Category: Discussion

Christian cybermisogyny and hate speech has to end

fire

There is a trend that the church simply cannot afford to ignore – cybermisogyny and harassment of women “in the name of Christ”. I wish I was joking.

I’ve talked before about what I call “Trolls For Christ” – the worst kind of ill-informed Pharisee determined to spill hate in defence of the church. Just recently I penned an open letter to a church leader engaged in cybermisogyny dressed up as a book review.

This “defending the church” argument in support of cybermisogyny (because it targets women far more than men) is wrong on two grounds – a minor point but the church does not need us to defend it (that’s taken care of, read the Bible) but more importantly – because hate speech should have no part in Christian living. Not ever.

Jesus talked about being meek, turning the other cheek, forgiving sins, and healing people. Somehow we have made it all about defending our rights. Did we forget that he said over and over that when someone tries to trample your rights – help them to do it? If they sue you for your coat, give them also your shirt. If someone compels you to go a mile, go two miles. That is literally where the expression “to go the extra mile” comes from.

How bad is cybermisogyny?

The Guardian reports that women writers are facing unprecedented levels of harassment, rape threats, and abuse.

In 2014 there was an organised campaign of harassment that became known as GamerGate. The harassment campaign targeted several women in the video game industry; notably game developers Zoë Quinn, Brianna Wu, and media critic Anita Sarkeesian.

Account upon account of the online harassment of women continues to pile up.

WMC report that this can include defamation and accusations of blasphemy. Defamation, in this case, can include coordinated attempts where a person, or, sometimes, organized groups deliberately flood Google, social media and review sites with negative and defamatory information.

As for the blasphemy charges…

Women face online threats globally, but they run a unique risk in conservative religious countries, where, in blasphemy is against the law and where honor killings are a serious threat. Accusing someone of blasphemy can become, itself, an act of violence.

A 2013 report from the organisation Working to Halt Abuse Online showed that 72.5% of those who reported being abused on the internet were female. That, right there, is cybermisogyny.

This all culminated in a campaign under the hashtag #MeToo. How did the church respond?

What is the church doing about cybermisogyny?

Is the church speaking up those that have no voice like the scriptures say (Proverbs 31:8)? Do we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15-18)? Do we, as God’s law command, protect the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)?

No. No, we do not.

We don’t do this because the church is too busy joining in with the cybermisogyny. We cannot condemn the sin because we are the sin.

Australian Christian news website, Eternity News, shared an article dedicated to ordinary women revealing sexual harassment by Christians.

#MeToo: Christian women share stories of assault at the hands of Christian men

And we wonder why the church is not seen as relevant any more?

Disagreeing with you is not a sin, church

I hate to have to be the one pointing this out because I thought we were past these basics but disagreeing with someone while being a woman is not a sin; harassing a person you disagree with is a sin, though.

Treating women like something you can own is a sin.

This cybermisogyny, protecting cybermisogyny, and failing to speak out against cybermisogyny from Christians are all sins too.

It is not okay to call women all kinds of names, to suggest their character, their faith, or their life is anything less than it is just because the way they interpret the Bible or chose to live their lives, differs from the way you do.

Jesus said, in John 13:35, that it would be our love for each other that would show we are his disciples. This behaviour shows that we are not His disciples. Maybe few of us ever were.

The church needs to repent, and fast

The moment #MeToo started to break headlines, church groups the world over should have joined with the oppressed and cried out for justice. We did not and that is to our shame.

Our churches must, most urgently, change how we address sexual violence. So far we have done too poor a job of even recognising that it exists. We have failed to be salt and light. I think we all know all that salt which is no longer salty is good for?

I don’t pretend to have a plan for how we can change but Eugene Hung has some strong suggestions.

  1. Ministers and their churches need to address sexual violence on a regular basis.
  2. Ministers and churches must not neglect biblical passages that describe sexual violence.
  3. Churches need to bring more women into upper levels of leadership and decision-making authority.
  4. Church leaders must refuse to be party to conspiracies of silence.

We need to change and we need to change fast.

An open letter to some religious leader called David

Written Letter

This post, in a rapid departure from my usual format, is in response to an open letter by David to Vicky Beeching. I’ll confess I have not read the book in question and am simply responding to the form and content of the blog post in question.

Dear David,

In your open letter, you have the following words to say, and it is by according to these words that I will reply to you.

I’m not quite sure what you mean by the door of my heart, but I hope it is always open to reflect the glory of the God who is love. I also want to keep open the door of my mind and be open to reason, evidence and persuasion.

I hope, therefore that we can reason together. However, for us both, this will be tinged with the same conflict of interest – blogs by their very nature are about public attention and love in its nature is not. Let us continue then, assuming the very best of intentions but with the full knowledge that we are flawed.

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No one is saved (yet)

Growing up in an Evangelical Charismatic church I thought I knew what it meant to be saved.

What do we mean by “saved”?

As far as my 12-year-old-self knew, you said the sinner’s prayer and then you were saved and going to heaven. Just wait at the rapture bus stop. While you are waiting, preach to people you would like in heaven with you and make them Christian too.

We quoted Romans 10:9-13 which described what we did in the sinner’s prayer (or so I thought). At the same time, we cited Ephesians 2:8-9 in case anyone started thinking that the prayer was what saved us. And we frequently made mention of John 3:17 and so we knew that it is Jesus that saves.

We glossed over Acts 16:31, where a man believes and his entire household are saved. Likewise, Mark 16:16 was only used at baptisms in case anyone got the idea that baptism was required to be saved even though “the Bible clearly says” as much.

The salvation we left out

There is a great deal that we leave out or gloss over when it comes to teachings on being saved. If we are to have a valid and unshakable doctrine of salvation all of these issues must be addressed.

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It is time to remove pharisaical influence from our doctrine

We talk about “my church”, “my pastor”, and “my ministry”. These things are not yours.

Our church is our family. Our church is where we are pastored (nurtured) and where we minister to (nurture) each other. 

The difference is between a place where you take for yourself and a place where you care for others. One is a club for Bible geeks and the other is the Kingdom of Heaven.

This pharisaical toxin in our thinking is inherited from the trace amounts of pharisee presence in our church culture and wider doctrinal teachings. Pharisaical influence is like leaven (yeast) of Galatians 5:9 – any is too much. The church is suffering from a yeast infection.

I suggest that it is time to remove pharisaical influence and rethink the way we think about “church”.

Agnosis demands humility

Agnosis means “I don’t know everything” because I do not. It is the antithesis of the idea that “the Bible clearly says…”

Jesus (Iesou) seemed to understand that the great truths of God are hidden from the wise and learned. In Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21-22, He thanks the Father for doing this.

In a post titled “The lost art of humility: homosexuality and usury“, the writer of Undeception says:

…no human may legitimately claim or imply the unimpeachability of his opinion merely by adorning it with the words, “The Bible says…” in place of the more accurate statement, “I interpret certain passages of Scripture to mean…”; to grant that even knowing what the Bible says is no guarantor that one knows the meaning or value of what it says.

This, I would suggest to you, is exactly the principle of Agnosis that I wrote about before.

If we accept that man is flawed and that we are men, then we must conclude that we are flawed. Therefore, If it is true that we are flawed it follows that our reading of the Bible – no matter how seemingly accurate – must be flawed. If it is flawed, it is yet to be perfected. If yet to be perfected then all of the following must be true:

  • Our understanding of scripture must be examined periodically (John 5:39)
  • One or more parts of our doctrine will be errant (Matthew 7:3)
  • We may be unable to see where the flaws are (1 Corinthians 13:12)
  • We cannot rely on our understanding of scripture but on Christ alone (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • In all things charity (love) and humility are vital (Proverbs 17:9)

Proverbs 16:18 teaches us that pride is always destructive. Therefore any doctrine proudly held up as perfect will crumble in time.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

We would be fools to think we have gotten everything right. Our only recourse is towards humility. Maybe the Calvinists are right; perhaps the Orthodoxy is most correct, it could be the more liberal universalists are on to something, or perhaps the purest truth is known only to a madman preaching on a hillside. Whatever our doctrinal position let us embrace those who have a different understanding as brothers first and foremost as the scriptures direct.

A Biblical view on Brexit

I feel that the church has been lacking a sound biblical perspective on Brexit. While I doubt that I am the one to write a definitive study, here is what I have decerned from scripture.

Polling from Lord Ashcroft showed that nearly 60% of those that identified as Christian voted to leave. Why?

According to Christianity Today:

A host of blogs, websites and claims of ‘prophetic words’ have fuelled a fear of the European Union’s apparent spiritual side. A minefield of ‘prophetic’ websites, many of which border on the extreme end of conspiracy theories, warn of a supposed darkness in the EU project.

I want to take a clear-headed look at what the Bible really has to say.

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How Christians could end poverty

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The roadmap for the body of Christ to end poverty was set out in the Deuteronomy and Acts. Yet somehow we still miss it.

What is poverty?

Poverty is a trap. It means not having enough and what you do to cope with that need.

Poverty is a trap because it disadvantages the entire family. The children are less likely to do well at school. In fact, most children who grow up in poverty fail to attain any qualifications worth a damn. As adults, they are trapped in low paying jobs and their children will inherit the same trap.

Poverty is a trap that damages society. Children that experience poverty are more likely to engage in crime, antisocial behaviour and drug use.

We Christians should be doing something about that. Instead, we either are trapped ourselves or grow fat and offer to “pray for the poor”. James 2:16 points out just how worthless that is, for a poor person.

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