The Troll From Under the Bridge: A Response to Seth Crocker

This is a self-portrait of the Irish Atheist. No, really.

This is a self-portrait of the Irish Atheist. No, really.

Sometimes the troll from under the bridge has something to say.

Sometimes the troll from under the bridge just wants to be heard over the sound of the trip-trip-trapping.

Sometimes the troll from under the bridge never wanted to be there in the first place.

If I sat down with Seth Crocker and he had an ear to listen (unlikely), I might tell him what it’s like to be caught in a war zone. I would tell him about what it was like to walk by peace lines, walls built to divide the warring Catholic and Protestant communities in Belfast. I’d talk about what its like to fear dying in some ignominious manner because you were standing on the wrong street corner. Graffiti scrawled across the walls, screaming for your death. The whispers every day, of more disappearances, more knees shot out in retribution, more deaths. I’d tell him what it sounds like when a car explodes on the street you’re playing on, what a hundred voices raised in a chorus of horror sound like, what the smell of burning shrapnel and congealing blood is like, all because some Christian fanatic wanted attention.

I would tell him what it’s like growing up Romani where your ethnicity is hated, where people say that you have no soul because you’re a stinking Gypsy, and you’re a little boy wondering if it’s true, if you can’t be saved because you don’t have a soul to save. What it’s like to stand in front of the mirror and breathe a prayer of thanks that you’re white enough, that they can’t tell what you are just by looking at you.

I’d tell him what it’s like to move to America, to believe for one shining moment that it’s all over because it’s America. Because Christians don’t kill each other for sport or politics or creeds in America, and being a Gypsy is just a passing curiosity for most, not something you never bring up in unfamiliar company. And then you learn that American Christians are just the same, but they abuse and hurt with so much more glee and enjoyment, and they swaddle it in a cover of love, not because of war, and not because you’re a gypsy, but because you like boys.

And then I’d ask him what it’s like in his ‘war zone.’

You see, Seth Crocker writes a blog called “Building Bridges in War Zones” in which he boasts of being a bridge between the LGBT community and the Christian Church. His goal is reconciliation, a unity which I, as I’ve said, vehemently oppose for the protection of the LGBT community. Crocker is LGBT himself, which is immaterial here. He is also a ‘Side B’ Christian, which is not. I’ve written about ‘Side B’ before, so I’ll just reiterate a few points. Side B refers to the Christian position that homosexuality is disordered and morally deficient, that people who engage in same-sex intimacy and relationships are displeasing to God. But it swaddles it up in a veneer of love and acceptance so that the bigotry of the position is easier to stomach. Side B Christians like Crocker claim to affirm the humanity and value of LGBT people. Just not, you know, those things that make us human.

Recently, Mr. Crocker posted an article on his blog where he describes how hard it is to be a Side B Christian and how he feels like he’s caught in a war zone in the Church. I responded, rather pointedly, about his use of hyperbolic language and how the ‘Side B’ position is a position of religious privilege since it carries the weight of the abusers. Soon enough, I got a notification for a response, only to find that my comment had been swiftly deleted. On his person Twitter, Crocker made a statement that ‘he doesn’t build bridges with trolls.’

Because that’s what we are to Seth Crocker. Just trolls. And in a way, it’s true.

Yes, Seth Crocker. I’m the troll under your bridge. And do you know why I’m here? I’m here because you and your Church and your brothers and sisters in Christ have thrown me down here.

I’m here because all of my life, people like you have made it clear that I’m morally deficient. Because I was a Catholic born in the Republic, because I was Romani, because I was LGBT, it has never mattered, there has always been something.

I’m here because there was never a moment as a child when I wasn’t afraid of Christians. Because to be afraid of dying, of hurting, and to be afraid of your Church was the same thing.

I resent it.

I spoke out against your use of hyperbolic language to describe the difficulty of the position of the abusers because I’m tired of Christians trying to twist their abuse and facilitation of their abuse as some sort of struggle. War zone. Persecution. Militant. A Christian war zone isn’t where you get push-back and anger for telling people that you believe their intimacy and relationships are morally deficient. It’s when a church service reads out names and they last for three hours. You’re a writer, and you should be held accountable for the meaning of the words you use.

And this troll, watching you build a bridge across to the people who tore apart my home and destroyed so many of my communities, is speaking out against your dehumanisation of people like me.

If you state publicly that you believe same-sex intimacy is morally disapproved of by your god, you have dehumanised my intimacy. Once you’ve done that, you’ve dehumanised my relationships. Once you’ve done that, you’ve dehumanised me. And once that’s done, it doesn’t matter what I say. I will always just be a troll, because I’m not even human anymore.

You can decide that celibacy is your personal calling, but y9u cannot cite the moral superiority of Side B as a reason without contributing to the moral shaming that has been inflicted by so many.

I’m the troll beneath your bridge, Seth Crocker, but I’m not alone. There are so many of us here, thrown down beneath the bridge-builders. To you, we may just be trolls, but down here we’re still dying. While you lament how hard it is to be ‘Side B,’ these people are dying.

Seo iad mo mhuintir.

‘I don’t build bridges with trolls.’

Be honest, Mr. Crocker. You don’t build bridges with people like me.

So when you contribute to the moral shaming we’ve endured so long, Seth Crocker, this troll will always speak out. When you do it publicly, I will respond publicly. With anger and vehemence if I must because I’m not your nice little Christian applauding you from the other side of the gully.

Mr. Crocker: You can hold me as morally deficient because I don’t listen to the commands of your god and dare to fall in love other people no matter what their gender is. You can hold me as a troll for feeling the pain that your words rake across the scars on my back that have been there literally all my life.

But in return, I hold you to the same moral level as Jen Hatmaker, John Piper, Al Mohler, and every other Christian who thinks they can love people while morally shaming them for who they are.

I hold you to the same moral level as Alan Chambers, , Don Schmierer, Scott Lively, Bryan Fischer, Julie Rodgers, Tony Perkins, and every Christian who has facilitated and profited off the psychological torture of thousands of adults and children.

I hold you to the same moral level as the butchers of my people, who filled the gutters of Omagh and Belfast and Derry with blood.

Not because your actions are comparable, but because your theology is more important to you than our human dignity.

This is not a theological debate, it is not a disagreement at the table, it’s people’s lives and families and relationships and the screams of every man, woman and child trapped under this bridge you are paving above us.

Tá tú,tá tú ag teacht go dtí an crann?
Sa chás crochadh siad fear a rá siad dúnmharaíodh trí.

(Are you, are you, coming to the tree?).

I am your troll, Seth Crocker, but I won’t allow you or your ‘theological positions’ to continue to dehumanise myself and my people. Not without speaking up. Not without speaking loudly. Not until we’re all roaring out from under this bridge.

Picture via http://www.lotr.wikia/trolls

 

6 Reasons LGBT People Should Leave the Church

abandoned-church-milford

Being an LGBT Christian, or an LGBT person in a Christian environment, can be a literal nightmare. I know. I was there once.

Abomination, reprobate. Broken, confused, degenerate, pervert. Going to hell, going to get AIDS, child molester, child recruiter. Fix yourself, fix yourself, better fix yourself or you’ll burn in hell.

I heard it. I felt it. Even as a secret apostate in an Evangelical high school, I knew they were talking about me. I was scared. I was confused. I was afraid that someone found out, I’d lose my home, and my family, and all of my friends. No one wants to be a queer lover.

By all the gods I didn’t believe in, I was so scared to be gay.

There were times I thought I was straight. Times I was afraid I was turning gay. I wasn’t afraid because I believed that there was some devll in a white suit waiting to string me up on the rack after I died. I was afraid because I thought the halls of my high school were the world. I was afraid because there was no one there to tell me, “It gets better.”

(And then I grew up and I found out that bisexuality was something other than the porn my roommate liked to watch and oooooooooh).

I’m not afraid anymore. I escaped. I grew up. I left that abusive environment and found out the truth. I found out that I wasn’t broken. I found out that I didn’t need to fixed. I discovered that what I felt, who I loved, wasn’t less normal, just less common. No longer ashamed of myself, no longer hiding myself, and no longer afraid.

Instead, I’m angry. I am angry at the spiritual environment I grew up in. I’m angry at the Christian Church. The organisation that claims to be the most loving, most generous, most caring group of people in existence.

I’m speaking up.

I’m angry at the lies, and I’m angry at the abuse, and I’m angry at the whitewashed vernier of piety and moralism that has justified the abuse of LGBT people for decades. I’m angry that there are people who defend it and people who facilitate it, and people who justify it. I’m angry that Christianity has had 2,000 years to put its claims of loving your fellow man into action and they still can’t get it right. Or perhaps they don’t want to. And I’m angry that there are LGBT people in the Church who continue in this path of terrorism against other LGBT people.

These are problems that deserve anger, and they’re problems that deserve to be addressed.

These are the reasons that I am saying this to LGBT Christians. I’m saying it as I would to any other individual who is in an abusive environment or an abuse-facilitating environment.

Leave your church.

Leave that environment,

Get out. Stop promoting, stop facilitating spiritual abuse against other people. Against yourself. You can leave and you should and here’s a few reasons why.

1. Christianity is based upon an immoral and horrific theology of abuse against LGBT people.

The so-called ‘clobber verses’ are repeated ad nauseum by anti-gay Christians in their quest to stigmatise LGBT people. But they’re worth repeating because they carry an altogether nasty and monstrous message. Remember, if you’re LGBT (or as LGBT as they understood it a couple of millenia ago), the Bible states that:

You are an abomination (Leviticus 18:22)

The crime of being gay is punishable by death (Leviticus 20:13)

You are unnatural (Romans 1:26-28)

You are incapable of salvation and will be eternally tortured because of your gayness. (1 Corinthians 6: 9-11)

And before anyone jumps in to say that no one truly believes this, check yourself. I’m sure most of you have encountered the vile recent sermon by Baptist Pastor Steven Anderson claiming that if we executed all LGBT people like the Bible commands we would have an AIDS free Christmas, (I refuse to post any link to his material here). I’m sure many of you are aware of people like Peter LaBarbera, Bryan Fischer, and Tony Perkins who openly advocate for the recriminalisation of homosexuality under ‘sodomy’ laws. I’m sure the name Scott Lively is familiar, the man who helped facilitate the bill in Uganda that mandated the death penalty for LGBT people.

These are the people who are following the words of the Bible the most accurately. These are the ones who are taking it seriously, and that’s extremely telling. And these are not anomalies. These people represent a huge amount of American Christians who believe that persecution against LGBT people is a Biblical mandate. And they’re right.

In the interest of fairness, there’s a growing revisionist movement among some Christians to reinterpret the clobber verses. People like Matthew Vines argue that the verses were misinterpreted, that they’re taken out of context, that it doesn’t really mean what it says. You know, what Christians do whenever there’s something in the Bible that’s uncomfortable or inconvenient. I understand what Vines and others are trying to do. I really do. And I appreciate it. I appreciate that they’re trying to create a world in which queer kids can sit in a pew and not hear that they’re broken and doomed to hell because of the natural orientation. It’s a worthy goal.

But it isn’t going to change what the Bible says about people like me, about millions of people. LGBT Christians are part of an organisation that’s based on a theology and a scripture that commands their execution. No matter how many reinterpretations there are, any LGBT Christian can open up their Bible and find exactly how they’re going to suffer eternally. This is wrong. It’s wrong as the Bible was wrong about slavery, and genocide, and rape, and the roles of women in the house. Christianity is abusive because the Bible itself is inherently abusive.

2. The church has a deep, long history of spiritual abuse against LGBT people.

This one point could go on for pages. It would list how the Christians have been at the forefront of every civil rights violation concerning LGBT people. It would talk about DADT, about the Briggs initiative, and about the AIDS crisis and Jerry Falwell. It would talk about Matthew Shepard and Rebecca Wight. It would talk about the 40% rate of LGBTs among homeless youth. It would talk about reparative therapy. For pages and pages it would talk about reparative therapy and the psychological torture and abuse heaped on LGBT people, children, justified by the lie that ‘change is possible.’

Consider this. There were no LGBT affirming churches before the 1970’s, at least none that weren’t created specifically for LGBT people That means that every single Christian denomination and congregation that existed for more than 40 years has been, on some level, abusive towards LGBT people. That’s a pretty damning statement. As support for the civil rights of LGBT people increases, Christians are left scrambling to catch up, lest they be faced with empty pews. In their desperation, both affirming and non-affirming congregations struggle to convince LGBT people and allies that they’re not abusive, that they’ve never been abusive, or that they’ve evolved. That they’ve changed.

Anything with such a heavy history of often horrific abuse should be approached with extreme caution, whether that’s an individual or an institution. Saying “I’ve changed” doesn’t cut it. Trying to whitewash an abusive history is even worse.

Why should LGBT people leave the Church? Because Christianity has hardly begun to make up for it’s years of abuse. It hasn’t washed the blood of hundreds or thousands of LGBT kids off its hands. It’s about time the Church learned to live with the consequences of its actions, rather than bleating “But we’re not like that NOOOOOW!”

3. ‘Non-affirming’ is spiritual abuse.

You are not ‘non-affirming.’ You are spiritually abusive. You are not a ‘Side B’ Christian. You are spiritually abusive.

Pressuring, advising, or teaching people that they must remain celibate to stay ‘right with God’ is spiritual abuse. Telling people that their sexuality is flawed, that their families and relationships are disordered, is spiritual abuse. Destroying families, making people hate an intrinsic, natural part of themselves that they cannot change, is spiritual abuse. And its monstrous.

That means that even nice-seeming people like Jen Hatmaker who insists that she really, really, does love gays but just theologically opposes their lives and families, is complicit in spiritual abuse of the LGBT community. The people who insist that they’re warning you about how broken and terrible you are because of love are spiritually abusive.

There is no reason to stay in such an environment. It’s dangerous. It’s harmful. It’s especially harmful for gay youth. When they see LGBT Christians minimalising and trying to reconcile themselves with ‘non-affirming’ abusive Christians, it validates the spiritual abuse the Church is so awash in. It sends the message that non-affirming Christians hold a legitimate alternate view in that LGBT people are inherently disordered and need to fix themselves. This facilitates further abuse.

4. Even ‘affirming churches often have an agenda.

Consider the NALT (Not All Like That) Christians Project. The NALT Christians Project is a sort of Christian version of ‘It Gets Better.’ It’s run by straight Christian John Shore. Christians upload videos affirming LGBT people and their relationships and assuring any watching LGBT individuals that ‘not all Christians are like that.’ ‘That’ being abusive, bigoted, anti-gay Christians, of course. A worthy endeavour? It could have been.

But take a look at NALT’s ‘About‘ page and the true motive behind their affirmation is revealed. On the page are listed NALT’s goals. The first goal, the very first and most important point on the list, reads a such:

“To refute the widespread belief that Christianity is synonymous with anti-gay bigotry.”

Forget helping LGBT people escape abusive environments. Forget their needs at all. According to John Shore and his team, the most important mission of the NALT project is the reputation of his religion. It’s not about LGBT people, it’s about Christianity. It’s about how people think about his religion. It’s about countering the popular opinion that the Christian Church is bigoted after decades of the Christian Church being bigoted. It’s selfish, it’s egotistical, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to call a man like Shore an ally when that’s the first item on his site’s manifesto.

But it doesn’t stop there. For example, this recent article from Bedlam Magazine. Another straight Christian man, Cory Copeland writes that the Church needs to target the LGBT community and get them back inside and into the pews. Why? Because they have so much to offer!

“From bringing the AIDS virus to national attention to fighting for their equal rights to joining forces with other maligned groups to ensure the future they’re working so hard for will welcome them freely. That’s what our Church needs: that fight, that passion, that drive….The Church needs the LGBT community today. Right now. We need that fire. That passion. That commitment. That loyalty.”

Again, nothing about ministering to LGBT people or remedying the evil culture of abuse that Christianity fosters. It’s all about what LGBT people can do for Cory Copeland. It’s about what the Church gets out of them. It treats LGBT people like baubles to adorn the Christian Church with their ‘passion’ and ‘commitment.’ Conveniently forgetting the LGBT people don’t owe Copeland, or any Christian for that matter, shit.

These are not isolated incidents. These are prevalent views in the more progressive church. I’ll  be blunt, I’m never anything else. ‘Affirming’ does not mean ‘safe.’ It does not mean ‘healing.’ It does not mean that you are not still an agenda, a goal, a target, or a decorative feature. And LGBT people continue to deserve better than what Christians like Shore and Copeland are offering.

5, The Christian Church is more interested in ‘reconciliation’ than actually helping LGBT people.

I’m no opponent of reconciliation in general. I’ve spent as much of my time and resources as I can working in programmes meant to foster reconciliation in my home country. I understand how tough of a battle it is to bring together two groups of people who have despised each other for so long. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. I’ve fought to make it happen.

But the reconciliation that Christians are advocating for is not the sort that’s happening back in Ireland. It’s not between two groups of people who spent three decades literally slaughtering one another over real or perceived slights. In the relationship between the Christian Church and the LGBT community, there are two different dynamics; the oppressed and the oppressor. There can be no reconciliation between these two groups of people until the oppressors are taught that they cannot continue to malign their victims and they learn to accept that.

So as I’ve said before, there is no ‘Third Way’ on the LGBT ‘issue.’ There is no coming to the table with these people. If it is more important to Christians that Side A and Side B are able to worship and commune together than insuring that LGBT people are in a safe and non-abusive environment, then LGBT lives will continue to be second-class. And people will continue to die because of the sneering hatred of those they’re supposed to rub shoulders with. If they cannot find a safe place at the Christian communal table, the table should be abandoned.

6. They celebrate the people who make a living off abusing us.

I’m talking about Franklin Graham who claims that the homosexuals don’t adopt children, they recruit. I’m talking about John MacArthur, who encourages parents to abandon and ostracise their gay children. I’m talking about Mark Driscoll who mocked and maligned ‘effeminate’ men. I’m talking about people like Alan Chambers and Julie Rodgers who literally ran and was a spokesperson for a torture clinic that destroyed thousands of lives and now, in the case of Rodgers, actually councils LGBT youth at Wheaton College. Counsels them, when she used to speak on behalf of the people who made a living psychologically torturing them.

There is so much LGBT blood on the hands of Christian leaders. So much. And they will never be held accountable for it. They will never have to answer for it. Christians have demonstrated this time and time again. They will always have support in the Church. And they will always have a voice. And these voices mingle in an unholy chorus that foster this wretchedly spiritual abusive environment.

The only way this is going to end is if LGBT people stop fucking listening to them.

So what’s the point?

I can’t save the entire LGBT community from spiritual abuse with one blog post, and it’s not my place to. If you’re an LGBT person who’s happy and comfortable in your Christian faith, this post is not for you. Well, not like you think. I am speaking to the people who are trapped or tricked into this sort of environment, through spiritual or emotional manipulation and abuse. I mean to make it clear that it is abuse. That it’s not love and it’s not care and it’s not a simple disagreement. It is abuse. And you should leave. A battered wife doesn’t need to wait for her husband to come around. An abused child doesn’t need to stay and try and fix things. And neither do you. You can leave. You should leave. For yourself, and so others might have the courage to follow.

And to all Christians, LGBT or otherwise who promote and advocate Christianity, this post is for you. To tell you that you don’t have an excuse anymore. To abuse, to facilitate abuse, to minimalise abuse, or to portray abuse as something that victims can co-exist beside. You have no fucking excuse anymore. There’s so much blood on your doorstep that you have to clean up first.

And to those who might say I have no right to tell LGBT Christians what they should do or how they should live out their faith because I’m not part of your community? Seriously, go fuck yourself. I don’t need to be a chef to know when food is shit, and I don’t need to still be a part of a community to call out abuse in that community. I swore that I would never let what happened in the nation of my birth happen in the nation of my adoption without speaking up. I’m not that helpless ten year old gypsy kid anymore.

The wonderful news is, LGBT people in America have a much higher percentage of secularism than other communities. 47% of LGBT people in America identify as non-religious. This is amazing. This is a triumph over the Christian abuse culture. This number needs to be higher. The separation of Church and LGBT community should be encouraged, fostered, and advocated for, because each person out is another one saved from all that abuse.

You had 2,000 years, Christians. You couldn’t get it right. You’ve lost this community, and you’ve lost most of them for good. And for every stride you make, for every LGBT person you try to keep a hold of to control, manipulate, and misuse, I and people like me will be there every step of the way to say it again and again.

It gets better, it is better, and you are worth more.

Picture via heidlblog.net

When I Was A Boy In Belfast

belfast_aerial Many of my posts are responsive. I hear about an event or incident or encounter an argument and I respond on my blog with my thoughts. This is not one of those posts.

This post is a love letter to my favourite city in the world, Belfast.

Sometimes it’s easy to talk about Belfast. And sometimes it’s very hard. There’s much about the city to love. My mother’s family calls Belfast and the surrounding suburbs and villages home, and as a child I would spend days, weeks, sometimes a month or more there at a time. Travelling between my home in the Republic of Ireland and my family’s home in Northern Ireland presented challenges of its own, but I always loved Belfast. I loved the perfume of salt and briny sea mingled with the steel and oil of the Harland and Wolff shipyards. Coloured boats dotting the sea, people yelling with strange tongues wearing stranger clothes, the regal facades of the old municipal buildings, the severity of the church architecture, the life and colour and vibrancy of the gypsy enclaves, and the music, oh the music and the dancing and the laughter and the craic. Belfast was beatha, an baile, an gra.

But none of us ever forget that Belfast is a city defined by conflict. Even today when you walk through the city you walk along the peace lines, walls erected in 1969 to separate the warring Catholic and Protestant factions. The Troubles murals glare down at you, fierce and fresh and plastered in pain and loss. Belfast as a child was life, and it was death. It was pipe bombs and barbed wire. It was empty beds and blood in the gutters, shattered windows and shattered kneecaps. Belfast was Protestant gangs breaking the windows of Catholic boarding schools and throwing in firecrackers and cherry bombs, laughing and hooting at the screams of the young girls inside. Belfast was graffiti spray painted across a door, calling for the death of this tribe or that religion or this political ideology. Belfast was a blast of hot air and shrapnel flying through the streets. It was the cold bead of ice in your stomach when you went to the market for milk and fish and bread and you wondered Am I going to turn a corner and die because someone with a religious-political grudge wants to make a statement?

belfast falls road murals2

Belfast and its people are a seed that fell into the mud from the hands of empire and took root. Trampled and ignored and dismissed until new growth took hold and a strong sapling stood in the soil and the world asked where did that come from?

Belfast is bullet holes and new trees, three hundred years of war and sixteen years of peace.

My life in the city, among the Irish and the British and the Romani, taught me so many lessons, but three of them have stayed with me stronger than the others.

Belfast taught me about Church.

“There’s only two sacraments a Protestant needs,” said a deacon to a relative when I was within earshot. “A bullet in the left knee and a bullet in the right.”

I was seven or eight years old but the lesson stuck with me. I was Catholic. That was good. Protestants are bad. They are the enemy. They are not Us.

ygtz8S0But my mother is a Protestant, I couldn’t help but think. And my sisters, and my grandmum isn’t even Christian. But they were the good kind of Protestants, so I thought. They were in America already. They weren’t the Protestants who marched through the Catholic neighbourhoods with war chants and banners. They were fine.

I hoped.

Red letters were scrawled on the walls with lurid paint as I walked from the bus station to a dance competition. KAT KAT KAT!

Kill All Taigs, Kill All Taigs, Kill All Taigs.

I was a Taig, because a Taig was a Catholic. They wanted to Kill All Taigs and I knew they meant me. The deacon was right. Protestants were bad, and dangerous, and they would kill you if they could.

Then one bright afternoon the bomb went off in Omagh and twenty-nine people were dead in the streets and it was Catholics, it was Catholics who set off the bomb and oh gods there was nowhere to go and we weren’t safe. And some churches were ashamed and some were furious and some ignored it and a few were quietly pleased.

I was ten years old.SONY DSC

Belfast taught me about Church. It taught me that I wasn’t safe.

Belfast taught me about heresy.

Someone I knew as a very young man was raped by a Catholic clergyman. I didn’t find out until years after the fact, when the family was moving away and the victim’s brother whispered to me that there was a counselor in Dublin who would help his brother because someone had done something to him and he was a faggot now. But the person who had…done things had moved. Where to, he didn’t know, but he didn’t go to jail or anything, he said. The family was too ashamed and the parish wouldn’t – couldn’t – didn’t let it get out.

I was thirteen years old.

clonard new facade bright sky 1 mediumI went to someone I trusted. Someone in the church, even though I no longer considered myself to be a part of the church. I told him what I knew. I told him how angry I was. I told him I wanted to do something, I don’t know what, something. Something to make them pay for hurting my friend’s brother, because I knew what it was like and how could they let someone get away with doing that to a fecking kid?

I received a lesson in forgiveness. About why we are called to forgive others. About why it’s best to leave somethings in the past and give forgiveness for transgressions, because when we don’t forgive others we are not forgiven ourselves, and are outside the fold of the Good Shepherd.

I didn’t forgive. I walked straight out of that fold.

And soon after I stood in front of a church building in Belfast much later at night than I was technically allowed to be out. It was late, no one was around, but there were lights inside the building and the stained-glass glowed like so many crystal jewels. The Virgin was staring down at me, her face soft and hands folded and eyes dark like coals. There were angels and apostles too, I think, but I remember her most of all,

In my hand, I held half a brick. I stared, and she stared back, and rage pounded through my temples, and she stayed serene and I raised my fist and hers was already raised.

As I held the brick up, my imagination gave her a voice in my head. Turn the other cheek. Let him who has no sin cast the first stone. Forgive, forgive, forgive.

I threw the brick.

And in my rage and my spite and the dark of the night, I missed. The brick broke apart against the stone wall and the crack echoed through the night and I ran as fast as my legs could carry me back home.

I’ve learned my lesson about vandalism and the willful destruction of property since then. I’ve learned how to turn anger into activism, rage into resolution, But on that cold night, if my emotions were given power, a hundred thousand churches around the world would have been nothing but smoking craters.

And in my darkest, most honest moments…I’m glad I threw the brick.

Belfast taught me that it doesn’t matter who you defend or what you believe. You’re always going to be a heretic to someone.

Belfast taught me about grace.

Grace: n, (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. (Merriam-Webster dictionary).

I recently had two separate conversations with Christian authors Rachel Held Evans and Benjamin Corey. They covered whether or not all sins were equal in Christianity, what made or didn’t make a True Christian, what the definition of Christian even is, and why it matters. They gave me good thoughts, explained some of their Christian doctrine with patience and good humour and I got some varied and quite diverse opinions.

(Except when I quoted a verse from the book of Romans, then was the response was identical literally verbatim, Look at you quoting your Bible!, thank you, thank you, it’s my best parlour trick).

Thinking of the Christians I had grown up with, the best and the worst, I led up to the question ‘Can a person be a Christian and a terrorist?’ After all, if a person can lie, cheat, steal, gossip, covet, and lust while remaining a true, if imperfect, Christian, why does that not apply to the worst of sins -murder, destruction, and terror? In this, Rachel and Ben were both in agreement. There are some things that exclude an individual from being a follower of Jesus, even if they claim otherwise. While I define a true Christian as someone who claims and believes in the label, they were in disagreement.

It didn’t change my opinion, or theirs, but that wasn’t an expectation between any of us. However, as I thought more on the conversation, the question I didn’t ask continued to nag at me.

What if you’re wrong?

What if a terrorist really is a Christian? What if the grace Christians so fervently believe in, the gift they want everyone to receive, is something a terrorist can already possess?

What if grace doesn’t just apply to the blogger who belittles you and insults you online, or the abusive pastor who disdains and degrades women, or the person with a voice and authourity who actively hurts an already wounded community? What if grace means that a person who is so twisted and perverted by his religion and his politics that he leaves children lying in pieces in a bombed out street has received grace? What if he’s already at the table? What if it doesn’t matter?

Does that cheapen grace, if its given to the worst of us even when every synapse in our brain says ‘no, no, not him, anyone but him, look at who he is, look at what he’s DONE!’ Or does it enrich it?

I don’t believe in deities, and that’s not going to change any time soon. I don’t believe in church or Church. I don’t believe in sins or the forgiveness of them, I don’t believe in salvation or the eternal soul or heaven or hell.index

But sometimes I almost think that I believe in grace.

I believe in grace because I love Belfast, and more important I love it’s people. All of them. We are flawed, tribal, broken and healed time and time again and I can’t help them love them.

I believe in grace because I’m still a thirteen year old boy filled with hatred and anger, but there are fingers who are prying the brick out of my hand and some of those fingers belong to the religion I’m so angry at.

Belfast taught me about grace because it showed me grace, and showed me how to give it.

Belfast. Béal Feirste. Mother to a godless, grace-filled heretic, and I couldn’t be more proud of it.

Also we have Game of Thrones, so #winning.

The Spirit of Driscoll Lives On in the Bullying of Others

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The Man has fallen.

If you’re at all active in the religious blogospheres, you know who I’m speaking about. In a move that surprised his church elders and absolutely no one else, Mark Driscoll has stepped down from his position as lead pastor of the Mars Hill Church industry. Haunted by a string of accusations ranging from plagairism to spiritual abuse to misappropriation of church funds, Driscoll stated in his resignation letter that he believed that stepping down was for the good of his family and his ministry. Coincidentally, the board that he personally appointed also found that none of his actions excluded him from ministry in the future, so The Return of the Dudebro Pastor might already be in preproduction.

The reactions to Driscoll’s resignation haven’t been a surprise. There are those who are satisfied and relieved by his fall, and those who argue that people shouldn’t be satisfied and relieved. There are those who finally feel like their years of abuse and hurt are vindicated, and those who insist Driscoll’s victims should be working on forgiving him.

But my purpose here isn’t to gloat about Driscoll’s downfall (I did that privately with a few shots of Jameson), or to again reiterate his long list of offences. It’s to focus on whether Driscoll’s departure from Mars Hill Church matters in the long run. Was it a victory? Was it a step forward? Does it really make a difference?

After deliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that it does. And it doesn’t.

Which is maddeningly unhelpful, I know.

With a congregation of tens of thousands and a Twitter following of almost half a million, Driscoll was an extremely popular and well-known face of the misogynistic, homophobic, dudebro, Jesus-was-armed-and-dangerous Calvinistic movement. The loss of such a charismatic and dynamic leader (whatever you may think of him, Driscoll was both these things) is a large blow to his brand. But the legacy of Driscoll has hardly disappeared with his face. Driscoll trained pastors. He trained men to be rude like him, crude like him, bully others like him, put people down and shame them like him. This method of ministry has leaked out into the Christian world, and the Spirit of Driscoll is evident every time you watch Christians interact on the internet.

I saw this occur two days ago with a Twitter user who goes by the handle of @kingjimmy1982. He also blogs here. Two days ago, Jimmy was debating the role of patriarchy in Christianity with another individual. Frustrated that his opponent didn’t immediately reverse his position when confronted with the fact that not everyone agreed, Jimmy had this to say.

“it’s gotta stink making a living running your mouth and speaking do ignorantly. Seriously, go get a real job”

Now, of course, it’s not bullying to accuse someone of ignorance, provided that you can back up your claims. It is, however, bullying to put someone down, mock them, or harass them for their chosen occupation. When I pointed out Jimmy’s bullying behaviour and rather sarcastically pointed out that it was completely without the grace and humility that Christians are supposed to act with, Jimmy said – in all seriousness – “I’m proud of my humility. Thanks!”

It was followed by an appeal to the Christian persecution complex when he sarcastically thanked me for not judging him.

It’s a typical Christian attitude. Anything I say is in the Spirit of Christ as long as I personally say it is, in not so many words. And remember, mocking and putting someone down for their career isn’t bullying but calling it out as such is taking the low road and being judgemental

However, the interaction soon leveled up in both aggression and bizarreness when Jimmy proceeded to accuse me of calling him out on bullying solely because the individual he attacked ‘appeared gay.’

This was, of course, very reminiscent of the now infamous Mark Driscoll Facebook post where he called upon his followers to mock effeminate-appearing worship leaders. When I remarked on the homophobic nature of judging people as ‘looking gay,’ Jimmy quickly backpedaled, claiming that it wasn’t that he looked gay, but that he seemed to be gay because he supported LGBT rights. I pointed out that by his logic, 54% of the nation is gay, to which he responded that the individual was more supportive of LGBT rights than most people. So he’s gay.

Or something.

Whether the individual in question was gay, bi, trans, asexual, etc. is entirely beyond the point. The spirit in which Jimmy claimed that my accusations of bullying only reflected the gay way that the individual looked is textbook Christian anti-gay bigotry, and his back-pedalling was just an attempt to put himself in the clear when called out on it. Jimmy went on into a tirade against public speaking as a career, people who stand against bullying LGBT people, how Catholics aren’t ‘real Christians,’ and rounded it off to an appeal of how persecuted Christians feel.

So yes, an interesting and enlightening interaction.

But the sucker-punch has yet to be delivered. As a testament to the power of irony and the sheer audacity of Christian hypocrisy, moments before Jimmy delivered his first insulting and bullying tweet, he was tweeting about Mark Driscoll and how he was no longer above reproach and therefore unfit for ministry.

The disconnect here is just…astonishing. That so many Christians can preach a message of accountability and responsibility and then refuse to live it out themselves. Their judgement, their accusations, their call to accountability is reserved for others, not themselves. The Spirit of Mark Driscoll, the spirit that bullies, mocks, and then attempts to admonish others is alive and well. There’s a common Bible verse about specks and planks that’s almost too cliche to even mention here.

In the end, @KingJimmy1982 is one man on Twitter who has a blog. He has demonstrated himself to be both a bully and anti-gay, but in the end he’s just one man. So again I ask the question: Does it matter?

I say, with complete confidence, that yes it does. It matters because people hear these words. They affect people. They hurt people. They foster a culture of spiritual abuse and no personal accountability. It matters when people call others out on their bullying. It matters when people stand up and say ‘No, I will not let this go unchallenged.’

It matters.

Atheists, it’s important for us to stand up against the abuse and bullying utilised by Christians. But to those Christians who actually care about others and the effect your church has on them, it’s even more important to hear from you. People like Jimmy, like Driscoll, always need to be confronted. They always need to be called out. And Christians have an additional calling to do so because this is your tribe.

It’s time for you to step up and clean house, or you will continue to be understandably perceived as an abusive, uncaring, bullying community.

Why “Left Behind” Didn’t Convert Me

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On a sunny day in late spring, a Bible Studies teacher at an Evangelical high school in the American Midwest ducked out of his classroom to make some copies of the homework. When he returned, his students had vanished. All that remained were piles of clothes scattered around the room. In a blink of an eye, the children had disappeared and their teacher was….Left Behind!

The students spent the rest of the afternoon sans outerwear playing hookey and engaging in general hooliganism around town. They received a week’s worth of detentions and all agreed that it had been absolutely worth it.

Senior pranks aside, I had been familiar with the teachings of premillenialism long before I helped convinced my classmates to take off their clothes and make a run for it. While my Christian conservative high school didn’t espouse premillenialism as absolute truth, it was presented as one of many interpretations of the Book of Revelation common in Christian theology. But even before that, I had gained exposure to the increasingly visible interpretation thanks to the pop culture mammoth known as the Left Behind franchise.

The novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are a Christian culture phenomenon. People were talking about it even before I came to America. “If you’re not convinced by the Bible already, these books with do it,” I was told. Several of my classmates obsessively read the middle-grade novellas during silent reading. I lost track of the amount of people who told me it strengthened their faith and enthusiastically recommended it. That the series is a phenomenal commercial success cannot be denied. Besides the books, there are three movies starring cardboard cutout Kirk Cameron and one more in the works starring more successful cardboard cutout Nicholas Cage. This is in addition to the graphic novel adaptions, a video game, and the additional series aimed at the kids. Millions of people globally have read the series.

And I’m one of them. Yes, I actually gave in. I read the twelve books. The prequel trilogy. The sequel one-shot. The 40 middle-grade novellas. Even the prequel-prequel trilogy Underground Zealots that Jenkins churned out on his own. My fifteen-year-old self consumed each novel. My parents, always concerned for my spiritual well-being, were relieved to see me finally applying myself to more appropriate reading. And for a fifteen year old, hey, explosions for Jesus are still  explosions.

The premise is fairly straightforward. In an instant, every true Christian (except Catholics) disappear, leaving their clothes and unmanned cars behind. The world as it’s left is swept up into the seven-year Tribulation. Most of the remaining unbelievers fall under the sway of Nicolae Carpathia, the charismatic Anti-Christ who leads the evil United Nations against the forces of Christ. In the meantime, a plucky group of Christian converts attempts to survive the Tribulation and show the power of Christ’s love to the unbelieving masses by preaching to them ministering to them shooting them in the face.

Oh, and Jesus helps out by horrifically torturing everyone who doesn’t convert fast enough.

I finished the last book, made myself a cup of strong tea, went outside and said, very loudly,

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK WAS THAT?!?!

I felt cheated. Robbed. Instead of the spiritual experience I was promised, I got a badly written, flat, gratuitous snuff-fest of horrific spiritual abuses. This was supposed to strengthen faith? This was supposed to convert me?

When the hell was I supposed to convert?

Let’s take a brief look at all the tortures throughout the series that God inflicts on anyone who’s not a True Christian. I’ve assembled a list. Keep in mind that the Left Behind series depicts these things being inflicted on atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Catholics, animists, Jews (sometimes) and anyone who isn’t part of the right flavour of American Evangelical Protestantism.

– Millions of people disappear, killing thousands who are hit by unmanned cars, planes, etc. and throwing the world into chaos.

– Millions die in WW3 and the resulting plague and famine.

– The Wrath of the Lamb earthquake kills more millions.

– Fiery hail falls from heaven, killing more and burning crops.

– A comet falls from heaven, killing millions around the coasts.

– Wormwood falls from heaven, poisoning the water of unbelievers.

– The sun is dimmed, causing a mini Ice-Age that only affects unbelievers.

– Demonic scorpion mites are unleashed. Unbelievers who are stung endure five months of agonising torture. Many try to kill themselves from the pain, but God doesn’t permit them to die so that they must endure the full length of their punishment.

– More demonic horsemen are released, who kill a third of the remaining world population with poison gases and sulfur.

– Boils and sores are inflicted on unbelievers

– The oceans and the rivers are turned to blood. The only people with drinking water are believers. (At this point I don’t know how there’s anyone left alive, but there are because plot device).

– The sun is given the power to burn unbelievers to death through the power of the Holy Spirit and solar flares.

– Darkness drives the most loyal of the Anti-Christ’s people mad.

– Jesus finally returns and kills all the unbelievers who are left with the power of his talking.

There’s probably more but that’s just what I recall without having the entire series colour-coded (red for plagues, green for disasters, blue for random demons, white for Jesus).

So, at which point was I supposed to convert? After the demonic torture scorpions? Or the burning hail, or the ice age? Exactly where was I supposed to give my soul over to the loving Saviour who loved me so much he came to die for my sins?

I don’t know either.

Here’s the thing, Christians. I speak Christianese fairly well, which means that I understand what the means of grace are (or Means of Grace, because it’s not Christian if it’s not Superfluously Capitalised). The means of grace, according to many Christian sects, are the methods through which God administers forgiveness to his people. The first is the Word of God, the second is the Sacraments. These are the two things that are pushed by much of Christian culture as the way to salvation and eternal life. And Left Behind has none of that. None. Sure there are long passages of Scripture arbitrarily pasted with an addendum of how wonderful God is. But there is no discussion. No debate. No apologetics or defense of the text. The unbelievers never raise legitimate concerns about the nature of the god who’s torturing them, and those who vaguely try are just depicted as being stubborn and hard-hearted. And the Sacraments don’t even make an appearance at all. No one is baptised. The Eucharist isn’t even mentioned. Even my fifteen year old self was confused and confounded by the lack of self-awareness in these books.

There’s a new film based on the books starring Nicholas Cage coming out in October and Will Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame is urging Christians to bring their atheist friends in an evangelising effort. But what sort of evangelising ignores the actual means of grace in favour of apocalyptic spectacle?

Fear-based evangelising, that’s what kind. That’s something I’ll have no part of. My ethics won’t permit it any other way. I won’t be terrorised or frightened into accepting an argument under any circumstances, particularly not one starring Nicholas Cage.

This is what I, as an unbeliever, learned from God’s actions in Left Behind: God want’s an abusive relationship with you so that when he tortures you you know that you deserve it, it’s your fault, that he hurts you because he loves you, and that it’s your own stubborness for not seeing it.

Fuck that. There’s no more civil way to put it.

Their questionable evangelising skills aside, the protagonists of the series (imaginatively called the Tribulation Force) is even more bloodthirsty and abusive in many ways. I wish I had time to go into the flat characters, antisemitism, lukewarm homophobia, self-righteous attitudes, and soulless dialogue of the protagonists, but I don’t, and others have done it far better than I could. I will, however, touch on the philosophy behind the Tribulation Force. Where Stephen prayed for forgiveness for his oppressors when he was stoned, where Jesus commanded his people to turn the other cheek, the Tribulation Force gears up, arms up, and goes on super-cool missions to keep believers safe from the United Nations and spread the Gospel while they’re at it. And if any unbelievers get in their way, they splatter their brains across the pavement. In the video games, you can actually do the shooting.

This is what I, an unbeliever, learned from the actions of Christians in Left Behind: Frog-demons coming out of people’s mouths must be taken literally, but that ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ stuff is optional where book sales are concerned.

Listen, if this is your theology, fine. It’s twisted, perverse, and a completely intellectually dishonest interpretation of Revelation, since it picks and chooses what’s literal and what’s not. If this is what strengthens your faith, fine, although I pity you for being bullied by fear of punishment into giving your soul up to your deity. But, for the love of the gods I don’t believe in, stop pretending this is an evangelising tool. Don’t tell unbelievers that this was crafted to minister to them. Don’t insult our intelligence like that. At least have the integrity to acknowledge Left Behind for what it really is.

It’s torture porn. Snuff porn. It’s Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye getting their jollies off by subjecting their fictional world to the horrific tortures they fantasize on unbelievers. You can practically hear them masturbating as they describe in vivid, loving detail how those who do not accept Christ are choked to death on sulfur, crushed beneath masses of stone, drowned, tortured, driven to the brink of insanity. There is no other excuse for why LaHaye and Jenkins so eagerly describe the mass destruction of another few thousand people every fifty pages. This is what gets them off. This is what they eagerly want and anticipate happening to everyone who doesn’t jump on their Christian bandwagon, out of faith, fear, or abuse grooming. Now, mass destruction is a literary staple in secular literature as well. But while it’s often shown in shades of grey, it’s almost never depicted honestly as righteous punishment inflicted on a people who deserve it. That honour goes to Left Behind and other Evangelical Christian literature.

Sorry, teenage Muslim girl in Afghanistan. Even though you’ve grown up in a fundamentalist Muslim culture and have never received even a decent education, God has lost patience with your unbelief, and that’s why you deserve getting your face melted off. You really should have known better.

This sort of literary wanking is even more apparent in Jerry Jenkins’ solo trilogy The Underground Zealots. It depicts a pre-Rapture world where evil atheists have toppled every government and globally enforces mandatory atheism. Christians are driven underground and imprisoned or killed. And what’s their response? They ask their god to inflict the last plague of Egypt on the atheist world. And God is like, sure okay. Afterwards, the world comes to its senses and realises how badly it treated the underground church that unleashed a metaphysical weapon of mass destruction that murdered over a billion innocent people.

Convinced yet?

I know that I’m not the only person aware of this disconnect. Many Christians are rightly critical of the depictions of their god in the Left Behind franchise. But even so, this creates another problem. The monstrous deity of Left Behind is simply the Old Testament god brought into the modern world. The Bible goes from the Old Testament god of vengeance to the New Testament god of love. The Left Behind franchise goes back to the Old Testament god of vengeance in order to convince you of the New Testament god of love, for fear that you’ll be tortured in this life as well as another dimension when you die.

If someone can explain that to me, they need to do the same to LaHaye and Jenkins because they didn’t manage to in over 3,000 pages of text.

So Christians, don’t try to use Left Behind to convert us. I left this sort of spiritually abusive theology a long time ago, and I’m happier for it. If you’re going to take me to see the new Left Behind flick, at least have the decency to help me smuggle in some beer so we can drunkenly yell at Nicholas Cage before we’re thrown out.

The Smell of Hypocrisy in the Morning

 

All welcome, unless your Catholic, Presbyterian, gay, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, or different from us in any conceivable way.

All welcome, unless your Catholic, Presbyterian, gay, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, or different from us in any conceivable way.

Sometimes my posts on religious topics can exceed two thousand words in my efforts to examine an issue thoroughly.

This is not going to be one of those times.

This is one of those times where I just lay down the facts, barefaced and naked, for the world to see.

The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is one of the more powerful Evangelical forces in America, especially in the Midwest where it’s centred. The LCMS boasts 2.2 million members worldwide, more than 6,000 congregations, and several colleges, making it the eighth largest Protestant denomination in America. The LCMS is one of the most extreme forms of Christian conservatism out there. It focuses on biblical literalism and inerrancy (they are the type of people who keep money in Ken Ham’s pockets), doctrinal and congregational ‘purity,’ and the old adage ‘traditional family values. The LCMS is also defined by their near-veneration of noted anti-Semite Martin Luther, celebrated reformer and author of On the Jews and Their Lies.

One of the most extreme (and bizarre) doctrines of the LCMS is their ideas of ‘fellowship.’ To the Missouri Synod Lutherans, it’s important that anyone with whom you associate with religiously has the exact same beliefs that you do on every part of Scripture. This includes public worship, public prayer, receiving the Sacraments, etc. The LCMS prohibits its congregants, and especially it’s pastoral staff, from making any sort of indication that fellowship is appropriate between people with doctrinal differences. Otherwise, they claim, outsiders may believe that incorrect doctrinal beliefs are approved by the LCMS and that would be sin. It even applies to the few Lutheran sects that are even more conservative than they are.

As I said, bizarre. But the background is needed to understand the uproar that occurred when LCMS pastor Rob Morris participated in an inter-faith vigil after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newton CT. The vigil included several clergymen of other Christian denominations as well as President Obama. Morris was swiftly condemned by the LCMS for the horrific sin of praying for community healing and salvation with non-LCMS people. Fellow pastor Timothy Rossow compared Morris’s actions to that of a pastor sleeping with a prostitute and stated unequivocally that Morris’s actions were more harmful than the shooters.

Yes. Praying with Christians who are not your specific flavour of Christians is more harmful than walking into a school and gunning down twenty-six innocent people.

Eventually, the LCMS president Matthew Harrison demanded an apology from Morris. Morris admitted that he had done wrong and repented of his sin and all was well again.

Well, until the media firestorm, after which  Harrison admitted that his church body may have been ‘insensitive’ to the grieving community.

None of this is surprising. Christian elitism and moralism are common sentiments, especially in America. Viciousness of the kind the LCMS showed against anyone who believes slightly different than they do is to be expected. The fervour with which they defend their closely-held beliefs could almost be admired in a perverse way if they stood by them in all cases.

But guess what? They don’t.

Several religious bodies recently filed a joint amicus brief with the Supreme Court. It urges the SCOTUS to make a firm decisions on the matter of same-sex marriage. It also urges for the upholding of the same-sex marriage ban in Utah, citing arguments that ‘ scholars of all ideological stripes agree that “same-sex marriage is a threat to religious liberty” and “Judicially redefining marriage powerfully conflicts with religious liberty because…such a dramatic change in the law inevitably will lead to ‘forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations – throughout their opera-tions, well beyond religious ceremonies – to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.'”

The amicus brief is cosigned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Mormon Church, and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Let that sink in.

The LCMS stands firm on it’s fellowship doctrine when it comes to interdenominational prayer vigils for murdered children. But when it comes to arguing against the civil rights of LGBT citizens, they have no problem with cosigning an interdenominational amicus brief, one that makes a unified statement of religious agreement on the issue, advising the civil servants of the United States to discriminate against certain people to preserve their not-in-anyway-threatened religious liberty.

I’d have a bit more respect for the LCMS if they stood on their elitist principles in all cases rather than making exceptions for the chance to take pot-shots at LGBT people’s civil rights.

Not much more, but a bit.

Christians, this is why when you say that you ‘love the sinner but hate the sin,’ no one believes you. When you say that you treat homosexuality just like any other sin, no one believes you. We have examples like the ones listed above to demonstrate the hypocrisy of your actions and reinforce our understanding of how much you despise your fellow men and women.

 

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No, Christians. There is no ‘Third Way’ on Homosexuality

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One of the very first references the Bible makes to LGBT people is a command to execute gay men.

“If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.”  (Leviticus 20:13 NAB).

After this passage, no one who sincerely believes that gay people shouldn’t be murdered should be putting any moral stock in what the Bible has to say about homosexuality.

But that’s not the world we live in, and so this article is necessary.

The Bible’s other admonishments against LGBT people are likewise detestable. In Leviticus 18:22 they are called abominations. Romans 1 calls them unnatural. 1 Timothy 1 claims that they cannot inherit eternal life.

Fortunately, the Bible is wrong. As sure as it was wrong about a geocentric earth, slavery, genocide, child abuse, the role of women in society, the creation mythos, and a hundred other things, the Bible is wrong about homosexuality. LGBT people are not abominations, nor do they choose to be ‘unnatural.’ Sexual orientation is an immutable part of a human being, like race, eye colour, artistic or intellectual talent, etc. Whether or not sexual orientation is defined by genes, prenatal conditions, or other factors, scientific advancement has made it blindingly obvious that sexual orientation is a natural spectrum, ranging in heterosexuality as the most common but including bisexuality and homosexuality as alternative traits.

The Christian prejudice against the LGBT community should have been dropped around the same time they discovered that black people are not cursed by their god and that owning and selling them like chattel isn’t moral, despite the Bible’s contrary commands on the subject. There are a hundred different Christian ways to defend or dismiss the passages in the Bible that allow for the owning of human beings, but it still stands that very few Christians today believe that slavery is a morally acceptable practise in the modern world. These verses are easily dismissed. So are the New Testament verses that call long hair on a man detestable and call for women to keep their heads covered. When a verse clearly affects the powers that be in Christianity, it is excused and dismissed. When they target a vulnerable minority like LGBT people, however,,,well skip back to history.

I addressed American Christianity’s crusade against LGBT people in my previous article written on the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder, but they are points that bear repeating. Ever since the word ‘homosexual’ was first used in the English language in 1891, ever since a better understanding of what orientation is, ever since the APA removed homosexuality from its list of psychological disorders in 1973, Christians have fought tooth and nail to prevent LGBT people from being treated like human beings.

Christian groups were behind the Briggs initiative that strove to ban LGBT people from being public school teachers.

They have opposed every measure for marriage equality that has ever come up. (And before SSM, they equally opposed interracial marriage).

They have opposed every measure to ensure that LGBT people are not discriminated against in the public and business quarters.

They opposed the repeal of DADT and supported stripping gay men and women of their careers and service on account of their partners and families. More servicemen and women were discharged under DADT than were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

They campaigned for the draconian laws abroad in places like Uganda that have mandated the death penalty and life imprisonment for LGBT people.

They have opposed programmes in public schools meant to assist at-risk LGBT youth.

They have spread lies about links between homosexuality and pedophilia.

They have told their Christian followers to treat LGBT people with disgust and a gag reflex.

They have used every slanderous term, slur, and description when addressing LGBT people in the public forum.

So why, why, why do people still give a rat’s shit about the Christian view of homosexuality? The majority of Christians still see LGBT people as sexual deviants who will burn eternally for their sins. A minority believes that churches should be inclusive and actively campaign to draw LGBT people back. But the lack of LGBT interest in religion shows that the majority of the community wishes that Christians would just, for once in history, leave them alone. Stop ministering to them, discriminating against them, pandering to them, discussing them, debating them and just leave them be to live their lives in peace.

But Christianity can never let go of its abuse of minorities without a fight. Which brings us to ‘The Third Way.’

Marriage equality is marching across the land. Gay people have the right to serve their country in dignity and honour. In the past decade, the LGBT community has lived openly and freely for the first time in history. Acceptance of bigotry against LGBT people is no longer the norm. And those Christians who desperately want to cling to their prejudices and moral superiority have been forced to repackage anti-LGBT animosity in a new and shiny package, wrapped in ‘compassion’ and ‘love.’ They call it ‘the Third Way.’

Christian articles on ‘the Third Way can be found here, here, and here. In essence, the Third Way states that a Christian can show love and compassion to an LGBT person and support their human dignity while still personally opposing homosexuality and same sex marriage as God-pleasing. More importantly, the Third Way teaches that LGBT people, Christians who are LGBT affirming, and those who are still prejudiced against LGBT people, can come together under the great banner of Christianity and not let their disagreements affect their fellowship. The Third Way claims that homosexuality or prejudice against it is not a fundamental doctrine of Christianity, and therefore fellowship can exist in tension.

Sorry, I just vomited in my mouth a little as I wrote that.

I’m going to spell this out very clearly. The Third Way is not compassion, or compromise, or fellowship, or love. It’s spiritual abuse.

Several definitions of spiritual abuse are listed here. I’m using Ronald Enroth’s definition as stated here:

“Spiritual abuse takes place when leaders to whom people look for guidance and spiritual nurture use their positions of authority to manipulate, control, and dominate.”

When you tell LGBT people that they are disordered, damaged, or spiritually unpleasing because of an intrinsic part of their humanity, because of the gender of the individual they fall in love with, or because of the family they raise, that is spiritual abuse.

When you pressure or shame someone into celibacy, it’s spiritual abuse.

When you disguise these actions as piety, love, or spiritual compassion, it’s spiritual abuse.

When you tell someone that condemning their orientation, partner or family is loving because living in sin results in damnation, it’s spiritual abuse. Saying ‘I abuse you because I love you and something worse will happen if I don’t abuse you, so don’t complain about being abused,’ is spiritual abuse.

And trying to bridge the gap between abusers and victims is enabling spiritual abuse.

The Third Way is how Christian writers like Jen Hatmaker can publish a 2,000 word article about how much she loves and emphasises with and cares for LGBT people and still say “I want you to know that I land on the side of traditional marriage as God’s first and clear design. I believe God’s original creation is how we were crafted to thrive: in marriage, in family, and in community, which has borne out for millennia in Scripture, interpretation, practice, and society.” You see, Ms. Hatmaker’s family is a blessing from God and a joy in her life because she’s straight. LGBT people’s marriages and families are contrary to God’s will and therefore to be condemned. But she loves them.

This type of love is worth nothing. This is spiritual abuse.

It’s how Zach Hoag can write about how Vicky Beeching’s parents condemn her sexual orientation and say “This is what I mean when I talk about a third way….The mutual acceptance and love among affirming and non-affirming Christians, which really lays the much heavier burden of change upon the non-affirming side of that equation.”

This is enabling spiritual abuse.

And I’m calling it out.

My blog turned a year old a few days ago. Over the past year, I’ve developed friendly acquaintanceships and even friendships with (primarily progressive) Christian bloggers. I didn’t think it possible considering my past experiences with extremist Christianity. But that’s not going to stop me from calling out abusive ideas and teachings.

Progressive Christians, your attempts to find a third way between affirming and non-affirming Christians disgust me just as much as the bigotry of your conservative brothers in Christ.

In many ways, it disgusts me even more because its wrapped in an insidious package being touted as ‘love.’ It disgusts me because once again you have allowed concern for your theology and the fellowship of your religious sects to get in the way of your basic human dignity.

I am disgusted by how Christians like Jen Hatmaker and others like her so casually cause grief and pain to a community that just wants to find happiness in their lives and families. I am disgusted by the pious compassion they wrap this abuse in.

And I am beyond disgusted by Christians who try to bridge the gap between abused and abusers for the sake of unity and fellowship and at the continued cost of spiritual abuse.

You’ve had 2,000 years to get your religion right. There is no excuse anymore.

You either condemn abuse, condemn those who teach spiritual abuse whether in a spirit of Christian love or otherwise, or you stand by and let more people endure the pain of your prejudices. And then you wonder why people flee your sanctuaries in droves.

Christians, you boast of your love towards your LGBT brothers and sisters. Now, defend them.

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