Columnists > Voices

The ick factor

It's a barrier to relationships and no lasting basis for beliefs

Issue: "Year in Review 2004," Jan. 1, 2005

Things are getting curiouser and curiouser around here. In my city. In my heart.

I could have stayed indoors-but if Francis Schaeffer is right, it would have reached me anyway, "just as fog cannot be kept out by walls or doors" (The God Who Is There).

I was invited to their place. They moved into an old fixer-upper, and the whispers had preceded them-two women buying a house together. Still, I didn't have the goods on them, so I was cool. When moving day came, I had left homemade pecan rolls at the front door. Shortly thereafter one of the women came by to thank me warmly.

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The affair turned out to be a "traditional" Episcopalian house blessing, a collared female pastor shuffling a company of us from room to room, consecrating each nook and cranny. I scanned the premises, hoping for contradictory evidence. (I had two spinster aunts who lived together, so maybe this was one of those arrangements of convenience.) A Toulouse-Lautrec I never knew existed was mentally filed-two scantily clad women reclining suggestively. In the bedroom, a disturbing androgynous photo. The program included a declaration of the new homeowner's love for each other. (Well, we should all love each other.) Oh, and that big rainbow flag waving from their front porch.

Scrutinizing my hostesses, I saw women of about my dowdy age, one looking a perfect 50s schoolmarm, the other a little iffy with her hacked-off sleeves revealing chiseled biceps to rival my 21-year-old's. But neither fit the bill of the Romans chapter 1 picture of fist-shaking rebels burning in sweaty lust. Their body language bespoke nothing more than two people quietly devoted to each other, as in the best, mellowed marriages past the 10-year mark. (Evil should have an uglier face.)

I knew one lesbian in my all-girls high school. She would file past in the hallways between classes and when I saw her coming all I saw was a giant "L" plastered on her face. She would stop and talk to me, Andree, and I would talk back to her, the Giant L. She would interact with a whole person; I would interact with a Body Function.

This time I was a Christian woman slipping-or being challenged, at least. The "ick factor" was melting away, and I was dizzy and disoriented.

Schaeffer noted the ick factor, if not in those words: Call it a component of the set of shared cultural mores that keep people living morally long after the Christian foundation has been whittled away. In my upbringing it was a useful preservative-if not the only preservative-of societal morality and stability. Schaeffer says, "People in this group often do not understand the basis of its stability. They do not understand why they think in the old way-they continue to act [righteously] out of habit and memory. . . . but they no longer know why" (Escape from Reason).

How much ick do we have left? On Dec. 2, 2004, the United Methodist Church defrocked a lesbian minister a stone's throw from where I write. The detail that caught my eye was that the vote was a nail-biting 7-6. To read the papers, the Rev. Beth Stroud is the big winner of hearts and minds. She mounted a website casserole-recipe offensive and effectively defanged the ick factor.

I have two things to say about the ick factor. One is "good riddance" from my life. It was a gargantuan stumbling block and barrier between me and lesbians I know that kept me from seeing the whole person-and seeing my own sins as equally monstrous. The second is Schaeffer's point: The ick factor inevitably leaks away. If beliefs or critiques are mainly feelings, they will not long endure.

Wisdom lasts longer than ick: Let the people of the Book know what the Book says. A Barna Research poll says 26 percent of born-agains are loosey-goosey on the question of whether it matters what you believe, but Isaiah 7:9 gets it right: "If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all."

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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