On Cats, Logic, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance

I have read that in the middle ages in Europe, people actually persecuted cats. [One source: The History of Human-Animal Interaction – The Medieval Period] There was, so I have also read, a religious argument for this cruelty: “cats are the only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible.” And since cats weren’t mentioned in the Bible, this was taken as evidence that God didn’t care about them, that their lives were not blessed. From here, it was a short step to add fear and suspicion of cats to ideas that they were outside the boundaries of God’s real concern to produce conviction that persecution was permissible.

The argument depends on the logical fallacy of “negative proof.” That fallacy draws the conclusion that, if there is no proof for a particular position, then it counts as proof against the position.

People still use this reasoning, if we can call it that, in relation to human lives they find disturbing. Someone once explained to me, fully seriously, that the presence of the Song of Songs in the Bible proves that God disapproves of homosexual relationships. Because the Song of Songs is a text that extols heterosexual physical love. And there is no counterpart Song of Songs for non-heterosexual relationships. So.

“Negative proof” is the underlying structure of the popular anti-universal-marriage slogan “It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

“Negative proof” is also the underlying structure of some responses to transgender lives. The word transgender does not occur in the Bible. And that is enough evidence, for some, that transgender lives don’t count for God, don’t need to count for their neighbors, and don’t qualify for the same care and protection demanded by all other human lives.

Of course, there’s plenty of positive evidence in the Bible that God cares for every member of humankind — including “the eunuchs” (Is. 56:4) and “the barren” (Is. 54:1), sexual categories that provoke less political discussion these days than in 3rd Isaiah’s time. The God who notices when sparrows fall to earth and who numbers the hairs of our heads (Matt. 10:29-31) clearly sets a high value on all kinds of lives. The Bible has a lot to say about “the least.” The evidence there points in the direction of our obligation to take special care and give special protection to those lives, the lives of “the least,” that are most likely to be disregarded and trampled in the life of business-as-usual.

The LPTS observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Thursday, November 20, is one way we align ourselves with that positive proof, and affirm that the Bible does, indeed, mention transgender lives — for instance, when it tells the people of God they shall “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).

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