Flesh Touching Flesh

Flesh Touching Flesh

When the New York Times writes about you, there will be angry responses. Mine started arriving last Tuesday in the form of a phone call from someone in California at 3:45 AM. Emails and comments on this blog came the next day. I traced the source of most of them to a Christian Internet news site that had run a supportive article. About a dozen conservative Christian sites picked up the story and turned it to their purposes. Those articles became the source of much of the unwanted correspondence.

The people who wrote do not know me. We have had no personal encounters. Yet they fear me. They are frightened of being forced into close proximity with me. Of course, what they do not realize is that they are already in close proximity to transgender people. Since the article appeared, scores of closeted transgender fundamentalists have contacted me. Their stories leave me in tears. Several are pastors.

When humans organize in tribes, we behave in ways in which we would never behave as individuals. We can be goaded into seeing an entire people group as a threat.  It takes a tribe to create a cosmic malevolent force sufficient to deny the humanity of a fellow human.

Tribal behavior is maintained when left or right wing media keep their audiences isolated. The isolation is essential to their agenda. There were scores of comments on these right-wing sites, all of like mind, condemning the New York Times and condemning me.  There were no voices of dissension.  The arrival of the Internet has made the world smaller, but ironically, it has also made us more isolated from one another. When our only interaction is electronic, and limited to those we believe are like us, our humanity is diminished.

Prejudice dissipates when knowledge is disseminated, stories are told, and flesh touches flesh. That is the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called. That is the responsibility we have as followers of Christ. The evangelical church has become a choir without a melody, repeating one single note – to save people from hell.

The hell people need saving from is not on the other side of death. It is here on earth, where tribes create enemies that do not exist and scapegoats whose only crime is to be different from those in power.

The ministry of reconciliation is about reconciling humans here and now. It is about putting people together, two at a time, who have no agenda other than to get to know one another. It is about laying aside our smartphones and eating a meal together. It is venturing beyond the boundaries of our own tribe to find the individual precious humans around us.

To all those who have written to express their anger that I exist, come and sit down with me. Do not bring your agenda and I will not bring mine. Maybe we can talk about our favorite teacher in elementary school. And maybe we will come to know the healing power of our mutual humanity.

And so it goes.

10 thoughts on “Flesh Touching Flesh

  1. I just finished Rohr’s Falling Upward and I am convinced those who are afraid of you, who revile you, who distance themselves from you, and countless others, are still in the stage one Rohr describes. They are building their containers, their identities, heir tribes, and they want no part of the hard work of putting content into the second stage. To do so means confronting their past and recognizing they may have been wrong, and are fearful that wrong is wrong and somehow changing is dangerous as well as wrong. How thankful I am that you are in that second stage, and I think I’m slowly getting there as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not surprised you received negative responses from the Times article. I am sure you also are not surprised. Did Jonathan also get attacked? Sorry that is happening to you.
    Group psychology is a dangerous thing. We’ve all seen it any times and I think as we get older we realize how easy it can happen
    I am glad you are helping so many others in such unique ways. Be strong, carry on.
    Keep the faith!


  3. “The hell people need saving from is not on the other side of death.” Yes! I was taught this for decades! It’s not true! Another thing I was taught was how to save people from death. You tell them they are wrong and what is right. I also don’t believe that any more.

    Love is the only thing that saves. Jesus said, “Follow me” and saved the people with love. We save each other in love. And not corporately. But one-on-one.

    “Loving you”, no longer means telling you you are wrong and going to hell. It means having compassion for all stories and never wanting anyone to fear being who they are, for that is hell. Humanity has been trained by The Way of the World to feel unworthy. The Way of the Soul knows “you are worthy”, and so am I! You were born that way. The World tells you you are not—that you are small and inadequate. The Soul knows you are vast.


  4. I was at a conference for church leaders recently and one statement by one of the speakers continues to echo in my mind- “Until you listen to someone’s story, all you are left with are assumptions.” From that time on I have returned to reading your blogs. I truly want to listen to your story.

    Even though we have never met, I am pretty well acquainted with Paul’s work through the Christian Standard and the Orchard group. My brother and sister were both long term employees of the Christian Standard. I continue to be an active part of the church group that you so harshly criticize. I would love to meet with you personally next time you are in my part of the country. I want to hearmore of your story.




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