Shame

What has everyone else been throwing into Room 101

Dear Food for Thought Friday…

I would like to send shame to Room 101.

Specifically roots of shame… the Biblical version … that make us cover our bodies and act as though no generation before us (or coming after us) has ever had or should ever have sexual pleasure and a self identity where we feel loved for who we are.

Is shame really a fear? I guess sort of and not at the same time. I fear being shamed, or people trying to shame me. Having made the decision to not feel shamed internally by my sexual preferences, I fear being made to defend them in courts bound by different rules and frameworks. I fear the societal acceptance that I should feel shamed and the impact that could have on my family. I fear changing my behavior, not because I want to based on a reasoned decision, but because I feel shame.

I’m a Christian and I’m not prepared to feel ashamed of that either. This is not me criticising or defending any people of faith or people with none. But I am astounded by the ignorance, within my community and beyond, of social and cultural values surrounding the writing of the Bible and how these may have influenced what was written. How the language used in translation distorts meaning. And even if these could be excused by the reader’s inability to access appropriate history or linguistic teaching, there is a pick and choose nature to what things are labelled Christian or Jewish values and even which rituals are followed by certain areas of Christianity and Judaism and not others, means that to pick one or two sentences and try to enforce them in the 21st century without context and understanding of ritual and the thinking of the time is appalling.

There are no philosophers or teachers appearing in the mainstream narrative whether in churches or the press, willing to take a 21st Century view at how this document was potentially biased by the people who recorded it. No edits or revisions. No leadership from denominational hierarchy.

I don’t want to be associated with extremists within my religion (or even sometimes the mainstream of it!) anymore than all football fans want to be considered rioters. And there was a time, when to be a fan but not a rioter made you an extremist in itself. If I am that type of extremist, I am happy.

The church I attend is made of mix of denominations and is a broad mix people and variations of belief. We have active members of the church in LBGTQ relationships. We do not pay into central systems of wealth accumulation for the church, beyond paying ministers and their pensions and other legal aspects of looking after them as is the right of an employee. We share our building, gifted by a group of denominations, with other churches who lack a home and a myriad of community groups and our rental charges cover the costs of the building upkeep, but do not make a profit beyond a small contingency. Last week when a minister came and talked about about buying families out of bonded slavery in Pakistan and setting up a bank in their local church, so they could access money for medical treatment etc without selling themselves back into slavery, our congregation, full of people with limited incomes, found the money needed to buy a family out. We support the local night shelter, Womens’ Aid and Foodbank with what we can and this includes time and effort and care as well as money. Where practical we open our homes ad share our resources. We have outreach for families with caring responsibilities and additional needs support way beyond adding ramps to the building to increase accessibility, including access to non gender specific bathrooms and visual aids for those needing language support. Our safeguarding policies are robust and proactive to the point of being a daily nuisance.

None of this comes with the bargain you can only access it if you believe what we do.

We certainly have our faults and prejudices however we try to interrogate them. It is just a reminder for those people who might not have met this type of Christianity that it does exist

I will not be shamed by a misreading or misinterpretation of the will or misunderstanding of a man writing a document over two thousand years ago into being framed as Eve. I will not feel ashamed and need to cover myself. I will enjoy sex on a holy day with no ability for that sex to lead to procreation. I will enjoy it everyday. Sex for enjoyment is part of being human and humanity in all its complex ways is a gift. Whoever or wherever you think that gift came from.

And if you believe that God made all of the wonders of creation and you think the prostate and clitoris (and all the other wonderful bits of our bodies that can be delightful under the right circumstances) were not specifically made with joy in mind alongside any practical purposes they serve, then I wonder which other gifts you might be missing out on.

Just think, with this teaching gone we wouldn’t be discussing abortion rules in the States in terms of patriarchal ownership of women’s reproductive rights, or whether same sex couples should be able to marry in Ireland. People wouldn’t be stoned to death for their sexual orientation. Just like Brexit, whatever you think of it, has sucked the political energy and time out of the system and stopped us talking about things that matter, like the collapse of social care and priorities in medical needs, sexual and gender rules creating shame suck away from the positive and kind approach to our world we could be focusing on.

I am not declaring I would like some type of free for all. I just think that some of the narrative clouds the story, and a bit of editing wouldn’t come amiss. I’d rather narrow it down to “Be kind and considerate to yourself and others” and “Love one another”.

so yes… throw biblically based sexual and identity shame in the bin and start with something new.

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