a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
What Edward de Bono calls “water logic” is the process I’ve been using in this “[UMC] …” series of takes on the present climate within the United Methodist Church [UMC] (here) (here) (here) (here) (here) (here) (here) (here) (here) (‘reset’ here) (here). I’m not really trying to organize a “95% solution” initiative per se; although, I hope something like it actually does spring up and take hold. My sense/hope is that one will, because there is a very broadly-felt yearning for a way out of our deadly polarization (in both church/society).
So, whether following de Bono’s “po” or Charles S. Pierce’s “abductive reasoning,” my project is aimed at creating a contemplative space in which a common thread in our shared understanding might be generated/identified. I’m seeking a concept/category that can garner a broad consensus as a common identity, with some degree of personal and collective investment in that identity. For example, we all breathe; and nearly everyone can identify with that fact and agree that we have that in common. My simple hypothesis is that far more people prefer to identify with the values expressed in Micah 6:8 than a stance of “Incompatibilism” (absolutism), let alone any long-distance impositions by absolutists.
I’ve called the (1972) adoption of the prohibitive language in the UM Book of Discipline [BoD], our denomination’s “Original harm.” It’s, perhaps, the epitome of what I’m calling “long-distance impositions.” “Descendant harms” have emerged during the fifty-year existence of our Original harm.
I recently heard a story that adds dimension to my “[UMC] ….” project. Let’s see
Meet the Taylor family
From NPR‘s “Here and Now,” program this week, a (4 min.) story for us to contemplate today. Please listen to the brief audio:
The story is from Kerrville, Texas. Interestingly, almost everyone in Kerrville supported Mike Taylor’s gender transition to Mikaela, including his wife, Chelsea Taylor, and their five children. Chelsea remarked,
“I married her because I love her, for the person that she is; and it doesn’t matter if she’s a man or a woman, I’m going to love her just the same.”
My immediate intuition was that the story posed a significant problem for “Traditionalist” readings of, and reasoning regarding, the prohibitive language in our BoD. That sense was quickly affirmed in a conversation that I had about it with a conservative clergy colleague. I wondered if our BoD prohibition means that Chelsea Taylor was living in sin. Our chat found me writing:
“The reason any of this particular conversation with you is interesting to me is that we are approaching what we might think of as a ‘thin place.’ Our conversation here has managed to bring what I call ‘Original harm,’ and your understanding of PGD [personal gender dysphoria] and its association with: ‘The consideration of suicide is prevalent in personal gender dysphoria,’ close together.
Why do you imagine that people who are just beginning to be open to considering the idea that they are outside of the “prohibitively defined” norm are prompted to consider suicide?”
Apparently, that was a bridge too far. At any rate, my interlocutor “blocked” me.
Still, this particular unintended consequence comes to mind just now:
So, I wondered how the BoD‘s “Further, we insist that all persons are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured, though we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian doctrine,” related to the Taylors’ situation.
The historically problematic sentence is sufficiently confusing and contradictory already. In 2008 the blatantly “Incompatibilism-ist” overreach of “sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage” doubled down on the ‘Original harm.’
So, according to “Traditionalist” interpretation, it’s the “practice” of homosexuality that is at odds with God’s plan. I imagine, in the interest of not wanting to get into the business of thought policing, the understanding has been that experiencing same-sex attraction is not sinful; rather, it’s acting on that attraction that is. So, “practicing” homosexuality is willful rebellion against God’s will, i.e., living in sin.
So, are Mikaela and Chelsea Taylor “living in sin” given their embrace of the change in one of the partners? I mean, the only thing that initially changed from Chelsea’s perspective was the way her now-wife thought about herself. So, initially, prior to Mikaela’s process of transition, it was all just thoughts on Mike’s part; so, “no sin,” correct? Well, wait! Looking further, does Chelsea’s use of Mikaela’s preferred moniker and pronouns also constitute the willful “practice of homosexuality?”
Our overly-simplistic, reductionist BoD rules have nothing helpful or even coherent to say to Mikaela, much less Chelsea Taylor. Whereas, no conflict here: