Easter weekend 

I sit here on Maundy Thursday thinking about this holiday weekend, or holy weekend. To Christians it is the most important time in their religious calendar. A time when they remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.

A much talked about event on social media has been the leaders debate. A time where political leaders have their say on the matters that concern them and field questions from the public. All these running up to the general election in just over a months time.

I have always voted in every election I am eligible it a privilege that a democratic process is followed allowing the people to have their say in who runs our country. The laws in this land have been made by our parliament for centuries and this way should continue.

I look at the situation in Indiana. It has brought in a law where businesses have been allowed to turn away anyone who they think is part of the LGBT community. This being under the guise of “religious freedom”. The similar case to the bakery in Northern Ireland where they have refused to make a product which supports gay marriage. They have claimed they cannot do so because of their relgious conscience.

I think of Jesus’ life and trying to come up with situations where he “turned people away” or decided certain people should be excluded from society. Quite the opposite is what the bible tells us. If we are to believe the gospel accounts then he welcomed those who had been “cast aside” and those who were seen as inferior.

What will be the message of the church and its people over this weekend? We don’t mind you coming and being part of our community as long you renounce your “sinful lifestyle”.

This is why I cannot be a part of a group of people who treats anyone as inferior or doesn’t understand what it’s like to grow up in a world where people say you are inheritantly broken or evil. I didn’t choose to be gay just as much as you chose to be straight. Maybe just maybe the church and its followers might think the damage they cause on the holy weekend.

Holy Week reflection 

Despite being a humanist now I still take time to reflect on things during Holy Week. Habits that formed during my time as a member of the Church of England seem to die hard. It is something I have done for on and off for around 30 years.

What am I doing with my life? Are there anything things that need changing. These are questions I do ask myself but it always seems easier to criticise and point out other failings rather than my own.

It’s easy to look at others an judge. I don’t like the way you talk or what you are saying. I don’t like your lifestyle or the priorities you have in life and not worthy of any time.

Do the things that others do have any consequences that could affect your life? If someone steals or murders then it could. This could end in the person being convicted and having to spend time at our majesty’s pleasure and that costs money in an indirect way.

Are we giving to others that would make their life better? Do we give our time and money to help those who are less fortunate that ourselves? If you are making an excuse while you reading this you probably need to.

Reflecting in rather than on Holy Week is a good thing. It makes me think of spring time and new possibilities and chances that we have been given.

What will I try to do more off to better others lives and less of that makes me more of a selfish person. Surely that has to be a good thing.

Sin

Christians believe that sin was brought into the world by Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden of Eden. Man is now separated from God and therefore cannot have a relationship with him. The ultimate punishment is eternity without God. God gave his son so as a sacrifice for the bad things that people have done. A pardon or someone to take the blame.

I struggle with the concept of sin. Not that I don’t understand it but the fact that some Christian’s seem to regard some sins worse than others. As a humanist do believe that actions do have a consequence. Those actions that Christians believe are the most sinful seem to be to have the least consequence. The fact that two men or two women living together will have some sort of consequence on society. To fundamental / evangelical christians they believe that society will break down and the traditional view of marriage is destroyed.

In the UK we have had Civil Partnerships for nearly a decade. It was at the early part of 2014 that marriage equality was given legal assent. But some parts the church still continue to focus their energies on fighting gay rights. I think now it has become an unhealthy obsession to some.

Some of the most damaging of “sins” seem to be over-looked; Domestic abuse, theft, drug trafficking, fraud and sexual crimes. These all have long-lasting consequences for the victim of these acts. Yet the perception is that church isn’t interested in talking about an condemning these in the way that it condemns those people who cannot help who they fall in love with.

“Currently, regular church attendance in the United Kingdom stands at 6% of the population with the average age of the attendee being 51. This shows a decline in church attendance since 1980, when regular attendance stood at 11% with an average age of 37. It is predicted that by 2020, attendance will be around 4% with an average age of 56. This decline in church attendance has forced many churches to close down across the United Kingdom, with the Church of England alone being forced to close 1,500 churches between 1969 and 2002. Their fates include dereliction, demolition and residential conversion.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_Kingdom)

We are a post-christian nation. More people recognising that they have no religion. The concept of sin is an outdated one soon to become a historical notion or philosophical stance.

Church and women

“What an absolute and unequivocal disgrace. The Church of England has become nothing more than the play-thing of government – championing government policies rather than the Gospel it claims to profess.” Writes “StartingTheParty” in today’s Times.

What an odd person this is who is commenting on the ordination of women to the episcopate. Look at the congregations they are made up of mostly woman. Look at the people who run the every day things such an cleaning, cooking, volunteering, church preparation and pastoral support. Women.

The Bible was written by men in and totally different era, culture and country. These people who do not feel they can be governed by the authority of a women contribute to the very misogyny and mistreatment of woman every day across the world. Women are equal as human beings to men. This is a simple but fundemental premise of a civilised and developed nation. The moment when you sub-categorised human beings you devalue them.

Life is sacred and humans are the pinnacle of living creatures. Only those who try to put themselves first will eventually become last.

Reflections

As a reformed Church of England member (I left) I still take time over Holy Week to reflect on life. I think for anyone who does or doesn’t have a religion or any for of faith that reflecting on your life is important. A lot of people will make choices to change things in their life at New Year. I don’t for the fact that it’s after a time of excesses and partying making life decisions isn’t the best time.

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Taking time. Relaxing with music and calmness. I think everyone should have a time that they can reflect on things.

A long time ago

In my youth I felt god calling me to enter into some full time ministry of the church. The idea seemed nice to settle down in a sleepy village like St Mary Mead grow my teeth in buck-toothed fashion and be a vicar.

The issues that surround the ministry didn’t enter my mind. These similar issues of politics where also prevalent in the teaching profession. Dealing with the fallout of back biting, gossip and betrayal.

I didn’t enter the ministry and I left teaching nearly a decade ago. I am glad for both.

Reading an article in the Church Times today I was saddened saddened again that it’s writers still use language which can divide.

“As the first same-sex marriages loom…” This is it’s openly line. Loom? Like a spectre of darkness waiting in the wings ready to cover any unsuspecting victim that maybe unfortunate to be caught in it’s path.

I am not even going to read the rest. I will put a link to it at the bottom of this article so you can read for yourself.

Soon it will be time for the established church to decide on woman bishops. I wonder if there are any out there that this is “looming” upon? Will they see it in the same light as Same Sex Marriage? It is something that the church is careering towards without thought and process?

I won’t ever go back to teaching and I certainly won’t ever go back to being a full time member of the church. I just hope that in due course we can remember those who are looking in and seeing all the negativity.

Lifestyle

One of the best lifestyle choices I made in the past two decades was to stop going to church. It was a combination of factors. It wasn’t about losing a faith but gained a realisation that god doesn’t exist.

Constantly the gay community is bashed over the head when is said that it “makes a lifestyle choice”. Would I choose to be discriminated against? Isolated in society or even put to death for a choice? If I was to say I have chosen this path I would immediately recant knowing that my life could be spared.

Would it really have been a choice that at the age of 13 I would want to hide who I truly am; not even come out to people who are my friends a decade later?

I chose NOT to believe in god. It has made my free from the politics of church. Free from the bickering and backbiting. Free from knowing that if I was to walk through the door I would be immediately be judged for the person whom I want to love.

In the past three years I have met a person who has given more more love and acceptance that the whole of every congregation I have ever been a part of. He hasn’t gossiped about me or made underhand comments to colleagues I once worked with. He has listen. Loved and accepted. He has told me when I have done wrong but in a loving way.

My friends are those who have loved me. Accepted me. Been the ones to wipe the tears. Unlike those congregations I am not ashamed to open my heart and express who I am.

Hallowe’en

When I was a ‘church-goer’ many years ago there was always a hushed moment if you mentioned the word Hallowe’en. If people were to speak about it then it would be in condemnation. No Christian should participate in this unholy of days. I just remember a time when I was young carving out a turnip (no American use of pumpkins) and the smell of the burning as the candle burned the lid. I would plague my neighbours asking ‘penny for hallowe’en’. That was it. There were no sacrifices or drinking blood.

It was only when I became a member of the local church was I discouraged from such practices. It was not something I really thought about until the past few weeks. I have been doing some research and reading into the background of Hallowe’en and tried to grasp perspective from all sides.

I read a book by Owen Davies “Paganism”. Even though it was a short introduction to the subject it was rather dull and many times stated that the facts the author was supposedly presenting about pre-Christian religion most of it were conjecture. What it did though was explain that according to Christian beliefs than any other religion that wasn’t backed by the belief in Jesus Christ as God and saviour were seen as pagan beliefs.

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Unfortunately, there is a belief that “a pagan” is someone who believes in devil worship and an occultist. This simply isn’t true. Some of the church teachings seem to throw in a mix of Hollywood’s portrayal of the devil and stories that have popularised demons and other horror stories.

Looking back Hallowe’en is more about the ending of the agricultural year, giving thanks for the harvest and lighting fires to symbolise the welcoming of the darker part of the year and to remember souls of those who had died. It was seen as a time when the people had the clearest connection between this life and the next.

I have very little superstitious belief. I cannot believe harm can come from this time. I believe humans inflict horrible harm on each other more than supposed ‘demons’ and the ‘devil’.

So whatever and however you are celebrating make sure you have a good one.

Church and “the gays”

I have been watching the Supreme Court case of the Christian B&B owners who have been sued by a gay couple on the grounds of discrimination. I am sure that people in the UK are aware of this case.

There have been long and complicated arguments over the past hour in the court and the one thing that has struck me more than anything else is that it is sad that it has come to this.

The Christian B&B owners are an elderly couple who some would say hold rather conservative and old-fashioned religious beliefs. The argument in the court has been about whether a gay couple would be treated in the same way as a married couple. As this has happened many years ago and the marriage equality act hadn’t been implicated some say that it couldn’t be the same as a married couple and therefore choosing to deny a room to a gay couple is tantamount to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

I feel it is sad that it has come to this point. Very sad. These sort of cases are continually pushed into the media causing hurt and division but I don’t blame the reporting of such cases as they are certainly in the public interest to be heard. What I do feel is the continuing isolation between the mainstream church and gay community is certainly apparent and wrong. Both sides could learn a lot from each other and have a lot to give.

A community where compassion forgiveness and understanding seems to be lacking. The established church is continuing to be increasingly irrelevant not just to young people but to all generations. The Christian argument is that scripture is clear and its moral code and the understanding of this doesn’t change. What the Christian couple have failed to understand is the hurt in which their religious beliefs has caused to the original gay couple involved but to the community.

Murder, rape, torture and child neglect or abuse is morally repugnant and wrong. The majority of a sane normal society would find these acts abhorrent. What the Christian couple have said is they believe that people who are gay are also part of the problem sin and apply this to unmarried straight couples as well. But how many hotels and B&B now in this ‘enlightened’ age would turn away a couple who is unmarried? It would certainly become more difficult to determine whether a straight couple were married compared to a couple who are in a gay relationship.

Also in what circumstances would you impose Christian teachings to someone who is staying in your home? I am sure some wouldn’t allow unmarried couples to share the same bed but would we also expect people to observe sabbatical laws? Or perhaps not to covet the hotel owners shiny new car on their drive?

Let’s face it the church has the biggest hang-up about sex. Particularly sexual relations between people of the same gender. Does the established Church continue to ploughs its beliefs no matter what the consequence or outcome believing in a divine rule or do both sides try to come to a rational and sensible understanding?

My belief is that there should always be dialogue. It’s those who close the door and turn away others that I find morally reprehensible

the barefoot tree

Still grumpy

Gari Wellingham

UK-based musical theatre geek previously living with a brain tumour!