Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The danger of the "grace" movement

If you are a christian you have probably heard of the Grace Movement.

Of course, as with all doctrines, there are different versions, but we'll stick with the basic concept -  that Jesus died for our sins once and for all. This might not sound like a big deal, but the implications are that sin is no longer an issue, we are always "saved" and are free to live in a state of constant love and approval by God.

As an ex-fundamentalist I found the idea the only thing that made any sense. There were far too many holes in christian logic and reasoning, and the mentality of most christians I found to be one of wilful ignorance based on fear.

The Grace "revelation" (based on the writings of Paul) revealed a gospel of love - real love. Not the ridiculous conditional excuse for love that the church has pedalled for so long. I was presented with a God that made sense, one that really did care for ALL humanity.

The problem with this doctrine however is it requires us to rethink parts of the bible and how we interpret them. This has caused division and cries of heresy (of course) as people immediately forget the struggles of guys like Luther.

In the end, traditional christians can't handle the new doctrines because they are too good. They make a mockery of centuries of self sacrifice in an effort to be holy. It destroys the need for obedience to "the law". It negates the desperate cries for annointings and favour from God. In general, it creates havoc with nearly all traditional doctrines other than the basic idea that Jesus died for our sins. Beyond that, everything is up for grabs!

The big danger however, is that the grace movement leads us straight out the door of christianity forever! And that, my friends, is as it should be!

Christianity became superfluous, simply because apparently Jesus fixed up everything for everyone for all time, so nothing to bother about! From there it was an easy step to seeing that it was all ridiculous - centuries of manipulating a religion to make it work. And work it did!! It hit a niche spot in our psyche that cried for acceptance from a higher power, to find meaning and purpose. It worked like magic as it supplied a scapegoat saviour who fixed up everything for us as long as we obeyed the rules.

At that point, the entire structure crumbled for me. The emperor really had no clothes. We were all walking naked down the street, with those who had the eyes to see, laughing at our gullibility.

Sooo yeah, as I often say, I understand the needs that Christianity meets in so many, but for many of us it becomes redundant - just another religion that provides one perspective on the issues of life. Sure, you can pull gems of wisdom from the bible, and many christian "mystics" have helped us see greater truths that keep the ball rolling.

But its time to grow up. Not in an arrogant way that says I'm right/better and you're wrong/stupid. But in the simple fact that we are far bigger and better than any one religion, and its time for us to look beyond the narrow confines of ALL religions and begin the real journey of life and love.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Masculine vs feminine

(This is a repost from my Silent Gays blog)

One of the most confusing and misunderstood areas about sexuality and gender are the core concepts of masculinity and femininity. Even amongst LGBT people there is often confusion!

The general stereotype says you are either an effeminate gay or butch lesbian, and the other stuff is just too hard to understand.

One of the confusing issues is how we relate the body (physical gender) with the psyche (the mental aspects). Masculinity and femininity are fluid concepts that are not confined to one particular body. We all know guys who exhibit feminine qualities to some degree and women who show some masculinity.

We could define the typical masculine psyche as tough, decisive, pursuing achievement and status, self reliant, aggressive etc. The feminine could be defined as gentle, thoughtful, caring, nurturing, sensitive etc (Wikipedia gives a very thorough breakdown of masculinity and femininity).

So for LGBT people there is a heck of a lot of stereotyping in all this, especially as far as the heteronormative understanding is involved. Traditionally gay guys are supposed to be very effeminate and lesbians are supposed to be butch. Of course the reality is nothing of the sort, but obviously it’s easier to differentiate an effeminate guy from the crowd and assume he’s gay, and the same with macho women- they stand out.

The problem is that its a continuum (sliding scale) – everyone on this planet has a mix of the masculine/feminine psyche, irrespective of their sexual attraction or gender identity!

So just because you may be attracted to the same sex doesn’t mean you are obliged to behave a certain way. There are gay guys who are really macho – fitting the classic masculine psyche, and there are lesbian women who are 100% feminine. You would never know they are “same sex attracted” from how they appear or act.

Even transgender people can be somewhere on the masculine/feminine continuum. For example, a guy could identify as a female in terms of gender, but still have a high degree of masculinity, and the inverse with a woman. Basically I’m saying everyone is different.

This can become a problem when, for example, a young guy “comes out’, but due to his exposure to the stereotypes he assumes that being gay means going to gay bars, watching drag shows and acting feminine. This can be hugely damaging and cause a lot of deep conflict for a guy, who may simply want to live an average male life with an average male partner. Sadly, even the pressure from within the LGBT community itself can be a problem.

We need to let go of every stereotype! We are ALL somewhere on the continuum of sexual attraction, gender identity, gender expression, and even physical gender attributes (Intersex)! There simply isn’t the “gay or straight” box that people get locked into.

We still have a lot to learn, and we need the freedom to find where we fit in. That freedom needs to be from society as a whole and just as importantly, from within the LGBT community itself. Fortunately times are changing, and fast! Let’s give each other the freedom to be our true selves.

Monday, 13 June 2016

What the F#$%* is love?

The more I observe, the more I realise that despite everyone talking about love, there's not that much consensus on what it actually is and how we do it.

There's a lot of commercial and media hype around it of course - always has been. But that's just about the "feeling", sex etc. We all kinda know that (hopefully).

When we sit down and have deeper conversations (or full on abuse sessions on Facebook, lol) it seems that all is ok until we have to apply it to real life. That's where the shit hits the fan so to speak.

So where do we start?

I guess the "golden rule" - Treat everyone as you want to be treated - is the most universal concept of love that every religion holds central (ignoring the fact that they also have many ways to get around it). It's a wonderful truth that we can't ignore, it hits at the heart of our humanity. Think about how you want to be treated in any given situation, and simply reverse the roles. It's easy to comprehend, profound in its impact, and is a blow to our ego in it's worst moments. This makes it far harder than we often care to admit.

Christianity has it nicely nailed in the (apparent) writings of Paul:
1 Cor 13: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres., hope, love, but the greatest of these is love.

We read this and get to about verse 5 and think cool yeah, I got that.. but then there's "keeps no records of wrongs", "never dishonours", "always protects, trusts, etc". This all starts to look like a hippy new age conspiracy. We tend to think of it as a nice ideal but rather impractical.

But how do WE want to be treated in ANY situation? Say we do something really wrong, stuff up big time, even to the point of damaging someone else's life. We are stuck, possibly in shame or grief, or maybe in denial. Our lives have stopped at that point (to greater or lesser degrees) not knowing how to move on. We want to be forgiven, we need someone, somehow to say, "that was horrific! - now how can I help you clean up the mess and move forward?" And we want them to help us with no judgement, just to accept that we blew it big time and now need to do whatever we can to grow, to avoid it again, to make amends - whatever is needed.

Love says, "OK lets apply this both ways - to everyone around us". Living like this requires patience, kindness, lack of envy and pride, no dis-honouring and always cool headed, not keeping records of crap, protecting, trusting, hoping, preserving".

I get angry when I see harm caused to so many in so many ways. I get angry at the really stupid and "evil" things people do. I get angry at bigotry in any form. I lash out at people, wanting them to be punished for their actions. I get angry with me! We so easily let the emotion take over the need. Of course, we must not live in denial of the emotions, we have to work with them, through them, shaping them and growing out of them.

We are all victims and perpetrators throughout our lives in some way or another. The problem becomes living the love we need to overcome being either!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Rape, Life, Love - part 2

As expected, I had some negative responses from my last blog

Even this response only scratches the surface of the issue. I hope that at least I'm inspiring thought and a challenge to actually live our ideals.

Some people challenged me (rightly so) on my idealism, lack of practical application, not understanding love and promoting "wishy washy lets just love and everything will be ok" philosophy. So understanding love is rather important!

Everyone thinks they know basically what love is all about. I used to have it nicely defined, especially from my christian background, but now I see it as something foundational to the nature of all that "is", far bigger and more impacting than we ever imagined. It's not just an option, but utterly essential to the survival and future growth of humanity.

Many people have some point at which they say something is unforgivable, particularly with abuse and rape. This is a very valid position to hold when we consider the long term implications that many have suffered - the devastation on so many lives and families. Exercising any form of love beyond immediate self care is often inconceivable.

But here's the bigger picture.

Do we want humanity to grow? Do we want to see people with that need to abuse even becoming an issue in the first place? Do we want to the world to be a "nicer" place? Rhetorical questions I'm sure! But how do we do that? By making the gigantic, emotionally taxing, intellectually challenging step of understanding the nature of love and actually living it.

Punishment does not work - ever - for anything. Thousands of years of history show this. Yes it will stop people out of fear, but it never changes the heart. You catch someone who abuses, lock them up as punishment, declare them evil scum, and hope they throw away the key. It solves the immediate problem of getting that person out of society so they can't re-offend, but does nothing for the victim or the abuser.

The victim may get a certain sense of justice, but it's not the thing that brings healing. It certainly doesn't heal the abuser, after all, abuse is about power and control, and locking them up only frustrates and represses that need, potentially making them even worse. Again, this works on one level because they are out of the way in prison, but if they get out, they re-offend, just as needy for power and control as ever.

Working with the abuser in love, with love, for love, means setting strong boundaries and creating a safe environment for others and themselves. It means confronting them with the consequences of the actions. It means working with them through their own need for control, their lack of self respect/self love, their insecurities that drive them to abuse. It means looking at everything that drives them to become abusive.

Punishment is the most negative and damaging things humans can do to each other. But think carefully about that before you react. When you have been punished for something what did you learn? You learnt fear. You stopped what you were doing, but it didn't make you a better person. It brought a redirection of behaviour through fear and more often than not repressed the cause of the behaviour you were punished for. For many it just means they put more effort into not being caught! This is at the core of punitive justice in every form at every level of our lives.

So, you do something wrong, and instead of being punished, you are shown the effects and consequences of what you did. You are made aware of the ongoing implications and damage to others etc. You are embraced and not shamed for your actions but gently and firmly held responsible for them. You are shown respect and dignity for your humanity. You are loved, without conditions, drawn into a level of empathy that heals.

Yes, for many that will be a long hard and frustrating journey, and it may seem inconceivable that we should take that much effort for many abusers. The justice system, the prison system, the mental health system and social work system simply isn't set up to do this. They aren't trained or resourced to even consider this. They have to work within the parameters that are dictated by society/government etc. So yeah, I'm talking about an ideal in the current social systems we have.

What do we do? The only thing we can - we change ourselves!

We look at our own hearts, we look at how much we love ourselves, our own sense of self worth, and begin there. We dig deep with compassion and empathy towards ourselves until we find peace within us that needs no outside support.

Then we do the same for those around us. We begin to "live loved". We can't change the world by tomorrow, but we CAN change ourselves, starting now.

So back to the original post...
Do you want change or "justice"?
Do you want freedom or revenge?
Do you want to to see the world grow in love and life?
or continue in judgement, bitterness and cynicism?

No one ever "deserves" fear and hate.

And for the victims? Asking them to work through the process of forgiveness is a very big ask indeed, and yet, it's the only thing that will bring them life again. My heart aches every time I hear of the suffering of abuse victims, and I will do all I can to love and support anyone, but deep down we know that real life can only comes from that place when love is allowed to bring forgiveness.

But like I said, this hardly scratches the surface. We must stand together, in love, for love, to change this world!!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Rape, life, love

We label people by their worst acts.

We declare a person to BE a Rapist
[this doesn't just apply to rape of course - you can add any other labels here]

When a line is crossed, within whatever social/moral/ethical standards we define, a person becomes the label. Their entire value as a human is reduced to the label.


Now here's where I'm treading on thin ice.

Firstly, I think any form of violation towards a person, be it physical, emotional, whatever, is wrong. It comes from a place of uncontrolled ego, lack of respect, compassion and empathy etc, but mostly a lack of love. Whatever the reason it's unjustifiable.

But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about how we define someone who has committed that sort of violation. We no longer accept them as someone who has done something really bad, but are willing to love them through it and help them confront the issue and the root causes. They have become the act - someone who has raped becomes a "rapist". They are no longer a complex human full of hurt, pain, desire, emotions, all shaped by a lifetime of experiences, upbringing, social context etc. They have simply become a rapist (or paedophile etc), no longer a person of any worth or value, they are now exclusively defined by their crime. They have become an object of hatred - a focal point of evil.

With all the respect, compassion and empathy due to victims of abuse/violation in any form, to take away someone's intrinsic humanity and replace it with a label that becomes a life sentence - a slow death fuelled by other people's need for revenge, justice, retribution, disgust and hatred - makes us no better than the abuser.

I'm also not talking about the impact on the victim, or the need to perhaps remove an abuser from society to keep others safe. This is all about perception and the value of every single life, no matter who they are or what they've done.

Do you know why forgiveness and love are constantly regarded as the most powerful things we can bring to this world? Because they are the only things that bring real change. You want to change a rapist? Love them, after all, the only reason they rape is because they don't understand love. If we demonstrate love in deep practical and powerful ways we will see it bring change. If we demonstrate revenge, hatred, and remove a person's humanity, we bring death. Unfortunately, many victims actually want that, and I can genuinely understand that! I know many victims who have deep lifelong scars from abuse. But that still doesn't change the fact that love brings life, and every single human being deserves life.

Stop the labels
Stop spreading hate
It takes effort, a lot of effort, to live loved. It's the "narrow road".
It takes no effort to condemn someone to death.
It takes a lot of effort to exercise concern, empathy.
It takes no effort to judge and demand retribution.

Again, to ALL victims of abuse of any form - I get it, I really do, the affect is devastating and deep. But what are we going to do about it? How are we going to bring life to EVERYONE out of pain of abuse - not just the victim.

"Live loved" = not just an empty platitude!

Friday, 3 June 2016

Dear bigoted, fundamentalist, homophobic christians...

Now that I have your attention, allow me to elaborate.

Have you ever noticed that if you pull someone up for something negative (especially online), most of the time they assume you're are making a derogatory comment about their value as a human being. They instantly think you are being personally slanderous.

If I say to someone that their comment is bigoted, most assume that I'm calling them a bigot, in the sense that I've just described their entire worth in one word. And yet all I'm saying is the comment or attitude that they have displayed in a particular context is bigoted.

There is also the whole issue of generalisations. I could say that most fundamentalist christians are close minded and refuse to listen to anything outside their set of dogmas. Once again, generalisations are exactly that - general statements that aren't meant to imply any personal defamation to an individual. It's simply a statement that describes a common mindset.

What I'm trying to say is that any particular mindset or opinion you may have about something  doesn't define your entire character or value as a human being. It may be an opinion that really sucks and needs to be challenged, but it still isn't who you are.

I have friends who I constantly have digs at for their particular views on something, but that doesn't devalue their humanity - their worth, the years of life experience, pain and suffering, joys, heartaches - all the things that make them humans like you and me!

Let's try to stop taking offence so easily and actually listen to people. If someone calls you a right wing conservative fundamentalist homophobic misogynist racist, it simply means they have reacted to that particular part of your life paradigm. It's what they've seen presented in a conversation or comment, a post or meme. And yes, often people get carried away and really do think your entire worth is contained in one viewpoint, but try to remember that they don't know you - they don't know everything that has made you who you are right now. They are reacting to that part of you that has been presented to them.

When you respond to people, be careful to clarify that it's the comment that may be the problem, NOT them as equal and fallible humans. The comment only represents a small part of their life paradigm. Instead of saying "you are a bigot", make it clear that "your comment was bigoted". Notice the difference? It's huge! And make sure that they understand the difference too!

It's all about love really - empathy and respect. And no, I don't always get it right myself, and lose my cool, but I'm also quick (hopefully) to apologise when I realise what I've done.

Living loved is what it's all about, and remember, you can always politely just "walk" away.