afterimage of alex trebek
alex, is it okay if I personify the buzzes of your buttons during jeopardy / into little honeybees? / I promise this fun fact will be fast / but alex, did you know that they recognize / our faces? cobbling our lips and nose to a whole / I swear that’s all I had to share / though I imagine they gather around you now, a whole hurricane / drinking you in, looping tooth and lash / what’s it called when you stare at a picture for so long / it imprints on your eyelids? / I know you know this illusion / I’ve seen it with that silhouette of jesus / forgive me / I’m not equating god and bees / I just don’t know the words / but I promise to learn / alex, what is grief / but an optical blur / not a question / but an answer
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has a net worth of 138.2 billion US dollars.
If you gave a newborn baby a million dollars every single day for the rest of its life, it would still be more than 111 billion dollars short of Jeff Bezos, since the average human lives to 72. But even if that baby broke the record age for the oldest person and lived to 122 years and 165 days (breaking Jeanne Calment's record by a day...), it would have a little more than 44 billion dollars, nearly 100 BILLION dollars short of Jeff Bezos.
I don't know why this shocked me so much.
Maybe because there are 2,208 billionaires in the world, their money combining to about 9.1 trillion dollars, and yet...
more than three billion people (almost half the world's population) are in poverty
821 million people suffer from chronic hunger
one person commits suicide every 40 seconds
1.6 billion people lack adequate housing
22,000 kids die every day because of poverty
1.2 million children drop out of high school in the United States alone each year
An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked each year
80% of the world population lives on less than ten dollars a day
2 million children die each year because of preventable diseases they can't afford to cure
They say that money can't solve your problems.
But for these people and so many more,
it could go a long way.
9.1 trillion dollars
maybe it can't solve every issue in the universe
but it could do a lot more than sitting and waiting for someone else to step up.
And yes, many of these billionaires are helping their communities
but how many aren't?
How many of us that are able to give a little
choose not to?
How many of us are waiting for someone to make the first step
before we do?
so we don't have to?
To the people that can:
Donating some money to charity
Giving clothes to those in need
Maybe it will only help one person
but that's one more person than before
one more person who will sleep better at night
one more person who will live to see tomorrow
That's all anyone can ask.
PE in a nutshell
When your school starts remote learning but they decided not to cut PE, so every Friday your teacher sends out a Just Dance workout and tells you to record yourself dancing to Ghost Busters, but since you value your pride more than your PE teacher’s requests (sorry...) you decide to pretend like you missed the part of her email where she said RECORD YOURSELF DANCING in bold, all-capital letters.
That’s me every Friday!
Hera Down The Street
Hera Down The Street is angry.
You hear her screaming into the street for the fifth time this week. Profanities and curses against his name - words like shame and bastard and a half-broken how could you. (The whispered aftermath is worse. Not again.)
(The I trusted you never comes. She is not naive. She knows what he has done. She knows he will do it again.)
You hold still at the window, not facing it, but close enough to hear. You listen for the sound of something brittle smashing against the pavement. Glass, ceramic. But nothing comes. You sigh, chest aching for Hera Down The Street. It seems, at least from the lack of destruction, that tonight is not as bad as it could be.
You wait at the window for another moment. But all is silent.
You close the blinds and try to get rid of the sound of Hera Down The Street’s unbridled rage ringing in your ears.
The poor children, you think. They do not suffer from echoes, but the voices themselves.
(You have never heard Hera Down The Street’s husband yell. You know - everybody knows - that he is unfaithful; a philanderer; a cheating man of the worst repute. You have seen him come home in his Jaguar, radio blaring something awful, lipstick smeared across his cheek and red wine staining his once-white dress shirt. He laughs when he sees her running out to accuse him, to scream at him; he embraces her, holds her close - you are sure that she can smell another woman’s perfume on his chest - whispers something close to her ear, and all the fight slips off her shoulders at once. She grows strong with rage, and now without it, she is slumped, tired, weary. Hera Down The Street does not wear lipstick, and you see her plain lips sigh before her husband closes the door behind them.)
Hera Down The Street wears white every day. When taking the children to school, when screaming at the street, when her friends come over for coffee and a chat, and they all sit outside on the lawn in her perfect white deck chairs, always one chair too many. Her friends joke that she is preparing for her second wedding; to run away to a nunnery; to fall off the peak of a tall clock tower and die a martyr, only to haunt the church bell when it chimes. But you’d never be a virgin ghost, they giggle, I mean, look at all your lovely little ones!
Hera Down The Street, with her hair all pinned and immaculate, smiles with her plain, soft mouth, and murmurs something you cannot hear - her friends are much louder than she is. But you hear her friends' polite laughter, unsure, cold, before conversation turns to something more trivial, as if they hadn’t just suggested Hera Down The Street throw herself off a building to get away from it all.
(Hera Down The Street stares into her perfect white teacup and notices that it has started to crack.)
Hera Down The Street keeps a garden in the front yard. You’ve read a book or two about the meanings of flowers, and you can’t help but notice that there isn’t a single bloom that doesn’t speak of fidelity.
Hera Down The Street starts gardening before dawn, to beat the morning sun. For the first time, you see her plain cheeks adorned with a smear of dirt, and her white dress is dusted with brown at the hem. She looks up, sees you watching her, and holds your gaze.
You duck your head and move away from the window. But you do not feel ashamed for looking.
(Later that day, when Hera Down The Street is hiding from the sun, you leave a pot of blue salvia on her doorstep. I’m thinking of you. You wonder if she will know what it means.)
(You do not see Hera Down The Street watching you from between the blinds as you walk back up the street. You do not see Hera Down The Street purse her lips and sigh. You do not see Hera Down The Street take the flowers inside and put them in her bedroom where her husband will not enter.)
One day, Hera Down The Street walks out of the house and knocks on your door.
“I need you to look after my children. Just for tonight,” she says. Hera Down The Street is utterly unapologetic, but you do not mind. You would do anything for her.
(“And my snake,” she adds, as an afterthought. She walks quickly back to the house to retrieve him. She tells you his name is Typhon. “He is quite harmless. Give him a blanket and he will sleep like the children.”)
Her seven children splay themselves around your house, and you give them your bed and the couch when night falls. You stand by the window, nursing a mug of hot tea, and watching for Hera Down The Street.
You expect to hear her screaming, but there is none. The silence is stifling, and you are worried.
You do not sleep.
The tea grows cold.
Hera Down The Street comes by the next morning.
You brace for bruises and lacerations, but there are none.
Hera Down The Street is smiling.
Hera Down The Street moves houses long before the divorce is finalised, and thus becomes Hera Next Door.
Hera Next Door wears red lipstick like warpaint. Hera Next Door wears leather jackets and a peacock feather in her hair. Hera Next Door owns two motorcycles. One with a sidecar, so that Eris or one of the other children can ride with her. Hera Next Door lets her hair hang free.
Hera Next Door doesn’t invite the wives of her ex-husband’s friends to entertain for coffee. She lets the perfect white deck chairs fade and stain, lichen gathering at the hinges. Hera Next Door comes over to your house once a week on Sundays to watch a movie with the kids. (No matter how bad the film, she endures it with a steel will. She smiles at her children more often now.)
Hera Next Door uproots her garden, sets it ablaze, and starts from scratch on her new land. She lets it grow wild, ugly, untamed. Every so often, she introduces a new plant to her jungle and nurtures it as if it were a child. (The flowers always blossom under her maternal care.)
Hera Next Door always smells like roses. Yellow roses are her favourite; she keeps them in a vase on the window and crushes them to powder indiscriminately; she loves every part of them, and some part of you thinks they grow because they love her too. She makes the perfume herself - and spritzes her homemade concoctions on her wrists and at the curve of her neck. When Angelos and Hebe ask to smell, she rubs it on their tiny wrists too. They inhale the scent until they’re dizzy with it.
Hera Next Door doesn’t wear white everyday. She still wears it when the mood suits her, but when she does, it is never a dress. She will not dress like a sacrifice again, for she is the one who wields the knife.
(You buy her a whetting stone for her birthday and she kisses you on the cheek. The smell of yellow roses lingers in the air. You are dizzy with it.)
Hera Next Door doesn’t kiss anyone without telling them that it isn’t going to result in anything past this. She’s had enough heartbreak to last a lifetime. She will be a mother, but never again a wife.
You help Hera Next Door plant carnations in the garden, and she kisses you behind the hedge, grinning.
It is your mother who sends you to the Lady’s shores.
Truth be told, you are uninterested in maids with skin so fair they would catch alight if for a moment in the sun – true sun, the sun that shines over the deserts you left behind for a chance to woo a woman you had never even met before.
You are uninterested in fair-skinned maidens, you tell your manservant, Kassim. He does not stop washing your back, but a quiet exhale on your neck tells you that he heard.
The boat rocks gently; the weeks on the ocean have brined your royal skin more than you care to admit. If anything, it pleases you. Your mother can no longer coat you in oils and parade you like a mannequin for your father’s concubines. Look what I have made, her eyes proclaim, as she presents you to the rivals she had so clearly bested. She sneers at young Khadija with her five daughters. Look what I have done.
Yes, your son is heir now, Sultani, you think to yourself. You always had turned your ears away when she spoke proudly of the poisons that killed your half-brothers. You have only sisters now. You try to treat them well, but your mother barely lets you see them. I will not have a whore enter your rooms with an incestuous agenda, she hisses. Now that their brothers are gone, they will try to seize the throne any way they can.
If you were to be honest with her (and you never have been) you would not mind if your sisters wanted to rule.
Kassim speaks. The Sultani only wishes for you to have a respectable wife, he says. Even if she is a strange foreigner. I am sure she thinks that you will be a much beloved ruler if you are courteous towards a woman as strange as she.
You laugh. He always says the most outlandish things – they border on heresy; a man with more pride and love for his mother might have snatched the insinuation that his mother was as strange as a foreigner and wielded it as deftly as a scimitar to have your manservant sent to his execution.
But you enjoy his company and his charm is not lost on you. He amuses you, so you keep him.
You have kept him for five years now.
You hope his family does not mind.
(You can hear your mother’s screeching voice clear in your mind: Why would you need to think of this slave’s family? They are blessed beyond their wildest dreams to have their son and brother as my son’s manservant! If anything, they should beg you to keep him! We all know where his wages are going, a filial boy like him…)
You will keep him a little bit longer.
You hope his family does not mind.
I have heard she is a very rich woman, Kassim says.
I have no need of riches, you say.
I never said you did, he says.
You smile despite yourself. Kassim, you say, if the Lady will not wed me, would you present yourself to her? I may not need the money but I’m not sure the same can be said for you.
His exhale is deeper this time; it near dries the skin as he works the muscles on your right shoulder blade. You grunt involuntarily; the tension has been building without your realising it.
This ship is lavish, but it is small. Not nearly enough space to practice the swordsmanship your father has enforced upon you since you were a boy. Especially not with the dozen soldiers he sent with you.
I would not wed the Lady, your manservant says.
Oh why not, you tease. I have heard her to be quite a beauty, despite her pallid tone.
I have my doubts about whether the Lady should want to wed a man of my station, he says, pushing harder into your flesh, kneading the angle where shoulder and neck meet. And even if she is a maid of strange taste, he says, I doubt a married woman would approve of her husband sailing away again to continue to pay due diligence to his master.
You would be released from me if you wed her, you know, you say. I would not keep you sewn to my shadow if you had a wife, especially not one as powerful as the Lady.
I know, Kassim says, but elaborates no further.
You arrive on the shores of Belmont, a name that tastes strange on your tongue as sand on a viper’s.
You wish for the soldiers to remain upon the decks, but on your father’s orders, they nip at your heels. He has told them that the Lady is a rich woman indeed, rich enough to buy out an entire legion of mercenaries to dispatch any unwanted suitors.
You shake your head. You cannot tell if he is a fool, a tyrant, or simply means well.
Perhaps it is because you cannot order your soldiers to leave you be, but Kassim stays on the ship. He gives you a wry smile as you grasp his hands in yours, I will not keep you sewn to my shadow when you are in search of a wife. Fear not, the Lady will not have me.
A handmaiden greets you at the docks and leads you to the Lady’s halls. It would take a blind man not to realise how she trembles at your blackness when she herself is so pale. Nigh darker than parchment.
You step foot onto marble and the handmaiden makes herself scarce with but a hasty bow. She scurries off; your soldiers watch her warily. You sigh. Had you left without such a fanfare, had you left under the cover of night, perhaps then you would have evaded your father’s overbearing contingency plan.
But they are here, so you must do what you can to not seem like a boy-prince being escorted by the Sultan’s troops and not his own. You fasten a mask of courage and chivalry over your features and stride towards the open chamber the terrified girl had pointed you to.
The Lady is waiting for you when you arrive. You kiss her hand, as is customary in these foreign countries, and she bids you welcome with a voice like wine and a smile like ivory.
You wonder how many beast-like men she has had to slaughter to earn such white teeth.
She introduces herself as Portia, the Lady of Belmont after her late father.
You do not want to say her name. You call her Lady.
You think to your brothers, how they were before their murders. Ahmed always had a way with words; you imitate him today.
This is who you are: you are a shell for the lost princes to fill. You are only lucky that your memories of your brothers do not waver.
You call her a goddess, speak of heaven and other white things. She is not a woman, but a jewel. It is easier this way. Not a woman, not a woman. An angel perhaps. You are a god-fearing son; you would not refuse the whims of something so divine.
You speak a single word of victory, not meaning anything by it, but you hear the whisper of steel and quickly draw your sword as if toasting a triumph, as if it were your idea all along, and not your troops bolstering your words with their weapons.
There are gasps, the woman in the green dress standing by the Lady moves in front of her as if preparing to shield her from some fatal attack. You cringe inwardly. You wish nothing more than to apologise, but your façade will not allow it. You must persevere.
You stow your sword and your shame must have bled through, for once she sees that you are no longer threatening her ward, the Lady’s aide glares with the hatred of a thousand suns. The expression quickly falls away though; she too is one tasked with hiding her emotions.
You try not to look at her so that she can hate you and you will not see.
It is obvious to you that she loves her. If she did not, she would not glare at you so.
But if you were to give up asking for her Lady’s hand just because of something you thought you saw, well. You can hear your mother’s ridicule already. You must see this to its completion, whether you sail back to Morocco with or without a bride. (You silently hope the latter.)
You already know the terms. This is more a wager of sorts than a true proposal. Choose a casket, one of three. If you are correct, you win her hand. If not, you shall never speak of it again. If not, you shall never marry.
Your mother will not be pleased if you come home empty-handed. She thinks you intelligent, far wiser than your brothers.
(But you do not want a wife. Perhaps this is a wager you wish to lose.)
Your eyes skim over the three caskets. Gold, silver, lead.
You will not touch the lead, no, not on your life. Your father’s team of alchemists have discovered that consuming lead is death. It is outlawed to sell lead in your country now. But you are not foolish enough to think that just because it is outlawed that it does not happen.
You think upon the silver, but no. If your mother and father were here, you know what they’d want you to choose.
But what would you choose?
You are silent as you ponder.
Those around you must think you are lost in thought, trying to identify the casket which holds the Lady’s portrait, the Lady’s hand.
What would you choose?
You realise it does not matter. It is not a sudden realisation, nor a slow one. It is one that was already there. Your mother sent you here, your father armed you with soldiers you did not want or need. This wife is not for you, it is for your country. This decision has never been yours.
You say a few more empty words and open the golden casket.
You almost weep from relief when you see that it is empty.
The woman in the green dress purses her lips, triumph dancing in her eyes.
The Lady’s face is blank; it is clear she never expected anything from this encounter.
You bow and take your leave.
Kassim is waiting at the docks. You grasp his hands in yours and tell him the Lady would not have you either. His face is stoic; you wish he would smile.
You are free a little while longer.
You sit on the bed in your cabin and undress from your fineries. Now that there is no longer any reason to bear their magnificence, they weigh on you, heavy and dulled. You remove your turban and Kassim takes off your boots, bringing you sandals to wear instead. They are all you will need; the decks have been sanded by your father’s finest carpenters. You do not fear a flesh wound.
Was she beautiful, Kassim asks you quietly.
As they all say, you reply quickly, wrestling with a sleeve of your outer garment.
Hold still, he says, and you oblige. He pulls and tugs and it slides off with barely an issue.
You have the hands of a weaver, Kassim, you say, smiling. What would I do without you.
He finally smiles too. Kassim’s smile is like his speech – soft, quiet, but ever rewarding when you do see it. You’d be crying out for help at the bottom of a well.
You lie back on the cushions and bask in his smile. If it takes me falling down a well again to make you smile, I’ll do it. Allah knows I have the time. At least until the Sultani tries to find me another wife.
His smile falters, but you do not notice as you close your eyes.
Do you ever wish you had a wife, Kassim?
You do not wait for an answer.
I don’t. I don’t want to marry, I don’t want to have children, and I never want to be Sultan. I don’t want a wife, I don’t want concubines, I don’t want to be dressed up and ride on elephants for crowds and pretend that our country isn’t one war away from falling.
You open your eyes and stare at the ceiling.
I heard that Khadija is pregnant, you say. Khadija is one of your father’s concubines. I hope it’s a boy, you say. If it’s a boy, then I’m allowed to be a failure and he can rule when he’s old enough instead. But if he’s a boy, you sigh, I have to protect him from my mother.
Kassim speaks as if he were merely dictating a script, The Sultani only wants what’s best for you-
You interrupt him. Did I ever tell you how my brothers died?
The servants say it was illness, he says, tone bland and even. Your gaze shifts from the ceiling to stare at him. He continues, A weakness of the heart. He shrugs. Assassins.
You lie on your side to see him more easily. I trust you, Kassim.
He is silent, but conflict shows on his face.
I trust you, and this is why I will tell you this. My mother killed my brothers. She was not a warrior; she used poison and they fell one by one. All so I could be heir. Not once did she ask me if that was what I wanted. It was what I had to want, since she was barren after me. It was what I had to want, since she’s no longer as beautiful as she once was. My father will not look at her now. She needs me to become Sultan for her to become Queen Mother. For all we call her Sultani, she is not. But she wants to be, desperately wants to, enough to commit murder.
You do not mean to weep.
I loved my brothers, Kassim. And now they’re gone because of me. If I decide to support the rule of one of my siblings, if I stand down, will their sacrifices have been for nothing? Will my mother die cursing my name? Will our country crumble because I could have been a good Sultan but I just didn’t want to? What if-
You are shocked into silence.
Kassim has never raised his voice to you.
Kassim has never called you by your name before.
Lie on your back, he tells you, and you oblige. You feel the mattress sink a little deeper as he lies down next to you.
For a moment, the two of you stare at the ceiling, silent.
No, Kassim says, and at first you are confused. I do not want a wife.
I do not think less of you now that I know how the other princes died. You are not your mother; you do not control her hand.
You feel the back of his hand against yours and the skin tingles slightly.
I am glad that you trust me. If I felt that you did not, I probably would have left you a long time ago. He is silent for a moment. He exhales. I trust you, Amir. Are you sure you trust me completely?
You do not hesitate. Of course.
I need to hear you say it.
I trust you completely.
He sighs again, deep and true, almost grieving. You hear the hitch in his chest and realise: he is afraid.
I trust you, Amir. And it’s because I trust you that I’m telling you this.
You muster up the courage to take his hand in yours and you grip it tightly. I trust you, Kassim, you repeat. There is nothing you can say that will make me think any less of you.
I do not want a wife, Amir. But your sister, your sister Salma, five years ago, before we met, when I was still a slave, your sister Salma…
He trails off, expression contorted. You squeeze his hand and he exhales.
When I was still a slave, your sister called me to her rooms and demanded I sleep with her.
Oh. So this was what he was worried about, you think.
You turn on your side to face him and he is crying.
You have never seen him cry before.
You have seen him angry, you have seen him happy, but you have never seen him sad enough to warrant tears.
Kassim, you say, and he turns his head.
I already knew.
You say it softly so as not to belittle his honesty.
When I asked my father to assign you to be my manservant, Salma pulled me aside and told me that she’d slept with you. She must have thought it would be an incentive to leave you alone, but I know how pushy my sister can be. She could move the world to please her if she wanted it hard enough. You chuckle a little. I do not blame you, not in the slightest.
He’s gripping your hand tighter; he shakes slightly, and his eyes are closed; he’s weeping in earnest now.
I’m not saying that what Salma did is excusable, but I do not blame you, you repeat. I do not blame you for what she did.
He nods, still teary. You try to wipe away the wet from his face, but with no cloth, you just end up smearing it. Kassim laughs a little at your futile efforts, but wipes his own eyes on his sleeve.
You stare at him, still lying on your side.
You’ve never been this close to him before.
Your foreheads are almost touching.
He finishes wiping his face and meets your gaze, unwavering.
What? he says.
You’re still holding his hand. He squeezes slightly as if to remind you of his question.
You say it, barely a murmur whispered past your lips.
I can’t hear you, he says, face still flushed and eyes tinged red.
Can I kiss you? you ask again.
And he’s breathless again.
And a moment later, so are you.
I didn’t write you many poems
and for that I’m sorry.
When we were together,
my muse was the city:
the subway sparkle,
how the buses skidded
to sudden halts.
You couldn’t compare to the rain,
and you never tried. You knew.
You let me scribble on about traffic,
how it never stopped,
even though you wished
I was sonneting your glasses.
It was never your fault.
I can’t write love poems
like I used to.
The magic abandoned my body.
It’s still love, just with great caution,
like how you mixed honey with tea.
But I will say this:
I loved your nose the most,
even if I’m writing too late.
[ ], you’ve taught me it’s possible
to miss what I never had.
You showed me how to cry
and keel over, dog-like
as I begged for a fortieth chance.
I remember howling. Cornfields. Pleats.
Our dance between chaos and Christmas
lights. When it’s January,
I think of phones
and hotel rooms and me,
lying on a bed, all alone,
[ ], ghosts bleed
more than you do
but maybe you feel now.
What scares me still
is the sea glass
I would have crunched
between my teeth
if I knew you admired the sound.
[ ], I know you
would never buy me roses.
You gave me headaches.
You made me hate sunsets.
We were both terrible people.
The Bible and LGBTQ+
I support the LGBTQ+ community. I am today a secularly-minded individual, but I have contemplated biblical arguments opposing the morality of homosexuality for many years, and I find such arguments theologically unsound. I have written this post to lay out my reasoning for the consideration of anyone in the Prose community who would like to read it.
Christians opposing homosexuality commonly cite Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (Here and elsewhere, I’m citing the KJV). Such citation places Leviticus in a position of authority. But from a contemporary perspective, Leviticus is… problematic. Leviticus also prohibits the eating of shrimp, scallops, and clams (11:10: “And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you”). Leviticus also explains that menstruation makes a woman unclean and that anyone who touches her for the seven days around menstruation is also unclean, so women should be kept separated (15:19 “And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.” Some modern translations ditch the unseemly “put apart” bit, suggesting as it does the blood huts of “primitive” cultures, but the Latin “separabitur” is pretty unambiguous.) Women should also sacrifice two pigeons or two turtledoves (but not a partridge in a pear tree) to purify themselves following the end of the seven days (Leviticus 29:30). Needless to say, Christians today ignore these strictures; the explanation I’ve heard is that all these rules are specific to the social codes of the day and need not be followed in light of the New Testament, which is fair enough as it goes. But why, then, is Leviticus seen as an authority when it comes to homosexuality, but not on other subjects? To disavow parts of Leviticus while investing others with the authority of God smacks of cherry-picking. And if the goal of that cherry-picking is to delegitimize a marginalized group, that hardly seems to follow Christ’s teaching that the greatest commandment is “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
People sometimes also cite the destruction of Sodom as an object lesson in the wickedness of homosexuality, but an actual biblical reading does not support that despite the tradition of the term “sodomy.” The actual crime in Sodom was rape and violation of a guest, as indicated in Genesis 19:4-5 (“But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: “And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.”) There’s plenty of sin going on there without bringing homosexuality into account, and there’s no reason to assume homosexuality was the actual crime of Sodom. Additionally, in verse 8, the righteous man Lot whom God spares from destruction tries to sate the mob of rapists by suggesting they rape his virgin daughters instead (kind of like Neville Chamberlain and Hitler, but with female offspring rather than the Sudetenland), so this portion of the Bible might not be a moral polestar to help you sail your ethics boat.
The other clear references to homosexuality are from Paul in the New Testament, who clearly condemns it (1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind”) But again, Paul holds some positions that are widely ignored today. 1 Corinthians 11:4-6 also discusses the proper haircuts and head coverings for women: “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” I’m tempted to just say, “Huh?” but let’s assume that Paul is a divinely inspired author who speaks the word of God. There should be an awful lot more hats and veils in churches. Yet head coverings are a quibble compared to 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” There are definitely Christians who practice this submission: one of my cousins swore during her wedding (while wearing a veil) to “love, honor, and obey” her husband. But there are plenty of others who would balk at submission and yet happily quote Paul to denigrate homosexuals and deny them rights. I disagree with my cousin’s worldview, but she’s walking the Pauline walk, and if she wants to talk the Pauline talk and oppose homosexuality, she’s at least being consistent instead of cherry-picking, which is what a majority of Christians do who cite Paul as moral arbiter in one spot and then blithely ignore what else he says.
Some Christians might disregard all such inconsistencies and say they simply defer to respected religious figures (i.e. the “it’s what my pastor said” defense). However, anyone seeking to outsource their moral thinking to a religious authority has a major theological problem named Jesus. The fact is, Jesus was an iconoclast. We’re talking about someone who strode up the steps of the temple, saw vendors and moneychangers operating by permission of religious authorities, and immediately threw their tables upside-down and started yelling. Everybody talks about the importance of being “a Good Samaritan” and helping those in need, but that’s only half the point of Jesus’s parable (Luke 10:30-37). After that man got beaten up by thieves and left for dead, a priest and a Levite passed by and did nothing before that Samaritan helped him. Samaritans were a hated people whom the Jews listening to Jesus scorned (see https://www.franciscanmedia.org/the-rift-between-jews-and-samaritans/). Meanwhile, the religious leader and the fellow Jew let the man lay there, and they were wrong. Religious leaders are not always to be trusted for perfect thought and action, Jesus is showing; they will not always do the right thing. (There’s also been the suggestion that the priest and Levite let the man lay there because touching a corpse would have made them ritually unclean and they thought the beaten man dead; if so, the story is an even clearer condemnation of putting religious law over love and kindness.) The Pharisees were viewed as the most expert interpreters of Jewish law, and they lined up hardcore against Jesus in several places in the New Testament, to the point where as a child, I thought “Pharisee” meant “a backstabbing jerk” and was shocked to learn it actually meant “a religious authority.”
Jesus did not come to enforce the law; he came to shake it up. He shook up the status quo so effectively that the secular and religious leaders of the day successfully engineered his execution in a bid to hold onto power (see John 19:6 and Matthew 27:1). And he still won! It was his followers who carried the day and a religion based on his teachings that dominated the world. Christ’s followers proceeded to set up churches everywhere. In 325 AD, the First Council of Nicaea drafted the Nicaean Creed and ruled that groups following other creeds (notably that promulgated by Arius) were enemies of Christianity; in 382 AD, Christian leaders met in the Council of Rome to establish which books belonged to the canonical Bible and which did not. Church leaders proceeded to spend the next several centuries persecuting and sometimes torturing and executing people whose views of Christ diverged from their own. So to be clear, the sequence goes something like this:
A) Jesus opposes religious dogma and leaders of the time.
B) Said religious leaders have Jesus executed.
C) Jesus’s followers establish new religious leaders and laws.
D) Jesus’s followers(?) enforce religious dogma and execute people in the name of
I have searched my vocabulary for a suitable phrase to summarize this turn of events, and I believe the most suitable I can find is, “What in the actual f***?” It’s the greatest irony I can identify in all of history: people unquestioningly following religious leaders and laws, regularly resorting to violence, in worship of someone who was killed for questioning religious leaders and laws.
To summarize, 1) the biblical case against homosexuality is based on Leviticus and Paul, but a majority of people who cite the Bible as a reason for opposing homosexuality shrug off other, problematic promulgations by Leviticus and Paul, as evidence by consumption of shrimp, a lack of blood huts, and a lack of head coverings, and 2) simply overruling such inconsistencies and opposing homosexuality because that’s what a religious leader does directly contravenes both parable of the Good Samaritan and the life of Christ, who, let us not forget, preached “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
The biblical case against transgenderism is also weak, and often hinges on the creation story (Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; nmale and female created he them.”) We’ve touched on the problematic morality of Genesis before (see above discussion of righteous Lot offering his daughters for gang rape), but let’s consider this passage anyway. God created male and female; where does it say he couldn’t create something else? It seems presumptuous to place the powers of the Almighty in a box because our categories are easier that way. The Bible is notably silent on the reality of intersex individuals born with both male and female anatomical structures. Are they not also created in God’s own image? Trying to infer an entire system of beliefs about transgenderism from the words “male and female created he them” is an incredible stretch, even by the standards of biblical exegesis.
But let’s consider also what it means to support transgender persons. Broadly and reductively speaking, we’re really looking at questions about treatment and legal rights. Numerous transgender individuals who seek medical treatment receive testosterone or estrogen, and most report almost immediate psychological and emotional benefits. (I base this assertion both on research and on the experience of a close friend who transitioned a few years ago). Are we to oppose the provision of a chemical that helps someone achieve a happier, healthier emotional and psychological balance because “that’s how God made them”? If so, we need to stop insurance companies from covering antidepressants and antipsychotics, because that’s how God made those people, too. In the legal realm, someone who opposes transsexuality may seek to prevent them from changing their gender on birth certificates or drivers’ licenses, and might oppose their marriage licenses. The New Testament makes crystal clear, though, that a Christian should “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). If your church refuses to change a trans person’s baptismal certificate to reflect a new gender, that’s your church’s business. But your church has no place seeking to influence government documents.
I would like to be as clear as possible that nothing in this post is intended to denigrate the Bible. My belief Leviticus and Paul should not be used to adjudicate all moral questions does not mean that the Bible lacks value. I have a good friend who earned his Doctorate of Theology at seminary and spent seven-ish years in ministry before changing careers. (He recently discovered me on Prose and is probably going to read this at some point – hello, good sir.) I once asked him about his view of the Bible, and his response became mine. “It’s a collection of writings by people seeking to understand God and do their absolute best to explain God in writing. I think it’s beautiful.” It makes me sad when people cherry-pick passages from this beautiful thing to worsen the lives of LGBTQ+ people I love.