Impoverished Conceptions

Some Pushback for the Reformed Tribe and the Side B Tribe

Circumstances being what they are, I’m often forced to think about the collision between the most outspoken elements of the Reformed tribe and the Side B tribe. I’m forced to do so, because I have an awkward foot and vested interest in each one’s territory. And I have my pushback for both tribes.

On one hand, I have the impression that ultraconservative Reformed culture warriors push too hard on the vocation of marriage and family as the universal expectation. Any concession to a vocation of celibacy has so many strange qualifications it becomes non-existent in practice.

Many in the Reformed tribe have a poor conception of the complexity of sexuality and the inner workings of men and women when it comes to affections, attractions, aesthetics, disabilities, deficiencies, dysphorias, disorientations, sufferings, self-denial, chastity, and social structures and needs.

On the other hand, I have the impression that activist Side B posterboys and girls push too hard against the vocation of marriage. If not against the “cult of the family” found in suburban Pop Evangelical churches, then against the natural institution in their own lives in a few forms.

Many in the Side B tribe have a poor conception of the complexity of sexuality and the inner workings of men and women when it comes to edification and transformation (i.e. vivification and mortification), self-discovery, self-conceptions, social presentation, and the resulting feedback on oneself.

As someone who’s a fairly conservative Reformed man who experiences and navigates persistent same-sex attraction, I sympathize with both camps, and I push back on both camps. I push against some of my ultraconservative Reformed brethren for being naive and thickheaded toward fellow Christians who don’t neatly fit the former’s personality enclave. I push against some of my sexual minority traditional Christian brethren for conflating a difficult native state of unweddedness with Pauline vocational celibacy.

In many ways, I’ve come to view both excesses as complementary counterparts mutually shaped by the same distorting influence of our culture. Our culture is one of corporatistic consumerism. Highly untethered from nature writ large (creationistic teleology) and our own human natures as embodied males and females who have roots and bonds.

Identity self-construction and curation, i.e. personal brand development, as consumers is a force at work in every decision we make. So, the ultraconservative Reformed Christians who are being countercultural by emphasizing rigorous federal headship, single-income households, and quiver-fulls of homeschooled children are developing and promoting brand loyalty. And the activist Side B Christians who are hashtagging, rainbow-flagging, and bumblebee-stamping mini-bios and daily social media activities are developing and promoting brand loyalty.

There’s an insecurity on both sides where the constructed and curated identity must be affirmed publicly in a free market of self-identification. No one can just live a vocation where the social context of doing so is its own reinforcement and reassurance. There’s more concern about tribal signalling for market share than their is with contentment in the meaningfulness of daily practice.

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