This is not the activated memory, but in April I bought a Geo Tracker (which is a car, by the way!). My brother and I drove up to Oregon from Southern California, leaving just before 6PM on April 4th, sleeping at my younger brother’s apartment in San Jose, picking up McDonalds coffee and hash browns in Willits, and entering into Gold Beach, Oregon (“Welcome to Oregon!”) at exactly 11:51 AM the next day. The entire trip remains a blur, because we picked up the rusty car and immediately drove back down, waving goodbye to Klamath, then Willits, then stopping for a shoot I had in wine-country Calistoga. My brother drove back to Southern California the next morning (goodbye Tracker, see you soon!) as I worked all day. The next day, I drove to my brother’s apartment, then the next day arranged a coffee date before driving down to Fresno to shoot a lesbian “not-a-wedding.” At night I drove home to eat Easter Brunch with my family the next day.
If this burnt coffee flavor activates my memory, it is not of a road trip in general. The coffee did almost nothing for the memory of Gold Beach. Maybe the McDonalds worker with blue nail polish (I regret not complimenting him!) was a barista in the past. The coffee was fine. But one moment sticks: driving down from Calistoga surrounded by foggy farmland, with a nearly empty day ahead of me. Memory, here, is not about the taste, or that bitter black drink at all, but its web of associations. It is a synecdoche abstracted to metaphorical contiguity—a memory with no concrete link to coffee anymore, but to its surroundings.
This memory is a strong feeling: it is a road trip from the past. You could choose any of them, driving through the golden foothills of the Sierras, or the San Bernadino mountains, finding little towns (with tiny woodsy coffee shops). These coffee shops named in Papyrus font, where you would order a small cappuccino, would burn your coffee. Or you could taste the grounds. Maybe it was such a bad drink that it stuck in my mind.
This same memory developed into a practice: free time deserves to be free. I’d plan for sunsets, or early mornings before class or work, driving towards the sun among the backlit grass and trees, just to feel the sense of being in a location. It is a memory of a purposeful wandering, embedded deeper than a bitter drink.
Now that I do not go on wandering road trips as often, I read more. I sit in this coffee shop with a poetry book next to me. They say you don’t have to go far to wander around. They say Thoreau lived near his family, not really far into the woods at all, while his mom brought him sandwiches! His wandering was more intellectual than physical; more idealistic than realistic. And I find that my own memory of purposeful wandering finds an intellectual analogy in the ideas I enjoy reading, articulated by Fernand Deligny or Thomas Tweed or Mark Taylor or Matsuo Basho or Mary Oliver or Byung Chul Han or Edward Abbey or the forest bathers or my priest or many of the contemplatives and meditators. Here, it feels to me like “purposeful wandering” is a literary genre also enacted in a form of life, so that the two (like Giorgio Agamben’s “Rule of Life”) are sometimes interchangeable.
If a memory sticks, returning to the present through a small gesture of coffee, then I imagine that it has secretly continued to play out behind-the-scenes this whole time. If a sip of this burned coffee returns me both to immediacy, so that its feeling gets me to look up from the poetry next to me to the cloudy skies above, and returns me to distance, so it reminds me of a wandering time in the past, then the only thing I can imagine is that the present moment is a new and detached iteration of the same road-trip wandering in the shape of a small-scale literary form of life. Memory has formed the landscape of my mind, the shaping the foothills that I continually return to, under this gray, urban, and poetic sky.
“Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation” -Mark 8:12
A few hours ago, I placed an ice cube on asphalt, under the sun. I thought you should know. I could tell you how it slowly transformed through a sad dissolution, shrinking to a fluid, disappearing. I could name it in phases like fusion or evaporation. By the time I’m finished describing it, the cube is gone, but I thought you should know.
If language’s aim is to provide knowledge, crystalized and ready-to-grasp, then its accuracy is narrow. If language is a container for information, then art and poetry and religion are not entirely accounted for. If language’s role is like an impossible lens: pure and transparent signification, pointing to meaning, then understanding should come easily. But language, supposedly, is not always meaningful, nor knowledgeable, nor accurate. Instead, language is steeped in a flow of images that enact the participation of the speaker, or reader, or whomever is engaged.
In Bruno Latour’s “Thou Shall Not Freeze Frame,” what applies to language applies to art and religion: all of these cultural objects, mediating a flow of images, enact the transformation of the speaker and listener into a sense of closeness and presence (like a nonviolent version of Georges Bataille’s intimacy). Experience (this unthinking animality), rather than a frozen and signifying meaning, becomes the priority of our statements. And to “freeze-frame” the process of transformations, or to stop the flow of images, especially in order to analyze their signification, is to miss the point. The experiential transformation of the speaker and listener is the aim of Latour’s language; to freeze a statement, categorizing it as true or untrue, misses the point entirely. Here, language bears no signification, but becomes a mute yet robust practice.
If I speak of an ice cube already gone, its impression is what I communicate to you. And you know, by implication in some chain of referentiality and transformations, that this ice will disappear. Language, like its object, flows through time, removing images from their ponticular stasis. Yet, in this instance, language relies on signification to construct its flow of images, for a single image must signify another.
What, then, might it look like to have a flow of images outside of signification? We might think of Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, saying “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” Joyce’s sentence seems almost entirely like gibberish, for we expect language to carry some sort of coherent signification. But although language cannot escape its signifying function, it can frustrate our attempts to construct meaning. For Latour, this strategy, like Joyce’s imagery, of rendering images “unfit for normal informative consumption,” breaks “the habitual gaze of the viewer so as to attract his or her attention to the present state,” so that the viewer “takes upon herself to repeat” the experience of the image “in the same rhythm and tempo.”
Here, I would like to make a quick shift to thinking about photography, because the medium, as one that freezes a world continually shifting, is fucked. Photography has no “pulse and tempo” that gives language its transformative power. One image cannot be a flow of images! And, in order to construct a referential flow from a single image, a photographer risks, in Latour’s language, fitting their image into the realm of “normal informative consumption,” relying on tropes anachronous to a stream-like perception of life. Photography’s only salvation, which might also be its downfall, is to become a mute yet robust practice, engaging the viewer and (implied) photographer into an exchange without words. If photography takes up narrative or story, which are techniques of signification, it must also break the habitual gaze of the viewer (beyond mere signification as information) into that present state we call “experience.”
I cannot tell you how to do this, for it is the perpetual and difficult challenge of culture to be continually renewed by expereince. Latour gives some hints: that we must try to understand images “without searching for a prototype;” that it is iconophily to pretend an image has meaning by itself; that an image must also suggest that we move on and not linger; and that an image must allow us to be seized, in order that we break away from the habitual passage of time. If an image is communication between a photographer and a viewer, then the photographer must move on from their habits; a photographer must, at the very least, try to be seized; a photographer must not search for a prototype; a photographer must not take the image more seriously than the experience that they are immersed in. Here, by forgetting itself, photography ends its role as a preservation of memory, as a static carrier of knowledge, and begins an impossible challenge to direct our attention away from the image and its significations, into the mute presence of experience.
We’ve had our Rothko. We’ve had our Joyce. We’ve aimed at silent experience, entered the world shrugging off its signs, achieved our modernist mysticism, and were left wanting. We’ve come down from the mountain, untransfigured, tabernacleless, instructed “tell the vision to no man.” We’ve moved on. I cannot tell you of the ice exactly. I must move on.
For the mute presence of experience is just that: it is mute. Experience cannot name itself. We cannot take its picture and we cannot correspond it to signification. Yet, this whole time, we have been pretending that the knowledge, information, and meaning that are bound up in language and signification are, in a way, escapable and purified by their imaginary tether to experience. We’ve been rused into thinking that no matter what, experience (like language without signification!) becomes the intangible and legitimating point of the world meanings. Here, experience, according to Robert Sharf, is becomes like an “irrefutable” and “indubitable” epistemological foundation that gains its strength at the expense of signification or discursive meaning. More pointedly, “The category experience is, in essence, a mere placeholder that entails a substantive if indeterminate terminus for the relentless deferral of meaning. And this is precisely what makes the term experience so amenable to ideological appropriation.” If experience is a mute placeholder, it is signification, disjointed from pure experience, that gives experience a character and style, or, in Sharf’s case, ideology. So, to follow Latour’s suggestion (and he resides within his own Catholic tradition, hinting that it should be unproblematically renewed through the transmission of experience), would be to be seized (like it or not!) by the language and imagery that stylizes our experience (once we remove our blinders) by carrying, even implicitly, knowledge, information, and meaning—all of which can (and should!) be freeze-framed and analyzed. For if Latour prizes the experiential transformation of the speaker and listener through language, then, unless ignorance is a virtue, we must also ask, transformed into what?
To question the transformation would be to freeze-frame our discourse; it would be to break the spell of experience. The photographer would stumble over their own self-consciousness (would we realize that we’ve been reproducing a prototype all along? Or realize to take the experience seriously would be to put down the camera entirely?). The only way out, overlooked by Latour, is that knowledge, signification, and information extend the flow of images in new and challenging ways, and that freeze framing enacts an experiential transformation of those engaged in communication. For we have never escaped signification, although we have tried. We have heard, against instruction, of that vision of transfiguration.
Here, a slight change to the Latour’s hints. The photographer constructs the experience that they are immersed in, so that to take the image seriously is to take the experience seriously, and vice versa. An image demands that we linger, for it, too, is frozen. For one image of one moment to be selected over any other, for its capacity for meaning is prioritized, would be iconophily (but who cares?). We will never entirely break away from the habitual passage of time, but only integrate different habits into time. And the mute presence of experience is merely a “well-meaning squirm that will get us nowhere.” But really, an image does not care how we participate, and I, unlike Latour, do not want to walk through life in constant seizure.
A man and his child walk into a coffee shop. The barista chats with the child, excitedly, as she gives him his dad’s coffee. The dad chats with the barista. The child walks over near me and tells me that the coffee is his dad’s. He’s only holding it for his dad. He’ll stop growing if he drinks it.
“Oh, that’s not good,” I say.
“Yeah. I’ll stop growing if I drink it,” he says.
The dad and the child walk out of the shop. I am drinking coffee; have I stopped growing?
Whenever a parent lies to their child, I think of my close friend’s child, and wonder whether I’d lie to him. Some, citing Kant, think that lying breaks the “categorical imperative,” and so subverts the concept of any ethic at all. Others, also citing Kant, permit it. Some Buddhists thought that lying was okay, as long as it helped you escape Samsara. Christians say that they believe liars go to Hell, although some others believe that God lied to Abraham about needing to sacrifice his son. I think I’m more concerned with finding new words to teach my friend’s kiddo, so that he can think in figures.
I read a poem about a flower. A “turbulent stasis on a blue ground,” it reads, “Fire of spun gold, grain,” “petals curling into licks of fire.” The ochre sprawls. I imagine that if I saw a real flower like this, burning and sprawling, it would be immense. Literally, it would be on fire. But, presented with a sunflower—as the poem describes—a real life, or google-image searched, sunflower, these are words become exaggerations, extending beyond the image of a real flower. That slippery and expansive language, or lies for those with truncated imaginations, hides in metaphor.
I think of a “literal” description of a sunflower, helianthus annuus. Get as close to the real thing, a stale form of flat sensual perception (if that’s what “real,” to those empiricists, means), as possible; a 34-seed spiral against a 55-seed, Fibonacci’s flower. Still: inescapable figuration, the mechanism of language.
The true sunflower stands tall and mute, outside of figuration. It would not recognize its name. Nomination turns towards those who name, to those who measure reality. It turns towards us. If this flower burns, it burns inside us.
I did not stop growing. The dad’s coffee was rigged, not mine.
Roland Barthes, an influential theorist for photographers, speaks of the flatness of images made to shock, and of his boredom with images that provoke a general interest in a non-particular subject. Against photos that are “simple” and “free of useless accessories” (think of journalistic photos that attempt to directly tell you everything in an event, with precision), Barthes prefers a “photo that thinks;” a “blind field” in other words. Barthes prefers “texture.”
Long live texture. For Barthes, any photo that contains a mechanism to “conceal, delay or distract” might be one that textures its object. Against a composition striving for some sort of clean unity, he prefers a photo that disturbs with duality and indirection, opening up a “blind field” that intrigues us. Somehow, texture is part of this blind field.
In more complex terms, from an article by Tom Gunning, this textured, concealing approach to photography allows us to shake photography from its exclusively referential, semiotic, truth-bearing role (though not entirely abandoning it). It is truth that shows our fantasies to be empty and unfulfilled, which destroys our imaginations, suggests Giorgio Agamben. So when photography stops bearing the responsibility of truth, I guess our imaginations are at play. (It is strange and problematic that the texture of an image, like digital grains and film looks, speak, for many, to the authenticity of an image. Because the image is flawed, possessing a sort-of blind field opposed to hyperreal images, it must, to some, feel authentic. So, in the inability of the image to convey perfect truth in detail, the image becomes a representation of earnestness, of that feeling of truth. But, you know, earnestness becomes kitsch with time.)
I’m not quite sure if or how texture plays the imaginative role. Maybe for photography, a textured photo reveals itself as a photograph of its object. I guess that could be disarming, to feel that something is just a photo and not an immediate reality. And because it is just a photo, our imaginations come into play, allowing us to bring a subjectivity to a silent, indifferent object that would otherwise refuse us.
Some part of me says that if you make your “living” with photography (or, really, just try to take it seriously and become a better photographer at all) you might be incentivized to do something visually compelling with your time. Which is to say, if you want to capture something interesting, you must go out and find something interesting. I think this becomes a habit. Somewhere, sitting simply close to the center of your life, develops a belief that there are interesting things happening around you. To me, that seems more radical every day, but I won’t get too polemic about it. Or maybe I’ve just got a feeling that it’s fun to make boring or pointless things look good.
These days, I leave my camera at home more often than not. That photographic principle, however, is baked in. Life around you can be interesting. So, make a movie of your life, or make a sequence of synecdochic stills holding space for some large, orchestrated life. I don’t really know. Here is an example.
I walk on the beach during sunset. The clouds are out, so the golden light is muted across the landscape. Everything looks soft and slightly dull. My friend comes along, wearing a red jacket. The wind is cold, so no one is on the beach. We stumble upon a heap of rocks. My friend climbs it, taking his jacket off and holding it up, letting it waver in the wind, and finally he throws it in the air. Here is the image: a man perched on rocks with his arms high, reaching towards a streak of red cloth unfolding in the air, in front of a limitless ocean that casts the entire background into a subtle gray blue.
It’s fiction so I have no picture of it, but you can imagine that it might look cool.
Richard Hugo, a writer, published a book of lectures on how to write. If you’re curious, it’s called The Triggering Town.On the first page, he says that one learns to write not by reading, but by writing. We only read to exercise the imagination, he says. But the imagination is much more easily excited by other things (like taking a walk?). And I thought it would be stupid to continue to read the book, so I have not finished it.
The other day, sitting at a coffee shop, I pointed to my copy of Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, asking my friend, “how does this long-form kind-of experimental styled book translate to the type of content that you create for other people? I mean, this man uses hardly any paragraphs, and has a unique style…and it seems so abstract compared to paid ‘creative’ work. Maybe I’m conscious of this because I create so many short-form tiktoks and Instagram reels these days, and do not know how something longer-form and thoughtful translates to that.”
“There does not need to be a direct translation,” he said. I am not content with that, for if there is no direct translation, I am worried that there is no translation at all.
The other week, or month, I donated half of my books. Most were theology (good riddance!) and some others, like “Wombs and Alien Spirits,” just collected dust, unread. I kept some Georges Bataille books though, even the misogynistic ones (!!!). For some reason, I thought the library would be shocked and excited to receive my pile of books, while I was excited to lose that mediation between language and experience that felt so pointless to me. I even posted a short video about it.
According to some of the authors I read, there is this thing called pure experience, the void, eternity stilled, the mind empty and at ease, a place with no conception, and time with no beginning and no end. I think it’s religious, but it’s at your feet instead of up beyond the stars in heaven. And these authors point to a profane swamp of experience rather than a holy realm above the intellect. Maybe Spirit is involved too, dwelling both in heaven and below. I’m not sure. But both magnificent heaven above and this unintelligible liberated experience underneath our feet are just out of reach. You have to search for them. And I don’t think you’ll ever find them. But there’s no knowing without the search.
I work with social media often, which is a form of collective effervescence. Ask Durkheim about it. I get lost in it.
I stopped reading to do more “creative” stuff, as if I’d lose some stagnant mediation with language and just be purely immersed in “creative” “energy.” I’d get the vibe back probably. No brain just vibes. Obviously that’s stupid [sic]: becoming an ignorant participant in a world with no direction.
The thing is, I could tell you that I enjoy creativity that hovers over the face of the deep, stuck in language but pointing to that pure experience. I enjoy that limited process, for it is the only thing that can try to grasp that which is out of reach. It’s a utopian creativity, but that keeps the heart moving, I guess. I could tell you all about this creativity that reaches beyond itself, I could tell you about a language that grasps only to fail; I could tell and it would do little—it’s too polemic, it’s too prescriptive, it’s too much like an instruction manual.
Instead, you could read someone else who’s actually doing it. I’d recommend Richard Hugo, who would probably say to go outside.
A tape recorder, a microphone, and headphones were the three objects that, for Pauline Oliveros, began a lifelong listening practice. The everyday environment, filtered through the microphone, became a new field of sounds that had escaped Oliveros’ perception. For the first time, Oliveros became aware of the direction of her attention. She noticed how her listening sculpted the environment around her. And her experience of the world broadened, opening up to the possibility of objects beyond her everyday awareness. The familiar became unfamiliar and new through the medium of a tape machine. Beyond that specific medium, what was once noise became an ordered part of her intentional listening. She noted that even without the recorder, she could create a new world by listening carefully, opening up a generative and creative practice.
Pauline Oliveros practiced what she called “Deep Listening,” which is a conscious form of listening that tries to “[go] below the surface of what is heard,” and is “listening in as many possible ways to everything that can possibly be heard.” Here, to break beyond the surface is to, in a sense, play with (every) other possible surface. That deep practice of listening is tied to possibility, generating (potentially!) non-conventional approaches to objects we take for granted. Although you could literally just go out and buy audio equipment to reproduce Oliveros’ experience, Oliveros considers the practice of Deep Listening meditative, and others, focused on other fields, consider it a form of contemplative practice.
Willa Miller, however, does not run around silly with a tape recorder. Instead, she is a scholar of religion versed in Buddhism and Christianity, using the term “Deep Listening” to categorize something beyond Oliveros’ experience (though I’d still recommend running around with an audio recorder for fun). As a cultivated quality of a space, deep listening becomes a relational practice, or a conversational skill that can be improved over time. It both focuses on the narrative content of speech and the non-conceptual elements of the present moment.
This means that there are a few simultaneous approaches to listening: the first is to be in touch with a non-conceptual sort-of ground, noticing the space upon which the conversational narrative unfolds. This is where you chill out, or the “deepest” part of deep listening. I like to think of it as being in touch with the world oustide yourself, beyond your immediate control. The second is to encounter how the conversation lands in the body, utilizing sense perception to be aware of the present moment. The third is to be aware of the content of speech (you actually have to pay attention to the conversation!!), in order to formulate a compassionate response.
For others (AKA Duane Bidwell, who seems to be a Buddhist Christian engaged in psychotherapeutic practice), Deep Listening is a discipline of engaging mystery and doubt without reaching for facts or reasoning. It is pre-conceptual and a form of “peaceful abiding” that directs attention towards the unknown and unexpected. Necessarily, chilling out with the unknown and unexpected becomes pre-conceptual.
Unfortunately, Byung-Chul Han, trying to re-enchant our depressed and burned-out capitalistic world, hates that pre-conceptual aggregate because it, apparently, is noisy. Agh! He wants beauty! Yet, he also likes the idea of a negative aesthetic experience, which would sometimes be painful, sometimes be ugly, and, in some way, offer us a resistance that would require us to step outside of ourselves. A beautiful object brings an event of emptiness—disastrous and terrible—where we are no longer related to, but can still contemplate, the object in front of us. This experience of “resistance” might be something that noise, in spite of Han’s protests, actually enacts. For noise, often removed from immediate recognition, invites a “disinterested lingering” (Han likes that) that allows us to contemplate the object in front of us while also becoming “immersed in it” (Han also likes that). Han’s mostly just likes the idea of “stillness contemplating beauty.”
Yet, Han’s dismissal of the pre-conceptual experience forces him to place narrative and concept as a one of the foundations of reality (narrative, unlike stillness, moves). He lives in a world of concepts and narrative, which is an approach that strikes me as very bookish. Han stops short where others would go “deeper” beyond the narrative structure, or that non-conceptual realm of experience where others would watch the narrative unfold. In other words, some might risk an encounter with noise in order to find creative, generative, and contemplative ways of being, where Han defaults back to narrative and conceptuality, even while acknowledging the importance of aesthetics that are not immediately consumable (which may realistically be different forms of narrative and concept that aren’t instantly recognizable). Yet, where noise, beyond narrative and concept, might be bad in Han’s thinking, noise finds a positive place in others’ thinking.
Martin Laird, a contemplative writer, deals with noise too, and sees it as a way of deepening a contemplative practice. He tells us of a man named Gareth, who escaped into a weekend-long contemplative retreat in a mountain village. Unfortunately for him, his mountain neighbors decided to use an electric table saw during his prayer time. Like everyone who thinks noise is noisy, Gareth preferred birdsongs or rain sounds or something warm and inviting. Nobody goes to the mountains to hear a sporadic electric saw! And so annoyed Gareth grit his frustrated teeth at his neighbors, thinking of how stupid the buzzsaw was in his mountain-retreat prayer practice, and could not focus on the contemplation retreat, which he probably paid for too! The saw developed into a concept, which grew into a narrative in Gareth’s mind, which, in fact, is what contemplation tries to avoid. So much for Han’s stillness that contemplates beauty: the saw is not included in that.
Heroically, (this is why the story is in a contemplation book) Gareth learned to retreat into that non-conceptual space that simply listens to the saw. Here, I imagine that the saw is just as natural as a birdsong, which sounds literally insane. But if you were Gareth and tired of being annoyed, like most of us these days, wouldn’t you simply just accepted the existence of the buzzsaw? Most of us would grumble at that. So maybe he learned to enjoy noise music, in a way that turns your experience into an aesthetic one, as if he put headphones on. He probably encountered stillness after doing that. Sure. And maybe his thoughts no longer became “immersed” in the saw, in spite of Han’s theory, and he was able to linger “disinterestedly” and step outside his own pettiness. Peaceful abiding with the saw: that’s spirituality, apparently.
Which brings us back to “Deep Listening” as a contemplative practice. When Pauline Oliveros put on tape-recorder headphones to become re-immersed her environment, she hears the familiar as unfamiliar, with a distanced curiosity that transforms “noisy” sounds into an intentional part of experience. And underneath this, her “deep” listening points to an experience of depth into that non-conceptual swamp of stuff, where unfamiliar sounds can emerge without being attached to any particular object, opening up listening to potentiality. The same goes for our Buddhist-Christian theorists, who might see narrative and embodied senses as helpful to approach the non-conceptual stillness and a part of the space cultivated for listening, but continue to prioritize the mysterious. And Laird even relates Gareth’s story as a way of escaping from the conceptuality of the saw, reframing it without needing to comment or narrate its existence. Only Han is our outsider, expecting beauty but also expecting us to, somehow, contemplate things that make us uncomfortable without recourse to a space of non-conceptuality. Without that space, Han is incoherent compared to these contemplative writers, and if this was his intention, he may have effectively led us into this non-conceptuality that he seems to dislike.
Where this seems petty, I’d like to bring in an implicit ethical component that the contemplatives reference: that assocaited with Deep Listening is a “compassionate response.” Let me be a bit broad: being able to listen to others in unexpected ways allows us to irredubcibly encounter the humanity of an “other.” Practicing Deep Listening, even with Pauline Oliveros’ tape recorder, might be practice for encountering others in compassionate ways.
I’ve also started listening to a band called “Old Saw,” which, although it isn’t exactly noise, makes me think of Gareth. And that’s nice.
Byun-Chul Han’s writing reminds me of religious writing. In Non-Things, he preaches against technology and digitization (aka the “non-things”), and writes a very bad chapter on photography.
Han calls for a new “temporal architecture” of lingering, against the fast-paced, unfocused, effervesence of an “information”-based society. Allegedly, this slow-form (“all form is slow” he says elsewhere)temporal architecture would allow people to construct the trust, responsibility, promises, faithfulness, bonding, and commitments that he sees lacking in our digitized society. Yet, he not only calls for that temporal architecture, but space organized for emptiness--which is a stillness that attracts and structures attention. Together, Han envisions a space and time of “negative resistance” to constitute experience of facticity, against a digitized world that, through the proliferation and freedom of digital content, turns people passive. Specifically, negative resistance in a factual world requires us to practice care.
Han’s writing often feels problematically uncritical, undercooked, and contradictory. Instead of untangling the shortcomings of his writing, however, I’d like to develop some of his strong points. First, a trivial story:
The other day, I drove to a bar in Los Angeles to meet some friends. Normally, I’d follow my GPS step-by-step, so that I would not need to think or plan the route. The GPS does the thinking for me. But the map glitched. I needed to look at the route, memorize the highways and exits, and pay attention to where I was at. I put my phone down to navigate highways that I knew, and felt free from the dictation of the GPS, which sounds incredibly dramatic (look, sarcastically, at my holy and pure experience of non-technology!). But now I do not need my GPS to go to that same location, because the sense of place that I cultivated on the highway became my own--an internalized map.
Mainly, I understood what Han means by care. He says, “If we have a predictable future in the form of an optimized present, we need not care.” Contingency, according to Han, opens us up to care. In this instance, if I do not have a phone to tell me exactly where to go, or, in Han’s words, to “take care of” me, I am open to making a wrong turn. I must pay attention, learn the route, and drive with intention. Additionally, because I care, the knowledge of the route becomes, in some sense, my own. If I am constituted in part by the knowledge that I grasp and internalize, and that knowledge is local, then I can belong to the locality that I know. Really, it’s knowledge that I can now trust in my gut.
The GPS is a small and silly example. Han’s critique goes further: where we develop care, we can also develop those things like trust, responsibility, promises, faithfulness, bonding, and commitment. Yet, digitization (Han’s focus) is not the only thing that removes us from care (think of knowledge--especially ideology--that closes us off from contingency, from needing to trust another person), and it would be important to reflect on those thing that remove us from the experience of things, or distract us from cultivating character and community.
Digital photography, according to Han, is one of those things that removes us from the facticity of the world; for it is automatically fake, and is no longer “magic.” He favors mediums that are not so transparent and smooth, like a vinyl or a film photo, for these preserve a poetic form. And I used to argue something similar, especially when I switched from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera, but I cannot entertain his critique anymore. For although a digital photo can proliferate infinitely without intention or care, severed from a particular instance of expression (which is something Han is nervous about: infinite, valueless content), there is no automatic glory in film. A bad photo on film is just as much trash as a bad photo on a digital camera; it is not the medium alone through which a photo communicates, but through its form. It may just be easier to fill a hard drive with trashy pictures on a digital camera. In the digital world, it may just be easier to be careless.
Where Han leaves us is towards a temporal and spatial architecture of “care.” His care requires the attention and stillness of what he calls “knowledge” rather than pure “information,” taking place in everyday rituals that build narratives out of our lives. Which might mean, for him, it is better to abandon the GPS when we do not need it; for me, it means to be attentive to the mechanism and limitations of the digital camera while I am taking a picture.
You are driving on a road. Buildings swoosh by. Cars weave and sweve. Your engine tumbles. The car propulses. You’re in traffic. Subjected to it. It’s a world of the road, unfolding in front of your wheel.
But there’s another world, the one we—as reader and writer—are already engaged in through the project of language. In fact, we could hardly make the distinction here, for speech, order, and meaning suggest this world. So, instead, a retelling:
You are driving on a road. Buildings swoosh by. Cars weave and swerve. Your engine tumbles. The car propulses. You’re in traffic. Subjected to it. But this time, it’s a world in your mind, stretching, weaving, synthesizing, pacing in front of you. Traffic is an object, brute and immediate, but it’s also a fiction: a narrative of movements in front of you.
We saw a car crash the other week in Chicago. It’s a blur: one car slid past the other. Did one crumple into the other, did another hit a pole? One car knocked into a biker, who broke his leg. And one man, running out of his car, holding a dislocated wrist, yells, “WHAT THE FUCK MAN! YOU FUCKED UP MY ARM!” The other man exited his car sheepishly, apologizing in shame.
I would have kept walking. There was nothing I could do. But we stood. Betsy wondered if we could help. I’m not really sure what Andrew and Matt were thinking (I think Andrew said something like “holy shit!”). Just another happening to me. What causes us to stare?
Firetruck arrives. I try to make eye contact with as many strangers as possible, wondering what they’re thinking. We get burgers after. This doesn’t seem worth a story to me: it’s an accidental collision, a careless event ending in suffering, anger, and disaster. Is this not a general story that we’ve all heard each day?
But to stare, to look twice, is to let that “general story” unfold on its own terms. Does the biker, hit and rolled away on a stretcher care about the third-person story of his injury; does the man’s fucked up arm fit into a three-word story: accident, then pain? What is going on, and how could anyone, cobbling together words-too-small and concepts-too-big make any real sense of it? I don’t believe I can. I want to keep walking. So, a retelling:
You are driving on a road. Buildings swoosh by. Cars weave and swerve. Your engine tumbles. The car propulses. You’re in traffic. Subjected to it. But this time, it is one world, not another, continuing forward: nothing like the accident that resides in your mind.
I've been asked by a few friends to compile a list of readings for gay Christians, or just the arguments that I've encountered in general. Additionally, as I've been compiling this list, I've noticed that my own position is informed by my own experience, my own reflection on readings that have nothing to do with this list, and my own willingness to question Christianity, empathizing with, possibly, the outsider (c.f. The Good Samaritan). So, before I dump a bunch of readings on you, I'd like to make a pointed reflection that gets to the heart of the matter.
There is a question, first off, of "problematization" of LGBTQ identities. That is, to turn one's identity into an object, to flatten one's life experience to a textual or logical surface; to put it up for grabs and subject it to debate. Maybe this move is helpful in a particular setting like a philosophy classroom, but I imagine that no one willingly enters a community where their identity will be put up for grabs, questioned, objectified, and scrutinized. So, according to one tweet that I read once (which I believe!), many "affirming" gays that grow up in the church and choose to remain Christian hold a seminary-level knowledge of the Bible and Christianity just to survive--or to resolve the problematization--(this is definitely true for me), where, maybe, the rest of the community can remain Christian without much reflection. Gays, here, as people-holding-desires (rather than, like the rest of ethics, as actions-which-people-perform) have been transformed into an object for trouble and must engage with the church in a deeply personal and academic way, or, alternatively, leave the church. It is the fact that gay (and LBTQ+) identity is made into a problem that has exhausted me: that the church has engaged in LGBTQ culture wars for over 50 years, with only a few denominations making a conclusive, public decision for explicit LBGTQ support. For the LGBTQ+ communities, the message that "you are a problem" is not a gospel full of hope but one of despair; one that's fruit leads to death.
At the risk of sounding extreme, it is well-documented that LGBTQ people face a higher risk of suicide than the general population. Additionally, if, as Durkheim proposes, suicide is a fact of the social margins, then the church, whenever it acts as if LGBTQ+ desiring is in some way "disordered," or second-best, or not-normal (however subtly and implicitly), enforces this marginalization, creating narratives of LGBTQ exclusion, and marginalization. While there may be exceptions to this statistic (not every LGBTQ religious person commits suicide), the fruit of this spirit is, often enough, literal death.
From this perspective, there are two options: either continue to turn the LGBTQ population into a problem, or turn the narratives, traditions, texts, and communities that we take for granted into content to be questioned. I lean more often towards the second option, with the hope that the "Christianity" that we've been handed can survive the scrutiny and criticism directed towards it, in order that it can unfold in new and life-giving ways. So, with that, here is a reading list.
For the articles, and some of the books, I've attached a link to a PDF. Some of the books you'll have to buy, or, if you ask me (and are interested!) I can scan excerpts (or the whole book if you want it badly enough). At the end, I'll give my recommendations, like an expedited list, and some further reflections.
EVANGELICAL ARGUMENTS (DEBATING THE TEXT):
-Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views by Dan O. Via: Robert Gagnon (anti-gay) and Dan O. Via debate on the acceptance of homosexuality within the Christian tradition. Gagnon argues for a more “traditional” view, that the Bible condemns homosexuality. O. Via argues that we must be conscientious of how we read the Bible; although the Bible may condemn homosexuality, he suggests that an existentialist hermeneutic is a more honest and thoughtful way to approach a text that has material ramifications in individual’s lives. AKA, our experience always informs how we read a text (how else would we understand the reference of words, and which ones to value?), so we should use the experience of consensual, monogamous gay couples to bear on Christian tradition and its text. I think O Via’s argument is more self-conscious, well-thought-out, and ‘meta’ than Gagnon’s (who remains within a fundamentalist paradigm, ignorant of his own historical perspective bearing on the text); we should consciously humanize a text by reflecting on our own experience.
-Unclobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin: Colby Martin presents “pro-gay” arguments, contextualizing biblical “clobber” texts. He remains within the evangelical perspective. ALSO: I think he has videos on his website, if that’s easier.
-God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines: Like Colby Martin, Matthew Vines presents a case for a “pro-gay” evangelical perspective. Good book; he’s aware of historical context.
-The Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Gender Studies: Same-Sex Relations: An extensive list of arguments surrounding same-sex relationships in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, with references from scholars, acknowledging traditionalist and contemporary views of “Biblical” sexuality. A skip to the “modern debate and legacy” section gives a nice overview. LINK HERE
BEYOND 'TRADITIONAL' EVANGELICAL ARGUMENTS (STILL DEBATING THE TEXT):
Paul’s Masculinity: Jennifer Larson: Paul might be “gay,” or rejecting a Roman conception of ‘masculinity.’ Good summary of first-century Roman conceptions of gender, and how Paul plays into them—distancing our conceptions of gender (and implicitly, sexuality) from ancient ones. LINK HERE
-Seven Gay Texts: Robert Gnuse: Good summary of some of the arguments against “clobber verses.” Some are outdated, or whatever, but it’s a concise and good resource. Recommend for QUICK READING: LINK HERE
-David and Jonathan: by ME: David and Jonathan, from the Bible, had gay sex. David Tabb Stewart alluded to this passage, and I read it. Here’s an informal article. LINK HERE
-Paul, the Goddess Religions, and Queer Sects: Jeramy Townsley: Townsley argues against homosexual/lesbian condemnation in Romans 1:23-28; that the passage more meaningfully refers to idolatry. LINK HERE
-On the Beds of a Woman by Bruce Wells: Argues that Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 prohibit male-male sex between men married to women. LINK HERE
Quick note: there was a master’s university dude who published a counterargument to this, which, although the author did not seem to know it, raised questions like “what counts as literary and historical context? How much does a context inform a text’s meaning? How do scholars date texts? Can two words in the same historical context mean different things?” etc. The counterargument dude did not really answer the questions that he implictly raised (instead, he just said that his statements were obviously true), so the next resource contains some direction on those things:
Ancient Sexual Laws: Text and Intertext of the Biblical Holiness Code and Hittite Law by David Tabb Stewart: A comprehensive look at Levitical laws; particularly interesting is the section on male-male incest. I enjoy the Methodologies section too, because it is an accessible and (relatively) concise introduction to how scholars might approach an ancient text. LINK HERE
-Queer Bible Commentary: Leviticus, David Tabb Stewart: A comprehensive view into the structure and meaning of Levitical passages. Particularly, section 8 (p.96) is interesting, where Stewart argues that male-male-incest is prohibited in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. His final section, "An Appeal to the Reader for a Queer Love," is really cool. LINK HERE
Queer Bible Commentary: Romans, Thomas Hanks: A close and broad reading of Paul's letter to the Romans, attentive to the rhetorical tactics and the unity of the text as a whole. Additionally, Romans quotes the Levitical male-male sexual prohibition (which David Tabb Stewart argues is incest; others argue as pedophilia). LINK HERE
Queer Bible Commentary: Corinthians, Holly E. Hearon: A reflection on the letters to the Corinthians, especially for the GLBTI community; particular thoughts on 'unity', along with an examination of the word 'porneia,' 'malakoi,' and 'arsenkoitai' as some form of Levitical incest, decadence, and prostitution. Also, understandings of gender, etc. LINK HERE
-God’s Beauty Parlor and Other Queer Spaces In and Around the Bible, Stephen D. Moore: A fun and provocative book that seeks to extend queer readings of the Bible, focusing on masculinity, homoeroticism, beauty and violence. At the very least, I’d recommend reading the introduction: LINK HERE
HERMENEUTIC ARGUMENTS (AKA: WHAT THE H*CK IS A TEXT, WHAT IS INTERPRETATION, AND HOW DO WE DO IT?). HERE, HOW DO WE INTERPRET A TEXT IN NEW, THOUGHTFUL, AND SPACIOUS WAYS?
-What Does New Haven Have to Do With Lubbock? by Kenneth Cukrowski: Raises fun hermeneutics questions in a short way. Outlines both New and Old Testament regulations, asking the reader to decide which rule is “permanent” and which one is “cultural.” It is written for other professors of religion, so it might read differently than one addressed to Christian practioners or theologians engaged in a debate. The Appendix is the “important” part, where we might ask how, exactly, we decide which Christian rules to follow and which ones to ignore. LINK HERE
-Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences by Paul Ricoeur: Ricoeur digs phenomenology. Some of his essays are helpful for shaking apart our understanding of what a text is, questioning the readings that we take for granted. A *bit* more abstract than anything else, really, but, to quote my professor: “Paul Ricoeur made a big impact on me.” Especially chapters 4,5,7. LINK HERE
-LBGT-Queer Hermeneutics and the Hebrew Bible by David Tabb Stewart: One of my professors made waves in queer Bible interpretation; here is his summary of the status of queer hermeneutics. A VERY GOOD RESOURCE!!! LINK HERE
-Biblical Narrative: Joel Rosenburg: A summary of narrative approaches to the Hebrew Bible. LINK HERE
-The Art of Biblical Narrative: Robert Alter: Argues for close reading, emphasizing the narrative components of a Bible normally construed as “historical.” LINK HERE
-The “Sacred” Text and the Community: Paul Ricoeur: What is a ‘sacred’ text; proclamation vs manifestation; contrasting to a critical edit (aka ‘historical’ approach to a sacred text). LINK HERE
-Subjectivity and Belief by Kathy Rudy: Rudy's experience being 'outed' at Duke university in the 90s, where she was forced to switch from a religion department faculty position to a position in women's studies. Reflects on subaltern studies and the Black church to encounter a fragmented faith; to let people come and go to and from the faith freely. LINK HERE
-Antimarriage: Paul Fletcher: Christian sex is fascist; a simulacra-like performance of desire, analogous to IKEA. Quotes Georges Bataille (only for a bit, tho; put your cool shades on, for this is, in fact, a very cool essay, although weird). Slightly dense, but a good sense of the academic direction of queer theology. My copy is heavily underlined. LINK HERE
-Faith Beyond Resentment: James Alison: Great gay Catholic reflections; he’s a good-ole Girardian, too. I think the term “the violence of the closet” comes from him. Somewhere, either in this book or the next, he talks about how the (Catholic) closet and risky hookup culture are intertwined (that as long as sex is extremely prohibited in Christianity, gays will find other, unhealthy and risky outlets for a sex not-discussed by the church: his argument has a flavor of realism to it); a useful reflection. (BUY THE BOOK)
-Undergoing God: James Alison: More James Alison, reflections on being Catholic and gay. BUY THE BOOK
-In the Shelter: Padraig O Tuama: Another gay “Catholic” dude. I’m a big fan; he makes thoughtful theological reflections, while also giving a glimpse into the gay-Catholic religious life. (He went through conversion therapy, but left because his therapist “used language badly.” What a badass.) His reflections on the body are some of my favorites, and this book has been a hit for both gay and straight people (He's just a cool guy; I want to be his friend). (BUY THE BOOK).
-Queerly a Good Friday: Jeanette Mei Gim Lee: Biracial lesbian, self-identified queer creates a reading of Simon (who carried Jesus’ cross) based on her own experience. LINK HERE
-Christ and Culture by Richard Niebuhr: Offers five different perspectives for the relation of "Christ" to "Culture," enacting a critical reflection on what "Christ" means, and what "culture" means, and how the Christian might be related to both of them. A bunch of people say that it's a "classic" reading; and it nuances the Christian ethical dialogue beyond mere acceptance or rejection of culture. BOOK PDF LINK HERE
-Excerpt from Jedidiah Jenkins To Shake the Sleeping Self: White gay guy reflecting on growing up in a conservative Christian household during a bike trip. LINK HERE
-Close to the Knives, David Wojnarowicz: an artist’s memoir as he faces the AIDS crisis. Wojnarowicz encounters sex, drugs, an apathetic government, and voices a rage against a world that has no place for him.
Although the book is laden with despair, and Wojnarowicz is skeptical of words that give courage and false hope, he admits, “What cheers me is seeing these friends as fighters who have fallen to their knees but who are up again and returning to fighting condition before my eyes. I am glad I am alive to witness these things; giving words to this life of sensations is a relief.” Like many pieces from the AIDS crisis, the book traces both the experience of despair and resilience from gay men in America.
LINK HERE. I’d skip to the chapter “Living Close to the Knives,” but I like the whole book.
- “The Evidence of Experience,” Joan W. Scott. Experience is always contested: is experience evidence of a particular identity? Or does experience (as the foundation of knowledge) merely reproduce ideological systems, never contesting them? Scott challenges the idea that experience is unmediated and transparent, or that is autonomous from language. LINK HERE
(I think a good pair for this might be Charles H. Long’s “Silence and Signification,” for he suggests what we might do with a language never fully transparent.)
-Judith Butler—In Theory: Ellen T. Armour & Susan M. St. Ville: A very good summary of Judith Butler’s theory found (at least) in Gender Trouble. LINK HERE
-The History of Sexuality Vol. 1; Michel Foucault: Not only is this a mature work of Foucault’s thought; it is also a way of questioning the 'historical' stability of our constructions of sexuality. What Foucault calls “Power” not only delimits sexuality repressively, but also determines which forms of sexuality are permitted—sexuality is both positively and negatively discursively constructed. Even my conservative Christian professor thought that Foucault, here, brought up good points. (BUY THE BOOK: IT'S SHORT)
-Archeology of Knowledge; Michel Foucault: Dense. Something close to Foucault’s approach (not exactly a method) to discourse and history. Foucault’s scholarship has made waves in post-structuralist thought, feminist, and queer movements, so, he is, in fact, important. (BUY THE BOOK)
-Gender Trouble, Judith Butler: Paves the way to question the subject of feminism, opening up third wave feminism to broader trans-inclusivity. Although, her solution is that gender should be parodied, for it is a discourse that cannot be escaped: gender should be proliferated and revealed as contingent, rather than absolute. (BUY THE BOOK).
-Queer Religiosities Introduction; Melissa M. Wilcox: Intersectional analysis and an overview of both Religious Studies and Queer/Transgender Studies. I think it’s a bit condescending and dumbed-down, shallow; but it is a good introduction. Good reading list at the end, too. LINK HERE
Between Men; Eve Sedgwick: Male Homosocial Desire. Read the intro and first chapter, and you’ll be fine. Describing the continuum between male homosociality and male homosexuality; differentiated (unlike lesbianism, apparently) by male homophobia. LINK HERE
ALTERNATIVE RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES (YOU DON’T KNOW ONE RELIGION/CATEGORY OF KNOWLEDGE UNTIL YOU KNOW AT LEAST TWO; COMPARATIVE AND SELF-REFLECTIVE):
-A Gay Orthodox Rabbi: Steve Greenberg: Hasidic Jewish male comes out as gay. Short and cool. LINK HERE
-Excerpt from The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective: Addressing Gen. 1 & 3, questioning the gender binary in Torah. LINK HERE
-Looking for Allah; Andrew K.T. Yip with Amna Khalid: Case study of LGBTQI Muslims in Britain and North America. Good anthropological account, rooted in lived-experience. I find a lot of it comparable to Christian experience. LINK HERE
-Trans* Atlantic Religion: Spirit Possession and Gender Ideology in Cuban Santería: “this article argues that Santería offers a genderqueer way of understanding the relationship between gods and humans.” LINK HERE (ADD LINK, BLAKE!!)
-La Conciencia de la Mestiza: towards a new consciousness; Gloria Anzaldua: Reflections on a Mestiza identity that exists ‘on the border.’ Or, between cultures. Mestiza affinity with ‘queer.’ LINK HERE (ADD LINK, BLAKE)
GAY BOOKS (BOOKS FOR INSIGHT INTO GAY EXPERIENCE, YKNOW):
-James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room: Gay Fiction, great book; Ocean Vuong once talked about how it is difficult for some straight critics to find hope or goodness in this book; queer and BIPOC critics, however, are much more aware of a narrative that is not so “bleak.” (BUY THE BOOK)
-Velvet Rage, Alan Downs: I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this on gay dates a lot. It’s one of those books that some say all gay men should read, about how to deal with self-validation and stuff, by a therapist. Many of my gay friends talk about this one. (BUY THE BOOK)
-Brokeback Mountain; Annie Proulx: I love this movie. The book is great too. The short story that inspired the “gay cowboy movie,” although some critics said, “it’s not even gay” (despite the (SPOILER!!) gay sex!). Maybe it’s ripe ground to question what type of construction “gay” even is. BUY THE BOOK (or watch the movie)
-Song of Achilles; Madeline Miller: Patroclus and Achilles’ story, but rendered gay (as if they weren’t gay already!!). BUY THE BOOK
-A Little Life; Hanya Yanagihara: According to goodreads reviews, “the most depressing book [Emily has] ever read.” Or, Michael Flick put it on his “worst” shelf. Or, Estelle says, “melodramatic, pretentious, dumb, overwritten, repetitive, laughable, cringe-inducing, self-indulgent, unbelievable, stereotypical, voyeuristic, [and] contrived. Thank you, Estelle.
But the New Yorker calls it subversively brilliant. 4.4/5, 4.3/5, etc. It might be worth a read, despite the accusations of “being too sad.” Is it for sadbois? Definitely. Antoni from Queer Eye wears a shirt with a reference to this book on it.
-Heartstopper: Bingeable and Cute
-Portrait of a Lady on Fire: a fun question to ask when you’re watching is “when do you know that they’re gay.”
-Boy Erased: Boy who grew up in a conservative Christian household comes out as gay. Father is a pastor (jeepers!); mother loves him anyways. Very helpful for (at least) my parents to understand a conservative Christian gay experience.
-Flee: Refugee/Gay documentary
-When We Rise: Docudrama following the LGBTQ civil rights movements.
TRANS STUDIES: (I have not put nearly enough effort into this field yet. SO, I will update this periodically).
Journal: Transgender Studies Quarterly: LINK HERE
Transgender History; Susan Stryker: Book with the history of the trans* movement in the West, along with a list of terminology that is important. It is a great overview, although it is dry at some points.
Trans Torah: Some trans passages in the TORAH. LINK HERE
-Frameline Voices—Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson: Gay activists reflect on transvestite activist Marsha P. Johnson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo0nYv9QIj4
-Extermination of the Joyas: Gendercide in Spanish California; Deborah A. Miranda: Account of “third gender” genocide from Spanish Colonization. LINK HERE
Sometimes, uncritically, the intro books to LBGTQ stuff find “causes” for alternative sexualities, genders, etc. For example, the Transgender History book mentions that transgenderism might be a result of exposure to chemicals commonly found in pesticides. The author does not seem to have the sensitivity to criticism here: not only is causality difficult to determine, especially in a case like this, but causality also determines that (in this case) transgenderism is contingent on pesticides. A detracting commentator might ask, “well, shouldn’t we try to eliminate transgenderism by controlling pesticides?,” as if transgenderism is, itself, a disorder. So, given the problematic nature of causes, it might be best to ignore questions of etiology (no one asks, in turn, where cis-genderism comes from).
Broader LGBTQ experiences
More trans stuff
Bigger focus on LBT; most content I’ve got is clinically anthropological, focusing on religious communities
BLAKE’S SUGGESTED READINGS FOR QUICK STUFF:
-What Does New Haven Have to Do With Lubbock?: Raises fun hermeneutics questions in a short way.
- The Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Gender Studies: Same-Sex Relations: covers the bases pretty well.
-LGBT-Queer Hermeneutics and the Hebrew Bible by David Tabb Stewart. Comprehensive and accessible.
-The introduction to God’s Beauty Parlor, because it is good.
-Watch Heartstopper, it’s cute.
Clearly, this is not an exhaustive nor conclusive list of LGBTQ+ Christian or religious content. And, for many, the questions raised by the LBGTQ+ "issue" in the church somehow threaten the integrity of Christianity, so that we must, at last, ask, "what does it really mean to be Christian?" I cannot give a definitive answer to this, but I do know that many queer folks are less concerned with being labelled as a Christian and more interested in pursuing a spiritual life. And so, one of my suggestions is to read the Bible critically and closely, and also holding a willingness to include the outsider (implicitly broadening our conceptions of 'what it means to be Christian'), like the action found in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Here, my recommendation is the book "Into the Silent Land" by Martin Laird. Or, it is just that people would seriously engage a contemplative or prayer life, and see what happens.