Sunday Everyday

There’s No Hatred in Christ

Don’t let hatred be among you
Hatred always will divide you
There’s no hatred in Christ

Don’t let jealousy be among you
It will, always will divide you
There’s no jealousy in Christ

Oh no
There’s no hatred in Christ
Oh on
There’s no hatred in Christ

Let the same spirit, in Christ Jesus, be in you

If there’s confusion with your brother, show him love before the sun goes down

It will glorify the father as you spread his love around

I don’t often do a blog post on song lyrics but this song has been on repeat in my mind for the last three weeks.  This is an Andre Crouch song called  “Love Medley”.  The words of this song speak the truth of the gospel.  ‘Don’t let hatred be among you, don’t let jealousy by among you’.  IF the same spirit that lives in Christ Jesus be in you and me then we need to act and live accordingly.  Yet so many of us are disconnected from the spirit of Jesus.  So many of us hate others and other groups.  Trumps wall is a monument to hate,  Nauru and Manus Island also monuments to hate.  Pornography and domestic violence, products of hate and jealousy. White supremacy – doctrine fear and hate.  Homophobia – fear and hate.

Slowly coming to terms with inconsistencies of modern Christianity I have been asking myself more and more where do I fit in this modern theological landscape.

I have come to understand quite clearly what I don’t believe, but have drawn a few blanks on where I fit now. What I have discovered recently is the  meaning of feral and  this is the definition that I identify with most at the moment.

The idea came from the title of George Monbiot’s book about the re-wilding of moorland areas – ‘Feral’, Monbiot’s definition of ‘feral’ being “in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication.” A feral priest is one called by God to escape the captivity of the institutional Church (Colin Coward).

I have escaped the captivity of the institutional Church, twice.

Henri Nouwen says it this way:

“The invitation of Christ is the invitation to move out of the house of fear and into the house of love: to move out of that place of imprisonment and into that place of freedom: “Come to me, come into my house, the house of love.”

The house of God ‘should’ be the house of love.  But for many it is a place of fear, control, oppression and rejection.  Not all are loved, not all are accepted, not all are acknowledged and not all are free.  This will always be a contrary system to the love of God. The apostle John tell us that “because perfect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love”.

The institutional church is still a patriarchal organisation that lives by rules and rigid doctrines.  There is little freedom, little equality and little acceptance of ‘the other’.

As I’ve stayed on the journey to know God as revealed in Jesus Christ I’ve discovered that…

God is bigger

Grace is wider

Love is deeper

Mercy is greater

…than I ever imagined.

Which is to say, the good news keeps getting better.

The message of Christ is supposed to be good news.  The word gospel means ‘good news’ .

What is the good news?

The good news is that all are loved, all are worthy, all are accepted. There is a place at the table for all of us.   Christ is not motivated by punishment, he is motivated by love. Richard Rohr tells us that: ‘Our proclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ is at stake in our solidarity with the most vulnerable. If our gospel is not “good news to the poor,” it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ’ (Luke 4:18).

How we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). God calls us to protect and seek justice for those who are poor and vulnerable, and our treatment of people who are “oppressed,” “strangers,” “outsiders,” or otherwise considered “marginal” is a test of our relationship to God, who made us all equal in divine dignity and love (Richard Rohr).

How we treat ‘the other’, those different to us is the litmus test of our relationship with  Christ.  Jesus came to bring freedom as He himself says in my favourite bible verse Luke 4.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”

This is Good News.  Freedom, love, vision, relief, favour, release,  acceptance and joy.  Oppression means this:  misery, injustice, control, hardship.  The opposite of oppression is:  delight, help, blessing, kindness.

I was a prisoner and Jesus set me free.  I was a prisoner of fundamental christianity and the institutional church.  I am now feral.  A feral disciple of radical love discovering Jesus more and more in everything around me. Was once blind but now I see.  It truly is amazing grace.

Another Year Bites The Dust

Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I’m gonna get you, too
Another one bites the dust
Soon after becoming dictator of Rome, Julius Caesar consulted with his leading astronomers about the need to reform the calendar which had become out of sync with the sun. In 45 BC the new calendar came into effect and January the 1st is celebrated for the first time with the giving and receiving of gifts.  A practice which early Christians would move to the 25th of December to mark the birth of Christ.
January is named after the god of gateways and beginnings, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings – ‘Janus’.
Janus is normally depicted with two faces.  One facing forward to greet the future and one looking backward to the past
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Janus frequently symbolised change and transitions such as the progress of past to future, from one condition to another, from one vision to another. He represented time, because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other (source).
Consequently a brief history of why we celebrate the passing of the old year and consider the aspirations of a new one.  We laughingly post our New Years resolutions promising ourselves to lose weight, get fitter, save money, quit smoking etc….. yet only 8% of us will actually achieve those goals (Forbes) .  In fact a staggering 80% of goals will fail by February (source)
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It is an interesting time of year where you feel caught between two worlds.  You lose track of the days and everything is a little bit of a blur.  The glass or two of champagne the night before possibly adds to this.  If nothing else, it is important that we stop for a minute and contemplate the year that has passed.  The triumphs, the failures, the losses and the gifts that have come into our lives.  In this space of mindfulness we consider the things we wish to change as we enter this brand New Year.
Could we be kinder?
Could we show more love and tolerance?
Do we need to work harder at navigating boundaries?
Do we need to build more bridges?
Should we be stronger with toxic friendships and family members?
Should we be less fearful?
How do we become less anxious and more at peace?

These are the questions that are circulating my thoughts this January the 1st 2019.

As 2018 flows into the history books I come to terms with the  death of a father and dear family friend. I look back in amazement and watch my heart expand with ferocious love toward a precious brand new grand-daughter.  I look with admiration at my children who stun me with their kindness,  generosity of spirit, incredible capacity and their ancient wisdom.

It is important to look back, to reflect but we cannot stay in that space.  Many people spend their life looking back at what they deem are their best days.  They spend far to many hours trying to re-create those moments.  It is a futile effort. Looking back helps us to understand life but true living can only happen forwards.  True life only happens in the creation of new moments.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. Soren Kierkegaard

I am grateful for my family and friends.  All of whom understand the importance of learning from life’s lessons.  Who help me navigate and unravel the mess of the past.  But more importantly, they help me realise the great value of being present.  Of looking forward to future adventures, new memories and who encourage me to live life forward.

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. Oscar Wilde
Happy New Year everyone.  I hope that you find kindness, peace and tolerance this year like never before.
Love Lisa
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Steve Jobs

The Mistake I Made With My Grieving Friend

If you wanted to know how to support someone sturging with grief this article is bloody brilliant. It talks about ‘conversational narcissism’. Where we insert ourselves into the conversation instead of listening. Great read.

This excerpt was taken from We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter, by Celeste Headlee. Headlee is the host of the daily news show On Second Thought on Georgia Public Radio.

A good friend of mine lost her dad some years back. I found her sitting alone on a bench outside our workplace, not moving, just staring at the horizon. She was absolutely distraught and I didn’t know what to say to her. It’s so easy to say the wrong thing to someone who is grieving and vulnerable. So, I started talking about how I grew up without a father. I told her that my dad had drowned in a submarine when I was only 9 months old and I’d always mourned his loss, even though I’d never known him. I just wanted her to realize that she wasn’t alone, that I’d been through something similar and could understand how she felt.

But after I related this story, my friend looked at me and snapped, “Okay, Celeste, you win. You never had a dad, and I at least got to spend 30 years with mine. You had it worse. I guess I shouldn’t be so upset that my dad just died.”

I was stunned and mortified. My immediate reaction was to plead my case. “No, no, no,” I said, “that’s not what I’m saying at all. I just meant that I know how you feel.” And she answered, “No, Celeste, you don’t. You have no idea how I feel.”

She walked away and I stood there helplessly, watching her go and feeling like a jerk. I had totally failed my friend. I had wanted to comfort her, and instead, I’d made her feel worse. At that point, I still felt she misunderstood me. I thought she was in a fragile state and had lashed out at me unfairly when I was only trying to help.

But the truth is, she didn’t misunderstand me at all. She understood what was happening perhaps better than I did. When she began to share her raw emotions, I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say, so I defaulted to a subject with which I was comfortable: myself.

I may have been trying to empathize, at least on a conscious level, but what I really did was draw focus away from her anguish and turn the attention to me. She wanted to talk to me about her father, to tell me about the kind of man he was, so I could fully appreciate the magnitude of her loss. Instead, I asked her to stop for a moment and listen to my story about my dad’s tragic death.

From that day forward, I started to notice how often I responded to stories of loss and struggle with stories of my own experiences. My son would tell me about clashing with a kid in Boy Scouts, and I would talk about a girl I fell out with in college. When a co-worker got laid off, I told her about how much I struggled to find a job after I had been laid off years earlier. But when I began to pay a little more attention to how people responded to my attempts to empathize, I realized the effect of sharing my experiences was never as I intended. What all of these people needed was for me to hear them and acknowledge what they were going through. Instead, I forced them to listen to me and acknowledge me.

Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency to insert oneself into a conversation as “conversational narcissism.” It’s the desire to take over a conversation, to do most of the talking and to turn the focus of the exchange to yourself. It is often subtle and unconscious. Derber writes that conversational narcissism “is the key manifestation of the dominant attention-getting psychology in America. It occurs in informal conversations among friends, family and co-workers. The profusion of popular literature about listening and the etiquette of managing those who talk constantly about themselves suggests its pervasiveness in everyday life.” Derber describes two kinds of responses in conversations: a shift response and a support response. The first shifts attention back to yourself, and the second supports the other person’s comment. Here is a simple illustration:

Shift Response
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Me too. I’m totally overwhelmed.

Support Response
Mary: I’m so busy right now.
Tim: Why? What do you have to get done?

Here’s another example:

Shift Response
Karen: I need new shoes.
Mark: Me too. These things are falling apart.

Support Response
Karen: I need new shoes.
Mark: Oh yeah? What kind are you thinking about?

Shift responses are a hallmark of conversational narcissism. They help you turn the focus constantly back to yourself. But a support response encourages the other person to continue their story. These days, I try to be more aware of my instinct to share stories and talk about myself. I try to ask questions that encourage the other person to continue. I’ve also made a conscious effort to listen more and talk less.

Recently, I had a long conversation with a friend of mine who was going through a divorce. We spent almost 40 minutes on the phone, and I barely said a word. At the end of our call, she said, “Thank you for your advice. You’ve really helped me work some things out.” The truth is, I hadn’t actually offered any advice; most of what I said was a version of “That sounds tough. I’m sorry this is happening to you.” She didn’t need advice or stories from me. She just needed to be heard.

This excerpt was taken from We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter, by Celeste Headlee. Headlee is the host of the daily news show On Second Thought on Georgia Public Radio.

Celebrating the Birth of the Homeless, Oppressed and Marginalised

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox;

that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”
-G.K. Chesterton –

If we had to paint a picture of the Christ that many of us celebrate at Christmas, what would our portrait look like? If the sound bytes that accost us on social media tell us anything, we may get the idea that Christ is a bit like a Texan Ranger, ready to destroy the ‘enemy’ because obviously, God is on his side. The luxury hummer he drives would proudly display the number plate ‘blessed-to-be-a-blessing,’ and all his tweets would have #blessed at the end of it. He would healthy, wealthy and covered in gold dust, as according to the gospel of some, this is the way we are meant to live.

Welcome to the idea of Christ, painted by a dominant, privileged consumer culture.

The history and backdrop that informs modern Christianity are complex. Over the centuries every generation has wrestled with what it means to follow in the steps of this Jewish rabbi, and every generation had authoritative voices claim they have found the way to absolute ‘truth’. Maybe we lost so much of Christ in the Constantine era? Or in the many ‘holy’ wars fought with great gusto amongst the factional faithful? Or by preferencing the voice of Augustine? Or the Reformers? Or the fiery depictions of Dante’s interpretation of hell?

Today, the misplacing of the Messiah is often evidenced by everything that popular Christianity is against, and fear seems to be the flag flown high from the castles of so many of Christ’s representatives. So perhaps our true depiction of Christ should be this diminutive little person, hiding behind a giant wall in case ‘others’ invade and pollute the tightly held ideas of morality and godliness? Maybe this shrunken little figure sounds more like the shrieking seagulls of ‘Finding Nemo’ – ‘Mine, Mine, Mine, MINE!’

Perhaps if we stop all the noise, engage in some critical deconstruction of current Christian discourse, and spend time reflecting, we come to a sobering recognition – we have ‘sanitised’ Christ into our liking and our image.

This safe, disfigured Icon seems to join us in hating all the people we despise, justifying all our violence, agreeing with all our exclusions, shaming all those we shame … we have made Christ and Christmas into us – like a Christmas bauble that has our face on it. No wonder we lose our shit when people don’t want to say “Merry Christmas,” ultimately their resistance to our precious ideas confronts in us a form of deity-narcissism, carefully disguised in persecution and conspiracy theories.

The figure of Christ that walks through the pages of the Gospels seems very unperturbed about whether people are putting the right messages on cards and coffee cups! That doesn’t seem to rile this Incarnate One. Instead, he seems to get a lot more exasperated at, well, at the sectarian shenanigans that really have not evolved over the centuries. Things like religious institutions that have become money-peddling spaces of greed (John 2:13-17), pious power puffs who have become so inflated with a zealotry messiah-complex that they shut the doors of the kingdom to anyone who is not like them (Matthew 23:13), and the continual microscopic dogma examination whilst neglecting the weightier things of God – like love, mercy and justice (Matthew 23:23).

I don’t think this Christ person was about making any of our enshrined political-religious traditions great again. He seems far more focused on describing a different way to his followers … where the last shall be first, where devotion is not bound up in what we think about hell or heaven, or whether we ‘sense’ God and have goosebumps – but whether we are feeding the hungry, providing for the destitute, welcoming the stranger, identifying with those on the margins, making the world a safer place for minority groups … When I read the gospels it seems this Christ of Christmas has a message for us all and it’s relatively simple: Don’t be an asshole! This cardinal contemplative notion seems to underscore the words we have of Christ that are in print today.

So, dear readers, as Christmas approaches may it be filled with joy and a good dose of uncomfortable reality. As I write this, I feel uncomfortable for I recognise that I am part and parcel of this dominant consumer culture, rejecting it and then falling right back into its traps! I question my pictures of Christ. What have we done to this child in a manger that could find no human shelter, but was welcomed into a shack by God’s fur children? This child that would grow and challenge the powers of his day that oppressed the poor, the homeless, the refugee? The child that would turn his back on kings and kneel in the dirt with the woman who had become the target of patriarchal, misogynistic scape-goating? The child who would be murdered, not because some wrathful ‘god’ needed a sacrifice, but to demonstrate precisely how radical love really is. We seem to have lost so much of this Christ child in the mayhem of our political-religious pontification. I pray this Christmas we consider resurrecting him … because the message he holds makes this season truly ‘jolly’.

Merry Christmas.

What God requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humility – Micah –

Not All Wounds are Visible – Surviving Being Triggered

Not all wounds are visible – Surviving Being Triggered

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The last few months have for me have been quite difficult in regard to my mental health.   One side effect of trauma is silence.  You get verbal vertigo.  You lose your voice.  I have spent the last 19 years walking out of and through trauma.  Learning to find my voice.  However, there are still many times when I trigger.  Sometimes worse than others.  The death of my father set off a cyclone of events and emotions.   In the aftermath I found that once again I had lost my voice.

It wasn’t so much the death of my father.  At 89 he had led a long life.  Grief in itself is inescapable, normal and has a place in our lives.  It was the lead up to his death, the arrangements for the funeral and the conversations that took place afterward that knocked my backward.

Judith Lewis says it this way: “Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom.

But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the task of early adulthood――establishing independence and intimacy――burdened by major impairments in self-care, in cognition and in memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships.

She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.” ― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

“Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom…a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.”

In the last two decades I have learned to build boundaries and cages to protect myself.  I never learned how to build proper boundaries as a child so I have had to do the learning and unlearning as an adult.

Children can be taught at a very young age to build shark cages and this will help them identify as well as keep off predators in life. Some develop strong, impenetrable cages that allow them to live healthy, happy lives. Others are not so fortunate. These unfortunate ones may never build up enough bars to keep them safe from “sharks” or along the way, may lose bars when danger has presented itself (Hettwar).

Think of each bar of the shark cage as a boundary or a basic human right.  It we are taught that its not acceptable for people to shout at us or call us names, that is one bar in the shark cage..if we are taught that its not acceptable for people to hit us, then thats another bar in the shark cage (Ursula Benstead).  (see article on The Shark Cage).

I have learned that it is okay not to put myself in the way of harm.  In the past duty rated higher than safety.   This means that now I know that  I DO NOT have to spend time with toxic family members, friends or institutions.  I do not have to put myself in harms way.   It is difficult to separate yourself from ‘duty’, ‘obligation’, ‘loyalty’, to family members and friends who are not healthy and who trigger you.

If there is one event that is difficult to escape, it is a family funeral.  This means you are thrown ‘into’ harms way.   You can apply the skills that you have learned in therapy.  You can stand up for yourself when you have to.  You can use the voice that you have recently found.  Sometimes though it is all too much and too many memories and harrowing emotions are triggered and the tsunami engulfs you.

“Persons in dysfunctional families characteristically do not feel because they learned from a young age that not feeling is necessary for psychic survival. Family members generally learn it is too painful to feel the hurt or to experience the fear that comes from feelings of rage, abandonment, moments of terror, and memories of horror.”
Kathleen Heide

For me harrowing emotions lead to silence.  Shhh stay small, stay quiet, hide, don’t draw any notice to yourself.  Hide your true self.  Your true self is not applauded anyway so stay small, stay quiet.  Hide on the roof of the house or in the dark musty dirt underneath the house.  You have no voice, do what you are told, go where you are told. If you hide no-one can find you, the chaos cannot find you.

What does it mean to trigger?

A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma. Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback (source).  A trigger is a reminder of a past trauma. This reminder can cause a person to feel overwhelming sadness, anxiety, or panic. It may also cause someone to have flashbacks. A flashback is a vivid, often negative memory that may appear without warning. It can cause someone to lose track of their surroundings and “relive” a traumatic event.   Triggers are external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair, or negative self-talk (source).

Published on Jul 30, 2017

There are certain psychological triggers that when activated, are so powerful, that not only does it force someone to ignore other sensory information, it actually also forces them to behave in ways that you would consider totally irrational. Listen to this to get a better understanding of your triggers. #psychology #psychologicaltriggers

 

You can see in this clip how the abused can easily end up in co dependant relationships with the abuser which in turn often disables and destroys other relationships.  Breaking this cycle is incredibly hard.   When I came out of a fundamental religious cult  in 2000, I started attending a large pentecostal church.  This space ‘seemed safe’ but eventually ended up being another instrument of torture.  I did not recognise the danger.  Like the pole cat with the inserted cheeping sound bite.  The danger sounded familiar and safe so I allowed it into my life.   Fed it and nurtured it to the detriment of my own family.

Triggers follow me into deep sleep.  I have recurring lucid dreaming where all sorts of nightmares are played over and over during the night.  This means that I wake tired and triggered before the day has even begun.  This cycle take a long time to break and is very exhausting.  Normal activities become overwhelming.  The demands of  every day life  feel like climbing Mount Everest.  Demands of friends and family drain you and there is little relief.  I would explain it this way.  You have no margins.  There is no extra safe space to absorb the inevitable ups and downs of daily life.  Just answering a phone call can take all the energy you have left.

HOW ARE TRIGGERS FORMED?

‘When a person is in a threatening situation, they may engage in a fight or flight response. The body goes on high alert, prioritizing all its resources to react to the situation. Functions that aren’t necessary for survival, such as digestion, are put on hold.

One of the functions neglected during a fight or flight situation is short-term memory formation. In some cases, a person’s brain may misfile the traumatic event in its memory storage. Rather than being stored as a past event, the situation is labeled as a still-present threat. When a person is reminded of the trauma, their body acts as if the event is happening, returning to fight or flight mode’ (source).

Very few people understand the aftermath of trauma or what it is to live constantly with PTSD.  You look normal, you sound normal so why can’t you be normal?  You are funny, you are entertaining so why can’t you just get over it.   “Let’s just talk about positive things they say”.    I find these types of demands from friends the most draining.  It is in the nature of people to shy away from ugliness and disturbances.  They  may have heard a little about your weird life or you weird family but do you have to keep going on about it?  They have zero comprehension of the effort it takes day after day after day, nor the hailstrom of fire something like a family funeral throw’s at you.

Thank you readers for allowing me to navigate these feelings.  For listening to my voice.  I have found it impossible to write over the last few months.  Maybe I am starting to recover.  Coinciding with this season I am doing a small amount of narrative therapy.  So many other layers of my childhood are being revealed, restored and understood.

Healing is a long and laborious effort but it has great rewards.  I have taken refuge in creativity and beauty and have been blessed to work in an environment where my job partners with my healing. Thank you to my friends and family who do understand and who walk alongside me every step of the way.  Especially my children who sometimes seem to know me better than I know myself.  I am grateful for their love and support and I learn so much from them every single day.

 

 

Welcoming but not Affirming: Getting to the Slippery Truth

“As a survivor of the gay conversion movement, it feels amazing to know that our experiences are being heard nationally and that there is finally research that confirms the prevalence and damage of the gay conversion movement in Australia… The messaging of the movement that told me that I was “broken” has caused long-term damage to me” – Chris Csabs, survivor.

This article is written by Nathan Despott.

As a gay person raised in a Catholic home, but who spent his late teens and 20s in Melbourne’s evangelical community, the image of a large church with arms open to welcome LGBTIQA+ people is familiar but foreboding. Most of my experience in the ex-gay or “conversion” movement was through long-term involvement in loving and warm local Christian communities that, rather than condemn my sexuality, lovingly intimated that I was “broken”. My ten-year quest for healing was all-consuming and overwhelming.

Since leaving the movement in 2010, it has been morbidly fascinating to watch most formal ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion programs shut their doors, often replaced by celibacy movements and a new wave of churches that call themselves “welcoming but not affirming”.

“Welcoming”, a paradoxical halfway between “condemning” and “affirming”, is the point whereby a church shifts from viewing LGBTIQA+ people as utterly intolerable, instead viewing them as “broken” and in need of gracious support. LGBTIQA+ members often experience close fellowship here, but cannot usually hold positions of leadership or, in some cases, work with young people and children. Researcher Mark Jennings found that most of the Pentecostal/charismatic religious leaders he spoke to held a “welcoming” position.

The recent Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice report (Human Rights Law Centre/La Trobe University, Melbourne) indicates that “while the ‘welcoming but not affirming’ posture appears less hostile than overt opposition to LGBT rights, when its ‘not affirming’ aspects are withheld or disguised… it can be deeply harmful.

“Welcoming” churches and the conversion movement share a view of sexual orientation and gender as being distinct from their expression (or “practice”). However, this distinction is relatively recent. It is certainly anachronistic to read scripture in this light. The word “homosexual” did not appear in bible translations until the mid-20th century. Modern “homosexuality” was demarcated by early psychoanalysts in late 19th century Europe, viewed as simultaneously intriguing and problematic for roughly a hundred years, then removed from the DSM in 1973.

The Preventing Harm report traces the development of the conversion movement and its ideology of “brokenness” from this point to the present day, where it has become virtually the mainstream lens through which evangelical communities – whether focused on orientation change or celibacy – engage LGBTIQA+ people.

The SOCE Survivor Statement, released by an Australian coalition of affirming organisations in September, outlined the core pseudo-scientific tenets of the ex-gay/ex-trans/conversion movement. While prime minister Scott Morrison responded by declaring that “conversion therapy is not an issue for me”, so central to the faith of a small number of “purity” groups (read: celibacy for queer people) was the “brokenness” ideology that they saw the Statement as an attack on their religious freedom.

Preventing Harm and the SOCE Survivor Statement present the conversion movement not merely as a type of therapy but as a broad movement that invests significant resources and energy in transmitting an ideology of “brokenness” through myriad channels and activities. Both reports recommend legislative interventions, tighter educational controls, regulatory measures for practice, improved media and broadcast standards, and support for survivors.

“Affirming” is distinct from welcoming. Responding to pastors who considered their churches to be “affirming” following a shift from condemnation to support, survivor support and advocacy group Brave Network Melbourne developed a model statement of affirmation. Could pastors and their leadership teams (and their online communications) readily state “We believe LGBTIQA+ people are a loved and essential part of God’s intended human diversity”? Many could not.

Do not misunderstand me. For some of these churches, their forward movement is honourable. Theologically and personally, their journey has been significant – particularly if their welcoming stance has led to rejection from conservative brethren. However, for LGBTIQA+ people of faith, the safety line lies between “welcoming” and “affirming”.

While welcoming churches may have opened their arms to LGBTIQA+ people or even actively shunned the conversion movement in favour of celibacy, only affirming churches have completely rejected the “brokenness” ideology and made the theological and pastoral shift to full equality – and therefore safety – for LGBTIQA+ people.

Cherished LGBTIQA+ allies such as leading evangelical ethicist Dr David Gushee, evangelical sociologist Dr Tony Campolo, mega-church leader Nicole Conner , and out-and-proud Christian pin-up Vicky Beeching have all paid a high price for their affirming stance.

Brave Network and similar organisations have openly called on churches to explicitly declare their theological stance regarding LGBTIQA+ people rather than engaging in ambiguities such as “welcoming but not affirming”, which is widely seen as code for “you’re broken but we still love you”.

This would prevent people of faith spending years ensconced in communities that slowly erode their mental health. This is because, as LGBT Christian blogger Kevin Garcia states, “welcoming but not affirming is not welcoming at all”.

To learn more about LGBTIQA+ affirmation and the church, check out Walking the Bridgeless Canyon by celebrated ally Kathy Baldock, Changing our Mind by Dr David Gushee, and Undivided by Vicky Beeching. If you are in need of safe affirming organisations, check out One Body One Faith, Affirm or Two:23 in the UK, Equal Voices or Brave Network in Australia, Q Christian Fellowship or the Reformation Project in the US.

There is a growing number of affirming churches – from progressive to evangelical and every denomination in between – across the world. LGBTIQA+ Christians visiting an “affirming” community for the first time can use a statement like the Brave Network statement of affirmation above as a litmus test.

(Nathan Despott is a co-leader of Brave Network Melbourne and works as a research and development manager in the intellectual disability sector in Australia. He thanks Australian LGBTIQA+ advocates and allies Chris Csabs, Nicole Conner and Michelle Eastwood for their contributions to this piece.)

 

The Greater the Love, the Deeper the Grief

The most fundamental truth of grief is this: we grieve because we love. Love and grief are inextricably linked. If we did not love, our hearts would not be broken by death. The greater our love, the deeper and more profound our grief.

Grief is the most equal-opportunity experience in all of life. It is the great leveler of emotions, place, and time. For at some age, at some time, everyone will know the sorrow and pain of grief. Grief is indifferent to our race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. We’re not emotionally insulated from grief because of where we live, how educated we are, or how much money we have or don’t have. Grief doesn’t care whether we’re dressed in a business suit, a blue uniform, a hoodie, a tee shirt or a clergy robe.

The love of grief is passionate — we cherish and memorialize the one lost to us in death. We remember, and will never forget. The love of grief is compassionate — it reaches out, reconciles, restores and builds up. This love is why we endure the suffering of loss and persevere in hope. Despite every evidence to the contrary, love never fails.

When the reality of senseless violence and tragedy overwhelm our individual and collective hearts, grief leaves us reeling, especially as we struggle with the “why?” We want to make sense of it all, yet there are no real answers. What we experience instead is grief, the intuitive response of our mind, our body and our spirit to the death of one we love. And often we find within the love of our grief the best response to life’s worst tragedies. Without fully understanding the “why,” we seek some redemptive value, so that death will not have been in vain. We harness our grief-born love first to change our own heart, then slowly the world. And if not the whole world all at once, we start where we are to influence for good, trusting that our small ripple of love shared with others will one day become an exponential sea change.

If we scrutinize the faces of survivors, friends, colleagues, and loved ones photographed at their moment of most intense grief, we see clearly the inestimable shock and sorrow of personal, individual grief. When we read beyond the headlines, we’re reminded that each life has its own unique story and that the lives of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people — neighbors, school friends, church communities — are unalterably affected by the untimely death of one they know and love.

We are forever changed by death. Our experience of grief may leave us disillusioned, fearful, and hate-filled. Or grief may leave us convinced of the goodness of life with a greater capacity for love despite the certainty that evil is present in the world.

In the face of intentional violence and death, those of us who are helpless bystanders are forced to stretch, to think and feel beyond ourselves. And so we join hands and hearts with reverence for life and spiritual respect for the mystery of death to grieve in unison each individual soul — the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands and all other relationships of spirit and bond that connect us to one another as divinely created human beings.

Julie Yarbrough is the author of Beyond the Broken Heart, a grief ministry program, Grief Light, and other grief resources. Website: www.beyondthebrokenheart.com 

“We ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

A Dummies Guide to the Bible

1 THE BIBLE

Every writing which is written by The Spirit is profitable for teaching, for correction, for direction and for a course in righteousness 2 Timothy 3:16 Aramaic Bible in Plain English

Bible reading is at the heart of this Way of Life Community of Aidan and Hilda Way of Life

Traveller        I am drawn to this way of life but new to it. Why should it include daily Bible reading? I thought the Bible was an out-date book.

Guide             Because the Bible is a collection of writings which have passed the test of constant use, and which, although they lay bare the worst things human nature is capable of, they give glimpses of ways in which God speaks, inspires, challenges and unfolds divine purposes.

Traveller        Tell me about the Bible. What is it?

Guide             It is the most published book in the world and vast numbers of commentaries have been written about it. I am not an expert. There are experts in Hebrew and Greek (the original languages of the Bible), the cultures of Bible lands, brilliant theologians and profound mystics who can help us.

Traveller        OK, but please will you give me a Dummies Guide to start me off.

Guide             All branches of the Christian Church agree that at least sixty-six ‘books’ comprise ‘the canon’ (agreed list) of Scripture. These sacred writings written over two millennia gradually gained recognition as having innate authority. In 367 Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, stated that the list of 27 books that we call the New Testament was ‘canonised’, that is, that a ruling had been given by senior church leaders as to their inspired authority.

Traveller       What’s the difference between the New Testament and the other books?

Guide             The others are about The Old Covenant (or Testament) God made with one people. The last twenty-seven are about the New Covenant (or Testament) God made through Jesus Christ with all people.

Traveller        So Timothy, in today’s Scripture verse, meant that these writings before the New Testament were inspired?

Guide             Yes, but we believe that the same applies to the New Testament.

Reflection

The Divine Scripture is a sea, containing in it deep meanings, and an abyss of prophetic mysteries; and into this sea enter many rivers. There are Sweet and transparent streams, cool fountains too there are, springing up into life eternal… Various then are the streams of the sacred Scriptures. There is in them a first draught for you, a second, and a last. Bishop Ambrose in a letter to Constantius 379.

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