Things that make you spit your coffee!

I just had to share this, as it really is one of those things that is funny at first and them, well a bit creepy. Its a good job I didn’t have a mug of coffee in my hand when I saw this so I suggest you put your down right now before you continue.

Today’s WordPress stats show a hit to this blog with the search phrase “free fornication with my stepmother for free”.

After recovering from the shock of what I could have written to get that hit my mind then wandered to the question of why would anyone put THAT in a search box!

I hope its just a search spider dropping such phrases into searches and hoping that the hits will prompt curiosity and when a human sees the phrase they’ll search it back and get the website that is trying to generate its own traffic.

If I just ruined your coffee, then I apologise, but I hope it made you laugh as well.

Catholic Views on Contraception

I follow a variety of blogs, not all of them are on subject matter that I agree with the blogger, I typically follow them because I want to learn; either to expand my knowledge or to gain understanding on specific worldviews.

The risk with following blogs that are on a worldview is that there will be the occasional WTF! moment. Over the weekend there was one such post and it’s a major WTF! (http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2012/02/contraception-extreme-analogy.html)

Full Disclosure

I’m not a catholic fan. Even in my Christian days I struggled with elements of the Catholic Church and its teaching. My difficulty went so far that at times I struggled even to accept that Catholics were Christians because if they were Christians they’d follow everything in the bible and not distort stuff horribly. In my years as an active Christian I crossed paths with other Christians from other churches and denominations and never were there divisive issues as there were with the Catholics. In fact, I can only think of one catholic I encountered in all those where theological differences never got in the way of friendship. I think any chance the Catholic Church had of gaining respect from me died when a friend married a catholic and the overtly catholic wedding felt even more unchristian and emotionless as a secular wedding held in a registry office. The communion was rushed and us non-Catholics were not permitted to take part, Christian or not. I left the wedding service trying hard to be happy for my friend but ultimately feeling unloved and rejected. So much for the family of God!

So why the WTF! ?

I am familiar with the claims that the Catholic Church is anti-contraception and I am aware that there is much criticism of it, especially with regards the effect that has on the spread of Aids in countries where Catholicism has great influence.

Aids isn’t the only disease that sexually active people should worry about. Chlamydia is a disease that is of concern in the UK, especially among teens and 20-somethings. One especially nasty side effect is the potential for girls to be made sterile.

What made the post I referenced stand out was the insane justification given to the no contraception rule. Calling the post an “extreme analogy” is not a defence against spouting idiocy, especially when its abundantly clear that the interpretation is held to.

The Potential for Life

From what I can gather elsewhere, and is repeated in the post I reference, the basic objection to contraception is that it interrupts the potential for life from the act of intercourse. There is so much wrong with this stance it’s hard to know where to start.

The most obvious objection is that it’s a blanket edict that takes no account whatsoever for the circumstances of the couple. There are genuine and valid reasons why a couple would not want to have child children and yet still enjoy a loving sex life. Mandating that they should not control that through contraception is not a blessing to the couple but a hindrance. It reminds me of this related and equally unhelpful attitude encountered by Christians; https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/a-christian%E2%80%99s-duty-is-to-procreate/

Much damage is done by the well-meaning zealot who holds so tightly to a perceived aspect of Godliness that they fail to see the wider context. For this type of person, the desire to dictate behaviour overrides the command to love and the result is that the religion of choice is seen by the outsider as a controlling and manipulative entity rather than a loving pathway to heaven.

Even if we ignore those objections for a moment, the potential for life argument is still flawed because it is arbitrary. Surely for a man ejaculate more than a single sperm is a sin because typically only one of the sperm gets a chance of life. Or maybe the menstrual cycle is a sin because of all those eggs that get flushed away. The obvious retort is that these are both naturally evolved and contraception is not. However, the catholic church approves of some methods of fertility assistance. If it’s okay to artificially assist in getting pregnant why is it not okay to artificially avoid it as well. Surely to reluctantly bring a life into the world because of what the church says is more of a sin than to responsibly avoid it.

Sex is primarily for procreation

Really?!

The teaching that sex as a pleasure is only a side benefit from God leaves me genuinely open mouthed in astonishment. The only possible reason the Catholic Church can uphold that is because to not teach it seriously undermines its contraception stance. It’s a message of necessity and not one of spirituality.

Evolutionarily speaking, if sex wasn’t something we did for the sheer pleasure of it, we’d have gone extinct by now. Way to go God!

Extreme Analogies

In her blog posting, Red Cardigan likens using contraception to partners withholding from each other and, worse, calls it the “language of hate and rejection”. I say it’s exactly the opposite; the use of contraception frees them both to fully enjoy intimacy and love without the need to be concerned about unplanned offspring. She also manages, bizarrely, to somehow draw a comparison between contraceptive use and bulimia as a method of weight loss. Let’s skim over the not so insignificant issue that bulimia is a state of mental imbalance and not a trendy method of radical weight loss.

This dieting comparison goes way beyond extreme and into the realm of obscene. I can see why this particular analogy was used; it’s to imply that forcing yourself to vomit after a meal is the same as stopping the man’s sperm get to the place where God intended it. The two are not the same. A more reasonable dieting analogy would be to compare contraception to having a stomach band fitted or just eating less of the stuff that makes you fat.

I’d like to propose my own extreme analogy, next time you have a headache, don’t take anything for it, let it enjoy its full potential, after all its God given and natural. What do you mean that’s a stupid thing to say?

Would you like to Operate the Projector?

Oh dear. I’ve been wondering when this question would come, and unfortunately it has come much sooner than I would have liked.

First Some Background

Like many churches in the UK, our current church and our last church have joined the revolution and now project the words to songs on a screen using a computer and digital projector. This has a distinct advantage over using acetate in that presentations, images and videos can also be projected using the same equipment.

In our last church I was one of the regular projector operators and being computer literate I had an advantage over the other people on the OHP rota in that the technology didn’t intimidate me and I knew exactly what I was doing and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) mess things up by guessing or doing random stuff for the sake of it. It also helped that my wife leads worship occasionally and so I have an understanding of the needs of the worship leader and what the projector operator should or shouldn’t do to make the worship leader’s life easier.

So with these two advantages, it is safe to say that I was pretty much the favoured projector operator in our last church. It wasn’t unusual for the pastor to beam widely when he saw that it was me on duty.

Back to the Present

I dropped off the rota several months before we moved because I didn’t want to do it anymore. With our move I am very happy not having the responsibility and still don’t want it. With our new church duly informed (by our last church as part of membership transfer) that my wife and I make a good worship leading and projector operating combo; I knew that the inevitable question would be asked. I just hoped it would not be this soon.

The reasons for me being asked are legitimate, two people have dropped off the rota in the last week. One because he turned 80 and had always said he would stop at that age, another due to a much more conservative stance and simply not liking some of the worship changes. Apparently a hymn should be sung as it is written and thou shalt not change it about. Who said that a hymn had the same importance as the biblical word? Anyway, that’s not the point of this post, so best not get distracted.

How can I say No?

I don’t think I can really. The church has a need and I am very much one of the best qualified people to do it. Its my gift if you like. The pastor knows my faith position (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/the-coming-out-begins/) and so he obviously has no issue with me doing the job, so he asked me if I would consider it.

I did tell him that in all honesty I was hoping not to have to get involved, but that I would think about it.

In discussing it with my wife later she suggested that I might like doing it because it would mean I could legitimately hide away from the rest of the congregation (the operator sits alone up in the balcony at the back of the church) and not have to worry about pretending anything or being uncomfortable. That was a genuinely thoughtful suggestion and I hadn’t considered it, however I didn’t really like that as a motive for doing it. It feels false an insincere to use that as a motive for operating the projector.

However, given my state of faith, how could any motive be pure and Christian? That’s probably a question best left alone I think.

So I think I’m going to have to do it.

I don’t see any way round it, the church has a need, and I am a very good fit. My doing it will have a positive impact on the worship in the church and since my wife is now getting involved in worship leading I will be directly helping her. Atheist objections aside, I just don’t see how I can refuse and saying “I really don’t want to” seems to be somehow weak and petty, even though I know I won’t be viewed negatively for not doing it.

The Curse of the Bastard

For the purposes of this post, bastard refers to those conceived out of wedlock.

In case it wasn’t clear from my last post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/my-wonderful-godly-grandparents/), my parents were encouraged into marriage when my mother fell pregnant. I have no idea if marriage was already on the cards for them and it’s not really a conversation I wish to have with my dad. It might be something I ask him in the future, if the right opportunity presents, but I am certainly not going to raise the subject. I don’t consider it important to know at this time of my life, the answer to the question is not important and would change nothing.

I was in my teens when I realised the circumstances of my birth and it was devastating. I was still reeling from the effects of my parents divorce some years previously, dad had remarried already and there was much ugliness still between my parents, mostly driven by my step-mother. That period of my life was immensely difficult and stressful, so throw in a revelation like this and it just added more torment to an already unhappy teen. Predictably I then started to think that the breakup of their marriage was my fault and if I’d never existed none of this pain and torment would exist either.

Oh the wonderful ways we choose to torture ourselves!

The Christian Response

Years later, when I’d left home and was having my own young adult issues I would have counselling to help me recover from the poisonous relationship that had developed between my dad and I. I can’t remember if the issue of conceived out of wedlock came up during those sessions. I am sure it must have but I really don’t remember if it did. Certainly that counselling helped me.

What I really want to bring attention to is a more spiritual response that came up. It would have been within a year (two at the most) of the counselling and this dramatic event (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/the-dramatic-deliverance/).

It would be at a church weekend away and, for reasons I can’t fully remember, I ended up in a one on one prayer session with the visiting teacher who was running the sessions. He was very much an advocate of spiritual gifts. When the conceived out of wedlock issue came up (I can’t remember why it did) he flung open his bible and found a passage condemning those who were born out of wedlock and pronounced me cursed. I don’t recall the passage in question and I certainly don’t wish to look for it, if someone thinks they know which one it might be, feel free to suggest it in a comment.

What followed was some very intensive prayer, at the end of which I had to voice out loud forgiveness to my parents for their fornication. I was also instructed to tell my father that I had done so. I didn’t particularly relish doing that, but I obeyed a few weeks later, thankfully dad just nodded his acknowledgment of the information and nothing more was made of it. I’m can’t recall if I had to do the same with my mother, it would have been much easier with her so if I did I am not surprised I don’t remember, this sort of thing would not have been a difficult conversation to have with her.

When I look back on that event I now realise how insensitive this particular spiritual teacher was. I don’t think his treatment of my revelation helped me at all. I also don’t think it was particularly unhelpful either; it did put me through a highly emotional 40 minutes, for pretty much no result.

I know this kind of thing happens on church weekends all over the country, maybe even weekly in some church services. This does concern me as it leaves the affected person with the idea that they are cursed (or even possessed) by something evil and the only help is the casting out of said evil or the prayer to remove the curse.

No counselling or further emotional support is offered. Well for me it wasn’t, I can’t say that it never is elsewhere, but I do know that is not offered as the norm because in the mind of the Christian engaging in spiritual warfare the victory is in the conquering of the entity causing the problem. The assumption is that once that is done the associated problem in the affected is cured. This just isn’t the case and for Christians to put others through that sort of turmoil with no counselling backup is to risk causing major emotional damage.

I can see all that now, but at the time it was happening it just seemed the right thing to do. Cast out the evil demon or pray the blessing of Jesus on the curse really did seem like the right thing to do and counselling the path of the loser.

My Wonderful Godly Grandparents

Among the questions I have often asked myself since abandoning my faith, is how I feel about my mother’s parents. They were both strict Plymouth Brethren and yet also embodied the gentle godliness that one expects from people who profess to be Christians.

I do know that they were strict with my mother on certain things. They had ideas and attitudes even as a youngster I found terribly old fashioned. I remember my mother saying that the university she chose to go to was based on its distance from home as much as the quality of the course she took. Looking at some old photos I found of mum as a teen I can see the mischievousness in her that I saw in her as an adult, there is also a hint of rebelliousness. If my daughter develops the same levels of rebellion and mischievousness, then I am in for a terrible ride during her teens!

My mum fell pregnant some time after meeting my dad, I don’t know how many months passed between first date and pregnancy, but it was a major shock for my grandparents when it happened. My mum was in her 20s by this time, but my grandparents were of the generation where pregnancy means instant marriage and I was born a few months into the marriage. My newly married parents lived with my grandparents for a year and a bit before they upped and moved toZambiafor the next 20 years.

My youngest brother, at the grand old age of 18, managed to repeat the feat of unintentionally getting a girl pregnant. I was with him when grandma explicitly told him that he should not feel that he has to marry the girl. My mum nearly fell of her chair in shock! When I relayed the incident my dad, he was equally astonished. I think they showed grace and humility by showing that they learned from the experience of my parents all those years previously, even though it likely still went against their ideals.

In the time that I knew them, I don’t think I ever saw them raise a voice or get angry. They really were the epitome of mild mannered loving grandparents and it was always a pleasure visiting them. My grandfather was secretary of their Brethren chapel for as long as I can remember and he had one very strange quality that I now look back on as endearing. He prayed as though he was reading the King James Version of The Bible, at the time I thought it was just plain odd. When he prayed he used ‘thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thine’ and other old fashioned words that are not used every day, or any day for that matter, but are found liberally sprinkled throughout the KJV. I have no idea why he did this, I don’t believe he thought it made him more spiritual, quite the opposite, I think he did it because he was spiritual and it was his way of showing deference to the Almighty.

The End

Despite being the fittest and healthiest of my all grandparents, my granddad was the first die. It was sudden. He was doing the dishes after lunch one day and had a heart attack. He was dead before the ambulance arrived. Grandma followed six months later; my wife is convinced that she died of a broken heart, unable to bear being apart from him.

The day of grandma’s funeral I got a phone call that no one should ever get on the day of a funeral. My step mother rang to say that my other grandfather had died that morning. My cry of shock got stuck in my throat and I was unable to speak or even make a noise for what felt like many minutes.

Comparing Funerals

My Dad’s parents were very different from Mum’s. They didn’t live the same Godly life, and apart from family weddings I don’t think I ever saw them go to church. This difference was very noticeable in their respective funerals. The funeral of my Christian grandparents was very much a celebration of their lives with a full church and a very personal eulogy while my not so Christian grandparents made do with a handful of close friends and family and the eulogy given by a priest who barely knew them. It was quite sad in comparison.

Being a Christian at the time, the death of my paternal grandfather was a problem for me, I struggled to deal with the concept of a much loved grandparent not going to heaven. Eventually, with tears in my eyes, I asked my father if I’d see him in heaven. Dad could not be absolutely certain, but suspected so. Conversely, my confidence in seeing my maternal grandparents again was certain and I felt very different about their deaths. There was much more joy, not joy in their death, but joy in where they were going.

That horrid 18 months, in which I lost all four of my grandparents was more than 15 years ago, but I still feel the same emotions thinking back to each one as I did at the time. I miss them all terribly, but its my maternal ones who had the biggest effect on me and that loss is not at all reduced by my lack of faith and nor does it change the way I feel about their faith. I don’t have to share it in order to continue to respect and admire it.