The Ways We Are Born

So my mom’s left handed. Sorry Mom, maybe you were hoping no one would ever know. Life hasn’t always been easy for lefties. Oh, I know we hear about the high value placed on left-handed pitchers, (no, let’s not talk about the Royals right now) but overall being left-handed historically has been reason for ill-treatment and bias.

“In Christian society, the left-handed side has long been associated with evil and the works of the devil. Among the references most often cited are the belief that God created woman from Adam’s left rib; the common portrayal of Satan in paintings and illustrations as being left-handed; and the association of Lucifer (the fallen angel synonymous with the devil) with the left-hand side of God. The Romans believed that evil lurked behind your left shoulder, while, in medieval times, being left-handed was commonly taken as proof of being a witch . . .it’s been some time since left-handers were burned at the stake, and children (as I was) punished for trying to write with their left hands, but unwitting bias against left-handers does still persist today.” – John Bagnall

So why are some people left-handed? Interestingly, it’s still considered a biological puzzle. “Some researchers believe that genes determine right-handed dominance and that a genetic aberration leads to about half of the left-handedness seen in the population. In the other half, the switch of control from left brain to right brain may occur because of chemical changes in fetal development.” (Philip J. Hilts).

So when people have characteristics that we don’t understand, it’s probably best to label them as wrong or evil – especially if we can associate it with our faith as Christians, right? *snort* Sorry Mom, but if the devil is left-handed and fell from the left side of God, and we all know how Eve caused Adam to sin and get thrown out of the garden and she came from the left rib, well, we don’t have any choice but to associate you with being bad, evil, and simply not acceptable to the community of faith. AND there are approximately 100 favorable biblical references to the strength of God’s right hand and 25 unfavorable biblical references to the evil of the left hand.

If I recall correctly, Mom, you talked about how, in elementary school, they tried to make you right-handed, something about immobilizing your left arm to your body to force you to use your right hand? But it didn’t work – you stayed left-handed! What’s the deal?! Would you not listen? Did you not have enough self-control? Why would you continue to use your left-hand when you clearly could choose to use your right? And you continue to do that today! What’s wrong with you?! Some kids they did that to developed a stuttering disability, glad that didn’t happen to you. Maybe you were condemned by God a little bit less than other left-handers, so even though they weren’t finally able to make you right-handed through forceful behavior modification, at least you don’t stutter. That has to be a plus, right? *snort* Sorry, have I crossed the line?

It’s ludicrous, isn’t it? When you see it in print, it seems simply ludicrous that we would develop bias and hate, most particularly about people, children of God as we people of faith would say, because of the way they are created.

And yet it’s what the United Methodist Church is doing this week. We as a denomination are having the same sort of ludicrous discussion about persons born same gender preference. You realize it’s the same, right? Being born left-handed, being born homosexual… Medical studies show that chemical changes during fetal development likely cause both of these occurrences. “A 2012 study proposed that epigenetic changes, or alterations in marks on DNA that turn certain genes on and off, may play a role in homosexuality. This type of gene regulation isn’t as stable as DNA and can be switched on and off by environmental factors of conditions in the womb during prenatal development.” (Livescience, Tia Ghose, March 5, 2015). I guess it’s a good thing my mom didn’t feel called to the ministry in the United Methodist Church, being left-handed and all, since it’s likely caused by a particular chemical change during fetal development like homosexuality is.

This week our Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church is ruling on the question of whether the Western Jurisdiction, who has fulfilled one of their functions as stated in our Book of Discipline to nominate and elect bishops, can in fact elect and appoint a bishop who is legally married to a person of the same gender. She is an Elder in good standing in the Western Jurisdiction, a requirement for nomination to the Episcopacy, her election was unanimous, and her work in the Mountain Sky Annual Conference has been accepted and supported and widely regarded as effective and faithful – signs of a great Bishop for our church… except she was born wrong, left-handed? I don’t know about that part of her genetic make-up, but she fell in love and is in a faithful marriage to the wrong person according to our church, and so her effective ministry in the local church and Episcopal leadership is on trial.

Are you tired yet? I am. I’m tired of the judgment and the hate and the hypocrisy and the polarizing rhetoric and the decision to judge other people because they make us uncomfortable. Maybe it’s time to simply be us – unique creations of a God with a magnificent imagination who would not be limited to creating us out of one pattern but instead sees blessing in the uniqueness of each being. What if our questions stopped being about if or how particular chemical changes that happen during our fetal development cause human beings to be different, and started being about how we live and love and serve and have fun and hope and dream and share ministry along the path of discipleship?

One last thing, and don’t tell my mom. I have kept most of her handwritten cards and letters for years, which she wrote to me once a week all through college. I’ve kept them partly because she’s a wonderful writer, partly because her handwriting is beautiful, and mostly because, well, she’s my mom.