Feminism and Christianity

This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for sometime, but actually a topic I struggle to find words for with out just repeating others.

Growing up I wouldn’t have considered myself a feminist. I’m not even sure I knew what the word meant! The closest I ever got was thinking “there is no way on this earth I am burning my bra!” Of course (fortunately for me) being a feminist does not mean bra burning.

I think what actually made me think about feminism in a new light was having two boys.
This probably sounds odd to some, but I found they were limited.
An example of this was when my eldest who has just started his first year at primary school told me that boys can’t cry at school. It breaks my heart that already he is limited by the stereotype of what it means to be male.
Emma Watson really did get it right in her speech to the UN about he HeforShe campaign. Feminism affects us all, both males and females.

I’ve also came to realise other things. If I go out in the evening and dress up, I somehow become dehumanised. It’s acceptable in our culture for men to shout out at me as if the reason I am walking is for their pleasure. I am not human. I am not equal.
It’s ok in a club for men to grab me and try to kiss me. That’s why I’m there. I am not human. I am not equal.

Objectification is what we see all around us. Female celebrities plastered over pages of magazines. There to be drooled over or criticised. They are too fat, too skinny, wear the wrong clothing, look too tired, the list goes on. Is it any wonder then that this continues into our lives?
It’s men that dominate in government and in business. It’s hard to feel respected.

If you think I’m over exaggerating, do an experiment. On a Saturday night, go for a walk along where the clubs and pubs are local to you, and watch how the younger women are treated. It’s as if we are walking on their territory.
Look at the people who have made it to the top and see how dominated it is by males.

Now when reconciling this with Christianity I look right back at Jesus.
He was living in a culture far less informed than we are today. He was living in a culture where women were well and truly second class citizens. In that time period women were considered weak minded and not given any respect with in society.
Jesus may not have been an out right feminist, but how he treated them was with respect. He allowed women to sit with him and be counted them as friends.
When he saved the women about to be stoned for adultery, he didn’t see her as less human.
When he rose from the grave, it was the women he allowed to see him first. Women would not have been as trusted as men in their testimony, but still he choose them.
He was born into a time where he was heavily restricted but yet he still pushed the boundaries.

You see feminism isn’t about trying to be better than men, it isn’t about hating men, and it isn’t about trying to take over.
It’s about respecting that women are capable. It’s about bringing what it means to be male to something that doesn’t mean you can’t display emotion. It’s about everybody being human.

When I’ve written in previous blogs about LGBT, or about changing the attitudes to cultures, races, and disabilities it’s for one reason. We are all human. God made us all unique, with different challenges and emotions.

Feminism is important because it’s very simply recognising the individual and allowing us all to grow as people, with out being hindered by stereo-types.

Culture is always changing, when it comes to human rights it should be us, the church, at the fore front fighting. We can’t afford to be the ones lagging behind.

How to respond if someone at your church comes out as gay.

Thought I’d keep this post simple.
Those who have been following my previous blog posts know I am pro LGBT.
I also have repeatedly said in my posts on here to stay loving, which ever side of the argument you are on.
I’ve noticed though that there seems to be controversy about what constitutes being loving.
Some people think, telling people that if they don’t repent of their homosexual thoughts they will end up in hell is being loving.
Some people think that by telling them that they are deceived by the devil and that they need to get him kicked out, they are being loving.

So this is my view on how you should respond.

1. Thank them for their honesty.
I’m not kidding you! If somebody has just taken the step to come out to you, it took guts. They have just put themselves in a vulnerable position. Be honoured they chose you, and thank them for it.

2. Tell them you care about them.
Let them know they are still somebody of value. This isn’t you saying you agree. This is you letting them know that you care. Believe me, they need to hear it!

3. Tell them God loves them.
Because, well, he does. He loves all his children, and it’s good to affirm that to them.

4. Let them know you are available.
Again this still isn’t agreeing. This is acknowledging that they need support. As we all do. If you don’t feel you can be the one to offer it, find somebody who will.

5. Pray with them.
Pray for Gods peace and love in their lives. Pray that God will stay close and that they won’t loose sight of him. Do not pray for God to change them. That can do more damage. If they God does think it’s wrong, then by praying God remains close, their hearts will change anyway. (I firmly believe God doesn’t think this.)

6. If they ask you if you think it’s a sin, be careful.
You don’t have to lie here. You can honestly turn around and say, I know God loves you.
You can honestly say to them that they were fearfully and wonderfully made. You can honestly turn around and say to them that God still has a plan for their lives.
You can honestly say that we are all sinners.
Tell them to seek God first and tell them to let God reveal his heart.

7. Don’t out them.
If you are the first person they have told, let them know they can tell others in their own time. Tell them that you will support them as and when they decide to tell others.

8. Hug them!
At the end of the conversation, hug it out.
You don’t actually have to hug them if hugging isn’t your thing, but any form of touch reaffirms that they are still valued and that you care. Even just a shoulder pat.

9. Talk about something else.
Make sure first that the conversation has ended, but awkward silences are, by definition, awkward. Ask them what they are doing at the weekend or something.

10. Walk away knowing you made a difference!
You may be worrying that it’s come across like you’ve condoned something you don’t, but remember this isn’t about you.
You’ve told told them to seek God, so trust him.
In the mean time you’ve just saved somebody from feeling alone and isolated. They aren’t going to be the next person to leave the church because of a lack of compassion. You have made them feel valued and loved and they have gone away in the knowledge that God still loves them too.

You don’t have to understand, don’t have to agree. Just be the light in their lives when they ask you to be.
Let God do the rest 🙂

Challenging the issues we see

Picture the scene; you’re watching television with your partner and the news comes on. They start talking about an issue, maybe the government have put taxes up again or maybe they are discussing some kind of hate crime… You turn to your partner and utter something like “I don’t know what’s going on these days!”
Sound familiar?

We all moan, we all complain and we all get unhappy about things when we feel that there are things around us happening that are unjust. That feeling of wanting things to be fair is majorly important.
Go back to the scene; you have your moan, your partners agrees with you and then you change the channel and get glued onto some other programme. Discussion over.
We all do it! We are all guilty of it to some extent!

The problem is that every time that scenario happens, change doesn’t happen.

When you look at Jesus, I honestly believe that even if it had turned out he wasn’t the messiah, he would have still created waves.
He challenged peoples way of thinking daily. He challenged the Pharisees and criticised them!
He went into a temple and, when he realised they were using it as a market, he turned over the tables in anger.
When a women was about to be stoned, he challenged the law. “Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.” The law said she should be stoned, but he made people think and he challenged them and therefore brought change!
Jesus was loving, but he wasn’t passive. He made people think twice.

The main issue today is our culture of passiveness. We allow issues to get big and we give up too easily.
The suffragettes would never have got the vote, if there weren’t those women willing to stand up and be counted. Those women suffered hugely. They were imprisoned and treat horrifically, but still they protested!
I’m not asking anybody to go that far, I don’t think we need to!

But think if we were all active, if instead of flicking over the television and moving on, essentially giving up before we’ve even tried, we all did something. The issues may not go away, but the society we would live in would be so much better.

You probably aren’t going to change the world, I know I’m never going to. But I can contribute.
I can challenge people’s points of view and I can protest things. So can you.

Would add too, that if you don’t know where to start, look on twitter or Facebook and find people passionate about the same things you are and see what things they do. You have to be the biggest voice, it’s just doing the little that you feel able.

We all live in this world and we all need to contribute to make it a better place. Be it environmental issues, gay rights, racial issues, or cultural ones, governmental issues and tax, or feminism. What ever it is you see that needs to change, help towards changing it.
Nothing bad will happen if you try, but good can always come out of it. If we do nothing then nothing is what happens.

We can all stand up in our own ways and be someone that makes a difference.

What makes us Christian

I was recently told by somebody, commenting on somebody else’s blog post, that I am not a Christian.
I figured in this blog post I’d set out what it means to be a Christian. It’s not the first time, I’ve been told this and it won’t be the last.

“For God so loved the world, that he sent his one and only son so that who so ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”

Some people I think, have great difficulty in believing the “who so ever.” There are no limitations in that. This was one of the first bible verses I ever learnt. It means that Jesus died for every one. All of us.
There wasn’t a group of people that Jesus felt more worthy, he saw the world as sinners.
If there were perfect among us, there would have been no reason for him to die at all.
Instead he viewed us all equal. No one better than the person before and gave us ALL a chance at eternal life.

There is more. He required us to repent and be baptised in the name of the father the son and the Holy Spirit. In other words he asked us to be cleansed.
As sinners, the water of baptism symbolises us being washed anew. Jesus took our sin at the cross, we take on the we are no longer sinners but clean in his blood.

The sticking point with Christians though is always theology.
When theology differs, accusations fly.
I’m not saying that all theology is good. Some is damaging. Some produces fruit that is bad. In those times it is important that you use wisdom to decide whether or not to believe what is being said. It’s important to see if those theories hold weight against what the bible says and not to follow blindly.

God gave us some pretty awesome brains. He expects us to use them. He also expects us to make mistakes, probably daily.

I whole heartedly believe every thing I’ve said above. I am a Christian and I am human and I do not rely fully on human understanding. I use my brain. I research, I look at research of others too (from different perspectives) and weigh it against the bible.

There are times this means that my beliefs in something’s (although not the fundamentals) differ a little to somebody else’s.
This happens with in churches too. There are still some churches that do not believe in having women in leadership. Others have fully embraced women. These kind of differences aren’t ones that make one church less Christian than the other.
The same goes for things like speaking in tougues. Some churches whole heartedly embrace this and people are allowed to speak out in tongues during their services, other churches are more rigid and speaking in tongues there would seem out of place. Neither view would lead to people accusing the other of not being Christian.
If you go back some years though, it might have done. A women speaking in church, let alone leading, would have been unheard of. If a church had embraced it then, accusations would have flown.
The reason? Culture of the times and conditioning.

It was felt so important to stick to this at the time, because the view had been so engrained into them. Not putting importance on it would have seemed impossible. People were conditioned to think that way because they believed any other way would have been totally sinful.

Times changed. People realised culture had a big part to play. Some felt that maybe that wasn’t what Paul had even been driving at, so eventually people relaxed.
I realise this battle is still on going. I realise there are still different view points, but people aren’t so willing now to accuse people holding opposite beliefs in this regard of not being Christian. It is recognised instead as a differing of theology. Nothing more.

I firmly believe that one day the same will be said for those of us who believe that you can both be Gay and Christian. Right now it seems huge, to some it seems impossible that we will ever be able to just put it down to a simple difference in theology, but that is all it is.

I’m sure as times and culture changes even more over maybe the next 100 years, or maybe not even quite that long, there will be other issues come up that will be argued about. Most likely things that if they came up right now, all of us would be shocked. Myself included. But culture changes and as it does our view point does too.

We need to stay focused on the gospel. We need to stay focused on the love of Jesus and we need to stay focused on the true criteria of what it means to be Christian.
We are not all seeing, we are not all knowing and we cannot read the hearts of others. God can.
Never forget the “who so ever” Jesus didn’t limit.

Christian network- DirecTV, CVS Pushing Homosexuality in TV Commercials. My take.

So today I read an article about homosexuality from the Christian network.
I’ve long since stopped feeling anger when I read these kind of articles, now I just sigh resignedly and hope to God (quite literally) things will start changing soon.
Today I thought I would break the article down and try to put the other side across as eloquently as I can.

“As the sin of homosexuality becomes more of an accepted behavior in American culture, satellite television”

There is sin in this world. So so much sin. There is murder, there is war, there are people raped. There is greed, there is lust, there is hate, there is pride and I could go on almost endlessly.
I am totally against sin. Of course I’m far from perfect, I don’t even try to pretend to be. I’m no more or less than human.
The problem with the opening sentence, is it leaves no room for interpretation. There is no room for the reader to think for themselves. The article has decided for you.
Yet there are Christian theologists that think otherwise.
This is a Christian issue generally too. Very few try to look anymore outside of the translation of the bible we have today.
We trust others to do our thinking for us, and we are too trusting of the views of others.
Original context is crucial to understanding the bible.

“In a commercial entitled Rivalry, DirecTV uses two men who state that they are “just like any couple” to promote the provider’s NFL Sunday Ticket.”

You know what? Just putting it out there, they are! There isn’t some different formula to a homosexual couples relationship than a heterosexual one. They do the same kind of things, live the same kind of lives, argue over the same things, share private jokes, laugh together, debate on what to have for dinner. Gender doesn’t have to be the defining point for relationship.
Whether or not you agree with it, doesn’t mean the relationship is different in the way it’s conducted.

“In a new television commercial for CVS, now known as CVS Health, homosexuality is featured more subtly with a brief two-second video clip of two men who viewers agree are meant to depict a couple.”

Here I will be honest, all my rational thinking gave way to “grow up!” Regardless of whether you think homosexuality is a sin, if you can’t cope with a brief two second clip of a couple holding hands, how are you going to cope when you see it in the real world?
I know the general point being made is that it’s a subtle attempt to normalise it, but in almost every circumstance outside of religion it’s already normal. It’s much more likely they are trying to depict the world as it is today rather than any subliminal messaging.

“CVS Health also features an article on their official website entitled Gay or Straight: Can You Really Change? written by Sherman M. Fridman, JD. Although the article notes that same-sex attraction is different from actual homosexual behavior, it concludes that “[a]cceptance [of one’s homosexuality] is an important psychological step.””

Almost any psychologist will completely agree with this analogy. There is tons of evidence showing how physiologically damaging conversion therapy can be.
I’m not sure what credentials the author of this article has to state otherwise, but he’d better have some great ones. Saying that people can change their sexuality is actually damaging;

American Academy of Pediatrics (1993)
“Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”

American Medical Association (2003)
“Our AMA opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based on the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.”

American Psychoanalytic Association (2000)
“Psychoanalytic technique does not encompass purposeful efforts to ‘convert’ or ‘repair’ an individual’s sexual orientation. Such directed efforts are against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized homophobic attitudes.”

American Psychiatric Association (1998)
“The American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.” The APA removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1973.

American Psychological Association (1997)
“No scientific evidence exists to support the effectiveness of any of the conversion therapies that try to change sexual orientation.” The association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1975.

National Association of Social Workers (2000)
“People seek mental health services for many reasons. Accordingly, it is fair to assert that lesbians and gay men seek therapy for the same reasons that heterosexual people do. However, the increase in media campaigns, often coupled with coercive messages from family and community members, has created an environment in which lesbians and gay men often are pressured to seek reparative or conversion therapies, which cannot and will not change sexual orientation. Aligned with the American Psychological Association’s (1997) position, NCLGB believes that such treatment potentially can lead to severe emotional damage. Specifically, transformational ministries are fueled by stigmatization of lesbians and gay men, which in turn produces the social climate that pressures some people to seek change in sexual orientation. No data demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful.

Is all that not enough proof? So isn’t then the logical step to accept your sexuality no matter what it is?
Facts not suiting your agenda, doesn’t stop them from being a fact.

The article then goes on to talk about a two people called David and Judith. Both homosexuals who agree it’s not something that you can change. The author obviously disagrees. But I think I covered that enough above.

Finally (and not too soon) the article ends listing companies who support homosexuality.
There is no reason, outside of the bible (and I would even contest that) not to be in favour of two consenting adults falling in love. Regardless of gender. So what reason do these companies have to be against it?

I urge anyone who reads this blog today to think for themselves. Look at the facts and research the biblical arguments for yourselves.

Also remember that just because you may believe in something strongly, everybody else has the right to their own views too.
Be that a big company, or Joe blogs down the road.
The best you can do is live your life in a way you feel pleases god and in a way that blesses those around you.

In summary; think for yourselves, analyse everything, love everybody, and bless the lives of those around you.

Who we aspire to be

Today was my sons first day at school, as with every mum I wondered if he would make friends, I worried over whether he would behave and mostly, more importantly than any of those I desperately wanted him to be happy.
I wanted for him to go in and be completely himself, feel confident in who he was and just be content in the new chapter of his life that was about to begin.

I remember myself as a child, I wanted to be a nurse and then I wanted to be a teacher and I always wanted to be a mum (1 out of 3 came true!)
Primary school was a joy, it enhanced my dreams rather than diminish them. I have day after day of happy memories!
Things were different at secondary school. I didn’t have a voice. I could talk, but I was unable to speak up or speak out.
When I was subjected to nasty words I became paralysed, when somebody shoved me I did nothing in return. My goals stopped being about making friends (although I so desperately wanted to be liked) and I just used to wish I was invisible. I used to shrink down as low as I could into my chair in the hopes that I wouldn’t be seen.
Even at home I’d spend hours in my bedroom, I just didn’t want to be around anybody. It felt as though I was walking with a led weight inside me and I was so desperately unhappy.
Eventually even the friends in school I did have asked me to stop hanging out with them. I felt isolated. My first encounter with the ugly beast that is depression. I was very grateful in that time for the friends I had through the church, so I had people to turn to outside of school. With out those I’m not sure sure I would have coped, the world as it was felt to hard to bare.

It got better, the final year of secondary school, I once again have happy memories, largely due to the love I had developed for drama and my confidence blossomed and with it, I formed new friendships and the old friendships properly rekindled.

I think when times are hard, we have blinkers. We are so consumed with what is happening right now, it’s hard to aspire to anything else.

I’ve had more hard times since, and times that have been beautiful.

But hard times are where you learn. I learned so much compassion through that time. I learnt what it was like to feel less than human and I learned what it was like to feel pain.
I also learned how during dark times people can become your rays of sunshine, and the importance of being that person for another as often as possible.
I learned to speak up.

At the end of the day, what ever and who ever you aspire to be, whether you are a people person or not. We all need to support each other, we all need those sunshine people, and we all need people to bring out our best. So aspire to pay it forward, where ever there has been a sunshine person in your life, be that person in somebody else’s.

So my hope for my little boy tomorrow, is that he learns every lesson he needs to learn in order to mould him into who ever he wants to be, I hope that he finds rays of sunshine to help him through the dark times and I hope he will be the sunshine for someone else too.

Hurt hate and homophobia in the church

I wrote a blog very recently about Vicky Beeching coming out and about how good it was that the church was talking and taking another look at the views that have been engrained with in the church for so long.
I’d seen the hateful comments written on almost every post she wrote.
I’d had hateful comments aimed at me not so long ago either. I was told I had the devil living in me, that I was going to hell, that I was a liar a deceiver and a false Christian.
Anybody who wants to use those words by the way, no matter how much you believe you are saying it in love, it hurts. A lot actually and it doesn’t help or heal.

Then I read another comment written on One of Vicky Beechings posts.
On it they wrote about how hurt they had felt when Vicky Beeching came out. It wasn’t a pleasant read, filled with anger and hate but the hurt that coming out between the words, was tangible.
She had followed Vicky around for years, listened to all her music and Vicky had become a role model for her children. Vicky coming out had completely shattered that.
That’s ok.

Moving away from Vicky Beeching now and onto the broader coming out process, and the way views are slowly moving within the church, people are going to feel hurt and anger.
It’s ok. It’s not ok to direct that anger and hurt so it hurts others, but it’s ok to feel it and it’s ok to voice it.

These really are thoroughly engrained views. People have been taught for a long time (at least with in the church) that homosexuality is something we need to protect our children from.
There are warnings about false teachings and about wolves in Sheeps clothing (I’ve been called that too)

So yes, when anybody stands up and says I’m gay and I’m a Christian and that’s ok, there is going to be hurt there.

How people respond to that hurt over time though is ultimately what’s going to change things.

1. Don’t apologise for your views
Do acknowledge the hurt though.

2. Stay loving.
This one is much harder, especially when you are receiving a barrage of hate. By shouting and hating back all you do is add fuel. Love is what softens hearts, hate makes them hardened to change.

3. Be the change.
Lead by example, live your life in the way you always have. Show them through your actions that you are ok the way you are. Maybe the views of those around you will change without having to say anything.

4. Walk away.
Use wisdom, if people really aren’t willing to listen then you need to walk away.
There is no need to be a martyr and subject yourself to hate if what you are saying isn’t getting through.
You are with in your rights to deny them the argument.

Going back to Vicky Beeching, I think there is another lesson to be learned about about putting another human so high on a pedestal that you feel that amount of hurt when they disagree with you. It’s different when it is a friend, or a family member or somebody you knew well, you build up trust on both sides. Here though that’s not the case.

To sum up, stay loving! On both sides! We can all learn things, but think before you speak and respect everybody’s right to feel hurt.