Ruminations

The chewy thoughts of a queer Christian

Archive for the tag “Christian”

Christianity: enemy of gay rights?

The Church of England’s Moral Welfare Council… in 1954 became the first religious or political organisation to call for legalization [of homosexual acts], and the Council’s secretary, the Revd D. Sherwin Bailey restated this view in evidence to the Committee. When in 1960 the House of Commons defeated a motion for legalization, one of the major arguments used by the advocates of reform was the fact that the Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic churches all supported a change in the law. During the parliamentary debates of 1965-7, defenders of the status quo fiercely attacked the churches for failing to stand up for these allegedly Christian laws.

– Hugh McLeod, The Religious Crisis of the 1960s, p. 43

People just assume that religion has always been against homosexuality. People assume that Christianity always lags behind social change. People assume that Christians never take the lead on important social issues.

Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Riots of 1969 are generally considered the beginning of the gay rights movement. In America, that is.

Need I remind you that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist Minister, and that many leaders of the civil rights movement were also ministers? That William Wilberforce, leader of the emancipation movement in Britain was Evangelical extrordinaire of his day?

And now I learn that the biggest churches in Britain supported the legalisation of homosexuality against the popular opinion of British parliament in the 1950s – a decade before it even began to be spoken about! Why does this come as a surprise? How is it that people got the idea that religion is somehow inherently backwards?

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Why God Has to Exist

Somewhere in The God Delusion, Dawkins proposes a thought experiment. A universe without God, he suggests, would be very different from a universe with God. And for this reason, science and religion are not entirely separate from each other, dealing with separate spheres, but have an important area of overlap – that is, the existence of God.

Try to imagine, if you will, two parallel universes – the one with God and the other without. Are they different?

Grand Universe by Antifan Real

The experiment sounds very simple on the surface but is actually very difficult. For either an atheist, or a theist, I think the construction of a universe opposite from what you believe in is very hard. But I think that it is not just difficult to imagine a universe without God: it is actually impossible for one to exist.

Read more…

Did God make me gay?

Suddenly it really matters. Read more…

Friends Indeed, or, Answered Prayer

Sometimes I wonder about whether praying makes any sense. I pray to understand God’s will. I also pray for things. If I pray for things that are already God’s will, surely they will happen anyway? And if I pray for things that are not God’s will, surely they will not happen?

Matthew 21:22

Either way, an answered prayer is a good sign. And right now I am amazed at God for answering.

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Heavy

Lens flare jumpWhen you are a baby, you cannot walk. You cannot run and you cannot jump.

Most grown-ups, unless they are disabled, can jump.

Somewhere along the line, you learned to jump. How does that happen? How do you explain it to someone who doesn’t know how?

‘I need you to bend your knees and lower your centre of gravity – now I need you to straighten out your quads and exert a force greater than your body weight downwards so that the energy will carry your weight in to the air and prepare yourself to land by keeping your muscles relaxed for impact.’

How not to jump

When you jump, you just jump.

Christianity deals with emotions and with God. It can be pretty difficult, when you take it seriously, to figure out how to do it right. And faith of all kinds should be about doing. Doing is not just about the way you treat other people – although that is important – but it is also about the way you handle your responses to other people and to God. It is about structuring your inner life. Sometimes you read an explanation of jumping without knowing what it is and it makes you think, ‘well what is that supposed to look like?’

Take this for example:

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28 (ESV)

What does that mean?

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Whenever I see the rainbow

The office where I work is plastered with rainbow flag stickers. The notice board has a thick copy of the inclusion policy stapled to it and one of my favourite Stonewall posters ‘Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!’, is pride of  place in the centre.

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Whack-a-mole

Sometimes my faith life is like playing whack-a-mole. As soon as you knock one doubt, or concern, or problem on the head, another one emerges somewhere else.

Today I realised I may never reach the ideal point that I wanted, the point where there are no more moles. I may never have it all figured out. Maybe I don’t need to have all the creases ironed out in order to have a faith I can be proud of, a faith that works, a faith that is enough.

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The End of Wishy-Washy

The God DelusionI have been reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Honestly speaking, I did not think it would have any effect whatsoever on my faith. It has.

I got through the first sections of the book fine – taking in my stride the scorn and ridicule that Dawkins pours upon religion. This is what I had expected. One section – the argument for religion based on personal experience – I did think could have had the potential for knocking my faith. But he seems to have limited himself to ridiculing religious visions and hearing voices and leaving it at that.

No. What got me was the chapter on the Roots of Religion. There is a much under-developed argument (most of his arguments are under-developed) that the existence of the soul, or the ‘God within’, or even Being, may be a psychological trick:

The psychologist Paul Bloom… points out that children have a natural tendency towards a dualistic theory of mind… A dualist acknowledges a fundamental distinction between matter and mind. A monist, by contrast, believes that mind is a manifestation of matter – material in a  brain or perhaps a computer – and cannot exist apart from matter. A dualist believes the mind is some kind of disembodied spirit that inhabits the body and therefore conceivably could leave the body and exist somewhere else. P. 209

He goes on to develop this theory very poorly and, I think, has missed out on an opportunity to strike out a very powerful argument for God – ‘I feel that He exists within me’. But I have developed it myself and it has given me a real problem.

How do I know that feeling the God within me is not just a trick of my brain? There is no way of knowing whether or not such a God exists. Essentially, believing in such a God is wishful thinking. To believe in such a God is almost an act of will – a choice. I want to believe in God; therefore, I will search for that which is God and when I find something that fits that label I will call it God. It doesn’t matter if that is not what people will conventionally call God, because I have found it. And I will maintain such a loose understanding of what God is that when people challenge it, it will morph. This understanding of God as ‘Being’ is essentially the making of the ‘spirit’, ‘soul’ or ‘inner self’ into the divine. It is making dualism (as defined above) sacred.

God as an inner reality was my trump card. All other qualities of God were secondary – such as transcendence, power, ability to work miracles, creator, goodness. The question was not whether or not God exists as figuring out what God is.

So what changed?

First of all, I’m not doing spirituality on my own any more. That happened before The God Delusion. I am grateful, at the moment, to be in a Church and building a new faith based on a tradition of rigorously figuring out how to make good sense of God.

I had to lay to rest the idea that I could figure God out by feeling. I had to stop trying to access God by efforting.

I had to move the location of God to outside myself. I had to stop turning inwards and start looking outwards. The point here is that connecting with God is not so much us meeting Him as Him meeting us.

I picture it like this: meeting someone can happen in a number of ways. I can meet you at your house, or you can meet me at my house, or we can both meet each other, say, in the park. Under my old model, meeting God was like meeting in the park. I was searching, and I found who I was looking for because I really wanted to. I didn’t know when God was going to show up and wasn’t sure what he would look like, but I found something that looked pretty much like God and named it so (Waiting for Godot much?). Under my new model, God is coming to my house at my invitation. In Revelations 3:20, God says:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

I think that more what it’s like. God is coming to see us, and we can let him in. But I think we have to invite Him first.

If God is a reality outside of me, I can’t know Him well enough to be able to just say what I like about Him and believe it to be true. I cannot be wishy-washy. I actually might be wrong. I have to be careful, I have to check my statements against reality. I have no control over Him; and I don’t have to like everything He does. I cannot use Him for my own ends. I cannot own Him. This, I believe, is why He gave the commandment, ‘Do not use the Lord’s name in vain’.

So Jesus Isn’t God

I have just finished reading a book about the history, the story of the formation of the Christian Creeds. For the first time, I have started seriously engaging with theology and I have realised that it can do a lot of strange things to your mind. I realised two and a half things:

1) When you start to pick apart Christianity you get to a whole bunch of paradoxes. This reminds me that (1.5) theology is not supposed to make you believe in God, but to explain Him.

Lego Jesus

2) We believe a lot of things which are over-simplified versions of much more difficult to explain things. My example of this is that Jesus is not really God despite that fact that this is what almost all Christians believe.

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On Pride

I love C. S. Lewis’s stance on sexual morality. I would now like to take some of his words out of context, and think about the notion of gay pride. Don’t get me wrong – C. S. Lewis states quite clearly that he believes homosexuality to be a perversion and that the biological purpose of sex is children. I would disagree. But consider this section:

Modern people are always saying, ‘Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.’ They may mean two things. They may mean ‘There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that humans reproduce in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.’ If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same… But of course, when people say, ‘Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,’ they may mean ‘the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of’.

If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.

– Mere Christianity, p. 98-99

Read more…

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