Category Archives: Religion

Love one another as I have loved you

I see a lot of Christians hating on the LGBTIQ+ communities (well probably less the straight intersex people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth), quoting Leviticus and Paul as justifications for doing so.  Both of those books have histories significantly different that what most people believe, and most Christians pick and choose from these books what they will and won’t follow.  These books are used to beat the LGBTIQ+ communities because of the versus contained therin.

Leviticus 20:13

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Romans 1:26-27

For this reason [idolatry] God gave them up to passions of dishonor; for even their females exchanged the natural use for that which is contrary to nature, and likewise also the males, having left the natural use of the female, were inflamed by their lust for one another, males with males, committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was fitting for their error.

You know what Jesus said about LGBTIQ+ people?

What Jesus did say was (John 13:34-35):

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

And later in John 15:9-17

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

I’ve given the whole thing here because it gives a bit more context.

If you believe that Jesus was real and that the gospels are the story of his brief 33 years on earth (he really did pack a lot into those last 3 years), then the first quote from John above he said this as he washed his disciples’ feet.  It is believed that the John who wrote this gospel was an actual disciple of Jesus, so the fact that in a short period of time Jesus apparently told his disciples to love one another repeatedly should be something that is noted by most Christians.

Of course, it rarely is.

If Christians loved one another and others like Jesus loved his disciples, and followed Jesus’s teachings, then there would be a whole lot more love and forgiveness and a whole lot less bigotry and judgement.

Jesus also had a fair bit to say about judging people, he wasn’t a fan.

One lesson everyone should really take from Jesus’s life was who he hung out with.  He spent time with those elements of society who were reviled.  He broke bread with tax collectors, who were considered sinners straight up (usually because they collected tax AND a bit extra), and with sex workers (who are still shunned today).  His disciples were fishermen, not the higher ends of Judean society at the time.  He healed the sick and unclean, he worked on the day of rest and called the upper echelons of society hypocrites.  He was not popular with “society” and was a rebel with a cause.

If Jesus came back today, he’d still hang out with the poor, the sex workers, and the reviled in society (LGBTIQ+ people, drug users, refugees, etc).  He wouldn’t associate with the Catholic Church (the Church that claims to be the direct descendent of the church that the disciple Peter started), he wouldn’t associate with politicians, he wouldn’t associate with the rich, nor would he associate with those who claim to know and understand the exact inner workings of the mind of god (those Christians who say what god does or does not like/want/etc).

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan because he wanted his disciples to understand that people are good and worth attention and care regardless of their cultural background and difference.  He told this story after being asked “Who is my neighbour?”, and it’s important to note that the neighbour is someone who hated by Jewish society at the time.

Jesus commanded that his disciples love one another, but that commandment should not be interpreted in a narrow way, meaning to only love those who are like yourself or have your exact way of thinking.  Jesus wanted his followers to love as he loved the world.  To love so much that he submitted to being crucified in order to save people from the burden of sin (so the theology goes).

So when any Christian person tells you that they “love the sinner but not the sin”, they aren’t loving the sinner, they are judging (because you have to judge first to identify that someone is sinning), and not loving someone as Jesus loved.

When any Christian tells you that a group in society does not deserve equal rights, or is less than them due to misfortune, race, religion, or ability, then they aren’t loving someone as Jesus loved and commanded.

Christianity gets a lot of free passes for some truly vile shit they have pulled over the years, and are still pulling today (here and here).  I want to call our the poor behaviour of Christians and Christianity when I see it.  I want to remind them that they should be loving their neighbour as themselves, that they were ordered by Jesus to love, and that their behaviour right now isn’t showing that at all.

So during the fight for marriage equality, and other fights where society adjusts and shifts and equality is granted where it hasn’t been available before, I will call out shitty, non-loving behaviour, because it is the right thing to do.

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The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak

A few months ago I was having a conversation about the difference between some forms of Western Spirituality and Eastern Spirituality, and why some Westerners are so attracted to forms of Eastern Spirituality. In the end, we reached the conclusion that it might be due to some forms of Eastern Spirituality focusing on being present in the body and most forms of Western Spirituality essentially viewing the body as an evil necessity before you move onto the afterlife.

This then tied into some thoughts I had about yoga, and then some more thoughts I had when my yoga instructor told the class to be and feel heavy, to let our weight sink into the floor, and to let our legs and feet support us, not our shoulders or neck.  The mindfullness meditation that I do from time to time, also focuses on being in the body, on being present in the moment, and focusing on the breath, on the sensations of sitting or lying still for a period.

This blog post, which I will attempt to selectively quote from, pretty much sums up my experience of Christian teachings (Catholic for the most part) in relation to the body versus the soul:

Many of the early church Fathers were educated in Greek philosophy or came under its influence. The result was an amalgamation of Christian theology with Greek philosophy.

The theology of the early Middle Ages was dominated by the towering figure of Augustine of Hippo, who completed the fusion of the Pauline emphasis of sin and grace through faith with a Neoplatonic view of man that stressed the imprisonment of the soul in the body. This dualism led to an increasing asceticism in the life of the medieval church, which meant an attitude of indifference or even outright hostility toward the body. The official theology of the church concentrated on getting the soul of the believer into heaven, through the Sacraments, or at least on saving it from hell, as the doctrine of purgatory developed. —James N. Lapsley, Salvation and Health, p.39.

Coming down to the medieval period, Lapsley continues:

If the health of the body was not forgotten, it was once again generally relegated to the status of a matter of relative indifference, which might as well be sacrificed to gain eternal bliss. This was the situation that obtained as Martin Luther grew toward manhood at the turn of the sixteenth century.  —Ibid., p.41.

The medieval church did not understand what the New Testament meant by “flesh” and “spirit.” In real Greek fashion she understood these terms to designate two parts of man — the higher and lower natures. Since things like body, work, eating and sexuality belonged to the “flesh,” they were regarded as inferior functions, if not tainted with evil. On the other hand, prayers, fasting, celibacy and religious tasks were regarded as “spiritual” and therefore superior, if not meritorious.

Or a concept of “soul-salvation” which is not a “whole-salvation” can lead people to think that since God is not very concerned with the body, neither should they be too concerned about how they treat the body. It is amazing how many Christians think that they display their spirituality by neglecting the body. If they hasten a coronary by bad living habits, they think that this will be a good testimony of their dedication to the Lord’s work.

It makes sense then that those people attracted to religions and forms of spirituality that focus on being present in your own body, treating it well, and stepping gently on the world around you, are not going to be attracted to Christianity necessarily.  It makes sense that people who want to look after themselves, their environment, and their planet are attracted to forms of belief, exercise and spirituality that support those things.

This is, in part, why I do yoga as a form of exercise.  It’s one that recognises my body, my journey through life, my ability, and is patient with where I am at today.  I am not after the spiritual aspects of yoga, but being a form of meditation and exercise that developed from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain philosophy, it is differently grounded to the philosophies that I grew up with.  When I did ballet as a child, we were not taught to move with our breath, to ground ourselves and be connected to the ground we stood on, and we were not taught how to breathe properly (being a singer helped there).  Instead we were taught to be as light as air (which is funny in retrospect), to glide, gracefully above the earth as if we were not made from it.  Fencing, my preferred form of competitive sport, is again a sport about being light, and nimble – and one not designed so well for women, but that’s a different story.

To take up room, to be heavy, to be your body are radical notions in Western Christian philosophy where the body is seen as something that carries around the soul while you do enough good deeds to get into your deity’s good books before being allowed to be rewarded with heaven after you die.

 

 

Oh, and I chose the title of this blog, as one of the worst lines in the Bible – the need to sleep, to eat, to live are seen as a weakness versus things that actually need to be addressed.

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Let’s talk about abortion – again

Because we should never tire of talking about people’s individual right to make their own medical decisions, their own choices about their body, and their own life choices (as a collective, of course as individuals, we probably all get tired of this at some time or another).

So the new Pope, who was reported on Friday as being more “meh” about abortion because the Catholic Church had done that to death recently, and all the other good messages in the fresh and fragrant Gospels (his words not mine) were being lost in the “thou shalt not” stance of the church, came out today condemning abortion in order to placate the hardliners in the Church who thought that the Pope was being soft on abortion.  Because there is nothing more inspiring that someone saying, “yeah I know, this message is getting old and there are other things we should be talking about, but did you know that WE HATE ABORTION?”

Of course people only have abortions because of convenience according to the Pope:

Pope Francis offered an olive branch of sorts to the doctrine-minded, conservative wing of the Catholic church on Friday, when he denounced abortions as a symptom of today’s “throw-away culture” and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them.

which as we all know is complete bollocks.  I had an abortion to save my life, an abortion that would not have been performed in the hospital I had first arrived at, Saint Vincents, despite the fact that I was internally hemorrhaging and had I been left untreated I would have died.  I know other people who have had abortions because they believed that they were not capable of being parents at that time. I know people who have had abortions because being pregnant would cause a myriad of potentially fatal health issues.  I know people who have had abortions because they could not afford to have a child.  I know people who have had abortions because they were mortally afraid of being pregnant and having children.  All these issues and more do not make up a “throw-away culture”.  I don’t know anyone who has medical procedures for the fun of it.

The most telling part of the Pope’s comments on abortion is that the people who are pregnant aren’t even mentioned.  There is lots of talk about babies and children (despite the fact that it’s not until they are born that they are babies or children), and those babies or children having Jesus’s face (which is just a bit creepy), but nothing about the people whose lives may be in danger or whose ability to manage a pregnancy and the next 18 years of raising a child is being questioned by them.  It’s telling, it says “The Catholic Church cares more about babies than it does about the people whose body they incubate in, who will then spend the next 18 years or so raising, feeding, and attempting to afford them”.

He did repeat it on Friday, however. In his comments, Francis denounced today’s “throw-away culture” that justifies disposing of lives, and said doctors in particular had been forced into situations where they are called to “not respect life.”

“Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord,” he said.

He urged the gynaecologists to abide by their consciences and help bring lives into the world. “Things have a price and can be for sale, but people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things,” he said. (The Guardian)

I certainly feel secure in my medical treatment knowing that there are doctors out there who do not have my best interests at heart.  I certainly feel welcome in the Catholic Church, an institution that does not trust women to be able to make up their own minds on issues.  I completely trust a religious institution that tells me that sex must have consequences for those who are fertile and have uteri.

The Catholic Church has consistently been anti-choice for as long as abortion has been a public issue, they are at least consistent with that.  They’ve consistently been on the side of a cluster of cells that cannot survive outside the individual it is growing in (while consuming their blood, energy and nutrition), instead of the individual who may or may not want that cluster of cells.  They have been consistently on the side of sex having consequences for those with uteri, instead of celebrating that sex is good for you, and consensual sex without consequences actually improves the wellbeing of everyone.  They have been on the side of that cluster of cells, instead on the side of families and individuals who are already struggling with poverty, disease, an excess of children, or immediate health consequences.

So eager is the Catholic Church to see more children born, that even in cases where the embryo is non-viable, they will still attempt to block access to abortion if at all possible.  We know that the Catholic Church will block access to abortion too when there is the choice between saving the mother’s life or leaving her pregnant and dead.

Every time I think that the Catholic Church might begin to reform, this shit comes up and I swear off it even further than I already have.  An organisation of men who think they know what is best for women – sounds similar to our own Government right now, but still – the Catholic Church is not a friend to those with uteri, and if you are a member of it, you need to remember that if you ever need to assert your right to your body.

Other useful reading by Libby Anne at Love Joy Feminism on this topic:

 

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The most persecuted group in the world

So today my sister sent me a link to a article from the West Australian detailing WA Liberal MP Luke Simpkins and his support of anti-halal food, or that all food should be labelled halal if it is, because otherwise we’re being stealth converted.  Who knew that halal food was a gateway drug to Islam.  From the West Australian:

“By having Australians unwittingly eating Halal food we are all one step down the path towards the conversion, and that is a step we should only make with full knowledge and one that should not be imposed upon us without us knowing,” Mr Simpkins told Parliament.

The petition tabled by Mr Simpkins had been organised by the Barnabas Fund, an organisation that supports Christians living in Muslim countries.

I thought initially I’d write about how Mr Simpkins was an arsehat and perhaps award him the arsehat of the week award, but then I thought I’d look into the Barnabas Fund to see what their petition said.  Oddly enough I couldn’t find a petition regarding halal meat, instead I found a petition calling for the Government to recognise that Christians are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

According to Barnabas:

Christians are one of the largest and most persecuted groups in the world. Yet they often appear to be the most neglected group in Western governments’ foreign policy. There is little concrete engagement with the issue of anti-Christian persecution, even though governments may recognise that respect for minorities and human rights is a foundation stone for national and international peace and security.

Barnabas Fund’s Proclaim Freedom campaign will run to the end of 2012 and will seek to raise the profile of the persecuted Church around the world. It will have two specific aims:

  • to press governments to be active in promoting human rights in other countries for all minorities, but especially religious freedom for the roughly 200 million Christians living under the shadow of persecution, discrimination and disadvantage (source)

I thought that 200 million Christians was a big number of Christians that are facing persecution, and thought I’d have a quick look into where that number comes from, and investigate a bit more thoroughly.

Now the number of Christians that are actively being persecuted, may possibly be persecuted, or live in countries where there is discrimination against them (that might not amount to persecution) is a slippery number.  Different sources have numbers between 100 million and 300 million Christians facing persecution and/or discrimination.  This also appears to be an estimated number, hence a very large potential for a margin of error.

Reuters reported in January 2013 that the number of Christians being persecuted is 100 million:

“There are over 65 countries where Christians are persecuted,” said the report released on Tuesday by Open Doors, which began in the 1950s smuggling Bibles into communist states and now works in more than 60 countries.

“An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide are persecuted,” the United States-based group said in the report. All but one of the 50 countries in the list – Colombia, which ranked 46th – were in Africa, Asia or the Middle East.

Christianity is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2 billion followers or 32 percent of the world population, according to a report by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

It faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries around the world, ahead of the 90 countries limiting or harassing the second-largest faith, Islam, another Pew report said.

Open Doors of course being a Christian organisation that believes that spreading Christianity about is a great idea, and works to support persecuted Christians.

Wikipedia has the number of persecuted Christians set at 200 million, the same number as Barnabas, as does the Christian Reformed Church, and the National Catholic Reporter, which even explains how the number has been arrived at:

According to a recent Pew Forum analysis, 10 percent of Christians live in societies in which they’re a minority. Given that there are 2.18 billion Christians on the planet, this translates into more than 200 million people, many facing threats such as those in the Gaza Strip.

An article that is widely republished on the internet but which I cannot find the original source of, has an Anthony Browne, “Europe correspondent of the Times” put the number of persecuted Christians at 300 million.

If we accept that some hundreds of millions of people are at risk of persecution, actively being persecuted, or who are discriminated against due to being Christian, where are these Christians being persecuted?

Today [March 2012], the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (Uscirf) released its14th annual report, which it is mandated to do under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The report identifies the world’s worst persecutors and makes foreign-policy recommendations, which are non-binding, to the administration and Congress. Its decisions are based on the agency’s visits to foreign countries, and a wide array of other sources, including the State Department’ s own excellent annual compilation of worldwide religious-freedom violations. The commission is distinctive because it is an independent federal agency, and it is to make its name-and-shame lists and policy recommendations unburdened by foreign-policy considerations other than the defense of religious freedom.

This year, Uscirf named 16 countries as the most egregious and systematic religious freedom violators in the world and recommended them for official “Country of Concern” (CPC) designation by the U.S. State Department. They are: Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, (north) Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Mandeans, Ahmadiyas, Rohingya Muslims, Yizidis, Alevis, Shiite and Ismaili Muslims in Saudi Arabia, African traditional believers in Sudan, Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, Sufi Muslims, Pakistani Hindus, independent Buddhists in Vietnam, Cao Dai, and many others groups and individuals are persecuted in these 16 countries. They suffer arrest, torture, imprisonment and even death for religious reasons, as well as other pressures. All these groups are covered in the Uscirf report.

Christians are far from the only religious group persecuted in these countries. But, Christians are the only group persecuted in each and every one of them. This pattern has been found by sources as diverse as the Vatican, Open Doors, Pew Research Center, Newsweek, and The Economist, all of which recently reported that an overwhelming majority of the religiously persecuted around the world are Christians. Globally, this persecution is experienced by all Christian faith traditions from Pentecostal and evangelical to Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox.

In many cases the persecution is at the hands of the government, as, for example, in China, Burma, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, but often, in places like Nigeria and Iraq, it is committed by religious extremists and vigilantes in the society who operate within a climate of impunity. In Pakistan and Egypt persecution is sponsored by all three — the authorities, extremist groups, and vigilantes. [Hudson Institute]

On one hand I’m concerned that there are people out there are who are solely concerned with the fact that Christians are being persecuted and that many other religious groups (as identified by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom) don’t rate a mention for those people.  Not to mention all the other people who are persecuted due to their political beliefs, race, nationality, or membership of a particular social group (often includes members of the LGBTIQ community, unionists, occupational groups, families, etc).

I’m a huge supporter of human rights for all.  Although I don’t agree with the premise of religion and the way many religious institutions operate, I am not against individuals choosing to believe or follow a certain religion, and I believe that choice should be free from persecution or discrimination.

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The moral high ground

Recently I was listening to a conversation between my mother and my sister.  My mother had given up on convincing me to join her at church that Sunday and was talking to my sister instead, hoping to convince her.  My sister patiently explained that she had rather big issues with the way the Catholic Church was operating, their classification of sins, their treatment of women, and their lack of action regarding the abuse by priests of children and others.  My mother immediately deflected criticism of an organisation she identifies with, and replied that the church was made up of people, and people are falible, and hey what about that organisation that you belong to, I bet they’re not perfect either.

It took me a while to unpack all that and why it was so wrong, and when it came to me, the response was perfect (and also a few days too late).  You see, most organisations that people belong to don’t make claims that they’re the moral arbiters for the entire world.

Continue reading The moral high ground

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Let’s talk about Islamaphobia

Geert Wilders, the bigoted and racist Dutch politician, is in Australia peddling Islamaphobia.  It is safe to say that I pretty much disagree with everything he has to say.  In the marketplace of ideas his viewpoints attract people who already hold the same repugnant views as himself, those that haven’t actually thought deeply about what is being said, and those who are afraid of difference.  I hope in this post to reach the last two groups, the first is welded off from hearing anything I say.

Wilders would have you believe that Europe is at risk of being overrun by Muslims and that he alone stands against the Muslim tide, which would have everyone required to submit to Sharia law, cats and dogs living together, or something.  The article in today’s Age is a bit vague about what all these threats are:

Mr Wilders – impeccably dressed and coiffured, a polished media performer who never raised his voice despite some hostile questioning – said Islam was a totalitarian system that was incompatible with freedom. Individual Muslims might integrate into Western countries, but Islam never could.

“I am here to talk about the Islamisation of Europe,” he said. “If you think what happened in Europe will not happen in Australia, you are totally wrong.”

Shorter Wilders, “The Muslims are coming, things will go badly, run for the hills/ban them from coming in the first place!” Continue reading Let’s talk about Islamaphobia

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Archbishop Peter Jensen and sexism

The Anglican Church introduced new wedding vows this week, that included the bride promising to “submit” to her husband. Here I was thinking we lived in the 21st Century, and not the 17th – silly me.

Archbishop Jensen, who was part of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (a group who is publicly against the ordination of queer individuals into the Anglican ministry), is well known for his conservatism, and “literal” (read those bits he agrees with personally, not those pesky bits about mixed fibres, slaves, shellfish, and the treatment of rape victims – well maybe that last bit) following of the bible.

Continue reading Archbishop Peter Jensen and sexism

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