You won’t be surprised to learn that, as a Lewiswoman of the Wee Free persuasion, there are certain things which I am not encouraged to have an opinion on. These include, but are not limited to: whether elders should wear ties, the use of more innovative psalm tunes, or anything to do with the carpark.
That still leaves me with baking, when to use doilies, and what colour of shirt is most becoming to the ministers. That last one needs very careful consideration if they’re standing against an all-white backdrop, and had a late one at the Session the night before. Peelie-wally face, grey shirt: you see the problem.
However, the restrictions imposed upon my thinking within church confines are as nothing compared to those that society has put my way.
Indeed, the overbearing Free Kirk patriarchy which has repressed my kind for so many years seems positively liberal by comparison. Why, this week alone, they allowed me to press buttons on the recording equipment unsupervised. And when the singing elder ran at me, shouting, ‘who let you loose on that?’ the minister reprimanded him. Progress, you see?
But what happens inside our secret society of Calvinist oppression is well-known to those who merely look on. They know that the men rule with a rod of iron and the women meekly obey. It is a matter of common knowledge that the minister tells us how to vote, what to watch on television, which newspapers are acceptable, and which horse to back in the Grand National. Well, no, not that last one. Our local intellegentsia are not daft enough to think betting is encouraged; just that their neighbours are robots.
They are particularly good at making those kinds of judgements – what is harmless, what is harmful, what is important, what is not. And, of course, they are well aware that we Presbyterians are strangers to rational thought . It is for our own good that they tell us what to think, what to say, and when to be quiet.
This week, I shared a ‘Spectator’ article on facebook. It was called, ‘Questioning transgenderism is the new blasphemy’.
So, I questioned transgenderism.
The response? I was variously accused of being uncaring, ignorant, commenting on something that didn’t concern me and, inevitably, I was told to be quiet.
All of which rather made the author’s – and my – point. You cannot discuss transgenderism rationally. The same applies to abortion, to gay marriage, and to any number of other social phenomena which have quietly been ushered onto statute books in the west, without anyone really talking about it.
The responses are always the same: those arguing against you position themselves as caring, and will use words like ‘hurt’ and ‘shame’ and ‘rejection’. With no evidence whatsoever, they will tell you that generations of islanders suffered shame, mental illness, and even took their own lives as a result of being judged and rejected for things over which they had no control .
And perhaps that is true. But Christians do not mean to add to anyone’s unhappiness. It’s just, no one has asked their opinion. Had there been debate, they could and should have been part of that. Then, an appropriate response could have been discussed – by which I do mean with all sides being heard, not just those voicing the socially acceptable view.
What is not socially acceptable, as I am fast learning, is Biblical authority. People will dismiss it, using words that I find chilling – not because I am offended, but because they are.
They are offended at the idea of submitting to anything that is not their preference, or their will. In all of this, the supreme irony is that they are in chains of their own making. Like Jacob Marley, they have forged them inch by inch, and tightened them further with each half-turn away from the will of God.
There is, of course, another taboo here. You may not talk of sin. In this fruitless online exchange, the opponents of free speech write emotively and scathingly of the shame inflicted on generations of people for their lifestyle choices. While I have no doubt that may be true, and regrettable where there was a want of empathy, the truth has not changed.
So, don’t be offended at the mention of ‘sinner’, because I freely admit to being one of equal, if not greater guilt.
No Christian calls sin into question to humiliate, or judge anybody. That is never the aim. Yes, we may indeed quote you Romans 3: 23, ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’.
That means you, but it means me as well, and I speak to you, not as a would-be judge, but as a fellow convict who has been granted the key for my cell door.
You see, Romans 3 has a 24th verse. It says, ‘ and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’.
That is the key. If a Christian tells you you’re imprisoned, it’s not to cause you despair. They want you to open the door to freedom like they have.
Perhaps, after all, your hurt and offence has nothing to do with hearing the word, ‘sin’, and everything to do with being out of step with the only One who can truly dry your tears.