What makes a company “pro-gay”?

Church this morning nearly gave me a migraine. See, a fair portion of the service was related to all the Chick-Fil-Hate hullabaloo this week, and the deep pain that it caused so many people. I’d spent the week arguing, raging, seething and hurting over the immense hatred that was flowing from the “gotta have straight chicken” and their “but what about the free speech red herring?” compatriots. It was an exhausting week, and while it was wonderful and healing to be amidst folks who shared in the hurt, just revisiting the topic sent my neck and shoulders back into the tension of that rage. The pastor’s message of “Hold on, better times are coming” was wonderful, but I still needed a massage when I got home.

While the plate was passed for the offering the image below was projected up onto the wall, I assume as a reminder that there are companies who aren’t trying to have people killed for being gay.

The image, and the idea behind it, just don’t sit well with me. You can see HRC’s criteria for their Corporate Equality Index here. That’s the list of things they use to determine if a company is “pro-gay” as described in the above image.

But there’s so much that they leave out. Coca-Cola may have wonderfully inclusive insurance, and they may include orientation and identity protections in their hiring procedures, but they also have a history of murdered union workers in their bottling plants in central America. What does it matter if they won’t discriminate against you for being gay if they’re just going to have you killed for demanding safe working conditions and fair wages. Their corporate headquarters may be a great place for LGBT people to work, but I’d bet those plants are not.

The same can be said of the factories that produce Apple products, Nike’s sweatshops, Gap’s sweatshops and Hershey’s child-slave farmed chocolate. Even here in the US, Starbucks has a history of union busting. Those are just the ones I knew about off the top of my head!

Hiring practices and sponsoring Pride parades don’t mean jack when you’re mistreating and killing your employees. You can’t be pro-gay and pro-slavery. Queer people are slaves. Queer people are union organizers. Queer people are textile workers in sweatshops.

Playing nice in the public eye doesn’t make you “pro-gay,” not when your murder, exploitation, slavery and unfair business practices affect queer employees and their families. You can’t be “pro-gay” when you’re anti-human.

The Foundation is No Foundation

Recently, in a discussion on reddit, a group of us were asked “Do you believe in the Resurrection?” Frustrated by how an answer given did not fit into the desired framework(s), it was insisted that “Your beliefs have a theological foundation. We want to see that foundation.” Unhappy with a theological/theopoetic answer, some insisted that we find ways to fit into their boxes. They wanted the foundation, the ultimate truth on which all of our theologies were built.

The only response I could give was “The foundation is no foundation.”

“An empty shell!” The charge rang out. “If there is no foundation, the belief system is an empty shell.”

I know I sounded like I was spouting some sort of koan, and I know that many reading that discussion felt as though I was, along with others, dodging the questions. There was no dodging, and if an empty shell I inhabit, then so be it. But what some see as emptiness, I experience as space made for relationship.

The foundation is no foundation.

For a belief system to be solid, they say, it must have a solid foundation, a reality on which all else is predicated. We have to be practical, they say, and practicality dictates that to build anything that will last, one must build on solid ground. The wise build their houses on solid rock!

But no rock is solid. Looking within, even the most solid of rock is made up of smaller pieces, and those of bits smaller still, between which are vast swaths of nothingness. Emptiness, one might say, like the shell named earlier. Looking downward, the rock sits upon something else, which sits upon something else, which sits upon the flowing, molten core of the planet, which spins and turns in space. More emptiness.

A foundation cannot be an ultimate starting point upon which everything else is built, because what’s called a foundation is always atop something else. There is no ultimate base. Anything named as “the foundation” must have a foundation of its own. It’s simply turtles all the way down. The foundation is no foundation at all. It may be a link or an interface, but any solid rock is ultimately sand and empty space.

Instead of a foundation, my “belief system” has a series of relationships. I do not base my faith on the resurrection, nor on the Exodus, nor on church tradition, nor on any of the solas. Instead I relate to each of them, and they to each other. In this way I relate to the Trinity. As with any relationship, it is ever changing. The faith of no foundation is not a once and for all declaring, but a living, with all its uncertainty. It is a trust in relationship, be it the relationship between beliefs, doctrines, history, experience, tradition, etc. or the relationship between people. No one is greater than the other. They hold each other together, constantly looking to one another for strength.

To flip a hymn on its head:

On Christ’s wind-blown dunes I stand,
All that looks like rock is surely sand.

The foundation is no foundation. It’s something much stronger than that.

Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism

Jesus in his solidarity with the marginal ones is moved to compassion. Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion. The norms of law (social control) are never accommodated to persons, but persons are accommodated to the norms. Otherwise the norms will collapse and with them the whole power arrangement. Thus the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal emotional reaction but as a public criticism in which he dares to act upon his concern against the entire numbness of his social context. Empires live by numbness. Empires, in their militarism, expect numbness about the human cost of war. Corporate economies expect blindness to the cost in terms of poverty and exploitation. Governments and societies of domination go to great lengths to keep the numbness intact. Jesus penetrates the numbness by his compassion and with his compassion takes the first step by making visible the odd abnormality that had become business as usual. Thus compassion that might be seen simply as generous goodwill is in fact criticism of the system, forces, and ideologies that produce the hurt.

~ Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination pp. 88-89

A Radical Reading of Galatians 3:25:29

Galatians 3:25-29

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

I have seen the assertion that the identities so important in identity politics are subsumed by our identity in Christ. Someone is not a Jew, they are a child of God who is Jewish. Someone is not a slave, they are a child of God who is in bondage. Someone is not a woman, they are a child of God who is female. Someone is not black, they are a child of God who is of African descent. Someone is not gay, they are a child of God who is attracted to the same gender.

In the Kingdom of God, the ways in which we divide ourselves are overridden because we are in Christ who unites us.

But telling someone “there is no longer Jew nor Greek” does not lift the Roman boot sandal from the necks of the oppressed. Saying “there is no longer slave nor free” does nothing to change the fact that “Abraham’s offspring” is still held in the violence of slavery. Saying “there is no longer male nor female” does not erase the ways in which women are oppressed, othered and systematically devalued. Telling each of these “I don’t give credence to this class division” means that you don’t take seriously the ways in which the members of each class are oppressed.

Likewise, “There is no longer gay nor straight, there is no longer trans nor cis” doesn’t erase the experiences of the queer person whose life is at risk for simply being who they are. They cannot simply say “I’m not gay, I belong to Christ” and suddenly have the reality of their oppression disappeared.

The tendency amongst some to say that in Christ we move past our (previous) identities creates room to erase the experience of the oppressed and hides the need to work on the racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia that is at the root of the exclusion of many from having a voice in the Body of Christ. When straight, cis, white men appeal to “There is no longer,” then they run the risk of furthering violence against those who still are.

Paul can be read here as preaching the other side of Jesus’ first recorded sermon in Luke 4:18-19. Walter Brueggemann writes in The Prophetic Imagination (p. 84):

In Luke 4:18-19 he announces that a new age was beginning, but that announcement carries within it a harsh criticism of all those powers and agents of the present order. His message was to the poor, but others kept them poor and benefitted from their poverty. He addressed the captives (which means bonded slaves), but others surely wanted that arrangement unchanged. He named the oppressed, but there are never oppressed without oppressors.

His ministry carried out the threat implicit in these two fundamental announcements. The ministry of Jesus is, of course, criticism that leads to radical dismantling.

If he came to “let the oppressed go free” then he has also come to oppose the oppressor. If Jesus is setting the tone of his entire ministry by speaking to the oppressed, then Paul is speaking to those in the oppressing classes of their participation in the Kingdom of God. Paul is removing the ability of the oppressors to other the oppressed.

The voice of Paul here must be directed at the oppressor, not the oppressed. He must be saying to the men that they can no longer exclude and other women. He must be saying to the slave owner that the category of slave cannot exist in Christ, for if he is speaking to the oppressed, then he is simply allowing for the erasure of their oppression in the eyes of their oppressors. When straight or cis people say “I don’t see you as gay, I see you as my sister. I don’t see you as trans, I see you as my brother,” they don’t do anything to stand with the oppressed, rather they erase the oppressed, saying “The way you fit into my framework is more important than your lived experience.” If Paul is telling the slave “You are no longer a slave,” and not addressing the reality that this offspring of Abraham is held as property of another human, then Paul is not preaching a gospel of freedom for the oppressed, but a perverted gospel that ignores cries for freedom.