One of the blessings I find each year after the chaos of Christmas is time to read the pile of books I have generally accrued that year. This Boxing Day I pulled ‘Bad Theology Kills’ (one of my birthday stack) off the shelf and idly began flicking, but by page two my attention was sharply standing to attention. This work was revolutionary. I mean, I’d said for a while in my own deconstruction the difference between choosing traditional theology and choosing liberal loving theology was life or death, but this writer was nailing it – in a way that made me want to weep and woop in equal measure.
Their stories started to leap off the page – they were mine too! Their experiences – I’d lived through some of those exact conversations. The frameworks they presented for why gave my soul a chance, finally, to find some peace with it all in a final, logical way. They get it. Someone gets me. More than that, they are doing the same thing I am, speaking up because we just can’t reconcile silence and standing by any longer.
Everyone who calls themselves a Christian should read this book. We have a responsibility to understand the pain we cause when we continue to uphold theological stances ‘because that’s what the Bible says’ without constantly examining what that actually means, how and when we learned that, where on the Wesleyan Quad we sit, etc etc … when we KNOW our stance is directly reaponsible for abuse, homelessness and death.
If you read it and don’t change your stance, that’s up to you, but the challenge will stir your soul I promise, and that can only be a good thing …
Peace be with you … but maybe not too much this time!
Welcome, Jesus, as a babe you came. Today we remember.
We pause and remember the gift of hope, packaged in a simple child. When all is too big, complex and frustrating, help us to look for the simple hope, and the hope of the small and simple.
We pause and remember the gift of beauty, in the most natural of elements, life. When all seems full of ill health, death and darkness, guide us towards the evergreens, berries and fresh blooms which speak of eternal life, available to delight in, always.
We pause and remember the gift of joy, delivered safely and held close to Mary’s breast. Amidst the sadness, the loss and the absence, may we be determined to seek the joy, create fullness and live in the moments where we know the gladness of life.
Welcome, Jesus, as a babe you came. Today we remember.
Peace, and the blessings of Christmas, be with you
“What you say is hurtful. How you say it is hurtful. Your tone is not helpful. You don’t deal with things properly. There are ways and means. If you go around hurting people, you won’t get anywhere.”
All of these comments are reflections I have received and sat with, all have been painful to receive and all have stopped me in my tracks. Each and every one I have ultimately valued as feedback which has informed my life and presented me with choices around how I speak, write, present.
That doesn’t mean I’ve always chosen the soft, polite, due process approach though …
There comes a time when polite attempts to talk about injustice run out of time. Martin Luther King bent the knee, as an action was to speak louder than words.
There comes a time when asking nicely runs out of steam. Mary McLeod Bethune faced off the Ku Klux Klan to cast her hard won vote, no asking for her but the time for taking.
There comes a time when standing by runs out of authenticity. Jesus threw over tables and chased sellers out of the temple with an impromptu whip; there was no place for standing by as the temple was desecrated.
There comes a time when just pointing out the problems and hoping someone might take you seriously before it is too late, becomes too late. Those in charge of the processes and holding the power step away from your situation when not interacting with you, but not you. You have to live it. You have to hold the tensions between needs and experiences, expressing and not rocking the boat, being heard and being a troublemaker, building relationships and watching them falter as you find your strength, reclaiming your own agency to see that impacting others … and eventually it implodes
When all you want to do is speak your truth and have it heard, understood, and responded to well.
I know when the truth is spoken to me, it can hurt. I know my truth is hurtful to others. But I also know the only way that hurt can be released is to speak it and resolve it with compassion and kindness, knowing we all just want to do our best in this trickiest of worlds we live in. The only way understanding can be reached is through difficult conversations. The only way change can ever come is through speaking truth.
As the rose blooms in the rain, on this Gaudete Sunday may we lift our faces to the storm clouds and sing your praises anyway.
As the rose produces a beautiful, sweet scent when all around it the stench of manure is ripe, on this Gaudete Sunday may we be fragrant as the fruits of your Spirit ripen in our lives; may we be fertilised by the multitude of shit around us but not overwhelmed by it.
As the rose feeds those around us by the pollen it produces, on this Gaudete Sunday may we feed those around us by our gifts, our words, our deeds and our presence; may we know we are valued and needed, that we are an integral part of the world’s beautiful and vibrant tapestry, and that the lives of those around us would be less without our enriching contibution.
As the rose has thorns for protection, on this Gaudete Sunday may we know to hold our boundaries. May we love, and give, and care, but may we also discern, and be prayerful, and rest. Although I pray we maintain boudaries well enough we don’t fall into hurting others for self preservation, for thorns have a bite we need not inflict.
As the rose has beauty, on this Gaudete Sunday may we reflect yours God, and may we also embody our own. You made us to be unique, to have our own purpose, our individuality, our voice and our words. You gave us our being and we craft our image together. As you tend your garden, may you look at us, your stunning array of quirky, dissimilar, vibrant, eclectic, amazing, wonderful roses and be well pleased.
This week my approach to theology was called ‘revisionist’ in a discussion on Twitter. I found that very thought provoking, but not in the way the person on the other screen intended. I have every confidence, through prayer, discernment, study and discipleship, that my approach adheres to the teachings of Jesus. I write as I do because I sense a call by God on my life to do so. Revisionist, no. Reclaiming.
I reclaim a Gospel that taught Love Thy Neighbour As Yourself, secondary only to loving God, the highest gift we can give one another. Will this email show love, and would I find it ok to receive? No? Rewrite. Even if the KJV translation of the Bible uses the word ‘abomination’ and I’m only quoting a Bible verse? Still. Rewrite. Has it ever helped a situation to call someone an abomination? Yet it is still happening (references available on request or all over your favourite search engine …) .
I reclaim a Gospel that taught Women Are Equal in Leadership. The first chosen evangelist, sent out to tell of Jesus’ words, was an ostracised Samaritan woman with a tragic (not seedy) past, yet she converted a whole town. The first major funder of an outreach project was Mary Magdalene. Acts is full of references to women leaders, even if you have to dig deep to uncover their service after the patriarchal systems that codified our Bible and organised religious structures weren’t comfortable with God’s design and thought they could do better – Junia being a prime victim. God oversees but humans discern and humans don’t have 100% success rates …
I reclaim a Gospel that spoke of Love and Committment, and Two People Honouring Eachother in Marriage being more important than legalism or control. I assert that Biblical society understood sexuality in a different light to the way we do now, and therefore cannot speak literally across to it. We have to look to context, themes and discernment. Jesus came to liberate, promote love and release us from ancient rules that bind us, erasing lines that separate is and inviting us into Abundant Life. That becomes a lie if it has an addendum which states ‘This is only for one type if people, even though I made you all, sorry about that’. Jesus never lied.
I am not trying to revise anything in deconstructing what stands as institutional Church in 2020. I am seeking to reclaim the fundamental truths of Jesus, as I have done in my own life to find peace and joy in ways I have never yet known as a lifelong Christian. I have been a legalistic, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, blinkered person trotting out cliches and hurting good people left right and centre in my self righteous ignorance. Oh, if I had just loved them! How many seeds of God’s love would I have sown.
Jesus came to set us free. Let us reclaim that message and bless others with it this Advent and beyond.
I came to a realisation today. My advocacy makes me intimidating.
I am a woman. A mother. A wife. I have home to look after, children and a husband to care for, a role to play in society. Them’s the rules.
Raising my voice to disturb the calm waters, make waves and speak up for other people? That breaks them.
Don’t talk nonsense, I hear you cry. It’s the 21st century, that’s not how things work.
So why has Greta Thunberg come in for such criticism from none other than the President of the United States of America? She broke the rules.
Why did Malala Yousafzai get shot down by the Taliban? She broke the rules.
Why was Theresa May hounded and treated in a way no other male politician has to put up with by her colleagues and the press? She broke the rules.
Thing is, the rules are there to keep us in our place. That works for those who are protected by those places. Those in power, those in authority, those who sit on the right side of the lines. In our society, it is white, affluent, male, cisgender, heterosexual, able bodied, mentally healthy, married, working individuals.
How many people actually tick every single box on that list?
So how many people do the rules actually work for?
Therefore why do we all keep buying into them?! Why are we all not speaking out at the inequalities in our justice systems, our education systems, our health and care systems. Do we not know? Do we not care? Do we not have the energy?
I know. I care. I don’t have the energy but I do it anyway. Because someone has to. I stand because someone has to. I speak because someone has to. I stir because someone has to and I make waves because someone has to. I wish it wasn’t me, I find it really challenging that it is me, “Father, take this cup away from me …
Yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42, NIV).
I vote because Emmeline Pankhurst stood for me.
I am university educated because Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon stood for me.
I am paid the same as my male co-workers because Julie Hayward stood for me.
I am thankful for all those people who stood for me, and I stand for all of those people in the future who may never know my name, but will know the benefits of a fairer religious community and faith systems which accept them for who they are, as Children of God, before and beyond all else.
Now you put it like that, it is a little intimidating. Good job I have an even greater Holy Spirit at my back…