Archive for May, 2019

Transcending: Interpretation

Friday, May 31st, 2019

I’m writing a blog series Transcending: They’ll Know Us By Our Love, about the church and LGBTQ people, beginning with transgender people.

The Situation told why this is personal for me.

Creation looked at what the Bible says about gender and how what transgender people say about themselves matches that.

The Science looked at the considerable scientific research that also matches both what the Bible says and what transgender people say about themselves.

Self-Definition looks at why we should believe people when they tell us who they are.

What Does the Bible Say? looks at what the Bible says about transgender people changing their bodies to match their gender. Spoiler alert: It says nothing against it! And has plenty to say about supporting and accepting who they are.

Not Conforming to the World looks at how transgender people are a marginalized group of outsiders – and the church should not be piling on.

Choice and Non-Choice looks at some evidence that LGBTQ people are born that way.

I’d been meaning to finish talking about transgender people first, but tonight I’d like to talk about same-sex marriage.

My church is indeed pursuing adding a policy to its constitution stating that transgender people changing their bodies to match their gender identity dishonors God’s design and that marriage can only be between one man and one woman. In the first members’ meeting to discuss this, the pastor read from Romans 1 and said that the plain meaning is that homosexuality is sinful.

[After that, he admitted that there is nothing in the Bible that speaks against transgender people changing their bodies to match their gender identity. But said we can conclude it’s wrong because of creation. I covered that reasoning in Transcending: Creation.]

I will grant you that reading Romans 1 in English in 2019 does give the impression that the Bible condemns homosexuality.

But what if one of Paul’s contemporaries who was a native Greek speaker came forward in time? If we explained same-sex marriage to that person, would they think it had anything to do with what Paul was talking about?

Look more closely at what Paul is saying. It’s not a prohibition. It’s all in present tense. Paul is saying, “Look at how terrible our society has gotten!”

I recently read Paul Among the People, by Sarah Ruden, an expert on Graeco-Roman literature. She writes about what people were doing in that time period. It was commonplace for men to prove their manhood by preying on the weak – slaves, boys, men of lesser standing. It was even part of their idol worship, especially of Priapus, an idol of sexual aggression. She points out that Paul’s attitude was completely different from other writers of the time:

Paul could have, like generations of Greek and Roman moralistic and satirical commentators, lit into passive homosexuality, into the victims. But in Romans 1 he makes no distinction between active and passive: the whole transaction is wrong. This is crucially indicated by his use of the Greek word for “males,” arsenes, for everybody; he does not use the word for “men,” as the NRSV translation would have us believe. The Classical and New Testament word for a socially acceptable, sexually functional man is aner. In traditional parlance, this could mean an active but never a passive homosexual. But Paul places on a par all the male participants in homosexual acts, emphasizing this in Romans 2:1 and clearly implying that they are all morally degraded and that they all become physically debilitated from the sex act with each other. Such effects were unheard of among the Greeks and Romans when it came to active homosexuals: these were thought only to draw their passive partners’ moral and physical integrity into themselves.

This has nothing in common with a loving, committed, monogamous same-sex relationship.

What if couples in same-sex marriages are not sinning? What if the act of homosexuality is not sinful unless you’re hurting someone?

For that matter, does the New Testament call anything else sinful that doesn’t harm anyone – either the person doing it or someone else? If Paul was talking about preying on weaker people, then it makes sense for him to condemn it. But how does a committed same-sex marriage hurt anyone?

If we exclude people in same-sex marriages from membership in our churches, aren’t we saying to a part of the body of Christ – “We don’t need you”?

For that matter, we agree that everyone who comes to Christ comes as a sinner. We expect, after they accept Christ, for His Spirit to work in their lives and that He’ll help them overcome sin. Christians are not under Law, but under Grace – in the past, my church has let the Holy Spirit decide what sins other people should work on. The important thing has been that we’re a gathering of people who have accepted Jesus as the Lord of our lives.

There are verses about coming alongside Christians who are trapped in sin – but always gently and with humility. And those verses never call out a specific sin ahead of time. There are many, many more verses about how important it is not to judge others. Remove the beam from your own eye before you try to take the speck out of your brother’s eye!

If we add a Code of Conduct (even if it’s called a “Christian Living Statement”), we’re saying that these particular sins have to be cleaned up before you can be a member of this church. And it’s questionable whether they are actually sins.

And that’s the biggest problem I have with calling same-sex marriage sinful. The only reason to do so is because you believe one particular interpretation of the Bible – an interpretation that many, many other Christians don’t agree with. But it doesn’t harm anyone. In fact, same-sex marriage, like heterosexual marriage, is all about love. Isn’t Love a good thing?

People say that they believe same-sex marriage is wrong because the Bible says so – so this way they can be proud of how faithful they are to the Bible. But please be aware that this is your interpretation of what the Bible says, and it is by no means certain. And it doesn’t fit well with the rest of the Bible message to love one another, to include all parts of the body of Christ, and not to judge.

Judging others indeed does harm. And it’s so much easier to judge about things you’ll never be tempted to do. As I covered in Choice and Non-Choice, there’s plenty of evidence LGBTQ people are born LGBTQ people. Do we really believe that God’s best for every single one of them is a life without a committed, loving, monogamous partnership? And we’re basing that on one interpretation that’s quite weak if you look at the historical context.

Transcending – Choice and Non-Choice

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

I’m writing a blog series Transcending: They’ll Know Us By Our Love, about the church and LGBTQ people, beginning with transgender people.

The Situation told why this is personal for me.

Creation looked at what the Bible says about gender and how what transgender people say about themselves matches that.

The Science looked at the considerable scientific research that also matches both what the Bible says and what transgender people say about themselves.

Self-Definition looks at why we should believe people when they tell us who they are.

What Does the Bible Say? looks at what the Bible says about transgender people changing their bodies to match their gender. Spoiler alert: It says nothing against it! And has plenty to say about supporting and accepting who they are.

Not Conforming to the World looks at how transgender people are a marginalized group of outsiders – and the church should not be piling on.

Today I want to say something about choices. Often when I talk to people who condemn transgender people, I get the impression that they think being transgender is either a delusion or something people choose on a whim.

For example, after my last post, someone asked me: If transgender people have a suicide attempt rate of 37% — so much higher than in the general population – aren’t you afraid to have your child be transgender? Why would you ever affirm that?

This person was forgetting the other part of the statistic. (These are from the 2015 U. S. Transgender Survey of 28,000 transgender people.) For transgender people with nonsupportive families, the suicide attempt rate was 54%. You better believe I’m going to be supportive!

Now, I grant you – nobody has statistics about people whose families were nonsupportive who decided not to come out as transgender after all. But I have a very hard time believing that group has very many members. You might hide who you are because of your family, but you can’t change who you are.

Transgender people keep telling us, This is who I am.

In fact, as I mentioned in my Science post, Science keeps telling us gender identity is something you’re born with. And even though we try, people have not figured out a way to change someone’s gender identity.

I am going to eventually do a lot more posts about scientific and research studies. I’ve discovered that at least a dozen major medical organizations have position statements about transgender people. But in the meantime, I ran across this summary of studies on human sexuality and gender, put together by a doctor and her husband, a librarian.

The author of the webpage summarizes her literature review as follows:

Our LGBTQ community has consistently told us that sexual orientation and gender identity are not chosen, and cannot be changed. Based on the consistency of their stories, the available scientific literature, and the complete lack of evidence in any opposing viewpoints, it is time that we believe them.

I found another literature review by following the link in the Endocrine Society Position Statement on Transgender Health. It’s called Evidence Supporting the Biologic Nature of Gender Identity. With the help of google, you can download and read the actual article. There is lots of evidence that gender identity resides biologically in our brains and is something we’re born with. It doesn’t necessarily match our genitalia and doesn’t necessarily match our chromosomes. The best way to be sure which gender someone has is to ask the person who lives in that brain.

Just today, a friend announced that her spouse is coming out as a transgender woman. I love the way her spouse put it in her Facebook announcement:

I have been living with something for most of my life that I’ve kept fairly well hidden until now. I am a transgender woman currently in the process of transitioning to present as a woman. I know this will come as a shock to most of you reading this as I don’t come across as very feminine (and have been told this by those who already know). Please know that this is something very real that I’ve lived with since high school and it was only in the last few years that I felt I could start the transition process and begin to live as my true self. It’s been a personal challenge coming out to family and close friends but everyone has been loving and supportive and now I’m ready to come out to the wider world.

Listen to what she says! Yes, she had a choice whether to present as a woman, whether to come out as transgender. But she didn’t have a choice about the fact that she is a transgender woman. She is courageously saying, “This is Who I am!

No one’s going to take lightly a choice to change their body and their appearance. But choosing which gender we are? We don’t actually have that choice.

And I’m never going to make a blanket statement of what people should do who know they are a gender different from the one they were told they were all their lives, the one that matches their external genitalia.

But please, churches, let’s not make a blanket statement either. Sometimes, what honors God’s design is for transgender people to use current medical science to make their appearance and body match the true gender they know themselves to be.

Who you are is not a choice.

How you present your body to express who you are? That choice should be yours and yours alone.

Transcending: Not Conforming to the World

Monday, May 20th, 2019

I’m writing a blog series Transcending: They’ll Know Us By Our Love, about the church and LGBTQ people, beginning with transgender people.

The Situation told why this is personal for me.

Creation looked at what the Bible says about gender and how what transgender people say about themselves matches that.

The Science looked at the considerable scientific research that also matches both what the Bible says and what transgender people say about themselves.

Self-Definition looks at why we should believe people when they tell us who they are.

What Does the Bible Say? looks at what the Bible says about transgender people changing their bodies to match their gender. Spoiler alert: It says nothing against it! And has plenty to say about supporting and accepting who they are.

Today I want to look for a moment at a verse that I’ve heard more than once used as a reason not to affirm and support transgender people: Romans 12:1-2. I believe this verse actually provides another reason we should affirm them. Here’s what it says (New International Version):

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I’ll be honest – I get angry when I hear this verse used to say we should not affirm transgender people.

I’m not entirely clear what the thinking is. Are they saying that if ethical non-Christians speak up against something, then we’re conforming to the world if we also say it’s unethical?

Are they saying that because “the world” accepts transgender people, the church should not?

Are they saying that we shouldn’t listen to medical personnel or peer-reviewed research studies because those are part of “the world”?

To be fair, I do not know what argument people use to rationalize using this verse against transgender people getting gender affirmative therapy. I don’t understand the train of thought at all. Maybe there’s a way that I haven’t conceived of.

Looking at my first two questions above, I’m afraid “the world” was in many cases ahead of the church when it came to the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, civil rights, interracial marriage, child labor, and many, many other social issues. Yes, in many of those cases, Christians were at the forefront of the movement toward social justice, but this movement out in the world was often ahead of the church at large. They were certainly ahead of many individual churches. You can’t condemn something as evil simply because there are people out in “the world” who advocate for it. They might be onto something.

As far as peer-reviewed medical research studies, I already provided some links to some in my first Science post. Since then, I’ve been looking up more statements by medical and psychological associations about transgender people and appropriate and effective treatment. I’ve discovered there’s much, much more scientific information out there. I plan to write some more posts about them.

But why is the church weighing in on which treatment is effective, anyway?

Does the church really want to go up against the prevailing scientific opinion in an area on which the Bible doesn’t speak? When we try that, it doesn’t usually go well.

The Bible does not condemn being transgender; the Bible does not condemn changing your body via hormones or surgery to match your gender identity.

An analogy that works well is this:

Imagine if a church came out with a policy that said taking insulin dishonors God’s design because it changes your body chemistry given to you by God.

Such a policy would not affect most people. But for those it does affect, it can be a life-or-death issue.

And the Bible doesn’t speak about it. This insulin prohibition I invented would be based entirely on extrapolation with a made-up principle by someone who is unaffected by the new rule.

I would like to propose that Romans 12:1-2 actually gives a strong reason that we should support and affirm transgender people. Because if we want to be different from the world, the world in general is not treating transgender people well.

I used as the subtitle for this Transcending series: They’ll Know Us By Our Love. That comes from John 13:35 –

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

We should be known for our love, not for our rejection.

Here’s where it gets personal for me. When I visited my adult transgender daughter in Oregon last February, I was shocked and surprised to learn that she was the only one in her community of transgender friends who had supportive parents. In fact, her new fiancée is the daughter of an evangelical pastor in Arkansas. Her family rejected her when she came out, and that’s why she’s in Portland now.

Many of my daughter’s transgender friends are homeless and unemployed. (Thank God healthcare in Oregon does cover people in this situation!) They try to help each other out, but she told me there’s a joke going around the transgender community that they’re all passing around the same five-dollar bill.

As my daughter was talking about her friends, she said, with passion in her voice, “They’re such beautiful people!” And I immediately thought — Oh, that’s what the church should be saying about them! We should not be throwing these people away. As the world is doing.

After I got home, I discovered the 2015 U. S. Transgender Survey and learned that the experience of my daughter and her friends is by no means unusual.

There’s a lot in this survey that’s sobering – I strongly recommend taking a look. There’s a whole chapter of the report called “Family Life and Faith Communities.”

Do read the report in detail for more nuance, but here are a few statistics that struck me:

Sixty percent (60%) of respondents who were out to the immediate family they grew up with reported that they had supportive families, and 40% had families that were neutral or not supportive.

One in ten (10%) reported that an immediate family member had been violent towards them because they were transgender.

Fifteen percent (15%) ran away from home and/or were kicked out of the house because they were transgender.

Much more disturbing were the consequences of this:

Family support was associated with positive outcomes while family rejection was associated with negative outcomes. Respondents who were rejected were:

Nearly twice as likely to have experienced homelessness (40%) as those who were not rejected (22%).
Almost twice as likely to have engaged in sex work (16%) as those who were not rejected (9%).
More likely to have attempted suicide (49%) than those who were not rejected (33%).

The report also looks at the reactions of faith communities. This part strikes home, as I’ve seen many Facebook posts from transgender people that express great anger with the church – and anger with God. If you’ve been rejected by a church, this is a natural reaction – and it breaks my heart. Because I don’t believe for a moment that God is angry with them or disapproves of their getting good treatment. In fact, I believe God sees their beauty better than anyone and loves them deeply. Isn’t the church supposed to be the body of Christ? Shouldn’t we be expressing Christ’s love?

But the report gives this statistic: “Nearly one in five (19%) respondents who had ever been part of a spiritual or religious community left due to rejection. Forty-two percent (42%) of those who left found a welcoming spiritual or religious community.”

Put more negatively, more than half of those rejected by a faith community never returned. Which breaks my heart. It does provide a bit of hope – only 19% were rejected and 42% of those did find a welcoming community. Welcoming communities are out there!

And I pray fervently and with all my heart that the churches I am part of will always be included among them.

May we not be conformed to the world, thinking it’s okay to reject and marginalize and judge an entire group of people.

Instead, may we be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And may they know us by our love.

Transcending: What Does the Bible Say?

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

I’m writing a blog series Transcending: They’ll Know Us By Our Love, about the church and LGBTQ people, beginning with transgender people.

The Situation told why this is personal for me.

Creation looked at what the Bible says about gender and how what transgender people say about themselves matches that.

The Science looked at the considerable scientific research that also matches both what the Bible says and what transgender people say about themselves.

Self-Definition looks at why we should believe people when they tell us who they are.

Today I’m going to look at what the Bible says about transgender people. Short answer: Nothing.

But there are verses that might seem to apply. In the Old Testament, we’ve got Deuteronomy 22:5 –

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.

There are two reasons I don’t think this applies. In the first place, Christians are not under the Law. I wear long pants almost every day, and no one in my church has ever said that’s sinful.

In the second place, transgender people say they are the gender they transition into. Transgender women are women. So they should wear women’s clothes.

Another verse from the Law that has been mentioned is Deuteronomy 23:1. I think you can see if I continue on with the next two verses that nobody thinks the criteria listed here can keep anyone from Christ.

No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.

No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation.

No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, not even in the tenth generation.

Instead, in the New Testament, we’ve got Galatians 3:26-28 –

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Based on that, gender is no barrier to coming to Christ.

Austen Hartke, a transgender pastor who wrote the book Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians, points out that the nearest thing to transgender people in the Bible are eunuchs. They, too, were in an in-between space, not really fitting neatly into either male or female.

Austen speaks at length on the passage Isaiah 56:3-7, which says:

Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant –
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant –
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Jesus even speaks well of eunuchs in Matthew 19:11-12, certainly not excluding them.

And then there’s the important story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. I’ll quote a section from Austen Hartke’s book:

We’ve talked about eunuchs already, and how they existed outside of the accepted gender roles and expectations of their time, but the eunuch we meet in Acts 8 was outside the norm in other ways as well. For instance, he was from Ethiopia – a place that was considered “the ends of the earth” in that day and was a military threat to the Roman Empire. As an Ethiopian he was probably Black – not necessarily in the way we understand Black identity today, especially in the United States, where our concept of Blackness is seen through the lens of American slavery – but he was certainly different from the people that Philip was used to.

The second thing that marked the Ethiopian eunuch as an outsider was his status as not-quite-Jewish and not-quite-Gentile. It’s made clear in the text that he was not born Jewish, but the story never calls him a Gentile either. Additionally, it’s the baptism of the clearly categorized Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10 that begins the conversation about Gentile inclusion in the early church. The eunuch may have been what the Bible calls “a God-fearer,” which essentially means a person who ascribed to the beliefs of the Jewish people despite not having been born among them. This placed him in between or outside of the established categories when it came to the Jew/Gentile binary of the times. If the eunuch hadn’t already been excluded from temple worship because of his status as a eunuch (since the welcome in Isaiah 56 was never implemented), he would have been kept out of the inner sanctums because he was neither a Jew by birth nor a full convert.

Lastly, despite being put in a place of authority, the eunuch must have been either a slave or a freed former slave, since it would have been unusual for a free person to be castrated. This means that the eunuch of Acts 8, whose name we never learn, was outside the boundaries of gender, race, class, and religion – a quadruple threat.

When the Ethiopian eunuch asks to be baptized, Philip doesn’t even debate. Austen Hartke finishes that chapter with these words:

In a way, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch is a story about two conversions. The eunuch may be the one who gets baptized, but Philip is the person who has to change his metric for who’s in and who’s out. Even though this story is two thousand years old, a third conversion is still taking place: will the church eventually realize that when God’s love overpowers all human distincitions, nothing can prevent us from full inclusion?

So, those are all reasons why it is in the Christian tradition to include the outsider, but let me repeat this point:

There is NOTHING in the New Testament that forbids a person changing the sex of their body, whether through hormones or surgery. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

I’ve already talked about why I don’t think the Creation story warrants a prohibition against gender affirmative therapy. (I’m going to use that to include hormone therapy and/or gender confirmation surgery.) In fact, I was talking with a leader in my church about how there is nothing whatsoever in the New Testament against gender-affirmative therapy, and he admitted, “We extrapolated.”

But Jesus did not encourage extrapolating to develop new rules. In fact, I believe that is exactly the sin of the Pharisees that Jesus blasted them for in Matthew 23:4 – “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

The idea that gender-affirmative therapy dishonors God’s design is a made-up rule. It is nowhere found in Scripture, and it is completely contrary to the spirit of Jesus’ words in John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Or Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Or Paul’s words in Romans 14:4 – “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall, and they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

Someone may argue, “But we need to be discerning!” Indeed, Jesus said in Matthew 7:16-17, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

Transgender people have high rates of attempted suicide, 37%, according to the 2015 World Transgender Survey. However, for transgender people whose families were unsupportive, the rate of attempted suicide jumps to 54%. Refusing to support transgender people yields a fruit of death.

A Universalist Looks at the New Testament – John 5

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

My series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament, is following along as my church reads through the New Testament together and pointing out passages that look different after I came to believe that the Bible teaches that all will be saved – at the end of the ages, anyway.

Today we read from John 5. When I read it before I was a universalist, I simply assumed that “judgment” here meant torment in hell, lasting forever and ever. Well, although the passage definitely teaches there will be judgment after death, there is nothing that says it will last forever.

In fact, another passage talks about “eonian correction.” And correcting his children is the kind of thing God does! But if the judgment leads to correction, how can it last forever?

But there’s no need to belabor that point. Please notice that this passage never says that the result of the judgment that comes after death is unending punishment.

John 5:21-30, New International Version:

For, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

From the Concordant Literal New Testament, which literally translates from the Greek, using one English word for every Greek word:

For even as the Father is rousing the dead and vivifying, thus the Son also is vivifying whom He will. For neither is the Father judging anyone, but has given all judging to the Son, that all may be honoring the Son, according as they are honoring the Father. He who is not honoring the Son is not honoring the Father Who sends Him.

Verily, verily, I am saying to you that he who is hearing My word and believing Him Who sends Me, has life eonian and is not coming into judging, but has proceeded out of death into life. Verily, verily, I am saying to you that coming is an hour, and now is, when the dead shall be hearing the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall be living. For even as the Father has life in Himself, thus to the Son also He gives to have life in Himself.

And He gives Him authority to do judging, seeing that He is a son of mankind. Marvel not at this, for coming is the hour in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and those who do good shall go out into a resurrection of life, yet those who commit bad things, into a resurrection of judging.

Mind you, I still would much rather proceed out of death into life. I would rather not come into judging.

But God’s judgments are just…. and I’m not convinced that would include unending torment. This passage does not say that it does.

Another thing this passage says is there is Life in the Son. I like the past tense in this sentence: He… “has proceeded out of death into life.” Amen!

Transcending: Self-Definition

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

I’m writing a blog series Transcending: They’ll Know Us By Our Love, about the church and LGBTQ people, beginning with transgender people.

The Situation told why this is personal for me.

Creation looked at what the Bible says about gender and how what transgender people say about themselves matches that.

The Science looked at the considerable scientific research that also matches both what the Bible says and what transgender people say about themselves.

Now I want to step back for a moment and think about the question: What is the decent human response to transgender people?

Today’s post applies to every human, and not merely to Christians who have a calling to love their neighbors as themselves.

The background I’m bringing to this is that for years I’ve been an avid reader of Patricia Evans’ books about verbal abuse, including Victory Over Verbal Abuse. These books helped me tremendously when I was going through my divorce.

Patricia Evans’ defines verbal abuse like this:

Any statement that tells you what, who, or how you are, or what you think, feel, or want, is defining you and is, therefore, abusive. Such statements suggest an invasion of your very being, as if to say, ‘I’ve looked within you and now I’ll tell you what you want, feel, etc.’ Similarly, threats are verbally abusive because, like torture, they attempt to limit your freedom to choose and thus to define yourself. Of course, if you have defined yourself to someone, ‘I’m Suzy’s Mom,’ and that person says, ‘That’s Suzy’s Mom,’ they are affirming or validating what you have said. On the other hand, verbal abuse is a lie told to you or told to others about you. If you believe the lie, it would lead you to think that you are not who you are or that you are less than you are.

Now, there are plenty of people who don’t agree with this definition of verbal abuse. But I’ve found it’s a practical definition – when I come away from a conversation feeling bad about what was said – very often I look more closely at what was said and discover something was said defining me. Maybe they said, You’re trying to start an argument…” (telling me my motives), or “You are assuming such and so…” (telling me what I’m thinking), or “You’re making too big a deal of this” (minimizing my experience), or “You’re too sensitive” (telling me what I’m feeling).

The problem with defining someone else is that You do not know what’s going on in someone else’s head. This means that if someone tells you that you are wrong when you claim to know what they are thinking or feeling – they are automatically correct, and you are wrong. This is your opportunity to apologize and stand corrected.

And that’s what’s wrong with verbal abuse (by this definition). It’s nonsense. You do not know what another person is thinking or feeling. If someone says, “You’re just saying that to make me angry” – they don’t know your motives and they can’t see inside your head, and that statement is nonsense.

Now, with our friends, we do try to affirm them by telling them good qualities we’ve seen in them. Or maybe gently call them out on negative qualities. But if they respond by saying, “No, you’re wrong – that wasn’t why I was doing that at all.” Then it is time for us to stand down. Each person is the authority on their own thoughts and feelings.

Patricia Evans also explains why it hurts so much:

Clearly, when one person defines the other, the person doing the defining (abusing), has closed off from the real person. When a person is told what they are, think, feel, and so forth, it is not only a lie told to them about themselves, but also it means that the abuser is closed off from the real person. The abuser cannot really hear, see, and take in information from the real person. It is as if he sees someone else. For instance, if the abuser says, ‘You’re too sensitive’ or ‘You’re not listening,’ he is talking to someone whom he defines as ‘made wrong’ or as ‘not listening.’ So, the real person isn’t seen or heard. It is as if a wall has arisen between the verbally abusive man and his partner. This is why, when a man defines his partner, she feels pain. At some level, she experiences the end of the relationship.

The fact is, every human being has a right to self-definition.

When Caitlyn Jenner came out, before I had any idea how deeply this issue would affect me, I realized that there are few things more fundamental to your identity than your gender.

If there is any area where a person should be allowed to define themselves, it is their gender.

And if someone calls you by the wrong name or refers to you with the wrong pronouns, that’s going to hurt. They have closed themselves off from the person you know yourself to be. You certainly aren’t going to feel loved by them. How can they love you when they refuse to even see you for who you are? Refuse to acknowledge that you know what’s going on inside your own body better than they do?

When I attempt to explain this to others, this is the point where some people say, “If your son called himself a pigeon, would you go along with it?” Or “When someone’s deluded, is it loving to go along with the delusion?”

These people need to read my post about The Science — complete with the conclusion that being transgender is not a mental disorder and that we’re born with a gender based in our biology, and the biology that determines gender is between our ears, not between our legs.

There are approximately 1.4 million transgender people in the United States. Maybe some of those are deluded, but certainly not all of them are. Just because their experience doesn’t match your experience doesn’t mean you know better than they do who they truly are.

Based on this, the decent human thing to do is to believe someone when they tell you what gender they are. To refuse to do this is to say that you know who they are better than they do themselves. And besides being cruel, that’s nonsense.

A Universalist Looks at the New Testament – John 3 and Titus 2

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

My series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament is an attempt to show how when you look at the New Testament with different eyes, you see different things. Once I entertained the idea that God will save everyone, I noticed things I’d never noticed before. Now I’m reading along as my church reads through the New Testament together, with a daily reading from the gospels and one from the epistles, and I’m pointing out things I didn’t notice until I was willing to open my mind to the possibility that the Bible teaches that all will be saved.

[Please note that I would never have thought it does – but an author I highly respected who clearly loved the Lord with all his heart and had studied the original language was completely sure that the Bible does teach that God will save everyone. How could he think that? Yet he did. Maybe I should take another look….]

Last night I wrote about John 3 – but there’s one more verse at the end of the chapter that reads similarly to the verses I already discussed. Here it is in the Concordant Literal New Testament:

He who is believing in the Son has life eonian, yet he who is stubborn as to the Son shall not be seeing life, but the indignation of God is remaining on him.

Before I was a universalist, I thought the Bible said a whole lot more about hell than it does – because I read verses like this as talking about everlasting torment. I assumed that’s what they meant. I assumed if a verse mentions the wrath of God, it means God’s going to burn those people forever and ever with fiery torment. Better turn or burn!

But notice all this verse doesn’t say. Nothing about everlasting torment. Nothing about a deadline after which the person will be stuck in their stubbornness forever, when it will forever be too late to turn to the Son and get that life eonian.

As long as you’re stubborn as to the Son, you’re not seeing life. You’re in a completely different state. That’s what it says.

I said yesterday that the way the passage is in present tense points out that faith makes a big difference in this life now. Both passages in John 3 emphasize that people are stubbornly staying away from God, not the other way around. And don’t forget, we also read about how much God loves the world. Perhaps He loves them enough not to leave them in their sin.

We get an eon to choose our own way. Jesus did say the next eon brings judgment, but why do we assume that this judgment is the end? Especially since God’s way with people is correction, not retribution.

The Titus passage we read today fits in well with all this. Here is Titus 2:11-15 from the New International Version:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

Okay, let’s pause there. I’ve always been taught that God offered salvation to all, but couldn’t manage to give salvation to all. Continuing on:

It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (eon), while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Again, there’s an emphasis that being saved in this life is a special blessing, a special calling. Notice we’re redeemed from all wickedness, not from being punished for wickedness. We get to be a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

One of those good things is to love the world as He does, with self-giving love.

If you think He’s going to petulantly torment His enemies forever, that’s a little different than the idea that He will one day win them over.

Anyway, again I’m straying from my main point, which is that neither of these passages talks about hell. The whole Bible does not talk about hell nearly as much as I was taught it does. Believing in judgment after death does not mean we have to believe in endless torment.

So may we focus instead on being God’s very own people, eager to do what is good.

A Universalist Looks at the New Testament – John 3

Friday, May 10th, 2019

As my church is reading through the New Testament together, I’m using this opportunity to stop and point out some passages that look different when you read them from the perspective of a Universalist.

When I first realized that the great author George MacDonald, who loved the Bible and studied the original Greek, claimed the Bible teaches that all will be saved, I wondered how he could think that, since the Bible doesn’t teach it. Or does it? Once I actually looked at Scripture, I began to think differently.

Today’s passage was John 3:16-21. It’s a passage that both Universalists and non-Universalists can use, so I’m not going to try to argue for Universalism with this passage, but I do want to point out how it looks just a little different from this perspective. I found some new richness I didn’t expect. It also touches on several themes found elsewhere in the writings of John.

Beginning with verse 14, here’s how it goes in the New International Version:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Now, as a universalist, I wish the passage stopped there. See that? God loved the world and sent his Son to save the world! If the whole world is not saved, did God fail?

But the passage does continue.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Okay, there’s judgment in this passage.

But you know what? It mentions condemnation, which can be translated as judgment – but it does not say that those who are judged will be tormented in hell forever and ever.

And do notice that it’s not that God is angry with people. God loves the world. But so many hate the light and are afraid to come into the light. It’s not that God can’t look on sin. It’s that sinful people don’t want to be seen.

Two things I’m sure of from this passage:

1) God loves everyone in the world.

2) There will be judgment. My view is that after death we’ll be brought into the light, like it or not.

I’ve said all along that I’m a universalist who believes in hell. But I do not believe that hell lasts forever. And like all of God’s chastisement, it’s for correction, not retribution. This means it has to come to an end.

The word translated “eternal” here is that same word “eonian,” “of the eons,” “of the ages.” It doesn’t indicate a definite time period, and it may indicate an enduring, deep quality.

John himself seems to use it to talk about the type, the quality of life in John 17:3:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Mind you, I’m definitely not saying that Christians won’t live forever! I believe we will. But I’m not sure if that’s John’s focus here.

And what does he mean by “perish”? It certainly doesn’t say anything about everlasting torment.

It’s interesting to look at the Concordant Literal New Testament translation of this passage. The Concordant Literal New Testament is the closest you can get to the original Greek, peppered with symbols to indicate the verb tenses. They use one English word for each Greek word used, the better to be clear about what was actually written in the original language.

Here’s how they translate John 3:16:

For thus God loves the world, so that He gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian.

What’s interesting to me about that is that it’s present tense. The passage isn’t saying, “This will save you from going to hell when you die.” Instead it’s saying, “You’re perishing right now, and believing in the Son will give you life eonian right now.”

In fact, that fits with the illustration of Moses and the snake in the desert. The story goes that the Israelites had been struck with a plague and they were dying. But when they looked up and saw the bronze snake that Moses had put on a pole – they stopped dying.

Even so, Jesus stops the perishing that we’re doing right now.

To me, this fits with what Jesus told Martha at the tomb of her brother Lazarus in John 11:25-26. Here’s the Concordant Literal translation of that verse:

Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who is believing in Me, even if he should be dying, shall be living. And everyone who is living and believing in Me, should by no means be dying for the eon. Are you believing this?”

Again, it’s all present tense – and seems to be talking about something deeper than physical life and death, especially since Lazarus was physically dead at this time.

Now, the book of John is very clear that judgment is coming after death. We’ll talk about that when we get to John 5. But here there’s something going on in the present. Jesus can save you from the fact that you are perishing right now.

It also has to do, I think, with becoming a child of God. This is a huge theme in both the Gospel of John and the epistles of John. And in this chapter, Jesus just told Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

This ties with what’s said in the passage we’ve already looked at. You’re perishing right now, in this life. You need a whole new life. Which means you need to be born again, “of water and the Spirit,” “born from above.”

This fits with the idea of becoming children of God.

John introduced this theme in his very first chapter, in verse 12:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Then we hear more about being born of God here in John 3.

In John 8, we get the negative side of that. The Pharisees say that God is their Father, and Jesus responds harshly:

If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.

John repeats this idea in I John 3 –

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

So becoming God’s child changes our very being! We become someone different and someone who acts differently. It changes the quality of our lives. And we are no longer perishing.

I’ve strayed very far afield! But back to John 3:16. Let’s remember that God loves the world. And the reason Jesus came was not to judge the world but to save it. And when we believe in Him, we become God’s child. We are no longer perishing, and we have life eonian, which is to know God. We become His child and His life permeates our being.

And as a universalist, my great hope is that God’s desire will not be thwarted, that even though many will not believe, will love darkness instead of light – God will triumph and by the end of the ages, all humanity will have turned to the light.

But meanwhile, how great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

Transcending – The Science

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

I’m writing a blog series called Transcending: They’ll Know Us By Our Love about what the Bible says about how Christians should act toward LGBTQ folks, beginning with transgender people.

In The Situation, I talked about why this is personal for me. In Creation, I looked at transgender people in the light of the creation account. Transgender people completely agree that God created them male and female (if they believe in God). They are not attempting to change their gender, but are changing their appearance and/or their bodies to match the gender God created them to be. This is what they say they are doing.

Now let’s look at the science. I’m going to refer to the Endocrine Society’s website. The Endocrine Society is a professional association of doctors. Yes, they deal with transgender patients, but there are many other disorders they treat as well. They don’t need to convince people it’s okay to be transgender in order to drum up business. They have no motivation to distort the science. They would want to give good care to their patients. They are dedicated to treating hormone disorders and advancing hormone research.

In September 2017, the Endocrine Society came out with a position statement about transgender people.

The key sentence in that document is this: “Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity.”

What does that mean in plain English? We’ve got lots of scientific evidence that people’s bodies determine their gender, that you are born with a gender.

It’s durable — people don’t change their minds about this on a whim. It’s biological — something people are born with, and it has to do with their physical bodies.

Hallelujah! That matches what it says in the Bible, that God creates us male or female.

However, while the Endocrine Society is sure there is a durable biological element to gender identity, they have not yet determined a way to figure out what that gender is from outside a person’s body. It does not always match external genitalia and it does not always match chromosomes. In press releases they say that gender does exist in our bodies, but it’s located between our ears rather than between our legs.

Hallelujah! That matches what transgender people tell us about themselves.

They list four disparate areas of research that back up this claim.

First are studies of intersex people. Attempts to change gender identity in intersex patients to match external genitalia or chromosomes are typically unsuccessful.

The second area is studies of twins. Identical twins are more likely to both experience transgender identity than fraternal twins, indicating a good chance there are genetic factors.

The third area had to do with exposure to androgens in utero, which seems to affect gender identity.

The fourth area had to do with certain brain scans, which seemed to correlate more closely with gender identity than with external genitalia or chromosomes.

Those four areas of study are all very different – but they all back up what transgender people say about themselves, that their gender is not what it appears to be.

The Endocrine Society points out that this claim does not make them mentally ill. There is “considerable evidence” that being transgender is not a mental disorder.

Fortunately or unfortunately, scientists have not yet pinpointed how to tell from outside a body what a person’s gender is. You still have to ask the person themselves.

Maybe we should believe them when they answer.

Silliness and Joy

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

This week I learned that Gina, a friend from college, passed away from cancer.

I had lost touch with Gina over the years, but found her again recently through Facebook and through the wonderful book she’d written about poetry and walking meditation, Camino Davina. It was obvious she was still living a vibrantly joyful life.

So I was thinking about the summer I got to know her and the lessons I learned that year, and how timely it is for me to think about those lessons.

Before the summer of 1984, I was mainly friends with Gina’s sister Jill, who was the same year as me at Biola, but I got to know Gina in her own right that summer.

It was the summer before my senior year, and like every summer when I was at Biola, I worked full-time in the computer services department as a programmer for the university. The summer before, I hadn’t had many friends around to eat lunches with, but *this* summer, my sister Becky was also working at Biola (She was already married by then and had just graduated from Biola, so it was good to get to see her.) and so were Jill and Gina. The four of us started having lunch together five days a week.

I was twenty years old, freshly out of my teens and thinking about putting away childish things and embracing the childlike.

And — we ended up forming a club that celebrated being silly. (Well, I just found a history of the club that I wrote in 1985, and Jill and I had already formed the club. But we added in Becky and Gina, and the club took off that summer.) We took club names of Jolly Jill, Jovial Gina, Batty Becky, and Silly Sondy.

The club was about embracing Silliness and our theme was Joy. Our standard greeting/farewell was “Joy to you!”

We felt sorry for August, because it didn’t have any holidays. So we invented 31 silly holidays for August, beginning with August Sillies’ Day on August 1st, and we found silly ways to celebrate them all. I remember that McIntosh computers were new at Biola, and I made an August Holidays calendar using its fancy fonts. [Huzzah! I just found the calendar filed away!]

The four of us took a trip to Disneyland in there (probably on Disney Day). We got pictures with characters. We screamed on the rides. Whenever we heard music coming from Snow White’s Wishing Well, we ran over and sang along in Snow White voices.

But it was really fun exploring the connection between Silliness and Joy. And Childlikeness. That was when we realized that you never *lose* your previous ages. If that were true, then each year you’d only be One. No, I still am seven years old, and I am still twenty years old — a lot more ages, too, though!

I also developed my Sparkle Theory. Every human desperately needs Sparkles. If they aren’t obvious in your life, you need to go look for them.

Tied with that, the most obvious kind of sparkles to a twenty-year-old girl are romantic ones. (Okay, that’s true to a fifty-four-year-old woman, too.) If you don’t have romance in your life, it’s tempting to try to grab romance for the sake of romance. I’d find myself almost manufacturing crushes on guys out of nothing — just to find some sparkles. That’s analogous to wanting to go out with *anyone* on Match.com, for the sake of going out.

But I found then — that finding Sparkles and noticing Joy is a really good antidote to that. If there are Sparkles and lots of Joy in your life, you don’t need to manufacture romance. And we had a gloriously joyful summer.

And it’s also true that living a Joyful life is a really good foundation for falling in love. My husband-to-be and I started dating not long after that summer was over — and for me it was from a place of Joy.

And what do you know? I’m in a similar place right now. With no sparkles of romance in my life, I’m sometimes tempted to try to manufacture them.

What’s more, being on the Newbery Committee brought with it a boatload of Sparkles, but after June, I’m going to need to work a little harder to make sure I notice them.

So – I’m hereby making a resolution! I hereby declare freshly embracing Silliness, Joy, and Childlikeness.

So watch out! I am going to be looking for ways to be silly…

And I’m going to start by typing out the Official History of the S.I.K. Club as written July 7, 1985. After discovering it in my files tonight, I had so much fun reading it, I’m going to repeat it here.

Will my friends forgive me for letting out the secret? Well, people still have to be interested enough to read this far.

It was contained in a letter to the other S.I.K.s as we were adding new members.

… With this in mind, I would like to present The History of the S.I.K. Club, leading up to the present. I think we will all do well to rethink the noble purposes behind our joyous organization. And so…

(Ahem.)

Once upon a time, on Valentine’s Day a year ago (to be precise), in the far-off land of Biola University, two solitary maidens, who weren’t really solitary because they were together, were bemoaning the hard-heartedness and general lack of Handsome Princes in those parts, whose presence, when found, is known to cast a magic glow upon all of life.

“But why,” declared the Sillier maiden, “should this magic glow be confined only to those with handsome princes? ‘Tis no wonder the rest of us are bored and weary with homework and exams alone to occupy us.”

And so the Sparkle Theory was born. It runs as follows: Every human being desperately needs Sparkles. Therefore we must find and gather the Sparkles strewn all around us, free for the taking. We Females are prone to focus on Male Sparkles, because they are so bright, and thus the most obvious. But we must never confine ourselves to these sparkles alone, or we will be poor indeed, for there are squillions more to find. And woe to the hoarder of a Male Sparker when his sparkle flickers out!

So, defying that dread unwritten decree that college students should keep their noses to the limestone, I mean, grindstone, the two maidens went on their merry way to La Mirada Regional Park in search of sparkles. And sparkles they found in abundance! The Jollier Maiden kept provoking peals of laughter and together they had a truly joyous time.

And that, my friends, was the start of the S,I.K Club. For, to find the sparkles, we (For it was in truth myself and Jolly Jill Renee.) behaved so childishly we thought that any grown-up watching us would say, “What Silly, Immature Kids!” and look down their noses at us. We decided to wear the title with pride. From henceforth, we were Silly Sondy Sue and Jolly Jill Renee, S.I.K.s. And the theme we chose was high and lofty: Joy.

As the year went on, Jill and I continued to behave Jollily and Sillily. When summer came, we began to eat lunch together, and were soon joined by our respective sisters. After a little getting to know one another, how Silliness and Sparkles abounded! After a very Merry Unbirthday Party for all, [in between Happy Birthday Parties (complete with balloons), for Jill and me], we declared Gina and Becky, Batty and Jovial, disrespectively. And the S.I.K. Club, 4 members strong, became official.

How can we four begin to express to our new members the Silliness and Delight of that summer? There was a Six-Months-After-Christmas Party at our Official Bench. (Upon this bench in front of the SUB we ate our lunches. When a matter came up that required a vote, we indicated our vote by standing on the bench and saying “Super-cali-fragi-listic-expial-i-docious!”) There were Dr. Seuss songs. There were lavish plans of silliness. There was an S.I.K. expedition to see Jungle Book (with 11-year-old Linda Mammano, who thought us very childish indeed).

But best of all were the August Holidays. It occurred to my Batty sister that poor August has gone literally hundreds of years without a single holiday! So we decided to make up for all that neglect. We invented and celebrated a new holiday for every single day of August!

For example, on Hog’s Day, Becky and I went to Farrell’s and had Ham-It-Up Burgers (Hamburgers with Bacon and Ham), followed by a Pig’s Trough. On Footloose-and-Fancy-Free Day (on which we also celebrated Fairy Tale Day), the S.I.K.s went to Disneyland and had a joyous time and sang with Snow White at her Wishing Well. To end the month, on Narnian Independence Day, we went to the Hollywood Bowl and saw the fireworks spectacular in honor of the defeat of the White Witch.

Our happy summer over, we were amazed and overjoyed to discover that we weren’t, after all, the only Sillies on campus. Although the majority still looked down their noses, we found that Silliness and Joy are contagious. By the end of the year we were joined by Sparkling Stephanie, noted paper airline pilot and manufacturer; Singing Cindy, known for appearing on roofs at the oddest times; and Jocular Joy, a famous philosopher of the cause of Silliness.

But where do we go from here? The S.I.K. Club has been in existence for well over a year now. We had a wonderful time when Jocular joined Sparkling, Jolly, and me to celebrate our birthdays. The Six-Months-After-Christmas Party could not have been better!

But alas! We’re going our separate ways. . . . It’s harder to get us together. . . . I want to apologize to all the other S.I.K.s for last year – when homework, busy-ness and exhaustion sapped all my joy – and also for perhaps a tiny bit too much absorption in my own Handsome Prince to the exclusion of other sparkles.

Now. . . I want to take up the search again! Let’s look for Sparkles! Let’s find Joys along the way! And let’s never stop giving people a reason to accuse us of being Silly, Immature Kids!

[Excursus: Have you ever noticed how the most wonderful people are the childlike adults and the mature children? But what could be worse than a childish child or a very grown-up adult? Batty & I think, therefore, that it is imperative that as we grow older we also grow younger. That way, once we are both very old and very young, we can be delightful with true maturity. (Not the kind of maturity that S.I.K.s shun, but real maturity, which includes childlikeness.)]

[Excursus #2 (Sondy’s Theorem on the Retention of Ages): We do not lose any age as we gain another.

Proof (by Contradiction):

Assume the contrary, that is, that I lose one of my past ages when I have a birthday, in particular, that I lose 19 when I turn 20.

But 20 – 19 = 1. So if I lost 19, I would only be 1. This contradicts the fact that I am 20.

Therefore, by the Law of the Excluded Middle, the assumption is false and we do not lose any age as we gain another. Q.E.D.

Example #1: “I am 3 years old,” is a true statement. I am 3, and then some.

Example #2: David Copperfield is every bit as much David Copperfield when he appears as young David, adolescent David, and grown David. All exist between the covers of the book at the same time, and all are David Copperfield. That is how we are to God. (This example comes, I believe, from C. S. Lewis, and is perhaps only distantly related to my Theorem, but I think it helps demonstrate the truth.)]

After this, I brainstormed ideas of ways to keep our club going. We also proposed new members. I think it’s telling what factors made someone a good candidate. Here’s what I said about Carolyn:

Examples of her silliness include: shooting rubber bands over the partitions, playing with a punching ball, going to our SMAC Party, playing kamikaze waterguns, owning a silly calendar, keeping a Doo-da bird on her desk, playing with the electric door, and making silly predictions about the people who walk through the said door. These are merely a few trivial examples of her inherent silliness. I have known and watched her long and have become convinced that she is deeply and truly Silly, and would make a worthy member of our club.

Rereading these documents and recognizing that I am still twenty years old – I have set myself a high bar indeed.

Onward, to search for sparkles!

And today, reading through this file was a bright one.

Joy to you!