Monday, October 2, 2023

Men have no idea what it's like for women in complementarian churches

Cartoon by Naked Pastor (David Hayward) which shows 3 women and a large group of men. The men say, "So ladies, thanks for being the first to witness and report the Resurrection. And we'll take it from here." Image source.

I read this post, Life under Patriarchy: Death by a Thousand Cuts, which has a bunch of anecdotes about what it's like to be a woman in a conservative/complementarian church. This one in particular stuck out to me:

When I was alone as a woman in a meeting with the all-male eldership of my church, I explained how difficult it was as a woman to discern how to have both a gentle and quiet spirit and also have a voice in the church. One of the male elders, the NT greek “expert”, interrupted me to soften the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:12. I was referencing 1 Peter 3:4. His interruption (mansplaining) and my confusion about his confusion began the whole meeting badly. Afterwards, as I contemplated his mistake, I realized he had no idea of the burden women carry from these verses. No woman who takes her bible seriously in the conservative church world would confuse these two passages with one another. I’ve been processing the realization that men in the church don’t sit with the call to a “gentle and quiet spirit” the way women do ever since that terrible meeting when I tried to use my voice in a room full of aggressive men.

This struck me because it shows how Christian women who believe in complementarianism have to struggle with it because it just makes no sense. And Christian men who believe in complementarianism aren't experiencing that struggle. Maybe they aren't even aware of it at all! 

This has inspired me to write a few of my own anecdotes, here in this post. (Important background information: I'm a woman.) But first, let me define "complementarianism": So, "complementarian" Christians believe that God created men and women to be equal in worth, but to have different roles. In marriage, the wife has to submit to the husband, and the husband has to love the wife as Christ loves the church. Also, women are restricted in what leadership roles they can have in the church. This plays out differently in different churches, but basically, the senior pastor of the church has to be a man. Maybe a woman can be an "associate pastor" or a "children's director" or "women's pastor" or some other jargon. And in some churches, women can't teach adult men- they can only teach women or children. The details of this differ- is a woman allowed to read a bible passage out loud in front of the church? Does that count as "teaching"? Is a woman allowed to sing in front of the church? Sometimes when a woman talks from the pulpit, these churches have to call it "sharing" instead of "teaching." And some churches don't allow women to speak in front of the church at all.

(Trying to understand how this is "equal in worth" is always left as an exercise to the reader.)


When I was growing up, I believed in complementarian because I was taught that's what all Christians have to believe. That's what the bible said, supposedly. I was told that there were some Christians who didn't believe in complementarianism, but that's because they were rejecting the bible, they are bad Christians, they've been influenced by the evils of feminism, they think they know better than God, who made this perfect plan about gender.

So yes, I believed in complementarianism because I didn't know there were other options.

But, the thing is, complementarianism simply makes no sense. Why wouldn't a woman be allowed to do everything a man can do in the church? That sounds sexist and wrong. And what does it mean that a wife has to "submit" to her husband? So like, the husband can control her and tell her what to do? What? That sounds so wrong. Or, when they can't agree on something, the tiebreaker is gender? What? What on earth, that makes no sense.

So, the issue is, I believed I was required to believe in this. But, it makes no sense. So I needed to convince myself that it made sense.

And really, that's what all of Christian apologetics is. That's the problem with apologetics. It's not about following logic and changing your beliefs accordingly, as you search for the truth. It's about "I know I am supposed to believe this, please help me force myself to believe it." 

And yes, there are loads of ways that Christians try to argue that complementarianism isn't as sexist and wrong as it sounds. The wife has to submit to the husband, but they husband has to love the wife, even to the point of laying down his life for her, so actually the husband has the more difficult role. And, it's a lot of responsibility for the husband, to be the leader and have to make the decisions for the family, so the wife should be glad she doesn't have to worry her pretty little head about any of that. Also, she knows he loves her, and she trusts that he will make decisions that are best for their family, because he's such a great guy, so actually it's easy for her to submit to him.

And, they said, this doesn't apply to abusive situations. Some people hate these "wives submit to your husbands" passages because they've been used to justify abuse- but that's wrong! The husband should NOT abuse the wife! And if he is, she has the right to get away from him.

And, they said, normally the husband and wife should discuss things as equals, and agree on their decision together! It's only when they really really can't agree, that's the only time that "submit to your husband" comes into play. If they really really really can't agree, then the husband can make the final decision. But that would happen very rarely- in some people's marriages it never even happens at all!!!

Yeah, I don't buy any of this.

I used to. Because I believed this is what Christians had to believe.

But really, all it adds up to is, trying to make "wives submit to your husbands" mean something different than "wives submit to your husbands." Like... Don't worry! It's not what it sounds like!

How about instead, we just reject the entire thing, rather than concocting these elaborate rationalizations where we basically treat women and men as equals while claiming we totally believe that the women are "submitting" to the men?

Sheila Wray Gregoire has pointed out, the majority of Christians who say they believe in complementarianism don't actually practice it. In their actual, practical, day-to-day lives, they DON'T have situations where the husband and wife simply can't agree, so the husband pulls rank. In actual reality, they live like they are equals. 

They claim they are complementarian, but in practice they are egalitarian. Egalitarian is the alternative, the ideology which I was told Christians are not allowed to believe in. Egalitarian means equality between men and woman, and you don't make rules to restrict people based on their gender. (Please note, though, that many egalitarians don't support queer rights unfortunately. It's equality between straight cis men and straight cis women, and doesn't necessarily go any farther than that.)

And it's a good thing that most complementarians don't actually put it into practice. When people actually live that way, it is sexist, and harmful to women, and abusive.

So how about we just reject the whole thing, instead of pretending we're following it?


One time, at church, when I was in high school, I heard someone mention an organization called CBE- Christians for Biblical Equality. This is an egalitarian organization, whose mission is to promote the idea that women shouldn't be restricted from being leaders in the church, etc. Equality.

I was very surprised to hear about this, and my reaction was "... is that... legit?" And somebody at church told me, yes.

I couldn't make sense of it at the time. I guess I thought, surely if that's a legitimate interpretation of the bible, then of course that's what we should all believe. If Christians are truly allowed to be egalitarian, then why on earth would anybody be complementarian? Complementarianism just makes no sense at all, just so clearly makes no sense at all. Surely we believe in complementarianism because there aren't any other options, right? If this CBE stuff really is an option, well... of course I would believe it. Of course all of us would immediately believe it. ...Right?

I guess at the time, I knew very little about it, and didn't really believe it was legit. Because, surely if it was legit, if Christians were allowed to believe in it, well then how do you explain all the complementarian pastors I had met?


I used to have such faith that this was right, that when the bible said wives must submit to their husbands, or that women are more easily deceived, or women can't speak in church, I believed somehow it was right and good. I didn't understand how it was right, because obviously it sounds so wrong, but I had complete faith that if we just understood the bible correctly, and followed it, there would be no problems.

I remember one time, when I was in college, and I was with a group of friends driving home from a Christian conference. And we were discussing the bible passages that restrict women. I think there were a few boys and a few girls in this discussion. And, the way we were talking about it was very direct and blunt and not necessarily the sorts of things we would say in front of other people, because they would take it the wrong way because it sounded sexist.

And one of my friends, let's call him Edward, said, "I'm glad I can talk about this with you all, because I know that you're not going to think the bible is sexist. We know the apostle Paul wasn't sexist, and we are just trying to understand how."

Wow, I had so much faith.


The big change for me came when I found Rachel Held Evans's blog. That was where I first learned that Christians don't have to believe in complementarianism. Like I said, I had heard there are Christians who don't believe in complementarianism, but they are bad Christians, they are obviously wrong. Well, I read Rachel's blog, and she wasn't a bad Christian. She was the same as me. She was a bible nerd. She was asking all the questions I had always wanted to ask but couldn't put into words.

That's where I learned that we can just reject the whole thing. We don't have to tie ourselves in knots trying to explain how we believe wives have to submit to their husbands, but not like, in a sexist way. Rachel wrote about academic research about ancient Roman society, and how there were reasons that the writers of the bible wrote things that way, in that culture. But in our culture, it's completely different, so we don't have to believe in complementarianism.

Before, I thought I had to believe that there was at least something to it. When the bible says women shouldn't speak in church, in some sense that is true and right, it's just a matter of understanding how. Well, no. We don't have to believe there's anything to it. We can reject it entirely. It's an interesting historical exercise, to research the reasons why the biblical writers wrote that, and what it meant in their culture, but for our own situation now, it means nothing.


And that's also when I started reading ex-evangelical blogs, and there were so many stories about how complementarianism and patriarchy lead to abuse. Before, I had heard that there were some bad Christians who used this ideology to justify abuse, but I thought it happens very rarely, and those bad Christians are obviously wrong, so no need to really think about that too much. Well. No. In patriarchal churches, women are constantly mistreated. From small ways like assuming the women will do all the cooking and childcare for church events, to big ways like making a rape victim stand up in front of the church and "confess" her "sin."

Before, I had faith that good Christian leaders- whether they were men or women- were just trying to follow the bible to the best of their ability. I never thought about leaders who are protecting their own power. I never thought about who benefits from this ideology. I never thought about how the debate is different depending on whether you have skin in the game. I trusted that we all just wanted to obey what the bible said, even if it's hard.

Well. Not anymore.


I remember there were a few times, back when I was "on fire for God", when I prayed alone in my room, and I covered my head with a towel. Because the bible says women need to cover their heads when they pray. And I had never given it a thought before- I had never met any Christians who actually took that seriously. I think maybe 1 time in my life, I've heard of or met a Christian woman who wears a head covering to church because of those verses, but she said it was just her personal belief and she wasn't trying to tell other women what to do. (Some really conservative churches do require it, though, I have heard.) I was taught it was just a cultural thing and didn't apply to us in modern times.

But, sometimes, when I prayed, I was so desperate, trying to figure out how to get God to do what I wanted him to do. (The God I believed in back then was a he/him.) Like, I wanted my friends to "get saved" (ie, to convert to Christianity), and I wanted it SO MUCH, I was SO WORRIED about how terrible their lives must be without Jesus, I just wanted God to get them to change their beliefs, and I prayed so hard, why wasn't it working? Was there some cheat code I needed to figure out, in order to get my prayers to actually work? The bible says women need to cover their heads when they pray, maybe I should try that. Maybe that's what will get God to finally do it. Sounds ridiculous and sexist, but, worth a shot.

I never told any other Christians about this, because how would I even begin to explain it? The idea that we should actually believe that women are required to cover their heads when they pray- it just sounds absurd. All of my Christian friends would surely think it was absurd and sexist, right? But there it is, in the bible.

(And, if you're wondering, no, my friends still didn't "get saved" after that.)


In church, there was a discussion about "wives submit to your husbands," and I started asking for examples.

Because, when I said I just totally don't believe in "wives submit to your husbands," tons of women jumped up with the familiar talking points- "I know my husband loves me, and I trust him, so it's easy to submit to a man like that", etc. Yeah, I've heard it all before. I started asking for examples.

Examples. Asking these women, have there been any situations in your marriage, where you and your husband weren't able to agree, so in the end he just made the decision and you had to submit to him?

I only remember getting an actual answer from 1 woman. I think it was something about, they couldn't agree on what school to send their kid to, and in the end she just went with what her husband wanted. And, when she told me about it, I felt bad for asking. Because it seemed really emotional for her, really difficult for her to talk about. That was probably a bad time in her marriage, they probably argued about it, and there were strong emotions on both sides, and eventually she just reasoned that God wanted her to give up and let her husband do what he wanted, so she forced herself to submit.

That's what we're actually talking about here, when Christians say the husband has the "tiebreaker" vote. We're talking about something that was actually important to her, important enough to fight, to make a case, lay out the reasons to support her point of view, and in the end her god made her just give all that up, like it didn't matter. Because she's a woman and her husband is a man.

F all of that.


I posted a link on social media, and I described it as a blog post about "the equality of women in the church."

And one of my friends, let's call him Marvin, replied and said, "Women aren't equal! Some are short, some are tall, [and so on, a bunch of different adjectives describing different subgroups of women]"

And I thought, what on earth? Why is he pretending he doesn't understand what I'm talking about? He's acting like he thinks I said "all women are exactly the same" when actually what I meant was "equality between men and woman."

This anecdote is the first thing that came to mind, when I read that blog post I linked to at the top. Oh my goodness, what if he actually didn't understand what I meant? I thought he was acting clueless on purpose, but what if he wasn't? What if he hadn't spent a lifetime trying to make it make sense, when the bible says women can't do all the things men can do? What if he never really thought about it? What if he had no sense of the amazing freedom I experienced, when I found out I really can be a Christian and not be complementarian- that I can just believe men and women are equal, and not do this whole dance about how the bible says this or that?

Men have no idea.


But maybe I shouldn't judge the Christian men for having no idea, because I have committed a similar sin.

I'm straight, and back then, when I read the anti-gay passages in the bible, I just nodded along like there was no problem. If a man lies with a man, it is an abomination. Homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Same-sex relationships are unnatural, sinful, shameful, driven by lust. And I just nodded along, like, ah yes, disgusting.

Years later, I started reading blogs written by gay Christians. They wrote about how hard they struggled, trying to be good enough to be accepted by God, trying to repress themselves, reading the anti-gay passages of the bible and trying to make it make sense. They wrote about how much time they spent, tracking down ancient Greek words, trying to figure out what exactly these passages meant.

And of course, when I first started reading these blogs, I didn't agree with them if their conclusion was accepting themselves as gay. I cared about their struggles, but I couldn't believe that it was okay to accept yourself and go ahead and date people of the same gender. I thought Christians weren't allowed to believe that- only bad Christians who rejected the bible would say that same-sex relationships were okay. Rejecting God's perfect plan for gender, as if you know better than God.

But the more I read, the more I saw that they weren't bad Christians. They were bible nerds like me. They were trying their best to follow God.

And I changed my position, and now I support all queer rights. My God is genderqueer, They/Them. (And I'm asexual.)

It's funny, when someone on the internet talks about being queer and Christian, and then some rando posts a bible verse in reply, as if the queer Christian has never heard of Romans 1. Bro, queer Christians know those passages so much better than you do. Queer Christians have spent so much time, way too much time, parsing the minutiae of ancient Roman perspectives on sexuality.

Straight people have no idea.

And isn't it terrible, how Christians are expected to read bible passages which dehumanize entire demographics of people, and just accept that- because the bible says it, so it must be true? Best-case scenario for a good Christian, I suppose, is you read a bible passage that dehumanizes an entire demographic of people, and you just nod along and don't notice anything wrong. But what if you have personal experience that tells you something's wrong with what you just read in the bible? What if you yourself are a member of that demographic, or you have close friends who are? Then, as a good Christian who believes the bible, you have to force yourself to believe it, even when it sounds so wrong. You struggle to make it make sense, because you believe there are no other options.

How about we just reject the whole thing? 

If your God wants you to discriminate against other people, maybe find a new God. Every day you continue to believe in that kind of God, that's on you. What does it say about you, that you choose to worship a God like that?


There's one more thing I need to talk about: What does "faith" mean?

Because I read one blog post after another after another about how complementarianism is harmful, how it makes no sense, how it is used to cover up and perpetuate abuse. 

But... did that mean it was actually wrong? What if God commanded this for a reason? What if there's some really amazing reason why women shouldn't have the same rights as men, and as humans we just can't understand what it is? We're not God, what do we know?

Complementarianism obviously makes no sense- but I was taught that faith is doing things that appear to be ridiculous and foolish, because God commands us to, and somehow to God it makes sense. I was taught that's an important component of being a Christian: sometimes God will tell you to do something completely absurd, and you have to do it.

I don't believe that any more. Instead, I believe what Jesus said: A good tree cannot bear bad fruit. You can look at the results of following a certain ideology, and if those results are bad, you know the ideology itself is bad.

Reject the entire thing.



She was the first (Thank you, Rachel) 

It Doesn’t Actually Matter What Jesus Said About Divorce

They Prayed About It (a post about the #NashvilleStatement) 

I'm a woman, and God created me to do math and build robots

Saturday, September 30, 2023


1. The kingdom of heaven is like: “We Keep People Alive”: As Summers Get Deadlier, a Tiny Church Is Fighting Back (September 21, via) "On June 1, they set up a 'Cooling Center' sandwich board sign out front on Southern Avenue, and soon, 15 to 25 unsheltered, exhausted, and often addicted visitors were showing up each day, frequently with dogs."

2. Genetically Modified Pig’s Heart Is Transplanted Into a Second Patient (September 22) "The heart transplanted into Mr. Faucette came from a pig that had received 10 genetic modifications. Scientists removed three pig genes that cause rapid rejection of pig organs by the human immune system, while inserting six human genes that allow the immune system to accept the organ."

3. Penguins, Postcards & Preservation: Antarctica's Hidden Postal Gem! (September 25, via) The southernmost post office in the world, surrounded by penguins.

4. An Attempt At One Of The All Time Greats (September 27) 1-hour-22-minute meidjuluk/fillomino solve video. If you don't know what that is, don't worry, Simon will explain it.

5. Texas’ ban on certain drag shows is unconstitutional, federal judge says (September 26, via) "'The Court sees no way to read the provisions of SB 12 without concluding that a large amount of constitutionally-protected conduct can and will be wrapped up in the enforcement of SB 12,' the ruling reads. 'It is not unreasonable to read SB 12 and conclude that activities such as cheerleading, dancing, live theater, and other common public occurrences could possibly become a civil or criminal violation.'"

6. MEGAMIND and Nice Guy™ Syndrome (2022) 34-minute video from Cinema Therapy. I love the movie "Megamind" so much.

And also this one: Villain Therapy: LOKI (2021)

7. The Hollywood Writers Strike Proved That Collective Action Works (September 27, via) "They thought the general public wouldn’t support the writers. They were wrong. They thought they could starve the writers out. Once again, they were wrong."

8. What’s the worst job? (September 22) "Human beings are not adapted to microgravity and high radiation. We’ve got enough data now on the consequences of long-term living in space (where long-term is a matter of months — no one is going to be able to live their lives in space)."

9. I hate this article from "Christianity Today": Shannon Harris Wasn’t Content with Being a Purity Culture Stagehand (September 28) It's a review of Shannon Harris (ex-wife of Joshua Harris)'s new book, "The Woman They Wanted," which is about how she was required to give up her own dreams in order to fit the church's idea of what a good pastor's wife is supposed to be. The review starts out well, talking about how it was wrong that the church forced Harris to fit this role. 

But then it starts getting into how Harris has now come to an incorrect view of Christianity. When I say "incorrect," I mean incorrect by Christianity Today's standards. Like, oh now Shannon Harris is advising people to connect "to our own wisdom, to nature and our bodies, to our own fulfillment in work and pleasure, and to our own ways of being and doing." This is, apparently, according to Christianity Today, wrong.

So... basically, what Christianity Today wants to say is, it was wrong that the church forced Harris into a very narrow view of how she was supposed to live. It was wrong not because it was narrow, but because it wasn't the right narrow view. Instead, she is supposed to believe whatever narrow view Christianity Today has about what "the gospel" means.

Ugh, why can't you just let people live their lives? Why can't you just let people tell their own stories, and find meaning in the things that feel meaningful to them? 

Why is it that good Christians can only support survivors up to a certain point- yes, we can listen to them talk about the bad things that happened to them, yes we can agree that those things were wrong, but then when the survivor starts to talk about how their beliefs have changed as a result, oh no, stop, we have to write articles to warn people away from listening to this heresy! Come on.

It's like I said in my post When Christians Say "We're Sorry":

If Christians really are sorry, they know that people need to heal on their own terms.

But of course, like I said earlier, believing in hell screws this all up. Because how sorry can you really be, and how much freedom can you really allow a victim to have, when you believe in a God who won't care about that on judgment day? When you believe in a God who doesn't care that church people hurt this person, and for their own mental and emotional health, they never went to church again... when you believe in a God who says you're out if you don't believe these specific doctrines about Jesus- no excuses.

How sorry can you really be when you worship a God who puts "the gospel" above caring for victims?

How sorry can you really be if you still believe you have all the right answers and everybody better listen to you?

Anyway, I'm definitely interested in reading Shannon Harris's book.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Twitter killed Tweetdeck. Also, I'm on Pillowfort now.

Logo for the site Pillowfort- it's fancy text that says "Pillowfort." Image source.

So, I'm still on twitter (@pnumber628), but I keep asking myself, why am I still on twitter? It's just Elon Musk starting drama now, one bizarre policy change after another (charging money for blue checks, not allowing people to view tweets if they're not logged in, changing the name to X, claiming he will remove the "block" feature, etc). I keep telling myself, I will probably quit using twitter soon, and that will be an improvement in my life.

Well. On August 17, I published a new post, and went over to Tweetdeck to schedule several tweets to promote it throughout the night (which is daytime in the US where most of my readers are), and... I can't access Tweetdeck. Instead I get a message that says I should pay for some upgraded version of twitter. What? So, a bit of googling finds this: Twitter finally figured out how to kill TweetDeck, by putting it behind a paywall.

And, all right, well that gave me the push I needed to get serious about quitting twitter. Like one of the main things I was using it for was promoting my blog... I would schedule around 4 tweets, every single day, with links to my new blog post from that day, or an old post from the archives. Now I can't, so like, what's even the point of using twitter?

Now you may say "well you can at least tweet a link manually every time you publish a new post, even if you can't schedule several of them to post throughout the day" but I don't even feel like doing that any more. So I haven't been tweeting about my new blog posts at all.

So then I made an account on Pillowfort. What is Pillowfort? It's a social media site that I've seen some ace bloggers talking about. It seems to be smaller than other social media sites, and people like it because it's generally a positive environment and not full of people arguing with each other. A lot of ace people there, a lot of queer people, a lot of artists sharing their art, a lot of people interested in various fandoms- that's my overall impression of what people are using Pillowfort for.

"Oh," you may say, "so Pillowfort allows you to schedule your posts, that's why you're using it as an alternative to twitter." Well no it doesn't. But I don't feel that I need to schedule several posts to promote each blog post I make, because on Pillowfort you're not constantly bombarded with new stuff- like, I don't feel like my posts will get lost in the noise. So I just put 1 post on Pillowfort for each new blog post I publish here.

It's not really an alternative to twitter- it doesn't do all the exact same things twitter does. But that's fine for me. I don't need it to do all the exact same things twitter does. I just want to be on a social media site that feels like it's actually worth using, not a site that makes me feel like "I'm gonna quit this soon, and that will make my life better."

If you're on Pillowfort, go ahead and follow me! Here's my page: . And for some posts about how to use Pillowfort, see this list of links (uh currently I don't have permission to view this link? maybe the user will change their privacy settings so we can see it? it was a really useful post with a bunch of links about using pillowfort), the Pillowfort101 community (where new users can ask questions), and Advice for new users. It's kind of different from what most people expect from social media sites- it doesn't have an "algorithm" (I mean, it does, "sort by timestamp" is an algorithm), it just shows you a feed of the users and communities you chose to follow, rather than bombarding you with whatever it guesses you will be interested in. So when you first get started, there's not really anything to see on your home feed. My advice is, go and follow a bunch of people and a bunch of communities, indiscriminately, and then later you can unfollow them if you don't like them. Whenever you see anything or anyone you feel like you might like, follow them. You can always unfollow later.

But the reason I'm still on twitter is... back in the day, I had a really really good community of ex-evangelical Christians/ ex-evangelical atheists/ feminist Christians/ progressive Christians/ queer Christians on twitter. I used to say "twitter is my church." This was way long ago, like 2014 maybe? Twitter started going downhill for me in 2016, when it became a lot of doomscrolling, lots of posts about all the bad things that are happening and why they're going to get worse. And there was more of that when the pandemic came in 2020. And just over time, it seems like a lot of the people I used to follow have drifted away. A lot of the bloggers I followed back then aren't blogging any more. I still see a few tweets every day that are worth reading- like jokes about growing up evangelical, or proclaiming that Christianity is about setting the captives free rather than whatever Republicans are claiming that Christianity is about... and that's why I still use twitter... but it's not like it was before, and I feel like maybe it's not worth it for me.

So, my real question is, where my queer Christians at?

Like where are the online spaces where people are talking about what Christianity can be when it's actually about doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly before God, rather than about following all the rules that some old straight white guys made up? Where everyone knows that the image of God is trans, because God contains all the genders, just like Genesis 1 says: They made the day and night and everything in between, They made the land and sea and everything in between, They made male and female and everything in between. I want to talk about Black Lives Matter and how Jesus was a victim of lynching, and Christ is crucified again every time an innocent black person is killed in the street by police. And what actual repentance for the sin of racism would look like- real repentance, rather than just pretending it doesn't matter any more. I want to be in a Christian environment where it's taken for granted that women have full equality with men- I don't want to waste my time on people who think "women can't be pastors" is a valid opinion to hold. I want to read the bible in new ways, feminist ways, trauma-informed ways, queer ways. To see the bible not as something that has 1 correct meaning that we have to work very hard to figure out, but as something that can be meaningful to different people in so many different ways, and that's beautiful.

And so on- I could go on forever about the Christianity I believe in.

Years and years ago, when I first started blogging, I did have an online Christian community like that. But now not really. There are still a bunch of very good blogs that I follow, but I don't feel like there's a space where we can all talk about our ongoing process of figuring these things out. Some blogs are so huge, I don't even try to wade into the comments section because my comments will get lost in there among all the others. Twitter used to be that space for me, but it's gone wayyyy downhill and now I don't have a space like that.

So, still looking for my queer Christian church.

But anyway, the point is, I'm on Pillowfort now! I'm really happy with it so far. Like I said, I like having a social media site that feels like it's actually worth using, not like "I'm going to quit this soon and that will make my life better." If you're on Pillowfort, go ahead and follow me!

Sunday, September 24, 2023


1. British media report rape and emotional abuse allegations against Russell Brand (September 16) [content note: rape]

2. Lauren Boebert Caught Fondling Date’s Genitals During Family-Friendly Musical: Video (September 15) "The incident spawned various social media posts, including many wit the phrase "Not a drag queen," along with the video of Boebert involved in the handsy behavior."

3. On the scientificity of string theory (September 17) "Frankly, you probably shouldn’t have any opinion on string theory at all, and it was a mistake for science communicators to have ever encouraged you to have one."

4. A Sin to Eat: The Untold Story of Anorexia as Religion (2022) [content note: eating disorders]

5. Review of the Problems with For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn (with download) (September 20) Glad to see this Christian marriage book being called out as harmful. I read this book, "For Women Only," probably when I was in high school, and basically what I remember from it was, "no but seriously, you need to have sex with him." It was advice for wives on how to have a good marriage, and somehow it just kept coming back to how men need sex so much, if you don't have sex with your husband enough, you're destroying his manly self-esteem, he's going into work every day feeling like a broken shell of a man, women just can't possibly ever understand how important sex is for men, etc. 

I read it back when I didn't know anything about what sex actually was, so I totally bought into it.

And, like... I can't blame all this on "For Women Only" because I've read a lot of other Christian resources that say the same things, but... when I started having sex, and it was painful (because of undiagnosed vaginismus) I felt like I couldn't tell my partner that it was painful, because oh it would be so terrible if a man feels "rejected", his self-esteem is so dependent on having a woman give him 100% positive experiences during sex and never suggesting that anything is wrong... I spent so much time trying to think of the most polite, positive way to say "this hurts, let's not do it."

Another anecdote- there was this one guy I was dating, who used to rub the ends of my fingers when we were holding hands, and I hated that so much, it just didn't feel good at all. But I felt like I couldn't just tell him "stop that," I had to come up with a very polite way to say it, so that he didn't "feel rejected" or whatever... It was just touching my fingers, it wasn't anything sexual, it wasn't a sin, it wasn't damaging my "purity", so I felt like I didn't have the right to say no. See, that's what purity culture teaches: instead of teaching consent, instead of teaching that it matters what I want, and if I don't want someone to do something to my body, I have the right to say no, regardless of whether I have a "good reason"... instead of that, purity culture teaches that you must ABSOLUTELY NOT do anything sexual before marriage, but if a guy wants to do something that's not off-limits (like having sex if you are married to him, or doing non-sexual things that don't affect "purity") then you have to say yes because it would be just terrible if a guy "feels rejected."

6. On Stage and in a Wheelchair (September 21) "There are 85 million people with disabilities in China, but the population is easy to overlook. In interviews and press engagements, Zhao has repeated the same message over and over: This isolation cannot continue. People with disabilities want to feel integrated, to be a part of normal life, and to feel seen."

7. Refusing to Censor Myself (September 11, via) "Because I suspected I wasn’t the first marginalized author who’d been asked to make this kind of edit, who’d been limited this way, who’d been forced to choose between opportunity and their own morals."

8. Life in a Glass House: Diatoms Shatter Young Earth Flood Geology (2015) "The YEC [young-earth creationist] flood geology hypothesis utterly fails to explain the observed distribution of diatom fossils."

9. Lost the Plot (Newsboys) | Lyric Video A song from 1996.

10. What Does Star Trek Actually Say About Euthanasia? (September 20) [content note: euthanasia, death] 42-minute video from Steve Shives.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Great Sex Rescue: Lust

Distracted boyfriend meme. A guy is walking with his girlfriend, but he is turning his head to look at another woman, and the girlfriend looks exasperated. Image source.

Links to all posts in this series can be found here: Blog series on "The Great Sex Rescue"


We now come to chapter 5 of The Great Sex Rescue: The Lies You've Been Taught and How to Recover What God Intended [affiliate link]. This chapter is about the way that evangelicals talk about "lust."

The chapter starts out with an anecdote about a wedding that Gregoire and Lindenbach attended, where the couple wrote their own vows:

But at the end of the vows, we turned to each other with surprise. They forgot something important-- "forsaking all others." It was just an oversight but, nevertheless, that is a rather crucial promise. We're supposed to expect that our spouse will be able to say, in the words of the 1950s jazz group The Flamingos, "I only have eyes for you." Despite the stretch marks and the baby weight, despite the expanding middle and the receding hair, despite the years and the wrinkles and the fading health, we want to know "I am yours, and you are mine, exclusively and forever." That's safety. That's acceptance. That's love.

That's what we all dream of.

But is that all it can ever be-- just a dream?

Umm. Okay. You know some people are polyamorous, right? 

And some people aren't interested in marriage.

Like, it's literally not true that "we all dream of" having 1 lifelong monogamous partner.

I find it quite weird that the chapter about lust starts out with an anecdote about monogamy. Setting it up like lust and monogamy are opposites. Just seems like a really weird framing to me. 

And actually, later in the chapter we will see that their solution to lust is to respect people and recognize that they are entire human beings and not sex objects. (And yes, I agree with this solution.) So actually, this chapter ultimately says that respect is the opposite of lust. So why does the chapter start with a little story about monogamy?

I would say there are 2 separate issues here:

  1. You're lusting after some random person, objectifying them, imagining that they are just a sex object that exists to play out your fantasies- this is a sin against the random person.
  2. Your desire for this random person becomes such a big deal to you that it actually threatens your relationship with your actual partner- this is a sin against your partner.

I don't necessarily see why problem #1 would lead to problem #2. Yeah, sure, sometimes it would, like if someone cheats on their partner. But problem #1 is bad just by itself, without bringing concerns about faithfulness to a monogamous relationship into it. 

And, also, being attracted to other people is fine, that's just part of life for most people, it's not "lust", and I don't see it as having any relation to whether or not you're keeping your commitment to monogamy.

At this point, I think it would be helpful for me to bring in some concepts that are talked about a lot in the ace, aro, and polyamorous communities. ("Ace" means asexual spectrum, "aro" means aromantic spectrum.) Okay, so, there are several different types of things that may or may not be present in a relationship:

  1. Sexual feelings/actions
  2. Romantic feelings/actions
  3. Being life partners

Mainstream society says that you're supposed to do sexual things with exactly 1 person, you're supposed to do romantic things with exactly 1 person, and you're supposed to have a partner that you're committed to for life, to support each other through all of life's ups and downs, and that these all have to be the same person.

I'm really glad we have ace, aro, and polyamorous people to question this! It doesn't have to be that way! You could be married to someone and not have sex at all! You can date someone even if you don't understand what romance is! You can have a long-term committed relationship that isn't sexual or romantic at all! You could be married, and your spouse is your committed life partner and you have sex with them, and also you have sex with other people sometimes. Many possibilities!

It's all about knowing yourself and knowing what you want. What do you want, in terms of sex, in terms of romance, in terms of having a committed life partner?

For myself, maybe my answer is boring because I'm in a monogamous marriage and I do have sex with my husband. But, even so, I feel rebellious because I'm not following the definition of monogamy that I learned in purity culture- because when I'm attracted to some random person, I don't repress it. I just enjoy it for what it is, but obviously I know it's just some feelings and nothing real is going to come of it because I'm monogamous. 

And it doesn't threaten my relationship with my husband, because marriage is about choosing to be together, and being committed to each other- it doesn't mean we never have feelings about other people. We are 2 separate people with our own complicated lives, and we choose to live together, to support each other, to share our money, to raise our child together, all these very standard marriage things- and that's not threatened by having occasional feelings about other people, because those feelings are a totally different thing than the day-to-day reality of building our lives together. And yes we do have feelings of attraction for each other, but my point is, our relationship is so much deeper than that, and if there exists someone who's more attractive than my husband, well, so what? That doesn't threaten my marriage because my marriage is so much more than that.

Purity culture always made such a big deal about how it would be SO TERRIBLE if you compared your spouse to other people... for example, if you had sex with someone else before marriage, then when you're married and you're having sex with your spouse, you'll always be comparing them to your ex, and that would just be THE END OF THE WORLD or something... It feels so shallow to me now. Why would any of that matter? Our marriage is so much more than that.

All right we'd better move on because we're only a half page into this chapter and I've already written this much.

So, this chapter is about lust. One of the most popular Christian books on the topic of lust is "Every Man's Battle" which erases ace men right in the title, so you know it's gonna be bad. The authors of "The Great Sex Rescue" also think it's bad; this chapter is basically about the harm that is caused when people buy into the "Every Man's Battle" ideology.

"The Great Sex Rescue" sums up "Every Man's Battle" this way:

And what was this battle that every man was fighting? Lust. Every man struggles with it, every man is tempted by it, every man must fight really, really hard to overcome it.

Oh and also, remember how I said this "every man's battle" ideology acts like ace men don't exist? Well it also acts like gay men don't exist, because it's only talking about men lusting for women. It's also not great for bisexuals, because if the solution to lust is that men and women can't have close friendships with each other, then by that logic, bisexuals aren't allowed to have any friends at all.

The book "Every Man's Battle" features really over-the-top descriptions of men ogling women, masturbating near nonconsenting women, obsessing over breasts all the time, and it frames it like all of that is completely normal, this is just how God made men, and men need to fight the battle by treating women as threats and avoiding them. Gregoire has a really good blog post summing up just how bad this book is: A Summary of Issues with Every Man's Battle (with download).

Gregoire and her co-authors point out that this "every man's battle" ideology sets the bar so incredibly low for men. Like it's expected that men aren't able to treat women as people. Like men will inevitably see women as nothing more than sex objects- so instead of sex objects to fantasize about, men need to see them as sex objects to avoid.

Gregoire et al point out that one of the biggest problems is how attraction is conflated with lust. There's nothing wrong with being attracted to someone. There's nothing wrong with noticing. And they say that instead of fearing that every attractive woman is a threat that will pull men toward the sin of lust, men can simply notice a woman is attractive and then "Think nothing more of it and go on with your day." I like how their approach has no fear. Instead of fear, it's confidence that men can "defeat lust." (I personally can't tell you if lust actually works that way, because I'm asexual, lololololol.)

There are a few anecdotes in this chapter about men whose experiences are very different than what "Every Man's Battle" says:

The first chapter of Through a Man's Eyes [another book similar to "Every Man's Battle"] explains the battle that men face on a daily basis with sexual stimuli all around them: trying not to look at billboards on the drive to work, trying to bounce their eyes from the barista's chest, worrying that a female coworker in a tight blouse might sit directly across from them. In the book, we read the "Jack breathes a sigh of relief" when a coworker's skirt doesn't ride up too high, and "the next few hours are tough" because another attractive coworker is in high line of sight.

My (Sheila's) husband works in an almost all-female setting (he's a pediatrician; his colleagues are female, the nurses tend to be female, and the parents bringing in their kids tend to be female). Did he experience this level of stress all day? After reading that chapter, I asked him. He laughed. I asked again. He made another joke. I got rather perturbed that he wasn't taking me seriously.

"Wait," he said, "you're saying that there are guys who are stressed to go to work because they might lust? That's crazy." But could I believe my husband? The book told me all men struggle with this, but they don't know how to explain it or are afraid to confess their struggle to their wives.

And this story, from Chris, a commenter on Gregoire's blog:

As someone who grew up in the Every Man's Battle / purity movement era, I've been working on resetting my brain for a few years now. So many years of struggling daily to just avoid looking. The Bible says His burden is easy and His yoke is light, but spending every part of every day spending energy to make sure I didn't look at an attractive woman is the opposite of easy and light.

I was forced to confront my wrong thinking while on a vacation in Europe. The first day on a topless beach in Spain was excruciating. I was giving myself a migraine constantly bouncing my eyes but having nowhere to bounce them to. I was definitely not enjoying the beautiful beach nor enjoying time with my beautiful wife. 

Near the end of the first day I realized this was no way to live. I remembered your writing about focusing on the whole person without making them into a sexual object.

I talked to my wife and explained all this to her... With some fear and apprehension, I looked up at a beach full of [breasts] and started to talk through the process of not making them there for my sexual gratification. The rest of the trip was so relaxing and enjoyable, and I had such a good time with my wife on the beach. Since then, I can see an attractive woman and not become aroused.

I think Chris's story here is very important and powerful. It completely disproves some of the main foundational beliefs of purity culture- that men are overwhelmed by lust and can't control themselves, that women need to cover up and can't possibly expect a man to respect them if they aren't covered up, that a woman showing her body in public is inherently dangerous and is an attack on men, etc.

There's also a very good anecdote in the book about a husband who doesn't "struggle with lust" but his wife totally buys into the "all men struggle with lust" ideology, and so she's always paranoid that he's looking at other women, and that this is a threat to their marriage. She doesn't take him to swimming pools, she won't let them be friends with other couples if the wife is attractive, etc. Yeah, this is really messed-up. (And also, this is an example of lust getting conflated with concerns about commitment to monogamy, and I think that needs to be questioned. If your husband is attracted to other women, that's his own business and doesn't affect his relationship with you. Right? It only becomes a problem if he gets it in his head that he should actually take actions to go have romantic/sexual experiences with another person.)

I'm just thinking right now about how much energy I would have to spend worrying every day, if I thought my husband being *somewhat near* an attractive woman was a dangerous thing that threatened his love for me and commitment to our marriage. Wow, so glad I'm not doing that! He can talk to other women, he can meet up with a woman alone, whatever. I trust him. I also meet up with guys alone sometimes. I'm so glad it hasn't even occurred to me that that would be a problem. (No Billy Graham rule here!)

Moving along, the next bit of "The Great Sex Rescue" says that these books about lust claim that they want to help women understand men better. That women need to understand men's "struggles", or something. But, the authors of "The Great Sex Rescue" found, in their survey of 20,000 women, that women who believed in the "all men struggle with lust" message had lower levels of marital satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. There are a bunch of stats here; I'll just copy one of them: Women who believe "all men struggle with lust" are 79% more likely to agree with the statement "I engage in sex with my husband only because I feel I have to." This is so messed-up.

And there's this quote:

"Men seem like untrustworthy pigs whose minds and thoughts just go wherever they want," [Brenda] commented. "Is nothing sacred to them? As women, do we trust men after reading this? ... I feel that if anything ever happened to Fred, I'd never remarry because I would have very little trust in men." -- the wife of an author responds after reading her husband's words in Every Man's Battle

Yes, really. The "Every Man's Battle"'s author's wife says she's disgusted by what she "learned" about men from reading that book. Ya know, the more I'm out of purity culture, the more I realize that a lot of the things that Christian leaders teach about sex, marriage, dating, etc are not objectively true facts about how God Says This Is How It Works For Everyone, but actually just their own individual weird hangups. "Every Man's Battle" says this is just how all men are, and that's normal and women shouldn't expect men to be decent human beings, but actually the reality is, the authors are just describing themselves. Yikes.

I'm glad I didn't read "Every Man's Battle" back when I believed in purity ideology. I would have totally believed it, because what do I know, I'm not a boy, and one of the core tenets of purity culture is "women just can't possibly understand what men are going through." It's been really good and life-giving to me now whenever I see men on the internet just completely shocked by what evangelicals say "all men" are like- immature, no self-control, obsessed with sex all the time, incapable of respecting attractive women, self-esteem so fragile- I love to see men, especially non-Christian men, just so completely shocked at how wrong this is, how insulting, such a low view of men. Men are better than that, and should be held to a higher standard than that.

"The Great Sex Rescue" has an anecdote along those lines too:

[a blog commenter is talking about her husband who recently became a Christian, and had no idea that men supposedly "all struggle with lust"]

He has only recently become aware of the lust issue within the church, and he has been appalled. Most of his friends have generally been women-- he even had a best woman instead of a best man at our wedding-- and most of them are quite attractive. But even as a non-Christian he told me he didn't lust after them. It was far too disrespectful.

It is crazy to him-- and me-- that even as a non-Christian he could control himself, but the church treats this as an insurmountable obstacle for men who are indwelled with the Holy Spirit! He has told me that the easiest way not to disrespect women is to view them as people. If a non-Christian could figure that out, what is giving the church so much trouble?

I'm not a fan of the prejudice against non-Christians here, the idea that obviously Christians should be more moral than non-Christians. I say there's nothing wrong with being non-Christian, or Christian, or whatever religion, or non-religious. And I'm glad my husband is not a Christian- for one thing, he doesn't have all the purity baggage I have... But I appreciate this anecdote because of the contrast between how much of a big deal Christians make this, an "insurmountable obstacle"... and the non-issue it is for people outside the church.

Anyway, yeah, "The Great Sex Rescue" says the solution to lust is to respect people. To remember that the attractive people that you happen to see are whole people who have their own lives- they don't exist to be sex objects for you.

Here's their advice for men:

How Men Can Fight Lust:

The key to fighting lust is to see women as whole people rather than potential threats.

  1. When you are passing by a woman, instead of bouncing your eyes, look her in the eye, give a quick, friendly nod, and turn away.
  2. When you are with a woman, look her in the eye, and engage her in conversation. Ask her opinion about different topics.
  3. Don't live a sex-segregated life. Join groups where women are in leadership roles or where women's opinions are considered.
  4. Identify women in your life from whom you can learn, whether it's advice about work, parenting, finances, etc. Make it a practice to consult women as well as men when you are making a decision.

Yes, basically I agree with this, but also, wow the bar is on the floor. Why do these things even need to be said? Just act normal, don't act all jumpy and scared of sex every time there's a woman nearby. Women are people, just treat us like people.

So, yes, the bar is on the floor, but also, these things really do need to be said, and I'm glad that Gregoire and her co-authors are saying them. Because, wow, when I started reading her blog, and reading these kinds of messages... this is unlike anything I'd ever heard from Christians. Really. 

(And here's a fun little bit of my history: In 2012 I was thinking about these topics, and I wrote a post called Isn't dating the opposite of avoiding lust?. It addressed the idea that, if I'm supposed to avoid "temptation," then doesn't that mean I shouldn't date someone that I'm attracted to? If we're dating, spending a lot of time together, doesn't that make it likely that I will lust? How can I justify putting myself in a situation where I'm likely to sin? And the answer I gave was, no actually, this way of thinking is all backwards- because when I'm attracted to someone I don't know well, I view him kinda one-dimensionally, like his being attractive to me is his most important characteristic, and that sounds much more likely to cause "lust" than actually getting to know someone by dating him. Kinda interesting to me to realize I was writing about that in 2012, but also I had NO IDEA I was asexual, and I was using words like "hot" and "lust." Looking at it now, I know what I meant by those words, but now that I know that I'm asexual, I realize those words mean something different to most people, so I wouldn't write it that way now. And also, the last bit of the post, where 2012-Perfect-Number gives advice to before-2012-Perfect-Number, "Don't be so afraid. God gives us freedom." ... like wow yeah, that's so real.)

And "The Great Sex Rescue" has a few anecdotes from women about how they were treated by "good Christian men" who refused to even look at them or talk to them. Men who are good and godly and therefore won't take the risk of being anywhere near a situation that could lead to sexual temptation. This is not cool, and it leads to women feeling like they are dirty just for existing. (And, this is NOT how Jesus treated women. Jesus met women and talked to women and connected with their spiritual questions and emotional needs and so on, even in situations where society said it wasn't proper for a man to talk to a woman, and even when the women were sex workers. No Billy Graham rule here.)

The next section is about modesty, because modesty is the other side of the coin. Men are taught "you have to fight lust" and women are taught "you have to be modest, to help men fight lust." Yeah, I have blogged a lot about modesty, and I agree with the criticisms that Gregoire and her co-authors write here. I especially appreciate the quotes from Focus on the Family's "Brio" magazine, because I also read "Brio" when I was a teenager, and it influenced me to follow purity culture. Gregoire's co-author, Rebecca Lindenbach, says this:

My curves made it impossible to dress according to some people's modesty standards without going back a few centuries. My body became the problem. And Brio reinforced this idea that my body was dangerous with messages like these: "If a guy sees a girl walking around in tight clothes, a miniskirt or short shorts, you might as well hang a noose around the neck of his spiritual life."

Yeah, not cool how modesty ideology says female bodies are inherently dangerous and sinful.

And I'm glad to see "The Great Sex Rescue" mentions "The Modesty Survey" and Shaney Irene's excellent blog post from 2013, Why The Rebelution’s Modesty Survey Was A Bad Idea. Yeah, "The Modesty Survey" influenced me a lot... I guess it was so bad, that it caused me to obsess over it and worry and try to make it make sense, which led to me realizing the entire concept of modesty is bad and needs to be thrown away. So.

Some of my posts on modesty:
The Story of Me and Modesty - This is the post where I talk about how "The Modesty Survey" affected me.
August 20, 2022 Blogaround - I also wrote some opinions about "The Modesty Survey" here
Modesty is Causing Women to Stumble
The Male Equivalent to Modesty

I also love Laura Robinson's take on modesty: Women Are Never Going to Cover Themselves Enough to Get Men to Shut Up About Us 

Anyway, there's 1 more section left in this chapter of "The Great Sex Rescue", and it's about how evangelicals teach that "men are visual" and women are not, but actually that's not always true. There are women who are visually stimulated to have sexual thoughts, and there's nothing wrong with that, and it's NOT COOL how the church acts like these women don't exist.

I definitely agree with the point that Gregoire and her co-authors are making there! But I don't have any personal experience to mention because I'm asexual. 

Anyway, that sums up chapter 5. Overall, I agree with what the authors are saying in this chapter- the way that evangelical culture treats "lust" is harmful. Teaching men to see women as threats, to avoid women rather than risk falling into "lust", teaching women that all men are like this and we can't really expect a man to get his head out of the gutter and interact like a normal human being, and that goes even more when women are wearing "immodest" clothes- ugh, yeah, all of this is so incredibly messed-up. I agree with "The Great Sex Rescue"'s answer to this: respect, and treat each other like people rather than potential sex objects.

Still, I think this chapter falls short because it doesn't say anything about gay men or asexual men, and how they are erased by this "all men struggle with lust [toward women]" ideology. And also, that weird bit about monogamy at the beginning. Actually, I think the conversation about lust could benefit by clearly untangling the parts about "are you objectifying random people?" from the parts about "are my spouse's feelings of attraction to random people a threat to our marriage?"


Links to all posts in this series can be found here: Blog series on "The Great Sex Rescue" 


The First Time I Heard About "Locker Room Talk" Was When the Church Taught Me About Modesty 

The church taught me to be afraid of my own body and my own thoughts. Here are the receipts. 

BREAKING NEWS: Purity Culture Adherents Completely Miss the Point

Miss me with your "we are all sexually broken" hot takes. I'm asexual.

Monday, September 18, 2023


1. Air China flight lands safely in Singapore’s Changi airport after engine catches fire (September 10)

2. Is This the End of Prison Phone Fees? (September) "The telecom providers charge prisoners’ families directly, and then hand over a cut of their spoils to the state. Securus’ contract gave Connecticut up to 68 percent of the fees it took from people like Diane Lewis. Prison calls, in other words, are not a state service partially funded by loved ones, but rather a profit source for states and private companies. Higher state commissions contribute to higher costs for families."

3. From Streets to Pages: Inside the Life of a Beijing Courier (September 13) "Some customers order clothes, and upon receiving them, they make you wait around while they try them on. If the clothes don’t fit, they reject them and expect you to fold them and put them back in the box. Naturally, we’re not paid for any of this."

Also from Sixth Tone: China’s Last Esperanto Students (September 15)

4. Movie Family Therapy: MRS. DOUBTFIRE (September 5) 26-minute video, analyzing the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire" and how it portrays divorce and co-parenting, from a therapist perspective.

5. Developers respond to Unity’s new pricing scheme (September 15) "Once the news broke, the video game developer community reacted strongly and negatively to the news, citing Unity’s poor communication, lack of clarity, loss of trust, and what they saw as a naked attempt to squeeze money out of small developer teams."

6. Here’s Why Scientists Think That Planet K2-18 b Spotted by the James Webb Has Water, and Possibly Even Life (September 14) "As far as we know, DMS is only produced by living sources — at least on Earth."

7. ‘Help me’: fans watching bear camera help save Alaska hiker’s life (September 9) Wow!

8. Wheaton College Releases Report on Its History of Racism (September 14) "A new president, J. Oliver Buswell, stopped admitting Black students altogether in 1926. Privately, Buswell said he didn’t think integration was immoral, but he was concerned about too much 'social contact' between races."

9. Taylor’s truckers and the sweating of the 1% (August 10, via) "These bonuses have a lot of people doing this math for the first time ever, seeing the ludicrous gap between those on top and the rest of us."

10. Workers in the Vineyard and the Economy of Exploitation: Matthew 20:1-16 (September 17) "Jesus’s parable of the workers in the vineyard holds a mirror up to the harsh realities of our exploitative economic and agricultural systems so that we might imagine a world that nurtures both land and people." (See also my post on this passage: The Parable of the Living Wage)

Friday, September 15, 2023

On "Unjust Marriage"

I searched google for "levirate marriage" and this is the diagram I got. It's a family tree, with circles (women) and triangles (men), and one triangle is crossed out and an arrow is drawn from the wife to the brother. Image source.

A while ago I saw this blog series "When Marriage is Unjust" by Herb Montgomery- here's part 1, part 2, and part 3. It's about Luke 20:27-38, where the Sadducees come and ask Jesus this weird hypothetical question about a woman who married 7 brothers in sequence because they keep dying on her- whose wife will she be at the resurrection (ie, in heaven)? Jesus tells them that at the resurrection, there will be no marriage.

Montgomery's take on this passage is:

Jesus explains that in the age to come, an age of justice, there will be no marriage. How unjustly must the institution of marriage have been that Jesus couldn’t imagine it in the coming age of justice? Jesus states that all who are children of the resurrection will be “like the angels.” We can debate whatever that means, but the implication of the phrase is that marriage will be no more because all injustice will be no more.

Marriage in the time of Jesus was so unjust and oppressive to women, that Jesus says it cannot possibly exist at the resurrection, when there is perfect justice.

(Montgomery's blog posts also raise some good points about the practice of levirate marriage- which is what the Sadducees are describing, a widow has to marry her dead husband's brother- and how it was so centered on men. Like the dead man's "need" to have an heir is more important than his widow's right to make her own choices about things like marriage. I've heard the argument that this practice was intended to help the woman, because if she was single and didn't have a son, she basically had no way to provide for herself- even so, the problems are all caused by patriarchy.)

I find this fascinating because it's so different from what I was taught "the bible says" about marriage, growing up in evangelicalism and purity culture. Purity culture teaches that "God has a plan for your life" about what person you will marry. That God picked 1 specific opposite-gender person for you, and that's "God's plan" (and you have to pray really hard and be really stressed about trying to figure out who it is, or else you're ruining God's plan). And that when you follow all of God's rules, don't have sex before marriage, and marry the one magical person that God picked, the result will be so perfect and magical and amazing. You'll have such a loving, intimate, romantic connection. You'll have the best sex ever. You'll fit right into your gender role, and it will feel so natural and fulfilling.

That was how I viewed marriage. You find someone you can truly trust, that you can love with everything you have, and you build a life together, as equal partners. I thought that's what marriage *is*. (And yes, lucky for me, that *is* what my marriage is about.)

Turns out that's a pretty modern idea- having a marriage based on romantic love. And historically, the way it often worked was, women have a bunch of less-than-ideal options, and one of those options is to get married- so that's why they get married.

It really amazes me how obvious it is that there are no women in the bible who followed the "purity rules" and then had a perfect marriage, and I totally never noticed this, until I had already started to question purity ideology. I'm a bible nerd, I knew all the stories, I knew all the messed-up ways that men of the bible treated their wives, and yet somehow I still bought this idea that "God has picked 1 guy who is perfect for you, and if you follow these biblical rules, it guarantees a perfect marriage." HOW??? (I ended up writing about this here: "God has one perfect guy for you!" Yeah, that's not biblical.)

As I was thinking about the idea of "unjust marriage" and getting married because it's the least-bad option, I thought about this article I had read, from Sixth Tone: A Vietnamese Bride’s Chinese Dream. It's about a Vietnamese woman who didn't have many options for getting a well-paying job in Vietnam, and then she heard about a cousin who had married a Chinese man and moved to China. She decided to look into this option for herself too, which meant taking a very shady bus ride hundreds of miles into China, with some other Vietnamese women. They came to some small village in China and met the available men. She says this about the man whom she decided to marry:

The next family offered 100,000 yuan and had a two-story brick house. The suitor was in good physical shape, had a junior high school diploma, was five years older than me, and looked to be freshly shaven.

The first time I saw him, I felt nothing; my only concern was the bride price. After weighing it up, I decided to marry him.

It really surprised me, the way marriage is talked about in this article. It's not about "you know this person and you love this person and you want to spend your life with them." Instead, it's talked about like... do you think you could tolerate this person? If you had to live with him and have his children, could you accept that? Is it a better situation overall than the life you have in Vietnam?

The article also talks about the difficulties that this woman has because she entered China illegally. Not having id, worrying about being deported, not even having the right documents to be able to go back to Vietnam- and also, she couldn't speak Chinese at all when she first arrived. Immigrant women in this kind of situation are extremely vulnerable. What if her husband turns out to be abusive? She can't easily leave him because then she may get deported.

This is the reality of what marriage is, for a lot of people in the world today. It's a way to get out of a bad situation, into a different-and-hopefully-less-bad situation. And I think reading about women's experiences today, choosing marriage for these reasons, can help us when we read what the bible says about marriage. 

We read words like "marriage" or "divorce" in the bible, and we think of those terms in the way we see them defined in our culture today- which is very much because of the work of feminist activists, pushing for changes in society so that women would have better options. And as a result of that feminist work, it feels normal to us to marry someone because you want to be with them, rather than because it's the least-bad option available to you. And also, the work of LGBT activists- because the concept of same-sex marriage is very much dependent on the idea of marrying someone because you want to be with them, not because of societal expectations, or economic reasons, or being expected to have children. (But also there are legal things like health insurance, hospital visitation, etc, which are very important reasons same-sex couples need to have the right to marry.) So this is how we see marriage, and then we read the bible and we assume that's what the bible means when it uses the word "marriage", but wow it is NOT.

So, in summary: In purity culture, I was taught that God has a plan for all of us to have a wonderful marriage with an opposite-sex partner, whom we work together with so incredibly well, and that we love and trust fully. And yes, I'm married now, and I'm glad my relationship with my husband is like that- we work together well, it's romantic, we love each other, etc. (But I don't believe in the gender-roles stuff, and also it's important to me that I chose to marry him, instead of just coasting along on "God's plan.") But, this view of marriage is a very modern thing- and actually, there are many cultures in the world today where that's not what marriage is at all. Instead, marriage is about financial needs, or immigration opportunities, or fitting a role that your family wants you to fit... And the concept of marriage that we see in the bible is much closer to that than to romantic ideals about "we want to spend our lives together." 

When we read what the bible says about marriage, we should remember that's the kind of marriage it's talking about. And we should be grateful that because of feminist and LGBT activists, marriage in our culture has become something so much better than what it was in biblical times.


And 1 more thing I want to say: We can help by donating to charities that help women around the world have better economic opportunities, and charities that help immigrants. For example, there's Women For Women International, which focuses on women who are survivors of war.



"God has one perfect guy for you!" Yeah, that's not biblical. 

This "Do Not Intermarry With Them" Stuff Hits Different Now 

It Doesn’t Actually Matter What Jesus Said About Divorce

US Immigration and the Definition of Marriage 

Sunday, September 10, 2023


xkcd comic about "circuit symbols". I love this so much. Image source.

1. Walt Disney Pictures VFX Workers File for Historic Unionization Election with Labor Board (August 28, via) Good for them!

2. ‘Life or Death:’ AI-Generated Mushroom Foraging Books Are All Over Amazon (August 29, via) WHAT.

3. September 2023 Carnival of Aros Call for Submissions: Visions of Aro History (September 1) Very cool~ If you are aromantic or aro-spec, you can submit a post to this carnival.

4. Review: Fadeout (September 2) Review of a gay mystery novel published in 1970.

Also from Siggy: An ace perspective on single-target sexuality (September 5) "From an ace perspective, this fantasy feels familiar, and not in a good way. It raises the specter of corrective sexual violence. There are people who seem to fetishize asexuality, imagining themselves as the one person so hot they could 'turn' an asexual."

5. A Sudoku With No Actual Clues?! (September 5) 2-hour-16-minute sudoku solve video. This is incredible.

Also: This Trick Can Help Unlock Impossible Sudokus (September 8) 1-hour-27-minute sudoku solve video. This is pretty cool. It's a symmetry trick.

6. Am I Straight Though? Or, Does Orientation Matter? (September 7) "Anyways, for me, when I hear the term 'straight', I get the impression that this person actively wants to be with someone of the opposite gender."

7. Shanghai Disney Resort Reveals Attraction Details, Dining Experiences and More for Zootopia, a New Themed Land (September 5) A Zootopia land is opening at Shanghai Disneyland. This looks so cool.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Shanghai Auto Museum (photos)

I recently went to the Shanghai Auto Museum, and I have a few photos to share here :)

First of all, the way the museum is laid out is really cool. On the 1st to 3rd floor, each floor has a big exhibition area, and there are big ramps curved around the edge of the building, to get between the floors. These ramps have cars parked along them. Seeing these ramps, I imagined how they must have had to drive and/or drag all these cars up these ramps when setting up the museum.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The Great Sex Rescue: Gatekeeper

Screenshot from a pokemon game, perhaps Pokemon Blue, which shows a snorlax blocking the road, with the text "A sleeping pokemon blocks the way!" Image source.

Links to all posts in this series can be found here: Blog series on "The Great Sex Rescue"


[content note: non-explicit discussion of arousal]

So here we are in the second part of chapter 4 of The Great Sex Rescue: The Lies You've Been Taught and How to Recover What God Intended [affiliate link], pages 66-76.

The first part of this section is about the problems caused by the "gatekeeper" idea, in purity ideology. Let me explain this "gatekeeper" thing: So, purity culture teaches that boys always want sex and can't control themselves, and girls can control themselves much better than boys can. Also, if a couple has sex before marriage, it's a sin for both of them, but realistically it's a much worse thing for the girl than for the boy. Girls' worth is tied to their "virginity" to a much greater extent than boys'. If a girl has sex before marriage, it's like, eww she's dirty, she's ruined, she can't be a "pure" godly wife any more. If a boy has sex before marriage, it's like, well, he's not supposed to do that, but, yeah boys are just like that, what are you gonna do. (And, in this ideology, asexual men don't exist. In reality, they do though!)

What all of this adds up to is, when a boy and girl are dating, the girl believes that she has the responsibility to stop them from going "too far" and the boy isn't really expected to have any responsibility at all. "The Great Sex Rescue" even points out that in Shaunti Feldhahn's book "For Young Women Only," Feldhahn literally says that boys have little ability to stop, and therefore girls need to know that it's a bad idea to even start kissing or anything. (I wrote about this here: "Boys Can't Stop".)