The Only Time I Feel Really Ashamed to be A Christian

Well, not the only time.

And also, I don’t think I’ll ever be ashamed to be a Christian. I’ll never be ashamed to follow Christ, but there are times when I feel uncomfortable that there are true fruit bats out there, claiming the same name as me.

I could talk about the American Christian Right, and how, because of that country’s influence, people the world over have used Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and George W. Bush to speak for the rest of us, just so they can laugh and mock Christians and continue their campaign to get religion abolished from the world.

But I won’t. My discomfort is felt on a more local level. There’s a particular topic that comes up from time to time, especially on Sabbath afternoons, during lunchtimes, when we’re discussing politics and religion and the Bible, that makes me cringe. Sometimes the topic comes up during a sermon even, or Sabbath School, or Wednesday night Prayer Meetings.

I speak of homosexuality.

It’s an odd thing, because those Christians from denominations who claim to only follow the New Testament will quote Leviticus, which is in the Old Testament, to explain why homosexuality is wrong. Then you have the other Christians who see God as only loving. They will quote “God is Love”, “God so loved the world…” which are all true quotes—because God is love—but then they forget that God is also a God of standard, of justice, and there are some things that displease him. They forget that God is soon coming to judge us all, and to destroy the world with fire. As an Adventist, I suppose it’s easier for me to quote from the Old Testament because the Seventh-day Adventist church practices from the Old Testament. As in, we don’t eat pork, shell fish or mackerel. And all the other texts, such as keeping slaves and stoning wrongdoers are not followed because Jesus said those laws were done away with*. The text about not wearing cotton and wool was more to do with the spread of leprosy than it being an actual sin**. So yes, it makes more sense for Adventists to quote from Leviticus, because we still follow those laws from Leviticus that weren’t nailed to the Cross.

But there’s a sense of oneupmanship about this, a vibe that I feel from certain Adventists, that makes me cringe.

No matter what we Christians say about sin (“oh all sin is the same!”) there are some sins that we think are worse than others. I witnessed a great example of this a couple years ago: during the sermon, a pastor confessed, with great flippancy, that he had a temporary ban from driving for using his mobile phone in the car. The congregation tutted and shook their heads, giggling slightly, and that was it. He broke the law! Knowingly! Can you imagine the reaction if he’d said

“Good morning church. Yeah, tough week. I’ve been sleeping on the sofa because I punched my wife in the face.”

It would illicit a different reaction, I’m sure. Even me, when I hear about child sex abuse cases and paedophiles, I just get so angry. At this moment in time, I feel that I would never be able to forgive a paedophile, because what they do is awful. When I hear about adulterers, I get angry also. But lying or stealing, whilst bad, doesn’t conjure the same feelings in my heart. I suppose that’s how some Christians feel about homosexuality. Especially Christians from cultures that shun gay people. They can’t explain it, but the thought of gay marriage, gay adoption and even civil partnerships get’s them angrier than all other sins. I was at a Youth Day of Fellowship a few months ago, listened to a great sermon, which was interrupted by a PSA about gay people. The preacher was doing so well, then he started talking about promiscutiy, then that led onto a little rant about gay people, about homosexuals not knowing the “right way to enter” and I grimaced. What was worse, people were laughing with him. Why? He was being mean, so why was his homophobia so acceptable?

A part of me can understand the hand-wringing that people get into when it comes to sexual matters. Even in wider society people act … odd about it. We concern ourselves far too much with other consenting adults’ sexual activities. Like, when we hear that someone is into kinky stuff, or strange festishes, we shun them. I know for a fact that there are some people who would be horrified to know that their family doctor engaged in hardcore S&M. It’s sad, but true. I think that these issues are most prevalent in church. During the Dark Ages, the church tried it’s best to suppress other people’s sexual appetite and we still see this today. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve never agreed with the forced celibacy of priests in the Catholic church. It just seems oppressive and unhealthy to me.

I understand that we as Christians should call sin by its right name, as it were. If the Bible says homosexuality is a sin then fine, direct people to the Bible and gently let them know. Then let it go. I just hate the jokes, the cruelty, the nasty remarks about gay people, especially because I have gay friends that I would love to take to church with me because I think they would really enjoy it, but I’m just so scared about what they might hear. And that’s awful—it’s shameful, even. God is for everyone, but some of His people are turning others away from Him.

I just wish that people had the same dislike for this sin that they did for their own. Then maybe they would feel remorse for their homophobia.

(*John 8
**Leviticus 13
I mentioned these texts because they, along with the food laws, are usually quoted in defence of why we shouldn’t follow anything in Leviticus. Hope it helps.) 

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When God Just Isn’t Enough

I suppose a little catch-up is in order. Two weeks ago I went to ARME Bible Camp and it was an amazing experience. I hadn’t really prepared mentally or spiritually for it, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, or what I hoped to gain by going. I’m so glad went, despite it being exam season. Not only were the sermons convicting, but I was shown an interesting way to study my Bible. We were given practical tips for having effective morning devotions, how to engage in a spirit-filled Bible study and the Bible itself proved to be a very interesting book. It really strengthened my faith in it; I was able to see that from the very first chapter in Genesis to the last in Revelation, everything written is interconnected and was put there for a purpose.

I know a lot of people went to the camp to hear Ivor Myers, and whilst I found his sermons interesting, it was a sermon by Pastor Phillip Sizemore that got to me…

He told the story of his parents. Neither were Christians but they acted truly Christlike. They helped people, they housed a couple of homeless kids and brought them up as their own. And they disliked Christians with a passion. To them, Christians were bad people and all the Christians they came across were hypocritical. When Pastor Sizemore became a Christian, it disappointed his parents; they were worried he would turn out like “the rest”.

In the end, the hypocrisy of the Christians in their lives had devastating effects. It tore his family apart. It reminded me of my own family, and the impact a pair of hypocritical Christians has had on it.

My mum’s parents, Brother and Sister ‘B’, were well known in the Adventist church. They went to one of the founding churches in London, during the time when people from the Caribbean flocked to England for work. Brother and Sister B seemed like well-to-do Christians at church, but their home was a war zone. Adultery, child abuse and neglect were some of the things that took place in that house, and there was so much hatred that today, none of their children attend church, with two of them identifying as atheist. They gave my mum a distorted view of God, religion and the Adventist church in general. I’ll give you an example. When my older brother died, and my mum went to her parents for counsel, Sister B said to her:

See? This wouldn’t have happened if you had stayed in church.

Despite my own conversion to the Adventist church a few years ago, my sisters have little care for my beliefs, after all, the church didn’t help my mum in anyway, so what good could it do for anyone else?

When Pastor Sizemore spoke about his parents, the pain in his voice was so evident that I couldn’t help but think about just how much work I have to do. My family is dysfunctional, it’s not perfect and it has its problems. I would love it if we could all attend church together, be a spiritual support for one another, have family devotions (it would be nice if my parents could reconcile), but Brother and Sister B, my grandparents, left their mark. They’re both dead now, but I know my mum still hurts from how she was treated as a child. What can I do? How can I be a good enough witness to show her that the church isn’t like that anymore?

I spoke to her about it the other day. She told me that she made the decision that she would never belong to the same organisation as that of her parents. But she also said that maybe one day, before it’s not too late, she would come to the church. She hasn’t ruled it out completely.

And that gives me hope. The Spirit can soften any heart, after all.

xXx

Elisha

I ate no breakfast on the day he left.
Spent the day in prayer
meditation;
I spoke to friends and fellow disciples
I busied about the house
—just thinking,
that today would be our last.

He glanced at me several times
by the table
eating his usual:
locust berries and bread, made by me.
As I fidgeted with my fingers,
tracing circles over the grooves of my bones
and counted the stitching of my cloak,
he smirked and made an absent comment about the weather.

Finally we got up to leave
I said no words, trailing behind him
like a forlorn, homeless dog
and thought about
how it would end
what I would say
what he would do
how things were going to turn out afterwards.

His last miracle, the Jordan.
The parting of the waters
mirrored the pair of streams that framed my face—
he pretended not to see.
But he smirked again,
poised his head and sighed
bracingly. Bracingly.

Did he have to go? I asked
In answer, he leaned forward,
pressed his lips against my forehead
and drew back to look at me.
“My friend,” he said,
“I’m moving on. My work is over; yours has begun.”

He was gone
in a tornado of molten spirit
the flames that he had once called to do his bidding
were now taking him home.
There were so many things we didn’t do,
questions I hadn’t asked
unsaid thank-yous,
forgotten laughs
jokes and tears and memories.

He was gone.
And I was left
with the task
of continuing his work.

Enoch

I last spoke to him
two days ago. He
told me to work hard,
listen to elders,
be nice to my sisters
and talk to God.

I last saw him
with a satchel on his back
carrying grapes,
his favourite fruit;
papyrus, upon which he
wrote the tales of his life,
his apprehensions
advice for his children;
poems for his wife.

Then he was gone.
His letters, empty.
He left no clue
Or no advice
on how to reach him.

Patriarchy, the Church and My Hatred of Men.

I was just on Tumblr when I came across this quote:

“The thing about patriarchy is that individual men, gay and straight, are often really wonderful people who you love deeply, but they have internalized some really poisonous sh*t. So every once in a while they say or do something that really shakes you because you’re no longer totally certain they see you as a human being, and you feel totally disempowered to explain that to them.”

Source

I reblogged it because it completely explains the feelings I’ve been harbouring about men for a long time. I’ve gone through many phases, thinking at one point that I actually hated men. When I think about what women are going through at this moment in time, what’s happened to women in my own family, what’s happened to me on occasion, I feel sick and angry. This anger begins to form against men in general. I’ve been praying about it, but I think this is something that will take some time.

It’s within the confines of a church setting that I see male ignorance and privilege at an astounding level. I was dubbed the “feminist ranter” so often that I couldn’t be bothered to get annoyed anymore. Thinking logically about it, if the men in church really understood what it’s like to be a woman, then they would be ranting too, because Satan’s influence over certain men has made them all look bad. I feel sad that the only men in my life [excluding my Dada] who really and truly get angry over misogyny, male dominance and patriarchy are not in the church. I speak of my friend Tim in particular, smartest person I know, who is just so clued up about these things and the compassion he feels towards women puts a lot of church guys to shame.

I wonder, do church men feel threatened when a woman talks about independence? Or when she expresses anti-misogynist sentiment? Do they think she’s trying to usurp his divine appointment of head of the family?

Then I think about all the times I’ve heard the “male-edited” edition of Ephesians 5. Yeah, let’s skip 5:21:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

And let’s erase 5: 25-28:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

And let’s concentrate on this little gem, right in the middle:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Because that’s all that matters, I’m sure.

Church men have the luxury to be ignorant about the abuse women have suffered under the system of patriarchy, because they are of a privileged position. I’ve used this analogy before, but I’ll use it again: their ignorance is similar to the ignorance of the Royal Family. Why would the Royals care about what a single mother living hand-to-mouth on a Peckham estate is going through? How could they possibly know what it feels like to worry about bills or debt? They’re too busy cutting ribbons and posing with Usain Bolt. Likewise, I can’t expect these men to really be clued up about misogyny and the disastrous effects male dominance has had over the world. They’re men; they’re not going through it. No where in the world are men dominated, oppressed, sexualised or subjugated by women. It’s always the other way around.

Yes, I know I’m being general. I’ve made a lot of generalisations, but this is what resonated with me when I read the above quote: the individual men in my life are wonderful people, but as a collective there’s an attitude that emerges that makes me really fearful about my relationships with men—romantic or platonic.  My parents’ divorce isn’t the only thing that puts me off marriage; it’s my misgivings about religion and female oppression. My closest female friend believes that I will never marry a church man because he would make me feel imprisoned.

I would like to think the men in church care about us women, but I fear their concern is only surface-level, and that that’s all it will ever be.

(And honestly, I love you guys—almost all of my closest church friends are men—but these things have been burdening my heart for a long time.)

xXx

Father

I grew accustomed to yelling when I was young
years of hunching over in a ball
in the corner of my room
meant that my back ached a lot,
but it was necessary to avoid
the screams of mother as she
pleaded with you to love her.

I knew what it felt like to be beaten
the sensation of blood running down my back
became lodged in flesh memory.
Crimson beads blossoming in flesh trenches
are so dangerous and eerie, yet an imperative aspect
of being your daughter.

I see red when the nurse comes to my room,
when they ask me to talk about my childhood
and tell them about my Father,
the man who loved the church and hated his family.
I no longer talk about God.
The juxtaposition between Heavenly Father and Earthly one
was a paradox too bizarre to comprehend.
So I stare into nothingness
with memories of epic hypocrisy
and the image of my Father,
the Pastor.

(I’ve just come back from ARME Bible Camp and one of the sermons I listened to was about Christian hypocrisy and the damage it does to people. I’m going to write a blog post about it soon.)