Wednesday, July 6, 2011

School curriculum in California: honoring sexual orientation!

I kept trying to write this article in a funny way. As though it could be comical? That way no one would think I was a bigot. But it just isn’t funny. It is sad.

Today a bill was passed in California, SB48, “that would make the state the first requiring public schools to include the contributions of gays and lesbians in social studies curriculum.” Judy Lin of the Associated Press in an article, “Landmark gay history bill goes to Calif. Governor,” wrote, “SB48 would require, as soon as the 2013-2014 school year, the California Board of Education and local school districts to adopt textbooks and other teaching materials that cover the contributions and roles of sexual minorities.”

It is important to point out that I have no objection to having children reading about contributions that “sexual minorities” have made when they are seen as individuals and not as a sexual minority meaning LGBTQ people. But as a Christian, when I read that my government intends to lift up sexual sin as something worth emulating I am very troubled. And who will stand for righteousness as a model to my state? Not my denomination the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

If Jerry Brown, the Governor, signs this bill, children in my state will be led to believe that Friedrich von Steuben is great because he was gay rather than because he was one of “George Washington's military advisers.” Or that “Von Steuben” who “is credited with being one of the fathers of the Continental Army and teaching essential military drills,” is important because of his sexual orientation.

Of course that is not what legislators are trying to do; they wish to make the point that people who are gay or lesbian are capable of doing great and good things. Of course they are. We all, sinners everyone, are capable of doing great and good things.

But should we be honored in a child’s school textbook because we are sinners or because we have contributed some good to society?

But then that is the problem. Our morals have changed. Our society’s and our denomination’s morals have changed. And we Christians and in particular we mainline Christians, have a hard road ahead. And when morality gets twisted around strange things happen. We can argue forever that sexual orientation is not the same as race or gender but the world will not hear and neither will our denominational leadership.

However, the Lord of the Church is not absent from our dilemma, he has been aware of the future from eternity. He calls his people to faith, prayer, compassion and hope in him. He also calls his church, the people within a denomination who submit to his Lordship, to be a place of safety, a place of help and hope.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.(1 Cor. 1:3-5)”


Anonymous said...

Mrs. Larson, You mention Von Steuben. About the time I was reading about him, I was a kid who felt totally alone in the world. The church condemned me constantly, and I had no role models. Anything I read about gay people made us out to be Caligula or Nero, etc.

I tried to end my life. Happily, I failed.

Trust me Mrs. Larson, I was looking for people like me in history and school books who were not depicted as monsters...or just, depicted at all, for the absence of gay people made me feel a sense of being alone that I pray no one you love ever knows.

Contrary to the ramblings of the "oppressed traditionalists", it is still hard to grow up gay for a lot of kids (and yes, like it or not, we grow up gay, we do not choose to be, and will be as long as we live. Not up for discussion among decent and moral people). Seeing, in textbooks, that people like them exist, will mean the world to gay kids. It is a different (and better) world now, but some kids still feel utterly and completely alone.

Kids are not stupid. They know that when a thing is not even mentioned (except for the cases like Caligula, etc.) that it is sending a message that it is below even talking about. "How bad am I if the books can't even mention people like me and ignore the people that they loved, or how being gay affected their lives/careers/art?" is a question that tormented me till I was in college and found out better. It is impossible to appreciate Baldwin, to give just one example, untill you read what he had to say about being black, and about being gay. He said as much himself.

I also found a Gay welcoming Presbyterian Church that offered me the first real love I had ever known.

This blog is titled "Naming His Grace". Please, as someone who remembers being hurt by the church, and the silence of the history and English books, start showing some of it maam.

It matters. I promise you, it matters to a lot of kids who feel totally alone due to the way God made them, to see that people like them are not so heinous that this aspect of who we are is unmentionable.

You said you did not want to sound like a bigot at the beginning of the post. Sadly Mrs. Larson, you utterly, completely failed.

I don't have any of the Identity listings below, so I will post as Anonymous. But my name is Gene O'Dell.

Again, I pray no one you love ever feels the hatred of others who consider a part of who they are so low as to be beneith mentioning when describing their lives, or the community they belong to.
Thanks for letting me post.

Viola Larson said...

Hi Gene,
I feel very bad for you that you were so depressed that you tried to take your life. I am very glad you did not succeed. I believe God has better plans for you.

I consider all people sinners, including myself, and in need of a Savior. God created all good but in humanity’s disobedience they lost their goodness and their connection to God. I believe that Jesus lived, died and was resurrected so that we could be brought back to God, forgiven and transformed.

Having said that here is my position. God’s word teaches that the practice of homosexuality is sin. There is not a definite scientific statement that gay and Lesbian desires are innate.
Whether such desires are or not does not matter since God’s word teaches that it is sin. Some men are hot-wired for violence, many others for extra marital affairs, God does not condone this, but he does forgive and change people.

All of us, the greedy, the fornicator, the liar, thief and gossip are required to submit our own egos to the Lord, letting him change us.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul makes a list of sins and then goes on to state of the Christians he was writing to, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (6:14) Christ reaches out to you with his love and forgiveness just as he has to me and all Christians.

Dave Moody said...

Gene- may our good and gracious God bless you with His presence.

You are created in his image and have tremendous worth and dignity. Due to the rebellion inherent in us all, that image, although present, is warped and fractured. Jesus, being the very image of God, came to restore that image in us- by becoming one of us, and by taking on all our brokenness and bearing it on the cross. And, in his resurrection we too can experience new life in the Spirit- freed up from both the power (provisionally) and the consequences (absolutely) of sin- freed up to live, truly live, in the hard won, difficult, yet liberating freedom of obedience to God and submission to his will in our lives. Obedience and submission are words none of us like to hear, but these are truly freedom words when the object is our triune God of grace.

People's sexual brokenness is healed as a result of the transforming power of the gospel. I've seen it happen, and can testify to the results (not me, friends- my brokenness manifests itself in other areas, which God is also brining wholeness to, even though I still struggle) To say it can't happen is just not so. It isn't bigotry, its reality. It may not be your reality now, but it is many people's.

Like Viola, I'm glad you chose life and not despair. My prayer is that you would continue to find life, in even more abundance, through the freedom of the obedience of faith.

Thanks Vi, for your faithful and persistent witness.

Anonymous said...

I am not sexually broken.
My spirit was nearly broken as a child by people like the two of you.
I am a Christian, a Presbyterian one. I have been asked to be an elder in my church because of the example of the Christian life I have lead, knowledge of the Scripture and the Book of Order. I am also gay, and that is how I was made.

I learned in my gay welcoming church that those things that are sin must indeed be surrendered, and that the faith has a cost in terms of obedience, sacrifice of much that I want, and work (not to earn my salvation, which is a gift, but because we are called to do justice, and the help the poor and the weak, even if we would rather focus on ourselves) and worship, which is not a burden, but a blessing.

Your interpretation of Gods word says that Mrs. Larson. Yours. You are wrong. If you have not noticed, your side of the debate did not make a good enough case for this. From former conserveratives such as Duba, Actemier and other theologians from Bruggermann to Guthrie to Rgers have made a far, far better case that God loves and accepts his gay children as we are. I belong, as do you, to a Church that realizes that, as the vote on 10a shows.

I wont arrogantly tell you that I know your life and identity better than you do. Please show the dignity, class and Christian grace to do the same for me. Even Mohler had the grace to admit being gay is not a choice, which for a fundamentalist is something.

I see, underneith the kind words, that no mention of my points about how this improvement, this very acknowledgement of reality in the educational system, can be fairly claimed to hurt anyone. The arguement cannot be well made. But it will help a lot of kids who are where I was...and will never be again.

Mr. Moody, as I explained above, I am not broken any more or less than anyone else just because I am gay (we are all broken, but not by this in of itself), nor does the correct reading of my Bible, or my denomination, tell me I am.

Oh, you can make a case, just as my old relatives in the south quoted scripture word and verse to support slavery, showed example after example of it in the Bible, and gave pseudo science explanations about why it was a good thing, but while they had a lot of scripture to back them up, the fact that slavery was wrong, and failed the test of justice (from the book of Micah) humility and walking with God, killed their every arguement, every verse they quoted, and the centuries and centuries of scholars who had agreed with them meant nothing.

I also pray for those who are sexually broken. And that is why I work with a church organized "ex-ex-group". And, it is why I will continue to work with all those who have found themselves hurt by their own or other persons sexual actions.

I know you both mean well. But, I also hope you see that they days when gay people like me are told we need to "Get right with God" (we all do for myriad reasons, but not for being gay) or expect us not to correct you when refer to us as broken for being gay, are over, in the society, and in the church.

I hope you are able to move forward into a fuller and more loving faith in God, as other conservatives, such as Dr. Duba and Dr. Actemier have.

If not, then at least, try not to do harm, and stop bemoaning when others see that kids have a right to know that they are not alone, and that people like them can do great things, have great lives, and that being attracted to and loving someone of the same gender is not a thing so bad that it must not be mentioned in textbooks.

In short, treat others as you would like to be treated. It is not to much to expect, after all.

Thank you for the opportunity to post.

C. M. Riley said...

Gene, I am thankful for the comments by Viola and by Dave Moody, who have spoken of our universal need for grace, our broken and sinful nature, and our need for a Savior. I agree with them entirely. I would like to contribute, however, some harsher words.
I find it interesting that while pleading for understanding and kindness, you yourself made several statements showing a lack of those very qualities. "Ramblings of 'oppressed traditionalists'"? "Not up for discussion among decent and moral people"? Really? So everyone disagreeing with your position is indecent and immoral? All who believe that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God ramble, or should be dismissed with casual sarcasm?
To prove that people can be "born gay", would require a longitudinal epidemiological study of staggering proportions, requiring at least 15 to 20 years to complete. I for one, am not insecure enough to worry about what you think of me, but it is annoying that you would try to place many of us in such small, smug boxes.
Further, you stoop to name calling, actually accusing Viola of bigotry. Viola's statement was that she didn't want someone to think of her as a bigot. You said she failed entirely, meaning (I take it) that you believe she is a bigot.
The ranks of Christianity are full of flawed, imperfect people like me. At least we admit it. I find your pleas for understanding while attacking others disingenuous.

Anonymous said...

sure would be nice to be able to present the opposing view..

If you were brave enough to show that, of course.

Anonymous said...

I dont know how long these will stay up CM Riley, so I hope you see this before Ms. Larson, who is not brave enough to let my other posts (save the first one) be seen, but I called her a bigot because she is one.

A factual assessment is not name calling.

You sound like my great uncle, a proud klansman, who was offended that anyone would call him a bigot. "what about my rights to be heard and my views respected".

Exact same thing.

Well Ms. Larson...are you brave enough to post my earlier comments, where I blew your and Mr. Moodys mistaken postions out of the water? Or will your silencing me continue to prove you know I am right?

Viola Larson said...


For some reason your posting went to my spam box, I don't know why. I just published it but have not read it yet.

Viola Larson said...


I do not believe that the theologians and writers you have mentioned have made a good enough case using the Bible. And voting yes or no on a biblical commandment does not make it right or wrong.

I am glad you have been taught to do justice, helping the poor and weak is of course a very biblical and Christian position. We are all called to that. But we are also called to live our lives according to all of the biblical commandments, and as you say not because that gives us salvation but because in our love for Jesus we attempt to obey God.

But there is something more than that. We don't just attempt but because we are joined to Christ we share in his resurrection power and through the Holy Spirit we are helped to overcome the sin in our lives. That is something Jesus Christ can do for you as you follow him.

I do not want my grandchildren or great grandchildren being taught in school that the practice of same gender sex is okay. That takes away my religious freedom.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised...but pleased to see my earlier comments are now posted. Thank you. Much of what was in that post I very much wanted to say, and many conservatives very much needed to read.

one thing, If I may..yes Mr. (I assume) Riley. Indecent and immoral. That is what people who oppress and fight against the rights of other people are called.

Stating a fact is not an attack. It is simply, stating a fact.

I am surprised my post, after Mr. Moodys, but before Mr Rileys, was (is uncovered the right term?) uncovered, but I do appreciate you finally putting it up. I am sure Mr. Riley would have had some comments on it also, had it been up.

I was born gay. Dont call me a liar again.
As someone who is about to be an elder in the Church, I know fully well the Biblical laws against lying Sir, thank you. As a gay person, I remember being hurt by societies refusal to even mention people like me in history when I was in school. Now, that will no longer be the case. That is a good thing.

As per if your attitudes are bigoted? Well, Business, academia, The Denomination that in two weeks will officailly change its book of order, The Bible itself (Duba, Actimier, Rogers and others who made a case that swayed 55 % of the Presbytery votes would agree with me that it does) and the Military, just as of today it happens, would agree with me, so there is no chance I will apologize for saying the truth.

Good day Ms. Larson. I doubt I will be back. I have said what needed saying, and I can back my positions up, which I did. Thank you for letting me post.

Anonymous said...

I just read your comments on the issue of Spam. If this is the case, I am glad they are now posted. Since other posts were listed, you can see where I would think you just were not posting them. In any case, I am glad you posted them.

As your religious rights being limited by simply acknowledging the contributions of others, thats just...well...sad. Your side has been denegrating people like me for years, even denying we exist by not (gasp) talking about our loves and lives (heterosexuals do get their sposes and lives described). If you think you get to tell society whole groups wont be discussed because it might weaken your faith, you are in the wrong nation.

Again, as it was a spam issue, thank you for finally puting up my post.

Viola Larson said...

I did have two more things I wanted to say. One is that histories do not generally mention anything about people's sexual orientation so how did you know you were not reading about someone who was gay.

Secondly I am wondering if you travel a lot? I have a feed on my blog and I have noticed that your comments are coming from different places in the country. Please leave your city and state the next time you comment.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
reformedpastor said...

I can't help but laugh out loud when I read comments like Gene's. Not regarding his hurtful experiences--those are sad and unfortunate--but the self-righteousness by which he then proceeds to attack those who disagree with him. When Viola and Dave state what they believe, based on Scripture and 2000 years of nearly unanimous Christian teaching, they are "bigots," "oppressors," "fundamentalists," "indecent," "immoral," etc. When Gene states what he believes, based on the non-specific recitation of a handful of writers (whom he doesn't even bother to quote, but whose names he simply rattles off) and his own experience, he is stating "facts."

It must be wonderful to be so smart that even your opinions and pejoratives count as "facts."

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Anonymous said...

Yes David, when the facts and faith are on my side, the facts stand on their own, and I rejoice in my blessings. It is a good feeling.

The arguements of the theologians I listed are far to expansive to be listed here, but, they won the day for the whole denomination concerning amendment 10a, didn't they?

Think on THAT when you refer offhandedly to some of our most respected seminary professors and scholars as a "handful of writers".

I suggest you re-read my posts. Like it or not, I am only the messenger.
Bigoted, fundamentalist and immoral is how you ARE now seen, and correctly so. It is not me saying it alone (though I am)...are you so blind you cannot see around you?

Learn that. Painful as it may need to know it.

In society, business, the military, and yes, the Church itself. Before you start laughing some more, think about that.

Like it or not, I am correct in my assesment.

Deal with it.

And enjoy your laughter...hollow, and vapid as it is, and will continue to be, I hope you take great pleasure from it.

I wont be laughing. I will be thinking of the children who will grow up with you as pastor...and will pray for them, and you, for truly they....and you, have my deepest pity.

Anonymous said...

David - the argument is worthy of laughter because it is emminently inconsistent. However the hatred and bigotry of the commenter is not a matter for laughter.

The commenter may have had a legitimate point burried somewhere within this. But the commenter's readily apparent hatred for those who disagree renders it insensible.

The commenter is right because majorities agree... in society, in the military, in business, and now in the PC(USA). (One could actually argue with each of those individual claims, but that is quite beside the point.)

Yet the original argument for the need for role model history was based on being a mistreated minority.

So ... the majority is right ... because it is the majority ...

Then, of course, the majority was also right when it (and in the areas of the world where it still) strongly disagrees with the commenter? Or the numerous times majorities in the PC(USA) rejected the proposals - were they right then? I mean, the majority makes the commenter's incivility and bad conduct OK.

So for the last many centuries, the majority was also right - though it contradicted what it now thinks? I'm sure that's it.

Then there's the grace versus "graciousness" - which is being misused in any case - issue. Clumsy and misleading use of words.

Then there's the original issue - which is the vapidity and indeed colossal silliness of role model history.

Everyone is in a minority of some kind - but this is a case where people are arbitrarily picking a minority status as identity. It is absurd - and it has zero effect on whether or not something is a contribution. In fact, if one can identify an identity group in this politically correct climate, it is an indication that that group is not particularly oppressed - meaning they have legal status and recognition. It s the unrecognized groupings that are far more likely to be mistreated. Always. Some minorities are more equal than others.

Will Spotts
North East, MD

Anonymous said...


Would your congregation ever ordain someone who shared Viola or Dave's views on homosexuality?

Bruce Byrne
Concord, CA

Anonymous said...

Ms. Larson, Mr. Spotts, you are missing three points.

1) the California curriculum change is a good thing, for the reasons I gave. And your propblem with it only show that your concerns lie only with yourselves.

2) I never said that a majority made a thing right. I said that the majority now IS right, and that realism would indicate that you should get used to having your bigotry pointed out to you everywhere from the boardroom to pulpit to the neighborhood blockparty.

And, while I am sure they will still love you, from your grandkids, who will look back on you the way we in the south look back on our bigoted grandparents. We love them, some of us quietly smile and play along when they make bigoted statements (all the while being 100 % sure they are right and remembering their conservative pastors who told them they were so)...but, prepared. Dr. Mohler (at the Louisville Baptist Seminary website) has some interesting observatiions on this...again, 'no need to attack the messenger'. I am just point out that what is, is.

3) No. We would not ordain a person of such character, but, we would not prevent a congregation with lower standards from calling someone who felt that way. I don't remember the movement to prevent conservative clergy from being ordained, even if a session called them, a Presbytery had no issues, and the person was a graduate of one of our seminaries. No, that was the conservatives who did that to our congregations. God alone is the Lord of conscience. You will find conservative congregations that call pastors who do not support GLBT ordinaiton will not have any charges brought against them the way progressives ones did when conservative understandings of the rules held sway. You need not worry about that.

Myself, I know to many pastors who are UTTERLY wrong on this issue, and yes, it is bigotry, plain and simple though sincerely held and believed, who tell me that God has called them to preach and serve as pastors. No mere human is perfect, and if they tell me that God has called them, and their congregations want them, I hope and pray they will will see the light (as so many are!) but if not, so be it. If they say they are called, and they are fellow Christians, I must accept that, and wish them and their congregations well in the calling of service and the great commisson, and pray for their success in their journey.

That they do not offer that same faith in the calls of many of their fellow Presbyterians, is their problem. Not ours.
Not now.

Barb said...

Gene- sooo, if a person of such low character as me, were to continue teaching such indecent and immoral bigotry as the biblical sexual ethic, you wouldn't have a problem with that- as long as it didn't effect you? Just as long as its not in my back yard? Where's the love for neighbor in that? Where's the justice in that?

I just wonder how you can justify such inaction in light of what, according to you, is such an obvious and heinous injustice.

Dave Moody said...

oops.. the wife forgot to log off. It's me, Dave.

Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Dell:

My mistake. I misunderstood your repeated appeals to the majority. I thought you were attempting to justify the contempt you are showing and you poor behavior on this blog by appeal to that. Which would, of course, be ridiculous. The other possibility in the repeated appeal tot he majority was an attempt at simple taunting. Otherwise the observation would be entirely irrelevant.

The CA change is not a good thing in my opinion. You do not know my reasons for saying this - as I have never stated them. I find identity group role model history to almost universally miscarry. It creates one (or more) of four situations. 1. Those whose accomplishments or contributions would not ordinarily be emphasized are - not because of the significance of those accomplishments or contributions but because of membership in the identity group. This is demeaning to the group because it suggests that a lower standard for accomplishment or contribution must apply to its member. 2. People are attributed membership in the identity group with insufficient information. There are certainly many historical whose sexual practices we know. Many more we do not - yet that does not stop the attribution. It will almost always be the positive - i.e. the people the group wants to claim - as opposed to the negative. 3. Focus is solely on the contributions of the person to the struggle of the identity group. (This is like glbt characters on television in the 80s - whose entire plot and character was often their sexuality - they were flat characters. That has changed, certainly, but this is still common.) 4. It allows by implication an association between membership in the identity group and the individual's contributions or accomplishments.

Don't get me wrong, I believe this is what many members of any identity group want to here. I just don't think it is beneficial. I find it patronizing and I believe it is a ham-handed attempt to affect attitudes that I don't believe ultimately works.

Yes - as you have repeatedly pointed out, our culture is changing. But the fact that this CA law passed indicates that our culture has already changed ... so why the ham handed attitude education (which I oppose pretty much across the board)?

Will Spotts
North East, MD

Anonymous said...

As a side note - a reality of textbook publishing. This has effects far broader than CA. Books are written to conform to the requirements of two states because they are large and buy as a block: CA and TX. The goal is to pass both. If the two are in direct conflict they will have a problem. The thing is, the available texts that most school districts will purchase will meet CA requirements.

Will Spotts

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Barb, it's is called patience and forebearance. Unlike the "It has to be the way WE see it" attitude of conservatives, I respect your right to be wrong, if it is sincerely held. God alone can pass sentence on you, not I.

The hurt you will impose in the church will do harm, and will no doubt cause pain to some GLBT person who hears you, but the way to deal with it is through education and understanding on your part. Not enforcement. And the persons who hear your view, will not have ample access to those who do not agree with you.

Just like former anti gay conservatives like Dr. Duba and Dr. Actimier, I hope you will see your errors in time. Until then, as I said, God alone is the Lord of conscience. In a perfect world, you would not have the attitudes and understandings you do, but like a lot of people, you are the product of your education and enviroment, and change takes time. I am realistic, and know that change comes slowly. Any attempt at forcing you to be tolerant and understanding would not BE tolerant and understanding, and it would not work in any case.

I have seen to many people move from positions such as those you now hold, and no ever made the move by being forced to. And, as you are a fellow believer, and this is not an essential of the faith, such as belief in the Trinity or the resurrection, you deserve the same forebearance that those whom you disagreed with on this issue deserved (and did not usually get).

In short, the best way for the church to move towards being a church where all who call to serve can, and all families are respected, and all loving and committed relationships honored, is to continue BEING the church, and having honest conversations about families like mine, and reading and studying the best scolarship on the issue (again, read Duba, Actimeir, Rogers. etc) and showing those who oppose us more forebearance than we were shown, so long as they are not activly working to hurt others careers/congregations/presbyteries etc. or otherwise damage the Church.

Were you expecting an inquisition? I know noone on the progressive side who wants that. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, NOT as they have done unto you, and hope that in time, as is happening more and more, the others grow and change. That is the only way change happens long term. That is what I hope for you, that, and nothing but the best.

Mr. Spotts, I am glad you understand the point I was making concerning the majority. I was not saying 50%+1 makes right. Just that when someone with my views are derided by those with a sense that they sit on the moral high ground, the people who have traditionally sat on that high ground would point out that the majority position is no longer in agreement, even within the denomination.

As per the identity politics of the curriculum, I see you point, but I disagree. They are very valuable, and many of us DO see ourselves as a part of said groups. The changes in American culture are proof that they do work, after all. You are also correct about the results of CA changing their textbooks and the effect on most of the states, which is, of course, the whole point of the endeavor.