Tag Archive: Christ



I’m having a bit of a lazy morning, drinking coffee, having a cigarette and I happen to have the TV on which is very unusual. Half an hour later and I am thoroughly hacked off, heart pumping and I find myself  emailing This Morning defending the name of Christ.

What happened there, you may well ask.

Well in case you havent heard about it, in September 2008 in Cornwall, two Christian B & B owners refused to let a room to a gay couple (who, incidentally were married in the eyes of the law). The case has now been heard in court and the couple  have been fined £3,600. you can see the story here.

I have no doubt that this has been very stressful and traumatic for all concerned and everyone is entitled to their beliefs. However, when running any kind of commercial enterprise, those beliefs can’t be imposed on others.

This lack of hospitality and blatant discrimination shown by so-called Christians does yet more damage to the name of Christ and makes me ashamed to call myself a Christian.

B & B owners Mr and Mrs Bull say they feel Christianity is being sidelined. While high-profile cases like this plaster the UK press and go against equality laws and human rights it will be. As followers of Christ, we will continue to be seen as judgemental, bigoted hypocrites. Again the message of God’s all-inclusive love and Grace gets drowned out by legalistic moralism. Christ continues to be misrepresented.

“You can’t turn away people from a hotel because they’re black or Jewish and in 2011 you shouldn’t be able to demean them by turning them away because they’re gay either,” Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said. “Religious freedom shouldn’t be used as a cloak for prejudice.”

Jesus had very little to say about purity, if anything. In fact what he did say was “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He  violated and subverted all the Jewish purity codes and laws and his message was of God’s love and Grace. For all. No exceptions. The only people who hacked him off were the religious ones.

Discrimination on the grounds of how people choose to live divides and excludes. Compassion unites people and includes. The old purity politics were replaced with Jesus’s radical compassion politics.

Jesus knew God as the compassionate one, not the God of requirements and judgements.

 

For related posts, see A Rainbow Warrior.

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Occasionally on a Saturday night I have the privilege of helping out at a meal held for Brighton’s street community. Most of these men and women are vulnerably housed in hostels and nightshelters. I would guess about 10% are actual rough sleepers who sleep in doorways, stairwells and car parks.

In order to reduce the numbers of rough sleepers, Brighton council introduced a strict local connection policy in approx 2001. This policy states that no one is entitled to help with housing here unless they work in Brighton or have lived here previously. This means people from out of area can’t just turn up and make use of the city’s nightshelters and hostels. People are assessed and if not seemed ‘suitable’ a train ticket is purchased and they are sent back to where they are from( regardless of the issues they may be fleeing). Nice hey?

Each saturday night, our church run project serves hot meals to 63 men and women. Last night, we also gave out Christmas stockings. Handing those stockings over and wishing  all our guests Happy Christmas individually, brought up mixed emotions in me. They were so grateful and as each one looked me directly in the eye to say thank you, I was near to tears at times. Would this be the only gift they received? Probably.Where were they going to sleep?  As they walked out into the cold rainy night clutching these stockings, I felt a bit broken to be honest. And completely powerless. Giving out the stockings felt a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I thought about this when I got home. I have been working in this field on and off for years before becoming a Christian. I should be used to this! Where was the disturbance coming from? I realised that attempting  to hold the tension between doing our little bit as Christians, and dealing with a system which completely discriminates against the poor, needy and marginalised is a tough one at the best of times and even more so at Christmas, a time for joy for some and such pain for others.

I often think about St Pat’s nightshelter in Hove. Fr Alan was part of a monastic community in the mid 80’s who allowed a couple of homeless folk to sleep in his doorway.  Over the years it developed into an emergency nightshelter and hostel, sleeping 20-25 homeless people. Sadly Fr Alan was forced to resign a couple of years ago after giving money to a drug user. I have no doubt that he was operating  from a  pure Christian heart which was always to care for the poor and the vulnerable. Again, this seems It seems this was a classic case of struggling to hold the balance between adhering to strict council and worldly policies and what Christ calls us to do.

I don’t have any answers to this post. There is no neat little  paragraph at the end to tie it all together other than these words of wisdom by Shane Claibourne.

“So if the world hates us, we take courage that it hated Jesus first. If you’re wondering whether you’ll be safe, just look at what they did to Jesus and those who followed him. There are safer ways to live than by being a Christian.”
Shane Claiborne (The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical)

God and burn out


A few years ago, I experienced burn out. Personal and professional. A combination of highly stressed working in some of the most deprived areas of the UK as well as personal circumstances, contributed to a bit of a meltdown. It wasn’t an overnight thing and had been happening (unknowingly to me) over a long period of time.

In hindsight when I look back at that dark place, it scares me.

It wasn’t really a ‘can’t get out of bed’ thing, but it was a ‘watch Jeremy Kyle all day thing.’  I needed the background noise. I’m not one of those people who can sleep their days away, I’ve often wished I was. In fact I’m the opposite,  I marched around Edinburgh parks and streets to keep myself moving and occupied, usually fuelled by large amounts of caffeine and clutching a self-help book. I’ve always been a bit of a put a smile on and get over it kinda girl. That can be half of my problem sometimes.

One of the biggest and, in my opinion long-term effects of burn out is an inability to tolerate stress. (Something to do with spending too much time in ‘fight or flight’ mode and adrenalin turning into cortisol if i remember rightly). Other effects can be hopelessness, exhaustion, irritability..the list goes on. Anyway, another consequence is ‘compassion fatigue’. Realising I was completely ‘compassioned out’, overwhelmed by meeting others’ needs as well as my own, led me to call out to God for help.

I was in an AA meeting with my friend John in 2008. I remember thinking there was something missing from my spiritual life. ”  I felt  irritated by everyone in the meeting as usual ” I need more compassion John”, I said ” I think I want to try out a church”

A week later, John and I went to a Brighton church. I heard the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15,11-32). I think I’d heard the title before, but never really understood it or what it meant. For those who haven’t read the parable, it’s the story of a guy who goes off and hammers it, partying like mad. He reaches rock bottom and decided he wants to return to his Father. He’s scared as he doesn’t know how he will be received. His Father is joyous at his return. The parable is the story of our Father’s love  for his children. It tells us that no matter what we have done, or are doing, he’s there waiting for us with open arms. He rejoices when we come home, in fact he celebrates, holds a party.

I left that place feeling different, something had happened. I’m not sure I knew what it was straight away. Something happened in my heart. That’s all I can say.

Fast forward two years..

Do I have more compassion than I did? Most of the time, yes.  At least I’m tempted to spend less time navel gazing and more time looking outward these days.

Do I believe God restores and heals the broken? Yes, that’s his speciality!

Am I learning to trust God and get out of the driving seat more often? Yes, slowly.

Do I believe social justice is at the heart of the Gospel and that God wants us to reach out to the needy and less fortunate? Too right.

2 Corinthians 1:2-4

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Amen

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