Beyond the dispensers of compact certainties, we can quietly and soberly affirm that it’s not an easy task to know the reality we live in. And religious and theological mediation unfortunately doesn’t always help. It often makes things even worse. Sometimes reality seems too distant, beyond the reach of our conceptual categories. Sometimes it seems too near, even erasing the necessary distance and perspective for a correct understanding. It’s not easy, on an individual level, to perceive the contours and specificities of who we really are as persons. It’s similarly difficult, on a social level, to understand for instance what Adventism is – religiously and culturally – in our contemporary world-scenario. And on an even larger scale, it’s daunting to try and decode our humanity to know how we should live as humans among non-human species that we have previously ignored, stigmatized, exploited and murdered.
Linn has some interesting points of view and it is good for people to hear what she has to say.
I’m curious about the title of this article, though. A “contribution” implies intention: that of the giver and that of the receiver. Has Linn intended her ideas to be a contribution to Adventism? Has Adventism intended to receive this contribution from Linn? In what ways has her contribution been received by Adventism? If Adventism has indeed received her contribution, the church has a funny way of showing it!
Linn’s departure from Adventism, I believe, was due to the fact that she believed she could not contribute to Adventism in any way that would be meaningful for her.
As much as I’d like to applaud the complex and nuanced approach to this subject, the logic of post-modernism that structures it ends up collapsing on itself, and that’s the inherent problem with reading Korzybski’s “map is not territory” through Foucault-colored glasses. It may help deconstructing claims, but there’s no means to reconstruct anything meaningful after that, since same criticism would apply to any subsequent construct that we make. And that results in circling back into existentialist “absurd”, which still leads us to some viable axioms that we have to adopt to move forward.
And that’s my generic criticism with philosophy driven by activism, as it attempt to structure some “philosophical math” to solve the equation that spells out “Queer = Normal”, when there’s no need to do that at all, since Korzibski proposed a much more intuitive solution. I’ll briefly address the problems with twisting the arm of these philosophical concepts to say that something that they can’t say without introducing self-defeating logic. I’ll split in two posts. First I’ll address proper view of Korzibski, and the second will address the problems with post-modernist approach to Queer that Tonstad spells out.
Problem #1 - Map isn’t territory, but Territory is a map
The author actually does what Korzybski would not approve of - using his ideas to obfuscate the problem he was attempting to resolve. Korzybski researched semantics, and he was addressing linguistic categories, and not Kantian problem for Subject-Object relationships in reality. His main premise spelled out the uniqueness of certain conceptual categories that presented problems when we used language to signify conceptual equality by means of “to be” verb.
The entire premise and practice of General Semantics was to eliminate inappropriate and unjustified use of “to be” verb. That’s the proper context for “Map is not territory”. Because,we use “to be” as a mathematical equivalent of “=”, and we can’t justifiably use that in linking some totality of one concept to some totality of other. It leads to confusing and conflicting language, that actually results in semantic problems we have today. If you really think about the implications of this, I think you may agree.
A practical example of General Semantics - “Bob is not Republican. Bob believes that some Republican ideas are more appropriate for governing a state”, “Jerry is not a homosexual. Jerry is attracted to same-sex.”, “Rhonda is not black. Rhonda has a darker pigmentation of skin”. “Howard is not a sinner, or a liar. Howard lied and and sinned in the past, but that’s not the only thing that Howard did, so Howard IS NOT those concepts”.
Korzybski was attempting to structure linguistic boundaries for communication that maintain proper conceptual relationships in our minds. If Korzybski succeeded, and hopefully he will some day, we’d have a much better linguistic frameworks for maintaining peaceful and respectful societies. Unfortunately, his main premise is swapped for claim of “life is not A, life is B”…
From broader philosophical POV, we can’t really lay claims of certainty of what some reality IS. We can go with Berklean assumption, and think that reality is merely a conceptual and direct communication between “my mind”, “your mind”, and “the mediating mind of God” that organizes and channels our experience in a way that manifests as reality. (Berklean Idealism)
Kant would disagree, and say that there’s some independent reality that we interact with, and all of the objects are really there, although we can’t really know the true nature of what these are like. (Kantian Realism)
In either case… the problem with Hanz’s claims is that the difference between “map of a fundamentalist” and the “map of Hanz’s real reality”… is in Han’z conceptual picture as it relates to claims of that reality. There’s no way around it. We must appeal to some clear and coherent structure that we can share, before we can make a claim about “better” or “more accurate” position in philosophical framework. And that the case when we communicate our maps of reality using chunks of semantic meaning we call words.
I’m not sure if he knowingly references Korzybski, or merely lifts that perspective from Tonstad’s application, but there’s a problem with how his ideas are applied in both cases.
It’s a misleading application of category as it relates to human sexuality by broadening this category to mean “different from other”. And that’s where the fraud of post-modernism peaks through, since it implies that there are no semantic constraints to these concepts. We can just apply these to anything we want, so these are therefore meaningless as distinct labels.
The problem is that there are constraints, and the constraints are relevant to the very framework that we use to derive scientific assumptions about regularity of natural phenomenon that we constrain specific concepts to. An apple is a category that’s constrained to specific attributes in our shared experience, in which we allow for some overlap of parameters that are “close-enough” to justify conceptual equivalent.
We don’t say that Apple A = Apple B. There’s obvious “asymmetry”. What we say is that what we would identify as a broader category of “apple” has a broader range of optional attributes with some minimal requirements for it to be considered an Apple. All of the categories are “calculus approximations” that provide range of parameters like Shape + Color + Composition + Taste + Context, and there’s a constrained variety in that range that’s limited.
What we would consider as “queer” in that analogy would be something that’s very indefinite… Something “in between”. Something that has a range of overlapping parameters that would describe it as “apple”, but also a range of parameters that would describe it as a “pear”, depending on which ones we decide to exclude or focus on.
Saying that everything is “queer” in context of it’s semantics as it relates to human sexuality is like saying that all fruits are apples, and even broader… everything has SOME apple-like qualities. It may be true, but it’s an obvious attempt to obfuscate the issue via post-modern approach to semantics.
I’m not sure that Linn Marie is thinking through this as she broadens this category to all of the wonderful “sexual anything and everything”, as opposed to limiting it to certain specifics that warrant the category of their own to differentiate queer from pedophilia, which historically was thrown in the same category.
Likewise… the best expression of true life? What does that mean? What makes it best? It seems an odd statement that attempts to poetically obfuscate the issue as opposed to discussing the true reality and challenges that relate to being minority of any kind, especially when it comes to non-standard sexual preferences.
Forgive the crude example. I’m not comparing my suggested behavior to “queer”, but it would be absurd to conclude that someone drinking bull semen for breakfast is the best expression of true life as it relates to our dietary preferences. Most of the people, queer or not, would squirm in disgust if I whipped out a bottle of that and gobble it up in front of them. Some may gag and, and even throw up.
What would that mean? It’s a difficult question to ponder. Would that be an ok thing if there’s certain plurality with politicized normalization of such behavior by pushing it as certain accepted cultural norm? I’m not sure. Do we approach this from position of pluralism? How do we differentiate these norms? If it becomes social norm, does it mean that looking at something with disgust constitutes “hateful attitude”?
I think those are the things we should explore, and we don’t, because post-modern approach to removing structural boundaries potentially results in flood gates of issues that are not coherent or consistent.
There are a couple of issues, even if we reject a typical Adventist teleology for the sake of evolutionary development. The broader point of Christian narrative is that our past doesn’t have to define our future. It allows for transcendent approach to “is-ought” necessity of our body.
Our entire moral system is driven by channeling something that’s broader abstract into a much more narrow and specialized rejection of who we are for the sake of some “greater good”, and that’s the very essence of Christian theology that’s outlined in Christ-avatar narrative.
God, which is a much more possible and powerful, limits and constrains itself to a specific behavioral characteristics, and that serves as sacrifice for all, for the benefit of all. For example, it may be unnatural for me as a biological organism to want to share food. It’s a layered cultural program that structures both pressure and limitations on self, until it factors in my internal dopamine reward cycle that overrides certain limbic tendencies to do otherwise.
Can people sacrifice their inherent biological differences for the sake of all? I don’t know. In the ideal world it may be the case, in which two diverse sex and gender parents follow the teleological orientation of our human development. If we reject that as normative via some broader post-modern philosophical brush that deconstructs that preset as unnecessary, then we are heading into a wide range of scenarios in which children could be incubated, and educated by robots, or a structured future of “human incubation” factories that remove gender and sex roles relevant to child rearing, and instead specialize in something else without the need to be slowed down by family matters.
In fact, the context of sex that runs our societal motivation structure could be circumvented all together.
I have made a sincere effort over the years to understand queer biology. I can read complex papers and make sense of them, and have even summarized what I have learned in writing. Theology is a bit more foreign to me, but when I read a theological treatment, I expect to see Biblical passages and historical contexts useful for interpretation. Honestly, this review gives me no idea, really, what Tonstad’s book is about. I believe I’m seeing a lot of big words that describe philosophical musings, but where’s the theology? What is Tonstad’s theology on queerness? I don’t mean to be overly critical. Maybe I’m a simpleton.
ball worship is based on elevating sexuality to the status of god
what fellowship is there between God and the god of this world that exalts itself above God?
The downward slope of a bridge from God to the gay lifestyle, would be a slippery slope.
Present God’s truth in love and let the sword cut as it will.
As life would have it, I have just finished reading this book, and I have been trying to process it on my own from my context in Birmingham, AL. I was pleased to note that Gutierrez has chosen to grapple with it on Spectrum this week.
My takeaways were in a different vein that what has been pursued here. First, humbly, I surmise that Tonstad says Queer theology teaches that we spend too much time on gender. That can be the gender of God or the gender of one another. Instead, each person is valuable, in one’s own context. Period. In addition, theology is only useful when it addresses a person in a context. The power of the study of God (theology) will be limited when one only views it to be a description of God in God’s own realm, and it is stunted when one does not pursue the trajectory of the arc to see how it must inevitably affect a person and society.
The second memorable concept for me is this: Purity culture is a way to preserve the patriarchy. Tonstad described the underlying reason why men want to make sure their wives are virgins, and that is so that any wealth he has accumulated will pass to a blood heir and not to some other man’s child. In my view, Tonstad gives a compelling picture of the merging of capitalism with the commitment to purity culture.
If anyone is interested to Actually Listening to “Queer Theology”
in practice I would invite you to read
“Pastrix”,by Nadia Bolz-Weber.
She is the pastor who writes about “The Cranky, Beautiful Faith
of a Sinner and Saint.”
She is the founding pastor for All Sinners and Saints, and ELCA
mission church, in Denver, Colorado.
She can be found at “sarcasticlutheran.com.”
Her church invites ALL to participate.
It is one of the best stories of the development of a church where
ALL are invited. All are equal before God in their worship of Him.
This is curious, because whether the author realizes it or not, this concept invokes biology.
Males–whether human or other animal species–are often capable of recognizing their offspring (kin recognition) and preferentially invest in their own genes. Numerous animal groups–including some human populations–practice infanticide, which early on was believed to be aberrant behavior, but ample research demonstrates its adaptive value. When a new male lion, for example, takes over a pride, the first thing he often does is kill all the cubs, which means he will not be investing his time and energy in the genes of other males, and the females will soon go into heat so he can impregnate them and begin investing in his own gene-bearing offspring.
Humans, especially males, are prone to the very same behaviors. There’s a ton of research showing how adopted children, for example, are at enormously greater risks of mistreatment, molestation, and murder compared to one’s own biological offspring. Bridewealth and inheritance practices in varying human cultures similarly show deference to genetic similarity.
In sum, animals and humans are subject to the very same sociobiological influences that shape their genetic heritage. I’m still not grasping the theology in this, though any concept of God judging us without taking into account our genetic heritage and experience seems preposterous to me; is this the position of the author?
"If we reject that as normative via some broader post-modern philosophical brush that deconstructs that preset as unnecessary, then we are heading into a wide range of scenarios in which children could be incubated, and educated by robots, or a structured future of “human incubation” factories that remove gender and sex roles relevant to child rearing, and instead specialize in something else without the need to be slowed down by family matters."
Your last paragraph is interesting to me. There was only a very small window of time in Medieval European culture when lineage was traced through the mother because it could be proven who the mother was despite the DNA of the father.
For decades, genetic relatedness was explored mainly or entirely via mitochondrial DNA genes because the variation (caused by mutations) was believed to be neutral (i.e., unaffected by natural selection). Because mtDNA is inherited maternally (sperm lack it), the reconstructed lineages are strictly maternal (with rare exceptions, as fathers can sometimes pass on their mtDNA by an unknown mechanism). Eventually, nuclear DNA genes (inherited from both parents) became increasingly incorporated along with mtDNA into gene trees, and now geneticists are doing whole genome sequencing.
I appreciate your engagement on this. Tonstad’s, Queer Theology, very much stretched my thinking, and I do not feel I have enough grasp of the material to answer your final question.
I offer my thoughts with great humility. I might restate my final paragraph to include these thoughts. Is the purpose of society, simply to pass along wealth to one’s heir? What about the centuries when land was not privately owned? When individualism gained the power for one to amass wealth (typically by a male), then societal stability was vested in keeping women in the place as pure vessels in which one can nurture an heir to acquire the inherited wealth. Queer theology, by its nature, is not focused on gender binaries. So, in this way, it disrupts the patriarchy or status quo. Instead of empowering hierarchical status, Queer theology allows for the idea that context, experience, and one’s personhood will impact how one views God.
Here is another good book if anyone wants an Historical View.
“Plato or Paul?-the origins of Western homophobia”, by
Theodore W. Jennings, jr, Pilgrim Press, 2009.
At the time he was academic dean and professor of biblical
and constructive theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary.
He begins with Plato and Greece.
then a Hellenistic Discourse
then The Case of Paul
finally Christian Homophobia.
It is well researched.
I may have happened in suggested sci-fi narratives like “Brave New World” . But implementation of these narratives may take the time suggested by the novel, if ever. Much of our ethical consideration still revolves around the monogamous family preset.
Tonstad seems to recast the “patriarchy” as the driving mechanism for our family unit expectations today, but it was much more “queer” than she’s willing to admit.
First, arguably, women evolved in polyamorous tribal context, in which multiple orgasms and more “noisy” sexual behavior would attract more surrounding males. Likewise, it descourages infanticide and, and allowed for communal aloparanting in a tribal context which was much more egalitarian. Individuals are more invested into the community in such setting. It’s more conducive for structuring larger tribes that can thrive around certain specialization. In short, it would be everything that traditional Christianity today would look upon as the horror of horrors.
But, such presets would be disrupted by three letters, which likely contributed to the monogamous strategy and re-enforcing religious narratives - STI. Polyamorous tribes would be more prone to spread STIs, which would decrease fertility, and could contribute to certain necessary transition to having “pure” couples or limited polygyny or polyandry. And such structures were re-enforces by the restrictions on sexual activity with punishments that we see as fairly harsh today, but could spell out life or death of the tribe in the past.
Likewise, the dynamics of life wasn’t as stable as societies progressed from hunter-gatherer into agriculture. It alleviated some issues, but it contributed to other. For example, a farming community or clan could be raided, and would face starvation. So, there’s more progressive structuring around militaristic evolution, which selects for strong males as societal leaders… which is interpreted as “patriarchy”. In reality, the world of male was a protection layer for the world of female. And female had its own hierarchy and competitive specialization, in which “fit” males would be paired up with “fit” females.
And in that world, someone that was Q, wouldn’t fit in that competitive structure, especially since male-male rape was performed as ritualistic humiliation by victors and dominant.
So, it was a much more complicated world, than the one Tonstad sees through the ideological paradigms of today’s feminist extreme that no longer discuss equality in but something entirely different, especially in context of L-driven feminism that tends to settle in that extreme in academia. Much of the moderate feminism tries to distance themselves from that brand.
I do believe that the “average” family unit will be the historic one…but I believe that there will be/is a growing trend towards “alternative” family units that will become more and more socially acceptable in time. One of the factors that I can see is with the waning of religious mores in Post Modern societies. The second trend is towards acceptance/tolerance towards LGBTQ+ families.