Tag Archive | Christian

Why as a Christian I am voting…

The link below to an article on “Why as a Christian I am voting Conservative” was posted on a group I’m on this morning and I thought it was worth sharing.

I absolutely won’t be voting Conservative this time, and I struggle to understand why Christians continue to support the ‘Right’ even in the face of all the evidence of how utterly un-Christian they are.

I think that, if you vote for the principle of small government (which on the whole I do – and in fact I have in the past advocated not voting at all, as voting validates a fundamentally corrupt system that I doubt can ever be anything but corrupt), you actually have to step up personally and be the ‘Big Society’.

I don’t see that happening.

And this is the issue. If individuals won’t act sufficiently charitably (and yes, I know the rise of foodbanks has been phenomenal, but it’s nowhere near enough to cover all the needs that government addresses), it cannot be ‘Christian’ to allow a slide back into Victorian laissez-faire government, where the rich and powerful thrive and the poor and powerless lose more and more at the mercy of people who, well, have very little real mercy, it would appear.

If you’re Christian and vote to cut the support out from under people who desperately need it, on principle, but offer no alternative (I seem to remember Margaret Thatcher talking about giving people a hand up so they can begin to help themselves, but I don’t see even that being talked about now), leaving people in despair, how is that Christian?

I do think that ultimately, we have to recognise that government can and must never be looked upon as saviour (as we are seeing so clearly in the US with Trump), and it is always a case of choosing the lesser of two or more evils. You just have to ‘pick your poison’.

But we can’t allow our choice of government, or our ‘principles’, to abandon people in the pit of despair without doing anything to help them.

https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/why-as-a-christian-i-am-voting-conservative/

There are lots of reasons why I would not vote Labour either this time round, but that is for another day’s discussion.

Choices, Changes

Over the last few years, I have moved from a Paleo type of diet to Vegan and back again several times. This blog had ‘From Paleo to Vegan in one easy midlife crisis’ as its subtitle at one stage.

The truth is, though, that it hasn’t been ‘one easy midlife crisis’ at all of course, it’s been more like a car with a faulty starter motor, so I lurch from one obsession to the next, and never quite seem to get anywhere.

Every year, it seems, I try to go vegan again.

Even going back to being properly vegetarian seems to be a challenge this time. But I will keep trying.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t know either. I know.

I’ve had to block several over-zealous vegans who insist on sending me graphic pictures of animals being brutalised.

I know.
I really don’t want to see it.
I really don’t want to eat it.

So why do I keep falling off the vegan ‘wagon’? Why is it so difficult to stay vegan?

I have personally justified it with regard to my own specific health issues, most particularly PCOS which comes along with insulin insensitivity which means that, contrary to the oft-repeated mantra of ill-informed vegans that “carbs are not the problem”, they really can be a serious, even potentially life-threatening problem for people who can’t tolerate them.

Not all carbs are equal, and not all fats are equal, but that discussion is for another post. Suffice to say, though, that even allowing for the insulin insensitivity issue, it’s no real barrier to veganism. Low, or at least lower carb veganism is possible, it’s just more of a challenge.

On an unrelated note, I’m finding it a little bit difficult to stay ‘Christian’, or at least keep up the ‘respectable’ middle class mainstream image version of Christianity that is sometimes confused with authentic Christianity.

I’ve actually been exploring paganism – firstly for general cultural literacy (I had so many misconceptions) and secondly because it is something that has fascinated me for years. I will post again with more details about that exploration and what I’ve found, what I’ve been able to love and embrace, and what I’ve had to reject and draw the line at.

To me (and what was communicated to me by my Dad – what he saw in the Bible and in Christianity), the core of the faith is clearly love, peace, joy, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and more love.

Matthew 12v7

But sadly it doesn’t seem to be what is commonly offered by the church. Certainly individual believers embody those principles and exude a genuine spirituality. But the church as a whole seems characterised by the very opposite: intolerance, unkindness, judgmentalism.

Why should this be?

In fact, these things are not unrelated at all.

Veganism is supposed to be about compassion, kindness, love for all creatures. And most of the vegans I have met in person do indeed embody the compassion they espouse. But veganism as a whole has without doubt been brought into disrepute by some of its most vocal members.

I completely understand the anger that vegans feel about people blithely and ignorantly allowing animals to be brutalised and killed just so we can have a certain taste and texture on our plate.

We have no excuse.

But those tastes and textures continue to persuade us to ignore what we know, to carry on along the path of least resistance.

But the anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some vegans continues to drive people away.

The anger and self-righteousness and judgmentalism of some Christians continues to drive people away.

(Do you see what I did there?)

I think I know what the essential problem with Christianity is. It is the over-riding emphasis (at least in Western Christianity) on ‘right belief’ over and above ‘right living’ and ‘right feeling’. It is entirely possible to be a Christian in good standing with the church who claims all the ‘right beliefs’ and have absolutely no change of heart, absolutely no true spiritual experience whatsoever. But as long as the beliefs are in line with the doctrines your denomination emphasises, there is no reason to question the heart or the spirit. It is entirely possible to carry hatred in your heart while claiming to follow the God who is Love.

I think the same thing can be true of veganism.

As long as you maintain a vegan diet, and you are able to feel self-satisfied in that, there is no reason to question yourself, search inwardly, become more compassionate.

But I think I’ve said before that there is no ‘upper limit’ for compassion, kindness, love. All of us can always move forward, become kinder, more compassionate, more understanding, more loving.

In the Bible, a ‘righteous’ man is defined not as the one who never falls, never makes a mistake but rather the man who ‘falls seven times and gets up again’. Proverbs 24:16

This year is probably the first time in maybe 15 years when I haven’t really managed to celebrate Passover/ Easter, count the Omer/ Eastertide or keep Pentecost/ Shavuot (the fact that they are all out of sync this year hasn’t helped). There’s a little voice in my head that wants to condemn me, make me feel guilty and miserable. But I’m not listening to it.

I’m not as observant as I’d like to be right now, but it is what it is – this is the season I’m in, and there’s not much I can do about it. The traditional Passover concludes “Next Year in Jerusalem”. This too shall pass, and perhaps next year I will be where I want to be with my religious observance.

I’m not going to kick myself either about repeatedly failing to be faithful to veganism. Honestly, I may never reach 100% total veganism for ever. But that’s ok. I’m moving towards it, I’ll keep trying.

And actually, as much as I can understand the wish that the whole world go 100% vegan today, every little helps. Small steps save lives.

If I fall down again, I’ll just get up again.

Don’t be discouraged.

Do whatever you can and know that it’s good, and don’t let anybody condemn you because you’re ‘not good enough’, ‘not vegan enough’, ‘not Christian enough’, or whatever.

It’s a cliche, but learning to love and accept and forgive yourself is the first and crucial step towards spiritual growth. And it’s probably the hardest.

But it’s never a wasted effort.

Don’t give up. 🙂

From my heart to yours. xx

 

Your Desire Shall Be for your Husband

I have been contemplating my relationship with my husband recently. It is pretty good now overall but we have had our fair share of ups and downs, and for years I resented him – not because we had had miscarriages, of course that wasn’t his fault, but because he had decided, despite knowing that I desperately wanted another baby, to wait so long (7 years) between our last baby and trying again, by which time it was too late.

I think that probably I was too ill by the time we started trying again, although I didn’t realise until much later that that might have been a factor. (I read a couple of years ago that women with chronic conditions such as ME, Fibro, MS, PCOS etc. tend to experience miscarriage three times as often as healthy women) .

I have mentioned before that I am not yet at a point of acceptance, of being able to get some closure and say now we have finished building our family. But I have been thinking more and more lately about trying to work out for myself what the shape of my life should look like now going forward if there’s not going to be any babies in the picture. I’ll be 45 this year, so the chances now are next to zero – especially after 4 years of no conception at all (and obviously not using anything to prevent conception!) It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, but highly unlikely. I know that.

I remember once, before we started trying again in 2010, my husband asking me, “Why am I not enough for you?” That is to say, why do you need a baby as well? At the time I thought it was a ridiculous thing to say, the two things weren’t in the same category. But I wonder now whether there is something in it. What is it that makes women like me want babies, and keep wanting babies even with a big family? Well, as I’m sure I have mentioned before, I was raised on the Waltons / Little House on the Prairie as well as having family friends with a big family which seemed really idyllic which fed into the same fantasy. Large family life just seemed much more homely and loving and fulfilling than our quiet, standard small nuclear family. When I had my own family I knew which style I wanted to emulate, and it wasn’t what I had grown up with. But additionally, maybe also a kind of tender intimacy, feeling needed, having somebody to love and adore? (Come to that, why do most women not continually desire that?)

My husband had two sisters, so not a specially large or small family really and I don’t think he was fussed either way. But I do remember once discussing with him that I wanted ten children, and he actually agreed. I suspect now that he thought I was joking. (We have produced 9 in total though – including all our losses – so one more and I would let him off the hook!)

Obviously I have also had thoughts about having a career and started taking steps towards that, but there have been obstacles and it hasn’t happened so far. I have been toying with the idea of working but I think I am basically unemployable. I would be so unreliable with ME – most days I wake up in so much pain I can’t get up, and who would want to employ somebody who might need more sick days than work days? So I have begun to wonder about what sort of things I could do from home. But I would still be at home.

I’m not really convinced that I am cut out for housewifery. I may have the excuse of homeschooling and having the kids around all day and having lots of extra educational materials and books hanging around, but I do not keep a very tight ship. If burglars ever broke in, they might be forgiven for thinking they were too late and we had already been burgled. I wish we didn’t live in a mess but we do.

Perhaps if I were well enough I could take a bit more pride in the state of the place, try a bit harder to keep things ship-shape. But I don’t think I would find that very fulfilling, and sitting at home reading books all day for the most part does nag me with a twinge of guilt at times. So being at home without babies, now that my kids are nearing the end of their education, is beginning to feel a bit odd. What will I do when the children are grown and start to fly away?

I did start some serious writing projects, but I haven’t given them the time or effort to see if they could amount to anything yet. Too busy letting myself get distracted with blogging, although I have given facebook and twitter the boot recently and I have pleasantly surprised myself to find that I really wasn’t addicted at all. (It’s nice to be able to discover new things about yourself at a time when you’re beginning to feel old and staid and boring!)

Going back to my relationship with husband though, I have been thinking more about the necessity of adjusting to this different way of life as empty-nesters (actually I think it will be a long way off for us as youngest is still only 12 and eldest who is 20 seems to have no plans to leave to go somewhere he might need to cook and wash his own clothes). I know it’s not uncommon for some couples to grow apart and end up separating when the children are gone, but that is not something I want to happen to us.

I keep thinking about the phrase in Genesis in the Bible where God tells Eve, “Your desire shall be for your husband“. The context is that it is part of the ‘curse’ after the Fall, and I know that many anti-feminists interpret it to mean that part of the curse is that women desire power over their husbands. (Just as an aside, I posted a question about Christian feminism on a Christian forum recently, asking for reading recommendations, and wasn’t at all surprised to be told that the whole concept of Christian feminism was power-seeking and unChristian. Good grief.) Anyway, what was I saying?

Yep, I don’t honestly know what it means, what the relevance or significance might be to modern Christian women. Perhaps none at all. But I can’t stop thinking about the phrase somehow. I remember when we were first together, before we had children, he told me that he didn’t want me to let myself become dependent on him, because I was perfectly capable to look after myself. But inevitably, as a non-earning housewife and mother of course I did become dependent on him and I still am. I’m not actually too worried about that, as I don’t think it reflects my worth or capability, and I know that things can change in an instant – the universe turns on a pin, after all. There was a time when I went out to work and he stayed at home. It’s not inconceivable that the roles could reverse again. I might get well. (Pigs might fly, hopefully the former is more likely than the latter.)

But I would really just like to be satisfied. Content. With him. With our life as it is, without wanting or needing any babies, or a bigger house, or more money, or some great career or some other monumental success in my life. Is that lame? Or is it a reasonable way for a middle aged woman to think? Yuck! I hate that phrase, ‘middle-aged’. I’m just ‘mature’, right?! (Hahaha, who am I kidding!)

So we are back to gratefulness again. I am grateful. I am thankful. I have lots of good things in my life, and I am totally grateful that I do have such a good, faithful, long-suffering husband. He thinks I am crazy, but he still loves me, and thankfully he seems perfectly happy to accommodate my wish to keep quite a bit of baby-making practice going. 😀

 

Primates 2016

primates

Archbishop Justin Welby invited all the Primates of all the international branches of the Anglican communion to attend the congress in Canterbury this month to discuss the deep divisions within the communion being caused by the differences in opinion (and practice) on the nature of marriage.

The decision of the council was leaked yesterday and was characterised, on social media at least, to be a decision to expel the Episcopal Church of American, ECUSA, from the Anglican Communion.

This does not in fact appear to be the case as far as I can work out. According to the official statement, it is rather a decision to put the ECUSA on a kind of probation period of three years, during which time they may not officially represent Anglicanism at ecumenical events, while the issue is properly investigated. They still remain part of the Communion, but in ‘disgrace’ (like a naughty child being sent to the corner). There is, understandably, outrage about the decision.

I am very surprised by this decision, although from what I can gather it has more to do with the fact that ECUSA has flouted and disobeyed Anglican canon law for several years (and am I right in thinking that there was also a scandal to do with church assets when there was a split within the American church?) than that it has to do with a difference of opinion and belief.

As a person with a rather conservative and evangelical background and a Messianic within the Anglican communion, I would tend to hold with an orthodox position on marriage personally. (I have written about this previously here and here, and would not force my opinion on anyone else.)

However, one of the things that attracts people to Anglicanism is the freedom of conscience – although we have conservative creeds and liturgies, nobody is forced to think or believe anything they’re not comfortable with, and so there is room for a large spectrum of belief within Anglicanism – we are, after all, a ‘broad church’ – the third way of ‘Scripture, Tradition and Reason’ covering the breach between ‘low church’ and ‘high church’ Anglo-Catholicism as well as between liberals and conservatives. Within those two extremes, that middle way of Anglicanism would seem to be the one place where LGBT+ folk can feel safe and accepted and welcomed.

I would be very interested to hear from Jewish/Messianic believers who are also LGBT+ since a great deal of what I have seen of Messianic Judaism has tended to be uber-conservative and ‘Torah-observant’ to the point of very strict exclusivity (i.e., repent, or out you go). I can hardly imagine what it must be to be LGBT+ in that sort of setting, and it would be a horrible choice between accepting their ruling and being celibate, keeping quiet about your sexual orientation, or finding another LGBT+ accepting church that lacks that Jewish flavour. If your experience of MJ as LGBT+ has been different, I would be interested too.

(As an afterthought, I have to say that the Messianic fellowship I attended IRL, it was much more laid-back and the topic never came up – I very much doubt that the leader would have made it an issue, and he was himself an Anglican, so I’m talking really more here about my experience of the MJ community online.)

I am deeply saddened that this decision, which seems somewhat out of step with the nature of Anglicanism overall, has caused so much hurt and pain to an already wounded, marginalised group of society.

I do not believe that the decision is characterised by hate and bigotry, as many people are suggesting. However, that must be the way it is perceived by members of the ECUSA, the LGBT+ community and those Anglicans who hold more liberal views elsewhere. It seems ill-advised, but I expect that the ‘probation’ was considered to be more wise than outright expulsion. But from the reaction so far, it seems likely to force the rift that they were seeking to avoid. I hope I’m wrong in that.

Can the position of Orthodoxy be defended while still maintaining the freedom of conscience and belief that characterises Anglicanism? And cannot Orthodoxy be communicated in a spirit of love and forgiveness? (Actually, if you read the document, I think this is what they were trying to do, but they appear to have failed miserably.)

Or is an ultimate rift between liberals and conservatives inevitable now? How very, very sad if that is the case.

Sunday Morning Rant

Oh my lordy. Some people are so far up their own self-righteous bottoms, it’s unreal. Attributing exceptionally good fortune to their own hard work. Gets my goat!

Not to mention, having money thrown at them (or rather happily taking what they can get) when they’re not the least bit in need, and having no shame or sympathy when they see people who *are* in genuine need but who, for whatever reason, are denied the same benefit!

They have no conscience because their view is skewed.

Sometimes it’s the negative people you need to eliminate from your life, sometimes it’s the over-positive about themselves people, who have no empathy, compassion or concern for others.

The fact that *so* *many* *times* it is Christians who fall into this category, is deeply distressing to me.

Confusing too, because in my book the hallmark of true Christians is exactly that – empathy, compassion and concern for others. In short, ‘love’.

For the second time in my life this morning, in amongst a lot of other bunkum, I have been inappropriately called a ‘victim’ when asking for practical help and understanding (not money).

Well, excuse me, you arrogant cow. I’m no victim. But I do expect a modicum of decency from those I consider friends, especially if they call themselves Christians, and I’m afraid (after giving you quite a lot of chances actually, because I have quite a high threshold for stupid people / arrogant people / people behaving badly – because I recognise that we are all a work in progress) you have finally failed the test spectacularly.

I try not to hold grudges, and I try to forgive in every case.

But I do not have to continue to allow people to treat me badly.

So I’m re-drawing my boundary line, and you are out, matey. Go and be self-important around somebody else.

Hopefully you will learn some lessons in friendship without having to attend the school of hard knocks that some of us have been through and triumphantly survived (thank-you very much).

More thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling

Following on from my earlier post which looked at the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage from a liberty / legal / government / democracy point of view, I said I would post again looking at the ruling from a religious / moral perspective.

I haven’t waded into the debate on homosexuality previously, because I feel inherently out of my depth and ill-equipped to make a coherent argument that is both loving and faithful.

I think that this has been the church’s own trouble in this issue – the inability to disagree in a loving way.

I have seen some very ‘black and white’ comments (in contrast to the shades of grey, or rainbow if you prefer) using words like, ‘sin’, ‘righteousness’, ‘wickedness’, ‘abomination’ and suchlike. These are Biblical words of course, but they’re not terribly helpful here.

Sin is a word loaded with baggage of years of oppressive church imposition of morality by way of guilt and shame, which actually are in a way antithetical to New Testament Christianity which is supposed to be all about a heart-change and love.

So what does it mean? The Westminster catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God”.

So why would the law of God, who defines himself as unchangeably and fundamentally good, as Love incarnate, legislate against homosexuality?

The tendency recently has been to view homosexuality and gay marriage as a question of love. How can you possibly legislate against an emotion, a thought, and how can love ever be morally wrong? Of course it would be a nonsense. Israel’s King David loved his friend Jonathan, and Jewish tradition has it that it was exactly the kind of love that we’re talking about here.

But I don’t think that love is the real issue. David’s love for Jonathan was never depicted as a sin, because it was a feeling, an emotion. As passionate as it may have been, there was never any suggestion of lust or a physical or sexual consumation of that love.

So the law is not against love, but the physical, sexual act of love in a relationship that is outside of the boundaries of what is considered appropriate (or what you might say is outside of the design for sex and sexuality, which is ultimately reproduction.) And of course, there is a long list of which relationships are deemed inappropriate for sexual acts.

As I have mentioned before, Biblical law, the Torah, is traditionally divided into three in Christianity – civil, ceremonial and moral, and laws on sexual behaviour are considered part of the moral law which was traditionally considered binding on Christians, while the rest was rejected.

More recently, in the last century particularly, the moral law has begun to be thrown off as well. I won’t go into the theological reasons for this shift, but suffice to say only the more conservative denominations have rejected this abandonment of traditional morals (although, somewhat inconsistently I would say).

At the same time, the idea of God designing sex, people and the world as part of creation has also been eroded, so the idea that there are boundaries to sexual activity inherent in the design of creation no longer holds much sway even with most Christians.

So it could be said that the two most basic Christian arguments against homosexuality are no longer considered valid, either by the world or the church. That is certainly the logical position we find ourselves in.

Now, although I would tend to be very conservative in some respects – accepting the two premises above which are now generally rejected, I do however realise that gender, sex and sexuality are complex and complicated, and a lot less ‘black and white’ than the Bible and conservative Christians seem to portray them.

From a liberty perspective, I’m very uncomfortable allowing the government to be the arbiter of rights and liberties and prioritise the liberties of one group or individual over another’s. Where it is an adult, consensual relationship, I can’t see the government’s intrusion as legitimate.

From a religious perspective though, the government’s role would legitimately be to limit the ‘sin’ of the nation by legislating according to the moral law… But of course, we don’t have a Christian government.

I saw a post which said something along the lines of “banning my gay marriage because it’s against your religion is like banning my chocolate cake because you’re on a diet” in other words, it’s none of your business, get off my liberty! Well, yes.

In a post-Christian world, there is no obvious reason that would make Christians imposing their morality on others and limiting their morality legitimate.

So on most levels, I have no problem with loving, monogamous, consensual homosexuality, and I have no real problem with gay marriage, providing nobody forces anybody else to do, say or think anything they don’t want to.

But on a spiritual level, I can’t help wondering if there is more to it than what we see on the surface. If God is real, if God really created man and woman with a design, plan and purpose, and determined that there should be limitations on our sexual activity, are we wounding our spirits when we cross those boundaries? (And that wouldn’t apply only to homosexuality but to any kind of sexual activity outside the design – pre-marital, extra-marital, whatever.) Again, that’s not going to carry any weight of argument for anybody who has a different religious or spiritual perspective. But it gives me pause.

I have seen a few people saying that this ruling ‘has crossed the line’, leading America into some kind of gross immorality which will remove God’s blessing and protection on her. Personally, I think that line was crossed a long time ago with the Roe v Wade ruling. But that’s just me.

Empathy

I’ve been upset this week to be confronted on more than one occasion by angry, aggressive, judgemental vegans.

My reasons for being vegan have been questioned and rubbished, my delay in becoming vegan has been judged. That first one made me laugh to be honest (after I was cross). How can you be vegan for the “wrong reasons”?

Would a pig/cow/chicken/deer really care about the reasons why you do or don’t eat it? (if you shoot a deer, say, is he really gonna care why/ what colour your pants are?)

These angry, aggressive, judgemental vegans obviously have issues. As I said to a contact on twitter, he who fights with another fights himself. It’s corny, but true.

But what they don’t seem to realise is that it is precisely the aggressive, judgemental attitudes that put people off veganism. It’s exactly the same with Christianity.

Frankly, I’m sick of it. Self-righteousness is a massive turn-off. Six weeks in? I’m not sure I want to be associated with the name vegan if this is what it’s about.

Whether they realise it or not, they’re ambassadors for the cause. If you don’t show empathy for other humans, you can hardly expect people to buy into the empathy for animals you say you’re promoting.

It has made me realise that, just because we share one thing, veganism, or Christianity, or whatever, it doesn’t mean that we will get on. Everyone has issues, and being vegan or Christian (or Buddhist or whatever) doesn’t mean you’ve resolved them. It doesn’t even mean that you’re self-aware enough to recognise you have them.

As I read recently, there’s no upper roof to veganism. Read empathy for that instead. You haven’t “arrived’ when you become vegan / Christian or whatever. If you’re not open to re-examining yourself, if you’re not aware that there’s room to grow, you’ll be stuck in an ugly rut. It’s not attractive, people.