DontMancriminate; how not to start conversations about Mens issues

So a post appeared on my Facebook wall recently, shared by a number of people, under the hashtag #DontMancriminate. It was a series of pictures depicting men being gagged with a little slogan and statements supporting the slogan and were doing the rounds on social media last year. I think I’m going to file it under “perfect example of missing the point” or possibly “how to completely trivialise real issues faced by men and women”. The fact they’ve made a re-appearance suggests that people think they have a point so here’s my take on them.

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Men can (and indeed do) wear heels or even large heeled shoes and wear makeup. Problem is doing so usually results in bullying from other men!!!! Companies usually make products to fulfil demand so perhaps the reason these products don’t exist is because men don’t feel comfortable wearing them due to social pressures? The same social pressures that make women feel forced to conform to strict beauty standards, which is why they wear make-up to avoid being branded ugly? As for stupid men being blonde, I know many blonde men who fit the stereotype and if men want “dumb men” jokes to be equal I’m sure there’s a comedian out there happy to oblige. But why would you want jokes made matching your hair colour to your I.Q?

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Here’s the thing with these 2; holding a door for someone, carrying their bags or giving up your seat is called courtesy; doesn’t matter if they’re a woman, elderly or disabled; but what have these got to do with this “It’s a man’s world”? Men haven’t had to fight very hard for rights , more often than not men are in power, men get portrayed as powerful in movies/books, men don’t get regarded as inferior purely because of their gender. Here’s the funny thing about these though. Women get free drinks because men buy them for them!! Women are completely able to buy their own drinks or buy them for men. Women get free entry because men let them in for free!! Women are able to pay for themselves or pay for men to get in for free. No one is forcing men to do this though and perhaps we should be asking why men feel compelled to act in this way toward women. Is there a sense of entitlement that some men feel, that when they buy a woman a drink they expect sex in return? Do men like to feel impressive and in control so they buy the woman a drink? How many woman actually enjoy the unwanted attention and are perfectly happy being left alone?

The last statement has the same root cause as the others above. Men don’t get sympathy because men have made it shameful to be weak!! As with wearing heels, men get bullied by other men for expressing emotions like fear, sadness etc. We’re told that men have to be strong and be the provider which is why they buy women drinks, let them in for free, give up their seats etc. Women accept these because they’re told they’re weaker than men and standing up to men often results in fairly dire consequences. If men are unhappy with women getting these things, then breaking the lies is the first step.

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Let’s get this bit out of the way. Yes, men are judged based on the size of their penis. Women judge them, but usually it’s other men judge them because the size of your penis defines you as a man according to society. For every article penned by a woman saying “size does matter” there are an equal amount saying it doesn’t. Also this picture is just flat out lying because men do discriminate against a “pussy” and we probably have pornography to thank for both problems. Rates of vaginal plastic surgery are huge and growing, far outweighing any equivalent seen in men. Much of this is brought on by porn and men claiming that vaginas need to look a certain way to be “clean”. They do nothing but reduce the value of a person to the size and appearance of their genitalia. This is an issue that does affect men but pitching it against women, especially lying in the process, is just not going to help anyone. We need to get away from us vs them and start having the conversation about body shaming and how it affects people.

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This is an awkward one because I actually agree with this one, but it also seems to trivialize the very real issue of domestic violence. Men suffer abuse at the hands of their partners, but don’t report it for the reasons I’ve said earlier: it’s too shameful and tied to a toxic masculinity. This is why it’s woefully under reported and men don’t get the support they need. When a woman attacks her partner and vice versa, it needs to be classified as domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is about power and control, far more than it is about rage and anger issues and women initiating violence towards men (statistically far less prevalent than the other way round) is usually also to do with control and domination. In which case, the phrase “I was wrong” is correct but is also equally correct for the male if he is the perpetrator. Instead the man simply repeats the all too common trope of “you made me hit you, look what you made me do, if only you had listened to me” etc. etc”. These can be used both ways but due to the ongoing stereotype of the man being the dominant partner in a relationship, are more common in men.

Now some will cite self-defence as a reason, I don’t have too many issues with this but possibly linked to the picture is this; what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear a story of a woman slapping a man? Now what about a man slapping a woman? Was it “self-defence” in the first instance and “assault” for the second? Domestic violence is a massive issue for all genders and pitching the 2 genders against each other in this way again blocks the very necessary discussion of how to tackle this problem. Why do people feel it’s OK to hit their partners? Many men have “anger issues” because anger is the only emotion that other men deem to be acceptable to express. Women can be abusers, let me be clear on that, and yes there is a disparity in how abuse is seen depending on who the abuser is, but instead of pitching this a gender equality issue, lets tackle the actual problem of abuse.

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As face value this one seems absolutely spot on. It seems very much the case that women get half the men’s savings in most divorce cases regardless of the reasons for divorce. However, a quick investigation (google search) into this showed that the situation is infinitely more complex. It seems studies have shown that women are usually much worse off after divorce and there are other factors in how the monies are split .

There’s also custody battles that come with this and statistics show that in the vast majority of cases women win custody of the children but again, this seems to be more complex than face value. This seems to be largely down to traditional gender roles which encourage us to see women as the automatic carers over men. This obviously needs to be challenged but when custody is court-ordered, Men Rights Activists etc. often blame this on feminism. Our court system is anything but feminist, never over the past few hundred years has it ever been feminist. The judiciary is arguably the most patriarchal of all our current institutions with a huge amount of judges being not only male, but also white and privately educated. I think the whole issue of divorce and custody are aspects that needs to be looked at but I guess my message on this one is things are not as simple as this makes out.

That last sentence, “things are not as simple as this makes out” could have been applied to all these pictures really. They oversimplify complex issues by ignoring root causes and instead of helping their cause of highlighting areas that men are impacted to help solve them (assuming that is their aim), actually damage it. All too often these discussions get dragged into “our issue is worse than yours” and these pictures just fuel the persecuted mentality some have developed. Men suffer many issues in this world and these need to be addressed, but pitching this against women’s issues or suggesting it’s women’s fault is just throwing up smokescreens. Until we acknowledge that whatever the root cause, it’s affecting everyone, we go nowhere.

 

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Maybe we deserve to be treated with suspicion

So in a recent article on Premier, Andrea Williams from the Christian Legal Centre is quoted as saying “We are seeing a worrying trend, whereby Christian parents are being treated with suspicion because of their faith” and my immediate thought was “well, maybe we deserve to be”

Looking through the articles I’ve shared on the Facebook page, the majority have been along the theme of the mind bogglingly stupid things Christians have done and come out with. From trying to restrict the rights of same-sex couples by banning them from marrying or adopting children and then disciplining churches who stand for equality, to completely ignoring modern science and history regarding…..well, everything pretty much and trying to get our religious views into law to force onto everyone, topped off with details on disciplining your wife and covering abuse claims; and these are just the ones I can remember. Is it really a surprise Christians are treated with such suspicion?

Now I know there are many instances of Christians not doing these and it’s unfair to tar everyone with the same brush, but maybe we’ve reached the tipping point where our lunacy is outweighing any good we are doing. Even if it hasn’t, things can’t simply be swept under the carpet simply because they’re inconvenient and/or we don’t want to listen.

Maybe we deserve the contempt we get and if that isn’t sobering then perhaps we deserve even more.

Something has got to change

Some people may have seen this article in the Telegraph. Short story, it’s a great exercise in how to completely miss the point.

As many will I know I am a volunteer facilitator for The Great Men Project, one of the organizations the author takes a shot at, and I really have no idea where they get the idea we are about indoctrination from. They’ve read the website and……well, that seems to be about it. I’m pretty sure they’ve never attended a workshop so what is his information based on? Probably the same scare-mongering information that many Men Rights Activists (MRA’s) like to spread so here’s what actually happens during a session.

First thing is a word race where the boys write down as many words that come to mind when given a word. Those words given are usually “Man” and “Woman”. The aim is to see what they have in mind when they think about men and women. This essentially drives the conversation from then on. Next up is a discussion session where a statement is given, they stand in different parts of the room depending on whether they agree or disagree with the statement and the conversation goes from there. The role of the facilitator is to essentially keep order and ensure everyone who wants to say something gets the opportunity to do so. We may step in to challenge certain statements if they are homophobic, racist, etc. in nature, but usually it’s just to ask questions to get them to think about the topic of gender equality, masculinity and to ensure a safe space for them to express themselves.

The author mentions videos. Yes we show videos, they’re on YouTube and you can check them out yourselves (they’re here and here) but please do more than the author has done and get beyond the title. The second part after lunch is about thinking about some statistics and since the author loves statistics, here’s some more:

  • Most common cause of death in men under 35 is suicide
  • 1 in 4 girls across the globe have experienced sexual violence
  • 94% of the prison population is men

Towards the end we ask them what they can do to help lower these statistics, to make their schools a much safer place for everyone. And then they go home. Now I don’t have a degree in English language, but none of that sounds like indoctrination to me; but since when has teaching and indoctrination ever been the same thing? The aim is to provide a space for boys to think about difficult issues (most adults struggle with these) to express their views and work through them. There is no exam, there is no pressure for them to say anything, to get involved; but if it gets them thinking about it then it’s job done. The statistics above are shocking, so are the ones in that article, but this is not about men vs women. This is not about putting womens rights above mens no matter what many MRA’s want to claim, this is about making society as a whole a better place for everyone. Indeed 2 of the 3 stats above are about the pressures and issues facing men.

This is not about making them feel bad because they are boys. The exact opposite is true, it’s about breaking down those fears that they are less of a man because they do or don’t do certain things that society expects them to; and the boys openly express such pressure. The notion that groups such as Great Men make boys feel bad for being boys and label them a potential abuser is frankly nonsense and insulting. In the training each facilitator receives it is stressed that we absolutely do the exact opposite because we don’t even see them as that (never even crossed my mind to) we see people who can make a difference and unless you’re happy with the current situation, we need to be empowering the next generation to go out to show a better way. Sadly from the article itself and the comments on it, it seems many are happy with how things are and don’t like people trying to change the status quo (and almost everyone who benefits calls what we do indoctrination) which means we have much work ahead of us.

So why aren’t there programs like this for girls? Probably because no one has set one up so maybe the author should think about starting a Kickstarter campaign and start raising money to do just that. I’ve not exactly been polite to that article, we do seem to share similar concerns regarding the issues men face, but completely misrepresenting organizations trying to do something about it is not the way to go and unnecessarily clouds the issue .

If you want to know more about The Great Men Project, get in contact with them, they’ll be happy to answer any queries and many are covered in the Info section. For me though, I’m going to keep doing what I do because I see a problem; a problem that is affecting men and women and causing great harm to both; and something has got to change.

How do I break out of the system?

Steve Chalke has recent published a new book and among other things in it, he has quoted theologian John Howard Yoder as an example of good theology regarding pacifism. It’s created some controversy as Yoder has been accused of sexually assaulting over 100 women. Chalke has faced criticism of ignoring these allegations and putting a man who sexually assaulted women on a pedestal, and his response has been that there was a “clear gap” between “who Yoder is revealed to be and what he espoused” but added “There’s always a huge gap between our aspirations and behaviour.” The “we all make mistakes” defense.

Appreciating someone for their talents despite everything they have done is something that I can relate to and indeed have done myself.

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That is me posing with and shaking hands with former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. Tyson was certainly one of the best boxers of his time and arguably one of the best of all time. His boxing achievements are numerous, matched only by his ferocity in the ring.

He’s also a convicted rapist and I knew this before I paid to have the photo taken.

The fact he was booked/invited to attend the show this picture was taken at did cause some controversy, and since then he has been refused entry to the UK, but whilst I was aware of their objections and understood them, I went ahead because I wanted to meet him because of this achievements in the boxing ring. Plus as far as I was concerned, he had served his punishment so that was the end of the matter (as a side note, this is why comparisons to Ched Evans fail because he is out on license, he hasn’t served his punishment). Since all this controversy with Steve Chalke has kicked off, there have been many blogs written in response but this one from God Loves Women has really stopped me and forced me to asked certain questions; Was I right to have the photo? Am I ignoring the woman he raped by doing so? Am I perpetuating the cycle (to quote God Loves Women) of “over and over again women’s freedom, liberty and rights are discarded in favour of “the greater good”? At the time, these weren’t questions that I remotely entertained, they didn’t enter my mind – I didn’t see the problem.

Now they have come into my mind and looking around at myself, this picture is not the only instance where I am guilty of the charge of ignoring peoples crimes against women. I love darts; I love playing it, I love watching it. Phil Taylor is 16 times world champion, he’s won every honor in the sport including the PDC roll of honor, and will go down as the best player ever…but he was also found guilty of indecent assault in 1999 and had his MBE nomination annulled. Now, I didn’t make Phil Taylor 16 time world champion or put him in the hall of fame, but I help make him a star by the way I’ve supported him, been inspired by him, knowing full well of his conviction. My rationale was the same as with Tyson; I appreciate his talents in the sport.

There are many famous people who have carried out a variety of crimes and been allowed to continue in their jobs without public uproar. This though does raise a very good question; what does someone actually have to do to lose their status? Since writing this, it’s been announced that Mark Driscoll has been booked to speak at the Hillsong conference. Driscoll is a very controversial figure with his very woman-demeaning theology and had ‘resigned’ from Mars Hill. Now he’s back, pretty much picking up where he left off. Charisma News seems to think that is absolutely fine as he’s served his time and repented but one tweet in particular articulates a problem with this stance; forgiveness does not mean a restoration to celebrity and power. 

So what about me? I can’t change the past in terms of how I thought then, but I can do something about what I do going forward. That involves starting to answer those questions about that photo with Mike Tyson:

Was I right to have the photo?
Am I ignoring the woman he raped by doing so?
Am I perpetuating the cycle of “discarding womens freedom, liberty and rights in favour of ‘the greater good’?

My answers to all three are ‘I don’t know’, and whilst it’s a step on from where I was, I can’t deny that part of me just doesn’t want to admit that the answers are ‘No’, ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’.  I’m not going to pretend that I can understand how it must feel for their victims to see me hold their abusers in such high regard; this is actually the first time I’ve given it any thought. This in itself makes me part of the system that marginalizes and silences victims, part of the problem. People such as God Loves Women have spelled it out so clearly that it seems so easy; just don’t do things that dismiss abuse victims and put their abusers on a pedestal. But me, being me, isn’t finding it that simple because even more questions come to mind. Does someones crimes invalidate everything good they’ve done? What crimes should result in everything being wiped out? Do their crimes define how they should be regarded? Do people with celebrity status get away with more than if they were just a member of the public?

I have absolutely no idea. This is a massive topic with a lot of grey areas, but once again I find myself stuck in the middle and very much not the good guy in all this.

Did reasonable doubt fail Reeva Steenkamp?

I’ve been debating with myself for the last few months whether to write a piece similar to this, and over the last few days on whether to actually publish this very blog. I have tried to be mindful about getting this right or will it just be another example of a man not getting it and being complicit in the abuse women have to suffer. I guess I have to leave that judgement up to you.

The last couple of days have been mostly focused on the trial of Oscar Pistorius, as the verdicts on the charges of murdering Reeva Steenkamp were delivered by Judge Thokozile Masipa. Oscar Pistorius was cleared of murder but found guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter). Essentially, it was ruled he did not set out to kill Reeva Steenkamp that night but his actions caused her death. Given the surrounding accusations that Reeva Steenkamp was afraid of him, there has been rightly a lot of focus on women and patriarchy and how women are regarded; not just in South Africa but in around the world. The fact he was cleared of murder has been met by some as suggesting Reeva Steenkamp didn’t matter and that the perpetrator is once again being protected. Let me be clear; patriarchy, misogyny, sexism are all very real and result in women being abused and men justifying that abuse. But in this court case, Reeva Steenkamp has not been failed by the patriarchy system, she has been failed by reasonable doubt.

The whole case has been tried within the very well established practice that the accused is innocent until they are proven guilty. In the words of Judge Masipa; “The onus is not on the accused to prove that he’s innocent but on the state to prove that he’s guilty” With many attacks on women, it is done in private with no witnesses and often the accusations come down to “the mans word versus hers”. The patriarchy would say that the woman did something to provoke the man therefore deserved it. The legal system would say “we need more than just your word”. The woman can’t win either way. There is no justification, regardless of whether the victim is a man or a woman, for beating someone. Sadly, the testimonies of women show a clear picture that the police don’t always seem to take accusations from women that seriously and ask questions to suggest that she did something to provoke him. The cases very rarely get to court.

Oscar Pistorius was in court though to face charges of murder, culpable homicide and other gun related charges. It was never in doubt that Oscar Pistorius shot his gun at the bathroom door and as a result of her injuries sustained from those gunshots, Reeva Steenkamp died. The question that the court had to decide on was did Oscar Pistorius deliberately shoot Reeva Steenkamp through the bathroom door knowing it was her and intended to kill her, or was it an accident where Pistorius believed it was an intruder which is the explanation he gave.  According to the CPS website:

Subject to three exceptions (see Voluntary Manslaughter below) the crime of murder is committed, where a person:

  • of sound mind and discretion (i.e. sane); 
  • unlawfully kills (i.e. not self-defence or other justified killing);
  • any reasonable creature (human being);
  • in being (born alive and breathing through its own lungs – Rance v Mid-Downs Health Authority (1991) 1 All ER 801 and AG Ref No 3 of 1994 (1997) 3 All ER 936;
  • under the Queen’s Peace;
  • with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH). [1]

As is his legal right, he had a hearing in front of a judge to make the decision on whether his actions fell into the above. For it to be deemed murder in the legal sense, it has to be premeditated. If he did not intend to kill her, then he cannot be found guilty of murder. As I stated above, it was down to the prosecution to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” it was deliberate. Pistorius did not have to prove his version of events to the court. How though do you prove beyond reasonable doubt that an act that was deliberate when the only 2 witnesses involved were the accused and the woman that he shot and killed? It seemed proving premeditation was always going to be difficult. And so it proved. Whilst delivering her judgement,  Judge Masipa says “the state failed to prove its allegation that Oscar Pistorius deliberately murdered his girlfriend after an argument, providing…. only circumstantial evidence which was not strong. …..his actions were not consistent with someone who intended to commit murder.”  There is outcry at the decision, many see it as another case of a mans word being taken over a womans yet again and there are experts who believe the judge came to the wrong decision etc. But I see it as Reeva Steenkamp being failed by the way the legal system is set up. We want to believe the victims, we want to side with them, we want them to get justice. We can voice our views freely and rally around them. Judges don’t have that luxury and that is not what they are there to. They are there to listen to the case, listen to the arguments, determine the facts, look at what the law says then make a decision. As former judge Willem Heath put it:

[Many] lawyers think that she missed the point, that she did not interpret the law correctly, that she did not analyse the facts correctly, but when you consider the judgement, it is evident from that that she considered the facts, that she considered the law, and that’s all that she’s required to do. There’s a lot of criticism, they thought she should have convicted the accused of murder, therefore there’s a lot of unhappiness. But I’m of the view that that’s really subjective. If the lawyers would apply their minds as they’re supposed to do, they should analyse the circumstances and find themselves in the same position she found herself in,”

Pierre de Vos, Cape Town University law professor tweeted: “The law is not an exact science. Reasonable people can disagree on how it should be applied in a case” and legal experts (and non legal experts) will debate this endlessly I suspect. It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and theorize what we would do if we were the judge.  I think my friend may be being a bit harsh when he posted “From what I’ve gathered the main problem was Pistorius being judged not guilty in a court of law, rather than guilty by the mob rule expressed on Facebook. I didn’t realise the good people on here were such experts in the fine detail of South African trial law…” but I think he’s right; we can judge using our emotions, law judges can’t. Oscar Pistroius still faces a potentially lengthy prison sentence for being found guilty on the (admittedly lesser) charge of culpable homicide, so I can’t buy into the argument that him being found not guilty of murder shows that women don’t matter. Not guilty doesn’t necessarily mean he is innocent, just that there wasn’t enough evidence to find him guilty.

When it comes to cases that reach court though, I’m not sure what the options are. Less than 1% of rape and abuse claims have been shown to be made up so the odds of a woman lying about it is extremely remote so do we re-define what reasonable doubt means? Do we push the emphasis onto the defendant to prove their innocence? Whilst mindful of the slippery slope fallacy, I don’t like where those would potentially lead.  We may not like it but people being accused of things are entitled to a fair hearing, where their version is heard and all the evidence is brought together to be ruled on by a legal expert or before a jury of their peers. As I put above, there is often not much additional evidence beyond the victims word. Is declaring someone guilty, and all the consequences that come with that, solely on the word of their accuser and dishing out punishment where we want to head?

The conclusion of this case has left us exactly where we started really. Women are still being beaten, abused and killed because they are women; men and women are told they must act in a certain way in order to be a man and a woman and are bullied (or worse) if they do not conform to society’s demands. All the while society doesn’t see anything wrong in that because it has always happened. There is a massive re-education project that needs to happen to get society to open its eyes and do something about it. Whilst excuses are made, nothing will change and waiting for these instances of abuse to reach court is far too late. We need to do more than reduce abuse cases by putting abusers in jail, we need to change everything about the way women are seen and treated, and the way men feel they have to act in order to be men.

I get the anger at the decision, I get the comparisons to defenses men have made to justify their actions when abusing women; but I’m also a big believer in judging each case on its merits. Reeva Steenkamp was failed because the prosecution was not able show beyond reasonable doubt on premeditation which they were required to do under the eyes of the law. Judge Masipa did not rule that Reeva Steenkamp caused it to happen, the blame lies squarely at the feet of Oscar Pistorius.

References:

What can I do?

I’m sorry. My responses are limited. You must ask the right questions – Dr. Alfred Lanning, I Robot

Different but equal. That’s the phrase that gets used often during discussions regarding gender equality. It sounds catchy, but doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what it means to be a woman, to be a man, to be a person.

There is a lot of discussion going on at the moment regarding the role of women in the church, but these discussions are not just limited to just the church. In November 2012, #1reasonwhy was launched to discuss the lack of women in the video games industry; a problem that affects virtually all industries. As the video gaming website Gamespot showed in the comments they received, there is a massive problem with attitudes towards women but as they also showed, there are those that will stand up to those attitudes and condemn them [1]. Problem is, with the current situation, the people most in a position to do something about it are men, and it’s the attitudes of those men that are causing the problem. It’s a vicious circle.

The focus is now on how we move forwards and break that circle, which is where we then run into other problems; not the least of which the question that is trying to be answered. The way the question is phrased, what is the role of women in church/society?, is immediately defining their role in separate terms to the role of men; so the question is causing the very hurdle it’s trying to get over. So what question should we be asking? Based on the above paragraph I would start with “how do we change attitudes?” Given the whole discussion is embedded on the premise of assigned roles based on gender, I’d say we need to start breaking down that premise which come in 2 parts; roles for each gender and those roles being assigned. We are very adverse (and rightly so) to society roles being forced on us. To quote Neo from The Matrix; the problem is choice. More accurately though, it’s lack of choice. To assign roles based purely on gender is to say a particular gender is not capable of performing in such a role and cutting down choices. It effectively reduces people to biological components which does zero justice to what makes people, well, people. It actually demeaning. The notion of assigning also suggests control. We are all under the control of someone in some measure at some time. I am under the control of my boss because she’s my boss and assigns me work and I have to answer to her if it doesn’t get done; but my job isn’t off limits to anyone because of their gender, no one has said “you can’t do this because you’re a man”. That only applies to biology; and getting social constructs out of biology has rarely ended well (I don’t need to cite the obvious example).

In order to fix a problem though, you first need to acknowledge there is one. This is not an easy step; experiences and attitudes become engrained and are very hard to shift. I don’t believe you can expect everyone to just suddenly change their minds. I’m not defending such views but I do think we need to be realistic, change is not easy. If people refuse to accept there’s a problem and change, well that’s their problem, but we shouldn’t make things worse by uninformed and half thought out solutions. I am very well aware that some may put this piece in these categories. Experts are consulted on problems because of their knowledge experience, it’s that experience that makes them experts. In this case the experts are women; they’re the ones on the receiving end of this injustice, they’re the ones in the middle of it.  Whilst they need allies in men, us men need to stop and listen for a bit and start asking the right questions. We don’t appear to have helped the situation in the past and have indeed caused it. I know that’s a mass generalization but I think it’s very true. I need to take my own advice though.

So this is my question; what can I do? What can my role be?

 

References:

http://www.gamespot.com/videos/feedbackula-sexism-special/2300-6400852/

Rattled cages

With everything that kicked off on Twitter involving Calvin and Rachel Held Evans recently, this seems like a good time to re-post a little piece I did back in June.

 

There are many blogs and articles on the internet, putting forward arguments for why God does not disapprove of loving same sex relationships and why he does not have a problem with women pastors/vicars/bishops. Hearing these messages come from the pulpit of a church however, seems to make you sit up and take notice. That is what happened this Sunday at church.

A woman, who is going on to be ordained at the end of the month, explained that during her studies she had come to realize that context was vital. In that contextual study, she did not see anything that suggests God has a problem with loving monogamous same sex relationships; or anything to suggest that he has a problem with women teachers. She went to tell the story of a woman who had been through a lot of pain but was clearly filled with love for God and his spirit, studying the scriptures to be ordained…..but she will not be for 1 reason; she is gay. She described it as a tragedy, I describe it as a disgrace.

It was quite simply the best sermon I have heard; not because I agreed with every word of it but because it was a sermon that said things that actually need saying. The vicar was obviously displeased when he said “thank you for the challenge, I don’t completely agree with everything but thank you for the challenge” I was not bothered by this point, I was pretty much on my feet in applause. During the peace where we greet each other, I went over to her and thanked her for what she said. She had rattled some cages and knew she had upset people. Having been embroiled in both these discussions for sometime, I knew what she could expect. No one though, said standing up for what you believe in would be easy.

To say that a woman or someone who is gay cannot serve God, is to say they are not good enough to. This is the message being given out by the church and this was the point of the sermon; we need to look beyond these things and the church needs to as well. It needs to stop putting people down and stop getting in the way of God. This is the message that needs to come from the pulpit.

 

First published 2nd June 2013