Saturday, 9 July 2016

'Christian Voice' is nothing of the sort

There's a group, well it might be just one person but let's assume there a few of them, called Christian Voice. It's led by Stephen Green. He got an undeserved level of exposure by forming Christian Voice and sending out lots of press releases. Eventually he was picked up by the media and the BBC, in one of the many immature attempts at balance, put him on panels opposite atheists. A fundamentalist Christian balances out a fundamentalist atheist as only two crazy people shouting from opposite ends of a see-saw can.

I have a problem with Christian Voice. I don't consider very much of what they say to be authentically Christian. It's all pretty angry... and it's easier to say what they're against, than what they're for. Christian Voice is very certain about a lot of things. There are lots of Bible verses peppering their communications, few of which mean anything out of the original context.

"Who will rise up for me against the evil doers, or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?" 

The above verse from Psalm 94 is used on the About Us page on their website. The answer, it seems, is Stephen Green and anyone like minded who wants to get involved. It's taken woefully out of context though, as is all scripture used by Christian Voice.

So let's strip back the christianese nonesense, the King James Bible verses, and the holy justification for being unpleasant... what do we have here?

They're politically towards the right wing end of the Conservative party and support causes that are thus aligned. They dislike gay people, anyone of a different faith, multi-culturalism, Europe. 

They like the church having a privileged position in society and see any attempt to give those with a different view point some sort of equal weighting in our society as an attack on their faith and evidence of the sinfulness of the nation.

If this group were called 'Conservative Voice' or 'Wasn't everything better in the past Voice' then I wouldn't have a problem with them. There's nothing unusual in the views espoused by this group, unfortunately.

Here's the bottom line. If you can't be 'Christian' without being unpleasant... If you're known by what you're against rather than who you're for... If you stand where some people want to build a really impressive Mosque and call on the Lord to put a stop to it all, rather than offer to help them and be their friend... Well, there's the oft quoted, somewhat trite staying "what would Jesus do?" and I wonder... what? Because I don't think it's what this group do while claiming his name.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Where I'm at today

This post is intended as a personal snapshot of where I'm at at the point I write it. I've no doubt things will change and move on. I certainly hope so, as I like to think things don't stay the same.

The only church I've ever considered myself part of would probably be described as evangelical. An Anglican church that didn't really fit the mould and attracted a very wide range of people. Some would be very much right wing, conservative evangelical in their politics and theology. Others far more liberal in their beliefs and possibly socialist in their politics. It was, as they say, a broad church and the leadership were generally good at treading a careful path through areas where not everyone would agree.

That started to change a few years ago when the leadership increasingly moved towards what I, probably unfairly, consider to be an American style of conservative evangelicalism. It's marked by a few characteristic beliefs such as: the Bible is the inerrant word of God, homosexuality is sinful, women shouldn't be leaders, those in leadership are specially ordained by God for that leadership and questioning is not taken particularly kindly. Most importantly there's a confidence and certainty that doesn't address grey areas of life, faith and theology. It's all about black and white, the right answer. This leadership would tell you that if you disagreed then you were wrong.

I was working for the church at this point and I was becoming increasingly concerned that I was fully behind an organisation that was starting to teach views I disagreed with. Eventually, before I really had to grapple with this, a catastrophic bit of decision making and HR incompetence meant I knew it was time to leave.

It's been a difficult, painful time. I've had to grieve for my church, for the ministry I believed I had but that others failed to recognise, for a huge part of my life that will never be the same. It's been hard.

What I've come to realise is that my faith, politics, personal prejudices and theology are not compatible with that preached by the leader of this church. I know that many of the views I hold will cause some I know to have grave concerns for me. There are others still who would say my views are against God and I cannot be a Christian.

I know that I have, in the past, held and repeated views that I now consider to be wrong. Many of us grow up, move on, and discover life is not black and white. The old certainties melt away and it becomes increasingly hard to see a path through the fog, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

So I repent of my past certainties. I declare that I am a Christian who loves Jesus and proclaims salvation through him by his death on a cross and his resurrection from the dead. In his name I seek to respect other people, to love them and to be their friend if they'll let me. I pray daily for guidance from the Holy Spirit, that I would please God and through my actions make him known.

There remain certainties in my life; some of those absolutes that I've learned along the way. But increasingly I regard those who speak with the confidence of completely certainty that everything they believe is absolutely right and that if you don't believe the same, you're wrong... well I increasingly regard their views with suspicion.

Everything I know about Jesus was attractive. People were attracted to him, wanted to engage with him and trust him. There are so many who speak in his name but with the opposite effect.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

I'm sorry you feel that way...

If you're sorry, say sorry. If you're not sorry, don't say it.

Here are some things people said to me at various times, and what they really mean.
  • "I'm sorry you feel that way" - What you say to someone who's ill.
  • "I'm sorry if we hurt you" - I don't think we did, you do and you're wrong.
  • "I'm sorry you think that" - You're wrong and I feel sorry for you.
  • "I'm sorry you see things that way" - You're entire outlook on life is wrong.
Really they all mean the same thing: "I'm not sorry, I have nothing to apologise for but I want to smooth things over and sound like the good person I know myself to be".

Monday, 4 August 2014

Three options

I'm part of a large church (by UK standards) and we, like many churches, are challenged by consumerism; that is people approaching church as a consumer asking what can they get from it. This approach has a significant impact on what we can do and how we go about it, in short in how effective the church can be.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The difficult conversation

If you're in a position of leadership or management the difficult conversation is something you're going to have to initiate from time to time. But what if you just don't like having them?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Do you listen?

I've found myself wondering recently how many of the world's problems are fundamentally about listening. Listening is something I'm pretty sure I don't do as well as I might and I'm sure I fall into the trap mentioned by Stephen R Covey in his book 7 habits of highly effective people:

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."

When you listen, do you seek to understand the other's perspective, idea or feelings, or do you look for something you can pick on to justify your own position, question their motives or defend your actions?

Recently I found myself in a position where something that could have a substantive impact on my job was being discussed in a way I felt inappropriate. I said so and made it abundantly clear there was no way things could proceed as proposed whilst being ethically (or potentially legally) sound. My argument was clear, simple, could easily be demonstrated to be correct by consulting any good HR professional and yet it was ignored.

The reason? People weren't listening. Good people who know better just weren't listening to what I was saying. They, I think, were hearing me demand no process at all, a desire for my job to be untouchable. I believe they heard me defending my position and, significantly, they heard that I was upset.

I was upset. But that didn't mean what I said didn't have substance and could be written off as inevitable personal feeling that would pass. Of course the initial upset has passed, but the fundamental problem hasn't.

As I've attempted to resolve things through talking to people, surely that's the best way, some of those involved have consistently failed to listen, resulting in my motives being questioned and accusations that I'm out to trap people through inconsistencies. That couldn't be further from the truth.

In the situation I find myself in today, sadly it seems that I am not trusted. The reason is simply because people haven't listened. They've heard the words coming out of my face, or read my emails and looked for the threat they assume to be there, misinterpreting what I have said and making a bad situation worse.

My words have been twisted into accusations, all because people have only listened with the intent to reply, rather than an intent to understand.

Listening is hard but it's the only way to reconcile differences without a fight. That might end up with a difficult compromise, but no compromise is possible if you won't trust and you can't trust without understanding and you can't understand without listening.

Monday, 15 July 2013

It's not so bad

I use something called Drupal (you don't need to know what that is) and I'm an avid reader of the blog by drupal developer Aaron Winborn. Any time I feel things are getting me down, a read of his blog is enough to get things in perspective. In case you're wondering this isn't a blog about software development and is worth reading.