I’ve always struggled with Christianity, ever since at 19 when, after confessing “I may be a homosexual” to a kind pastor at a lovely friendly church, he told me that if I prayed hard enough “the power of prayer’s expulsion” would ensure that I no longer felt homosexual urges.
What he didn’t know was that I had spent the previous nine years ‘praying the gay away’ – every single tear-filled night. I was already deeply saturated in self-loathing and so the moment he spoke I knew two things: that if God himself couldn’t help me then I was not going to change, and that organised religion, however kind and well-meaning, was not interested in who I was, but only in who I was not.
Over the years since that conversation, I haven’t changed my mind. Organised religion seems to exist primarily as a framework through which to judge others. It reassures the adulterer, the liar, the fornicator, the thief, the misogynist, the bully, the hypocrite and the ‘faithful’ that they are saved because they attend a members-only club, one that legitimises judgement, hypocrisy and hate through the medium of a rule book written thousands of years ago by men, for men. Just watch the crowd in the video at the bottom of this post to see what I mean. Bigotry, hate and spite hiding fear behind the Bible.
I know there is much good in the Bible, and that there are good Christians, and I have always believed that Jesus was a radical liberal, a man who judged only those who judged, and who welcomed the outcasts, the poor, the sick and the ‘freaks’ of his time. He knew that what matters is what is in your heart, not what words were in your mouth. He understood that only love without judgement is true love, and that love with judgement can never truly be love.
However, I am profoundly grateful for being judged. It is the judgement of others that has forced me to expand my universe, to use my own experience of being condemned to look beyond what someone wears, how they speak, who they love, their skin colour or their gender – and to try to see who they are underneath all that. I try hard to judge a person only on what is in their hearts and on their actions (believing them to be interdependent). Not based on what they believe, which book they read or which group they belong to.
And now it is the ‘unjudged’ I feel sorriest for, because being judged has truly liberated me. The world is more colourful, and more deeply textured than I could ever have imaged at 19, and I’d like to thank that pastor for his words thirty-three years ago. They set me free, but not in the way he could have hoped or imagined.
Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor 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.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Video: The Prancing Elites