Too many Christian leaders speak of God with great certainty, and it’s worrying.
Their stance borders on arrogance.
In an age of identity politics, where leaders shout slogans with ever-increasing volume, this approach might be deemed strategic, but it causes long-term damage.
Recently, I attended a meeting where we debated, yet again, the decision of the UCA approving same-gender marriage.
One speaker announced that we should not discuss the matter at all because homosexuality was sinful. ‘The Bible is adamant about it,’ he declared.
Given that Jesus never referred to homosexuality, his assertion was startling.
Such absolute views undermine welcoming spaces where different viewpoints are sought and encouraged, where each and every participant leaves with an enhanced understanding.
Of more concern, such views betray the church’s mission to welcome those on the margins, especially LGBTIQ people.
The UCA has discussed sexuality for 30 years. What have we learned about respect for one another and humility?
And what have we learned about God? I fear the answer is little, and I worry that it is unexamined understandings of God which underpin these bold denials of others’ being.
For example, God is often employed to defend against those things people find objectionable; things that our Prime Minister said recently, ‘make my skin curl.’
This is an unconscious projection of human anxiety, a cypher that authorises a univocal world where the only people that matter are those who agree.
This God is unbalanced, obsessed with sex but neglectful of justice.
This is not God.
To restore a proper understanding of God, we need to conceive of God in new ways. Gods is a divine process, an ever-present potential, rather than a thing, albeit very large.
A process unfolds; it is dynamic rather than static.
To become acquainted with it, we need to enter into it, go on a journey and allow it to shape us.
On the way, we will encounter new experiences of self, others, and the world.
We will discover that the destination, if there is one, is beyond our vision and comprehension. We may catch glimpses, but they are partial.
Even though faith, or anxiety, may fill us with longing for the destination we must not confuse that longing with certainty.
We can always trust that more will be revealed. This is the promise of God.
Our understandings and experiences of sexuality are vitally important, limited and partial, and make us prone to anxiety.
When we are caught up in this extraordinary process, however, we are held by God; we make less absolute statements and are more willing to embrace humility.
The speaker I described earlier might have said, ‘I really struggle with this issue. Nonetheless, I am willing to continue the journey.’