The paradox of Archbishop Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has been making lots of noise about setting up courses to tackle homophobic bullying. For this, he is absolutely to be applauded. There seems to be a bit of disconnect though, in that he’s doing so whilst simultaneously holding the view that marriage is between a man and a woman only. Discrimination on the basis of sexuality is a base from which homophobic bullying can launch from and indeed breeds from. As Deborah Orr from the Guardian alludes to, being homophobic is more than just saying nasty things.

Words like bigot and homophobe should not be thrown around carelessly, and I know many who don’t like using them because it can shut down conversations very quickly. Sometimes though, these are accurate descriptions of a persons actions.  I’m saying actions because I do believe that some peoples objections are not out of fear of the LGBT community, they genuinely believe that people choose to be gay (a little education and actually talking to someone who is gay would go a long way here), and I believe they are not bigoted by nature; but objecting on grounds of sexuality is homophobic and sometimes you just have to call it out as such. Another popular catchphrase within Christian circles is “we love the sinner, but we hate the sin”. Some would argue that this is exactly what the Archbishop is doing, but people like Micah Murray and Richard Beck have done excellent jobs in showing how not only is this not what Jesus taught, but why it’s totally unworkable. Only time will tell with Archbishop Welby can maintain both stances. In this case, it’s hard to see how objecting to same-sex couples getting married is anything other than bigoted and homophobic. If you believe objecting to inter-racial marriage is bigoted, then objecting to same-sex marriage is too. They are both aspects people are born with, and both cannot be changed (despite assertions to the contrary).

There will be people questioning whether I am saying that the Bible, and indeed God, are bigoted and homophobic. If the former does truly say that marriage is just between a man and woman (something which is heavily disputed) and the latter will send gay people to hell for being gay (which is something else that else is heavily disputed), then yes that is what I am saying. I think Desmond Tutu echoed my thoughts when he said “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place….I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.” Some people do interpret the Bible in a way that says that marriage is between a man and woman only, but as I alluded to above, this is an interpretation that many would challenge and therefore challenge the assertion that the Bible and God are homophobic.


BmfDIjRIIAARhqPPicture from David Hayward aka Naked Pastor:

I like Archbishop Welby; I like his campaign against poverty and pay-day lenders and that he’s actually taking action. I like how he’s pushing for women to be able to become bishops, despite the arduous and painful debates in Synods. I even like the fact that even though he opposes same sex marriage, he is still campaigning against homophobic bullying. But I can’t get past the fact that he seems to be trying to solve a problem that he is actually contributing to.  The issue of same-sex marriage and the Bible is a complex and nuanced one, and I don’t envy Archbishop Welby’s position of being in the spotlight whilst these discussions rage on. My hope is that this anti-homophobic bullying campaign will help the Archbishop see how much his stance is contributing to the problem. Until then, he remains in this paradox and threatens to undermine his own cause.

And that, would actually be a huge shame.


Finding the release valve

Since moving to Slough back in March of this year, I’ve been trying to get back into doing the things that I really enjoyed but had to give up when I was living in Abingdon. I’ve found a darts team and a martial arts class, and I’m just waiting to hear back  about a tap dancing class; but it’s all been a bit stop-start, and it’s pretty much been all my own doing. Injuries, other commitments and being too tired from playing the XBox until stupid o’clock has meant that I’ve not been doing these things as regularly as I would like, and this frustrates me. These activities are not bad in themselves though. One of my other commitments has been training with the Great Men Value Women project, learning about gender equality and how to lead workshops in schools. Unfortunately, some of these discussions triggered some past memories and emotions and I’m now faced with the question of how to handle them. My fiancé has suggested that I see a counsellor, but I have no confidence that it will work; I’m not even sure what ‘working’ actually looks like. My default action is to retreat into myself, to hide, which is where the XBox has been both a good and a bad thing. It really helps with unwinding and de-stressing and chatting to new people (plus the games are a lot of fun), but it can also be too much as I get obsessed with gaining achievements and scheduling time online over doing other things like housework. This is before we add my fears about finding a church here in Slough; not just one I attend occasionally, but one that I can go to every week and settle and feel part of the community there.

My prayer life is not exactly good at the moment. I chat to God occasionally but I’m not exactly running to Him for help. I suffer problems like anyone, and I kick myself for giving into temptation instead of going to Him for help; whether that’s prayer or just picking up the Bible and reading it (something else I don’t do enough of). Then I hate myself for having given in, and question whether I really know Christ and/or whether I’m “saved” (hint: Romans 8:1). This is just an addition to my normal questioning about theological subjects, virtually all impacting how I look at life and the decisions I make. This inevitably affects relationships and being engaged to my wonderful fiancé Sarah, the situation is compounded. Wrestling over sex before marriage and having been together for 3 years, engaged for 2 and another 15 months before we get married, it’s easy for things to get to breaking point. She’s studying for a degree which brings its own set of pressures, and we’re both mindful of adding to those of the other. Yet we still want to be open with each other and support each other through difficulties, whilst at the same time learn about each other. Trying to find that balance can also be quite stressful. Within all of it though, I’m still able to answer an atheists question of why I’m a Christian with confidence, and spend 5 hours on the phone, listening to a friend cry their heart out due to the levels of pressure they are under.

I do need to get into a routine where I can go to martial arts, darts and dancing during the week, along with any workshops I’m scheduled to run. At the same time pick up the Bible more, even if its just for 5-10 minutes a day. Weekends can be for whatever I choose them to be, they’re certainly ideal for change and mixing it up. Sometimes it’ll be an XBox day, or a visiting friends day, or catching up on my Bible reading, or planning the previously mentioned workshops, or doing something very random. Sunday mornings are my chance to hang out with other Christians whilst just being me and letting someone else speak. Some people will say this is me scheduling God, to which I say possibly, but God is everywhere, so whatever I do, He’s already part of it. Others will say that I’m very busy and there’s no time to rest. We all rest differently, and sometimes my idea of resting is doing something. Sarah likes walks in the park; I will happily go with her but they’re not really my thing. She knows this, but it’s not about the walk, its about being with her. She’s getting into playing the Xbox and learning the ways of the action movie with me. In a way, being busy is my release valve. I do need to stop feeling so guilty if things get dropped. Sometimes I feel I have to learn that by having established a base. I do get committed though, I don’t take anything on unless I can give 100% to it. This all or nothing approach does add to the pressure I already feel and does take a little while  for me to wind down from. Going full throttle helps me to escape everything else, and though being busy doesn’t get these thoughts out of my head, writing this certainly has.

I know I’m going to need to escape more than ever as I do more research into other views about gender equality. I’m going to read things I disagree with and is going to upset me. It may also put me in another firing line in a similar way that LGBT rights has done. I know that friends will let me vent, I know Sarah will too, even if it upsets her seeing me struggle with things. I may even go and see that counsellor one day. I’m still going to need to find that release valve every now and again though, I think we all do.

Maybe we have to tolerate the intolerable

Recently, 10,000 children lost their sponsorship via World Vision after the company announced (then reversed) its decision to employ married gay Christians. The Evangelical Alliance raised concerns that The Oasis Trust (or more specifically its founder Rev Steve Chalke) were promoting a view other than what the church has traditionally believed. According to the Trust, Steve Chalke was calling for churches to be more open and accepting of the LGBT community, and trying to foster dialogue between people who hold differing views. Despite assurances and clarifications from the Trust that it wasn’t a corporate view, the Evangelical Alliance has discontinued the Trust’s membership.

The respective statements give differing accounts; the Alliance says the Trust didn’t comply with a request, whilst the Trust claim that they did. I don’t have the full background, but it seems relatively simple to me; a member of the Oasis Trust has gone against what the Evangelical Alliance believes about marriage (showing support for the LGBT community) so the Alliance removed them.

It seems that your stance on same sex marriage is fast becoming the benchmark by which your worthiness of association as a Christian is measured and indeed, whether you are in fact a Christian or not. It’s an unfair, but the church is not the only establishment that is using same sex marriage as a benchmark. Brendan Eich was forced to step down as CEO of Mozilla after it came to light that he contributed to a campaign to stop same-sex marriage coming into law. In Canada, degrees from a law university which does not support same-sex marriage are no longer recognized by some law societies, meaning its future law graduates are not fit to be admitted to the bar.

In all of these discussions, people talk about equality and tolerance. Well people talk a good game, but their actions suggest that there is no place at the table for people who disagree with them. It seems that in the attempt to change, all those who oppose the ‘correct’ viewpoint are got rid of or ignored. Historically, this has not ended well when any means are deemed justified. I’ve said previously that there are certain things that shouldn’t be tolerated, maybe this is what that looks like in practice? Maybe to have a truly open,, equal society, we have to tolerate what we want to be intolerant to.