Dear Lord, let’s just ban marriage

Hi God, it’s me, Phil.

And I’m sorry but I have to tell You, I’m a little over the marriage equality ‘debate’ that’s raging in Sydney right now. My itchy BC (before Christ) skin, as You well know from my previous wranglings with same sex attraction and Christianity, is rolling her eyes. We have social orphans committing suicide in Russia, poverty in Africa, child-sex trafficking, forced prostitution, Aborginal health, detention centres, women being murdered by their partners or husbands….need I go on? I feel we’ve got our perspective and priorities seriously skewed._gay marriage cartoon

There’s money being spent on adverts that don’t get aired, media events that people don’t turn up to, and metres of vertical trolls on social media.

Screw marriage rights, God, screw ’em. Tell you what, why don’t we do a Brangalina type announcement and say that no-one gets married until we sort out poverty, illiteracy, access to education, domestic violence, world peace etc. etc.

That’s right: no-one. Then we’ll see just how committed everyone REALLY is to marriage equality. What do you reckon?

I know, I know, it’ll upset the unwed Christians because they won’t be getting any, if they are honouring You, due to Your no sex without marriage request (well, maybe a little stronger than a request, but I’m in PR). Anyway. Think of the focus it would achieve. Nothing like enforced celibacy to gird one’s loins for mission and change.

But I really think it’s the best way to sort it out. Kind of like toddlers arguing over a toy car in the sandpit. Take it away. End of argument.

The irony here is the greatest gift You blessed me with: the ability to see both sides. So You set Yourself up royally for my wrestling. I don’t want to be a bad and unfaithful servant, honest, but I’m still figuring out how to be truth-filled and grace-filled and hold the space for Jesus to walk into it on this one.

I admit, I want You to make it easy for me. I want it so marriage equality doesn’t keep making Christians appear like a bunch of intolerant bigots.

Christians, for the most part, are trying to stick to Your word. Which is pretty damn unpopular in 2015. Fastest way to lose friends is wear a cross around your neck these days and point to the Bible as truth. And that breaks my heart because some of the most caring, compassionate people I know are Christians getting a bad rap for sticking to their belief in Your word.

So, Lord, I want to pray for those scripture-focused Christians who say, “I’d rather get to heaven and have God ask me, “Why couldn’t you just keep up with the times on same sex marriage?” instead of, “Well, could you not read My word?””

They are putting God above self and aren’t winning any popularity contests. But to say they are hating bigots is not only wrong and unfair, it’s a dangerous slippery slope regarding freedom of belief.

I also want to pray for the less scripturally-focused Christians (the popularist pastors). And anyone they’ve sent off-piste. That’d be a real kick in the proverbials come the pearly gates. My challenge, personally, is wanting those popularist pastors to be right. For me, they are weepingly, painfully seductive. I want their biblical gymnastics to make sense. I want this to be easy.

But (much like Bogart and Bacall) of all the churches in all of Sydney I could have called that day, You delivered a scriptural pastor at the end of the phone. You could have delivered a hall pass. (Sigh).

A dear SSA friend asked me about the scriptural take the other day.  After I cautiously explained it with as much care and respect as possible, he thanked me. “I have never had the opportunity to explore both sides before,” he said. “I’m not Christian, so I’d never ask to take part in a Christian marriage ceremony. But at least I understand it better now.”

Because both sides deserve a fair hearing. Which isn’t happening in Australia, as Paul Barrie from MediaWatch recently demonstrated.  What happened? Why is holding a different viewpoint now taken as an excuse to vilify? Some of the most dangerous atrocities in the world have stemmed from intolerance and vilification of different viewpoints. So I pray that stops. Soon.

So God, I’ll keep wrestling. Sorry. But I’ll also try my damnedest to hold the space for Jesus’ grace and Your love to walk though.

Amen.

Have the nice clergy opened the church doors to gay marriage?

As a newbie Christian, this is something I’m pondering. With gay marriage topping the agenda (because, come on, if a country packed full of the devout like Ireland can do it, why can’t Australia?) could it be asked whether the church has devalued marriage by marrying non-Christians in church? 

Image from http://anglicansablaze.blogspot.com.au
Image from http://anglicansablaze.blogspot.com.au

Putting aside Genesis, gender, Adam and Eve and all the offensive ‘It was Eve not Steve’ bumper stickers, it struck me that ‘marriage’ – the institution from the church’s perspective – has been under threat as soon as the non-faithful started getting married in them.

I have a bunch of aethist / agnostic mates who were married in a church because they wanted a nice architectural venue. I disappointed my Catholic in laws by refusing anything but a civil ceremony. Back then I really didn’t think Jesus wanted much to do with me (and me with him) so why pretend for a day? I suppose if you don’t believe at all, and it’s more about having the The Garrison Church at The Rocks in your wedding photos, then you can probably wing it.

It just seems a bit odd for clergy to offer Christian marriage ceremonies to non-believers. Or is it a grey area? Like, “Well, you do have a christening certificate from 30 odd years ago so we can’t say no, even if we think you’re bunging it on for the fancy photo opportunity.” Plus (the clergy will doubtless howl me down for this one) my cynical mind supposes the upkeep on all those sandstone edifices can be pricey. Taking in a few fees for BDMs (births, deaths, marriages) helps, no?

Catholics say marriage is a sacrament. Jesus doesn’t. He only gave two: baptism (my getting lipton’d) and the Lord’s Supper (Communion). But, much like reverse engineering a marketing campaign, have churches married non-believing people thinking that it was a good starting point? A way of increasing the numbers in the potential soul-saving funnel? That maybe, just maybe, it would help as a starting point for evangelism.

Yet most clergy don’t evangelise to couples asking to be married. Because the clergy are too nice. The whole watered-down, insipid Christianity thing that created my own Christian hangover. Faced with a pushy Bridezilla intent on the location, darling, the location, are there clergy with cojones saying:

“Now, this marriage covenant was ordained by God to provide believers with a picture of Christ’s love and relationship to His church. It represents your union with Jesus Christ. A successful marriage is built upon the biblical truth that God designed each of us with five purposes in mind: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and missions. So, please, tell me, how are you going to fulfil those five?”

Can you imagine the engaged couple’s faces? Probably the same colour as the numbers in the church’s building and repairs bank account…

Jesus, as I’ve typed before, is the lightning rod. The uber-blog post. If the clergy, through misplaced niceness (and misplaced cojones?) aren’t seriously talking him up whilst performing marriage ceremonies; knowing, deep down, it will be the first and last time they will see the couple in church, then what does it say about Christian marriage?

That the doors are wide open for business, I’d say..

Christian Girls Are Easy

The SAP had another chai-spluttering moment when he read that headline. Yet it is his fault, given he alerted me to a problem that appears to be invading church youth across Australia, possibly even the world. No-one seems to be getting any. And by ‘any’ I mean courting. Courting is apparently dead in the church. Caught between friendship with fellow female young Christians and wrestling with what’s written about scriptural purity, it appears there are scores of young Christian men frozen by indecision.

This is not good! It’s hard enough getting people along to church in this reaching, secular world. If all our young Christians end up so frozen by purity that they can’t even ask each other out for a coffee/cake/gentle get to know you, what chance have they got of ever getting together, tying the knot, and bringing lots of young baby Christians into the world?

I am reminded of the World War Posters – Christianity Needs You!Your+Church+needs+you

As readers will know, I’ve been longer secular than Christian. You really don’t want to know the full story of how my husband and I met. Suffice to say it had something to do with me getting my name on a plaque on a pub in Bathurst that required me to drink 100 pints of Guinness. Big T was brave enough to stand out from the easy-on-the-eye, yet conversationally challenged local stock and station agent with whom I had been attempting a dialogue. Big T plonked a diet coke down in front of me and the rest is history. I did still get my name on the plaque, though.

What I rarely share is that God has His hand on our relationship from the start. You see, as Big T walked into the pub, my housemate, who knew him already, pointed him out. It sounds like a cliche but I looked across the pub and it was like the molecules in the room shifted. A literal judder of the air. And no, I hadn’t had that many pints of Guinness! I hadn’t even made eye-to-eye contact with the man, but the impact was palpable. Then clear as a bell in my head: “That is an incredibly significant person in your life.”

I attempted to quickly converse with the conversationally-challenged local stock and station agent because I was freaking out! I was an enlightened, double-degree holding, career-minded woman whose predecessors had won her the vote. What was all this sappy, our eyes didn’t even meet across a crowded room and I was getting the shivers, business?

But God found a way. May have taken a while for me to cotton on (sorry God) but He found a way.

Based on the above, the lesson is that God really doesn’t need any help in bringing a spouse into your life. So get over worrying about that bit.

Yes, marriage is serious. But coffee does not equal marriage. It does not mean, “and with this latte/double shot/soy/skim cappucinno, I thee wed.” But you do need to at least make the effort to try out a few beans (am I using a really bad metaphor here, given everyone may now turn their minds to grinding?) to see if you blend!

You’ve got Christianity in common. Which I why I used the headline. Do you know how hard it is in the secular world to meet someone, fall in love, stumble through the ‘rules of dating’ (Lord, save me from the rules of should I call him after 3 days or will I look too desperate?), get married, have kids and then stay together when the reality sets in that the chemistry they unleashed during dating simply isn’t enough? There is such a thing as peaking too early.

Fewer people today think of marriage as a Christian institution. Oddly, it has become something to tick off the to do list. “I must get married before I’m 30..35..40..etc.” say many women. So, guys, listen to me when I write this: Christian girls ARE easy, because, if you are Christian too, you will already understand what’s in her heart.

Jesus is in her heart, right? So start with that.

There is so much I could blog on about: purity pledges being one. And I will. But, in the famous words of Napoleon: not tonight, Josephine. I have a headache.