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.) 

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.)

I Died Eight Years Ago

I died on October the Tenth, 2004.
It was the day I went to church.

I went because I was sick
because that’s what you’re supposed to do;
but it’s discouraging to see a hospital
with dead bodies the ground.

I saw walls stained with blood
and the dry bones of pastors past;
blanketed in a film of dust
to compensate for their lack of love

Patients wailing in this hospital.
Crying, muttering and screaming—
screams to wake the daemons from their pits;
screams to make the devil laugh with glee.

I was grasped with dirt-stained hands;
cakes of blood in the nails
veins that protruded from gaunt arms like bloated rivers
polluted with lies and bile from the Beast Himself

They led me through dark pastures
dragged me under tumultuous waters
My soul was beaten and battered and the Valley of Death became my home
The macabre my mother.
Evil was ever-present and I was tortured
with rods and spikes.
My tears were enough to fill ten thousand cups
and they ranneth over like streams down my legs
‘Till I stood in a pool of distress and decay.

So here I am, in a casket
made from the hopes and dreams of many
Encased in burnt earth
with the scales of snakes making prints on my skin.

I’m dead in the ground
but I like it here. We all like being dead, don’t we?
If not, why are Christians so reluctant to change?

Sometimes, though, I ask myself:
“Who is there to revive me?”

Who will revive my diseased and desperate soul?

(The theme of the day will be ‘Revive’, so I was asked to write a poem about revival. A bit macabre, though!)

(EDIT: So I performed the poem at church this evening and it went down better than I expected. As I was reading, I started to feel really worried because I hadn’t actually realised how dark it sounded haha. But people thought it was a deep message which was nice. I got some constructive criticism: read slower. I have a habit of reading things really quickly; my tongue has a mind of its own, sometimes! But yeah, feeling happy after tonight).