Category Archives: Society

Why I am a (straight) pro-gay Christian 

So, let’s start with some definitions:

  • Straight. In this context this means heterosexual. Which I definitely am. And married. But straight could also mean normal, conforming to society. I’m not sure I’m that.
  • Pro-gay. I struggle with generalising about groups of people. But I am definitely pro the gay people I’ve known. And the ones I know about from the media and those I will get to know.
  • And Christian. In some ways the hardest thing to define. It’s a word with a great deal of baggage. Maybe it’s easier to say I’m a follower of Jesus and a member of a church. The two go together and one feeds into the other but they are not exactly the same.

In some ways I wish I didn’t need to write this blog. It will upset some people I know and I’m sorry for that. But the stakes are very high. There is a battle going on for the very soul of the church in the UK. At the moment it could be lost because we are simply too polite to have an argument.

Before I answer the question I would like to clarify what seems to be the orthodox Christian position on homosexuality. Recently I had a long conversation with a well known Pastor and this was his position. It certainly won’t be every Christian’s opinion and I think it is at the extreme end of Christian thought but here it is:

  • Sex between two men or two women is always wrong under all circumstances. 
  • Gay marriage is not marriage at all. Marriage must always be between a man and a woman.
  • Homosexual sex is such a serious sin that any gay man wanting to become a Christian must either be ‘cured’ of the condition or agree first to to complete celibacy.

Our conversation went on for a long time and involved a lot of complicated theology. But as it went on I became more and more convinced that all the anti-gay arguments didn’t add up to anything. A quick google search will find them for you if you’re interested. So, why am I a pro-gay Christian?

Firstly, because God made us and He made us sexual beings. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful, considerate and faithful sexual beings. I’m a great believer in marriage. But he made us gay and straight and all shades in between. As Christians we should be helping people be the best they can be, whatever that is, not turning them away.

Secondly, because I know what it is to grow up feeling very different and out of place. I used to look at the popular pretty girls and think ‘How do they do that?’  Because I wasn’t popular and pretty. I was awkward, clever, plain and argumentative. It’s really hard not to fit in, especially when you are young and for that reason those who grow up gay, who often find themselves in a hostile world that they don’t fit into get my compassion not my condemnation. Jesus didn’t give many commands. He taught more using stories and also by example. But, less than 24 hours before he hung on a cross, He gave this command: Love one another as I have loved you. He loved without barriers, even thieves and prostitutes. There is no record of Jesus meeting a gay person or talking about homosexuality but I don’t know of any reason why he wouldn’t have loved them too.

And thirdly because it is simply not our place to judge. This Jesus talking again, from the Message version which is very vivid but all translations have the same sense.

““Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:1-5‬ ‭MSG‬‬

This isn’t easy ‘liberal’ theology. This is hard Jesus theology because we love to judge. Gay people are easy to identify, easy to see but that doesn’t mean we should judge them either.

I want to end with a little thought experiment. Imagine one Sunday all the people coming to church had all their sins for the week written in brightly coloured letters hovering over their heads. Here is a selection:

  • I shouted at my kids because I’d had a stressful day at work.
  • I had a minor accident with a parked car and drove away without leaving a note.
  • I had sex with my long term boyfriend even though we are not married.
  • I spent £300 on a treat for myself and didn’t give anything to the church.

Just for this week it’s the job of the stewards to decide who gets in and who is too sinful even to enter the church. Of course it would be horrible both for the judges and the judged. When I think of our lovely stewards I think they would just let everyone in and, after reading the first few lists, would refuse to even look. And that would be the right Christian response.  It is simply not up to us to refuse entry to God’s kingdom on the basis of any sin.

I know there are a lot of Christians who share my views. I’m sure to get a lot criticism for writing this but if you agree with me please let me know.

A picture for the referendum

image My blog output has been really light recently. This is partly because the technology at home has been getting slower and also because I have been spending more time doing art. But now I have an iPad I can combine the two. This is an image I’ve had in my head of what Europe could be. No more explanation. Just look at the picture.

Notes from a Political Mum on Polling Day

Today we all go and vote. Or do we? Many people who are entitled to vote won’t bother. I’m just one blogger with a few readers (and many of you are not in the UK so I will let you off) but this is my message to them:

Firstly, if you are woman, shame on you. People died so you can vote. They gave their lives, wrecked their health in prison. Even if you go to the polls and put in a cross at random, use your voice. Or it won’t be heard.

Secondly, if you are a young person, shame on you. The more people of your generation who go and vote the more your views will be taken into account. By not voting you are letting down your generation.

‘But they are all liars and cheats.’. I’ve heard this said by otherwise intelligent people. I’m sorry but I think this is a myth. Its a good story for the front of newspapers. Better news by far than ‘Good people doing their best to improve the lot of society’. If your view of politics is through the media then it is not through rose tinted glasses, it is through glasses that are cracked and stained, they are practically encrusted with the mud thrown at them.

How do I know this? Because I am a political mum. Every week I get an update right from the heart of politics, a personal account of what is going on. And I’m not shocked by what I hear. I’m amazed that these people have so much energy and drive. I’m amazed that they can keep their beliefs intact in spite of everything that is said to them and about them. As a mum I have never, for one moment, wanted my son to choose a different career. It seems a grand and fine thing to serve his community and country in this way.

So, go and vote!

A good reason to welcome people from Eastern Europe. A viewpoint from history.

One of the advantages of getting older is that you begin to remember little bits of history as it happened. I have a vivid memory of a TV program from the early 80s. It was a documentary of a piano competition. The unusual thing about this broadcast was that it was from behind the Iron Curtain, as the competition was in Poland. The final 10 minutes or so was a complete rendition of the slow movement of Chopin’s second piano concerto. This is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, almost like a lament. In between seeing the pianist playing there were pictures of rows of bodies lying in fields, lines of ragged people walking along roads with only what they could carry. This was the reality of Poland in the second world war: A fifth of its population died in the war; whole areas forced to move to different parts of the country; most of the Nazi concentration camps were built in Poland and millions of Polish people were put to death, not just Jews but intellectuals, homosexuals, anyone whose face did not fit.

Then, after the war, there was no NHS, no swinging sixties, no 80s financial boom. What the Poles had was the heavy hand of Soviet communism. In Great Britain we take it for granted that we can think and do what we wish. This was not the reality for the Poles: Before, during and after the war, their country was not their own.

‘So?’ You might say, ‘Its not our fault’. Which is true, of course. Even in the strange fault finding of the 21st century the problems of Poland cannot be laid at the door of the UK. But does that make a difference? Surely the Christian point of view is to help those who need helping, even if we have not caused their problems. Poland’s economy is growing now and they are finally able to be themselves. Europe is not perfect but the Poles are being offered something honest and worthwhile by being part of it. We, in the UK, should feel proud that we are contributing to this. By welcoming workers from Poland and other Eastern European countries we are playing a small part in the rebuilding of their country.

I thought about putting some stories in this blog of people I know from Romania and Poland but the truth is we all have these stories. They are stories of honest, hardworking people. Some go back and some stay but I don’t know anyone who has a bad word about an individual they have known from these countries.

When we were in Berlin in August I was struck by something unexpected. It seemed to me that the European project was partly about healing the wounds of the 20th century. Initially this was the second World War but also the Cold War. If we want, we can be part of that healing process.

Its been a good year for teenagers. Lets give the vote to all 16 year olds.

The problem with giving people the vote is that you can’t take it back. We have a general election next year. Are all the teenagers in Scotland going to be told: ‘You’ve had your chance at being grown up, just settle down and be kids again’? I hope not, I really hope not. So, here is a radical idea. Why not give the vote to 16 year olds in the rest of the UK? Why not even go further and extend it to 14? At this age young people are deciding on their GCSE subjects. Why not also give them a say in how the country is run? Who knows, it might shake things up a bit.

I see teenagers doing amazing things. Don’t we all love Martha on the Great British Bake off? At the same age my own son gave his first speech to party conference. I see them making music, doing sports and making a difference in their communities. In a few years time we will be celebrating 100 years of women being given the vote. This has helped to make a huge difference in what it means to be a woman. Maybe it is time to talk about the same sort of emancipation for teenagers.

Why bother with Apologetics? A short very personal answer

A few months ago a friend of mine asked a question I struggled to answer. The question was ‘Why bother with Apologetics?’ . My answer is in this post.

On Saturday morning I had an hour to kill in Guildford. So I spent it walking around Stoke Park and considering how to make Christian Apologetics real to my readers. I also spent time looking at the park, the trees, the people walking and running on the grass and the Cathedral on the hill in the distance. Then I thought about the way I see the world. Full of meaning and promise. Full of pattern and the joy of God’s creation around us. I love science so my view includes that too.

Then I thought – How would a true atheist see this scene? Very differently I think. In the pictures below I’ve tried to capture this.

Stoke park 1

Every year the BBC puts on a series of Christmas lectures aimed at young people interested in science. In one of these Richard Dawkins said the following:

The universe is nothing but a collection of atoms in motion, human beings are simply machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self sustaining process. It is every living object’s sole reason for living.

And that is it really. We live, apparently, in a world stripped of meaning. The grass, so carefully mowed to a huge lawn, is no more than self replicating small plants. The trees are just large plants which have a utility of keeping oxygen in our atmosphere. The cathedral is a completely pointless building built by delusional human beings who choose to believe in an imaginary ‘Sky God’.

And what about the young woman walking across the grass? I don’t know who she is or why she was there but Francis Crick (one of the discoverers of DNA) has something to say to her:

You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.

Which is pretty bleak. But I can hear my friend saying: ‘Does it really matter what a few academic scientists say?’. I’ll come back to that. But first I want to present the picture again.Stoke park 2

Its the same scene but understood completely differently. The trees are still using photosynthesis to survive and produce oxygen but they also create amazing patterns of light and colour, each one perfect and unique.

The young woman walking across the park still has DNA (which she may or may not use to replicate in other human beings), her brain is still made of nerve cells but she is able to grow and change and become so much more than just a human animal.

And the whole morning was so perfect: cool, bright and peaceful. There were quite a lot of people in the park: walking, running, chatting. It was as though God had packaged the whole thing up and offered it as a gift, perfect at that moment.

Before I get back to my friend’s question I want to talk about the Cathedral. I have to admit I knew very little about Guildford Cathedral before I wrote this post but I did a bit of research and discovered its remarkable history. The building was started in 1936 but was interrupted by the war. After the war there was very little money to complete it so a campaign was started to buy a brick. Each brick cost 2s 6d (12 1/2pence) and 200,000 of these were bought by all sorts of people, including the Queen but also including people who had very little to spare. The church was finally finished in 1961 and is a vibrant and living part of the community.

So, why does it matter when a group of Atheist academics declare that God doesn’t exist? It matters because it has become part of our culture here in the UK. Every culture has a source of information that people go to for their views on the world. In this country a large part of that role is taken up by TV stations but especially the BBC. I cannot remember ever seeing a program on the BBC that shows modern Christianity in a realistic, positive light. The only regular Christian program is ‘Songs of Praise’ which shows a soft focus, artificial image of Church which would certainly not tempt me to go. This leads to some curious ideas. Matthew Parris in the Times (25th June 2014) declared:

Most modern Christians and Jews, we surmised, don’t really believe their religions

As though this was the most self evident truth, not even worth discussing (this was especially unsettling as Matthew Parris is a writer I generally read and admire)

So we have a generation, with no church background, who are being told that faith in God is either an effect of belonging to a cultural minority or a kind of weak delusion that no sensible person should contemplate. Of course, thank God, there are some people, like myself and many of my family and friends, who manage to break through this barrier but many do not. And what are they left with? At best a faith in family and friends (which is not a bad thing, but can other human beings bear that weight alone?) or a muddled ideal of ‘self realisation’, or they are left with the first picture: that there is only matter, only ‘stuff’ and nothing else.

I’ve quoted a lot of people who don’t believe in Jesus but I want to wrap up with the immortal (well they have lasted almost 2,000 years without loosing any of their potency) words of St Paul:

 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

1 Corinthians 13: 12-13

In a world without God there is not a lot of trust in anything. The faith my parents had in progress and technology has proved a dead end. Nothing has sprung up to take its place.

Hope is too often replaced with the contents of a bottle or a packet of pills. Hope dies early in many people’s lives, once the first dream bubble has burst.

And love. We all, Christians and non-Christians, need to love and be loved. But the difference is that we know we are loved by God and that makes it easier to love other people. We can love them as the frail, imperfect human beings that they (and we) are, without expecting them to make our own life perfect.

So: Why bother with Apologetics? The Greek word ‘Apologia’ means defence and we need to learn to defend our faith against the attacks on it. We are not alone and, in academic circles, it seems the tide is turning against the New Atheist thinking. But it is a battle that will not be won until ordinary people know they are truly free to come and learn about Jesus.

Sources:

The atheist quotes are taken from:

God’s Undertaker. Has science buried God? by John C Lennox. This is a brilliant book defending Christianity against the New Atheist, scientific thinking.

The Bible quote is from ‘The Message’ version translated by Eugene H. Peterson

If you are interested in a more theological defence against New Atheism then I would recommend:

The Dawkins letters – by David Robertson. He explains why he wrote this book in this short video

 

 

New Wine 2014

I promised to write a post every day but with so much to do and so little internet access it hasn’t happened. So, what is my experience so far? We have about 8,000 Christians here, what are they thinking, what are they doing?

First, there seems to be a new confidence I haven’t felt before. The Church in the UK is tiny compared with many places in the world but we are so strong. Many of the talks we have been to have been brimming with confidence. Confidence that the country is full of dysfunction and unhappiness and Jesus does have the answer. Confidence that the atheist experiment has failed and people are looking for spiritual answers to the problems in their lives.

I went to a talk yesterday by one of my personal heroes, Shaun Lambert. Shaun is the Vicar of a church in Stanmore, North London. He spoke on the topic of Christian Mindfulness. This is a way of being mindful of ourselves, mindful of the world and (last but, of course not least) mindful of God. This sort of practise, involving meditation and self help can seem self indulgent to many Christians but, if we are going to be a healthy church, we need to be full of emotionally healthy people.

And it is a chance to reconnect with God and with other people. To re-commit to many things in my own life, including writing this blog. Some of the people I went on pilgrimage with are here, its been great to spend time with them and with other people from our church.