Thursday, 28 January 2016

Turning Evil to Good

(An Update on my Story)

In the biblical story of Joseph, his brothers hated him so much that they attacked him and then sold him into slavery in a foreign land. Eventually, he rose to a place of incredible power and authority in Egypt and ended up saving their lives (as well as countless others). After their father's death, the brothers feared Joseph would finally take revenge on them for their betrayal. Instead, he said to them, "Even though you planned evil against me, God planned good to come out of it."

And that's how I feel right now. That even though others "planned evil against me", I am now seeing the "good to come out of it".

Three years after leaving the institutional church, I'd found myself facing legal threats from some of those who'd 'encouraged' me to leave. It seemed like I was trapped in an incessant nightmare - that I'd never be free from the hostility and malice. The trauma was just too much to cope with and I ended up seeking professional counselling (from someone trained in psychology, not religion). And that has turned out to be the best thing I've done for myself in a very long time!

Just as my experience of spiritual abuse set me on a course of freedom from the religious rubbish that had weighed me down for too long, the attack on me late last year steered me towards getting the help I needed to rid my life of some other baneful baggage I was carrying. And it's feeling so good!

The truth is, we all need help sometimes. I did, and I'm grateful to be receiving the help I needed. It was way outside my comfort zone, and beyond by normal experience, but I did it anyway. And now I'm starting to experience the benefits. I've never for more at peace with myself, or more... whole.

If you are in that place - needing help beyond yourself - I'm really hoping you will be encouraged by my story to find whatever help you might need. And may it bring you the freedom you were created for.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

'Christian' or Christ-like? (Of Apes And Men)

I recently introduced my younger sons to the Planet of the Apes movie series. Having worked our way through the 5 original movies (and turned a blind eye to the 2001 abomination) we then watched the 2011 reboot, 'Rise' and its sequel, 'Dawn'.

Needless to say, the whole concept of two intelligent species vying for supremacy of the planet has given rise to some interesting conversations. Personally, I have found myself musing on the portrayal of the relationship between ape and mankind, and particularly the idea that both species had their share of 'good' and 'evil' characters.

As a collective, neither the humans nor the apes could claim superiority when it came to moral behaviour. There were representatives of both species who exhibited character traits of trust, loyalty and integrity - beings of goodwill. And yet both could also offer examples of those who sought their own 'good' above all else - who were willing to act with ill intent towards their own or the other species.

Some apes acted with compassion, empathy, and "human" decency. Some humans acted like animals. There were 'good' men, and 'evil' apes. What mattered was not how they identified themselves, but how they acted towards others.

Now you may be wondering what is the point of all this. Let me explain.

Over the past few years particularly, I have been treated appallingly by some who claim to be christians. I have been bullied, betrayed, abused, shunned, yelled at, and lied about. In fact, I have been so traumatised by the behaviour of the religious that I felt I had lost all capacity to trust anyone who identified as 'christian'. My experience has proved that they can be toxic.

But re-visiting these movies has helped me in the process of gaining a healthier perspective.

Just as there were some beings among both ape and human populations whose behaviour was malicious, self-serving or just plain stupid, so there are people out there who call themselves 'christian' but act in ways that could never be identified with Jesus.

Likewise, there are people who display Christ-like behaviour regardless of the label they (or others) might apply to themselves.

C S Lewis articulated this concept in 'The Last Battle':
"...the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me... I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he had truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted."
And so I have been reminded that actions speak louder than words. It's by our 'fruit' - the way we live - that we are recognised. So you can label yourself any way you like; but the way you behave, the way you treat others will tell who and what you really are.

If your religion causes you to hurt others, you may want to re-consider it. For myself, I'm going to concentrate on 'Christ-like' and not worry about 'christian'. I'm going to trust love, not a label.