Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Snarky Jesus and Andy the Pansy

I happened to be reading the Gospel of Mark last night.

Now, I've read it before, of course. Recently, as part of my confirmation class homework, I read it straight through in a single sitting. Still, I had never quite noticed this hilarious passage.

Jesus is coming back down the mountain after the Transfiguration. He sees the disciples arguing with the locals. A father says, "Jesus, my son has been afflicted by a terrible demon. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not. If you are able to do anything, have pity on us, and help us."

"If you are able!" exclaims an exasperated Jesus. "All things can be done for the one who believes." So Jesus says to the demon, "Yo, scram." The boy convulses violently, cries out in anguish, and lies still, as if dead. Then Jesus helps him to his feet, and he's fine.

Afterwards the disciples come to Jesus and say, "Hey...umm, we don't get it. How come you got the demon to come out, and we could not?"

"Oh, well, this kind of demon," says Jesus with a wink and a sympathetic tone of voice, "can only come out through prayer."

Ouch. (Mark 9:14-29, New Revised Andy Translation)

* * * * * * * *

At my parish I am stirring up some trouble by forming a discrete, fledgling LGBT + Allies group. I was thinking of calling it The 7:20 Club, a jab at the Pat Robertson show and referring to Matthew 7:20. That verse is, in the KJV, "By their fruits shall ye know them."

Too awful? Be honest.

* * * * * * * *

It hasn't anything to do with religion, really, but I wanted to chime in on North Carolina Governor Mike Easley's endorsement of Hillary Clinton, where he said, "This lady right here makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy."


Senator Clinton just let that fly right by, smiling and chuckling. I'm sorry, that's not acceptable. "Pansy" may not have been the most vulgar word he could have chosen, but the sentiment is ugly all the same. Senator Clinton, endorsed by the purportedly pro-gay Human Rights Campaign, has called on Barack Obama to "denounce and reject" all kinds of ridiculous, offensive statements made by people unaffiliated with his campaign at times when Senator Obama was not present. Now she's going to accept -- with a smile and a laugh -- an endorsement that comes with a homophobic slur meant as a compliment to her?

The silence -- from both HRC's -- is pretty deafening right now.

Governor Easley, I can think of many gay people who could kick Rocky Balboa's ass. And those are just the lesbians. As for me, I think I could take you. Want to step outside and settle this, governor to pansy?


Gino said...

its not in my character, so please pardon me for saying anything in defense of the hillary campaign:
i know pansy can be used as a homo slur, but i dont think it originally meant that. it just meant weak and wimpish. and i think this is what it means to 90% who use it.
when i hear it, and use it, sexual orientation is the furthest thing from my mind.

now, if he had said 'fairy', THAT would have been totally different.

Andy said...

Well, according to Webster's:

3. Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
a. a male homosexual.
b. a weak, effeminate, and often cowardly man.

And according to Oxford:

2 informal, derogatory an effeminate or homosexual man.

And American Heritage:

3. Offensive Slang a. Used as a disparaging term for a man or boy who is considered effeminate. b. Used as a disparaging term for a homosexual man.

Interestingly, the word "pansy" derives from the French pensee, meaning "thoughtful." I'll take that.

Hillary Clinton makes Rocky Balboa look thoughtful.

Yes, that's about right.

little-cicero said...

I thought it simply referred to the flower. Despite what Websters says, the Governor is very likely under the impression held by Gino and I.

More importantly, it is only a word. It is never the same from one moment to another, and its only constancy derives from the agreement of masses of people who construct the language. In other words (: it isn't real. If one lives in response to what isn't real, isn't one closer to insanity than sanity. You can use the President Bush example if you fancy, for I know it is quite clear to you that it was unethical and insane for him to respond to weapons that didn't exist (I'm not taking a side, just using an example that may resonate). The way to happiness is rather to respond only to what is real, and certainly such petty insults do not fall under that category.

The Law Fairy said...

While I share your righteous anger at the constant homophobic slurs the media and society don't even bother *recognizing* (I'm particularly irritated by how freely people throw around "that's gay" as though it's the same as saying "that's stupid" -- even young, open-minded, otherwise intelligent people say this without thinking), in fairness, I'm not exactly sure what Hillary Clinton could have done.

Think about it this way: This guy has basically just called her out for being manly. Well, fine, I have no problem with a manly woman. But... is she really supposed to respond by *arguing* with the guy -- the "manly" response -- rather than giggling like a demure little lady should? See, the problem is, if Hillary is TOO manly, well, she's unappealing and she doesn't understand her place and who would want a president like that? But if she's TOO ladylike, then she's just too fragile and gentle to take on a tough job like president. When someone calls her "manly," if she steps it up a notch by acting even manlier, the papers will find a way to call her a bitch without necessarily using that particular word. But if she balances out the mannishness suggested by the remark with a shy giggle, well, okay, we're okay with that response from a woman. S'long as she stays in line, ya know.

Hillary has to walk this razor-thin line and the constant CONSTANT sexism from the media is enough to send my blood pressure through the roof. I don't like her response, but from a political standpoint, I really don't see what else she could have done without having even MORE criticism heaped on her. The scrutiny on this woman is more intense than I've seen it on any candidate in my memory. Damned if she does, damned if she doesn't. Boy do I know that feeling.

Andy said...

I think she should have said, "Governor, I very much appreciate your support, but I have to object to your word choice, there." The only people who would have been upset are the Neanderthals who aren't going to vote for a woman anyway, probably.

Anonymous said...

"By theif fruits ye shall know them?" It's an awful pun. Which, of course, means that I absolutely love it.

Let's suppose for a moment that the governor didn't mean "homosexual" when he used the word "pansy?" Let's suppose he really did just mean "weak and wimpish"? Is that really any better? After all, why are we still determining a man's value in how much he can bench press, who he can beat in a ring, or any other test of strength? Some of us are naturally weaker than others. Why should that be seen or portrayed as an inherently negative thing? Why does any value judgement have to be placed on it at all?

-- Jarred.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, Andy, you left out my favorte part of that story. After Jesus says "all things can be done for the one who believes, "I believe, help my unbelief!" I think that verse (and the fact that Jesus immediately heals the man's son) says a lot about what faith and belief really are.

Gino said...

yes, webster offers all known uses of the word. as it should.

but words only mean what they are intended to mean in the context in which they are spoken.

i draw the line at 'fairy' because it is much more widely used, and in this context, it would be clear as to what he was saying.

with the openess of the gay community that past generation or so, most people will agree that many gays doent follow the blanketts stereotype that our grandparents had of effeminate weakness.

Princess said...

That word has certainly evolved over the years. "Pansy" was your great grandmother's nickname and it was used with such love. And your very first cat was actually named Pansy when she was given to us. We didn't think Pansy really suited her so we called her "Miss Kitty"... until we took her in to get spayed and we found out she was actually "Mr. Kitty." Then you changed his name to "Henry." That was 29 years ago.

DJRainDog said...

Gotta say I'm with Gino on this one. I don't think of "pansy" as a homophobic slur, just as a masculinity-insulting one. And Jesus? Snarky?! Ya don't say! ;-)

The Law Fairy said...

but words only mean what they are intended to mean in the context in which they are spoken.

This is clearly not so. If I say "George W. Bush is a monkey-faced, incompetent mental defective," but I intend it to mean "I heart George W. Bush!" -- does that mean it only has the meaning I *intended* it to have?

little-cicero said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
little-cicero said...


I see this 7 foot tall hedgehog looking over my shoulder! What do I do?

People (rightly) will call me insane if I destroy it, assuming this thing is not real. On the other hand, if this is a real thing that can harm me, I would be crazy not to kill it. I suppose all there is to do is try to destroy it- surely I won't become happier by waxing philosophical over whether it's real or not. I just hope my friend Harvey can ward him off.

Gino said...

law fairy: context also implies audience.
when we speak, we speak to an audience, in the language/terminology of that audience.

and words meanings change accordingly.

i'm sure there are words/phrases you use at work that mean one thing, but when you speak to me you use them to mean something else. especially when we are using them as slang, which is maleable.

pansey is a flower, in proper usage.
but as slang, its maleable.

where i work, what we consider a freindly greeting just may shock you.

little-cicero said...

Well said, you greasy dego.

Andy said...

context also implies audience.
when we speak, we speak to an audience, in the language/terminology of that audience.

Yeah, and I'm willing to bet that in North Carolina, "pansy" means FAGGOT.

Gino said...

i take it you'll be more careful of using the word 'redneck' so as not to offend all of those from the south.

kr said...

[Yep, LC is definitely in college: he slipped in a Monty Python reference ;). Too bad there's no way to spell that grumbly noise I recall the hedgehog makes ;).]

The "fruits" verse ... errrr... I'm not quite sure how gay men's humor runs in general, but the lesbians probably won't go for it. I'm guessing, as a non-lesbian woman. It's hilarious, don't get me wrong, and in fact of course theologically terribly pertinent (the first time I read it I was like: exactly! And then I was like, Waaaaaait a minute ... ) ... but punning isn't maybe the best way to start a group that has some fairly serious issues to deal with day-to-day and might someday garner media attention? (You have to plan for these things ;). )

I agree with Gino, LC, and DJRD, that in common usage "pansy" currently means "wimp" first and foremost (dictionaries are notoriusly--but properly to their purpose--behind the times on slang). But it was careless of this governer fellow, and Jarred rightly makes the point that being derogatory toward anyone is not healthy.

And I _firmly_ agree with LawFairy that Ms. Clinton was politically stuck for a graceful catch. Wow does it suck to be her. This is a woman whose political fortunes have risen and fallen depending on how accurately to public tastes her HAIRCUT has 'sold' her. Ugh.

(On the North-Carolina-specific assertion, a couple of your readers might have a strong grasp on which connotation is more prevalent in that general area of the country. DJRD and Quinn come to mind.)

little-cicero said...

Come to think of it, that skit probably was suggesting the tie between immorality, which was so embodied by the Pirrana Brothers, and inability to see reality; the same Platonic argument I am making. I hope the point of the comment, Pythons aside, was received without making me out to be a cuckoo.

Jade said...

As is pointed out by my husband often enough when we are in our game of semantics... it matters not what you *meant* to say if the words you are using can be interpreted in another way. If you want to be crystal clear in your meaning, it is best to find language that gets your point across without any doubt or question.

If the governor *meant* to imply that HRC is stronger or tougher than Rocky, the best word would have been "weak" rather than "a pansy". It really doesn't matter if the dictionary is behind in the times with slang... the point here is that the word "pansy" has been used as homophobic slang at some point - and thus is still open to interpretation as such.

And I'm not meaning to suggest that just because a word was used in one way at one time that means it is forever stuck in that realm and can never be used again... I'm just saying it's reasonable to interpret "pansy" as being a homophobic statement - and politicians backing a candidate who is supposed to be supported by the Human Rights Campaign should perhaps choose their words with a little more care.

And Andy - I like the name of the group you've come up with :)