably gathered around yourself a bunch of apostate textual critics like Bart Ehrman…who provide you with intellectual comfort for your re-reading of the Bible and its dismissal as God’s infallible revelation….[S]uch men, as smart as they may be, are dishonest frauds….Their warped take on the discipline has been soundly answered and refuted by capable men.”
This is hilarious. First, my parents are not “wrong” about textual criticism. They don’t know what it is. They have been led to believe that seeking any kind of deeper understanding of cultural, contextual, linguistic, &c issues inherent in any ancient text is highly suspect, and they become angry whenever their beliefs face intellectual challenges. In my open letter, I ask parents in this situation to open themselves to the fact that there are countless interpretations of the text and to read some academic work on the subject. To, god forbid, entertain the possibility that they might not actually know everything for once. Researching a topic means sifting information, weighing evidence. It does not mean rejecting out of hand any information that conflicts with your presuppositions. Second, while I enjoy Ehrman’s work, I’m perfectly willing to concede that it isn’t perfect–on the grounds that all of us are subject to criticism and our views to refinement. You seem to think, Butler, that there are “capable men” on one side, and Ehrman & Cohorts on the other–but actually, this is an entire field, and Ehrman has (very enjoyable) secular critics as well. Do you read, and give equal weight to, these secular writers? Take your preconceived ideas and shove it.
“If you are actively involved with a ‘faith community’ now, you are blindly being led to the destruction of your soul…Biblical Christianity does not, nor cannot affirm homosexual behavior as normative….Homosexual sin has never been affirmed as normal by any genuine Christian body of believers, nor will it ever be….Only liars and deceivers tell you that being gay is normal….The leaders [of gay-affirming churches] are heaping upon you massive amounts of spiritual abuse the same as your Fundamentalist parents may have heaped when you were homeschooled.”
Wow, fallacy alert. It’s almost like you’re saying that your narrow definition of Christianity is the only possible right answer, is that it, Fred Butler? Yeah, not interested. You know who tells me that being gay is normal (for gay people, obviously)? The American Psychiatric Association. The American College of Pediatrics. The American Psychological Association. Do you want me to go on? Because it’s a fucking long list. And it includes scientists who once contributed to the conversion therapy myth, or whose findings were twisted to support an agenda they simply don’t. And the accusation you just leveled against them, against everyone who’s simply committed to not hating, is truly staggering. To conflate affirming, respectful, kind behavior with the vitriol and the long-term damage inflicted by the religious right, on both personal and political levels–to claim that those who treat us well are “in reality” more damaging to us than those who want us dead or dehumanized–is outrageous and beyond offensive. And I guess that shows exactly where your priorities as a Christian lie. As a wise, wise dog once said, “If this is torture, chain me to the wall!”
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
“When you began your new ‘faith journey’ you probably secretly read gay revisionist literature that told you the Bible mistranslated specific passages that condemn homosexuality….Just because an author has “Dr.” in front of his or her name, or graduated from some Ivory league school, does not mean the person is a scholar and thus competent with handling the biblical text. The person has an agenda….[Their arguments have been] shown to be propaganda rather than genuine scholarship. [Links to external apologetics sites.] Just make sure you don’t smugly go away falsely believing no one has offered any response.”
Again, I am absolutely not interested in Christian apologetics or in being proselytized. I was a Christian once, and trust me–I studied this shit. A lot. But I don’t buy into it anymore, and it’s not my responsibility to stand here and let someone talk down to me in the name of Jesus. Now: “The Bible” can’t mistranslate anything (it’s just an inanimate stack of pages), but it does contain mistranslations, thanks to innocuous errors, ignorance, and pointed agendas. It’s rampant. The Bible’s anything but “clear” on…anything. And yes, unfortunately some do claim the title Dr. unearned…but in an academic setting, where writers tend to disclose their field of specialization and the nature of their educational pursuits, “Dr.” does in fact point to scholars. It’s okay for you to accept that; I’m not sure why you find it so threatening. Scholars can publish clumsy papers or come to inaccurate conclusions or write bad books, but none of that disqualifies them as “specialists in a particular field” or “highly educated people.” If I had to guess, I’d say that your words here represent a much larger distrust in the educational system in general and universities in particular…which is sadly unsurprising. It’s just that for some reason I always hope homeschoolers would value knowledge more than that. But no.
And LOL, “Ivory League.” Talk your way out of that one.
“Treat the Evangelical Christians in your life with mutual love and respect....You cannot hypocritically suggest [Christian/homeschooling parents] treat you with love and respect, yet at the same time demand they overturn what historical, biblical Christianity has fundamentally taught concerning gender, marriage, and sex, so as to embrace your false revisionistic version that confirms homosexuality.”
I’m not sure you know what the word “mutual” means. It’s impossible for one person to direct “mutual” anything at another. Mutual love and respect by definition means love and respect that people feel and express towards each other. You seem to be having a massive vocabulary crisis, Butler, because it also doesn’t sound like you’re too familiar with the definitions of either of those qualities. Love is not participating in oppressive efforts to strip away our civil rights. Respect is not clamoring for our silence and conformity. I wrote my post to parents who don’t want to lose their children, and I think it’s safe to say that many, if not most, of us find the possibility/reality of losing our parents to be very painful. We would rather not be alienated from the people we care about or forced to cut off valued relationships for the sake of our own mental health. But we will. Nobody’s asking Christians to give up their faith. This is not a mark of persecution. We do demand to be treated as adults with the right to make our own life decisions, and we ask you to make an actual effort instead of beating your chest and yelling about how right you are all the fucking time.
“Don’t interpret any pointed criticism as an ignorant, bigoted attack against you. Stop wearing your feelings on your sleeve. The people who are offering pointed challenges to your new found ‘convictions’ don’t do it because they think gays are ‘icky’ or they are attempting to shut-down some social iconoclasts that are rocking the boat of tradition. You alone have chosen to stir up your inordinate affections and rush headlong into a lifestyle that will not only lead to the physical destruction of your health, but also the spiritual destruction of your soul. Moreover, you insist that the entire Christian worldview…be overturned and done away with all for the purpose of soothing your hurt sensibilities.”
Okay, some criticisms are valid and lead to interesting conversation (and hopefully, greater equality across the board in the future). “I’m right and you’re wrong because the Bible!” is not an intellectual argument. “You’re wrong because you have feelings and they’re girly!” is not an intellectual argument. And good luck playing the classic “It’s not that we hate social instigators” card and then trying to sneak the “How dare you challenge tradition” thing past us. Your paradigm? Rejected. We don’t play by your rules. We want to honor the humanity in us, not beat it into a bloody submission. Those of us who remain in the Church look to the egalitarian values espoused by Jesus and to a long history of gender equality and empowerment in the early Church, now largely covered up by bro culture and boss culture.
“’For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.’ (Matthew 10:35-38) And if regrettably, that means you may chose to continually be our enemy in spite of our best efforts to bring our restoration, then I decide to follow Jesus.”
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.