My story

I became a Christian when I was 13. It through a friend at school who had invited me to a lunchtime club run by the biology teacher. She had set up a Christian club and I became part of it.

I wasn’t made to go church as a child but my parents weren’t that bothered when I said I wanted my own bible and started to go to church each week. It seemed a normal thing to do and felt I was part of something good.

I felt that I mattered and that was the key to understanding why I got so involved. I felt I could be myself. The joker who made people laugh. I was desperate to learn new things. I got involved in a local church youth club and soon after became friends with some people who I would consider my best friends today.

Soon I became interested in drama and music. Desperate to learn the piano and guitar although my parents refused to get me lessons when I had asked.

Underlying all of this was my sexuality. I know from my teenage years who and what I was. I didn’t go through years and years of trying to discover if I was gay or not. I was gay at that was it.

So after a while came the clash of religion and my sexuality. I would often sit and hear preachers saying that being gay was wrong. I spent time repressing these sexual urges trying to numb them or ignore them thinking that they might fade away.

I spent some time studying for theological training and often heard within this college that homosexuality was caused by a particularly nasty demon and the only what to get rid of this was to go through an exorcism.

You can only imagine what this did to myself esteem as well as growing up in the 80s when the fear of AIDS lurked around and was always mentioned when someone came out. If you were gay you had AIDS.

I had been prayed for many times but my sexuality didn’t go away. I wasn’t interested in girls in that way at all. I tried to see what it was like to have a girlfriend but it didn’t work out.

After spending years in the closet it was only till the age of 23 did I decide to tell my friends about it. They said “they knew anyway” which didn’t really help the internal torment I had suffered for ten years. I just didn’t know how they would react. I was okay with who I was but would they be?

So the ruling last Friday for people of any gender to be able to marry in the USA was a great step towards equality. It doesn’t necessarily mean that tolerance and understand will follow as well. As often has been said there is still a lot of work to do.

I left Christianity behind in the 90s and it was one of the best things I ever did. I no longer had to repress thoughts and feel I was restricted to rules and regulations.

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.

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.

Marriage Equality

A friend of mine said that marriage between two people of the same sex would never happen. They were wrong. Today we celebrate with those people in declaring their love for one another in the marriage ceremony. For myself I never thought the possibility of being gay and getting married would ever be even discussed. I said to myself that my time as a church goer would have to come to an end because people were telling me that being an practising christian and taking part in “homosexual relationships” had no place in the church. I knew that my sexuality wouldn’t change. So it had to go.

Here is a video from Christian Concern about their beliefs and opinions.

“Very little debate … and it’s happened so quickly…” – Month of consolation at all levels means nothing obviously.

“This is really a spiritual issue it’s a problem which goes way beyond what we think about the issues” He is implying that this is a direct disobedience on behalf of the people who believe that same sex marriage is right. He feel that this is evil and a sin.

” … we should look to god and say lord this is what’s happening we feel disturbed about it and we don’t really know what to do please help us … please have mercy on us if we have done something wrong if we are praying on behalf of the rest of the nation … ” – what disturbs me about this sentence is the complete arrogance that his man thinks about others in society. He beliefs that the whole nation has gone in the wrong direction and turned away from God’s laws. No other institution should have a say on marriage. One assumes he must think this about death and other major points in peoples lives.

I think it’s sad that the church has taken so much time, effort and notably money in campaigning against same sex marriage. I would like to know what the Rev Andrew Symes has done to campaign and highlight the suffering of the children in Syria? Or the often ignored problem of domestic violence in the UK, where one million calls where made to the police last year reporting domestic violence and two women a week lose their lives at the hands of an abusive partner.

No wonder the established church is in decline despite it’s denial.

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.

“I do”

The idea of marriage equality certainly has been a contentious one. None more seems to divide people. The idea of people of the same sex seems to some as being immoral and quite oddly against nature.

I have been on twitter for a number of years and take the full opportunity of actually talking to people. People who I have never met. This has led to getting to know people who I would certainly consider as good friends. One of the people I spoke to was David W. Ross. It was only after a while I realised who he was. He was one of the members of 90’s boyband ‘Bad Boys Inc’. I had a crush on two of them at the time. I am not telling you which two.

It was after some time that he said he was releasing a film called ‘I do’. A film which tackles the subject of marriage equality in USA and the certain rights that come with this.

I read the critics. I read IMDB review of the film and what people thought about it. One of the things I have learned over the years is never take other people’s review of films unless you have seen the film yourself.

This was particularly apt to this film. Critics had said there were parts of the film that seems ‘slightly unbelievable’. This is an independent film. It was funded by Ross himself who raised money via various websites. It doesn’t have the huge financial backing like the Hollywood blockbusters. It’s a great film about a subject which is certainly emotive for a lot of people. He should be commended for doing so.

Yes there are continuity errors. Yes the script isn’t totally outstanding but the subject addressed in a sensitive manner. I hope more people like David W. Ross will be producing these films so those who are in the minority can enjoy and be proud.

the barefoot tree

Still grumpy

Gari Wellingham

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