This is my (rejected) contribution to the The World in Half a Century Forum 2020, held in honour of the famous Russian nobel laureate, Andrei Sakharov. I was invited to contribute a half hour virtual lecture to this forum, which had been due to be held in St Petersburg, Russia in 2020.
You will see why the organisers decided to reject my contribution, given what I say about truth, LGBTQI inclusion, diversity, communism and society. Sadly, even though Sakharov himself was a Russian dissident and activist against the Russian government, modern day Russian conferences were always unlikely to host a speaker with views that go against the current Russian State status quo.
So, here now for the first time is my contribution available for public viewing:
What do you think of my vision of how we build a society for the future, by focusing on diversity, minorities and the marginalised, and moving beyond the divided society we live in now?
Towards the end of the video I sum it up this way:
“We need to stop building a world that favours the rich and powerful. We must choose to build a society around the needs of minorities and those who have been previously excluded. … If we build a society for people who are not like us… we will build a better society… Those societies that do this will be better off than those that don’t 50 years from now.”
If you’ve followed my work over the years (and a lot of it is archived at this website) you’ll know that I have adapted and evolved my views on human sexuality over the last two decades. One of the most helpful shifts, which I believe is foundational to making it easier to engage with the many different debates about human sexuality and gender that are raging in society right now, is to stop thinking of gender as two boxes called “male” and “female” and to start seeing it as a spectrum.
Everything else in our world exists outside a simple binary. Line a random group of people up, and you can see this: height, weight, eye colour, amount of hair, ability with language, intelligence, etc, etc. Nature is filled with animals that show this spectrum, even shifting from male to female and places in between.
When we deal with human sexuality, there are three main issues to consider:
1. Sexual biology – what external and internal gonads someone has, as well as chromosomes and hormones. This is who someone IS sexually.
2. Sexual preferences – this is who someone is sexually attracted to
3. Gender – this is a whole range of societal markers that indicate a particular place in society based on the above.
All three of these exist on spectrums, and can shift and change over time.
Here are some resources to help you understand this further:
On 13 November 2022, the We Are Church faith community met to discuss what we can learn from the very first New Testament church gatherings (Acts 2). It was a rainy day in Johannesburg, with a massive downpour making recording difficult for a few minutes, so apologies for the audio quality in some parts of the video.
This is a sermon I preached at our small faith community, ‘We Are Church’ in Johannesburg, on 9 October 2022.
There are lessons from Jesus’ Baptism, as recorded in Mark 1 for churches. We need to heed these lessons of new beginnings, of not getting stuck in church structures, of not being stuck in Empire thinking, of not getting stuck in creating exclusive and excluding communities.
There are lessons here about God’s love for us all, about God’s image being in all of us, about God’s invitation to be part of new faith communities.
I was as sick as a dog as I was preaching this, so there’s not much energy or outward passion. But this sermon came from the depths of my soul. It is what I believe most deeply.
This blog hasn’t been active for the last two years. Covid has taken my focus from these theological issues to practical, local community action. But my passion for building inclusive and affirming communities of faith remains unwavering.
My wife, Jane, is heading up a small faith community in Johannesburg, South Africa, that we have called “We Are Church”. It’s independent and informal at the moment, but we will see how things progress. I have been asked to summarise my views on LGBTQI inclusion and affirmation for this group, and will share the videos of these meetings here.
The first of these videos is entitled: The Bible and LGBTQI inclusion and affirmation
It is a summary of the work you’ll find at this blog in my special series on how we interpret the seven verses in the Bible that appear to oppose LGBTQI people.
I become more and more convinced that we have been wrong in our historic interpretations of the Bible, and this approach I suggest is a significant improvement in our understanding of God’s Word.
I wish more churches would tell this to their people this morning: you should put your pronouns in your social media bios.
The article below is one of the best explanations of why we should do so that I have read.
We need to normalise talking about gender and how, for more people than you think, it is not as obvious as it might first appear. Just because it appears obvious in some people (I am, as I appear, a cisgender, heterosexual white male), doesn’t mean it is obvious in everyone. And for those people dealing with a world that has not allowed them to discover and live out their gender and/or sexual expression, showing that you’re an ally is literally the least you can do.
PS. Jesus’ pronouns would have been “they/them” – think about it; I’m right on multiple levels.
PPS. If you read the attached article and the few swear words offend you more than the reason the author is impassioned enough to use them, you need to take a moment of self-reflection.
I really wish more churches would preach this: there are no walls.
The attached Naked Pastor cartoon is one of the most powerful he’s ever done (and he even managed a touch of poetry too).
Over and over and over again in his ministry, Jesus demonstrated that those people the religious leaders were excluding and judging were actually accepted and welcomed by Jesus. The only people Jesus ever warned about being “outside” were those religious leaders themselves.
Am I saying “everyone will be saved”? No. Some people don’t want to be saved. What I am saying is that it is mainly the people who want to close the doors for others who are choosing to not be saved. They’re choosing instead to build something that is the opposite of the Kingdom of God: they’re choosing to build an exclusive, exclusionary club, and so – by their own approach – they will be allowed to choose a future where live in a space as small as they wanted it to be, as excluded as they were exclusionary, as rejected as they were rejecting and as sad as they made many seekers of love and truth. Their hell has already started.
This is not what God wants. The story of the history of God is a story of ever expanding inclusion and acceptance (or more accurately, of our ever improving understanding of God’s inherent inclusionary character). From one man and his family, to his tribe and a nation, to their neighbours and eventually to the ends of the earth, and all peoples, nations, tribes and tongues. The story starts in an empty garden and ends in a limitless, sustainable city, open to everyone and capable of accommodating us all.
And, yes: it specifically includes all genders as well.
We are gearing up to start Season 2 of the ALLin podcast. Season 2 will focus on what the Bible teaches and shows us about marriage, and why we are wrong to limit it to “a natural born man and natural born woman” as conservatives now frame it. We will also look at LGBTQI-positive interpretations of Scripture.
It would be really beneficial for you to listen to Season 1 before you dive into Season 2. Season 1 consists of 20 episodes that look at the seven “clobber verses” in the Bible that are typically used to argue that LGBTQI people are somehow breaking God’s natural order and are “abomination” to God. Season 1 also looks at some key issues around definitions of gender, sexual orientation and sexual biology.
To listen to Season 1, please subscribe to ALLin on your podcast player of choice:
Around 2,000 years ago a young, 33 year old, well-known teacher who had gathered quite a following and reputation was brutally beaten and then crucified on a Roman cross outside of Roman-occupied Jerusalem, while being jeered by crowds of Jewish religious leaders and their accolytes (who left their Passover preparations specifically to come and do that). What’s good about that?
You might not hear this in your church, but the answer is “nothing”. In the Christian faith, we don’t celebrate Friday (we commemorate it). We wait for Sunday.
The only thing “good” about this day is WHY Jesus was killed. The first actual Easter Friday was a complete horror show for everyone who supported Jesus. Their dreams were shattered, their hopes destroyed, their futures dark. They didn’t know that Sunday was coming.