Tag Archives: faith

Immigration and church

The news in Christian circles this week that regular churchgoers are more likely to be tolerant of immigration than those who attend infrequently reminded me of analysis of Trump’s Christian base.

There, it was found that those who identify as Christian and attend church regularly are less likely to support Trump than Christians who do not belong to a church community.

Christians are of course, not too dissimilar to everyone else, and I find it interesting that exposure to a community of faith, and perhaps, crucially, people in that community who are different to you, seems to make a difference.

Depressingly, in both situations, the proportion of (predominantly white) Christians supporting Trump and against immigration in the UK is still high.

I’m not saying that you can’t be rightwing and a person of faith; far from it. But when the advancement of that agenda is powered and endorsed by, and in some cases deliberately dressed in racist and xenophobic language and imagery, which is a best cruel and at worst dangerous, I do wonder about the entreaty to love our neighbour.

It seems so simple, but it’s actually really hard. You don’t choose your neighbour. They are often inconvenient and may be very different to you or even unlikeable, but we are called beyond tolerance to love.

Love.

 

It’s costly and difficult and challenging but it’s meant to be our thing, isn’t it?

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

Marginal Church

So, this is new. I don’t often write about faith or church and it’s mainly because I’ve been searching for the language. But I think I’ll be writing a bit more on this theme in 2016.

A few days ago Vicky Beeching, the theologian and LGBT activist, posted this:

We (the church) need to stop doing this. In one tweet, Vicky poignantly showed how it feels to be marginalised and dehumanised by your community.

The world at large is still not a safe place for the LGBTQI community – the Home Office’s own figures showed a rise in homphobic hate crimes last year. The church should be a welcome haven that affirms the humanity of every individual, not fuelling homophobia.

As a starting point.

It’s not just about welcome; it’s about feeling at home.

As Dianna E Anderson writes, if your church is not for the marginalised, operating on the margins, then you’re doing something, but it’s not church; “If your church is not of the marginalised, then you are not of the church”.

Addressing the complaint that from some quarters that the church is becoming marginalised in popular culture she writes:

Here’s the thing: I believe that the church is the haven of the marginalized. It is not the powerful seeking to maintain power. It is the world of those outcast by society, the poor, the hungry, the destitute, the spurned. Jesus himself decried political and statist power within the church, and focused on the margins, calling women, working class men, tax collectors, lepers, and the disabled. Church is – or should be – the home of the marginalized.

Although her post if focused on the American Church, I believe there is a lot that’s relevant to the debate here.

 

 

Tagged , , ,

#faithfeminisms

Last week, rather belatedly, I stumbled on the Faith Feminisms project, women talking about the intersection of their faith and feminism. One particular post really resonated with me, basically about intersectionality and theology, Loving Eve and Ham.

My journey as a feminist and a Christian was also glacial, with a gradual blossoming, settling of ideas and logic. I suppose there have always been feminist influences in my life; my mother and so many other women I grew up around, though they would never self-identify that way – they just did what they thought was right; they made their choices around work and home with a confidence and self-possession that left a deep impression on me. Later, at my all-girls school, we were never explicitly taught about feminism, but we were encouraged to believe that we could do anything that any other girl-or boy – was capable of. Reading Maya Angelou as a young woman moved me in ways that I can only articulate now. And there are more, so many more interactions that have acted upon me at different moments in my life, distilling down gradually in my thought processes.

My journey of faith has been exactly that; moving across a landscape that was ever-changing, learning what to carry with me, what to question and what to set aside; growing in a relationship with God and my changing impressions of what that even means (!) Reading about the women in the Bible, named and unnamed, whose stories (sometimes surprising or shocking) are preserved there to be explored anew, was also a transformational experience. (So much more there than Proverbs 31 woman!)

But here we are. I’m a Christian. I’m a feminist. I’m still learning, but the intersection of faith and feminism is dynamic and constantly challenging.  From the article:

“My feminism will always live at the intersection of race. It recognizes the Divine within all black women, all women of color, all women, all people. It doesn’t erase me from the Bible or make me the scourge of it. It proclaims the innate goodness of womanhood.

My feminism loves as hard as it fights. It basks in the glow of sisterhood. It nurtures relationships. It gives generously, protects fiercely, laughs freely, weeps courageously, dances with child-like abandon. Like shared wine and chocolate cheesecake with her best friends at midnight, it drinks deeply.  It lives.”

 

Tagged , , , , ,

A Time to Build

At the moment my church has a great preaching series on Ecclesiastes, one of my favourite books in the Bible. One of the most famous parts of Ecclesiastes is the 3rd chapter, which opens with: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..”

It sprang to mind as I watched events unfold in Egypt on the news and on Twitter. It’s as if since the 2011 Revolution that the genie is out of the bottle and Egyptians have found their voice and cannot go back to being silenced. It’s glorious. Freedom can’t be contained once it has been tasted. Watching Bishop Angaelos, head of the Coptic Church in the UK and someone who I greatly admire, on Newsnight, I was struck by his assessment of Morsi’s failure. Besides the government’s economic failures and its slim democratic mandate:

“There was no attempt to bring the Egyptian people together after the allegations of people like the Muslim Brotherhood and even Christians that over the past decades there was a mentality of divide and conquer. So, rather than using this golden opportunity to bring people together and to create a cohesive state and to create a state of national identity, there was a greater breakdown. And so we find, towards the end…it was no longer even Christians [vs] Muslim, it was one agenda against everyone else.”

Morsi didn’t build Egypt. Even though many were disappointed with Muslim Brotherhood’s win in the elections, which is partly because after 80 years in opposition they were the only party prepared to challenge for the vote, Morsi squandered an opportunity to build a unified nation. Perhaps that wasn’t his vision in the first place. Certainly, he seemed more concerned with amassing power to his party. However, whatever you make of the “popular coup” that removed him, it’s a stunning lesson in nation building.

People need vision. In so many countries across Africa, including my own, Morsi’s mistakes – economic incompetence, power games and divide and rule – are being replicated, although in less stark terms. It’s not good enough. Even here in Britain, the economic mismangement is bad enough, but there is a distinct lack of vision from any party. The government is pandering to Britain’s lowest common denominator while frantically spinning off state responsibilities to the voluntary sector, the Church, the private sector. It’s not a bad idea in and of itself to partner with organisations who are happy to help those who are struggling in society, but we collectively have a responsibility to care for them, yes, even through (fair) taxes. There has to be a middle ground.

Across the world – Brazil, Turkey, Egypt, Spain – people are on the streets. Our obsession with Egypt’s democratic elections can obscure our view of events on the ground: 22 million people signed a petition against Morsi’s rule. That’s over a quarter of the population. Over 17 million marched across the country. Their voices count too. Yes, the democratic process is important but we also need to talk about the fact that one vote every four years isn’t enough to tick the democratic box. Governments need to respond to people. Over 1 million marched against the Iraq War in this country; they were brushed aside. And we’ve seen a mood of anti-politics take hold and the rise of visionless, self-centered, paranoid politics in the form of UKIP rise up.

We have to build. We need leaders with vision. We need governments that respond to people’s concerns, that understand that the decisions they take in closed rooms at the behest of corporate interests (who don’t pay their fair share of tax) affect the lives of ordinary people both at home and abroad. There is a sense of broken contracts. I don’t have the answers, by any means, but with Mandela on his deathbed I feel quite keenly that we don’t have enough statesmen around – long-term thinkers who understand that they are serving the people, not ruling.

Tagged , , , ,

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

God Knows by Minnie Louise Haskins

Tagged , ,

On Faith

It’s easy to describe religion, but it’s harder to tell someone about the felt experience of faith. The known experience. Church. (not the building)

Last night at my home group I looked around the room at the diversity, the wealth of years and experience, different races and backgrounds, personalities….. and thought, this is my church. Church is human, messy, imperfect and amazing.

I’ve been a Christian since I was 14, and it’s been a journey (sometimes in the opposite direction)…but I’ve also grown. For ages I’ve been trying to think about how I’d describe that to someone without sounding like a complete hippie. There are different seasons but the one I’m in right now feels like…

It feels like……a large stone. A solid, sizeable stone, falling down a well. And as it falls, I feel joy, and fear and wonder. As it hits the water, waves upon waves of ripples reverberate out and I feel peace and fullness of hope… and wonder.

It resonates.

I feel an earnest longing and the exhilarating knowledge that what I know is just a little bit of what there is to know.

It’s kinda awesome.

Tagged , , ,

God Knows

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

– Minnie Louise Haskins

God Knows

Tagged ,