Tag Archives: Christian

What I think of Christians at Pride

There was quite a noisy group at my recent most local LGBT etc Pride, who now have a prominent stall. They have their own uniforms – a T-shirt with a slogan which matches their banner; and then a self styled one of rainbow dog collars… for these are Christians, and several are clergy.

On one hand, it’s to be applauded that this group is there and is trying to be visible, despite the fact that some other Christians criticise them. I also overheard a flag clad woman holding the hand of another comment: I hate it when the Church tries to join in with our day.

And I – a woman on the outer edges of both worlds – understood that.

The Christians in the parade want to say: we accept you, LGBT+ people. (Often they mean just gay… I’m not sure churches have got their heads round all the letters yet.) They acknowledge that Christianity and other faiths have hitherto persecuted their gay siblings – and some still do.

I’d like to point out that the notion that same sex love as being something to decry and exclude over has come from faith groups.

Many of those who still judge homosexuals are those with a conservative faith.

So one could say that the need for Pride came out of religious prohibition, which influenced laws and morals and medicine, so that what denounces LGBT people can be traced to faith roots.

Hence, it’s brave but ironic that there is a Christian presence at Pride.

Sadly like many, I have experienced struggle in coming to terms with not being heterosexual, especially as a woman of faith. I’ve written and published a novel about it, which is available to buy from many online sources, called Parallel Spirals. There will be a sequel.

I happen to know that many of the people on the Christian stall and march are not LGBT. They’re allies, but they have not experienced the challenges of the realisation that you are other, and that otherness may not be welcome. They have not sat in a pew (or sofa with a smoothie, if you’re that kind of church) wondering if the message of God’s love and theirs will still apply if this church really knew them and who they loved. Would they still get a hug (or even a handshake) in the peace; would they still get an invite to homegroups or youth or elder groups or those endless barbecues or garden parties if the truth about them was known? Would they still be allowed their positions of leadership if it was known what they were really like? Do these church people know what it’s like to earnestly search scripture to see if they really are condemned? NO YOU AREN’T, by the way!! Do they have to hear exhortions about the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman and the inevitable family you’re supposed to have, and feel nervous and excluded? Have they had to put up with people who have – almost for granted – what you don’t, and tell you that you can’t have it – namely marriage and family?

Of course, nongay people in church have other kinds of suffering and misfitting, and it might allow them to have great empathy and solidarity with the people that Pink Pride is about. I’ve heard people speak of other kinds of otherness… it’s not only LGBT people who feel a sense of not fitting, if not exclusion, in their faith communities.

But some seem to be presumptious and patronising. Is it fair to say it’s like white people in a Black celebration saying “We weren’t slaves ourselves, but we do know how you feel”? Of course it’s their way of saying – you never should have been, and we stand with you to show we’re not part of that. We see the well-meaning as much as we might cringe at the execution.

It’s also easy for the oppressed to allow no outsiders to sympathise. Am I angry at men against  violence against women in White Ribbon? Have I not applauded those who stand with something they’re not? Would I not march in solidarity with something  I care about, and be put off if I was told that I had no right to, as I’m outside the oppressed group?

I observed this tribe within a tribe with bemusement, oblivious to how their rainbow stickers and collars seemed amongst the outre costumes, squirting their God’s love like bubbles to passers by with the proffering of a gay positive sticker and a few words…but these little interactions felt like that delicate transient rainbow film.

Or actually, was that bubble the start of a new idea, a new relationship?

So am I saying that Christians shouldn’t have a stall at Pride? Am I saying that their well intentioned solidarity is wrong? No…but am am saying: your message has to be relevant and congruent and consistent, and be aware of how it looks from the other side. Don’t pretend you easily understand when you don’t… But actually, you might. And yes, I do think my novel can help with that. Listen to LGBT people and hear their stories. It will mean really chatting – often in a way that you can’t at fast moving, raucous Prides – and really sitting with them, being prepared to follow up, and to hear how LGBT+ people feel about faith and church and what it’s done to them. And to put it right and show a better way. As I know you can.

And actually, I’m quite touched that a group gives up its day to show that solidarity for something they aren’t, risking censure from both sides, and to transform the view and relationship from judgement and exclusion into love and welcome.

 

 

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Hare Hare Christian

Different message and cultures – same method of evangelism

 

I had a surreal moment this week. I sat in a building I know well, but instead of ordered western rational church services, there were people dancing to ever more frenzied mantras with drums, in the bright colours of India for the Festival of Spirit.

 

I tried not to think of my evangelical family as I listened, feeling quite alien and a little furtive into my first foray into public Eastern Spirituality. But a thought struck me that I have had in every church I have been to – and I claim to have tried every branch of Christianity – all have the same methodology, the same tone. The people might be different, the buildings, trappings, the words… but essentially, in ebullient outreach mode, are scarily the same. And it is true of these mendicant Hare Krishnas.

 

We were hyped up by a simple song, which also closed the evening. The speaker was a Caucasian dressed in robes, but his voice was just like the preachers of my Christian Union days. The talk wasn’t intellectual but it was clever from an oratory technique. That smooth, colloquial, I’ve been where you are voice. Not the calm of senior Buddhists or contemplative Christians, nor the rant of the traditional protestant and political demagogue, but I say again, smooth, in both senses: The well rehearsed story of Bhagavad-Gitas (re)appearing in spooky ways in people’s lives and changing them; the “you can every penny back of you don’t like it” speech  – this was free, including, cunningly, a meal; the drama sketch designed to lampoon British ignorance and imperialism (which felt at least 50 years too late)… all gave little real content. I still don’t really understand what a Hare Krishnan believes. But then a Christian preacher wouldn’t take you on journey of theology and church history at a Gospel rally. They too would find things you’d notice were lacking in the world, find sore points in your own life; flatter you a little for coming and having the sense to look for something new; even acknowledge some were only here for the food – which we had to wait 2½ hours for – and was not a good way to convert to vegetarianism, as intended.

 

Also like my last experience of a Pentecostal church, I was accosted before the meeting began by a person eroding my personal space and another who kept looking at me conspicuously throughout the meeting, probably for not clapping and chanting the name of a god I don’t personally deal with (or perhaps I do, under a different name – a thought I would not let occur 15 years ago!) At the Pentecostal meeting, I saw another man, similarly harassed, slip out for a fag. Although I am passionately anti smoking, I was tempted to join him and commiserate, as I too fled. It was only the meal that made me stay at with the Hare Krishnas – and that early nonconformist chapels are hard to escape from, with their pillars and pews – and the only free exit blocked by the Hare team using it as a kind of Green Room.

 

Unlike Christian meetings, there was no altar call, no asking for prayer or Holy Spirit/anti demon whip up, though like the cult in Holy Smoke with Kate Winslet, the music would have been enough to incite ecstasy and euphoric experiences. There was nothing in the meeting that made me curious enough to read more, although perhaps I should have a look at another holy book. Again, its presentation reminded me of fundamental Christians – a literally happened story with all the answers of life, just as you need them.

 

I shall not look at that chapel the same, but think my current flavour of faith suits me better.

At least I can’t be accused of not trying anything different!

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Cynthia Bourgeault – Christian Contemplation

A friend raved about her so I was intrigued when she came to do a local talk. I am sure others went away raving, but I felt Cynthia’s ideas are much like what I’m hearing elsewhere. Perhaps that adds to their veracity, but it felt disappointingly familiar. As she put it, each has its own ‘emotional fragrance’ and the distinctions between different spiritualities are worth keeping, but I haven’t found in her or others something I’d really like to smell.

She spoke of putting your mind in your heart, which is much like others would call living in your soul. She covers much ground, but that’s essentially her message – to live in that deeper place within, and you move though life more easily. And if others did so, it would make a difference to our planet.

I am glad she ended with the last bit, for I was feeling tired of being told how to improve me and forgetting that we live in a world that badly needs altering and healing. In that way, she is on a mission to convert. But what if the people making the most atrocities are not the ones who will listen? I wonder how political leaders might react to a spiritual pamphlet being sent to them? Meanwhile there are wars, riots, poor people being ever more stretched and threatened, liberties eroded… I do believe that change comes from the heart, but am not entirely satisfied that meditation is the way to experience it or to spread it.

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Christians on Gay Marriage

This is in reponse to a post on a British Christian website during the government consultation on giving gay peole the chance to enter into full legal marriage. It was  sent to the site’s editor.

I am saddened by the “Christians Urged to So NO to Gay marriage” post on the homepage. Out of an A4 length article, there are 3 lines from a pro gay Christian  (who are prevalent). The yellowed in paragraph would suggest the site manager’s views, who is also the author of the article.

My faith journey has shown me that neither the Bible nor a deeper knowledge of God supports this view that gay people are not loved and accepted by God. George Hopper’s little book, Reluctant Journey, charts how a conventional Methodist researched the topic and came out still Bible believing but with a very different view. Rather than just study, he met many gay people and their stories of hurt and rejection also made him recast his view.

It’s well documented that the Bible passages on homosexuality – which are very few – are not about the loving and committed relationships, but forms of debauchery and abuse.

I have also firmly felt that as James Alison says in his books, God is clear that he loves all his children, not to chastise and reject and curtail the love and sexuality of some whilst celebrate it in others. If anyone claims God to be about punishment and inequality and segregation, they are not speaking from God, no matter what their source.

I wonder what really is behind the anti homosexual drive is?

My brothers and sisters, why can you not count gay people among your siblings? Do you really see them as such a threat?

The government’s new proposed laws allow faith groups to keep their freedom of speech and to have the right not to have to embrace gay people and marriage. I do not see what the fear and outrage is, therefore. But what a bitterly disappointing way to exercise one’s freedom – by taking that of another.

The family patterns many Christians seek to uphold are in fact not in the Bible. The Old Testament is full of concubines and multiple wives; and the main players of the New are apparently single men travelling in groups with men and women. To say that God created male and female is not to say that that is the only legitimate pairing. If committed loving relationships and values of love, respect and justice is at the crux of Christian family, then you have nothing to fear from gay people.

Reading The Help reminds that within 50 years, Christians felt they could justify racial segregation which often led to acts of violence. Just over 200 years ago, Christians were among those who fought to stop slavery, whilst others were slave owners. We have still not got complete equality for women. Can you not see that some things done in the name of God are not in his name? Whatever is is best, most loving, most freeing, most noble – that is from God. If it is not, then it is not. Ask yourselves whether what you do in really in God’s name and is going to add to the Kingdom or take from it.

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