I have had a traumatic time. I demand that you feel sorry for me. I have actually unfollowed people on Social Media. Well I am still working out how to actually unfollow someone on Facebook but I am determined and I will do it (eventually). Instagram was easy so I ditched a couple there. I have replaced them with a few people who put up photos of their kitchen cupboards and I am at peace. My reason for all this chopping and changing is that I’m a bit bored by the lack of kindness. The latest hoo-ha is around Eugene Peterson. In case you don’t know, Eugene Peterson, wrote The Message (Yes, I know, I know as it is a kind of Bible translation you could argue God wrote it but you get my drift.) He wrote things like this
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life (Philippians 4 6)
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11 28)
He is, indubitably, a “good thing”
He is also 83 and, I would say, very much in the “When Jesus says ‘Well Done'” category. Recently, in an interview, he was asked the QUESTION OF ALL QUESTIONS. All Christians who are being interviewed or have dipped their teeniest of toes in the waters of leadership must have a satisfactory answer to the QUESTION OF ALL QUESTIONS. The question being, obviously, “Where are you on the old same sex attraction thing?” (It will usually be phrased more elegantly than that)
Pastor Eugene’s reply, when asked the QUESTION OF ALL QUESTIONS, was a bit non-committal. He had known gay people in his church. Some were in positions of leadership, their sexuality hadn’t seemed to be the most interesting thing about them. He felt that he could do a same sex marriage blessing.
Well, this certainly put the cat among the chickens/pigeons/other feathered things. In fact, there were probably more cats than there were clucky things. It was carnage. People on Social Media were queuing up to condemn, to stand up for “pure theology” and to generally make sure that right won out. A bookshop said that it would no longer stock his books. Within 24 hours Pastor Eugene had withdrawn his statement. He was then roundly condemned by the LGBT community.
Now, as you know, I don’t claim to have all knowledge about this subject. I have personal experience because my brother really struggled with church after he came out as gay, but I’ll be honest – I dunno. I’m still working through it. However I do know that I am quite perturbed about the way we react to people who make any kind of statement we don’t like when asked the QUESTION OF ALL QUESTIONS. Everyone rushes to take up their positions to defend their little corner of theology. You must all know where I stand and understand that “I am correct on this and God agrees with me.” Then, when we are nasty with people (and some people can be very nasty indeed) it is excused because we are standing up for the Bible or for an oppressed minority depending on which way your particular mop flops. Reasoned person to person debate, where people can ask one another difficult questions without fearing the wrath of an entire community, seems to have disappeared. People could ask Jesus anything. They asked really stupid questions sometimes and they did make him sigh deeply but all genuine questions were answered thoughtfully without bullying.
My old mother used to say that you should never wash your dirty washing in public. It’s true. Christians are genuinely struggling with these questions and Social Media is not helping us to be rational or reasoned or even more importantly – kind. So I’m not engaging. I’m not joining in and I’m not watching. I’m not getting involved when “Conservative Christians” subtly suggest that their hotline to God gives them “Defender of the Faith” status and I’m not putting up a flag for those whose belief in “Progressive Faith” give them the right to smugly patronise those who are not “as far along the road” as they are. I’m not withdrawing from seeking or talking nicely. I’m just not very good at all the one-upmanship. Maybe others feel called to that. I don’t. Rant over.
Our Father is kind; you be kind (Luke 6 36 The Message)