‘Oh my God, do we have to talk about Romans again?’
By Neil Ellis Orts
Full disclosure: I’ve known Candace Chellew-Hodge, author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, for about 10 years online. I’ve written for Whosoever, the online GLBT Christian webzine she founded and edits (www.whosoever.org), and I’ve participated in her listserv community, but I’ve never met her in person. I’ll finally get my chance when she presents her Bulletproof Faith workshop at Grace Lutheran Church (2515 Waugh Drive) on Saturday, November 8, 2–5:30 p.m., co-sponsored by the Houston GLBT Community Center and Grace. Books will be available for purchase at the workshop, but she will also be signing at Barnes & Noble, 5000 Westheimer, on November 7 at 6 p.m. For more information on the workshop, call 713/528-3269; on the bookstore appearance, call 713/629-8828.
Neil Ellis Orts: Bulletproof Faith grew out of workshops, right?
Candace Chellew-Hodge: In 1998, I wrote an article for Whosoever called “Spiritual Self-Defense for Gay and Lesbian Christians.” I took principals of physical self-defense and adapted them for spiritual self-defense. I likened it to the martial art of aikido, which has no kicks or punches. It’s all defensive moves so you can’t attack anyone, but if you’re attacked, you’re well prepared. So, the seed was planted in 1998, and shortly thereafter I developed a workshop around those ideas and presented it at several conferences around the country. People really got a kick out of it because I would incorporate some pop culture references like The Karate Kid and Xena, Warrior Princess.
I remember the ’90s with you and Xena. I had to laugh when I was reading the book, Of course Xena’s in here!
Of course Xena’s in there! [Laughs]
One of the things that struck me about the book is that so many of the concepts are useful in conflict in general.
Oh yeah, definitely. When my partner, Wanda, started reading it, she said, “Why is this just for gay people?” [Laughs] I work at the University of South Carolina on a grant project with a bunch of psychologists, and my boss, who is a doctor of psychology, just wrote this morning telling me that what I was doing was good cognitive psychology, helping people defend their self-esteem. So, yes, whenever you find yourself in a minority position, or a position where you’re being attacked for your opinion or your beliefs or how you feel, what I outline in the book is handy in those situations as well.
This feels like a different direction in GLBT religion books in that it’s not apologetics.
Oh no, I’m tired of apologizing.
Just last month, I reviewed another “it’s okay to be gay and Christian” book. It was the same clobber passages and all that, and I was like, “Who hasn’t seen this already?”
Well, there is a chapter in there on the Bible, and I did struggle with whether or not to capsulize the arguments that have been made, and I decided against it because it is all available. Part of the work of developing a bulletproof faith is to go through all that stuff, going through the Bible and deciding for yourself: Okay, I’m going to come down on this pro-gay interpretation side. But [this book] is sort of “Do that work on your own time because we’re going to press ahead.” And when I founded Whosoever, it was my idea to try to move people forward and stop having to rehash Romans [chapter] 1. Oh my God, do we have to talk about Romans 1 again? [Laughs] The most popular portion of the [Whosoever] site is the Bible site. If you look at hits, that’s where everybody goes, so we have it there, go and look at it, but there’s really a lot more meat at Whosoever. Not every issue is going to be “rah, rah, you’re gay and God loves you.” I wanted the book to be deeper than that, to not be about, “Tell me again why God loves me even though I’m gay.”
You’ve been doing Whosoever for a dozen years. In that time, have you seen progress, lack of progress?
Unfortunately, it’s been nothing really linear. There’s been progress and then retreat, progress and then retreat. Just the blowup over Gene Robinson in the Episcopal Church, I would have thought that we would have been way over that. In the UCC, when in 2004 they came out in favor of gay marriage, that was a major step as well. Methodists seem to be retreating, the Presbyterians seem to be going slowly forward. There’s definitely way more on the web now for gay and lesbian Christians than there was back in 1996. I got a lot of hate mail back then. It’s few and far between now.
Well, there’s so many people to hate now, they can’t send e-mails to everyone.
It seems to come in waves, because I’ll get four or five or ten or fifteen all at once, and I’m like, Oh, somebody’s posted something somewhere. But they never say anything new.
Neil Ellis Orts interviewed Lura Groen, Grace Lutheran Church’s openly bisexual minister, for OutSmart