A Response to James A. Mann’s 2019 Woke Guide

Photo by Jorge Saavedra on Unsplash

Yesterday James A. Mann wrote Here’s a handy guide to being ‘woke’ in 2019. Unfortunately, it is neither woke, nor worthy of being published in the Denton Record-Chronicle.

He begins his guide to being woke with a bumbling attack on the transgender and non-binary community by typing:

The first thing to do is forget what your teachers taught you in grade school about pronouns. With 53 genders now, he/she and other binary terms are worthless and offensive. Feel free to speak in the plural (they/them) even when grammatically incorrect.

Mann here insists that respecting one’s pronouns is an affront to his education, and grammar. Since when was disrespect part of being “woke”, or more apt culturally aware and respectful? Also, I have come to chuckle at the amount of times various numbers are thrown out at us in the trans and non-binary community. 53 genders, a million genders, sold. It’s like many people that can’t respect modern science and biology are at an auction to see how many numbers they can put in front of the term gender. No one in the trans or non-binary is making an argument for 53 genders. So to stay “woke” Mr. Mann, please learn that in 2019. All we want in the trans and enby community is to be treated with respect, and that respect is to see us and recognize for who we really are. If you are committed to be woke this year I hope you are also open to learning? I woke recommend looking at the words of Jesus, maybe Matthew 19?

12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

When Jesus was confronted by his culture, he addressed a few things, one he affirmed the existence of people outside of gender codes of the Jewish law! Some born eunuchs, in culture relevance the eunuchs of the first century and prior occupied trans and non-binary spaces. Jesus knew of the six genders in the Jewish Mishnah and Talmud, and yet here he affirms trans people.

And following that up he says that the Church, the Kingdom is made up of people like eunuchs, and children. A far cry from what we hear in churches like your’s these days. No matter the PhDs, or the classes you teach, Jesus says be more like the eunuch and the child. Christians exists outside what is expected, you know even Paul wrote about the erasure of male and female right? It’s why many men, like Origen choose to become castrated and occupy a non-binary place in the early Church.

If you don’t believe me you can even read more about eunuchs in Esther doing the work of God, in Isaiah, and in Acts. Or read up about St. Marina, who lived as Marinus and became an abbot at a monastery? Even Julian of Norwich wrote on Mother God, and called the Holy Spirit “she/her” in the 1400s.

It seems to be woke is to return to basics of the queer Church.

Dr. Mann should learn from trans people, and there are some awesome trans kids in Texas that would show him the beautiful God of diverse, inclusive love that would confound and confront this hateful vitriol.

Or perhaps Mr. Mann should we address what many trans people face in Texas where the Denton Record-Chronicle is located? How many times have trans students been attacked, or are you not familiar with the Shappleys that had to move across the state because Kai was not welcomed and bullied in schools by people like you that think it is eggregious to use someone’s correct terms and let them pee in peace? Since when did Christians become bathroom and bedroom guards? Or what about the almost year long battles that exist to attack the rights of trans children, adoption and bathrooms in the state? For someone who wants to me “woke” you sound like you rather be asleep through these harassments because they make you uncomfortable, while other pastors step up for those at-risk.

Additionally, even Merriam-Webster has weighed in on they/them as an appropriate use for singular use. In a recent article they cite Emily Dickinson in 1881 using the forms of they in a letter when referring to someone of unknown gender. It’s 2019, all we ask is for you respect 138 years of grammar usage. So please, do learn and be woke about that as well.

Mr. Mann, you have a career in journalism, a PhD, and serve as a pastor. I myself worked in church ministry as a pastor since 2009. So with ten years under my belt, and only a Master’s of Arts in Systematic and Philosophical Theology from The University of Nottingham, I ask, I implore, be more like Jesus, and less like a Pharisee. Your entire satirical article pokes fun at marginalized people, while lamenting the “attack on Christians.” This trope is so tired. Why is it so hard to respect modern science when it comes to gender, but then attack others for lacking respect over your faith? My mother always taught me that respect is earned. If you want Christians to stop being vilified, stop being a villian!

The words you write are a far cry of grace, hope, and love. They are full of venom. They are a full on attack on people that aren’t like you, and that is classic demonization and Pharisaical self-righteousness. In the last four years over 100 trans women have been murdered in the United States alone. 368 trans people were murdered across the globe this year alone. 41% of trans people will also consider suicide, and the acceptance or rejection of a Christian family member will be a contributing factor! So of the 1.4 million transgender people in the US that means writing that inspires rejection will lead 574,000 trans people to contemplate ending their life in 2019. Even this week a pastor like yourself in on trial for murdering a trans woman sex worker in Detroit, yet you don’t make any mention of this man’s use of the Cross of Christ to implore him to murder a child of God? There is ample reason why Christians are being criticized this year, the majority of people like you spend their time cyber-bullying, lobbying, and physically harming us. You aren’t sinless.

Blood is on your hands, so please be more “woke.”

So here is my guide for you to be “woke” in 2019.

  1. Stop attacking marginalized people from within the walls of the church. Christians already kill trans people in the street, stop empowering them with words and sermons like this “satire.”
  2. Stop attacking marginalized people with mocking from a position of power. When was the last time you were worried about being murdered for going out with friends? When was the last time your home was vandalized for who you were married to? If you have never walked in our shoes, stop telling us what is painful and a threat.
  3. Listen and learn. There are countless trans resources available to those who have questions, and want to learn more about why pronouns matter. I would recommend you reach out to transgender Christian writer Austen Hartke, and pick up his book Transforming.

In closing your article is disappointing, and demeaning. It has very little reflection of the Jesus I see in the Gospels, but instead sounds like a tired man annoyed with change. It smacks of the “Get Off My Lawn” ideology too prevalent in many churches, and conservative communities that leads to apathy, and hate. Here in North Carolina I’ve met many people with the same perspective of you, that “can’t respect trans people because we are a product of sin” they march against us, they cuss at us, and damn us to hell from bullhorns. None of these were actions Jesus took, ever.

So Pastor Mann I would ask that you re-read your article, and devote 2019 to compassion and care. You sound terrified of world around you, and sound like you give little stock to the God of Love, and the God of Peace. It sounds like you need to take a sabbatical, learn, meet us, see us, and rethink how you use your platform. That’ll be a great way to be woke in Denton, and in the US in 2019.