“If the church was known more for our efforts to welcome the stranger than keep them out, I think the church would have greater credibility with rising generations,” says Baughman. “For example, on immigration policies, we’ve taken the wrong stance on that, and they know. The thing is they’re smart enough. A lot of them have grown up in the church and then rejected it. They’ve read the scriptures that talk about the importance of welcoming the stranger, they’ve read the scriptures about the importance of caring for the poor, and when they see that no longer on the lips of those who are in religious authority, they see that the God we present is bankrupt, and that we’re theologically thin in our ability to even speak our own story.”
This is why we say that modesty codes objectify in the same way hyper sexualization does – it is the mindset that says “other people exist for me” that is the problem. Is the fight a bit harder because of cultural norms? Yes, but that’s no excuse for it. And the fight isn’t a struggle only men have, and it isn’t a solely sexual desire. We are a culture of users, yes, but that doesn’t mean we lack the ability to see each other as human. And this is why modesty codes don’t work. Because asking me to cover up so you don’t make me a player in your sexual fantasy doesn’t even begin to get the root of the issue, which is that you don’t view me as fully human.
Accusing people of “playing identity politics” is a fun trick played by voices on the Right, too, on gay people who speak up about bullying or discrimination, women who expose rape culture, and people of color who highlight racism in America. One privileged man’s “politics” is another’s identity, culture, and daily experience of injustice in the world. This dismissive categorization comes across like an intellectualized version of pipe down / play nice.
I’m not saying anything goes, I simply want you to treat your “biblical rules about sex” exactly the same way that you’re already treating the biblical rules about money. I want you to take the exact same hermeneutical approach that you are already taking to every biblical teaching on wealth and possessions and apply that to biblical teaching on sexuality. Then treat both sets of teachings — and other people — with more respect than your current practice seems to do with regard to either subject.
our friends and neighbours as “a cause” instead of as a partner.
Many of us, when initially confronted with our relative wealth and freedom, respond in the only way we know how—as consumers. We switch to fair trade, reassess our spending habits, write checks to charities, and join the Facebook page of a low-commitment justice campaign. Of course, as our convictions persist and mature, we begin to see the ways in which we are complicit in global wealth disparity and injustice, and we begin to think more seriously about policy, about sustainability, about making more dramatic attitude and lifestyle changes, and about problems within some of our charities and justice groups that perpetuate a white savior complex, sometimes doing more harm than good.
The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
But I want to say something unmodern here, something that would have made sense in 30 AD. I am a Christian because I affirm the core message of the Gospels, which, I take it, is that God is love, and that therefore a life that aspires to love of all of creation is a life lived in accordance with God’s law. This interpretation of what I have called the core message is one that emphasizes what is often called ‘the social gospel’, and that aligns itself with thinkers like Tolstoy who see Christ as a social revolutionary. From love flows the principle of unconditional forgiveness, and from this flows a commitment to pacifism which underlies all of a Christian’s political commitments. To be a Christian is by definition to abhor war.
Much of the problems that plague First Nations communities have their roots in their treatment and abuse at the hands of colonization. Residential schools, forced assimilation, racism, systemic murder, crippling economic inequalities, lack of adequate schooling, we have a disgusting history as a nation when it comes to our First Nations. We need to repent of the evil, yes, but we also need to repent of our continued disconnection of turning our neighbours into “The Other” through stereotypes and divisions. We must recognize our own failings and habits, our own poverty, our bad habits of treating our friends and neighbours as “a cause” instead of as a partner.
The broader issue then, becomes, is the conservative evangelical world flipping out because they aren’t getting what they want and are no longer in the political power structure of our country–fearful that the treatment they have implemented over other cultural non-dominant populations over the years will be turned back on them? Or are they flipping out because they just aren’t aware that professing and practicing evangelicals actually do have a role in our country’s highest offices? We’ll have to see, but I sure pray it’s the latter instead of the former. My gut, spirit if you will, unfortunately tells me it’s the former.
In autumn 2012 I conducted a dedication and blessing service following the Civil Partnership of two wonderful gay Christians. Why? Not to challenge the traditional understanding of marriage – far from it – but to extend to these people what I would do to others – the love and support of our local Church. Too often, those who seek to enter an exclusive, same-sex, relationship have found themselves stigmatised and excluded by the Church. I have come to believe this is an injustice and out of step with God’s character as seen through Christ. I leave it to others to debate whether a Civil Partnership plus a dedication and blessing should equal a marriage or not. But I do believe that the Church has a God given responsibility to include those who have for so long found themselves excluded.