Personally, Jesus is no crutch

I’m not a fan of crutches – mental, that is. I figure I’ve a fairly good brain, my resilience is solid, and I’ve a good dose of personal insight. Yet there appears to be this odd misconception that faith is a weakness. By being head-over-heels with the Jesus fella, I am somehow abdicating my thought processes and, eek, am displaying to all and sundry that I am weak and need this to prop me up. Unknown

I don’t need. I choose. Want. Desire. Embrace. I’ve a magnificent supernatural God that the Bible shows me was there through plagues, wars, famine, floods, times of plenty, times of trouble – and consistently comes up with solid answers and solutions. Chapter after chapter, verse after verse, God proves over and over that, yes, He’s way better at this universal existence thing than I am. Through time and place.

Jesus said he was the light and the way. The son of God who I’ve already figured out is better at guiding, planning and sorting out both the big picture and fine detail than I.  So no matter what I else I do to train my brain, read a new book each week, study online with Linda and use all this new knowledge to add value, improve myself, my career path and justify that pay rise…. it’s still but a drop in the ocean compared to what I’ve learnt about GJ& the HS and what they can do in my life when I let them in and trust.

I don’t have to have all the answers – and neither do my children or my husband. I don’t have to be right all the time – because I trust God is. Not because of spiritual insubstantial fairy floss, but because that rather massive book called the Bible proves His hand can guide me far more magnificently than myself alone. Naturally. Him being God and me being 40-something Phil. Who’s only been around gathering wisdom for 40-something years while He’s been doing it, for, well, always and forever.

In Australia, anxiety is on the rise – it’s the most common mental health condition. On average, 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – will experience anxiety. One in six young Australians (aged 16–24) had experienced and anxiety disorder in 2016Up to 40 per cent of the population will experience a panic attack at some time in their life.

Isn’t that frightening? I attended a seminar on the topic recently and found myself talking to many, many women who confirmed they had this constant voice in their head telling them all sorts of anxiety-inducing material. They weren’t good enough. They wouldn’t get the dinner finished in time. That someone accidentally ignored them on the street and it sent them into a paralysis of wondering had they somehow offended them? Perhaps they didn’t like them? And what about their body, isn’t it unfit, overweight, underweight, too fit, too tall, too small, too thin, too broad? What if they miss their work deadline?

I was aghast. Still am. God may have wired me to operate and process at speed, yet He also blessed me with a quiet mind. Minimal chatter. It was both blessing and pain to realise I was in a minority.

“Jesus loves me this I know, because he gave me Lexipro,” is a line you may have heard. Depression and anti-anxiety medication absolutely has its place. I figure we live in a post-Fall world, so to think our brain chemistry and wiring is going to be perfect misses the whole impact of that pesky snake and the apple.

I also know brave, persistent individuals who have re-wired their brains and neurons away from anxiety, fight and flight responses, and into a more calm, manageable place. They also use medication to support them on this journey. Yet with all the research on neuroplasticity, the comfort and hope offered – with strategies and work, bloody hard work – that they could re-wire their anxious neural pathways means they persevere. As one Christian friend commented after the seminar, “it was a great reminder as to how far I’ve come.”

Strategies not crutches. Intelligent thinking not abdication of intellect. The Bible reminds her (and me, and anyone else who cares to take a read) that God can take her anxieties and calm them. That when she relentlessly and persistently challenges those voices, lays her worries at the Cross, they quieten.

Love Me with all your heart, God tells us. Be anxious about nothing. Pray and petition Me because I love you desperately – so desperately I gave you My son so I could be even closer to you – and I want to bless you, help you, guide you. Let me.

Climb into my lap and just be. Let me dry your tears when you are anxious. Help you laugh. I’ll even tease you gently about your fears so you keep them in perspective. Carry you along if you need it. Kick you in the butt if you need that too. My love has no fear. No anxiety. And because I am God, you are made utterly, beautifully perfect in your weakness, your fears, your anxieties. Why? Because I am God. So you have no need to be.

On a scale of 1-10, will you get to heaven?

I was asked this question. From the stage, during a conference. Where one is no, and ten is absolutely. I answered, from my table, without even thinking, “Hell, yes. I’m a ten. Abso-freakin’-lutely.”

Well, let’s just say some crickets chirped.

1
Dudley Moore and Bo Derek in ’10’. Image courtesy of grouchoreviews.com

There were some hefty UHT* Christians in the room too.

The question was posed of all of us, with the scenario explained that – when first discussed in a different location – there were people – also Christians – answering four, seven, six etc.

Now, I’m kind of a Christian newbie and I don’t want to be wagging my finger at all the UHTers, but why weren’t there more loud affirmatives of “TEN!” echoing around the room?

Before I became a Christian, there was a standing joke amongst our good friends that I was deserving of a Sainthood and would absolutely get to heaven by virtue of the craziness I put up with being married to Big T. But of course that’s nonsense.

I’m going to heaven because I’m head-over-heels with the Jesus fella and know and trust he’s done all that needs to be done. Grace. Saved. Eternal Life.

Jesus is my assurance because, God knows, I’d be deep in the negative numbers otherwise.

He delivers me the perfect ten. No doubt.

The same day, the conference also asked about revitalising brand Christian. For me, brand Christian is a little too synonymous with institutional church and it hasn’t fared well of late. Less than 8% of Australians attend church regularly, even though more identify as Christian. With those sort of response rates, I’d say brand Christian has had a bit of a battering.

But brand Jesus? Well, you’ve got to be brave to promote brand Jesus. But what a brand. He’s Coke (Live Life), Nike (Just Do It),  Apple (Think Different) L’Oreal (You’re Worth It) and De Beers (A diamond is forever) rolled into one eternal package. With his sort of unique selling point, Jesus ought to fly off the shelves.

Yet when some of his top customer service representatives,  marketing team and sales guns are all in a room and they take a moment to wonder at their score rather than yelling a heartfelt, “TEN!” to this blog’s headline?

Then I’m a little worried about brand Jesus.

How can others trust in his message, if his ‘brand managers’ aren’t trusting it fully themselves? If assurance of Jesus’ grace isn’t a ten in every single Christian heart, then the message gets diluted. And misses it mark.

God didn’t just want to save us through Jesus. He wanted us to know it. Every single day. To taste it, sing it, embrace it, be joyful about it and share it. He left His Spirit with us so we can yell ‘Ten!’ over and over.

We have assurance. And certainty. Don’t take my word for it. Take His.

..and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:2.

The Perfect Ten.

 

 

Glossary of Terms

*  UHT – treading this Christian path a long, longer life than I.

Bile and Bibles: turning the other cheek for my duct tape.

I have a interesting relationship with the Bible. By interesting I mean aggravating. It mostly comes from my own inability to devour it in a day and tick it off the list (have I mentioned the virtue of patience is one I am not especially blessed with?) So at the start of this journey I would happily read anything else related to Christian research in a vain attempt to somehow circumvent the need.

Part of the frustration stemmed from my being a speed reader blessed with ease of comprehension. The gift means I can gobble up most books and analyse their contents at speed. The Bible, however, is another matter. It defies devouring. A passage you read one day can impact only slightly, whilst a month later it smacks you around the back of the head with blinding insight.polls_duct_tape_3113_370440_poll

Yet I have had to get to grips because the Bible turns out to be a rather useful ‘back-stop’. The catcher. For those days when I wonder if the shoving in my head is God or simply my over-active imagination. As my footsteps grow stronger on this faith walk, I’ve developed relationship and faith enough to sense the difference – but on the days when my God-frequency goes on the fritz, or I suffer from personal maudlin terror (PMT), and I can do little but mutter the Lord’s Prayer in a slanging sort of way, throwing open the Bible and seeing what my eyes are drawn to helps.

I ought to write to the developers of The Bible app with a suggested upgrade: shake device to shuffle random Bible verses.

I do take a slightly more methodical approach to scripture than ‘flip n flurry’ – I could not make head or tail of this past year if I didn’t. This is where the internet is both curse and blessing. Blessing because technology has delivered Bible apps with beautifully-voiced narrators that make listening to it a joy. Curse because it’s way too easy to type into Reverend Google: ‘Bible verse about xyz’ and get a fast answer. Read all the Bible? Between google and my eidetic memory for snippets, it’s tempting to skim.

Pass the duct tape

Yet skimming for sound-bytes gives rise to much that is lost in translation when it comes to G&J today. Clobber verses taken out of context are not useful. Like recently, when an atheist reader of an earlier blog suggested I keep my female faith opinions to myself. He posted to me thisUnknown image of a bound and gagged woman, referring to a scriptural passage about women needing to be quiet.

Thank you. Let me turn the other cheek so you may stretch that duct tape across my mouth more easily.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 is a useful clobber verse for anyone who wants to punch Christianity for being behind the times on gender equality. Yet with a better reading of The Bible, and perhaps accompanying it with something like John Dickson’s Hearing Her Voice, my critic may have recognised the difference between apostolic teaching from the early church and today, given apostolic teaching has been preserved in the canon of New Testament scripture. So Dickson writes that while the first generation of Christian women were prohibited from laying down foundational, apostolic teaching which would become doctrine, tradition, and, finally, scripture,  once this doctrine had been preserved in Scripture, women may teach it.

Dickson also quotes a Bible verse where Paul does not specify gender, a verse that shows that the opportunity to minister in the Corinthian church was open to whomever was gifted. “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson [or teaching: didachē], a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation” (1 Corinthians 14:26

Seems I can ignore the duct tape for another day. And keep on digging into that pesky, Holy text.

Jaysus. There’s three of them?

Watching the British BBC series, Rev. recently, a scene between the local Imam, Yussef Hasan (played by Kayvan Novak) and the Reverend Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander), Anglican priest, made me chuckle. As the pair walk around inner-city London, the Imam comments about Rev. Adam’s, “three Gods.” 2illt93

The script is cleverly referring to the Christian trinity: God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit (G, J & HS). Three, yes. But one. The Holy Trinity. Which can be sort of confusing, even to someone who thinks they may have a slight inkling about Christianity.

Before I’d ever met the long-suffering SAP, I was firing him inquisitive emails about what I thought I knew about the Trinity from school, compared to the overlay of eastern philosophies and research into religious teachers that had formed in the intervening years. Like this one, drawing on my years of yoga and striving for non-attachment:

Do all the religious teachers get together at the end and say, “oops, you picked the wrong one?” Or do you say, so long as you make a choice, choose a way of life following ONE religious teaching, then it’s OK? That there’s a kind of traffic control at the final light, with all the Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists etc shunted off in different directions?

The SAP’s reply:

All religions really aren’t the same…Morally, there are certain similarities here and there between some aspects of Buddhism and Christianity – as in basically be nice to each other.  But the essential claim of Buddhism is that you can make it to ‘Nirvana’ on your own – and when you get there you are unconscious and unaware of anything or anyone around you because you’ve let go of all the attachments you have with people and places and experiences.

Jesus offers us something completely different.  Sure, He says basically be nice to people.  But…there are some massive claims Jesus makes that no one else makes.  He keeps saying He’s God – that’s why they killed Him in the end.  He keeps saying that He can forgive sin – no other ‘religious’ figure in history said that. 

I recall the paragraph above striking me hard. I’d either forgotten or had never made the connection. I’d spent years happily justifying my position by saying Jesus was just another religious teacher. But He isn’t.

This is why I call Jesus the lightening rod. He is not simply another religious teacher who delivers a message from God. He is God. Made flesh. Who fulfils prophecy after Old Testament prophecy. Who performed miracles.

CS Lewis, atheist/agnostic turned theologian, whose book Mere Christianity was adapted from his series of BBC radio talks made between 1942 and 1944, while Lewis was at Oxford University, describes it well:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Which brings us to…spirit.

So God is Jesus. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is their unique brand of….umm…aftershave? Not the most elegant of metaphors. One image used in the Bible comes from nature. The word often translated “spirit” from Hebrew and Greek, the original languages of the Bible, also means “breath” or “wind.”

Another image is advocate or helper. When Jesus was teaching his disciples, he said, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14: 23-26)

An advocate is a person who stands beside you, works with you, and supports your cause. Christians believe the Holy Spirit can live within, filling hearts and minds with freedom, joy, purpose, and grace. In this way, the Holy Spirit is the presence of Jesus in our lives. Or, as I seem to experience it, smoothing out my rough edges.

My personal experience of the Holy Spirit hasn’t been as explicit as that of the disciples in Acts 2:3-4: They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

No disrespect to Pentecostal Christians, but I suspect God is clever enough to know if He tried anything like that with me I’d be reaching for a few shots of flaming Sambuca. Shoving me awake at 3am with repetitive song lines? That’s enough.

Jesus is.. Lost In Translation

Daily I’m convinced that Jesus is lost in translation. And if he was lost in translation to me, I’m thinking he has been lost in translation to plenty of others. Below are a few of the comments that have been directed at me:

  • So, practising Christianity is something ‘you do’?
  • But you haven’t changed!
  • Yet you’ve got your s*&t shorted!Unknown
  • Why do you need the crutch of God & Jesus?

So what has been lost in translation?

The misunderstanding that practising Christianity is something ‘you do’

As a friend asked recently, “so, does this take up a lot of your time?” Umm…G&J take up virtually all my time. I never imagined I’d forgo downloading the latest chiller-thriller on my Kindle for J.I Packer’s ‘Knowing God’, but there you have it. This isn’t, personally, something I can switch on and off after church each Sunday. G&J rappelled into my heart and now urge me to get to know them better. Not from some intellectual theological perspective (too much of that has led to the loss in translation, I suspect) but because I WANT to. I want to know them, not have knowledge of them, because the knowing delivers joy.

Unlike other transient happinesses in my life, this joy just hangs on in there. It isn’t intellectual, it just is. Like riding a bicycle or learning to float/swim, it can’t be broken down into distinct parts and explained so someone else can do it. It’s within. From when I open my eyes each morning to their close at night (and quite often overnight when God pays one of his 3am visits and shoves me awake with blog post suggestions).

“But you haven’t changed!” 

As if my new relationship with G&J would change my martini-enjoying, dance-loving, often sweary, robustly honest approach to life. But there was the misunderstanding that I would turn into the fun police. Put a fish sticker on my car. Stop buying devastatingly gorgeous faux snakeskin boots (as if sanctification would ever stop me buying devastatingly gorgeous shoes).

Sadly, Jesus is lost in translation because of what is ‘expected’ of Christians. The ‘do-gooder’ stereotype. Shiny language. I know I’ve changed, but it probably isn’t in the way people expect. Internally I feel more accountable for thoughts, words and deeds. I am no ‘holier than thou-est’, but, God, He makes me think. Again, not because I have to – grace is freely given, there’s nothing I can do to earn it – but because I choose to. G&J make it easier to love another as myself. The Holy Spirit at work? Absolutely. Left to mine own devices, I’d be as short-patienced as ever.

“But you’ve got your sh*t sorted!” 

I didn’t have -isms and -tions (alcoholism, addiction etc) that secular people expect of ‘born-again’ Christians who “have been saved”. For many observing me, I had my sh*t pretty well sorted.

But there’s all sorts of saving. After a poignant poetry/drama about an incredibly busy career woman who finally found ‘quiet space’ in the understanding of Jesus and grace, the SAP commented to me in his tactful, diplomatic way,”hey, that reminded me of you, Phil!”

I recall feeling affronted. “Steady on, I wasn’t that bad,” I responded, thinking of the character’s incessant hamster-wheel of internal chatter. But, with quiet, humble reflection, I had to acknowledge the smart-alec had a point. I hadn’t filled up my life with drinking or shopping or career addictions. My mind wasn’t busy at that low-level. Oh no, it wasn’t filled with chatter. Or gratuitous ‘stuff’. It was filled with being too damn capable. Always the grown-up.  Responsible. I could overlay it with wit and humour, but push came to shove and I’d always, always, pick up the responsibility rod.

In an odd way, G&J have reminded me to be a kid again. To put down unecessary responsibilities. Or, better, hand them over to them. They deliver plenty of ‘in the moment’ joys that children embrace so well but we adults often forget. There is a huge amount of humour in their relationship with me.  At the risk at turning into my psych nemesis, there is a new freedom in being ‘childlike’ that I didn’t get to enjoy when I was a child due to family circumstances.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. – 1 John 3:1 (ESV)

Why do you ‘need’ the ‘crutch’ of God & Jesus?

To term them a crutch insults my faith in them. G&J flank me. Some days they carry me, others they may drag me, but each day they walk steadily next to me. It is my error if I neglect to turn my head and acknowledge their presence. When I do, I walk taller, become lighter and unencumbered.

Crutch? No. Rather armour, wings, shelter – all of those and more. What is lost in translation is that G&J are not some insipid, wafting notions of love, all caftans and peace signs. There is valour and strength that is too often unnoticed:

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Acts 17:11

That’s not a crutch. That’s Russel Crow winning an Oscar in Gladiator. Or Jack Reacher (in 6′ 5″ literary form, not Tom Cruise). That’s stand up and be counted.

Dear God, I think Jesus would bake two wedding cakes, don’t you?

Quite often I tell myself I was remiss in conducting due diligence on this whole Christian business. G&J snuck into my heart whilst my head was playing catch-up, kind of like some divine Navy SEAL team rappelling through my soul, dragging me out the bunker, ripping off a blindfold and shoving me into the light before I’d even had a chance to catch a breath. And once they’re in your heart? It’s incredible difficult to evict them. Holy squatters rights. No matter how often my head wants to explode.

Who knew cake could be so divisive? Marie-Antoinette started it all, and now we’ve got The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in on the act. In the American state of Oregon, a case is underway after a bakery declined to provide a cake for a lesbian wedding. mr-mr-wedding-cake-topper-same-sex-wedding-lgbt-wedding-gay-cake-topper-groom-and-groom

On the one hand, homosexual people are entitled to be free from discrimination. The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights provides that all people, including people who identify as homosexual, are entitled to non-discrimination and equality before the law.

On the other hand, Christians and other religious people are entitled to the free exercise of their religion. The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights provides that: Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

For many people, religious beliefs are part of their everyday life. This includes operating a business and providing commercial services to others. Which is how ‘Cakegate’ has occurred. Based on their religious beliefs, a bakery-owning, Christian-couple declined to bake a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding. They were sued, ended up closing their retail store due to public backlash, and face damages up to $120k.

Now, given that Jesus flouted the religious law of the time and hung out with lepers, tax-collectors, and adulterous women, I have to ponder how little ‘Cakegate’ has to do with Jesus, and rather too much to do with religion and legalism? I recently read an excellent ‘Cakegate’ article over on the blog Ten Thousand Places referencing Jesus’ sermon on the mount and his response to the (unpopular) Roman law of the time:

One of the Roman laws stated that any man could be required to drop what he was doing and carry a Roman soldier’s equipment for him for up to a mile. In the sermon on the mount, with his followers gathered around him, Jesus referenced that law and told his followers what they should do in that case: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” ~Matthew 5:41

Applying this in the present day, under the law of  non-discrimination and equality, perhaps those Christian bakers should have baked not only one cake, but two?

These bakers were standing by their personal Christian belief that marriage is a God-sanctified union between man and woman. But Jesus walked around breaking the scriptural laws of the time in the name of God’s love. Like when he healed on the Sabbath and the Pharisees confronted him.

“What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep!” Matthew 12:11

Jesus is holding up his love, God’s love, against the limiting scriptural laws of the day. And as Christians, blessed with the Holy Spirit, that sort of love needs to be acted out over and over and over. No matter how hard.

In Australia, Christian Youth Camps refused to take a booking from a group wanting to run a suicide-prevention camp for same-sex-attracted young people. The case ended when Christian Youth Camps lost their appeal against a finding that they had breached equal opportunity laws.

Surely in a group feeling so marginalised it leads to suicide is the EXACT PLACE a Christian should be. In the mess and the mire. No matter how it rubs up awkwardly against any scriptural passages. Showing love and compassion. Loving your neighbour as yourself. 

Jesus was the antithesis of everything everyone expected at the time. Instead of being a victorious leader overthrowing Roman rule, he hung out with the weak, the marginalised and the oppressed.

On days when I read about ‘Cakegate’ and try to stop my head exploding, I often wonder what Jesus would be like if he popped in to check up on us today. Probably what we least expect, designed exactly to hold a mirror up to our beliefs, just as he did before. So a same-sex attracted, celibate, person of colour, wedding cake baker, perhaps?

Can I Take This Elephant To The Mardi-Gras?

Rainbow-elephant-2I feel a bit like a stranger has stomped through my soul wearing a hefty pair of Dr. Marten boots. I’m not quite sure how it happened, or even if I can point a finger at one particular interloper, but, to describe it in very female terms, I feel like my faith is suffering from PMS.

Mood swings. Irritability. Tiredness. A desire to inflict blunt instrument trauma. Itchy in this Christian skin. Why now? I’d floated on post-liptoning life into Christmas, gently enjoyed the eddies and flows of a reflective January, and arrive truly excited for growth both spiritually and professionally this year.

Yet I feel like my soul has broken out in hives. That from last year’s happy dance over reaching some Christian summit I’ve just looked up and seen a mother of a mountain. My faith is acting like a petulant teen. It wants to stomp its feet, head back down the mountain and get completely blind on apres-climb liquor.

“I don’t want to read a useful Bible verse and pray to feel better,” it whines at me. “Pass the vodka.”

Is it really my faith whining petulantly or an echo from my 42 years ‘before Christ’ (BC)? From re-arranging my molecules whilst holidaying with an old friend who knew me BC yet hadn’t seen me ‘after Christ’ (AC), to something as simple as sex, I am suddenly cranky, restless and resistant. My New Christian Dr Jekyll is being challenged by my older, less Christian Hyde.

BC/AC

Sadly, the old friend with whom I holidayed is not on social media. This blog and my whole hound of heaven year had gone unnoticed. A passing comment that I’d been attending church led to long aethist viewpoints. My Liptoning in the river left her speechless. The adjective ‘God Botherer’ was used. As I smiled and held onto patience, my Hyde began to itch.

Simple as Sex

If only sex was simple. Trouble is, it’s tied up in values, beliefs and religiosity. My many years BC have given me some fairly open-minded views about sex, that don’t necessarily sit well AC. Take 50 Shades Of Grey, currently on billboards as the movie approaches. Where does Christianity sit with the 50 Shades genre? After all, Christians have sex. Some of them, after prayer meetings, even commit to having sex with their husbands every day for a year. Yet sex with pain and humiliation? Books that ‘normalise’ using sex as power? Suddenly there’s no grey. Kim Gaines argues that the lens of Fifty Shades delivers an unrealistic view of sex and power while Christian sex therapist and doctor, Patricia Weerakoon warns Christians to stay away from the movie and the books, given it normalises “unconventional sexual behaviour”, including bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.

My BC Mrs Hyde rolls her eyes and wonders what the fuss is about. It is fiction. If you’re a consenting adult and you’re daft enough to sign a contract with a billionaire who has S&M proclivities, then you know what you’re in for. I repeat, it is fiction. If you read it and take from it an unrealistic view of sex and power then, I would venture to say, as it is fiction, you had an unrealistic view to start with.

Yet, I can’t simply ignore Christians’ concerns because – and this is where my faith starts to whine petulantly – I did opt in with the whole baptism bit. It holds me accountable despite any nagging wishes to hide behind Christian-ish.

I realise some of my itching and wriggle-room seeking is because, if I challenge it on Fifty Shades, there’s nowhere else to look but at the elephant in the room that is the Christian view of sex. Within a loving, heterosexual married relationship.

The elephant in the room – everything else outside of this view, including same sex marriage and same sex sex – derails me often. The fuss about Fifty Shades has me standing in front of the elephant again. Wondering if I want to run away with it and join the circus. Or Mardi Gras. Oh, boy. Or girl.

(The irony that I have no wish to be tied down to exploring sexual mores when discussing Fifty Shades, by the way, is not lost).

The SAP once pondered why God hunted me down. I replied perhaps He wanted me to lead the change-communications campaign for the church and same-sex marriage. Crickets chirped.

There are churches that would wrap my elephant in rainbow colours and lead it in a mardi gras. It would make me far less itchy in this AC skin. Trouble is, my elephant and I keep coming up against pesky scripture and Jesus’ line: “I do not condemn you…Go and sin no more.” John 8 1-11.

So whilst the Bible does give a clear answer about my elephant, the answer is not to Mrs BC Hyde’s taste. She’s pulling the ‘salt, tequila, lemon’ grimace. Dr AC Jekyll? Well, she fancies lining up a few shot glasses herself in commiseration.

I have climbed high enough on this Christian mountain to understand I do my faith a disservice by seeking a hall pass on this. As well as feeling I insult ‘qualified’ pastor types, regardless if they wear smart alec stripes or not, who are honest enough to stick to biblical truths no matter how challenging and unpalatable they are in the modern world. Doing so turns me into my BC/AC friend, who tried to impose her views over my new faith to make it more palatable to her.

The elephant will always itch at my skin. So whilst I can’t climb over it or squeeze around it, I will instead keep pressing my forehead lightly to its trunk in prayer.