ChristianForums: Defining marriage, part 2

2006-12-26 01:42

So, to follow up from part 1, I’ll resume the story later in 2006, some time after the rules were revised to eliminate any reference to the definition of marriage.

Our story starts, not at ChristianForums, but at IIDB, where a former CF staffer (“oftenbuzzard”, at IIDB, aka “buzz”) makes an offhanded remark (October 11th):

Call me crazy but removing a person from CF staff who is in a transgendered “marriage” does not seem radical to me. I was not on staff at the time, but from your description in threads here…. I think Erwin made the right call.

This post was, for the record, not edited by staff; it might have been considered a flame, but by the time forum staff got to it, a substantial chunk of smackdown had already been administered on the wisdom of someone professing to be a pastor making snide remarks about other peoples’ marriages.

Anyway, other posts by this same poster crossed a number of lines; he had been gradually getting out of hand for a while. For instance, he responded to another poster with:

Your profile says you are 14 years old.
You will be in my prayers, my young friend.

Now, nearly anyone would already recognize the insult, but there was also a sarcastic “rolleyes” smiley in the original post. He denied that it was insulting, insisting that offering to pray for people isn’t insulting. (In and of itself, I don’t think it is; in a context like this, it’s condescending and insulting.) He was put on notice that he must agree to abide by the rules. (He summarized some of these events in his CF blog — but changed some of the names to blame the innocent.)

So, what do you think happened next? Simple. He went to CF and starts asking about what the rules are for the “married” icon in a user’s profile. Pure coincidence, do you think? The new thread was started on the 16th — only a couple of days after the previous hullabaloo died down.

The official answer is provided: The requirement to display the wedding-ring icon is that you selected “Married” in your profile. Our ex-staffer goes on to promote the idea that CF ought to adopt a formal standard and enforce it. The thread is closed.

A couple of days later, our friend posts a comment about a Christian tattoo site, directing it specifically (and by name) at a poster who has a long history of difficulty refraining from flame wars when tattoos are brought up. He is banned from IIDB on the 17th.

A couple of things happen.

One is that two users — ksen and rnmomof7, both Calvinists and close to buzz both personally and theologically — show up at IIDB claiming that Buzz was banned for insulting me. Untrue. Where would they have gotten that idea? Good question. But that’s not all.

On the 18th, ksen announces a new policy. According to this new policy, people may only declare themselves married if they are in a marriage consisting of one man and one woman. This policy is announced by someone who has publically stated that he believes that buzz (a friend of his, and a fellow Calvinist) was banned for his comments about my marriage.

In addition to the public announcement (which my logs show as being around 11:30 AM in my time zone), there’s a private staff discussion thread.

In that thread, someone asks the question:

ksen, in the US, if a person gets a sex change, they can be legally identified as the opposite sex, and can legally marry. There was a question asked about this recently in the rules forum – how does this ruling apply to this not altogether hypothetical situation?

ksen responds:

This must be seebs.

Ask him if his wife is a female. If he can’t answer “yes” unequivocally then he can’t use the married icon.

In later discussions, while denying that specific users were discussed in conjunction with this policy, ksen claims that he was the one who brought this policy forward. He claims there is no relationship to the banning of his buddy or his buddy’s decision to bring this up, but… He also makes a couple of other claims.

On the 19th, a full day later, ksen writes:

I NEVER said I considered you marriage invalid. Why would I? I know nothing about your marriage. Believe it or not some things that happen at CF actually have nothing to do with you.

So, he knows nothing about my marriage. Sure, the moment anyone mentioned a sex change, he was the first to mention my name.

He also reminds us, on the 19th, that he believes this is why our buddy was banned:

Apparently he can’t since he’s now banned for goring your particular ox.

But that’s okay. Really, he’s not aware of any problems:

Why should your rings be in danger?

Nevermind that he’s the one who, a day earlier, said that I had to meet particular standards (and given that he brought me up in that context, he presumably believed I didn’t) or I couldn’t keep them.

He claimed this was not a fishing expedition, but in context, I just plain can’t believe it.

So, anyway, time passes. They start trying to remove the wedding ring icons from a gay guy. My profile is, indeed, reported. Lots of public statements are made. We’re told that the language was always supposed to be there, it was just an “oversight” that it was removed. Not so; the person drafting the rules intentionally omitted that. We’re told that nothing changed, that this rule always applied to profiles. Not so; it was only ever applied to the content of posts before, and only indirectly. We’re told that staff do not gossip about users. Not so; staff exchange a number of speculations about what genitalia my spouse has.

In a fairly large thread, rnmomof7 first claims that God has appointed her in authority over the users of CF, and then goes on to state that she does not consider me validly married. In the public thread. This post is not edited, on the grounds that it is a personal opinion, and not a flame… In fact, had it been anyone not a conservative Calvinist saying it to just about anyone else, it would have been edited, but the executive team in charge of the site have a number of conservatives who were pretty mad at me. (I have since been told that any possibility of editing that post ended when flesh99 posted the contents of that staff thread on his blog. Why? Because it’s obviously my fault, and at CF, if you are party to breaking the Sekrits, it is not a violation of the rules to attack you.)

After more feuding and in-fighting, the rule is established that no gossip and searching things out will be ceased (well, eventually), but the rule will remain.

The question is, why? I mean, apart from the pure vengeance aspect, in which ksen and rnmomof7 beat me up because they blame me for their friend’s ban (even though they’ve been told repeatedly that it wasn’t a factor)…

Why?

The problem ChristianForums has is that it’s trying to be open to everyone, and that means compromise. On the marriage icon, there has to be a compromise between people who are horribly offended when anyone they don’t think is validly married gets to claim to be married, and people who claim to be married. You know, like the way we compromise in normal society between ravening lunatics who physically yank the rings off other peoples’ fingers, and the people who are just going about their business wearing rings.

The fact is, the arguments for this rule are all in vehement and consistent opposition to the site’s stated purpose, of uniting Christians. They are there because the site has a huge number of staff, especially the more dogmatic Calvinists, who feel that the best way to unite Christians is to exile the people they don’t think are good enough Christians.

And, for now, they’re winning, which is why I can’t post there. If I post there, moderators dredge up three month old posts and send me nasty notes about them. The open flames directed at me stay, because the people who posted them are friends with people in power, who will believe just about anything bad that’s said about me.

Ksen did eventually apologize for bringing up his beliefs about my spouse’s genitals in the staff forums. He has not identified a source for those beliefs, nor, I think, has he quite reached the point of understanding why the question was never any of his business.

IMHO, a great portion of the tragedy here is that all of these people seem to have bought into the notion that plumbing matters more than commitment. Not that they agree on how; some believe it’s the sex you’re born, others that it’s the sex you’re currently equipped for. But they’re very convinced that somehow this matters more than, say, anything else. Like commitment.

A lot of these people believe that, if I had dumped my spouse for being transgendered, that’d be a good and pure and clean and holy thing, and that this kind of ritual purity would mean more to God than love and commitment do.

And I am sad about this, because this means these people have never really found the point of being married. If your spouse came home and said “You know what? It turns out I’m transgendered. I’m not the sex you think I am, that’s just a sort of weird accident. I might get it fixed.”, and you immediately started worrying that your marriage was invalid… You haven’t gotten the point yet. There’s more to be had; you can be closer, you can be more in love. Keep working at it. One of my friends, in defense of these people, said it takes a very special kind of person to stay in those circumstances. Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it; the whole point of marriage is to become that special for someone, and to have them be that special to you.

But this definition will never be acceptable to the evangelical community in America, which uses divorce, disowning, and other tactics to eliminate gays and other undesirables from their family structures. When Jesus comes, they’re going to be all shiny and ritually pure, and as far away from the sinners as they can manage. Which, I think, may turn out to be rather bad luck for them.

Anyway, that’s most of the story of the marriage icon. There’s a lot more. There’s lies and abuse and so on. If you want copies of some of the threads, feel free to ask; I have, of course, saved just about everything.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I wrote this post now, and not another time?

Because some years back, I saw in another person what God sees in all of us, just for an instant, and I said “‘til death do us part”, and I have never looked back. Against that, the question of whether my spouse is “male” or “female” is the most trivial of details; you might as well ask whether I’d get a divorce if my spouse wore a different-colored shirt, or changed hair color.

And twelve years ago, today, we exchanged rings. Happy anniversary, sweetie.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. Aww. Happy anniversary, baby. You're my rock. Aww. Happy anniversary, baby. You're my rock. <3

    — Jesse · 2006-12-26 04:22 · #

  2. Happy anniversary!

    Many years!

    — rigorist · 2006-12-26 10:36 · #

  3. You're my rock.


    But apparently, no longer an island. :)

    — seebs · 2006-12-26 12:07 · #

  4. Very moving!

    — Swart · 2006-12-27 02:40 · #

  5. And from me to you both, Happy Anniversary!
    I was there ... does anyone else remember the phrenologist who presided over the ceremony?
    -- seebs' mom

    — linda seebach · 2006-12-27 04:09 · #

  6. Happy belated anniversary!

    — Goliath · 2006-12-30 07:57 · #

  7. Plumbing matters more than committment, Peter. But that doesn't matter to you, only to true Christians. For a true Christian, God's Word is the only measure of faith and standards. For fake Christians, who knows what they use for authority.

    — tubby · 2007-02-07 18:44 · #

  8. Drama is drama. People need to stopd judging all the time. If you're married in the mind even, isn't that good enough to have the icon? Besides, I think sometimes I think people at CF put things on a pedestal.

    — alicethesister · 2008-06-16 19:02 · #

 
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