Did you realise that every global faith has something really important in common with every other global faith? Every global faith has at its core (something akin to) “love your neighbour as yourself”. It’s the God bit which gets messy. The God definitions, size, shape, genealogy, and all that “stuff” – that is where faith falls out with faith. But at the core of each faith is that we should each love each other as ourselves.
Who would have thought!
A UK children’s charity: Barnado’s has put together a “faith toolkit” resource to support schools dealing with bullying – specifically with regard to different sexualities and faith/religion dogma (for more information and contact details click here)
As part of a local UK Christian conversation we were asked to look at different “challenges” and rank them in order of “difficulty – which scenarios would be least/most comfortable (or not). Our small group focused on gender reassignment as the “trickiest”: the scenario being one wherein a long-standing church member was transitioning from male to female – discuss.
And as the conversation ranged back and forth, here and there, covering all the expected bases … I got a very loud and persistent word banging around my head: transformation. That this “fictitious person” (who might sit next to us each Sunday) was transforming from bondage to freedom – from whom they were not to who they are. And looking around the room – looking at each who had earlier sung together (with passion) a hymnal chorus: “I have Jesus, I have Jesus, I have Jesus, for that (every second of life and living) I have Jesus!” – looking at each one who stands and praises the Lord, who prays to the Holy Father, who all lead worship in their own churches, and some of whom are ministers …
EACH of us has been “transformed” from what we were to what we are. EACH of us has transitioned from who we were to who we are. Each has had doubts, each has struggled, each has changed their lifestyle and priorities, each has changed friends and acquaintances, each is “different” – or else what is “being saved” and “coming to the Lord” all about?
And then He took me on a journey I have never been before. One I have yet to see the destination. It is this:
If we have been transformed, if we are so different to who we were, if this life changing conversion is so real … why do we let God make such little difference to our lives?
WHY were we sitting there discussing and wrestling our discomfort, our uncertainty that we are “allowed” to embrace “them”, and why do we even think that “how your hormones jive” is something we should interrogate (on behalf of God – obviously) …
This session was called “Wrestling with Issues of Faith and Sexuality”. The issue of LGBT (and now “Q”) is divisive – within national boundaries, across international boundaries, within denominations, and across different faiths – each “wrestles” with these difficult issues. We wrestle for years, over generations. We wrestle with whether the bible (and every faith’s “sacred writings”) actually allow us to embrace “them” or not – we wrestle with “are we committing a heinous spiritual crime” in even contemplating whether to embrace them (or not)?
And with that wrestling comes silence. With that uncertainty comes bitterness. With that silence comes dogma. With that silence come the fundamentals. With that silence comes polarisation. With that silence is when violence on the spirit and on the body happens. Yet we seem content to remain detached. Each of us content to stand and sing “I have Jesus” while we park our discomfort for someone else to tackle (to our own satisfaction – obviously).
“Love is always the answer, now what’s your question … ?”
Never seemed more relevant than during this session of “wrestling”. The simplicity of “love is always the answer” never seemed as simple. And the universal inter-faith belief of “we should each love each other as ourselves” never more pertinent. Because why do we always “wrestle”? Why do we always see complexity? Why do we choose NOT to see simplicity? Why do we choose NOT to see universal “love each as yourself”? Why do we choose make God a complex and tricky “issue”? Why do we always leave love (and God) outside while we “wrestle” with the (more attractive?) intellect and academia of “religion”?
I spoke in this session. I was heard. Yet “wrestling” seemed the better way. And I wonder why.
Because my “transition” and “transformation” is still ongoing. My “being saved” took decades. I had doubts. I changed my mind. I avoided the whole thing. Yet somewhere inside was always a niggle. Always something that tugged. And when my “transitioning” was well under way – when I “came out” – I was welcomed. I was embraced (by others who had already transitioned, already been transformed). Each of us who have a friend called Jesus, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who gather together to worship and praise – who have each “come out” –
Each one of “us” has changed our spiritual gender. And (as an institution) each one of us is now a “them” to others. We have become as much a “them” to them as they are a “them” to us. And in this wrestling session the most frequently used two words were “them” and “they”.
And despite that – despite seeing love and God parked outside while we wrestled – this Barnado’s toolkit – this session – this subject – was openly discussed in church. “They” were openly named in church. They were acknowledged. They became real.
And maybe that is the first step on a journey to simplicity – a first step on “transitioning” from fear to freedom. Maybe if all these faiths finally(!) recognise that each has something that is massively universal in common with every other faith …
Maybe that can filter down. Maybe that can also become real. Maybe that can also be named in church. And maybe then we can all see that there is no “them” – that there never has been a “them”. And maybe then we will finally understand that “we” ARE “them” together.
And just imagine where that journey might end …