Friday, 30 October 2009

Thoughts on human rights and my track record with them.

A tractate by St Baldwin of Canterbury
The word of God is alive and active

The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely.
These words tell us how much power and wisdom there is in the word of God for those who seek Christ, who is the word and the power and the wisdom of God. This word, with the Father from the beginning and co-eternal with him, came at its own chosen time, was revealed to them, was proclaimed by them, and was humbly received in faith by its believers. A word, therefore, in the Father; a word in the mouth; and a word in the heart.

This word of God is alive. The Father gave it life coming from itself just as the Father’s own life comes from himself. The word is not just alive, therefore, it is life, as it said itself: I am the way, the truth, and the life. Since the word is life, the word is alive to give life. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses. He gives life, as when he calls the dead man out of the tomb, saying Lazarus, come forth.

When this word is preached, the voice of its preaching which is heard outwardly calls forth a voice of power that is heard inwardly, that voice by which the dead are restored to life and their praise raises up sons for Abraham. So this word is alive in the heart of the Father, alive in the mouth of the preacher, and alive in the hearts of those who believe and love. If a word is alive in this way, how can it not also be active?

The word is active in creating, active in guiding the world, active in redeeming the world. What could be more active? What could be more powerful? Who shall tell of his powerful deeds? Who shall proclaim the praises of the Lord? It is active when it works, it is active when it is preached. For it does not come back empty-handed: wherever it is sent, it prospers.

It is active and cuts finer than a double-edged sword when it is believed and loved. For what is impossible to the believer? What is hard for the lover? When this word speaks, its words transfix the heart like a flight of sharp arrows, like nails hammered deep into its very essence. This word is sharper than a double-edged sword in that it cuts deeper than any strength or power, it is finer than anything made by human ingenuity, sharper than any human wisdom or learned speech.

I have no idea who St Baldwin of Canterbury was but these are powerful words:

"For what is impossible to the believer? What is hard for the lover? When this word speaks, its words transfix the heart like a flight of sharp arrows, like nails hammered deep into its very essence. " and I feel very like this when I think of why I get steamed up on human rights issues.

I did Higher Modern Studies at school and we got duly informed about apartheid and why it was "a bad thing". Then I went to University and discovered we had a South African Scholarship at Aberdeen to bring an African (ie non Boer) student across. Our scholar was Sloo (short for Silumwo I think, but we never used his Sunday name much) Tsotsi and much to the chagrin of the little red lefties, he chose to study theology rather than politics or IR. Knowing him over many a Fairtrade coffee (which in those days tasted like ground warthog guano and drinking it counted as a corporal act of penance) drilled it into me that the Gospel demanded justice for all people. Black, white, male, female, gay, straight - the whole bally bunch. Yes, I had an anti Apartheid sticker on my folder. I met Trevor Huddlestone when he preached in King's College Chapel. I went out to bat in defence of a predecessor as Divinity Student Rep who was forced into coming out as a gay man by political opponents and who faced severe opprobrium from his fellow Divinity students. (OK, I did that from inside the proverbial closet, but that's where I was then.)

The thing is, for me personally, the living Word came to me through people. "In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek" wrote Paul and I found that out when I discovered a guy as bright as I was, with a faith like I had could be legally discriminated against by his own Government because of the colour of his skin. That was wrong. Plain and simple. Counter to the Word of God and the Dutch Reformed Church could huff and puff all it liked and wrap its prejudice up in Bible quotes and bits of Calvin - IT WAS WRONG.

That's why I feel so strongly about the silence from the Anglicans over the Ugandan Anti Homosexuality legislation. I know no gay Ugandans (well, I don't think I do anyway) but it is no more acceptable to discriminate against a man or a woman on account of their sexual orientation than on account of their skin colour. Actually, this Ugandan bill is worse because it explicitly calls for a death penalty. Apartheid only killed you as a sort of a by product of being black. Maybe the Afrikaners weren't so bad in comparison to this bunch in Uganda.

The Ugandan church hierarchy has suggested no death penalty but life imprisonment instead. WRONG ! The collusion of the Church here is scandalous and shameful. Moderating the blood lust by going for a life sentence (which is a death sentence in real terms - Ugandan nicks are not as comfy as Saughton) is an absolute dereliction of Lambeth 1.10. That you call pastoral? And you ran around taking American dollars to consecrate "missionary bishops" to the disaffected whilst the TEC didn't ordain any LGBT bishops for 3 years. Right, time for a reality check.

Bluntly, it is time for the Anglican authorities to reddiscover their spine on this. It is not racist or imperialist to challenge wrongs. Being "nice" is a mistake Michael Ramsey didn't make over Rhodesia. And he supported the 1967 decriminalisation of Homosexuality, not because he thought homosexuality was "right", but because he saw a bad law in place that needed fixing. The Ugandan Bishops need to be challenged. You may believe that homosexuality is wrong, but this law is utterly extreme, it is a blackmailers charter and it leaves the every Ugandan citizen open to terrorisation at the hands of the vindictive and the malicious. Dear God, didn't you read "The Crucible" at school? Arthur Miller spelled it out there. When religious fervour, sexual fantasy and mob mentality combine the results are horrific. True prophetic leadership lies not in collusion but in doing a John Proctor and naming the sickness for what it is. ++Rowan, stand up and shout! Oh and the rest of them too. If Lambeth 1.10 is to be enforced, than enforce it ALL and on every province. And do it now.

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