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Fussy about some rather silly things
Most of us are fussy about some rather silly things. As a composition
teacher, I like to receive all essays written only on the front side
of the paper. This requirement has not always sat well with my
students, as I vividly remember from one episode some years ago, when
I was teaching at St. Andrew's School in Delaware. One rather bright
lad repeatedly turned in all of his work written only on the back side
of the notebook paper. Whenever I stacked the papers from the entire
class, this lad's paper would turn up backwards, at first appearing to
have no identification. Daily I would write the same complaint, "Use
front side only!" But he persisted.
Exasperated, I summoned the offender to my study, "Philip, why do you
insist on writing on the back side of your papers when I have
expressly asked you not to?" I asked.
"But sir," he said gravely, "I don't ever use the back side. I have
wondered why you write notes about this to me."
"Philip," I interposed, "Don't be cheeky. Look, here is the paper you
turned in this morning as you ripped it from your spiral notebook.
The frayed edges are on the right-hand side. The frayed edges on your
classmates' sheets are on the left-hand side. They have written on
the front; you have written on the back!"
"But they are right-handed!" Philip exclaimed.
"What does that have to do with it?" I asked.
"The location of the spiral determines which side is the front and
which side it the back," Philip explained. "The side to the right of
the spiral is the front side for right-handed people, so that they can
avoid getting their hands caught in the spiral or the hooks of a
notebook. The side to the left of the spiral or hooks is the front
side for left-handed people for the same reason."
"Really," I muttered, wondering whether Philip had noticed that I am
left-handed myself and had been catching my hand in spirals and hooks
"Yes, sir. The are even some left-handed folks who don't know the
front from the back, but of course, that is because we are usually
taught by right-handed people. Why, some left-handed folks even have
their lamps on the left side of their writing desks just as you do,
sir, only because a grade-school health book said they should be
there. Those books were written for right-handed people like you, to
keep the shadow behind your hands; left-handed people need their lamps
on the right for the same reason."
With embarrassment I paused and quietly moved my floor lamp from the
left to the right side of my desk. Philip looked on, troubled.
"Thank you," I said.
"But I hadn't noticed, sir. I really hadn't!"
"Philip, I would be a real fool only if I didn't listen to your good
sense. As you observed, we left-handed folks are usually taught all
we know about ourselves by right-handed people. I am very glad that
you came along."
I am delighted that our church has never gotten around to writing an
official theology about left-handedness and left-handed persons.
Judging from our practice with other minorities, I doubt that we would
welcome participation in the dialogue from one so militant as Philip.
Philip was what we might call, if charitable, "a self-affirming" or,
if uncharitable, "a self-professing" left-handed person. Even so,
such persons as he would be no match for biblical and other
traditional evidence that we could dredge up to keep left-handed
people in their place, requiring as many adjustments as possible to
the right-handed standards of Hebrew-Christian tradition. Theologians
could remind us that our Lord sits at the right hand of God. Of equal
importance is the fact that God too is right-handed, as the psalmists
emphasized repeatedly. Of God they said, "Your right hand is filled
with victory (Ps. 48:10) "And your right hand supported me (Ps.
18:35). Similarly, Jesus stressed his own claims to God's
right-handed favor when he was asked by the high priest if he were the
Christ: "I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right
hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:61-62).
Only one left-handed person in all of Scripture is given any honor:
That was Ehud, in Judges 3, who put his sword on his right side, the
easier to stab fat Eglon, the King of Moab. Nevertheless,
right-handed Hebrew scholars should have no difficulty in glossing
this one lapse from right-handed standards, perhaps by discovering
evidence that Ehud might at least have had the decency to be celibate
or in some other way to `image' right-handed supremacy. After all,
just 17 chapters away in Judges the offending Benjaminites, warring
against their brother tribes, mustered 700 left-handed men --
"Everyone could sling a stone at a hair and not miss!" (20:16) -- but
the victory went instead to Israel and "the men that drew sword."
The evidence of God's preference for the right-handed is formidable.
The preacher reminds us, "A wise man's heart is at his right hand, but
a fool's heart is at his left" (Eccl. 10:2). St. Paul talks about the
"right hand of fellowship" (Gal. 2:9). Jesus suggests that the left
hand is untrustworthy: "But when you give alms, do not let your left
hand know what your right hand is doing" (Matt. 6:3). Note that the
right hand enjoys the privilege of agency. The Latins were so wise as
to name the left direction as _sinister_, suggesting the evils that
attend it. Yet nowhere is the correct theological indictment of
left-handedness clearer than in Christ's vision of the Last Judgment
in Matthew 25:
"Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate
them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the
goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand but the goats at
his left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand: `Come,
O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world.....' Then will he say to those at his left
hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for
the devil and his angels.'
Against such evidence, surely the left handed are stupid to claim that
they are included equally in any of the other promises of the New
Testament. Surely God did not mean "Whosoever believes in God shall
have everlasting life (John 3:16) The clearer implication is that
such blessings are reserved for `whosoever is right-handed' or
`whosoever has the proper psycho-sexuality and believes!" How dare
anyone suggest that such second-rate folks be considered for
ordination? How could they possibly `image' forth a God who is at
once right-handed and heterosexual? .....
-- the opening paragraphs of "On the Ordination of Gays," by Louie
Crew The Witness 63.10 (1980): 4-7
The Soviet Union did not decriminalize left-handedness until five years
after the publication of my article, while Ernest and I were living in
China. When the Chinese noticed we were both left-handed, often
someone would say, "No left-handed people in all of China," much as
some said, "No homosexuals in all of China" -- for the same reason,
given the huge penalties of self-disclosure.
L., Nwk, Member of Executive Council