Remember, some of us are both gay and Christian

Originally posted on Faith and Pride:

I have had another letter on same-sex marriage published in the Belfast Telegraph.

IT seems that much of the coverage of the gay marriage cake affair has portrayed it as Christians on one side and gay people on the other. It is too easy for people to forget that some of us are both.

There are gay people who are Christians and there are Christians who support same-sex marriage. Indeed, there is a long Christian tradition of fully supporting same-sex relationships.

While this tradition has, arguably, always been in the minority, being in the minority does not mean that you are not Christian.

I am lucky enough to know the “gay activist” who ordered the cake in question. I am perplexed by that label. I think he is better described as a “community worker”. He is a man who goes out of his way to help people, particularly those…

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Love the sinner, hate the sin?

Originally posted on Faith and Pride:

The adage “love the sinner but hate the sin” is often used in discussions of Christianity and same-sex relationships, usually in a context where someone is saying “I love you, but I hate your sinful relationship”. This is problematic for two reasons, a secondary reason, and a fundamental reason.

The secondary reason is that it isn’t very loving, or if it is, it is using a definition of love that is so far removed from normal experience it is meaningless. My relationship with my husband is based on strong mutual love. If you are telling me that that love is something that should be hated, then that tells me your definition of love is nothing like my own.

You might say that you love your dog, even though it keeps you up all night with its barking. That might even be true. But when you say you ‘love’ me but…

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A Time to Embrace, and a Time to Refrain from Embracing

The SeekersAbout this time every year I tend to start thinking about my father. This is partly because it will soon be Fathers’ Day, but it is mainly because  it is coming up for the anniversary of his death. When my father was young, younger than I am now, he liked The Seekers, and at some point in the 80s or 90s he got one of my brothers to copy his collection of Seekers 45s onto audio cassette so he could listen to them in the car. I have many memories of being driven up and down Northern Irish motorways with The Carnival is Over, I’ll Never Find Another You, and Some Day One Day playing in the background, or sometimes in the foreground.

A couple of months ago, Michael and I moved from Belfast to Gibraltar. Moving a few kilometres across a city is stressful enough at the best of times. Moving 2,ooo km across a continent takes that to a whole new level. So far it seems like it has been worth it. We both love living here, and I am not even sure where my anti-SAD light box is any more. On the downside, the move has exposed some unexpected difficulties in relationships that I thought were very sound. People I thought were dear and valued friends perhaps seem to have valued me less than I valued them.

In work I have been listening to The Seekers to remind me of Dad. One of the songs on the playlist was Turn! Turn! Turn!, a song based on Ecclesasties 3. That has always been a difficult chapter for me to understand. It seems to be so negative and so positive at the same time.

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Listening to The Seekers singing it one line jumped out at me, and suddenly I understood what The Preacher was writing about.

And a time you may embrace
a time to refrain from embracing

To everything turn turn turn
There is a season turn turn turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

There are people in my life who I have embraced in the past, and now it seems like it is time to refrain from embracing them. The message that I couldn’t understand is actually very simple. In Ecclesasties, The Preacher was telling us that life has ups and downs.  To every thing there is a season. Good times and no-so-good times, times to laugh and times to weep, are part of life. The time may come when old friendships will flourish again, but if they don’t, well, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Should I try Toblerone?

As of the time of publication I have never eaten a Toblerone. Unfortunately, due to an incident involving multiple amounts of cat vomit, I have no trousers that are both clean and dry, so I can’t leave the flat. Thus I have been pondering the question should I try Toblerone? This is not a simple question, and not a decision to be made while I try to decide if these swimming shorts could pass for streetwear. It is important to have all the data at my fingertips.

So I did what any sensible person would do, and I put together a spreadsheet.

Pro Notes Evaluation ( 0 – 10)
It is chocolate 10
If I like it, it will mean I can always find chocolate to buy in airport duty-free shops This has never been a problem, but you never know 5
It may be a taste sensation 5
Cardboard tube is more sophisticated than a Wispa wrapper I do like to look sophisticated 7
May be a gateway chocolate for other European chocolates, such as Ferrero Rocher This would probably annoy UKIP 10
Almond content will temporarily turn my spit into a weapon to repel people with almond allergies I suspect just spitting at them would be enough 2
People will be impressed with my new Toblerone-eating skils Might become a street performer if the tech writing doesn’t work out 6
I will be able to bond with any passing Swiss without needing to buy a penknife or watch But I’ve never knowingly met any Swiss people 1
By diversifying my base of preferred chocolate manufacturers I reduce the risks associated with a hypothetical collapse of Cadbury Diversity is good 10
If I collect the boxes I will be able to demonstrate tessellation Education is good 8
Total 64


Con Notes Evaluation ( 0 – 10)
It isn’t British chocolate, and therefore not true chocolate 5
I may buy too much in duty-free airport shops and make myself ill on the flight Who cares? I’d still be gorging myself on chocolate 0
It may taste vile  I know how to spit 1
The sharp edges on the cardboard tube might be dangerous I can always wrap it in a condom for safety 2
May be a gateway chocolate for other European chocolates, such as Ferrero Rocher I might stop loving Cadbury’s and somehow become less British; this is unlikely 1
Lack of peanut content will mean my spit cannot be used as a weapon against peanut-allergy sufferers I suspect just spitting at them would be enough 2
Might lead to me eating too much and dying from a surfeit of Toblerone, much like Henry 1 of England and lampreys A small risk, and what a way to go! 1
Might offend people who are offended by Switzerland’s neutral stance in WW2 While neutral, Switzerland did offer asylum to many refugees during WW2, including 62,000 Jewish people, saved by Carl Lutz, the Swiss Consul in Budapest. People offended by this stance deserve to be offended 0
May turn out to be allergic to some component of Toblerone that is only found in Toblerone Extremely unlikely, but you can’t be too careful I guess 3
May act as a gateway into other Swiss products, leading to a tragic death involving a hoard of cuckoo clocks and penknives, not dissimilar to how the Collyer brothers died If this happens, I will probably run out of money before I run out of space, as Swiss stuff tends to be small and expensive 1
Total 16

The data are clear. The pro score is 64, and the con score a mere 16, leaving a net pro of 48. Therefore I will go out and buy a Toblerone as soon as I can find a pair of clean and dry trousers.

Update: half an hour after posting this, I found a pair of trousers and was able to try some Toblerone. It is yummy and awesome.

Equal Marriage Discussion in the Belfast Telegraph

Originally posted on Faith and Pride:

I have had a letter on equal marriage published in the Belfast Telegraph. The letter was shortened a bit for publication. The original is below.

Dear Sir,

With reference to Cynthia Campbell’s letter about same-sex laws (Letters, February 12), I would simply like to say that, as a practising Christian who takes God seriously and so believes the Bible’s teaching and prophesies and guidelines, I have to adhere to what it says about homosexuality as much as to any other subject.

So, as marriage is ordained by God in the first place and as being not for procreation but for companionship (Genesis 2:18), then you might consider that anything suggested by man as being a marriage does actually make it one as long as it meets this criterion. Christians who believe that marriage is about procreation should take note that procreation is not mentioned until after the Fall.

As the founder…

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My Precious Golden Cup?

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

The album cover for the 1974 recording of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

When I was about 8 years old, I used to listen to the 1974 recording of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as I went to sleep. As a result of that, and also because my family went to see the Bill Kenwright production every time it came to Belfast, and also because my P5 teacher loved the music and played it to us in class, I can still recall the lyrics almost perfectly—and I can list the twelve sons of Jacob as long as I can sing the song in my head.

In one dramatic point, Joseph hides a precious object amongst his brothers’ things and then claims that one of his brothers has stolen it from him.

Stop! You robbers—your little number’s up!
One of you has stolen my precious golden cup!

This evening I was reading Genesis 44, which is where this story is told in the Bible. It is told a little differently there.

And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. (Genesis 44:2, KJV)

For some reason, I noticed the cup was silver. That’s funny, I thought. Most translations have it as a golden cup. I looked at a range of translations, and it was a silver cup in all of them.

I knew there were differences between the story in the musical and the story in the Bible, and I have read Joseph’s story many times, but it wasn’t until tonight that I realised the cup was silver, not gold.  The musical had influenced me and the way I read and understood the Bible. This is a very minor example of culture influencing understanding, but it really got me thinking: how many other ways do we misunderstand the Bible because of our culture? We talk about Adam’s apple, yet Genesis doesn’t tell us what type of fruit it was, and we usually think of the shepherds and wise men attending the birth of Jesus, whereas the wise men arrived quite a bit after the birth. What other misunderstandings are there?

This shows why it is a good idea to read and re-read the Bible when it comes to doctrine. It isn’t enough to rely on our memories of what the Bible says. Our memories are fallible, and we all read the Bible with the influences of our culture.