Misfit? More like an Alien.

 

 

IMG_2320.JPG

Photo taken this morning. Just what we want for the May Bank Holiday.

 

I’ve found life difficult over the last couple of weeks.  There’s so much stuff  happening in the world that’s either weird or unbelievable that I don’t just feel like a misfit—I feel more like an Alien.

Take the American state of North Carolina, for example. They’ve just passed a law which requires transgender people to use the bathroom (they mean loo) which corresponds to the gender of their birth certificate. (I know. You thought that was the law; always had been the law. Well, they changed it and now they’ve changed it back again.) Of course there’ve been protests. It would have been more surprising if there hadn’t been. What I do find weird is the fact that companies like Apple, Pay Pal, and Deutsche Bank have also waded in, in protest. Perhaps Apple’s involvement with North Carolina’s trans people explains their first drop in profits. They should go back to doing what they do well, their core business, and stop messing about with unreality. The State’s Anglican bishops have also joined the fray, though I can’t help feeling they’d be better respected if they were rather more vocal about the persecution of Christians across the world. After all, the thought of losing your home or your livelihood, let alone your life, is of rather greater importance than a bit of embarrassment about where you pee.

I don’t have any problem with transgender people any more than I have a problem with my gay and lesbian friends. Nor can anyone, surely, get het up about a woman like the brilliant travel writer Jan Morris, who, as James Morris, was one of the team on the first successful ascent of Everest. The thought that she would be forced to go into a Gents in North Carolina is grotesque. However, I can see that people, particularly women with children, might be uncomfortable sharing a facility with an obvious male who merely thinks, believes, supposes or hopes that he is the opposite of what his chromosomes say. One commentator has likened the arguments opposing transgendered lavatories to the arguments against civil rights in the 50s. She says she was there. So was I, and it isn’t the same thing at all. The fact that someone can even think there was any similarity just adds to my feeling of mis-fittedness!

I think all this bathroom stuff is getting totally out of proportion, to say nothing of  becoming boringly repetitive. I’ve lived in America and I love America but I don’t think they’re doing themselves any favours at the moment. Sadly, they do often seem to be blinkered about the rest of the world. Recently, I read that China is to build 30,000 or so new toilets (bathrooms for my US readers) at important historical sites, for the benefit of tourists. I’m not too fussy; I can usually cope with what’s on offer. I remember French toilettes in the early 50s; I can remember in India in the 70s being graciously handed two tiny pieces of paper before squeezing into a minute tin shack with a hole in the floor. However, one particular Chinese loo, encountered in the 80s, always comes to mind when I hear about Bathroom bills. In a long narrow room a long narrow plank with 28 holes carved in it had been placed above a ditch through which water was supposed to flow. There were no doors, no panels between the “holes”, certainly no bathtubs and, mercifully, no men.

Something else that’s bugging my alien sense is ‘whatever’ but that can wait till the weekend. I shall  now go and see what the hail storms have done to my struggling lettuces. Hail stones and slugs—those are realities.

IMG_2314.JPG

Why is Common Sense like a deodorant?**

 

IMG_2310.JPG

Kingcups in an almost dried up stream.Where are the April showers?

I’m sorry if I seemed to trivialise transgender people and the problems of where they “go” in my blog “When is a bathroom not a bathroom”. In truth I was laughing at the prudery that prevents Americans calling those places lavatories or toilets or water closets, which they are but insists on the word “bathrooms” which they are not.

Far from being anti-trans I rather warmed to Rio Sofia, the New York student who thought public facilities should not have to ask if you wanted to pee or poop. She also thought that taking down the labels and deeming ‘bathrooms’ to be degendered could solve the problem of making transgender people feel comfortable. I didn’t entirely agree with her there. Someone who has completely trans-gendered is different—they can choose their preferred loo and no one will know the difference. However, some female-only loos should be kept. Shy, easily embarrassed young women and mothers with small girls should not have to share an ex-Ladies with a bearded man.

It used not to matter, when words tended to mean what one thought they meant, but nowadays people—politicians, obviously, and noisy activists in particular—use Humpty Dumpty speak, with the result that a word means what they say it means, just as, for example, their gender can be merely what is going on in their head and has absolutely nothing to do with what chromosomes they were born with or what they keep in their pants.

Americans have always been a bit touchy about hygiene. I can remember a lively dinner party in Boston, Mass where, having asserted the possibility of keeping clean in the absence of showers, I ended up describing exactly how an English woman washed. (Top down to the waist. Clean water. Feet up to the waist. Simple!)

I’ve ranted on before about the lack of a sense of humour in Activist groups, and sadly, this is too often accompanied by a lack of common sense as well. Some Trans people are now even seeing gender neutral loos as discriminatory; they want the right to go into the labelled gender of their head, if you see what I mean.

The Trans Data Position Paper of 2009, published by the Office of National Statistics, estimates that the number of transgender people in the UK is much less than 1% of the population. That figure makes the recent action of Brighton and Hove Education department a total absurdity.

Thousands of parents in that area have been sent application forms for entrance to Primary school for their four year old children. As well as filling in name and date of birth they can tick male or female or indicate the child’s preferred gender in a blank space. I would have thought, if your child is transgendering at the age of four, as opposed to being a tomboy or just enjoying dressing up, you’d be better advised to reserve any comment until you can talk to your little one’s head teacher.

**because the people who really need it never use it.

 

 

No thank you

DSC_0231.jpeg

Ears can be a terrible nuisance in a high wind.

 

The title needs a bit of punctuation. I don’t mean “No, thank you.” I mean “No ‘thank you.'”

That was the tiny straw that broke this camel’s back.

Archbishop Justin Welby has rightly been praised by religious leaders of different faiths, among many others, for the grace, dignity and courtesy he has shown since the revelations about his parentage. That’s what we’d expect from His Grace, and surely what we would hope for from anyone trying to live a Christlike life.

I was brought up by a Victorian mother who, not surprisingly, had fairly rigid views on good manners and courtesy, particularly for a Christian. I seem to remember that was mainly because you never knew when you might be meeting angels unawares and you didn’t want to be rude to Gabriel.

Let’s go back to my last Sunday in my village church. I was still there, six months after those horrible boxes, and four months after my letter to the bishop. They’d been fairly uncomfortable, unhappy Sundays and this particular one was on the day after several of the congregation had held a fund-raising event. At the end of the service the event organizer announced that we had raised £300.00 – not bad for a small village – and she thanked everyone who had helped. The Vicar said not a word.

I’m sorry that I have to confess to such a pathetic final straw, but that is the truth, and for a time I had to struggle with the feeling that I was a rat leaving a sinking ship. Now I am reconciled to the fact that I have just walked away from an intolerable situation. Having made up my mind I e mailed to the vicar and wrote to the Diocesan Office to say I no longer felt I could be a member of the Church in Wales. They both said ‘sorry’ but made no attempt to persuade me to change my mind. I don’t blame them. They were probably only too thankful to be free of this homophobic bigot. I also wrote to 39 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, where all the church’s money gets sent, to explain that I was stopping my Direct Debit. Needless-to-say I received no acknowledgement, let alone a note of thanks. That’s the end of that particular story.

What was your first prayer? Mine was:

“Thank you for the world so sweet. Thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing. (My daughter used to add ‘in Grandma’s garden)   Thank you God for everything.”

When my son and his family in Dubai come home for the summer I will teach that to Ella, aged four, if she doesn’t already know it. And I will teach Hannah, aged two, my even shorter four word prayer. “Thank you. Sorry. Yes!”

Thank you. She’ll have no trouble with that. She’s mad about animals; having two dogs indoors and cows, sheep, squirrels and rabbits outside plus the use of a horse and she’ll have plenty to say thank you for.  Sorry. She’s a bit of a handful so it won’t be hard to find something to say sorry for; but only one ‘sin’. I don’t want her thinking loving God is all about guilt.And the fourth word? A heartfelt Yes! For whatever God chooses to give.

Perhaps I’m as Victorian as my mother but just what is so difficult about those two little words – thank you?

Empty boxes, empty gestures, empty words

Screenshot 2016-04-09 11.58.20.png

“You Cubes” in a Welsh Cathedral-November 2014

When you leave something, whether it’s the Front Bench, a job, a marriage or a church, it may seem to onlookers that you have left after a row. When it becomes clear that it was a relatively small straw that broke the camel’s back, it may be thought that you left in a fit of pique, or on a whim, and that you’re too stubborn or too proud to apologise and return.

In fact, in almost every case, the small straw comes along after months, or years. In my case I came to the conclusion that I must sadly cut my ties to the Church of Wales after a couple of years of increasing frustration, irritation and hopelessness. After a Diocesan Conference in October 2014 which had left me feeling utterly disillusioned, the scales began to fall from my eyes the following month. That’s when I became convinced that the C in W was bumbling along a road I didn’t want to take, to a place I didn’t want to go.

Do you remember these boxes? The trendily labelled You Cubes.

For many years, in our village church, we used to fill old shoe boxes—at Christmas, or for Water Aid, or in response to a disaster like an earthquake. Some boxes were filled with baby clothes, others with small toys, games and crayons, and still others with toiletries—toothbrushes and toothpaste, scented soap, face cream and after shave. (In a crisis it’s important to restore self esteem and nothing does that better than a bit of luxury.)

The boxes in these photos are different. They are empty. Covered with shiny paper and all sorts of bits and bobs, they are supposed to tell the story of individual spiritual journeys. They seemed to me to be a perfect illustration of the saying “Fur coat and no knickers;” the complete antithesis of what our Lord Jesus Christ is all about. The more I looked at them the more I felt shock, puzzlement and finally outrage. Could no one, from Bishops, through Archdeacons, down to Area Deans, see the symbolism of the empty boxes, particularly just a few weeks before Christmas? Did no one in a lowly post in a Diocesan office dare say, what many must have thought, “this is a daft idea”?

Matthew 7:9-10 “Or which of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?”

These empty boxes summed up what I thought of the Church in Wales. Empty boxes, empty gestures, empty words.

Screenshot 2016-04-09 11.56.18.png

An altar of empty boxes. This says it all.

Weasel Words and Hyperbole

Extracts from:-

The Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Church in Wales to all the faithful concerning gay and lesbian Christians.

“…. What this means is that we, as Bishops of the Anglican Communion (1) …….do not feel that we can support, at this time (2) a move to change the discipline of the Church in Wales with respect to the teaching on marriage…….(3)

In a section of the letter addressed specifically to gays and lesbians it goes on to apologise, not just for prejudice but ‘for persecution’ of gay people. (4)

What a lot of weasel words and hyperbole.

(1) Do they have delusions of grandeur? One Archbishop and five Bishops represent a minute fraction of Anglicans. (of the 85 million Anglicans in the world only an average of 30,468 attended Welsh Sunday services in 2014.)

(2) “at this time” — but watch this space. ++Barry uses the word YET a lot.

(3) One of the bishops is positively itching to support gay marriage, even if he’ll have to re-write chunks of the Bible in order to re-write the Marriage Service.

(4) Bullying, ostracizing, mistreating—all this should be abhorrent to any Christian, and I can vouch for the fact that bullying happens. But persecution?

 

Screenshot 2016-04-07 16.15.36.png

The sea is red with the blood of 21 Coptic Christians beheaded on the shore. This is persecution.

 

I think most people who know me assume I left the Church in Wales over the issue of Same Sex Marriage and that I am, therefore, homophobic. In fact, I was bullied by my lesbian vicar, found my bishop to be duplicitous, was disgusted by some to the things the church was spending my money on and finally and with genuine grief, came to the conclusion the Church had left me.

This time last year I wrote a long and, I think, thoughtful letter to my bishop after I had read the Consultative Document on Same Sex Marriage and many other words on the subject. Here are some extracts from that letter.

“I must begin by declaring an interest. I have been married 55 years. One thing that struck me immediately was that married heterosexual couples who take seriously the sacrament of marriage and who form the majority in the churches which I have attended don’t really figure in the Consultation at all apart from a token acknowledgement that such traditionalists still exist. From the first few lines of the documentation we seem to have been marginalised and I feel that much of what is written is heavily loaded.”

The second sentence of the document reads: “For many decades there has been a debate between those who espouse the traditional line on same-sex partnerships, and those who are more affirming.”

I queried what that really meant. I went on to worry about the timing and, indeed, the rush to push this through and questioned the wisdom in requiring the attendance of mainly OAP parishioners at meetings in isolated villages in February. I suggested, tentatively, that the C in W were being somewhat gung ho in their support for SSM, given the relatively small numbers involved in the C in W compared to the world wide Anglican Communion as a whole. I was also worried that the three big meetings allocated for discussion were not entirely appropriate for large numbers of parishioners from outlying areas.

Then I asked a specific question. “I’m also concerned about priests who find they can’t accept same sex marriage. Will provision be made for them so that they are not pilloried for following their conscience?”

And I ended thus:-

“You probably think you know that I am totally opposed to same sex unions. Not true. I look at same sex couples and remember how I feel about my husband. Who am I to deny them the same joy that I have had in my married life. But, we married as a basis for a secure, stable family life, and with the best will in the world and with all the benefits of modern medicine, same sex couples can’t do that naturally.”

What happened next? An e mail from the Bishop’s Chaplain.

“I passed on your letter to the bishop and he has read it and says that the points you have made will be added to the consultation responses already received.  The bishop feels he cannot respond personally as his job is to listen to the views of the diocese and not side with one side or the other.”

The letters in bold are the ones that upset me; not at the time, then they seemed reasonable. But since then his unequivocal support for the civil partnership of one of his lesbian vicars and his continuing references to the subject of SSM have made me realize that despite what he told his chaplain to tell me, he had long ago come down firmly on one side. Nothing that has happened or been said since has convinced me to return to the Church in Wales.