liminality

Liminal: of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition.

The in-between. The transitional. The space of tension between the known and the unknown.

That’s where I’m at right now. Technically, my first day of classes start tomorrow because it’s after midnight. I moved back into Bethel for Clarion training on Saturday, August 20, just a week after getting home from working at Camp Shamineau all summer. 

(The Clarion is Bethel University’s student press I write for.)

I haven’t had much time to sit back and reflect on my summer because of all the changes and new stuff I’ve been experiencing and going through lately.

Living in sophomore housing is a lot more spacious and comfortable than freshman dorms, but I miss walking out into the hallway or into the bathroom and being greeted by my floor-mates, catching up and talking about life.

This year, I know I’ll have to be more intentional about spending time with people.

But I’ll also have to be more intentional about who I spend time with. Due to being so busy writing and interviewing and taking pictures for The Clarion, I’ve been neglecting to spend time with God. I can get so wrapped up in what I’m doing in the moment that I forget why I’m doing it in the first place: to glorify God. To spark conversations, to challenge both others and myself. To always tell the truth, even if it stings.

Yesterday, I found out my second grade teacher, Aric Babbitt was found dead with his husband. I was home schooled before second grade, so Mr. Babbitt was my first teacher after my mom. That transition was super tough, because I was so trusting of everyone – no one had ever lied to me before, because why would they? So I was labeled the gullible girl. And when I fell for kids’ tricks, they called me stupid.

But Mr. Babbitt always affirmed me. He told me I was smart, he saw past my naivety and saw my potential. He also did this for my younger brother, and my younger cousin last year.

Liminality. I know that he’s dead, I don’t know why. I know that he made a giant impact on everyone he encountered, but I don’t know if he knew that. And that makes me very sad.

The good friend I was with when I found out he was dead gave me a huge hug, and then we talked. We talked about gay marriage, and I found out we held different opinions.

Mr. Babbitt happened to be gay. He was apparently found dead with his husband, though the details are lacking right now.

Right now I’m reading God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, founder of the Reformation Project, “a Bible-based, non-profit organization that seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Here is a review of the book from Martti Nissinen, professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Helsinki:

Few things in today’s world divide churches and Christian communities more deeply than the issue of homosexuality. What lies at the very heart of the matter is the Bible and its interpretation. The very few biblical verses that touch upon same-sex-related matters say nothing about love and enduring relationships between people of the same sex – on the contrary, these texts condemn harshly the activities they describe, such as attempted rape, debauchery, or depriving a person of his male honor. This has led theologically conservative Christians to condemn altogether what is today called ‘homosexuality.’ As the consequence of such an interpretation of the authoritative Scripture, hundreds of thousands of members of Christian communities have faced the difficulty, if not impossibility, to live out their non-heterosexual orientation while maintaining their Christian identity. Matthew Vines dedicates his book to ‘all those who have suffered in silence for so long.’

 

He reads the Bible and biblical scholarship as an evangelical gay Christian, giving a voice both to the biblical texts and its readers. He takes seriously the biblical text that for him represents the authoritative Word of God, historical scholarship that reads the biblical text against what can be known of its historical context, and the experiences of Christians who read the Bible today. Importantly, his own personal voice is to be heard throughout the book, which only adds to its credibility. A careful scrutiny of the six biblical passages that somehow address same-sex behavior leads Vines to make a compelling argument against mandatory celibacy for gay Christians. More than that, he argues that Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships. Matthew Vine’s well-read and well-argued book deserves to be read not only by all those who have suffered in silence, but also by members and ministers of Christian communities struggling with the recognition and appreciation of their gay members.

This blog post is about a lot of things. Transitioning into my second year of college at Bethel, making time for God, doing things for the glory of God. Mr. Babbitt and his incredible legacy – may he rest in peace. And that constant liminal space in our lives: the tension between the known and the unknown.

But that’s the thing, it’s constant, because we’re humans – we can’t possibly have all the answers. And although we may all disagree theologically and politically, there’s one thing that I believe everyone would agree on: we need to love each other more, and love each other better. This post is not meant to cause a debate on gay rights. It’s to cause people to think, and to possibly spark the open-mindedness to learn more. It’s about the love that Mr. Babbitt showed to all of his students, and the impact he had on my life.

I am who I am today partly because Mr. Babbitt was my second grade teacher, my FIRST teacher at public school. He showed me love when other students didn’t. He made me feel welcome when I felt alone and vulnerable. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and for that I am eternally grateful.

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