The Nashville Statement. A Response to the Responses.

 

nashville-statement-700x475

If you were paying attention to Twitter over the last week you may have noticed quite a lot of discussion going on about something called “The Nashville Statement”. Basically a group called the “A Coalition For Biblical Sexuality” released 14 articles as part of a statement on their views of Biblical Sexuality and Gender. Continue reading

Why Christians Don’t Need To Be Afraid of Marriage Equality

belfast

Before we think about why Christians shouldn’t be afraid of marriage equality, I think it’s important to take a little time to think around an argument that is often brought up for why only Heterosexual couples should be allowed to marry.

Won’t someone just think of the kids?

You’ve probably heard the argument that the best or ideal situation for bringing up kids is with a Father and Mother.

Namely that marriage is for having kids and that it is only possible with a birth father and a mother. But what if you can’t or just don’t want kids? Should a heterosexual couple in this position not be permitted to marry?

And even in marriages where the couple remain together; what if one of the parents is physically or emotionally abusive to their spouse and their children?

Are kids better off even in those situations?

Some marriages break up and it’s no ones fault. It’s just life and the parents can live amicably and still provide all the care that their kids require. Sometimes, it’s better for kids that parents do separate  if the marriage is beyond repair and staying together causes more damage to the kids than if they separated.

Or the family where the parents desperately want a child but are unable to, so decide to adopt a baby that they will love unconditionally for their whole lives. If a gay couple are able and willing to love and bring up a baby, is that not more ideal than the baby being brought up unwanted.

And with adoptions increasingly becoming more open (i.e. the birth mother is remains a part of the child’s life) a gay couple could adopt and the birth mother could still have a place in the child’s life.

Or of course, there are single parent families that have wonderful support from family, friends and their community even if one of the parents is absent for various reasons.

When we limit the idea of marriage to simply whether it can or does produce kids, we have an extremely narrow and depressing view of marriage. Marriage, when healthy can be a beautiful and wonderful thing. If kids are part of that, it is an amazing and joyful gift. But marriages do not have to succeed or fail because of them.

And in case you’re wondering, I would be making the same argument regardless of whether I was for or against SSM.

Nevertheless, even if we all agreed that marriage wasn’t simply about having kids, (it’s just not that good of an argument) it doesn’t mean that we’d still all agree that everyone should be allowed to marry.

For the Bible Tells Me So….

So what about the big question. That it is a sin to be gay and therefore definitely wrong for a gay couple to marry.

Often, the loudest opponents to SSM will come from the church. I’m not going to get into the Biblical arguments for our against SSM here as I want to sleep at some point this evening and honestly, many far cleverer scholars have written more convincing articulations for both sides than I ever could.

But gay marriage has often been resisted due to religious law based on what the Bible says and it’s for this reason that I believe Christians don’t need to be afraid of SSM.

Sound weird? Let’s think about it like this.

As well as SSM, we love to talk about how Christian rights are being destroyed in the West. Something, that is a bit ridiculous if you take into account the real persecutions that are being faced everyday by Christians in other parts of the world. Changing the colors of Starbucks cups or wishing someone Happy Holidays, a persecution does not make.

Another way that we talk about how the freedom of Christians are being eroded, is by describing the “rise in Islam” in the West. Something that we’ve been told to expect for a while now but somehow mysteriously has failed to materialize.

A thought experiment could be helpful here. Imagine that tomorrow it was made Law that everyone had to follow Sharia Law and that Islam was to be imposed on everyone, regardless of your gender, age, religious background or sexuality. You can take out Islam and insert any religious or belief system here if you like. I picked Islam since it’s the one we seem to be most terrified of.

I’d imagine that most Christians would have a bit of a problem with this. If you are a Christian why should you be required to follow religious rules that you don’t agree with? If you’re an atheist who at the very least doubts that god exists at all, why should you be forced to follow religious laws that you believe to be fairy tales?

There would be a pretty big uproar. But not because there is anything inherently evil about Islam or any other particular belief system, but rather it would be removing religious freedom for everyone. It would be essentially forcing religious beliefs and laws on people who have their own religious beliefs.

Which is the ironic part of our argument against SSM as Christians. When we shut down SSM we are seeking to impose our religious beliefs on people who don’t hold onto those same religious beliefs. The same thing we are (irrationally so) fearful of happening to us with Islam or even with the “Gay Agenda”. Another myth dreamt up to create fear and panic. And we’re not even just talking about Muslims Vs Christians Vs Atheists Vs ______, since there are many Christians who are both gay and who are heterosexual and believe that SSM is not a sin.

It comes down to this. The main issue with the Biblical argument against SSM is that when we insist that marriage is saved exclusively for heterosexual couples, we are in essence proposing that our religious law should be forced on everyone.

As Christians, we can’t expect others to follow religious rules they may not agree with, if we are also not prepared to follow others’ religious laws.

Religious freedom is not simply in regards to our freedom to worship and believe a certain theology; it is also the freedom to not be required to worship a certain god or behave in a way that impinges on those beliefs.

And this is the crux of why Christians should not be afraid of SSM. Nobody is forcing heterosexual Christians or Muslims or Jedi Knights or whatever you believe or don’t believe, to start marrying those of the same sex.

Nor are the Christian heterosexual marriages that already exist or will do in the future, in any danger.

You don’t even have to agree with with the idea that Same Sex Marriage is not a sin. In fact, this way you are still entitled to believe so if you wish.

But we shouldn’t be able to tell others what to believe and how that should affect their life if we aren’t prepared to do exactly the same.

And if all this doesn’t make any sense, there is of course one more thing that anyone opposed to SSM can still do to avoid being affected by it.

Just don’t marry someone of the same sex.

Christians And Our Eternal Subconscious Fear of Hell (and why it matters)

Having been born and brought up in a Western, pretty traditional church experience in Northern Ireland (the Bible Belt of the UK) I know the extreme importance of being born again. As a kid, going to Christian Summer camps or being part of Christian organizations, hearing messages and going to Church every Sunday, was ultimately geared up to one thing. Continue reading

Ashers, the diversity of Northern Ireland and loving your neighbor.

When I left Northern Ireland almost 18 months ago, it was a diverse country. In that time, I believe it has become even more diverse than ever and this is a beautiful thing. We need to be different, not simply because it would be boring otherwise but because we can learn from each other.

This applies to whether you live in Belfast or Detroit.

But the temptations still exist to pigeonhole each other. It makes life so much easier for everyone if we make huge assumptions about someone when we meet them which saves us the trouble of actually sitting down and talking to “themuns”.

Because Heaven for fend that we might actually come away seeing how we are similar.

But the real problem with ignoring our diversity is funnily enough that it leads to ignorance and arrogance.

When my worldview is threatened by coming across someone from a group that I had previously neatly squished into their box, I go on the defensive. I don’t want to be wrong; I can’t be wrong. If I am then I have to open myself up to everyone. And that could be disastrous for my beliefs.

I say all this because I have witnessed somewhat recently this very thing happening in Northern Ireland concerning the Ashers case.

Basically there are two camps. The Christian/religious camp and the LGBT equality camp.

At least that is what you may believe but the truth is that there are not two distinct sides but a blurry, kaleidoscope of differing and agreeing opinions. There are those in the church who think that all Christians are (or should be) in agreement with Asher’s and the recent DUP plan to introduce a conscience clause. Then are those outside the church in the LGBT community who think that all Christians are jerks and all look at them as perverse or abominations.

But even that isn’t right because, wait for it, there are those in the church who are gay. Yes, for many of us that is not shocking in the slightest but for a great deal more of you that just can not be true can it?

Not only that but there are those inside the church, who are gay who don’t support the Equality Commission. And if you think that is mad well there are those outside the church, who are gay and agree with Ashers and the Christian Institute on their stance.

You might need to sit down to try and collect your thoughts and preconceived notions.

I know I have. new UJ

But this is the beauty of Norn Iron. It’s a country that is changing. And changing for the better. Sure there are still bigots and there are still those who can not or will not let go of their hate. But rather than in the 70’s or 80’s or even for a huge part of the 90’s, when this was the norm, folks like this are now in the minority.

We do not have to agree. We do not have to see eye to eye. But we have to be willing to at the very least look into each others eyes.

Because when we do we may just realize that the beliefs that we hold so closely and vow to fight for so vehemently may well just be causing hurt and pain to others. Does that make our beliefs worth it? I’m not so sure it does.

Of course we still need to challenge bigotry and call out injustice as it happens. We still need to stand up for what we believe in but the minute we start dulling our love for those who are different than us simply because they are treating us poorly, the minute we have lost our own identity, not “them”.

For Christians in Northern Ireland are you willing to take the time to think through how your actions effect those in the LGBT community at large and the LGBT community in your congregations?

Love is a powerful force, much more than we usually give it credit for. I don’t really care what other groups do but as the church, our mandate is clear. It is to love everyone regardless of…..
(You can fill in what you need to here)

It that extremely hard? You bet it is. Is it the only way? You bet it is.

Are your beliefs as a Christian being challenged because someone can be gay and Christian? Or because a Presbyterian Minister can be a speaker at a Sinn Fein conference? Or because a Protestant could vote Sinn Fein and a Catholic could vote DUP?

If they are, don’t run from it. Don’t give into the voice that says they must be written off. Embrace it. Lean into it. Question why this might be the case. Look deep into yourselves and ask..

What belief is most important to you?

That being gay is an abomination?

Or that nothing is more important than loving everyone?

Misplacing God. Where Was the Last Place you saw Him?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about where we find God. Growing up I thought He was in church on Sunday mornings. I believed we went through the week trying to hold on for the ride until we could find safety and refuge in church on Sunday. I suppose that’s why we are supposed to dress up nicely and behave because that’s our one interaction with Him every week and we need to make it count. Continue reading