If I Were a Butterfly

The hardest thing for me as a Christian is to believe that Jesus loves me – I think I am the product of “I a poor miserable sinner” Lutheranism. The sinner that beats his chest and leaves the temple more justified than the other.

There is something wrong here – I thought about this at church this morning. The children sang a song from my childhood – and I think they sang something that we try and beat out of them as they grow up. The Lyrics go something like this:

If I were a butterfly
I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings
If I were a robin in a tree 
I’d thank you Lord that I could sing
If I were a fish in the sea
I’d wiggle my tail and I’d giggle with glee
But I just thank you Father for making me, me
 
CHORUS      
For you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child
And I just thank you Father for making me, me

These comforting words from Martin Luther: Grace is like freshly fallen snow covering a pile of shit

No Grace is rays of God’s love, building me up from the strange affliction called – “being human” I heard it this morning for the kids and I hope my kids heard it from me – the “me”, the real “me” is much more than a pile of shit. A precious pearl in fact.

It is important here to stop and think – we may think we are proclaiming a message of love – but it matters not what we say but how it is received. Follow me for a moment to the events of the last couple of days. My brother watched a Youtube video which immediately reminded him of me……..bit scary,  but have a watch.

I posted a link to this video onto a Lutheran discussion forum where I have brought up this topic previously and after having the post censored I got this message from the Moderator:

Yesterday, I again had to delete a post of yours.
This post with its link to a video reached a new low:  posting an item of clear ridicule of the Word of God together with intolerable language.  It is clear that the subject of this video is an enemy of the faith by his own description (he has been on TV before).
By posting this link, you aligned yourself with him and his intent.
I remind you that this is a Christian forum, for the exchange of ideas, for discussion and mutual support.  The latter is particularly important.  Your agreement with the forum guidelines requires you to act in support of those aspects.  Your post yesterday failed in all those items.
If you have a contrary intent, you cannot continue on the forum.
Should you again post anything of this nature, you will be permanently banned from the forum. 

Just one thing to say – Tim is not ridiculing the “Word of God” he is ridiculing the behaviour, actions and beliefs of Christians – that is what comedians do. If our behaviour, actions and beliefs were good he wouldn’t have much material. He is not an enemy of THE faith he may be an enemy of our faith.  Anyway, before you write Tim off as “secular”, “worldly”, “destined for destruction” have a listen, and a laugh. Comedians are generally intelligent people……and its funny because its true.

In conclusion:  Listen to the laughter in the crowd – the image of  church that the general public sees, deserves this ridicule –  I saw a brief glimpse of the good we can do as church this morning – I just thank you Father for making me, me…………This message needs to be proclaimed to everyone – our new statement about sexuality still proclaims to the LGBTI people in our church that God created some “me’s” as distorted – I as a heterosexual, Christian man find it hard to accept that God loves me, I can only imagine the desperation young Gay people feel when family, church and much of society finds them repulsive.

I desperately want church to be a place of acceptance for all

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Comments
18 Responses to “If I Were a Butterfly”
  1. Karin says:

    Tapio, there are plenty of churches who accept all. Even within the LCA there are pastors who accept all. Do not judge the whole of the LCA by the moderators and the three main contributors at that Lutheran forum. As I always say, do not judge the whole of Christianity based on the vocal fundamentalist fringe dwellers who exist in all churches.

    • Tapman says:

      Yes no doubt there are 🙂

      • lcamyopinion says:

        Still waiting for a pastor or leader of the LCA to make one public statement that is accepting and affirming of my gay friends. I believe what you say Karin. I know that there are probably pastors who are accepting of their gay brothers and sisters. its just that these accepting pastors and leaders don’t tell anyone that they are. So, while they continue to be silently and secretly accepting I guess its pretty hard for the gay members of the church to hear the message of acceptance.

  2. lcamyopinion says:

    The LCA as an institution is certainly to be judged by the public comments of its pastors and leaders. If not, what else do we have to go by? According to the collective statements (both official and casual) of the leadership of the LCA the institution may quite correctly be categorized as fundamentalist and fringe dwelling.

    • Tapman says:

      Numerous complaints were made about the Yahnke seminars and the fact that they go against all current research and all advise from all health and medical authorities yet the seminars can still be found on the LCA website – there is absolutely no doubt the powerful majority hold harmful and bigoted views.

      • Karin says:

        I am not sure that it is a powerful majority. They are more a determined minority who will put their members into position of power to ensure that their world view prevails. I will never forget the email of one pastor directed to his fellow cronies, where he was plotting and scheming about how to deal with people like you two on the LCAi list. Plus that same pastor pretty much acknowledged that they had a vision for the LCA. I am hopeful that the new Bishop will slowly but surely deal with these people.

      • Karin says:

        Tapman

        Tim Minchin was recently awarded an honorary Doctorate by UWA. He gave an amazing speech, which you can see here.

        http://www.timminchin.com/2013/09/25/occasional-address/

        The irony is that I got that link through a RC website. The moderators of that site were proud and encouraged people to listen to his speech as it was “better than most sermons”.

        It has occurred to me that the reason the moderator of that Lutehran site deleted the link is that he feels threatened and with reason, judging from the quality of the posts made by pastors on that forum, including those hoping to be ‘beamed up’ because they follow scripture unthinkingly.

      • Tapman says:

        Thanks again Karin – I heard part of the speech the other day and have meant to listen to the rest. 🙂

      • lcamyopinion says:

        I think that it is the powerful majority that ultimately cause the harm. Our local congregation is a case in point. The majority are at best pro-gay and at worst neutral on the subject. I think most probably follow the rest of society and are somewhere between the 2. They are a group that are responsible for the care of young gay people in their congregation, youth group and college. They are a group that had been made well aware of the atrocious policies and teachings of the church and their consequences in the real harm that those policies and teachings cause. And yet… they do nothing to make effective change. I expect there to be bullies and dicks as a minority in any group. I can live with that. I can even count myself as one of them sometimes. What i cant deal with is the fact that when faced with the real evil that the powerful majority, by their lack of action, contribute to they remain silent. It is bystander bullying and they as culpable as the dicks. Perhaps more so. They are the ones who, by their majority opinion, can effect real change and they do nothing. And they gather every Sunday to place a smiley-face Jesus stamp on top of their inactivity.

  3. Karin says:

    Hi Neil

    I think we are both right. I believe that it is only a small minority that is truly evil and yet, the great majority allows this evil to flourish by their inaction. Thus the majority become the enablers of the minority (which is what you are saying). It reminds me very much of what happened in Nazi Germany. The holocaust would never have been possible if the silent majority had stopped the evil mInority.

    I have always struggled with the Holocaust. how could a highly educated, civilized and religious people let this happen? Is there a part of us that has been touched by evil and therefore allows it to grow? Is the allure of evil so great that we cannot resist? Or is it that we too like to scapegoat?

    Perhaps this silent acceptance of what we clearly know is wrong is part of that corporate sinfulness that Jesus challenged so much, and just as in those times, people could not/would not fight against it. Instead they crucified the prophets who loudly proclaimed that what they were doing was wrong.

    Nothing much has changed really.

    • lcamyopinion says:

      Of course we are both right. How could either of US be wrong?? (smiley face)

      This discussion seems a good place to raise something that is eating at me. I raise it as a question and a step of exploration. Please accept it as such. No more and no less.

      I have a problem. (And it IS a real problem for me. So much so that i cant bear to walk into my local church because of what it represents) My problem is that when it comes to the gay question and the local church*s bystander bullying that I outlined above, I am left asking the same question that was asked by Stephen Fry in a public debate against representatives of the church. The debate question was *Is the church a force for good in the world?*. As a gay man obviously Fry*s answer was in the negative. In reference to the churches acceptance of the evil of slavery and its inability through the centuries to be a force for abolition he rightly asks…

      *What are you FOR???* (http://lcamyopinion.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/the-person-in-front-of-me-says-jesus-not-the-law/)

      A friend of mine, someone who had been involved in Christian ministry for many years is asking the same question. He visited Rawanda and saw the churches where hundreds of people were murdered in cold blood. The murders were facilitated by Christian embers of the churches including elders, nuns, priests and pastors. Of course, they did not murder because they were Christians. They murdered because they were a part of the majority faction that rose up in anger against the minority (previous) ruling faction that had treated them harshly for generations. The sad truth is that their faith, their membership in the church, did not mean that they acted any differently to the rest of society. But they were additionally culpable because when people who were trying to flee the violence took refuge in their churches, the Christian leaders used these buildings as containment yard or short term prisons until the people trapped there could be dispatched with machetes or, for those who could afford to pay the price of a bullet, with the rifle.

      My friend asked the question… *What are we for??*

      There is a sad truth here. Time and again through history the church has been faced with the challenge (desperate need?) for it to be different, a beacon on a hill, a light shining in darkness. History has also shown that the church seems powerless to do anything other than reproduce and sometimes even add to the darkness.

      The gay question is one of those situations where the church adds to the darkness. While the rest of society contains people with prejudiced attitudes toward my gay friends, by and large our societal laws and leaders work hard to protect those people through anti discrimination laws. They also endeavour, through education, to combat the prejudice. And their endeavours are bearing fruit in the younger more educated population. Not so the Church.

      Our own Lutheran Church, in a consolidated, organised and well funded manner, promotes the prejudice. In its teaching, public statements and government lobbying it continues to do harm to gay people. In our local congregation it is worse than simply turning a blind eye. The fact that there is a community that gathers has provided a forum for those in the group who desire to spread their anti gay prejudice. And they do so with the protection of the church. Recently I heard that the leaders in the youth group, when questioned about homosexuality have been instructed to present the church*s hurtful teachings alongside of what might be their own (hopefully) more compassionate response. Real harm continues to be done.

      Dont get me wrong Karin. I am not reflecting on this as if i were sitting on some higher moral ground. I look at the people who are involved in this congregation. Many of them I have known for years (even decades). Some of them I count as friends. Most of them I genuinely count as better human beings than me. I know them to be more compassionate, more giving of their time and resources to people in need, more ready to be listening and understanding in most situations.

      And right THERE is my problem. THERE is the thing I cant handle. These good, good people, when gathered together under the banner of *Church* become at best bystander bullies and at worst active participants in doing harm to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

      I ask the Question… *What are we for??*

      What have I dedicated the bigger part of my life to supporting? Perhaps the world would be a better place had we never gathered at all.

      As I said, I raise this not as a definitive argument but as a means of thinking through where I am at with all this.

      • Tapman says:

        Thanks for the discussion starter – I will add my two cents worth in at some stage – thinking…..cheers 🙂

      • Tapman says:

        Hi Neil – Thought I’d get back to you on this discussion starter – I think you know I question similarly to you. “What are we for?” Is Christianity worth it? Is it any different to any other religion?

        I would say no to the last two questions and not sure on the first.

        Religion sucks…..isn’t that what Jesus shows us?

        Lutheranism is another religion – joining many of the hundreds that claim a higher level of truth – atm I see Lutheranism as a mechanism to control/claim the Holy Spirit – who operates through (only)Word and Sacrament – which happen to be administered by males that have a penis and like women.

        The good I see in Lutheranism is “Grace” – and many Lutheran Pastors do preach a grace that is indeed good news.

        So you see I am now in the position of being on the outer edges of Christianity – unwilling to work for the church because I don’t know what I am building yet still with a desire to see the Love of God proclaimed in word and action. So for now the best I can do is to personally try and do that in my local congregation. I think once gay people are fully accepted into our fellowship I will still sit on the outer edge of Christianity because although a good move has (will be) been made – religion will still be the beast that it is.

        I want to challenge you on this statement of yours:

        “And they gather every Sunday to place a smiley-face Jesus stamp on top of their inactivity.”

        What you say is a very real characteristic of religion and I loathe it as much as you do – I love it when “they” end a discussion on controversial issues with “i will pray for you” which is a gutless way of saying fuck you…….however you are talking about our local congregation – you admit that you regard many as friends and they are good people. Which inactivity do you blame them for? The only thing I can assume is that you are referring to the decision to wait for the wider church (LCA to) make a move – can you blame them for that? They trust the leadership of the church and want to move forward as a body. (Can you not show them the same grace and patience you showed me when i was still bigotted in my view?)I can only guess at what was discussed by the church council – but the truth is that most people on the council are onboard with what you are saying and see a need for action – what they don’t see atm is that the action aint coming from higher up (perhaps they are waiting to see what the new “bishop” may bring). One member of the council quit and left the congregation because “we are following the trends of the world” – which to me shows quite clearly that the discussion at church council was not all one sided.

        I think if you try and name names you will find the enemy is not the members of the congregation – the enemy is something else.

  4. lcamyopinion says:

    Thanks for the response Tapio.

    You said,

    *I think if you try and name names you will find the enemy is not the members of the congregation – the enemy is something else.*

    I assume you think that if i were to name names I would quickly recognise the virtues of the people named and realise that they are not the enemy. If that is the case then I think you may have missed the point of my last post and the problem that I have. Let me reprint the main part of my argument.

    *Most of them I genuinely count as better human beings than me. I know them to be more compassionate, more giving of their time and resources to people in need, more ready to be listening and understanding in most situations.
    And right THERE is my problem. THERE is the thing I cant handle. These good, good people, when gathered together under the banner of *Church* become at best bystander bullies and at worst active participants in doing harm to some of the most vulnerable people in society.*
    Who are the enemy? The enemy are all those who do harm AND the enemy are all those who have power to act to effect change and choose not to act. The enemy appears to me to be precisely those people whose names I name.
    We are talking about real harm being done to real people because of the teachings of the church. That bad teaching only continues because it is unchallenged by those good good people. It doesn’t matter which way you look at it one central fact remains. The congregation bullies and hurts its gay members and the gay staff and students of the college. Some (very few) do it actively. Most, including all those people whose name i name, including those I count as friends, passively participate in the harm. They have the power to stop it. They withhold that power.
    The enemies of the gay kid are all those who participate in doing him harm. I absolutely say that it includes those whose names I name. You have suggested that the enemy is something else. For the life of me I cant imagine who or what that *something* might be if not the people who are actually contributing to the harm.
    This is very personal for me. In recent years I have been helped to face a life-shaping part of my own history. In my second year of high school I was bullied quite badly by one person. He had a gang of much older boys. I was still a small skinny kid. They were pretty much full grown young men. They stalked me for a few months. Waiting outside my home in a car. Following me sometimes when I went out. Making threats. I was terrified. That was the first time I remember praying in desperation for God to rescue me as I began to doubt whether I could face another day of fear. Finally the the bully decided to put me out of my misery. He and his gang caught up with me at a bus stop. They took me behind the bus stop and he beat the shit out of me until I fell and curled into the fetal position at which time he started kicking me.
    Here is the thing. Although the bully was no longer at school, some of his gang were. And as I was being beaten up one of his gang started listing the names of all the people they had contacted who had said that they wanted me beaten up. The list included the names of my friends. I found out later that they had been contacted and out of fear included their names on the list. As I look back on that rather bizarre scenario I realize that my friends all knew what was going to happen to me and not one of them did anything to stop it. Not one of them said a word to me. Im sure there are lots of reasons behind those names on that list but… it still sucks. The sound of those names being called out hurt more than the kicks. Even now I remember that as the ultimate humiliation. I knew I was truly alone. I think I understand now why I told no-one.. not even my parents what had happened. (Although… surely they must have wondered about the bloody and beaten face and bruised body??!!)
    As I type this my breathe is shortening, my heart racing, my brain is jumping erratically, images, feelings, knot in my stomach.
    That event changed me in 2 ways.
    One. I stopped crying. I never really cried from that moment until very recently. I had learnt to lock up my emotions.
    Two. I have found it impossible over the years to walk past a situation where I perceived that bullying was occurring. I feel compelled to step in. Sometimes for good, sometimes not as I learn that I had completely misread a situation. Once I was driving down safety bay road when I saw a gang of perhaps 12 teenagers (16-18?) standing around kicking someone on the ground. I had driven over the curb and pulled the car up just in front of the group and was on my way out when I suddenly realized that this was not a clever thing to do. Quite apart from my own safety, I had put my young passenger at risk. But the action was instinctive. Not at all considered. Thankfully, the group just ran off. But my feelings were the same then as they were on that earlier occasion, short breath, heart racing, thinking erratic, knot in my stomach.
    I had that feeling again recently . Twice. Both times I was at social gatherings that included members of the congregation. People I knew well. Friends. Names that I name. I have seen some of these people individually without these sensations. But when i saw them individually I did not recognize them as *church*. The feelings came this time because the gatherings had reached such a critical mass of *church* that I could not think of them other than that.
    As I looked at them I could only think of them as the ones who have the ability to do something to bring change and help for that hurting gay kid and who choose not to. I saw them standing around a young person … a gay person in desperate need of help. He is in a Lutheran home and a Lutheran congregation and Lutheran youth group and attends a Lutheran School. And He knows NO avenue of assistance. I see them standing around him… and they do N.O.T.H.I.N.G!

    The irrational part of my brain wanted to confront them- demand an answer. How can you do nothing? The rational part of my brain knew that this was not the time or place for such a discussion. At the same time I realize that there never would be a time and a place. that the conversation was never going to happen. I found myself having to leave the gathering. It was physically and mentally too hard to be there. I couldn’t. (i still cant) rationalize in my own mind how these good people can ignore the screaming need that is right under their noses.
    And its not as if the question is particularly hard. They are all intelligent, compassionate and experienced people from all walks of life. They could, collectively effect a great deal of change.
    What could happen? Meetings could be called to discuss the matter. Start a formal conversation. Information and education are really the answer. It IS as simple as that. Form a working group to co-ordinate how the message of acceptance and non-discrimination can best be promoted within the congregation. Motions could be made by the congregational to the state and federal church to challenge the existing sad state of affairs. (numerous ways of doing this… ask the CTICR to make public their investigations and finding would be a start., keep them accountable for what they do. Move a motion that the school introduce a non-discrimination policy including and specifically naming sexuality and gender issues and ensuring that the staff and particularly the counsellors receive training necessary to assist young gay and gender questioning students… Ask the pastor to produce specific teaching to explore the situation. The church still has disgraceful anti-gay teaching on its website in the Yahnke Lectures. The Congregation could move a motion asking for them to be removed and for the LCA to formally distance itself form those teachings. )
    But those names who I name consciously withhold their power to effect change.
    The reason for the inactivity is irrelevant, meaningless to the situation at hand.
    *We wish to act in concert with the rest of the church* (When the rest of the church is not acting and has indicated that it has no intention of acting.)
    *We are worried about how this will effect the rest of the congregation.* (When the prejudices of the powerful should never trump the need of the vulnerable and hurting. Particularly when it is the church itself that is causing a large portion of the hurt.)
    *We think we should wait until people are more ready*. (no one is ever ready for change until they are challenged)
    *We want to wait until… until… until…
    There is a 14 yo gay kid who is crying in bed tonight and is pleading with God to help him because he is not sure that he can face another day. As he pleads he thinks that he is utterly alone because , in his mind, his family, his school and his church hate what he is. Those people whose names I name have the power to do something about that. Will they act? or will they continue to be bystander bullies?
    My heart is racing, my breathing is short, there is a knot in my stomach and I need to admit that my think is erratic. But I really would like an answer.

    • Tapman says:

      Thanks Neil,

      With your permission I’d like to post the major part of your reply as a post – you hit the nail on the head and the personal reflection on bullying is honest and relevant to gay people every where.

      I would say that I didn’t …..well I don’t think I missed the point. I am not saying that if you name the names you will realize that they are good people and not part of the problem – what I am saying is that you need to come to terms with your response and your anger. You showed me grace in my bigoted views and I think you need to do the same for your congregation as well – It is easy to be a bystander bully, I do nothing for the boat people, I close my ears to the needy in other countries, I do nothing about my planet while it is being raped and pillaged – the truth is we are all bystander bullies, to some extent this is necessary, could I cope with every evil in the forefront of my consciousness? – should I distance myself from people in anger? I hope that my presence, my closeness can be a positive influence for change and real action. I also hope I can be responsible for executing some of the strategies.

      Religion does have a nasty side effect – in psychological terms – the “Macbeth Effect”. Washing under the shower makes one feel cleaner and less likely to respond with compassion to others – Doesn’t matter if I am not fulfilling my responsibilities, I have confessed my sin and am washed and sanctified…..I can now quietly forget about……sorry what were you saying?

  5. Erich says:

    At some point above someone asks if the Church is a force for good. I think that this may be a better question: Is the Church supposed to be a force for good?

    • Tapman says:

      Hi again Erich – I do think the church is meant to be a force for something………

      • Erich says:

        Hello,

        I think that may be placing the Church in the position of social service agency. Verily Christians are called to do good: feed and clothe the poor, care for the widow, tend to the sick and imprisoned, but these good works don’t actually come from the person doing them, but rather from God. The only way in which, I can see, these being the responsibility of the Church is in so much as Christians are the Church. It is Community that is the body of Christ: the Church. However, the Church as institution is not a social service agency; it is not there to be a force for anything, but rather to proclaim the Word, “to declare God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners, to pronounce God’s blessing, to share in the administration of Holy Baptism and in the celebration of the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood…

        “…to nourish Christ’s people from the riches of His grace, and to strengthen them to glorify God in this life and the life to come.” (Book of Common Prayer)

        Not exactly from a Lutheran source, but if you want me to get all sola scriptura… as Paul put it:

        “For the perfecting of the Saints, for the worke of the ministerie, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the vnitie of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Sonne of God, vnto a perfect man, vnto the measure of the stature of the fulnesse of Christ: That we hencefoorth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and caried about with euery winde of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftinesse, whereby they lye in waite to deceiue: But speaking the trueth in loue, may grow vp into him in all things which is the head, euen Christ: From whom the whole body fitly ioyned together, and compacted by that which euery ioynt supplyeth, according to the effectuall working in the measure of euery part, maketh increase of the body, vnto the edifying of it selfe in loue.” (Ephesians 4: 12-16)

        And that for me answers other questions above: Is Christianity worth it? Is it any different to any other religion?

        Yes. No other creed does this.

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