Where does a progressive charismatic go?

Adversaries 1So many of you know, in fact for many of you it may be the primary reason we are connected, that I am, for want of a better word, religious. I have never fitted well into any box. Most other people use the word ‘Christian’ when they talk about me but I don’t and never really have as I feel it doesn’t represent me accurately, especially when so much of my work over the past 20 years has been in a public setting and that public setting has already decided what the word ‘Christian’ means, and their definition is not what I am.

One of the reasons I have never felt comfortable with the term “Christian” is that I look at the community that identifies with that word and I don’t see people like me, who think like me, who act like me, or who represent their faith in the way I represent my faith. So if I’m nothing like them, then I’m not one of them…right?

As someone who hopes to constantly grow in his beliefs, opinions and perspectives on “life, the universe and everything“, I have come to the conclusion in recent times that it doesn’t seem that I fit…because I don’t fit. Simple really.

As with the word “Christianity” I really hate labels as I find them too encompassing, but for the sake of conversation I will try to expand on where I see myself fit in the church.

My personal beliefs, theology and faith fit more comfortably with what many would describe as Progressive Christianity…but my natural style of worship (read ‘style of church’ for you non-religious) is much more like what many would see as Charismatic Christianity. Let me state this for the record to make it very, very clear before the Christian trolls decide to have a crack. I am neither Progressive nor am I Charismatic, but they are areas within the faith that I gravitate towards for aspects of my personal journey and therein lies the problem.

In New Zealand, progressive churches (which support the LGBTI community and treat women as equals) are typically very traditional (think hymns, organs, choirs and a liturgical, repeated service each week) and seem to be to have less of an interest in what the bible describes as “Gifts of the Holy Spirit.” On the other hand, a charismatic church will have more life, more youth and have more my preference in style of music. However a charismatic church is much more likely to be very conservative in its beliefs (think anti-same sex marriage, limits on women’s participation in the church) and there is often an implicit message that input from outside the bible is something to be avoided, and everything in the bible is ‘literal’. I realise I am being unfair to pigeon hole all charismatic churches like this, but if you lined up a hundred of each, these trends would be very obvious to see.

So for someone who wants the style of a charismatic church, but the intellect and theology of a progressive church what do they do? What do I do?

In an ideal world I would be finding a church that has progressive leanings and a charismatic style but it would seem that in Dunedin that kind of church doesn’t exist. When we first arrived in Dunedin I tried to attend a church that has progressive leanings knowing that the style wasn’t me, and I hoped that I could make a space for myself and others who wanted more of what I was looking for. Offers were made and accepted, but those doors were quickly closed so here I sit on Sunday morning at my desk with no church affiliation…but still feeling like I want one.

I decided this morning that I actually want to find a church here in Dunedin. In my investigative efforts so far I have failed to find what I am looking for and what I’ve decided to do is start by finding out where churches sit theologically. Obviously I can find out about their style of worship is by visiting. I have three questions to ask the leadership in the churches I am going to approach.

  1. If one of my children was to come out as gay at 15 how would they be received in this churches congregation?
  2. If my child, then as an 18 year old, wanted to be the leader of the youth group, how would the leadership approach that?
  3. If my child, at 22, then wanted to be married to their same-sex partner in this church, by the Pastor, how would that be received by the leadership?

Whilst many know that my connection with and defense of the LGBTI community is a very important part of my faith, it’s not the be-all and end-all. However I find that asking questions around this issue is very enlightening – it gives me a pretty good indication of where the church sits on other issues important to my faith.

Let’s see how I go.

 

 

If you are interested in interacting with me about this post you can comment below, follow me on twitter or facebook or email me directly.

Yahria Law. The only way forward according to Kim Davis and Mike Huckabee

Yahria Law becoming more common

What is Yahria Law you might ask, well just think of Sharia Law for Christians. ‘Yahweh’ plus ‘Sharia Law’ equals Yahria Law and it becoming more and more common.

For clarity, Sharia Law is the body of Islamic law. The term means “way” or “path”; it is the legal framework within which the public and some private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islam. Many in the West see Sharia Law as a great concern as who would want a religion, ignoring the laws of the land, and forcing citizens to adhere to a code or belief system that they didn’t buy into.

Welcome to the world of Yahria Law a ” legal framework within which the public and some private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on [a particular form of] Christianity”

We are seeing it more and more, Western societies are warning of the ‘dangers’ of Islam, especially amongst the Conservative Christian section of that society, but are happy to support Christian views being forced on their own society when it flows against the tide of public opinion or even at times when contravenes the law.

If you do not support Sharia Law coming into your society, then you cannot support Yahria Law as it’s exactly the same thing…only you agree with it and that’s the problem.

If you don’t support a law/ordinance/by-law/society norm where someone uses the words “because I’m a Qur’an believing Muslim” as a reason to ignore it, then really you can’t support the tagline “because I’m a bible believing Christian”. The other option is to support both. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

You either let anybody use the tagline “it’s my religious freedom” or you let nobody use it.

If you support religious freedom, especially when it contravenes a law, you will, for example, have to support the Rastafarian society using marijuana as part of their religious ceremonies. You will have to support some Mormons having multiple wives. You’ll have to support Muslims praying five times a day…and the list goes on. If you wouldn’t want to support the above examples…and millions of others from people with religious beliefs…then you can’t say “I won’t supply marriage certificates to Gay couples under God’s authority” when your highest court has made it legal for LGBTI couples to marry in your country.  If you are not happy with a business person, a civil servant, an elected official citing Mohammed, or Buddha, or Ganesha as their reason for refusing your business, or your civil rights, then you cannot cite God as to why you do it. Period.

We have seen Yahria Law in all it’s terrible splendour in America since SCOUTUS legalised Same-Sex Marriage with bakers breaking the law, venue owners discriminating illegally and even publicly elected officials refusing to carry out their legal duties by denying gay couples marriage certificates. It’s disgusting and I want to state publicly that I support the fines and penalties put upon those people breaking the law by denying people their civil rights.

There’s a super easy test to see if you are on the right side of the law (let alone history), if you offer that good or service to the general public, and you wouldn’t/couldn’t refuse it to a, let’s say, interracial heterosexual couple, you cannot deny it to an LGBTI couple. If you are a private club, or organisation and don’t offer those goods or services to the general public then you can do what you like (pretty much).

So here’s the solution for those of you, like Mike Huckabee for example, who appear to want to have a society made up with Yahria Law. Form a private group, a sect if you will, a closed society, remove yourself from the outside world and do it. Make the society with large walls so no one from the ‘outside world’ can get in, and live your life…but if you want to be in society, especially as someone who provides a good or a service to the general public, then you need to abide by that society’s laws.

The more I see individuals trying to perpetrate Yahria Law the more I am reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson when he wrote to the Danbury Baptists saying “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” No law is to be made using religion as its source and, as I said earlier, you can only interpret the above statement giving you religious freedom above and beyond anything else…if you grant it to every other religion.

This post is the Genesis of the phrase #YahriaLaw, as of this post the phrase does not exist anywhere else on the internet. Use it well.

Yahria Law

UPDATE 12.30 10th September (NZST)

I’m wondering where the rally and support is from the likes of Mike Huckabee for this US citizen who has just been released from her job for not wanting to serve alcohol as it contravenes her religious beliefs…oh, she’s Muslim so her religious freedoms can be ignored #caseinpoint #YahriaLaw

Outsider? Part One

This is a two part post of my journey to realising that I am very much on the outside of society looking in.

We’ve recently advertised a room for rent and some of the people responding to the advert have led me to understand something about myself that’s probably been obvious to most for a very long time.

Idoya and I are different from the norm when it comes to the church in New Zealand, I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘unique’ but many of our philosophies and ideas would not be considered ‘mainstream’ or ‘majority’ held positions in the church.

Case and point how we treat, and what we think of the gay community.

I had an experience in the weekend where I chatted with a delightful young Christian lady about our room (let’s call her Sarah), she seemed keen to move in, in fact Sarah went so far as to say she wanted the room. She was excited about some of the adventures into Christianity that Idoya and I have been on in the last few years and was very complimentary, encouraging, and excited by elephantTV.

As a side note, elephantTV is a resource primarily aimed at the church to help with controversial topics. We don’t take a position, we don’t endorse a perspective, we just provide information from different viewpoints all held within the church. We did this to help the church have these conversations in a safe, balanced, intelligent, unbiased way and to help members of the church understand how other Christians can have an opposing view to them, and still be ‘Christians’.

Back to the last weekend’s conversation.

Idoya and I were talking about Sarah and thought that we needed to be clear on a few things that may happen in our home, and maybe of a couple of philosophies we live by as we didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable in the future, and we didn’t want any guests who visit our house feeling uncomfortable either. We wanted to inform Sarah not because it had anything to do with her…but because there is sadly within the church an amount of lip-service paid to the idea of treating everyone equally, respectfully and with love, when at times the exact opposite happens.

Thus began the phone conversation

[Pat] So we just wanted to see how you would feel, if you moved in, having our gay friends around, maybe sitting together at the table and being affectionate with one another.

[Sarah] Yeah I’d be fine with that.

[Pat] So it wouldn’t make you uncomfortable? The last thing we want is to set up an environment where either you, or any of our guests would not feel welcomed in our home.

[Sarah] No I’d be fine with that…I would feel uncomfortable if they stayed the night in the same room.

[Pat] Okay, how about if it was an unmarried straight couple staying the night in the same room?

[Sarah] Yeah, I’d be uncomfortable with that as well for the same reasons.

[Pat] What is it was my wife’s sister and her partner visiting from Christchurch?

[Sarah] Oh, well that’d be a bit different because family is always okay, in fact it’s a bit hypocritical but my brother and his partner stayed in our flat in the same room not too long ago.

[Sarah] So can I ask you what your position is on what the bible says about homosexuality?

[Pat] Well I’d have to say that the majority of theologians say it’s ungodly and a ‘sin’, but there is a growing number of scholars, many of them younger, that are offering alternative theories on what the bible says and how it can be interpreted for me I don’t really have a ‘position’.

[Sarah] Do you think someone who is gay can be a Christian?

[Pat] Absolutely! I know too many people who are gay, who are so obviously in a deep meaningful, personal relationship with their God. I can see it in their eyes, hear it on their lips and witness it in their actions. But even apart from my personal view if one was to consider homosexuality a ‘sin’, and I’m not saying that is my position necessarily, what you’re asking me is if a sinner can be a Christian…I kind of think that’s a pre-requisite of being a Christian. But anyway, for me the ‘theological’ arguments behind homosexuality or that particular question is not really something I care about, or feel the need to answer.

[Sarah] Why’s that?

[Pat] Well there are a couple of really good clips on YouTube. One featuring Phil Snider and the other Tony Campolo. Phil points out in a very clever way how the church has made lots of ‘absolute claims’ in years gone by that sound a lot like what the church is saying today about the gay community, yet those absolutes from years ago have changed. Tony Campolo tells the heart wrenching story of a late night phone call with a mother whose gay son has recently committed suicide but finishes the piece explaining away one of the biggest misnomers that has been spread around the church forever and a day and that is the idea that we should “love the sinner and hate the sin.”

As an aside the ‘love the sinner hate the sin‘ saying was made popular by Ghandi in his 1929 biography where he incorrectly cited a piece of St Augustine’s writing. Correctly translated Augustine’s original text would be ‘with love for mankind and hatred of sins’ which personally I interpret as being about the issue of ‘sinning’ as a whole, not towards an individual person.

[Pat] Campolo explains that this misinterpretation, even though much repeated, is “just the opposite of what Jesus says” because what Jesus told people to do was “love the sinner, and hate your own sin.”

[Sarah] Preach it Pat

(Whilst this recount is not verbatim and I have definitely expanded on my thoughts to make my conversation more concise and intelligent sounding, there was actually a ‘Preach it Pat’ when I talked about ‘hating your own sin’)

I then quantified the conversation by saying that I wasn’t saying that either of these guys had all the answers; they were just points that resonated with me, and my philosophies towards people.

[Pat] I think that showing love to someone in my home is one of the highest callings, making people feel welcomed and accepted and loved is one of the most Christ-like things someone can do I think the church has messed up big time how she has handled the gay community and I think if you truly love someone, they will come away feeling loved and I think that the gay community, no matter what your personal/spiritual/theological/academic position is on them, have been treated appallingly by the church when it was her job to love them and worry about her own ‘sins’ of which there are a multitude.

[Sarah] Absolutely

So we left the conversation there and I honestly felt hopeful that maybe we’d found someone who may be smart enough, confident enough, and genuine enough to be, as Mother Teresa said, Jesus with skin on and we agreed to talk about it again in 24 hours to see what she thought.

24 hours later, the text comes through. A very polite and lovely toned ‘thanks but no thanks’, sadly I can’t say I was surprised.

It’s been 12 months since we filmed elephantTV and I have to say that I have been a little disappointed with the take up, and I think what the conversation with Sarah did was finally convince me that Christians are not ready yet to have genuine conversations about the hard issues. I think many Christians are fearful of having their mindset challenged and are concerned that new ideas might rock their faith. I have to say that I think we all need our faith rocked a little more often. Iron sharpening iron comes to mind.

I cannot say for sure why Sarah accepted the room and then after our conversation declined it, but my hunch is that we just don’t fit with the Christian majority narrative, of which she is a part.  I’m talking about the standard narrative about what a Christian is meant to be, do, act and think. We gave Sarah a scenario that may not have actually happened while she was living here, one of a gay or a straight unmarried couple sleeping over and that scenario was too much. I think Sarah is an example of where the church is at the moment. The church is enthusiastically wanting people to preach about loving sinners and hating their own sin, but not comfortable with what that actually means.

What would loving the drug addict, the paedophile, the thief, the adulterer, the manic depressive really look like? While at the same time we just worry about our own crap…nothing more, nothing less. I don’t think most of us can do it. I know that sounds really arrogant and trust me I am not holding myself up as the example here, I stuff up as much, if not more than the next person, but I think it’s true. For me it’s shown me that even to dream it, to hope to attain it, to love the gay community, or any other person or group with who shakes the traditional Christian narrative, with no agenda whatsoever, causes me to be on the outside looking in.

I realised the moment that I read that text that came through from Sarah that I was an outsider, and I’ve always been an outsider. That was the moment when it was finally made clear to me that I am a minority, that I don’t fit, that I can have nice conversations with people about issues, but when push comes to shove there is an invisible line that I am happy to jump across and think, and feel, and talk, and question that most are not prepared to do. Please don’t read this as arrogant, because the realisation is not fun, it’s isolating, and it only leads to two possible conclusions. Either I’m way off base and heading in the wrong direction…or the church is and neither of those outcomes are particularly attractive.

Part two of this post will be up early next week

Criminal Minds creates a stir in the ex-gay community

criminal mindsThis Monday night there is one of the most controversial episodes of Criminal Minds ever. Certainly in America when it aired February 20th it created a storm.

The episode is called ‘Broken’ and its premise is that a homosexual man, who was forced into ex-gay therapy as a young man. It didn’t work and he now as an adult has an identity crisis.

The guilt and anger that the UnSub fights internally where he wants desperately to be able to be with a woman, but his physical inadequacies to perform sexually with them drives him to kill.

This drew much ire from a sector of the Christian community in the US. The sector that agrees and believes that homosexuality is a choice. You can Google it yourself to see the plethora of blogs, articles and opinions but here is a typical example of what has been written.

A former homosexual who founded Parents and Friends of ExGays and Gays says Hollywood’s latest attack on people who leave the homosexual lifestyle reveals how much “gays” fear those individuals.

“They are so afraid of people discovering their sexuality and realizing that no one is born a homosexual and learning that they can actually change if they want to,” said Greg Quinlan about the issue raised by a recent episode of CBS’ “Criminal Minds.”

Now let me make this clear, Criminal Minds is a television show, a medium of entertainment, it is not factual, it is not a documentary.

In saying that the reason this episode caused such a stir in the US is that the themes of Broken are not that far from what many believe in what they call the ex-ex-gay community.

From the Huffington Post

The former poster child of the “ex-gay movement” renounced his controversial past beliefs in an email interview with PQ Monthly last week.

John Paulk, the former chairman of Exodus International and co-author of Love Won Out: How God’s Love Helped Two People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other, said he struggled with rejection all of his life and has been on a journey trying to understand God.

“Until recently, I have struggled all my life in feeling unloved and unaccepted,” Paulk said. “I have been on a journey during the last few years in trying to understand God, myself, and how I can best relate to others. During this journey I have made many mistakes and I have hurt many people including people who are close to me. I have also found a large number of people who accept me for who I am regardless of my past, any labels, or what I do.”

Paulk said he is now greatly remorseful for any harm that he’s caused by his words.

There are not many times I wish I was still working in radio, but this is a talkback topic that could go for a full 6 hour show on Newstalk ZB, or about 6 weeks on Rhema.

There is much out there if this topic interests you but one resource I have found of particular quality is an episode of Our America with Lisa Ling called ‘Pray the Gay Away’. The thing I like about Lisa is that she is genuinely interested in both sides of the conversation, she is balanced and the documentary is a safe place for people from both sides to have a look at this issue.

Here are three short clips from the episode. I encourage you to watch all three

 

 

 

Whatever you think, it’s a fascinating conversation and a good watch on Monday night, but then again I am a Criminal Minds fan.

Criminal Minds, Broken, TVOne, Monday 29th April 8.30pm

Big day today for the LGBTI community…and others

I came across an interesting blog today. From the 2000+ comments and 10,000+ shares on Facebook it seems that I am the only person in the world not to have seen it. The blog piece is called An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation and it is written by Dannika Nash, a college student, raised in South Dakota. I have seen South Dakota to as a ‘junior member of the bible belt.”

On that piece there is a link to a spoken word/music video that has caught my attention. Please watch it before you read on.

Now you need to watch it, at least some of it…I know you haven’t so let me quote you a couple of versus from it.

When I was at church they taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t anointed
That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned
When everyone else is more comfortable remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans that have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same, but that’s not important
No freedom till we’re equal, damn right I support it

And later in the song…

When kids are walking ’round the hallway plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are
And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start

I firmly believe to show love to someone, to help them get their freedom and equality we must wish for them the same rights as we have for ourselves. Anything else we are treating them like second class citizens.

Now I don’t want, don’t need and don’t encourage a fight here, or on my Facebook or Twitter, but I can already see what will come from this. All I will encourage you to do is mull over the words in the song, and then in the blog that led me to this post which references the Church, some of the reasons this fight is going on and potentially what will come from it.

My point in writing this isn’t to protect gay people. Things are changing—the world is becoming a safer place for my gay friends. They’re going to get equal rights. I’m writing this because I’m worried about the safety of the Church. The Church keeps scratching its head, wondering why 70% of 23-30 year-olds who were brought up in church leave. I’m going to offer a pretty candid answer, and it’s going to make some people upset, but I care about the Church too much to be quiet. We’re scared of change. We always have been. When scientists proposed that the Earth could be moving through space, church bishops condemned the teaching, citing Psalm 104:5 to say that God “set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” But the scientific theory continued, and the Church still exists. I’m saying this: we cannot keep pitting the church against humanity, or progress. DON’T hear me saying that we can’t fight culture on anything. Lots of things in culture are absolutely contradictory to love and equality, and we should be battling those things. The way culture treats women, or pornography? Get AT that, church. I’ll be right there with you. But my generation, the generation that can smell bullshit, especially holy bullshit, from a mile away, will not stick around to see the church fight gay marriage against our better judgment. It’s my generation who is overwhelmingly supporting marriage equality, and Church, as a young person and as a theologian, it is not in your best interest to give them that ultimatum.

Amen sister…’Holy bullshit’…I likes that saying a lot. I feel a t-shirt coming on.

And if nothing else church, please oh please read Dannika’s final thought. From someone as young as she is, wiser words have never been spoken.

Oh, and can we please please PLEASE stop changing our Facebook profile pictures to crosses in a protest against gay marriage? You are taking a symbol of hope and redemption and using it to make a political point. No matter what you think, that has to stop. It’s a misrepresentation of what that symbol means.

If this post annoys you, if you feel like now ‘correcting’ many things in the post…just take a breath, unfollow me and live your life.

Peace

An open letter to the Church in NZ on Same-Sex Marriage

Dear fellow Church members,

This is an open letter about the Same-Sex Marriage debate to the Christians of New Zealand.

I have been a supporter of Marriage Equality for the LGBTI community in New Zealand for several years. To me it’s very simple, every person should have the right to be married to the person they love regardless of their sexual orientation. I believe marriage is a government institution; the church does not own it. Whether religious or not, we all have the same marriage certificates. A person’s faith or religious affiliation makes no difference to the legality or substance of their marriage. So if marriage is a government institution, there can be no discrimination.

I have had countless conversations around this topic in my role as a broadcaster working mostly in current affairs and talk radio. Something that has become blatantly obvious to me is that the position held by many opponents of Same-Sex Marriage, whether they are aware of it or not, has more to do with their opinion on homosexuality itself than with marriage equality. Many opponents of marriage equality come from a religious background, and they default to what they have been taught in churches about homosexuality as the basis for their position.

There seem to be three main lines of thought amongst Church members when it comes to Same-Sex Marriage.

  1. Homosexuality is natural and normal for a small portion of the population, therefore we are discriminating against this people group by not allowing them to marry.
  2. Homosexuality is not natural, and it’s a choice. Therefore there is nothing wrong with keeping a sector of society from marrying as you cannot discriminate against a ‘choice’.
  3. Whether we like it or not, there is already legislation that doesn’t allow discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, so matter what we believe about homosexuality we must make marriage available to the LBGTI community.

For me I find myself firmly in third camp. For me the conversation about the legalisation of ‘gay marriage’ has not one jot to do with religion, religious beliefs or the church. It’s a legal certificate that is issued by the Government, not by the Church, and as a ‘Government institution’ all should be able to benefit from it. In my support of Same-Sex Marriage I don’t even need to go to the first or second point above as they are irrelevant to the question at hand.

I’d like the conversation to be as simple as that…but there has been so much mistruth and exaggeration in the media surrounding this conversation, that I think we need to address it. These are what I believe are the key misconceptions relating to this issue.

But if we give the gays marriage next people will want multiple wives

No country in the world that has legalised Same-Sex Marriage has gone onto legalise Polygamy, and in the countries where polygamy is legal you probably don’t want to be gay as you may literally lose your head for it. However there is a libertarian view where some would say that if three or four consenting adults want to live in that kind of union, then does it really matter? I find it ironic that many who would reject the government’s over-involvement in their lives, and fight for the freedoms they see as important to them, are happy for the government to be involved in other people’s lives and legislate their freedoms away from them, when they disagree with those freedoms.

If we let the gays get married next they’ll want to adopt

I am of the firm opinion that the best place for a child to be is in a loving family with their biological parents under the same roof. In fact I believe that research has shown that when that couple is married it is even better for said child. But to then assert as some are that ‘gay adoption’ would be the worst thing possible for the child, on that point I will depart from many. I think that a loving, stable same-sex couple is going to provide a far better environment for a child than some of the tragic cases that have unfortunately become all too common in the news here in New Zealand. We only have to mention a few names, such as Decelia Witika, James Whakaruru and Nia Glassie to remind ourselves that many of our tragic and deplorable child abuse cases have occurred at the hands of straight parents, step-parents or caregivers. Would a loving and stable same-sex couple have provided a safer home for those children? Absolutely.

The bible is clear, ‘No’ to Gay Marriage

This is where the debate gets heated, as there are many theologians who believe emphatically that the bible teaches against homosexuality and homosexuals. That is not my personal view, and neither is it the theological view of an increasing number of bible scholars. One point that many of my theologian friends agree on, even those who are very conservative on this issue, is that if anything the bible talks about a sexual act, not a sexual orientation. This can be interpreted as the bible saying nothing about homosexuality or same-sex attraction at all, only about specific sexual acts.  Where then does that leave the heterosexual couples who engage in those particular acts? This is a complicated and much fought over area of biblical scholarship, and deserves a post of its own another day. But if, like me, you see marriage as a government institution and therefore as a right for all, then biblical interpretation regarding homosexuality is irrelevant in this conversation.

How dare this PC Government ride rough shot over the voice of New Zealanders!

The majority of polls that have been taken regarding marriage equality have indicated that in 2013 New Zealanders are affirming the move towards Same-Sex Marriage. However there is an old adage that if you live by the poll, you die by the poll. So if you bank your argument on the fact that most New Zealanders support your position this time, what about when they don’t? People tend to use polls when those polls support their argument, and then deride polls and pollsters when they don’t. For the Same-Sex Marriage conversation in my opinion it’s an easy one. Human rights should never be based on mob rule. The government needs to do what is right for that sector of society irrespective of what anyone, even a majority, may think.

The Gays will force ministers to marry even though it’s against their religious beliefs

This was an ill-conceived tactic by the opponents of Same-Sex Marriage. We have been assured since the beginning stages of this legislation that the law would be amended so no one had to perform a ceremony that differed with their religious beliefs. But even more than that, what LBGTI couple, on their special day, would want to force a minister to marry them? As promised, the new draft of the law allowed ministers and marriage celebrants associated with a church to decline to perform Same-Sex ceremonies based on religious beliefs. Non-religious marriage celebrants will not be able to turn couples away because of their sexual orientation, much like they can’t turn a couple away based on their age, their ethnicity or any other discriminatory issue where their ‘personal religious belief’ is not a factor and I think that’s fair enough.

Churches will be forced to hire out their premises.

Now this one is true but in my opinion very misleading and yet another red herring. The reason it’s misleading is that this is current law. If a church hires out its premises to the public, they cannot turn away a gay person or couple who want to hold an event there. Yes obviously there are no marriages happening right now between two men or two women in a church so that would be a new addition to a current law. But if a gay couple came to a church who hired their hall out to the public, and that couple wanted to hold a civil ceremony to declare their love to one another and be legally joined, right now under current law, that church could not discriminate against a gay couple.

One of the unfortunate by-products of these public conversations is that many outside the church now see those inside the church as being the reason their LBGTI brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, or children cannot marry. They see the church, supposed to be the representative of Jesus on earth, as rejecting their family and friends. They often conclude, not unreasonably, that this means Jesus rejects the gay community.

The recurring catch-cry of those in the church in response to the above accusation is, “but you don’t understand Pat, we love the sinner, but we are called to hate the sin.” I am sure most of those in the church have heard that phrase before and I think it is time to set the record straight. The concept of ‘loving the sinner and hating the sin’ is unbiblical, in fact it is the opposite of what we are called to do. Dr. Tony Campolo points out that what we are actually called to do is “love the sinner and hate your own sin, and after you get rid of the sin in your own life then you can begin talking about the sin in your brother or sister’s life.” I think he is right. Jesus said of the men who were, by law, allowed to stone the woman caught in adultery to go ahead…so long as none of them had sinned. We are told to not worry about the speck of dust in our neighbour’s eye when we have a plank of wood sticking out of our own.  Just think about that for a second, imagine if that was the filter we ran our lives through. Imagine if we truly loved people around us, end of story, and saved our judging for ourselves.

Finally, I want to encourage my fellow church members not to worry. The concern and near- hysteria that has erupted in response to the Marriage Equality Bill, which looks set to be passed this week, is simply unjustified. If you do not support the LBGTI community’s right to marry that’s your business, but please don’t believe any of the ‘slippery slope’ arguments that have been thrown around. This is not the beginning of the end of civilization and it’s not attack on marriage, not on your marriage nor mine. It’s a bill that redresses an inequality by giving all people the right to marry, a right which should already be guaranteed under current law. In other words it’s a ‘wrong’ that needs to be ‘righted’.

Pat Brittenden is a broadcaster, blogger and commentator and the executive producer and host of elephantTV

The Panel with Cameron ‘WhaleOil’ Slater and Richard Barter

Cameron, Richard and Pat talk about Nick Smith, The Ports of Auckland and wearing religious iconography

Is it too late for Sarah Palin to be the saviour of the GOP?

The ‘War’ for South Carolina is happening as I write this post. The winner of the South Carolina Primary will be the GOP nomination to go up against President Obama in November’s election, how can I say this so confidently? Every single nominee for the GOP to run for President in the past, 100% of them, has won South Carolina.

In an earlier post I wrote why Obama will be reelected, I still believe that in fact the events of the last few days have done nothing but confirm my thoughts that America could never elect one of the two front-runners for the Republicans.

Sadly for supports of the Conservative right, your choice will either be Newt Gingrich, or Mitt Romney. Both who have demonstrated hypocrisy to an unbeliveable degree over the past week or so.

Mitt Romney is the GOP favourite at the moment, but more and more is being revealed about his financial past and how he has amassed his vast wealth and it doesn’t fit with the GOP narrative. Before we get into this let me state that I have no problems with a person becoming wealthy, I am not an ‘occupier’, I am not someone who thinks that ‘rich people are bad or evil’, but when your wealth becomes a problem to the message, then we need to figure out the disparity.

Mitt Romney is reportedly worth about a quarter of a billion dollars, which he amassed by forming a private equity firm called Bain Capital. What a private equity firm does is come into failing businesses, or purchase businesses with good potential for leverage and ‘streamlines’ them i.e. they make cuts, then borrow against them. The companies then tend to strip the companies, sell them on in parts and make a big fat profit. The issue that Romney has with all this is that GOP catch cry is “Save jobs and stop borrowing”, but his whole business credentials which he is using to say why he should be President, is one of laying people off and borrowing to make quick cash. That on top of the revelation this week that Romney pay’s ‘in the vicinity of 15%’ tax on the money he makes from investments makes this an embarrassing week for him.

P.A.Y.E in America starts at 10% and the most you pay is 35% depending on your income, but Romney’s income is made from his investments which classifies it as ‘capital gains’, hence Capital Gains Tax is applied which in America is around 15%. So Romney earns millions a year and pays the same percentage in tax as the guy driving his campaign bus. Romney said in the last debate the ‘top tax rate should be down around 25%’, yet he only pays 15%. Another catch cry of the GOP is we are taxed too much, well it would appear Romney is not.

Mitt Romney needs to stop trying to sell the idea that his is ‘working class’ and own that he is the richest politician in the run for President, and one of the richest politicians in America.

Now we move onto Speaker Gingrich.

With Rick Perry pulling out this week, and endorsing Gingrich as his candidate you might think Newt would have a jump in the poles, but the Romney camp is using the issue of ‘ethics’ to derail and momentum that Gingrich may be getting…and rightfully so. As I have already pointed out, Newt Gingrich seems to have a penchant to sleeping with women that are not his wife and you have to ask the obvious question that is we know about these ones…how many others are there?

Again you could argue that if it doesn’t impact his ability to govern then it shouldn’t matter…but it doesn’t fit with the GOP Christian, conservative, ‘family values’ narrative.

This week we find out that according to Gingrich’s second wife (of three) that he wanted an ‘open marriage’ where he could have a mistress AND keep his wife as well. All this while the Speaker is still standing up for the ideals of marriage “as the union of one man and one woman.”

For Gingrich, ‘the Gays’ are not to be married as it would be ‘an abomination’…but cheating, lying, and multiple hetero marriages is to be defended as ‘God ordained’ and ‘natural.’

All of this happening with many GOP supporters acknowledging that these two the ‘best of a bad bunch’ just confuses me when you have Rick Santorum with a great CV and actually world political experience on the sidelines along with Ron Paul who is really the only ‘real’ small government, less tax candidate. Ron Paul is what Republicans should be…if they weren’t hypocrites.

Finally, I have to admit to being a little intrigued about a very…very…VERY unlikely scenario. Even though she has said she would not run for President and it is contrary to my opening paragraph, I just wonder if we might hear from Sarah Palin as a late entry. The field is so weak, if she came out of the blue with her rock star persona, the ground swell might be there for a Sarah Palin nominee.

Now would it be a bad decision? Well it couldn’t be any worse than a choice between Romney and Gingrich.

If society can be judged by how we treat the least, then the death of ‘Blanket Man’ tells us we suck

Ghandi is credited with saying it first in a modern context, or at least an unknown variant of it, but the bible is probably one of the first places you can look to a way of being judged by how we treat the dregs of society.

Jesus said was speaking to two groups of people. One he was ‘thanking’ for looking after him and one he chastised for ignoring him.

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

They people were confused, they asked Jesus when they ever ignored or rejected him, he replied,

‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

Maybe a modern translation would be when you ‘ignore’ a Blanket Man, you ‘ignore’ anyone in need.

I heard an interview with Maxine Dixon this morning on the wireless. Dixon was Ben ‘Blanket Man‘ Hana’s lawyer and knew him better than most.

The interviewer made the statement, “Some people thought he was brilliant, other people thought he was a pain.” Dixon, stumbled markedly over her words upon hearing the ‘brilliant‘ tag and responded by saying, “He was an intelligent man…I don’t know if he was brilliant.

For the interviewer to have so little understanding of what this homeless man, and other homeless people around the country go though to describe him so flippantly as ‘brilliant‘ showed the gap between the haves and haves not and the disconnect that comes with money and privilege. This man was not, and should never be described as ‘brilliant‘. What he was was a sad indictment on our society, a tangible example of how we could care less about these kinds of people.

After being asked how Hana come to live like this Dixon responded by telling of how he moved from Tokoroa, where he lived in his car, to Wellington. After the move he was left homeless because “he could not afford both accommodation, food and his beloved [cannabis].” She went on to say that this man’s disposable income was about $60 a week.

The death of ‘Blanket Man’ and the media may-lay is disgusting. This is not a story, its an example of how we suck as human beings and how when push comes to shove we really don’t care about our fellow human being.

‘Blanket Man’ was a drug addict whose habit was large enough to keep him living on the streets…and he died from what appears to be malnutrition and exposure…how the hell can we flippantly laugh at cute little anecdotes about this man?

To be fair the interviewer in question probably has never knowingly spoken to a homeless person, never sat under a bridge and spoken with one, never visited an smelt their place under the Vic Park flyover, and before you ask…”Yes, I have”…so he cannot relate to this story…it’s a good yarn and filled a total of 2 mins and 38 seconds of the breakfast show I listened to today. Ben Hana’s life was worth 2 minutes and 38 seconds of ‘entertaining’ radio giving everyone a chuckle. It should have made you cry.

I don’t care what you think about the bible, but there is some pretty good advice there about how we treat homeless people. Here’s the challenge, next time you see someone sitting on the kerb outside a shop in your town or city. Buy them a pie, maybe even two. Buy them some milk…even a fizzy drink. If you really want to help contact an agency to come and check up on them…that’s their job. Do it, you’ll find it more rewarding than the person who receives the pie and drink. Feed, clothe and house those that cannot feed, clothe and house themselves.

I spoke with Diane Robertson from Auckland City Mission and she gave me some frightening statistics. Within 3kms of Auckland’s Sky Tower they estimates there are 100 people ‘sleeping rough‘, of those 100 people 2-4 die every year, normally in hospital having their lives shortened by the way they live and that’s just Auckland Central. Blanket Man is not alone in his sad demise.

Robertson made the point that she was “sad that a homeless person is an icon of Wellington.” That sat me back. All these people online today saying, “We’ll miss you Blanket Man” I’d ask where the hell were you in the middle of winter when he actually needed you. What about all the other ‘Blanket Men’ out there that you notice, the ones that don’t…and won’t get 2 minutes and 38 seconds of nationwide exposure on a breakfast radio show…what about them?

I’d rather hear ‘we will help you Blanket Man‘ any day as opposed to people now missing this sad story of a man that helped us see the worst of ourselves.

TVNZ lead again with Destiny Church

I have to say again that the news seems slow at the moment. I don’t mean that disrespectfully to Destiny, but this doesn’t seem to be a story news worthy of leading our largest source of daily news.

Is it a story? Yes! Is it interesting? Yes again! Is it something to be concerned about and spun how media outlets are portraying at the moment? Hell No!

The story is…Destiny Church purchases land to build a community on…that’s it.

I wrote about this last week saying something similar and then Richard Lewis from Destiny tweeted me.

 

 

 

I tweeted Richie back, and I’ll say it again here. Yes, that tweet is a very newsworthy story…but that’s not the story that the media is telling us about. We are being told to be wary of Destiny. Why? It is being inferred that something is wrong here. What? It’s being hinted at that the wool is being pulled over peoples eyes. How?

Tonight on TVNZ the lead story was “Brian Tamaki suggests the government gives him money, instead of building more prisons.”

The truth is, Destiny Church…or any group…who follows the rules, ticks the boxes, crosses the t’s, dots the i’s is eligible for funding from the government to start a school, or run programmes to keep people out of prison. Why the immediate mistrust when Brian Tamaki’s name gets mentioned?

Again I’ll say it, I don’t agree with everything that Brian Tamaki says, or everything that Destiny believes, but there is no question that Destiny does some good work in the community.

Would you rather live next door to a Destiny Church member…or a gang member?

I hope that all we say tonight was a slow news night, because if TVNZ and TV3 are going to chase this non-angle (is that better Richie?) all year until Destiny takes possession of the property in December it’ll make for pretty boring news.