Sunday, February 2, 2014

Do you believe in Ghosts?

Firstly, I really did open up a hornets nest with my last blog about Gays and Christians. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I blog: To stimulate debate, but for posterity, I wish people would put their comments on the blog rather than the chip paper that is Facebook!

What did touch me was certain private messages which I received from people who are personally very affected by this, and who live in fear of judgement when what they want and need is love and acceptance. Which of those three verbs is distinctly un-Christian?

Anyway, that’s not what I am posting about today. I have a very different subject which is not exactly causing me concern, (maybe it should be?) but certainly is taking up a lot of my grey cell meanderings:

Are there mischievous ghosts/spirits?

Some of you will know my daughter Jemma. She’s a bit of a character, and although she was a nightmare to live with at home, I miss her now that she lives in a flat. However she still makes guest appearances round about the end of the month when food supplies are low and she’s in the need for a bit of motherly TLC and this weekend has been no exception. The difference however, is that she is not too keen to return to her flat after some strange goings on:

As a thirteen year old, one of her  friends called Janey (name changed to protect the innocent and all that) went through the trauma of losing her best friend to a freak illness. This could not have been anything other than a life changing event and one you would never forget. Last week was the anniversary of this girls death. It so happened that that night Janey stayed round at Jemma's flat. It wasn’t a weekend and after watching a dvd they both fell asleep as they both had work the next morning.

Janey had put her phone on silent, and so when it went off at 7:45, she didn’t hear it. However, Jemma (or so she thought) shook her and said ‘Get up’

Janey dosed for 5 more minutes before alighting to an empty flat. Jemma had left the house at 7.00 fifty minutes earlier.

Frantically she phones Jemma, and with her mind racing, who was it that had awoken her? In addition, in the middle of the night Janey had asked Jemma to stop poking her which Jemma knew nothing about.

A plugged in battery charger flies across the room in her bedroom the next day and then on Friday, another friend stays with Janey and is awoken to the sound of a young girl laughing. She looks across and Janey (the only other person in the bedroom) is still and fast asleep.

Oh, and did I mention the lights all going out in the house but then working again the next morning.

An old boyfriend (who’s mum practiced voodo & Dad an evangelical preacher, I kid you not!!)  had many dark experiences including waking up with a terrible weight on his chest but no one there.

Kids seem to be ‘aware’ of all this stuff.

My old man got funny when we told him we were looking at a house in Clophill. ‘Ooh, there’s a witches coven there.’

Dad! You’re a Methodist preacher, not Stephen King! Certainly the old church has been rumoured to have been haunted for as long as I can remember. One night, when one of Jemma’s friends got a car they went for a drive to Clophill. A group of teenagers stood sulkily in a bus shelter & they asked them the way to the church. They were told it wasn’t wise to go there but were given directions anyway and off they drove down the dark lane to the chapel. Upon turning the corner and entering  the churchyard, a group of hooded men were seen to be standing over a grave. In the middle of the night?? The car was thrown into reverse and sped back down the hill. They were still screaming as they careered back  past the bemused teenagers.

OK, they didn't have burning staves.

It’s a funny story the way she tells it, but its also pretty sinister.

I guess we can be ambivalent about that kind of thing. Only last night on the Jonathan Ross show, (I was outvoted) his guest Danny Dyer, (Proper mental!)  regaled a tale of seeing a ghost at a railway station. The crowd laughed but took it more seriously when fellow guest Liam Neeson also confessed to witnessing such an aberration.

Why dont they believe me?

'Who gives a f***, cushty!!'

I believe in spirits. It says in the bible ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ I take that pretty seriously. I believe there’s a God, I believe there’s a Devil and I believe we are on the battleground, but these types of ‘restless spirit’ stories are difficult to put in a particular box. I would have my head bitten off by my daughter if I dared to suppose that this was simply a product of a furtive imagination.

Who knows?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Are you born gay?

re tweeted a funny the other day; ‘Thomas Hitzelberger has bravely announced that he once played for West Ham’ this of course a play on the fact that the ex Hammer announced that he is gay.

This is obviously a good sign that progress has been made among the football playing fraternity and we are a long way from the homophobic treatment of Graeme La Saux who was targeted simply because he was different (supposedly because of the fact that he read the broadsheets) but its notable that Hitzelberger has made this announcement after he has retired from the game.

'But there's no boobs in the Times?
I’ve little truck with footballers overall, believing that they’re not living in the real world and an untouchable attitude is bound to lead to bouts of moronic immature behaviour, but that’s a battle for someone else to fight. Mine’s a bit closer to home: I have an issue with many Christians attitude to homosexuals and I know I will get in trouble for saying what I feel.

Let me start by recommending an absolutely excellent book called ‘Maggie & Me’ by Damian Barr.

Mr Barr is a successful journalist and playwright and this is his excellent memoir. With the death of Maggie Thatcher I felt a desire to read a book which related to a period which was such a pivotal time in my formative years. I didn’t want to read a biography (see previous blogs on my thoughts on them) and picking this book up I wasn’t even too sure if it was fiction or non fiction. Sadly, because of the tough background Barr grew up in, I wish it had been fiction: Abusive step fathers, neglectful mothers and petty criminal uncles all create the ingredients for dysfunction.

It was a time when Maggie fought the miners and closed down the Ravenscraig Steelworks where Barrs father worked. It was the end of Industrial Britain and back then as an arrogant 18 year old southerner working in the city I had little sympathy with any of them. Following a protest march to Downing Street which brought thousands of striking miners and their supporters down to the smoke, I somehow managed to escape intact having given my views to a group of miners having a pint at the Euston Tavern before getting their train back north.

Perhaps it would have done me good if they had duffed me up!

Anyway, whether intended or not, whilst an evocative and uplifting read, it is Barrs struggle and realisation of his sexuality which so impressed on me. I do not believe this was written as a propaganda message that you are born gay, but this frank and penetrating address of this subject lead me to be convinced that Barr was born gay.

So that probably will make me be ostracised by some Christians out there. Those that believe it’s a lifestyle choice or an illness that can be cured. I’m sorry but I just don’t buy that.

Again Barrs honesty regarding his ‘Christian walk’ is also disarming and ultimately despondent in that he rejects Jesus because He doesn’t cure him of his affliction. Patently the ‘Christian teaching’ which Barr was exposed to was analogous to the above view.

I’ve mentioned before that my hero in Christian circles is a guy called Tony Campolo, and he runs an organisation called Red Letter Christians. Here’s an interesting article which is related to this subject and is well worth any Christian having a read.

Would a friend or relative find it easy to confide in us if we are believers? Or would they too be afraid? It got me thinking if there were any churches with experiences of welcoming gays into their church. I mean, I’m pretty sure churches are full of adulterers, porn addicts and all round generally lusty individuals but we understand that. We can empathise if not agree and so that’s ok and we’re all under the banner of grace. But are gays in our eyes? Because that’s something we can’t comprehend. And I guess the point is that there’s a danger that we extend grace only to those sins which we can understand. 

Imagine living next door to this lot!

I don’t get being gay. I understand heterosexuality and my love of the female form has got me in plenty of trouble over the years, but I’m not going to treat an issue I don’t understand with the contempt and hate or fear that I do see in many believers.

I remember going to a question and answer session of a very well known Christian pastor who was asked the question ‘what do you see as the biggest threat to the church today?’ to which he replied ‘Homosexuality’

WTF!! Did I hear him correctly? (Admittedly this was at a time when Peter Tatchell was making mischief by ‘outing’ prominent church figures) but this a bigger issue than Muslims? Paedophile priests? Cultural  Relevance? Dawkins?

The pastor in question finally catches up with Tatchell

I’m not scared of gays, or opposed to them, or angry with them or hate them; but I am all these when it comes to people trafficking, inequality of women, poverty, starvation, oppressive regimes, greed, child abuse, religious sectarianism, civil war, genocide, hate crimes etc, all of which happen in this world and are issues that Christians should be concerned about.

DR, but it could be anywhere. 
So, in future I will only debate about  gayness being an issue with a Christian if that Christian has a passion to alleviate something from the list above!   And is doing something about it!!

An opportunity to do something about it!

So, without the debate about the morality of being GLBT, can we at least  agree that there are more important things to be righteously angry about and set about changing them? I think Christians look a whole lot more attractive when they fight injustice but inclusively love and embrace their fellow humans. 

PS - Before anyone says it, I acknowledge there are a great many loving Christians out there who are nothing like the provocative images which I have displayed.