Last night, in the few minutes between getting into bed and falling asleep, one question wafted into my mind:
Why do some people believe it’s okay to interfere in, criticise or control the lives and choices of others?
In Australia and New Zealand, they have a brilliant word for such people: wowsers. People so prim, proper and moralistic, they suck the fun out of everything. People so easily-offended, freedom of choice and freedom of expression is a scary prospect to them.
Thinking about it further got me more than a little wound up. I’ve been on the receiving end of a fair share of criticism over the years from people who saw themselves on the moral or cultural high ground and saw it as their right to pass comment on others. Therefore, this post may get rather ranty, a bit sarcastic and perhaps a little satirical too. We all need to vent sometimes.
I’d been watching a video on the sexual double standard. If you’re not already familiar with the term, it’s where having many sexual partners is regarded negatively for women, but virtuous for men. From what I gathered, it’s an anachronistic and conservative throwback to the days before contraceptives, where promiscuous women were seen as potential harbingers of venereal diseases… so don’t go there! As such, a woman with no, or few, previous sexual partners was seen as appropriate; however, a man with a similar history must have something seriously wrong with him. How on earth is this still relevant today, and what right do we have to criticise others for what they get up to in the bedroom anyway? If you’re happy and healthy, who cares?!
The same goes for those who believe conversion therapy works, and either encourage, pressure or force their friends or family members to undergo such treatment. What’s the matter? Is the shame of having a gay person in the family so bad that you’ll gladly chip away at your loved ones’ mind through extreme, Clockwork Orange-style therapies; just so you can sleep a little easier? I’m sorry, but if you’re only willing to say “I love you” after you’ve had their nuts wired to a car battery, then you’re the one who needs to seek help.
And while we’re on the subject, stop lobbying your representatives in Government to legally remove the rights of others based on your personal religious views. The same goes for international religious lobby groups too. If you want the freedom to practice your religion without discrimination, then keep your nose out of civic affairs. Freedom of religion is a universal human right, as is freedom of conscience, which applies to all and not just your little collective. Freedom from offence is not a human right… so put the placard down and move along.
And finally, here’s a list of a few more things people publicly criticise others for that really pisses me off:
Their physical appearance.
Their wardrobe choices. There’s a reason Trinny and Susannah aren’t on the air anymore.
Their gender identity. Is that stranger over there confusing you because they don’t look quite right? If I were you, I’d go home and take a couple of paracetamol if thinking is making your head hurt.
Their diet. Are you a doctor or a nutritionist? No? Then shut up!
Their political beliefs. There is no right and wrong on the political spectrum – contribute to the debate or go back to your right-wing safe space on the Daily Mail forums!
Their mental health. No, we can’t just “cheer up” or “snap out of it”.
Their possessions. Am I making you late for work by not driving a faster car? Sue me.
Their personal tastes. I quite liked Pink Floyd’s Endless River. Deal with it.
Their accent. I’m sick of hearing how disliked or “unattractive” the West Midlands accent is, or how it makes us sound unintelligent! Yow can bugger off, arroight!
Although such a thing doesn’t happen as much as it used to, whenever my mood takes a significant dip, Captain Paranoia burrows deep into my long-term memory, resurfacing with a handful of mental images I believed were long-forgotten. Stupid things I’ve said or done, mistakes I’ve made, chances I’ve wasted and any number of past regrets. When the Captain returns from the depths, he always says “Do you remember these? You were soooooo stupid back then! What on earth were you thinking?! You want to learn about who you really are? Well there you go. That’s you in a nutshell: complete and total idiot… and once an idiot, always an idiot!”
It’s getting easier to ignore the Captain, but sometimes the painful reminders don’t come from him.
Trying to distance myself from, or come to terms with, my time in the church is still a major hurdle because the triggers are all the more real. I’m still, technically-speaking, a member of the church. I’m still on the electoral roll (not that I’ve been to an AGM in five years), and the Standing Order still goes out every month in my name for tax purposes. Even small things can trigger bad memories – earlier, when I saw a Phatfish CD in a local charity shop, it reminded me of the many times I was required to lead the music group in yet another rendition of This is My Worship. That’s another thing – in my head, I’m well and truly done with the music group, but I’ve never officially left. It just feels like a loose end I don’t want to tie up.
One thing I’ve managed to avoid so far is a face-to-face confrontation. I’ve seen a few members around, and have exchanged a pleasantry or two with them, but there are some members who I hope I never bump into. They will ask the one question I don’t want to be asked: why don’t you come to church any more? In their eyes, I’ve just gotten a little lost and they can help me find my way back to the right path. All it takes is an invitation to the Alpha course… or to Back to Church Sunday… or to one of the more “fun” services… or, better yet, to a social. Something to ease me back onto the path of salvation by showing me that church, and church members, aren’t always dull and dreary.
They assume my faith is intact but my relationship with the church needs a bit of a bandage, and a little pastoral care will soon fix that. It’s not that simple. I’d woken up to realise that my faith was always paper-thin, and I was merely trying to convince others that it wasn’t. My path is no longer the Christian path: they mostly run parallel with each other, and occasionally merge, but I simply cannot let myself sleep-walk through the rest of my life. For me, living equals learning, and you can’t learn anything with a centuries-old book filtering what you see.
Most importantly, though: I’m not going to try and change your path – please don’t try to change mine.
Vinyl records have been a passion of mine since my mid-teens, but I’ve never actually owned an old 78 – the ones I tend to come across are rather scabby and all scratched up and, even if they were still in pristine condition, they weren’t my kind of music anyway. I know in order to play these old records I’d need a special 3 mil stylus to track the much wider grooves, but say I’d got one and some records to play – how would I go about cleaning them?
Well, I found a page telling me everything I needed to know, just in case, and I thought I’d take a look around the website – after all, with a URL of 78rpm.com, they sound like they’re the experts.
The first thing that greeted me on their homepage was a reaction to the recent US Election. I read it, and was rather baffled by it. I just don’t get the mindset of fundamentalist Christians. They say one thing, but they want the opposite.
The pundits and pollsters will debate the cause of this new American revolution for years to come, but the Church should understand one thing: God has moved.
Are you sure it was God that intervened? Some news sources say it was Vladimir Putin.
President-elect Trump is a very flawed man. As far as we can see, his greatest weakness is his pride, and we know how God feels about that. It was pride that caused the downfall of Lucifer, and it may be his pride that brings about the downfall of Trump (and with him, this country) if he doesn’t also humble himself and seek God.
This is where I begin to get baffled. Do you want the full-on, ultra-confident and assertive Trump who will mince all those nasty liberals into slurry, keep those pesky Mexicans away from your stuff, and stop Muslims practising their religion near your children… or do you want a humble, peaceful and Christ-like Trump? I don’t think you can have both.
God, please forgive us for neglecting this most important discipline of the Christian life, and strengthen us to engage the enemy and advance Your kingdom in prayer from this day forward.
And whom, may I ask, is this so-called “enemy”? Why is everything always “Us vs. Them”?
The return to righteousness and the rollback of ungodly laws will not happen without serious battles, perhaps not unlike the fight that led to this historic moment.
Wait, what?! I thought America was supposed to be the land of hope, freedom, glory with liberty and justice and Cable TV for all etc… it kind-of sounds like they’d exchange all of that to live in a Conservative Christian theocracy.
Economic decisions and foreign policy shifts will be easy compared to the fundamental cultural and moral issues we face. Whatever we do regarding the former will ultimately be of no value if we do not attend to the latter
Oh here we go.
For God has chosen to bring judgement upon this country in the form of foreign aggression and a crumbling economy precisely because we have allowed our nation to descend into a moral pit
No, your economy is crumbling because you elect the economically-incompetent. Foreign powers act aggressive towards the US because aggression is all they get from the US. Study economics, stop acting like the playground bully and you’ll find “immorality” was not to blame for the country’s woes… well, not the cultural immorality I’m sure we’ll hear about soon enough.
The end of abortion … If we don’t rid ourselves of this abomination, nothing else will matter. Trump has pledged his support for this cause and we must hold his feet to the fire.
I’m so not going there. Abortion is not a black-and-white issue, and I find it hugely hypocritical when those who cry about the “right to life” only define “life” as the mere state of being alive. They have no concern for the mother or her well-being, and they have no concern for the child’s quality of life post-partum. If you’ve not been in that position, having to make that decision for yourself, you are not qualified on the subject. I find it even more hypocritical when said “pro-lifers” want to retain the death penalty and/or protest against gun control. It’s not okay to kill someone still in the womb, but they’re fair game once they’re on the outside? I don’t always agree with him, but I’m with George Carlin on this one.
The restoration of traditional marriage. This will be even more difficult than ending abortion, and it may not be something the administration wishes to pursue
I’ve said before, each person interprets scripture differently and there is no universal consensus on this issue. If churches want to keep marriages wholly traditional, that’s their prerogative, but civil and non-Christian marriages are none of their business.
The return of God to our schools, government, institutions and the public arena. Our gracious Father enters where He is invited, and we need to replace political correctness with spiritual correctness.
Or, in other words, create a theocracy. Get ’em while they’re young, eh?
The appointment of godly men and women to our federal, state and municipal courts and most especially to the Supreme Court.
Or, in other words, create a theocracy. How “godly” would they have to be: Moby, Ned Flanders or Fred Phelps? Am I alone in thinking that if you hand full legal and judicial control to a group of fundamentalist Christians, it won’t be long before someone is in the dock accused of witchcraft?
We must seek to restore the proper role of government in our society and restrain politicians, ideologues and bureaucrats from unwarranted intrusion into our lives.
You are joking, right? The bulk of this document has been advocating turning the US into a theocracy based on one particular Christian ideology. You also have no qualms about intruding into peoples lives when it’s something you don’t agree with – or does telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies fall under “warranted intrusion”? How do you think they feel about that? Or are their feelings secondary concerns because what (you think) God wants, God gets?
A greater respect for the privacy, freedoms and property rights of all US citizens. A government with unbridled access to unlimited data detailing the personal lives of the American populace is a threat to democracy, a boon to tyranny and a powerful tool in the hands of the Enemy
I do actually agree with this, but I doubt that if such fundamentalists were in power, liberally covering all that is civil and judicial with their scriptural interpretations, they’d be all that quick to close down the data farms. Aren’t you even tempted to find out who has been checking out Richard Dawkins books from the library? Wouldn’t you like to see who on Facebook recently changed their marital status so you can verify the sexes of the happy couple?
You can’t say you want to respect people’s freedoms while, at the same time, imposing restrictions on said freedoms based on your religious ideology.
If I were you, I’d stay out of politics and stick to selling records.
I’m actually quite enjoying taking the piss out of fundamentalist dogmas, especially ones that want to “educate” women. I saw this one page about “The Woman’s Role in Marriage” by David J. Stewart (no, not the bloke out of Eurythmics) and I thought I’d take a peek to see how it reflects my wife’s role in our marriage.
Long story short, it doesn’t. Not one bit. My wife is my equal, not my subordinate, and if I spoke to her the way that article does, I’d be dragged into court answering divorce proceedings within 10 minutes flat. And I’d deserve it too.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Fundamentalist Christians – they’re just the same as any normal sociopath – but you’ve got to admit that they’re more than a little behind the times.
Let the piss-taking commence!
I wish it were a crime for churches to interfere in people’s marriages, because a lot of pastors and pastor’s wives would be in prison today. Church people will ruin your marriage faster than the heathens down at the local tavern. I’ve seen it happen again and again.
And yet they never learn. I’m all for church people advising others on their marriages, but they have to bear in mind these two things:
There’s no such thing as a generic, bog-standard, biscuit-cutter marriage.
If you insist on poking your nose in where it’s not wanted, don’t be surprised if said nose gets broken!
There is a cocky arrogance in many of our churches today, where people view the pastor as a type of god, where whatever he says is law, and his wife is a feminist in sheep’s clothing. This is tragic.
If we’re talking about Jack Hyles here, I think that grumpy old sod got off on giving his parishioners commands and laws to follow so that he didn’t have to deal with anything “modern” that the antiquated lump of fossilised wood known as his “brain” couldn’t cope with.
As for the wife being a “feminist in sheep’s clothing” – what definition of feminist are we talking here? Are we talking the accepted definition of feminism where men and women have equal rights and opportunities, or the conservative alarmist definition of feminism (which is actually closer to misandry) used to brainwash people so that they don’t find out what the word actually means?
And besides – what’s wrong with sheep’s clothing? Wool can be very comfortable, unless you’re allergic.
The Authority of the Church is the Word of God; and not the pastor. Such pastors feel they have a right to advice women in their church to go against their husband’s decisions.
Nothing wrong with advising if it’s asked for – you still have a choice on whether to follow or reject that advice.
Going against their husband’s decisions? That’s a different matter. If your husband’s decision would be considered idiotic by anyone with an IQ of 6 or above, nobody is going to blame you for going against him. Alternatively, work on a water-tight escape plan so that when his idiotic decision goes belly-up, you can walk out of there with your head held high, leaving the bastard to clean up his own mess.
A perfect example is church attendance. I know of numerous Baptist pastors who teach that a wife should go to church, even if her husband says “no.” This is rebellion on the part of the wife.
Argh! Not rebellion! For the love of God, man, CONTROL YOUR WOMAN! One day it’s church, next day she’s donning leathers and joining a biker gang! Do you REALLY want your pastor to call you a sissy in front of the whole congregation?!
(O sarcasm, how I love thee)
Pastor Hutson teaches that a wife should stay home from church if her husband tells her to. I know this may harelip every dog in the county; but it is Biblical. Before God ever created a church, a family, or kids — He created the MARRIAGE!
But before God could create marriage, he had to create people to marry. Those people were once kids, so he’d have had to have created the kids before he created marriage, right? But then the kids would’ve had parents who would have had to have been married before marriage was even created. I’m assuming they’re not advocating sex before marriage or having children out of wedlock – that’s not usually their thing.
I’m confused – it’s the Chicken and the Egg all over again! Which idiot was it that said religion has all the answers?
Besides, shouldn’t the wife be free to attend church? I thought this was America: land of FREEDOM, hope, glory, bald eagles and all that starry-stripy type stuff….?
You are to show the world the relationship of the church of Christ, and your part is to make the church look best you can.
Literally translated: The flower-arranging rota is over there. Here’s a pen.
It is the husband’s part to make Christ look as good to the world as he can by playing the part of Christ.
What, even in the Nativity play? They make adult-sized mangers now? Who’d have thunk it!?
The Holy Spirit says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ. so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
True – but it also said “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” and “In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” To me, that reads like husbands and wives become one and have equal duty to each other, not a biblical edict to yell:
I made a mistake as a young pastor that I corrected later. I told a lady, when her husband told her not to go to church, “You just tell him you are going to church anyway. You are going to live for God.”
Yeah. You go, girl!
I gave her unscriptural advice. You are to be to your husband what the church is to Christ — submissive, obedient.
You mean like a dog?! This is sooooooo not going to end well.
Submission is a right attitude, recognizing that the husband is the head. That doesn’t mean the wife can’t make suggestions–that she can’t tell him what she wants. But the husband is to lead the home, and he is make the final decision.
I’m the man of my family so you’re saying that what I say goes. Well, I say we work through the decision together, each adding our own input, and arriving at a conclusion that will provide a more satisfactory outcome! I’m a man – I can waive my male privilege if I want to! Don’t like it? Well…
Someone says, “Now, wait a minute. I have said, ‘I do,’ The drama is on. I know my role. Now, what is my husband’s role?”
But there is no need to talk about him; he is not here.
“In which case, and I’m sorry to ask this of you – me being a mere woman and all, but could you tell Joe to get his arse out of that manger and come here please?”
Your role is to be submissive. Look at Titus 2. Your role is to love your husband. Your role is to be discrete, chaste, keepers at home. Did you know a woman’s home is her career? It should be…
I warned you this was not going to end well!
It is easy to forget your role. When your husband asks you to do something, it is easy to say, “Do it yourself. I am not your slave.” Remember, you are not playing the role of the church when you do that.
So what you’re ultimately saying is that wives ARE the slaves of their husbands? What’s the matter – you can’t tear West Africans from their homes any more, so you go for the next best thing?
You know what? If you think the Bible gives you carte blanche to be a sexist dinosaur, go right ahead.
Up until a few years ago, I was a regular church-goer. It was rare that I didn’t turn up on Sundays. I’d served a term on the church council, been a leader in the music group, manned the sound desk and projector along with various other duties. After several years of church life, one day I just felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. Complete and total apathy with a sprinkling of “why am I even doing this?”. I was tired, fed up and completely unmotivated.
I was tired of leading the music group. It always seemed like I was playing the same songs constantly, and when we introduced new ones, they weren’t all that different from the old ones – they certainly didn’t say anything that hadn’t already been said in hundreds of other songs. They made Westlife sound lyrically-diverse. There seemed to be limited avenues for expression: I got the impression that, when I wasn’t leading, my role was just to stand at the back and keep the rhythm – solos were for flautists. I also grew to loathe the songs we took from Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons, purely because we were playing them so frequently.
I was tired of the cyclical nature of church life. Liturgy was the same month-in-month-out, sermons appeared to be recycled from last year, and the droning voice of the congregation always sounded pre-programmed. Why weren’t we moving forward? Why were we stuck in a seemingly-interminable loop?
I was frustrated by church politics too. One church, one people, one hierarchy. I recall one incident when, during my term on the council, it was suggested that we purchase a batch of Diamond Jubilee Bibles to give to primary school children within the Parish. It was stated that this would be a great opportunity for youth outreach, and almost everybody agreed. Everybody but me. I argued that, on those grounds, the money could be better-spent: giving a primary school child a Bible and saying “here’s everything you need to know about being a Christian” was like handing them a Haynes manual and saying “here’s everything you need to know about fixing a car”. It’s useless without guidance, context or explanation – so why don’t we invest in something more educational and aimed at a primary school level instead? The response I got was basically just “You have a valid point, but… FREE BIBLES!”. I then saw no further point in engaging in church politics.
I grew particularly weary of the “Big Church” mentality. I sensed a lot of admiration for huge contemporary churches like Holy Trinity Brompton and Soul Survivor, and it often appeared to me as if the church leadership sought to emulate their loud-and-modern approach as a way of encouraging growth. This approach was the one thing I liked the least about the two Spring Harvest events I attended – everything had to be sanitised in order to make it more suitable for a mass audience, rather than risk offending certain denominations. We were a rather small, local church with huge ambitions, but I felt we were trying to reach out without actually going out and doing something – instead, we hoped that the people outside would step inside of their own accord if they saw we weren’t stuffy or traditional.
After a lot of self-reflection, I noticed a recurring thread: whenever I was supposed to be experiencing all this spiritual activity, I was conscious that it was happening to other people and not me. That would imply that either (a) I was unworthy, (b) it was actually happening to me but I wasn’t aware of it, or (c) everybody else was merely having a psychosomatic reaction. Upon deeper reflection, I realised that I was never a true Christian, just an actor pretending to be one. I’d never actually given myself completely to Christ. I was enough of a head person to be a Christian philosophically, but was not enough of a heart person to be a Christian spiritually – I always tended to back away from doctrine rather than embrace it.
That was the old me, but would the new me ever go back to being a regular church-goer? I’d never say never, but a lot of water has since flowed under the bridge. I don’t think I could bring myself to sing worship songs when I feel absolutely no connection to them (truth be told, I saw a copy of Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons in a charity shop and felt like buying it just to destroy it for cathartic effect). I couldn’t bring myself to say the Creed when I don’t actually hold those beliefs. I also couldn’t bring myself to pray, believing that there might be any point in doing so.
After all… if there is a god, why would I lie to them?