Friday, 5 May 2017

Questioning Kris (Touch Not God's Anointed)


There seems to be an incredible amount of drama coming from certain christian circles these days. Not so long ago, a group of church-goers almost broke the internet over the 'scandal' of a woman breast-feeding in church.

Now a new catastrophe has been unleashed, with the publication of an open letter from a graduate of Bethel's School of Supernatural Ministry. This graduate has had the temerity to challenge the church over its behaviour and attitude towards LGBT christians in its midst. It would appear that some people can't deal with the outrage of the words of their idols celebrity pastors being questioned. Touch not God's anointed and all that...

I noticed that one Bethel "pastor" posted this in response (making me wonder if he actually read the original letter):



Although one of his followers described it as "bold, clever and uncompromised" I, in fact, don't believe it stands up to much scrutiny.

"I cannot believe the arrogance of 2 Lgbt women who say they are Christian, who just wrote an article against Bethel." [emphasis added]
Disregarding the accusations of arrogance... isn't implying you believe someone else isn't a "real" christian just a bit... well... arrogant?

Regardless, it seems to me that the real cause of Ben's anger is the fact that someone has dared to challenge Bethel and its leaders - thus touching the sacred cow.

"It's absolutely shameful to even challenge people who love and honor so well."  [emphasis added]
Hmmm... if they "love and honor so well" why is this woman saying she feels unloved and dishonoured? "What I see coming from Bethel in this area is not respectful or honoring."

"Who are you to question the God of the universe and His words that have been there from the ages."
Is the issue really about questioning God? Or is it questioning the "man of God" that really gets Ben riled? Because the God I know has never been afraid of being questioned.

"I had a period in my teens where I had a same sex attraction, but God delivered me from it, and I never struggled again."
Simple as that. Magic. And everyone should be like Ben, because his experience trumps their's!

"And as for bethel, my life was changed there. I had huge issues and was nothing but embraced and I know for a fact you both were too."
Again, Ben's experience trumps that of others. Furthermore, he gets to tell them what their experience actually was (that's called gas-lighting girls and boys...) Perhaps, in his haste to react, Ben missed the parts where the writer speaks positively about Bethel, acknowledging her gratitude for the good things she found there?

"Your just upset cause they wont bend and make your feelings more valuable then Gods standards."
More accusations, and more outrage that the leaders at Bethel should have to consider the feelings of others. I do wonder if he's confusing Bethel's standards, with God's...

"If you don't want to change however, and want to live by emotion, feeling and sensuality..."
As this is exactly the type of judgement the writer was lamenting in her letter "[Kris Vallotton] also said homosexuals are simply people whose character has atrophied to the point where we no longer have the moral fortitude to hold ourselves back from our lusts", I'd say Ben has learned well from his leaders.

"...I won't sit back while my friends get accused"
Maybe it's time we learned the difference between accusation and disagreement. Disagreeing with a brother, even if he's a leader at Bethel, is not a sin.

"Ps: they wrote against Bethel and were praised for standing up!" [emphasis added]
Despite his repeated accusation that the author "wrote against Bethel", it's actually not true. She was simply voicing her concerns about one aspect of Bethel's teaching. And she was praised - very appropriately IMO - for the grace she displayed even in her disagreement with the church. "Bethel is a beautiful place. Thank you for the 6 years of community and equipping. I hope Bethel is able to have a positive impact on people for years to come."

"I will keep this post up for a short time - because it's not my heart to divide, but rather to lay a firm ground for truth."
This looks to me more like a desire to enforce conformity, not present the truth. The not-so-subtle message here is: comply with the dictates of the church or you will be accused of creating division.

But as the letter pointed out, "You told us over and over, both in school and in church, that disagreement was healthy and that we didn’t have to agree to be family. Kris, you talked about God moving us away from denominationalism (where we gather out of agreement) and into apostleship (where we gather because we’re family). And I still believe that’s the direction we’re meant to take."

Now it seems to me that driving all this bluff and bluster from Mr Fitzgerald is a dangerous belief that there are some christians who are beyond being questioned or challenged. Because, irrespective of the issue being debated, this type of reaction from any church leader speaks of a culture suspiciously akin to Animal Farm. In other words, "All christians are created equal, but some are more equal than others!"

So maybe it's time we stopped treating celebrity pastors like demigods, and realised we are all brothers and sisters here. No-one is infallible. No-one is above questioning. And no-one's word should be taken as gospel.


Saturday, 29 April 2017

Breastfeeding In Church Will Not Cause Armageddon!

I'm afraid I've been thinking again...

This time it's about something that was posted in a Facebook group I belong to. Apparently some mum in Virginia (USA) went to church one Sunday morning, and tried to breastfeed her daughter while listening to the sermon. She was quickly asked to leave the room because of it, and when she enquired, was told that this was church policy. (It is worth noting, that this policy is in violation of the law of that state.)

This mum then spoke publicly about what she experienced... and boy did the sh*t hit the fan!

I have spent some time today reading the comments section of her post, and I'm still reeling from the nastiness from the church-going public.

Apparently, breastfeeding in church is not "decent", or "considerate of others". This mum was being "ridiculous" and "should have fed her child before going to church"; gone "into another room"; gone "somewhere private"; or at least "covered up" so that she didn't "bring all that drama to the church, the house of God."

This mum is apparently "totally devoid of common sense" for "flipping her BOOBS out", and "show[ing] NO concern for the stress [she] caused on others".

And on, and on it went...

"You just have no morals."
"...she's after money."
"...you just wanted 15 mins of fame..."
"You should be ashamed of yourself."
"This lady pulled her BOOB out in front of the church..."
"I pray that God Himself will deal with you."

And here's my personal favourite:

"Some one suggested that there is some group, or atheist occult that has put her up to this to get the church to change its policy, to attack it just to show its power over the church. Or to divide it. John 10:10 - The enemy comes but to kill, steal, and destroy. Mathew 11:12 - the Kingdom suffereth violence and the violent taketh by force."

Dear God, get a grip! All this "it's-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it", simply because a mum tried to breastfeed her child in 'church'!!! Is this really what we have become!?

I just wonder how some of these people would react if a homeless person wandered in off the street. Would they lose the plot entirely, or just demand she go and have a bath and put on decent clothes?

And I wonder if these church-goers would eject the son of Mary and Joseph from their "house of God" because he didn't fit their middle-class morality. 

And I wonder if this would even be an issue at all if it was men, and not women, who were equipped by God to breastfeed their young.

But I don't wonder at all why more and more people are permanently leaving the building that some call church.

And I certainly don't wonder why there are so many people who believe christians are not safe to be around...

Monday, 24 April 2017

#ThingsOnlyChristianWomenSay?

I don't know about you, but my newsfeed has been full of talk about the conversation started by Sarah Bessey recently. Using the hashtag #thingsonlychristianwomenhear, women are speaking out about the crap they have had to endure in the name of religion.


But I wonder if perhaps we need a 'sister' hashtag - #thingsonlychristianwomensay

Because at the weekend, I was introduced to a blog written by a christian woman which is chock full of #thingsonlychristianwomenhear

This woman has no hesitation in denouncing her sisters as "false teachers" based on the belief that her own interpretation of the bible is the only correct one.
"The Bible tells us that women are not to preach to, teach the Bible to, or exercise authority over men in the gathered body of believers. Not in the four walls of a church, not on a simulcast, not at a Christian conference. Period."
And is happy to shut down any conversation to the contrary:
"While I understand how disconcerting it can be to see a warning against a celebrity Bible teacher you happen to love, please don’t waste your time commenting (it won’t be published), messaging, or e-mailing me to lambaste me for doing so. Your objection is not unique, clever, or biblical..."
She has no problem in insisting that her view of scripture is simply basic training for all "real" christians.

And apparently she doesn't recognise how Pharisaical it is to deny others a liberty:
"Your comment will not be published or responded to if:
It... questions my salvation or the salvation of others who share the beliefs I’ve outlined above." 
which you have no hesitation in indulging yourself:


The incredible arrogance of such a position is staggering, and I find the sickly sweet wrapping of "christian" solicitude nauseating. So naturally enough, it got me indulging in my favourite sin of thinking.

And while I am not wanting to single out or attack this woman as such, I do question the acceptability of her behaviour, and it does raise the question in my mind, "Is her behaviour actually the fruit of her theology?"

Because I wonder what it does to your sense of self to have spent your entire life buying into a theology which says that men are created as leaders and women were created to serve them. And if you have had no choice but to submit to someone simply because they are male - to suppress so much of who you are in order to prove your godliness and your worth to God - how does that affect your beliefs about your (male) god?

And let's take it a step further. If your unquestioning compliance is taken as a given from those you are told God has put in authority over you, how does that affect the way you "lead" in your area of authority?

Does a woman who has bought into this theology - who has convinced herself that this is the only right and godly way for a woman to be - simply pass on the favour to those below her in the pecking order? Knowing only an authoritarian style of leadership herself, does she simply demand that those she is "allowed" to teach (i.e. other women, and children) be every bit as submissive and unquestioning as she is to those above her?

Does this theology in fact breed arrogance and hypocrisy? Does it have no other response to questioning, than silence and shaming? Does it only stand up by denying any other voice but its own? Because from where I'm standing, it looks remarkably like it does.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Twisting Theology

In the last couple of days have been laid low by a nasty virus. Rather boringly, it is the second time this particular ‘friend’ has visited in the past few weeks, and I’m just a little bit over it!

But, given the fact that this past term has been quite stressful on a number of fronts, it’s hardly surprising that it has had a detrimental effect on my health.

The funny thing is that there are people from my religious past who would have no hesitation in claiming that my ill-health is proof of God’s displeasure for my heretical beliefs and my un-submissive ways.

I can almost hear it now:

“God will not be mocked.” “You reap what you sow.” “Obedience leads to blessing, but those who turn from God are cursed.” “You need to repent of your sin.”

I suspect you get the picture…

And yet, I always seemed to hear something quite different whenever sickness or misfortune marred their own lives. It was the enemy trying to stop them "advancing the kingdom". Or it was a particular person (usually one who they didn’t like) who was putting a curse on them.

Never did I hear, “It’s because we’ve sinned and we need to repent.”

Illness was God’s judgement when it afflicted “them”, but it was the enemy’s attack when it affected “us”.

How twisted our theology can get when we need it to prove our point – or even score points against our enemies. No wonder so many believers are walking away from this nonsense.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Unforgiveness...

Every now and then, I have one of those moments which expose the utter bankruptcy of my previous religious experience. Today, a dear friend helped to expose another one.

You see, I have been told whenever I've protested abuse and injustice at the hands of the religious that I'm just "bitter and unforgiving".

And yet, these same people who accuse me, also claim that they have done nothing wrong.

But as my friend challenged, how can forgiveness be needed - or indeed, extended - when there has been no wrong-doing?

What would there be to forgive?

So to all those people who have denied any wrong-doing towards me, and have then accused me of unforgiveness, I say this:

You cannot have your cake, and eat it too.

Either you have wronged me, and you feel justified in your claim of unforgiveness on my part;

or

you have done nothing wrong, and therefore to claim unforgiveness on my part is a nonsense.

But you can't have it both ways.

So if you want to accuse me of being unforgiving - which means there is something you have done that requires my forgiveness - please own it, and let's deal with the crap that lies between us.

I've always advocated that path.

Otherwise your accusations against me are, at best, meaningless.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Love Does Not Look Like Judgement

I've been thinking since I wrote my last post about our use of the phrase "Love the sinner, hate the sin." In that post I was suggesting that going out of your way to point out and denounce whatever you view as sin in the lives of others, under the guise of "love", is not in fact a very loving thing to so.

I've struggled with the notion that people who claim to worship a God whose very essence is love, can be some of the most hurtful, hateful, unloving people around. And that in so many cases, christians are not known for their love, but for their bigotry and fear and condemnation of others.

And I've wrestled with the reality that I've encountered many christians who seem to use the word love to describe behaviour which just isn't loving.

Like the board member at my ex-church who told me I'd been loved, and so I should just shut up and get over it.

I'd been bullied and then dismissed. I'd been told to submit or resign. I'd been removed from leadership. I'd been continually silenced. I'd suffered accusations based on lies. And I'd been treated like a pariah.

Yet here was this guy writing to me, "You. Have. Been. Loved." How could anyone possibly call what I'd been subjected to "love"?

It sure didn't feel like love to me.

But that's just a single example. It so doesn't stop there. Every day, both online and face to face, people are being judged, rejected, cold-shouldered, put down, shunned, bullied, and silenced. And all the while the perpetrators are claiming to love! In the name of their god no less!

And that's where it gets interesting - or at least that's where the light-bulb illuminated for me. Because it occurred to me that despite paying lip-service to the notion that God IS love, many christians obviously have a view of God that is anything but loving.

It seems that the god many worship is a god of anger and vengeance. One who only tolerates us because his own son stood between us and the bloodlust of his father. A god who demands that we work hard, and jump through hoops, and suffer just to avoid the inevitable judgement that is our due.

And if, deep down where people may not even admit it to themselves, God is seen in these terms, it's no wonder they would think that judging and pointing fingers and demanding people live in line with their own morality is what love looks like. That is, after all, what their god looks like.

http://www.lovethispic.com

Monday, 27 February 2017

"Loving The Sinner..."

Love the sinner, but hate the sin.

Despite what some people say, this phrase is not from the bible. 

But it is frequently used by christians an excuse to declare how sinful the 'lifestyle choices' of others are.

"I love you, but you're going to hell." "I'm only telling you how sinful you are because I love you." 

I do not believe that anyone has ever felt loved by that! And I've certainly never seen anyone change their behaviour because they were told how much their sin was hated.

But the bible does tell us that God's kindness leads us to repentance. So maybe we can leave it up to him to deal with other people's sin. Just maybe that's his business, not ours.

All Jesus told us to do was love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves. Not to go around pointing out their sins. Just to love them. 

And last time I looked, we weren't doing that very well! So maybe we can concentrate on practicing what we have been told to do, and let the instructions we've added fall to the wayside.

A-Z Quotes

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Who Amongst Us Is The Greatest?

Today I was reading the latest post from Pete Enns, which is basically an extract from a book by Anthony de Mello (who was an Indian Jesuit priest and a psychotherapist).

It includes the following parable:
"A group of tourists sits in a bus that is passing through gorgeously beautiful country; lakes and mountains and green fields and rivers. But the shades of the bus are pulled down. They do not have the slightest idea of what lies beyond the windows of their bus. And all the time of their journey is spent in squabbling over who will have the seat of honor in the bus, who will be applauded, who will be well considered. And so they remain till the journey’s end."
I read it... and then read it again.

And then I felt like weeping.

Not only does this perfectly describe my own experience of leadership at my ex-church, but it is an incredibly apt description for way too much of Western 'churchianity'.

Jesus came to set us free. He offers us an abundant life. An easy yoke.

He released us from man-made religious obligations, and rescued us from hierarchical ladder-climbing.

We are now all welcomed as children of God. Brothers and sisters born into God's royal family. One body with One head.

We have been reconciled to God and restored to relationship with him - and in him.

We have been unchained from death, and liberated to live in such freedom that nothing can ever come between us and the love of the One who is Love.

We have all this, and yet so many of us remain oblivious to the splendour of our surroundings because we are so focussed on squabbling over the question of who amongst us is the greatest.

How tragic is that!?