Lioness

It’s 1:36 am. Most of the world is falling asleep and I am coming alive.

Every so often I have these moments where I realise my strength. I realise what I’ve gone through, what I’m going through, what I’ve carried all on my own, and it hits me that this will all be okay.

Like a lioness looking after her cubs I have bared my claws to anyone who dares try to attack my home.

At night I lie awake; I have cried salty tears into my pillow but left no stain.
I have tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable spot in what sometimes feels like rocky ground.
I have stared up at a glowing screen, hoping for conversation that never comes.

I have had moments where my heart begins to beat so fast and I become so overwhelmed that my chest tightens and I feel like at any minute I might stop breathing, I might stop living. It might all turn to darkness and life as I know it might end.

Like a ship miles out at sea, I have thrown down my anchor but found no land to hold on to.

But I can only control my own heart.
I can only be strong for me, I can’t worry that others don’t love me.
I will find land, my home will be safe, and I will lift up my arm and shake my fist at the world.

I will let it know that I cannot be conquered, that I cannot be held down.

Advertisements

Why I’m still not convinced that homosexuality is a sin: the aftermath of being honest.

Last week I wrote an article on why I don’t believe homosexuality is a sin (if you haven’t read it yet I would encourage you to have a look before continuing with this post) and the responses I got have made me more determined than ever to continue supporting the LGBT community within the Church.

Some Christians have told me that I need to read my Bible again and ask God to show me His word instead of letting it “conform to my worldly opinion”, they’ve told me that what I’ve said is harmful, that I’m misrepresenting God, His love, and His will. Other Christians have been ecstatic to see someone voice an opinion like this, something they finally agree with. I’ve had messages from gay people thanking me for sticking up for them, telling me that they don’t often see “religious people” taking their side and that it means a lot that I have.

The Christians who have militantly disagreed with me haven’t for one second made me reconsider a single thing I said in the post. People accused me of having a flawed argument but didn’t explain why, others avoided my questions when asking what they were referring to, some accused me of arguing when I tried to discuss their thoughts on the issue, one even stated that it’s a fact that homosexuality is bad for “society, families, children, and the population” and yet couldn’t tell me where she’d discovered this apparent “fact”.

I can’t help but think of this rather witty Tumblr post I saw yesterday: “As a queer guy I get a confidence boost from republicans insinuating that my mere existence has the power to destroy a country”. 

One thing I’ve noticed is that people are very ready to make sweeping statements such as, “The entire Bible calls homosexual behaviour sin. That’s the bottom line” (this was actually said to me) and then follow it up with random Bible verses, including Leviticus 18:22 (if you want to take one law from Leviticus then you better start implementing them all into your life, which means no more shellfish, pork, mixing of fabrics, and you should best start stoning women whose virginity can’t be proved by her parents before she gets married; that sounds fair, right?), to try and give evidence as to why they’re right. How can the entire Bible say something if all you can reference is a few random verses that, if researched correctly, don’t say anything about homosexual relationships?

A verse that people love to reference when trying to prove that homosexuality is a sin is Genesis 2vs24:

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
(NIV)

This verse is found in the part of Genesis where God is creating a helper for Adam, and it doesn’t say a single thing about homosexuality. It doesn’t say that a man couldn’t find a helper in another man, or that a woman couldn’t find a helper in another woman, it just says that Adam found a helper in Eve. Telling people that that confirms that homosexuality is wrong is completely twisting what it actually says; it’s the story of creation, not of who can be in a relationship with who.

Out of all the people I’ve spoken to who disagree with me, none of them have been able to fully back up their arguments, and that worries me quite a bit. I’ve grown up with a generation of Christians who have taken on a set of beliefs and don’t really know why they have them, yet are more than ready to tell complete strangers (I had numerous debates with people I don’t know), very passionately and angrily, that homosexuality is a sin. Have they, by their own ignorance, pushed away an entire community of people because they’ve been too afraid to question the Bible and discover something that’s different to what their parents and pastors told them?

But I haven’t just had negative responses from Christians, I’ve had positive responses from gay people that have made me realise that I need to continue sticking up for the things that are important to me. My main aim in all of this is that people will know they are loved, regardless of their sexual orientation, or whether they identify as male or female, and that they will never feel as if they aren’t welcome or that there’s something in their life that isn’t “right”.

Being gay isn’t a choice, just like being straight isn’t a choice, and we can’t tell people that something they have no choice in is sinful if we can’t tell them why. God didn’t make a single mistake when He created us and all of His creation is beautiful; in fact it’s absolutely stunning, it’s a work of art. Whatever your sexual orientation, you’re a work of art.

So in regards to the person who told me that I’m misrepresenting God’s love: if what I’ve said has made people feel loved and important, isn’t that what God would want?

Whether you agree with me on this topic or not I encourage you to do your own research before discussing the matter. I encourage you to stop worrying that questioning the things you were told as a child means that you’re turning your back on God because you might just find that it brings you even closer to Him, and you might discover that His love is even greater than you ever imagined.

x

Why I’m tired of people saying homosexuality is a sin

As I sit in front of my computer tonight I’m not sure where to start with this post.

I will probably ruffle a few feathers, upset a few people, make a few people angry.
That’s not my aim, I just know it might happen.
I mostly hope that I make a few people really happy.

I’ve been pretty annoyed with the Church recently; pretty annoyed with the attitudes of so many people in the Church. I’ve wanted to give up quite a few times but today I came to the conclusion that it’s important I don’t.

Here’s the deal: I fully support gay rights. I don’t believe there is anything sinful about homosexuality, I don’t believe the Bible says there is, and I support gay marriage. 

For as long as I can remember I was never sure about the issue; I never really wanted to say I thought it was wrong or right, there was something inside me that told me not to settle one way or the other. The past couple of months I’ve done proper research into the topic, really delved into it and found answers to a lot of my questions.

In regards to Bible verses on the topic, consider 1 Corinthians 6:9. In the ESV it’s translated as:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…”

The problem here is that “men who practice homosexuality”, in the original translation of the Bible, actually said male prostitutes (“arsenokoit”). I can accept that God probably isn’t cool with prostitution, but not all gay men partake in prostitution (I guess some do, but so do some straight people) so how has that, over the years, been translated into just “men who practise homosexuality”? Gay couples are as capable of being in loving, committed relationships as heterosexual couples so why has being gay been turned into something dirty and sordid?

Here’s another corker:

Romans 1:26-27
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
(NIV)

If you think all gay relationships are based on “shameful lusts” then you might want to step out of your bubble. It’s also strongly debated that this passage is referring to prostitution, but either way it makes no comment on two committed, consenting adults having sex that isn’t based on lust actually being  a sin.

Homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible around six or seven times so it was clearly never a very important topic to any of the writers, but it seems to have turned into a major issue for so many Christians. The Church used to believe that the Bible told them that slavery was acceptable and that women shouldn’t vote and that view has changed, so why has this one stuck?

All Christians should agree with me that Christianity is meant to be about loving people, but over the past few days I’ve read nothing other than stories of gay Christians who have been completely ostracised by the Church communities they trusted, who’ve been told they can “recover” from being gay. Gay people in and outside of the Church have been treated terribly by Christians, made to feel like they are hated and despised. Every year at Belfast Pride gay people are attacked by hoards of “Christians” yelling abuse at them. Do you really think this is what Jesus would want?

I’m tired of hearing Christians saying that being gay is a sin and following it up with, “murder is a sin too, but God forgives all sins.” I’m sorry, but did you just put being gay on the same level as murder?  

The part that scares me most is that so few Christians are willing to question the topic; we’ve been brought up knowing that a lot of important people in our Church communities think that homosexuality is wrong so we’ve never really looked into the topic ourselves. I think a lot fear it will make them gay, or that people will think they’re gay if they’re found to be doing research on it (what would actually be wrong with that?). I also just think a lot of Christians think that if they question the Bible then they’re questioning the entire existence of God and that if you don’t agree wholeheartedly with everything it says then something’s wrong and that you’re on a “slippery slope” on the way to hell or something equally as outrageous.

God didn’t give us brains so we could sit back and accept everything we hear, so we could live in bubbles and be oblivious to reality, so we could pretend as if issues such as homosexuality should be left to someone else to look into, He gave us all a brain so we could use them, so we could educate ourselves and not blindly accept everything we’re told. Being a robot in 2013 is dangerous, you make yourself very vulnerable.

I really wanted to give up on God for a while because this frustrated me so much. I wanted to quit because it’s hard to know that most of the Christians I know are accepting something so harmful. But I’ve decided that it’s important I don’t quit, because someone needs to be willing to question, someone needs to be willing to stand up and speak their mind when most are afraid to. And most of all because God isn’t human; humans suck but God doesn’t. God isn’t human at all, s/he doesn’t even have a gender so why do we keep defining God as a man?

At the end of the day my faith in God is not based on the fact that I don’t think homosexuality is a sin. Your faith in God shouldn’t be anything to do with waiting until you’re married to have sex, or who you’re attracted to, or whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, or how often you read your Bible. It should be entirely based on the fact that you have been forgiven by a God who loves you so much that He was prepared to die for you.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and that means everyone who has ever existed, so no one has the right to turn around and make a judgement by telling someone who’s gay that what they’re doing is sinful or wrong.

x

Ruffling feathers and thinking outside the box.

Something hit me like a tonne of bricks this morning.

For years I’ve struggled with the fact that I don’t tend to agree with a lot of people in the Church on certain things. I’m very liberal, and quite opinionated, and things like gay marriage and abortion and women as leaders, well basically I’m pretty much for all of them (when I say I’m pro-abortion I mean I’m pro-choice rather than pro-life).

But this isn’t going to be a post all about those things because that’s the exact opposite of what I’m trying to get across to you today.

For the longest time I’ve felt like I just don’t agree with people on certain topics and that because of that, because of the way some people have treated me or spoke to me because of those opinions, I thought I was doing something wrong or that my faith wasn’t right.

I know already that a tonne of you are sitting there ready to quote all the Bible verses you can think of to me on those topics; please don’t.

And why not? Because it’s just not about that; it’s not about that at all and never has been.

This morning in church we sang ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’ by Rend Collective Experiment and it hit me that I’m just as much an important part of the Church as all the pro-lifers and people who don’t support gay marriage.

There’s a line in the song that goes like this:

“We are Your Church.
We need Your power in us.” 

And it’s so simple but it has so much meaning.

We, as in all the people who are Christians, are a part of the Church, the Church with a capital ‘C’, the one that means family and community, not the church building. And because we’re all a part of the Church with all our differing opinions, all our wounds, all our flaws, all our gifts, we are all important. So regardless of all those things, putting all of that aside, we need the power of God in us to love people just like He loves us, to be the shining light in the darkness.

Yesterday a girl I hardly know any more took it upon herself to publicly attack me on Facebook because of the way I had presented my opinion on women as leaders in the Church. She didn’t necessarily disagree with my opinion but felt it was her place to tell me that the way I had presented it was “ridiculous” and “ignorant” (using those exact words). She told me I was presenting the Church in a bad light and that if I continued this way people would get the wrong idea of what the Church was. She kept calling me her “sister in Christ”, which was really very patronising, and eventually apologised but continued to tell me what I’d said was unbiblical and even said, “I guess I’m just too quick to point out flaws.” The cherry on top was when she told me she would pray for me and that I was on a “slippery slope”, that I was putting myself in the position of God by saying that the Bible wasn’t necessarily always relevant to our current times.

In that situation, “I’ll pray for you” is just another way of saying “go f*** yourself.”

I’ve never been so unbelievably livid and I’m sure the way I responded to her made her think I needed even more of her prayer.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me; a situation where someone who barely knows me takes it upon themselves to “rebuke” me and tries to say that’s what they’re meant to do as a good Christian and that they’re doing it out of love.

Both of these people did nothing but make me angry and push me even further away from the Church, using the fact that they’ve gained “great” teaching from doing missions or going to a supposedly brilliant church to try and justify why they’re doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m good at this whole Christianity thing, not by any means. But what hit me this morning is that while there are some people who don’t question a lot, there are quite a lot of us who do, and not necessarily questioning God, not necessarily who He is or who Jesus was, but we wonder if we’re really meant to take such a strong stance against things like gay marriage and abortion.

I think there’s a lot of people like me who, if totally honest, would say they’re unsure about some things in the Bible. They would say that they don’t know if a lot of the apparently important stuff was maybe lost in translation because humans are flawed. 

So while I could have let what that girl said get to me, it has actually strengthened me. Not in my annoyance with the differing opinions in the Church, but in knowing that I am who I am, in Christ, for a very good reason.

At the end of the day being a Christian is about loving people. If a Christian believes gay marriage is wrong, if they don’t think women should be leaders, if they’re pro-life, I need to love those Christians just as much as I love everyone else because we’re a family, we’re a community. I don’t need to be best friends with them, but loving people is the most important thing.

After my experience yesterday, after being “rebuked”, being spoken to completely condescendingly, after being patronised and told, “you’re wrong, you’re ignorant”, I’m going to take that and turn it into good.

So, to all my fellow liberal Christians: please keep being who you are, keep supporting whatever it is you support that you find constantly ruffles a few feathers. Thinking outside the box is not a bad thing and your salvation is not found in your opinions, it is found in nothing other than Jesus Christ.

x

 

Christianity isn’t cute.

I slept terribly last night; tossing and turning, waking up all the time. I woke up again at 8:45 am and lay there for a while, staring at the wall next to me, wondering what was wrong.

Eventually it hit me.

I haven’t been very close to God recently. I haven’t been angry with Him, or upset with Him. I haven’t began doubting His existence or questioning whether I should give up following Him. I’ve just gotten really distracted. Distracted by all the new things in life, all the new people, the new places.

This week I almost resigned myself to just not caring until I care again, but I don’t think it really works like that.

So this morning, while failing miserably at sleeping, I browsed through Facebook and Instagram, and saw a lot of posts by a lot of Christians, and realised what makes it so hard to turn back to Jesus at times like this.

We have made the Gospel so cute and fluffy and friendly. 

Jesus was nailed to a cross by his hands and feet and made to hang there until He died. He endured one of the most painful deaths known to man because He was the perfect sacrifice for a broken, messed up world. How that relates to the very cute, friendly gospel message we seem to have created in 2013, I do not know.

We’ve made Christianity about “being good” and not saying ‘shit’ and hating on gay marriage and being pro-life and telling people they’re wrong. We’ve made it about drinking tea and dressing well for church and always having our Bibles with us.

We’ve forgotten that when Paul said he was the “worst of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15) he had spent his time, before choosing Christ, killing Christians.
We’ve forgotten that Rahab was a prostitute.
We’ve forgotten that Noah was a drunkard.
We’ve forgotten that Peter totally denied knowing Jesus.
We’ve forgotten that Judas betrayed Jesus after kissing Him on the cheek.
We’ve forgotten how Samson used women.
We’ve forgotten that David was a murderer.

But we act as if Jesus died on a cross so we could eat cake and dress modestly and never be angry with life.

We’ve defined what a relationship with God is meant to look like and totally forgotten that we’re just the same as Rahab and Noah and Paul and Judas. But we still judge people around us and tell them how they live is wrong because it makes us feel some sort of pride; that’s not what Jesus wants.

In the west we’ve surrounded ourselves with really fun Christian music and helpful books and cute church stories for kids, so much so that we’ve forgotten how to really have faith. We’ve turned Jesus into a physically attractive white man. 

In North Africa, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in China, they don’t hold on to God because their favourite Christian band just released an amazing song that’s “so anointed”, they do it because they know it’s their only hope, that if they let go and try to get through life, through persecution, on their own they’ll never do it.

I don’t know for certain, but I highly doubt Christians being persecuted across the world are debating their feelings on abortion.

We’ve forgotten that we’re all the same. That we all mess up, that no amount of Bible reading or prayer time makes us any better than anyone else and that that is the exact opposite of what Jesus wanted for us. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying for us we would have nothing so stop leaving that part out of the Gospels. Stop leaving out the part where God, something that I can’t even explain because the concept of a god still baffles me sometimes, became human, became a helpless baby who had to rely on two totally lost people to look after Him as He grew up, and knew that He was only on this planet to eventually die. But He did it so He could know us. So He could be a part of our mess. So He could hang out with the disciples, twelve guys who didn’t really have a clue what was going on, so He could meet countless people who would never believe He was God, so He could give sight to the blind, so He could allow the lame to walk again, so He could eat dinner with tax collectors, have His feet washed by prostitutes, so He could spend time with the outcasts of society, so He could break the rules of the Sabbath and tell people that loving God was nothing to do with any of that.

There’s very little Christian music and art that I would say I love because I think a lot of it is very cheesy, but there’s a guy called Levi the Poet who is one of the most talented spoken word poets I’ve ever heard. He is passionate and honest and doesn’t pretend like being a Christian is easy and cute. One of my favourite poems by Levi is called O Captain, My Captain, and you can watch it right here.

x

Being worth more than many sparrows.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to Church as usual and I’m going to be helping with what we call ‘Little Church’. This is basically a way more laid back, simpler version of Sunday School for the toddlers in the Church and I absolutely love it. I love how simple the little kids are, how all they need are some toy trains and a plastic tractor to be content. These little ones are told from the day they’re born that Jesus loves them, that they are important, that they are of great worth to Him. It doesn’t mean they’re brainwashed, it doesn’t mean they’ll never be able to make their own decisions (I was brought up in a Christian home and still went through a period of turning my back on God and going a  bit wild when I first went to university), but it does meant that, from the very beginning of their existence on this earth they know that, no matter what, God is always there for them.

I’ve spent a lot of time questioning God, you see. I’ve considered all the possibilities that He doesn’t exist, that the Bible is wrong, that I’ve made a bad decision in following Him. But when it’s all said and done, when I’m tired of questioning, I still believe that He is real and true and that He is my Saviour. I still know that the clouds might cover the moon and stars but it doesn’t mean they’re not there. I still know that God is always good and that in itself is a reason for me to smile. I can’t let go of Him; I’ve never been able to and, at 23 years old, I think I’m long past ever giving up on Him after seeing Him do so much in my life.

I might struggle to pick up my Bible, to sit down and pray for long periods of time, but that doesn’t change the truth. Instead I say little prayers when things come to mind, I browse the Bible on my phone when I’m on the train to and from college, I choose to sing to God when I feel too weak to do anything else. He doesn’t need me to devote hours every day to sitting with Him. Don’t get me wrong, It’s important to do this (the spending time with God part, it doesn’t need to be for hours…) but my salvation is not based on how much time I spend reading my Bible, it isn’t based on how long my prayers are. My salvation is based on what Jesus did for me, on His forgiveness, on His choice to die for me because He loves me so much. 

No matter what I do, where I am in life, who I know, regardless of any of these things, God will not let go of me, He won’t turn His back on me, He won’t walk away from me, and that is all that matters. This life is not about getting married or having a great job or gaining worldly success, it’s about chasing after my Jesus and living for Him. I am so important to Him and I owe Him my life. He loves me just like He loves the little ones I’ll be spending tomorrow morning with and, just like them, I will always know this truth regardless of what happens.

Matthew 10:29-31
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
(NIV)

x

Friday night ramblings/Forgive me, I’m tired.

It’s been a while since I wrote something really coherent, and I’m not sure this post will be any different (especially since I’m tired and writing at 12:30 am on a Friday night). Life’s become a bit mental recently, everything has changed; I’m still me but my surroundings are all over the place.

I’m finding myself in one of those weird seasons in life where reading my Bible doesn’t seem too appealing. Sometimes I love reading the Bible but right now I just want to pray. I’ve been stressed out a lot and I keep talking to God and asking for help, and that’s not bad, but I worry that I’m forgetting what He did for me and the fact that it’s not all about me, that it’s 100% about Him.

I’m unsure about a lot of stuff too. Some big stuff, some stuff that a lot of people disagree with me on. I’m once again finding myself in a situation where I’m pretty certain I’m going to get terribly hurt, a situation that I have no control over and that I hate, but a situation that will inevitably help me to grow and that I will walk away from a stronger person, more certain of who I am.

I used to think that when I graduated from university that that would be me finished with growing up, but the closer I got to final semester, and handing in my dissertation, and moving home from Scotland, the more I realised I was no where near being grown up and that I have no idea when anyone really is grown up. I don’t think anyone ever really grows up any more, people just dress better and go to work.

I love college, I love having the opportunity to learn again, but it doesn’t feel like what I know as education. I don’t live with my friends any more, I get the train home every day and eat dinner with my parents. I love home, I love family, I love community, but I’m unsure as to where I am in life any more. So many of my friends are getting married or having kids or starting new jobs, they’re settling down and have figured things out. I still don’t know where I’ll be this time next year; it’s exciting but I miss the security I had as a university student, of knowing that I was in Stirling for four years and that it wasn’t worth worrying about anything after that.

Sometimes I blame myself for not figuring out what I wanted to do before graduating, for not falling in love with the media industry and becoming a wild film critic and writing for Empire magazine, or sticking with the dream of music journalism I had at eighteen and spending all my time seeing bands play and moving to a big city somewhere on the main land. Part of me wishes I’d moved to Glasgow or Edinburgh and found a job, any job, just so I could say I lived in a big, beautiful city in Scotland and hear bagpipes at some point most days and see Haggis in my local Tesco.

Sometimes I’m happy with security, with comfort, with home. Sometimes I want to be the total opposite of the person I am right now. But I know there’s no hope for me in that, for running away from what I know is true and real. It’s not that I’m afraid of the unknown; in fact I’m the total opposite. I travelled across the USA on my own twice, I wanted to move to Poland for a year and teach English if I didn’t get into my catering course, the unknown is my comfort zone. I’m afraid most in the places I do know because they’re reality, they’re what I face on a daily basis.

But I think I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay because the lost have to get found at some point. I believe that Jesus does the most work while we wait, while we wonder what’s going on, while we grow increasingly more impatient with life. In those times He is breaking us, moulding us, and shaping us. He lets us get hurt so He can show us how much He loves us when we realise that we need Him and nothing else. Making idols out of anything in life, choosing anything over Him, is always a bad decision. Once again He is going to hem me in, guide me back to Him and tell me He loves me.

I’m okay with that.

I’m okay with that because it means I’m safe, it means everything will be okay, it means truth has prevailed.

I’ve seen Him do so much good in my life before and that won’t change now, that won’t change because my situation is different. Learning to guard my heart and fix my eyes upon Him was one of the most important things I have learnt in the past year.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m content. I am insanely blessed and, when I compare my current situation with where I was a year ago, life almost seems perfect. God has answered all of my prayers, every single one, I’m blessed beyond words. I’m just figuring it all out with Jesus, where on earth my next step will be.

I’ll keep you posted.

x

PS Don’t hate me for being entirely incoherent. I think every writer probably goes through this…