Category Archives: Christianity

A Review of “Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett

"Full Circle: A Father's Journey with a Transgender Child" by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett.

“Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett.

As a post-operative transsexual woman, myself, and as someone who counts Nicole Rundlett amongst her personal friends I can hardly enter a review of “Full Circle” as an unbiased observer. However, Nicole knows me well enough to know that I am lavish on praise where it is due and overtly critical of actions and opinions where they lack merit or validity. See my article on “Passing 101 or The Emperor’s New Clothes (REVISITED)” as an example of my critical edge.

( https://chrysalid58.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/passing-101-or-the-emperors-new-clothes-revisited/ )

I first met Nicole in Montreal at Dr. Pierre Brassard’s  Clinique de chirurgie plastique et esthétique in early November 2009. She was there for SRS (sex reassignment surgery) supported by her then girlfriend, and now, wife,  Arlene (Ar) and I was there for brow work, rhinoplasty, and breast augmentation by Dr. Eric Bensimon. A year earlier I had undergone SRS myself under the skilled hands of Dr. Brassard.

Full Circle is set apart from most other books on the subject as it is told largely by Derry Rundlett— Nicki’s father. The book is in essence a love letter between father and child. Derry chronicles the evolution of his relationship with Nicole from conception through to the birth of son, Nick, and the rebirth of Nick into Nicole. It is at once both moving and profound as the author tackles the issue of his son’s transition from male to female head-on.

Male-to-Female transsexuals can easily fall into the trap of seeing themselves less objectively than the world around them may view them. It was refreshing for me and more importantly, critical to Nicki’s well-being that she largely avoided that common pitfall in the course of her transitioning from male to female.

Both Nicki and her father were keenly aware that Nicole was seen as something “other” during the early phase of her transition. Derry recites an incident where Nicole’s gender was openly questioned. It is generally a difficult period for most male-to-female transsexuals — (I was no exception) and public scrutiny can be intense.

Derry recounts the struggle that both he and other members of the family (both immediate and extended) had in coming to terms with “Nicole”. Some relationships were indeed interrupted if not lost altogether and Nicki’s transition proved the undoing of his first marriage.

There was undeniable confusion and pain for all involved — Nicole included. Derry answers many of the questions raised by those opposed to sex-changes, transgender rights, and the like. A self-identified Christian, Derry recounts the difficulty of trying to apply stereotypical Christian methods of coping to his agnostic/atheist child ( in fairness, I am not sure about Nicki’s stance on the issue of religion).

Many close family and friends of the Rundlett’s are practicing Christians and they are treated with respect and love by Derry despite witnessing many of them failing to embrace Nicole’s new identity.

There are no rose colored glasses here despite an all-encompassing love of a father for his child that trumps any and all arguments that may be leveled against Nicole.

The author is also aware of the high number of suicides committed by gender variant individuals and the book opens and closes with an acknowledgement of that grim fact. No less a personage than Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan is afforded the book’s “Afterword” on the subject.

Full Circle is a fast-easy read despite the subject matter. There is plenty of humor to be found amidst the often controversial subjects of sex and sexuality. The book is especially recommended for parents and other family members coming to grips with the reality of having a gender variant child. Both Nicki and Derry express their shared hope that this book may actually save lives. Their concern is not overstated.

From the publisher’s website:

He had to grieve the loss of a son & welcome the addition of a daughter only to come full circle and find out, in the end, he never lost anything. The essence of his child was still the same person she’d always been.

“Full Circle: A Father’s Journey with a Transgender Child” by Derry Rundlett & Nicole Rundlett can be ordered via aBASK Publishing:

http://www.abaskpublishing.com/full_circle_a_fathers_journey_with_a_transgender_child_by_derry_rundlett__nicole_rundlett_click_here-1

or through Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Full-Circle-Fathers-Journey-Transgender/dp/0996239901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432627761&sr=8-1&keywords=full+circle+derry+rundlett

Also from the Publisher:

This is a 216 page tradepaper, perfect-bound 5.25″x8″ book with photos in living color. The Foreword is by Wayne Maines whose daughter won the highest transgender rights case in the history of Maine. The Afterword is by Jennifer Finney Boylan, reprinted with permission, “How to Save Your Life.”

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Blasphemy!!! — maybe, maybe not

blasphemy

Recently, the image above graced my Facebook page and me being me, well it provoked a number of thoughts. Most pressing was the question: Is this a depiction of a blasphemous action? For most people I think it will simply be perceived as a humorous physical gag at the expense of Christianity; end of story. Of course, since I identify as a Christian I am always interested in general perceptions of Christ and Christianity and so I react to images such as the one above with more than a passing interest.

If we look at a standard definition of “blasphemy” our trio of young cut-ups above are certainly guilty of it:

…the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God… irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blasphemy

To be sure any number of Christian people will perceive the image above much differently from someone who doesn’t believe in God or Jesus Christ.

Left: What some Christians might interpret the original image as and at Right: What the majority of folks will be picturing

Left: What some Christians will visualize and at Right: What the majority of folks will be picturing.

Personally, I don’t ascribe to common interpretations of blasphemy and I certainly don’t consider the actions of the jokers above to be on par with the soldiers mocking of Christ in the Biblical account. Honestly, I think it’s important for Christians to know that “the World” expects Christians to be uptight and to react with knee-jerk outrage to irreverant actions. At least half the fun for the perpetrators of such acts is to provoke exactly that reaction. However, my hope is to dissuade Christians from giving unbelievers what they want.

The plain truth is, Jesus Christ was murdered. In the events leading up to his death by crucifixion Christ was physically beaten and mocked while that beating was occurring. Christ’s blood was spilt. Regardless, of what one feels regarding Christianity or Christ —to simulate the Village People’s famous Y.M.C.A pose is nothing on the order of the indignities suffered by Christ at the hands of his executioners.

The real sin evinced in the picture heralding this blog entry is simply the sin of unbelief. I don’t hear Christ accusing them of blasphemy so much as I hear the words: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 KJV) The guiding principle as always, is love. Love isn’t just a word or an idea; love is action and character.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.. (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

I thought I’d emphasize the “not easily angered” bit or as the King James Version of the Bible puts it— “is not easily provoked”. Really, that should be the guiding principle whenever we deal with people that do not embrace the same values and beliefs we hold.

And one final thought, I am curious if our merry pranksters would be so quick to have some fun at the Prophet Muhammad’s expense? Somehow, I don’t think they would, and, somehow that strikes me as kind of funny 🙂

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Bruce Lee, Vampires and Jesus: Ye Shall Know Them By Their Suits?!?

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Parsons: What’s your style?

Bruce Lee: My Style? You can call it the style of fighting without fighting.

Parsons: The art of fighting without fighting? Show me some of it.

That little exchange occurs in Bruce Lee’s classic martial arts film, Enter the Dragon. I love that scene! Lee outwits the hapless Aussie, and the poor guy almost drowns as his little boat is dragged behind a much larger boat en route to Han’s island fortress. So what, might you ask, has Bruce Lee to do with Jesus and Vampires? Quite a bit actually.

Lee was critical of rigid and formalized structures in traditional martial arts—the katas of Karate for example. Read this brilliant quote from the master, himself:

I have not invented a “new style,” composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”. . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that. There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune-Do is simply the direct expression of one’s feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one’s back.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeet_Kune_Do

Wow! I love that! Lee also famously said:

Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

Source: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bruce_Lee

Much like Lee did with his martial arts philosophy, I incorporate truths outside of traditional Christian sources into my spirituality. This freedom on my part causes an immediate knee-jerk reaction from Christians adhering to stricter forms of the faith. I can almost hear the shrill warnings of apostasy raining down upon me from various religious quarters as I type this out.

I’m sure Lee encountered much the same kind of criticism from his Wing Chun peers when he incorporated Judo, Fencing, Karate, and a host of other disciplines into his fighting style. However, I am convinced that Jesus and his disciples operated in much the same way.

The target in all cases is religious form and tradition that do nothing for God but everything for self aggrandizement, exclusivity, and sectionalism. Often, the problem originates in something beneficial, born of good intent, and frequently even of a spiritual nature.

The Bible is rich in examples. One of my favorites centers on the Ark of the Covenant. No, not the one Noah hung out in with the giraffes and humpty-back camels and some chimpanzees. I’m talking about the other Ark. You know, the one Indiana Jones went after in the first movie. The one that melted the Nazi leader’s face.

Anyways, the Ark of the Covenant was a good thing. God even told the Israelis how to make it and what materials they needed in doing so. The problem was that the Jews got their focus off of God and what He wanted.

They got themselves involved in a war with the Philistines figuring they would win in convincing fashion but they got clobbered. Naturally, you’d think they’d call upon the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob to pull them out of the fire so-to-speak but they didn’t. What they did do was to ask for the Ark of the Covenant!

After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.”

1 Samuel 4:3 New Living Translation (©2007)

Well, they got the Ark took it into the next big battle, and the Philistines promptly scattered them to the winds; adding insult to injury the Philistines took the Ark away from the Jews and brought it back with them as a trophy!

What happened here? Well, the Jews basically forgot all about spirituality and replaced it with a fetish. It’s the same kind of superstition you see in Vampire movies.

Van Helsing and company invariably obtain a cross or crucifix at some point in the story and burn the undead antagonist with it usually by branding their forehead or hand. There’s generally a scene included in which an impromptu cross is made of some discarded wood. The Vampire hisses and turns from the hated “holy” object usually covering himself with his cloak. I also like the cleavage scenes where Dracula or whatever fill-in is about to put the bite on a pretty victim. He pulls back the delicate bodice, young soft breasts rise and fall with each gentle breath,  but suddenly a delicate cross or crucifix is revealed!  Thank God! It successfully repels the beast from continuing with his salacious assault.

Of course all this supposes either that Dracula and his ilk believe in Christianity or God or that there is some actual power in the “symbol” of “the” cross. Again, as with the Ark of the Covenant, there is nothing inherently bad about crosses or holy water or the Eucharist or whatever. The problem comes when believers get their spiritual eyes off of God and onto some aspect of the Faith that they have fetishized.

Jesus criticized the Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders of his time) for wearing enlarged phylacteries, [religious boxes in which were contained scriptures] (Matthew 23: 5) because it allowed them to make a demonstration of their religious conviction. The Pharisees judged their spirituality on an outward show and Jesus took them to task for it. Of themselves, Phylacteries are not bad or wrong but if you fetish them, you’ve got a problem.

Jesus is quoted as saying:

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.

Matthew 12:23 New Living Translation (©2007)

Figuratively speaking, Christians are presumably born again of a good tree. Therefore, borrowing from the example above, the fruit they bear is good. We are known by the fruit we bear spiritually. As Paul wrote in letter to the Galatians:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness

Galatians 5:22 New Living Translation (©2007)

Those qualities are what should set a Christian apart from the unbeliever not the crosses around our necks, the clothes we wear or the church we attend.You shall know them by their fruits… not by their suits, folks.

I agree with Bruce Lee when he says: “He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive.”

Take a look at the image below:

Guess the Religion Game!

Religious Mix and Match: Can you match the religious expressions with the religions listed below?

If you can properly assign the following words to the corresponding religious expression above then I suspect there’s something wrong with this picture: Buddhism, Catholicism, Evangelicalism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Druidism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sikhism, Rastafarianism

Ok, one more Bible story.

When Peter witnessed the “Transfiguration”; that point in the Gospel narrative where Christ is lit up with Divine light, Moses and Elijah appearing with him, the excited disciple says:

“Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials–one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.

Mark 9:5-6 New Living Translation (©2007)

It looks like Peter immediately wants to start a religion or at least mark the occasion with a religious monument. However, before the new religion can take root. God breaks in with an announcement of His own:

Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Mark 9:7 New Living Translation (©2007)

To me this is the crux of it all (pardon the pun). Basically, God is telling Peter to forget focusing on the Holy light-show, forget erecting religious monuments and to listen to Christ. Ultimately, and in every case that trumps any religious form, structure, rite, or function you can possibly think of.

The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 New Living Translation (©2007)

Honestly, I firmly believe the only way someone should be able to tell if we are Christians is if we bear the character of Christ not via our tshirts, suits, and crosses or the kind of building we enter.

In other words, be like water my friend. Be like water 🙂

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Does it always have to be Science versus Spirituality? PART II

Science vs. Christianity

Yesterday, in part I of this discussion I blogged about a recent study whose findings suggested religious or spiritual belief suffers under the light of analytical thinking. In other words, the more thinking you do the less likely you are to believe in the supernatural. Hopefully, I was able to demonstrate that within a Christian framework there is no cause for disagreement. Further to this is another study published just days ago in which scientists identified specific regions in the brain where the spiritual interface is thought to occur.

All fun stuff, but the underlying inference is that God is simply a product of our evolutionary progression. Many news organizations covered the story but I always enjoy reading the CBC’s take on things, as they never cease to entertain:

But if we accept the implied argument here that, as a function of our evolutionary heritage, our brains have evolved to respond to the presence of God as a real, concrete person, then many of those people struggling to believe in an abstract deity are working against their very natures.

The evidence from this group in Denmark suggests that the more abstract the concept of God, the more unreal the experience is to the human brain.

That’s why the idea of a divine intermediary, as Christians and Hindus believe, is such a powerful invention — for those who accept it, that is.

(Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/story/2012/05/07/f-vp-handler-god-spot.html)

Once again, apart from the evolutionary component, Christian belief is in accordance with the study’s findings.  In other words, simply as a means of comprehending God intellectually, we are required to use our brains. Personally, I believe in a tripartite construction of the human being. Those parts consisting of spirit, soul, and body.

Fortunately, the comprehension of God transcends the limits of the soul wherein lies our intellect, rationalization, emotions, and will. God can be apprehended by spirit and connected with on a transcendent level. That is why the mentally infirm, and the comatose are able to commune with God despite their physical challenges. Christianity transcends the inherent limitations of our brains.

Of course, Christians and their scientific critics do view things differently, and this unfortunately is a critical impasse.

For the Christian the thought that we are created in the image of God resonates with us and for the secularist the opposite holds sway; or as the CBC article put it:

God may be incomprehensible, the true and ultimate “other.” But in the end, we seem to turn Him into a person. Perhaps that’s only human.

The problem with humanistic interpretations of spirituality is that you are left with a shell or a gutted husk of spirituality one lacking the transformative power  to change lives. Citing again from the CBC article:

As well, in this Ideas series, we hear James Carse, a religion writer and former history professor at New York University, tell us that belief is “the enemy of religion.”

“Beliefs come and go,” he says. They are disposable. And he’s disposed of his, pretty much.

What Carse appreciates is “tradition.” By this he means that when someone experiences God, it isn’t via some woozy, mystical event, but through participating in a community, along with other congregants.

Carse may appreciate his tradition but as the Bible recognizes:

Thus have you made the commandment of God void by your tradition. (Mathew 15:6 King James version 2000)

and again:

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: (2 Timothy 3:5 King James version 2000)

To me, that’s the end result of such thinking—all the outward trappings of religion but none of its life-changing power.

And worse, traditional practices historically promote the destruction of indigenous cultures by imposing upon them rituals and religious forms alien to their native culture. Stained glass windows and wooden pews archaic rituals steeped in Euro-centric cultural traditions bearing little or no relevance at all to the subjugated populations.

What a turn-off for young people seeking real meaning and purpose in their lives. Pipe organs, Latin liturgical addresses, and Gregorian chants may inspire some but far more people will relate to a vibrant message of hope adaptable, malleable, and meaningful within the confines of any given culture.

A spirituality that will resonate with or without the availability of Bibles, manifesting uniquely whether you are an African bushman, a Ganzu fisherman, or a Seoul housewife and mother.

As Jesus said:

The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 New Living Translation 2007)

Pretty hard to put a box and steeple around that kind of thinking, folks—and honestly, who would want to?

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Does it always have to be Science versus Spirituality? PART I

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Too often the science vs. religion debate is framed within an either/or proposition.Two articles recently caught my eye dealing with the ongoing debate between religious (I prefer “spiritual“) belief and science. The first I found quite enlightening (pardon the obvious pun) centering on a UBC study whose results suggested that critical thinking inversely affects religious faith. The study put forth a dualistic model in which two fundamental thinking types exist: intuitive and analytical.

(The article was widely circulated but you can read the Chicago Tribune’s take on it here:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/la-sci-religion-analytical-thinking-20120427,0,7996681.story)

Essentially, folks operating from an intuitive “gut-level” POV report a higher affinity towards religious belief whereas their analytical counterparts are more likely to eschew religious perspectives. I most definitely fall into the former camp and therefore my own spiritual convictions may add validity to the study in question.

Obviously, the tenor of the discussion falls well within secular confines and therefore precludes any substantial opportunity for spiritual redress. But hey, that’s why I’m here! And, yes, I know that quoting the Bible make people’s eyes glaze over but it remains my go-to source for making sense out of the world. On the upside, the Bible actually tends to support the study’s own findings. So that’s gotta be good right? Now, personally, I prefer the good ol’ King James Version of the Bible, but when blogging these things out sometimes a different version proves useful.

In this case, The New Living Translation published in 2007 should do the trick:

Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. (I Corinthians 1:21-23)

In other words, the Bible acknowledges that in light of rational or analytical thinking the Gospel or spiritual belief will appear as foolish, stupid, insipid—well you get the idea. Amazing how things haven’t changed much at all when it comes to spiritual understanding.

Humanist thinker, Michael Stone took note of the study as well, citing Mark Twain and Frederich Nietzsche amongst others in decrying the foolishness inherent within a faith driven paradigm:

“Faith: not wanting to know what is true.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“Faith is believing something you know ain’t true.” – Mark Twain

(source: http://www.examiner.com/article/study-shows-thinking-diminishes-religious-faith)

Twain’s comment is tinged with that salt of the earth humor that has made him such a beloved character. And Nietzsche’s comment? Well, humor isn’t really what he’s remembered for. And yet, science and Christian belief are agreed that when examined under critical analysis faith comes out looking rather foolish.

We know the Bible is loaded with thoughts on faith. Nonetheless, its own definition of faith stands in marked contrast to the wry humor of Samuel Clemens and the biting criticism of Nietzsche.

 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1 from the Living Translation again)

It’s interesting that Twain and Nietzsche both question the “truth” of Christianity and yet Christ is the self-proclaimed “Way, Truth and Life”. (the emphasis is mine).  So rather than avoiding or denying truth, Christianity avows, advances, exalts, and demands a fervent love of truth in all its adherents.

Simply put, as the Bible states:  …you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)

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“Love is Not Easily Offended” 1 Corinthians: 13

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Some of you may have been following the story of a Nova Scotia teen recently suspended from his high school for wearing a religious t-shirt. Apparently, some teachers and fellow students found the shirt offensive and that it disparaged other belief systems:

Leading up to the suspension, the school’s principal had repeatedly asked Swinimer to stop sporting the shirt, which he said was dismissive of other students’ beliefs, but the school board said the boy was “defiant.”

http://www.torontosun.com/2012/05/07/parents-pull-jesus-shirt-teen-from-school

The student in question, William Swinimer, apparently acted in an over-zealous manner and is accused of proselytizing other members of the student body. Ok, fair enough. But as a trans-woman, and as a self-professed, Christian I am uniquely positioned to offend pretty much everybody on some level and therefore can understand something of both sides of this debate.

So, at the risk of citing an oft-recited mantra I urge everyone to—“show a little tolerance here”.

As a member of the GLBT (sort the letters as necessary) community, I think it’s important that we extend tolerance towards others who may hold different and even offensive beliefs to our own. Basically, I urge us to show the same tolerance to our critics as we demand of them. it’s only fair, after-all.

As to the shirt in question—kind of clever really, it takes a wry shot at drug abuse while simultaneously launching an appeal to Christianity. So lets take a page from the Christians’ own book and live up to a noble truth located therein, “Love is not easily offended.”

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