Application Sent

It’s gone!  The Application for our Circuit to host a One Programme Project has been sent off.  This is the bit that I am most nervous about, as in all of life it all revolves around funding.  This is the application for the funding. If we get it, whilst it is not guaranteed that I will be an OPP because the post has to be openly advertised there is a good chance I will be the best candidate who applies.  If we don’t get the funding then that counts as a major hiccough in the plan.  It might also be a good sign that this is not what God wants from me.

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“Which then turned into a quiet word … til it was a battle-cry!”

[warning: I discuss homophobia, homophobic bullying, self-harm and suicide in this post]

My good friend also blogs, and quite thought-provokingly too over at http://charlieswhispers.wordpress.com/ and yesterday she posted her thoughts on “Why she won’t be signing the ‘Coalition for Marriage’ Petition”.  She’s the first blogger that I follow who has ventured thoughts on the subject, and I think she is very brave, because her thoughts seem to be contrary to most of her Christian peers.  Her position and blog post have sparked much discussion both at the blog and in other virtual spaces.  During those discussions I have seen a perennial line of thought expressed, one that is not only applicable to same-sex marriage but is part of a wider discussion on how Christians should interact with the world around them.  It is to this general line of thought, as opposed to specific views about same-sex marriage that I dedicate this post, because there are a number of critiques that need to be made.  But first, some basic starting points.

1) I speak entirely for myself,
2) My views are not necessarily the views of my Church
3) This is not meant as a personal attack on particular person or people
4) This is not just about same-sex marriage but a wider world-view, although it shall be considered through this lens.
5) There are better forums than the comments of this blog for us to thrash out Christian perspectives on human sexuality.
6) the following discussion is mainly constructed in the hypothetical and don’t represent my views on human sexuality.

So, a number of Christians, in a variety of situations have suggested that Christians should petition the government because “The bible provides guidelines for the best way for society to live, irrespective of a member’s religious convictions”.  A less controversial version of this might be “the bible says “do not murder”, not murdering is good for society, so Christians should make sure this biblical principle is upheld in society”.  A slightly more lilkely appeal (given EVERYONE dislikes murder) could go along the lines of “God commands a Sabbath be kept, a day of rest is good for everyone, Christians should lobby for keeping a day free” (we did, to some extent we lost, but I’m OK with that), and a current manifestation is “The bible says same-sex relationships are bad. They are not part of God’s ideal society, so it is right that Christians speak out against them”.

I shall leave my whining about the utter arrogance of enforcing our moral standards onto someone, without their say so, “for their own good” asside for now; it won’t get us anywhere.

I will start with an assumption.  Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, these people are right and that God doesn’t think same-sex relationships have a place in society, let’s assume they’re sinful and that we should resist them.  At this point we run into big, big issues.

It is, to some extent, OK to expect Christians to accept this, and to “resist their sinful urges”.  If you genuinely believe that a same-sex relationship or anything else for that matter is harmful then by all means pray that you are not tempted by it, or that the evil act doesn’t happen; pray that murderers stop, the sabbath is respected and homosexual and bisexual urges cease. [NB: personally I find people praying that gay/bi people “turn straight” to be repugnant, but we’re engaging in a little hypothetical construct, bear with me].  A Christian may well expect the Holy Spirit to assist them as the seek for righteousness, just as they’d expect divine assistance in an attempt to stop gossiping or lying etc.  That’s great, it might even work, but here comes the snag.

How do we expect non-Christians to be transformed into morally-acceptable citizens?  They are unlikely to ask the Holy Spirit for help!  And so we set a standard for them “because it is best” or “for their own good” which in many ways they are never going to be able to achieve.  Unless we believe the Holy Spirit is going to drag them away from their sexuality / sinfulness kicking and screaming.  If so, I think we need to reconsider our view of God.  So we are left with an almost unachievable goal, but what of reality?

This for me is the really convincing bit, as much as such people would love to live in their entirelty hetero eutopia, in the mean time members of the LGB (the stats I have do not deal with transphobia) community are going through a living hell.

  •  Stats from 2007 say that that majority (65%) of LGB young people experience homophobic bullying.
  • 17% of those young people have received death threats.

LET ME SAY THAT AGAIN BEFORE CONTINUING.  17% OF THE VICTIMS ON HOMOPHOBIC BULLYING HAVE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS

  • Statistically gays and lesbian pupils are more likely to be bullied than their hetero counterparts.
  • 13% of young victims of homophobic are threatened with a weapon
  • 30% of young victims of homophobic bullying have their property vandalised or stolen
  • 41% of young victims of homophobic bullying experience physical assault
  • over 70% of young people are verbally insulted about their sexuality of a frequent basis, for example being called a “poof”, “queer”, “bender” or “rugmuncher”
  • 30% of lesbian and gay pupils report that adults have been responsible for incidents of homophobic bullying
  • 50% of LGB adults who had been bullied at school considered self-harm or suicide according to 2000 data
  • 30% of LGB adults who had been bulled at school tried to take their life on more than one occasion

[Stats taken from the Stonewall report, summarised here: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/education_for_all/research/1731.asp]

LGB young people are enduring horrific abuse whilst some Christians dream of the perfect moral society, which these young people have no place in.  Surely there is something wrong here, something woefully wrong which I believe the Church to be complicit in.  The stats are harrowing, but I suppose not enough, if we warp my hypothetical situation enough, we could say IF all the LGB people changed sexual orientation in line with God’s will then homophobic bullying would cease.  twisted brutal logic, but logically sound never the less.

But this draws me back to my biggest issue with this line of thought. Enforcing Christian morality on non-Christians is doomed.  Christians may respond earnestly to the call for sanctification; the call to keep purifying their lives by the work of the Holy Spirit.  I fail to see how the same standard can be reasonably expected on non-believers.  This for me is the greatest problem with applying Christian ethics across the board.

So it started with a quiet word; Charlie’s whispering, and now this is my battle-cry, let’s put a stop to this. Ultimately let’s stop with this “God’s rules are for everyone and for the good of society” because they’re just going to hurt people.  Secondly let’s see if we can’t get some of the numbers in those stats a bit lower.  If you like petitions, sign the counter-petition at c4em.org.uk, if you don’t be inspired by this:

On “In Christ Alone”, but no, not for that reason

I told one good friend my next blog post would be a reflection on a line from a Christian worship song and another that I would write about lent.  Fortunately I can just about do both, kind of.

There has, in recent years, been much theological kerfuffle over the song “In Christ Alone”.  Is its theology OK? Should we sing it? And so on.  This has revolved around the line “The wrath of God was satisfied”.  Depending on how charitable I am feeling depends on my views about it, but that is not the line I am interested in here, that debate has, thankfully, died down.  It wasn’t until a Christmas service where I was thinking particularly deeply about the words that I began to wonder if I took issue with another line (I then mulled on it a long time, hence the delay).  The song triumphantly proclaims

No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his[God’s] hand.”

Great, we all know that God, and therefore his acts of salvation are stronger than the devil who was defeated by Christ.  Where is the issue?  Well, the bit that got me thinking was that, as an Arminian I believe one can lose their salvation.  We choose to accept salvation and we can choose to reject salvation.  And that choice is no good if we’re locked into it once we make it, that makes a mockery of free will, so I believe we can choose to be saved and then walk away from that, with no issue. And vice versa is true.  So that made me slightly sceptical. Something can pluck me from God’s hand.  Or, more accurately, I can walk out of it.

This taken on its own can lead to a sticky position.  It can, if manipulated, lead to assertions that we cannot be sure of our salvation, what if that little niggle we have counts as us rejecting our salvation.

My Arminian viewpoint is one of the many reasons I feel at home in the Methodist Church, and one of their central tenets is that

“all may know they are saved”

Clearly then we can say that salvation is a matter of free will, and also that we can be assured of our salvation, because as long as we know we have accepted salvation then we know we are saved.  There is no trying to double-guess God involved.

So where does that leave me with the song?  It leaves me in Lent.  It leaves me considering the powers of hell, temptation, the road to the cross, Jesus defeating evil and sin, and casting out demons and all those lenten themes.

I come back to the point I made earlier, that Christ is the victor over “the powers of hell” and it is Christ who assures my salvation (this is where it ties in with lent, we know Christ to be superior to the devil by his interaction the the wilderness and, if we take the gospels at face-value the exorcisms subsequently and ultimately in the resurrection which we look forward to).   There is no way that the devil can undo my salvation, as long as I am trusting in the means of that salvation.  The weakest link in this scenario then, seems to be me, and here I think it gets slightly more grey (although I have a black and white conclusion).  However it is that the devil interacts with humanity (and I will happily throw around ideas about how involved he is or isn’t) it would seem to be by exploiting things.  So the positive human attribute of being curious and questioning our faith, can be manipulated to become a lack of faith.

And what about schemes of man.  I would be most hesitant to say that any human who, knowingly or otherwise, leads me away from faith must be acting for, with or by the devil.  I think, an atheist for example can be sure enough of their convictions and in control of their life to try and lead me away from faith of their own volition.

Do I think the devil can trick me into walking out of God’s salvific hand?  Do I think humans can either?  Here it gets trickier, because clearly I am not being stolen, I am making a decision, and my Arminianism is such that I fundamentally believe I am free to do so.  But what then, has the devil beaten or out schemed God?  I do not believe so.  I believe I must bear full responsibility for that decision, and furthermore that God loves me enough to respect that decision.  I believe my free-will is imparted to me as part of the imago dei, it is part of what it means to be made in God’s image and I believe God made us in his image as an act of love.

One final consideration must be made.  That God will try utterly hard to see that we choose to stay with him.  There is something, for me at least, quite compelling about being in relationship with God.  I yield that this is entirely subjective, but the times when the questioning of my faith has made the edge of God’s hand look tempting then I have had a heightened sense of the safety and the firmness of his palm.  Call me cowardly for sticking with what  feel to be safe by all means, that is a fair criticism, but I believe it is part of God’s love for us that he also reminds why it is a good idea to stay.

So, I must conclude that “no power of hell, nor scheme of man, shall ever pluck me from his hand” … unless I choose it for myself and then God will let me walk out of his hand with a tear in his eye and a heavy heart, but shall do so out of love for me.

A New Name

A Campervan is now just a long lost flight of fancy as many many plans have moved on, so calling my blog after the name of the campervan was possibly a bit hasty.  There will also be far less meandering around now.  So I figured it was time to bite the bullet and change the URL and blog name.

Walking in the grey … what’s that all about then?

The more I reflect on life and on faith the more I realise there are few absolutes.  There are few things where it is black and white, actually most of the time we think and act in a greyness, a murky middle ground.  There is, more often than not, a spectrum.  Theologically I am more liberal than many, but more conservative than others; this is a prime example, so hopefully the title reflects that.

But more than that, I am consciously choosing to live, and think in those grey bits.  Life is more exciting here! I am rarely satisifed by simple absolute or binary statements.  Yes, they sometimes make us feel better, in some ways they take a lot of faith (in other ways I think they can be cop outs), but they do not challenge me, and I tend to find they do not respond to challenge well.  There can be no compromise from a black position or a white position, only absolute rebuttal.  So I am actively looking to live in the grey, to be challenged by other people, to take on some of the things they say, to sharpen my own position in response and to do greater justice to the complexity of life as we know it.

Walking in the grey can be a tad dangerous, sometimes I will get things wrong, but this is a risk I am prepared to take for the manifold benefits, so here we are, walking in the grey!!