A Christian view of trans

Christian theology supports trans people and transition unequivocally. The Bible recognises and values trans people. As Peterson Toscano said, a man carrying a water jar was doing women’s work, which was beyond shameful for a man in that culture- she must have been trans.

The Bible values bodies as good. God created humanity in God’s image, and everything God had made was very good. Male and female God made me! God knitted me together in my mother’s womb- I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And after my transition I was freed to see my body as beautiful and wonderful, not inadequate as I thought before. As God does not have a body, whether like in the Sistine Chapel with a grey beard and pink shirt or otherwise, the image is of our nature- like God, we are loving, creative, powerful and beautiful. It is that nature, made in God’s image, that drives us to transition.

Philip baptised the Ethiopian eunuch. Eunuchs were condemned in the old testament, but not in the new dispensation of Christ.

Jesus identifies with the lowly and downtrodden: whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me. When the Church spits hate, such as the Pope inveighing against “gender theory, which does not recognise the order of creation” calling it as bad as the use of nuclear weapons, he continues the oppression of the strong against the weak that Christ condemned. Francis was pleasing his conservative followers then, the modern equivalent of the scribes and pharisees who Jesus said locked people out of the Kingdom of Heaven. For them, morality is a set of rules, to be used to condemn others. However the Kingdom of Heaven is completely different: we have one Father, who is in Heaven, and one teacher, one instructor, who is the Christ. Jesus will send the Teacher, the Holy Spirit, who will be in us.

You know who you are and what is right because Christ has sent Christ’s spirit to be in you. Your conviction that your gender is not that assigned, your conviction that you are of the other gender, which you know despite all denial, which eventually you have the courage to assert despite all the mockery and hostility others rain down on you, comes from Christ, who says, In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!

Paul confirms this: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. In Acts, we read of the holy spirit coming on all kinds of people. Peter’s epistle predicts the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts– which is the moment you commit to transition, and fully expressing who you are.

The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. That is, the Kingdom of Heaven is among us, here, present, now, when we follow the Spirit of Christ within. You know your transition is right through the Spirit of Christ leading you.

This post is not written for atheists. If you do not value the Bible, it will not convince you that God leads you to freedom through transition. You know that transition is good for other reasons. Rather I write for people when the Bible has been used to condemn them, for that is a false use of the Bible. The words of Jesus within us confirm that we are right to transition.

Quaker unity

The idea of Unity is at the heart of Quakerism, yet we rarely try to define it. Instead we use the word as if we all know what it means. There are about seventy uses of the word in Quaker Faith and Practice, and from the context of each we might gain an idea of it.

In the Bible, NRSV, it appears seven times:

Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life for evermore.

Here unity is in our common life, and it makes that life bright and beautiful. It is God’s anointing, and life-giving water.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Ephesians 4.11-13 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

I read this as having maturity, the same faith and knowledge that Christ had, which will bind us together in unity. If we are in touch with what Quakers call the Inner Light, as Jesus was, we will live in unity together.

It was a Quaker word from the beginning. Edward Burrough wrote in 1662 of making decisions in love, coolness, gentleness and dear unity. All these words are aspects of one way of relating. Isaac Penington might find unity with anyone he meets, when he found the spirit and life in them. Francis Howgill repeatedly echoed the new testament in his description of worship, including 1 Peter: We met together in the unity of the Spirit, and of the bond of peace, treading down under our feet all reasoning about religion. George Fox wrote of our “unity in the Spirit” and Margaret Fell of “peace, love and unity,” both to people outside the new movement: it is a common English word, and Christians would understand it just as they understood Christian love. For William Penn, when someone ministered in meeting the rest, recognising the leadings of Christ, would adhere with a firm unity. Elizabeth Fry feared the snare of spiritual pride in the sense of religious unity.

Unity is a state of our being in eternity: Job Scott wrote of everlasting unity shortly before his death; we are in unity with the living and the dead. And unity is a process. We continually achieve it, in our meetings for worship as they gather, (when two or three gather together I am with them) and our meetings for worship for business. It is not in words and doctrines: We have sought unity through agreement in doctrines and institutions; and the track of church history, like some new road through the desert, is strewn with the parched skeletons of our failures. For John Punshon, we might find it with Methodists in communion- I am like you, and we share one faith in God- though Friends might disapprove, or counsel against. It is from God, and it is part of our wordless human, primate, mammalian way of being with each other when our words and our conflict fall away. Our differences are always present. How we deal with those differences is our continuing work, with God’s help. Iain Law feared breaking unity and his friendships if he ministered of his experiences in his meeting.

In business meeting we sometimes all join together in a certainty of immediate rightness and sometimes one will acquiesce in the discernment of their Friends, after they have been heard. As a worshipping community, particularly in our local and area meetings, we have a continuing responsibility to nurture the soil in which unity may be found. John Woolman found Quaker work best done with the discerned assent of the Meeting.  The Yearly Meeting struggled to find unity on sexuality in 1994, and found it sixteen years later. There is unity in the search and the struggle together.

In the struggle to find unity, in finding the beauty of what one other has found and valued, we may grow. One Friend’s boldness leads us on. We might seek a feeling of safety from uniformity of outward practices and observations, or from creeds, but that is not true unity, which we find in Jesus.

Our differences persist, though mostly unexpressed, so in considering membership we need trust and a sense we are safe enough, for the moment. Rufus Jones wrote of the “hidden seed of God”, and for me our current exploration of privilege becomes relevant: we have differences of culture and of personality, and worldly ways of enforcing hierarchy come naturally and mostly unconsciously to us. We recognise we are at different stages along the way. We don’t require great achievement but sincerity of purpose. Boundaries are sketchy, because they cannot be defined beforehand in words but must be known in relationship in the moment: there are broad principles of belief and conduct on which unity is essential… even though precise agreement on every point is not required. Thomas Story wrote, The unity of Christians never did nor ever will or can stand in uniformity of thought and opinion, but in Christian love only.

Unity, and the sense of the presence of God, is our experience outside meeting: Anne Hosking found it kissing her children, and from the earliest days of Christianity we might find it in coitus. It is in our shared humanity- with everyone- so might be found in our most painful experiences such as bereavement.

Janet Scott wrote, This is the truth which we know and try to live … that every person is capable of response to the divine Spirit; that this Spirit, or Light, or God reaches out to each one directly and freely; that if we follow the leadings of this Spirit faithfully we are led out of sin into unity with the divine will; that this unity leads us into love of and care for all humankind, who are our kin; that what the Spirit shows us is living truth which cannot be fettered by words.

Two chapter headings include the word. Chapter 25 is Unity of Creation, arguing that All species and the Earth itself have interdependent roles within Creation. Humankind is not the species, to whom all others are subservient, but one among many. And, This is a marvellous world, full of beauty and splendour; it is also an unrelenting and savage world, and we are not the only living things prone to dominate if given the chance. In our fumbling, chaotic way, we do also make gardens, irrigate the desert, fly to the moon and compose symphonies. There is a unity of the human species, and of the biosphere.

Chapter 27 is Unity and Diversity. God’s truth is too wide for one person, or even perhaps one religion. John Woolman found it among the “Indians”, and Robert Barclay in the Turks. Henry Hodgkin, a Quaker missionary, wrote in 1933 I believe that God’s best for another may be so different from my experience and way of living as to be actually impossible to me. I recognise [a change] to have taken place in myself, from a certain assumption that mine was really the better way, to a very complete recognition that there is no one better way, and that God needs all kinds of people and ways of living through which to manifest himself in the world. We might also find truth among other Christians, for example in Thomas Merton’s contemplative prayer, but these things may be too close to us, and QFP does not say this. We value the Bible, and the Spirit which is above it. We have our reasons for rejecting specific consecrated sacraments, and ordained ministry.

Richard Rohr

Catholic priest tolerates gay men, and even trans people shock!

Rohr’s daily meditations reach millions, and recently he tackled LGBT folk, or SOGI, Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity issues. He started by assuming his audience was hostile.

With all the changing ways of understanding gender and sexuality, most of us truly need contemplative eyes and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to “rupture simplistic binaries” and be compassionate and respectful of difference and diversity. It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead.

I found it almost impossible to read. He is challenging his queerphobic Christian followers, saying that while he has to make a continual effort to be “non-dual”, his instinct and theirs is to judge gay as unacceptable. Jesus, he says, ruptures and transgresses simplistic binaries between self and other, but most people dismiss and judge every thing that does not fit neatly in their simplistic categories.

He wants to teach the Mind of Christ by getting readers to think about SOGI, which he has no doubt they will instinctively reject. This week is a good test case for one’s ability to think in a nondual way.

So he decides to preach that the church should include and accept LGBT people not in hopes that they can force us into a normal, celibate, straight-acting box but accept us as part of God’s beautiful diverse creation, and he starts by othering all his LGBT readers.

He says some good stuff. God’s will is that people and things become their true selves, and then live in “supportive coexistence”. Conservative Christians, however, want to control God’s good creation which they fear, seeing it as chaos.

Institutional religion tends to think of people as very simple, and therefore the law must be very complex to protect them in every situation. Jesus does the opposite: He treats people as very complex—different in religion, lifestyle, virtue, temperament, and success—and keeps the law very simple in order to bring them to God… Love God, and your neighbour.

Jesus, and Rohr, allow people to be ourselves. Do not let the labels trip you up—woman, man, transgender, cisgender, straight, bisexual, gay, queer. I note he does not mention lesbian. There is a reason we bring L to the front. Formerly people wrote GLBT.

He goes on to use queer folks to teach about the Bible. Yes, Leviticus commands stoning gay men to death, but the Bible records a developing understanding of God from Abraham’s attempted human sacrifice to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ harsh words are reserved entirely for those whose certainty about their religious rectitude causes them to condemn others. Jesus is all about inclusion, forgiveness, and empowerment. In the light of his compassionate presence, people are set free to live their lives in strength and hope, regardless of whether they be considered outcasts by those in the “religious know.” Rather than complex rules teaching us what is OK so we feel safe with no need to think, or even to see clearly, the only law is Love.

Just as the Bible supports slavery and we don’t, so also we find deeper themes in the Bible support LGBT acceptance, and even oppose Patriarchy. Rohr writes, God sides with the powerless. God liberates the oppressed. God suffers with the suffering. I resent that. Many LGBT people flourish despite oppression. We are not his exemplar group of powerless and suffering people, and his attitude encourages others to look down on us and pity us- perhaps he does himself. We do not need his support, but justice.

He claims the secular culture “celebrates” us. Perhaps he has not read The Times’ articles on trans people. It is almost as if he shares the homophobic Christian’s shock when we are shown in a good light.

God, he says, creates each of us unique, with different gifts and challenges, and desires us to live into the fullness of our humanity and our identity.

Rohr’s example is Episcopal priest and lesbian Liz Edman, who aged five wanted boy’s shoes and was supprted by her mother. Everyone wants things forbidden by the complex rules humans create. From object of pity, we change in an instant to patterns and examples for others, who should all Know who you are. Be who you are. Be the person God created you to be. It is deeply uncomfortable for me. I am as enchained by convention as anyone. I have no wish to be forced to teach others any more than be pitied by them.

At the end, he quotes Liz Edman on Jesus turning water into wine. The water was used for ritual washing, the wine intoxicates and liberates us from rules. This is a queer interpretation, which might get her fired. To liberal straight Christians, she says, Let us be ourselves, and assure us that you will have our backs when our proclamation unsettles and afflicts those who are comfortable in a dualistic worldview.

Yes, Queers can be free as Christ intended, and our freedom help liberate others. But our experience belongs to no-one straight. We are not your teaching tool. And the idea of sheep and goats, the binary division between in group and out group, is everywhere reinforced in the church. For example:

Later, Rohr quotes an Asian man:

Now that new voices are being enunciated about him by those . . . outside the traditional framework of Christianity, Jesus must be experiencing an emancipation from the confinement of orthodoxy that has immobilized him. . .

Being discombobulated

The doctor makes me feel ill.

Like the battle between trans and terf, the battle between biblical literalists and atheist rationalists continues on the blogs. I blog to get things clear in my mind, and having dismissed creationism to my satisfaction I have moved on. You can’t win against them: they seem happy to continue asserting their rubbish, backed by their tight communities of Evangelicals. They twist and distort. So the truth-teller comments, and they respond in an arrogant way, a beautiful example being the assertion that trilobite fossils offer at least as much proof for the creation/flood scenario as the old age earth cosmology.

I remain proud of this comment: The more I interact with you, Tim, the more I see how pitiable you are. How much more beautiful my world is! I hear words like biostratigraphy or palaeothermometry, and learn what they mean, and think- How wonderful! How beautiful! People are finding these things out! And you think, They must be wrong. It is all rubbish. Here is a dispute and there is an inconsistency, and all scientists are FOOLS!

How much more beautiful my Bible is! My Bible has story, and metaphor, and poetry, and poetic imagery, and allusion. Your Bible has a series of propositions, more or less ridiculous, which you have to Believe. My Bible leads me to God, and your Bible mires you in lies.

And my Christian argument against creationism: God created people in God’s image, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful, and scientists seek understanding, assessing the evidence. From presuppositions of a young Earth and a Flood, geologists in the 18th century established evidence of an old Earth, and how the Flood could not have created the strata visible all over the world. They seek the truth. That academic science, involving millions of people, should have produced such a detailed account of the Earth’s history, continually being refined, is one of the wonders of God’s creation. They do so based on evidence in the Earth’s rocks, as astronomers observe electromagnetic radiation falling on the Earth and its satellites, and geneticists, genomes. A God who created all this evidence to delude God’s people would be a monster, creating a stumbling block that uses our good qualities, curiosity and commitment to truth, against us. Alternatively, a God who allowed Satan to deceive us in that way would not deserve my worship. My God does not send ane to Heaven and ten to Hell.

This towering achievement of humanity is airily dismissed. Here that doctor uses the diversity in the oldest evidence of the Cambrian explosion to argue for creation. Schizochroal eyes are indeed complex. But earlier life has been found, in the Ediacaran biota, too soft to create fossils without exceptional conditions. As life began to move on legs and fins, and detect light and sound, an evolutionary arms race began between predators and prey creating the Cambrian explosion. Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of eyes. Isaiah quoted by Matthew describes the person who would dismiss that explanation.

And yet this Emergency Room physician dismisses all this evidence, all this analysis, as “Arrogant, prideful and foolish”. He turns his back on the truth. Challenge him, and he will answer you. Anyone wanting to find the truth, or deal with argument fairly, has an impossible disadvantage- for I want to show him the wonders of God’s creation. Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes. He is a blind guide.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.

The cascade of wicked falsity makes me feel ill. He is a physician! He writes in grammatical sentences. I dare to hope that Christians can seek truth together, in love, and his torrent of gibberish, told with a straight face, belies that. I get stronger, though. Yes, people are trapped in delusion, and try to delude others, but also some seek truth, and we can approach it if we are committed to it. When starting this blog I wanted to analyse why I find an arrogant series of assertions, stated as if the speaker believed them but clearly untrue, was so disorientating to me. It is like motion sickness. And I can’t. Why do I find it so unpleasant? I just do.

One of my exercises is the Agreement Challenge: what can you value in something you disagree with? Violet introduced me to his blog, this post. So I was glad to be introduced to this article on how the value of scientific evidence is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one. Indeed. I like Violet’s prescriptions for education, and am sad I even considered anything that physician said.

There is a limit to the value of pointing out the foolishness of fools. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, the way is to promote birth control and education on human relationships and consent. US Republicans oppose this. We like to think rationality will prevail, but they’re not listening!

I am less discombobulated than I was by such vileness. Yesterday, at a conference I was discombobulated in a completely different way: I glimpsed that if I could better understand what these speakers were saying, perhaps reading the paper rather than hearing it, my understanding of the World would be enriched. Good advice: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. I will spend less time worried about wicked rubbish!

Vulnerability

-What are you afraid of?
-My vulnerability.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. That’s in Mark, and bears the imprint of an editor: some authorities miss out “for my sake”, but the words “for the sake of the gospel” damage the symmetry of the phrase, and the explanation damages its poetry.

I am losing my life. I fritter it. I hate sitting here watching television. I liked going into London to speak at Quaker Quest, taking in several interesting encounters and lots of Art. One told me, gratefully, that what I said was like ministry, at least worship-sharing. That had an air of holiday about it, but in a job I hope I would not merely be ground down, and even now I could go out to encounter people and beautiful things locally.

And, I sit here because I am afraid, of judgment which is so awful as to be as bad as death. I know this is an illusion, but the fear of it is still real. Of course I will die, and I could die in an accident at any time- though fearing death and planning suicide is a strange combination. There is something about the moment of death which is fearful and horrible, but death itself is not. After death, the horror disappears.

The moment of failure, the moment of getting caught out, terrifies me, whether it leads to death or mild embarrassment. I can see I am not being sensible, that I am losing my life, that my way of saving myself is an illusion, but being rational about this does not save me from the fear.

There’s nothing to fear. I know that. I still fear it.

-Why were you screaming?
-Because I felt seen and accepted.

More paradoxes. I rationalised it immediately- it is the delight which reminds me of past lack; but it could be deeper than that. It means I am wrong. If I am acceptable, all I know and believe about myself is untrue and my world falls apart. If I am seen, I will be despised- and judged. None of this is rational, so it could be both, as my madness can survive internal contradiction.

I will tell you here. I could not tell K face to face, but it might be worth working on.

I am beautiful.

Not- this thing, this process, all that is within my skin, whatever- I. People value and accept me. People even admire me, and sometimes express that.

This is all quite binary. All or nothing, Heaven or Hell, the marriage feast or gnashing of teeth, admiration or condemnation. It is also instant. I rarely judge other people like that. They’re mostly all right, I add little pieces of experience with them to a picture, and normally run away rather than cast another out. It’s not a perfect analogy for how others are, but it does tend to refute that all or nothing God-like power I ascribe to them, which only a mother has over a baby.

I am beautiful
beloved of God
highly gifted
facing my difficulties squarely.

Maybe I could tell other people this, and see how they react. I am judged, repeatedly, and cannot anticipate how others will judge me or what consequences that judgment will have for me. I am sometimes seen as wrong or bad, but not in the way I anticipate.

I fear making mistakes. If I can’t make mistakes, then I can’t do anything.

I record my counselling sessions, and this recording was silent. I don’t know why it didn’t work. But these two moments were the core of it- I fear vulnerability, I was hurt when I felt accepted. I want an instant solution, I want things I can work at for self-improvement, but looking back I perceive I am improving (hard though that is to claim).

overcome

What did Jesus mean, “I have overcome the World”? As a postmodernist, I would say whatever the reader needed the phrase to mean, in that moment- and if you had a blinding flash of Insight into it, perhaps he meant that. Certainly he means we can overcome: there is little point in the God-man, once, overcoming if his followers do not overcome too. He does not mean that he has what outsiders imagine is the Zen-like calm, as Jesus wept and became angry. I started my spiritual journey wanting not to experience difficult emotions, but they are unavoidable.

And for me, it means this. I had the sense of being lovable and acceptable, loved and accepted by God and by myself, and that is enough. I do not need the acceptance of others, which they can withhold to manipulate me, or to avoid their condemnation as it will not hurt me. If I accept myself, that is all the acceptance I need. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ- for the Spirit of Life in Christ has set us free.

The whole verse is this: I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world! Just before he was crucified. It is not conquering in a worldly sense, but leaving worldly sense behind.

I seek integration. There are all these voices in me, or feelings, or even characters, different ideals of being and understandings, and I want them all to work for the same goal, to pull in the same direction. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. I say,

I am here

and I am, one being, present and aware. It feels like it is what I called the inner child. Then there are my counsellors: the rational self, knowing the sensible thing to do. Even the inner critic. “You will embarrass yourself”- embarrassment is extremely painful. There has to be one making the decisions, and it has to be the one with the power to decide.

 

Spirit of Life

Am I safe? Yes- until I am not.
Am I good? Yes- until I am not.
I am powerful, until I am powerless.

I am not sure I fully agree with Paul, but what he says makes some psychological sense. What does he mean? I do the very thing I hate. I agree that the law is good. I will what is right, but I cannot do it. When I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. Who will rescue me from this body of death?

What is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus [that] has set [me] free from the law of sin and death? What is that law of sin? It seems to me, wrestling with the passage in Meeting, that the law of sin is an external standard of Right- not just the 630 commandments of the Torah, but every external standard, every set of rules for conduct no matter how well-intentioned, every attempt to keep safe by telling others what to do. Every standard imposed from outside, even if I accept it and think it is a good standard and want to live by it.

The spirit of life in Christ has set me free. If I walk according to the spirit of life within me, I will do Good- for I am Love as God is Love. Any other Rule is impossible to obey. And yet we feel unsafe, and we feel threatened by the Others, so Christianity since Paul is filled with these sets of rules. A trans man I met had been subjected to “Heavy Shepherding”, where his church did not believe in his ability to make correct decisions for himself, so his pastor had to vet each one. That comes from Hell not Heaven. I am not safe, and no-one is safe from me. Or, I am safe and good, until I am not. Yet we are children of God, brothers and sisters, so we will act in love.

One ministered on decluttering- not just stuff, but relationships, ideas and memories. Why keep a memory and worry at it like poking a bruise? I said to her after, because it still has something to teach me. My mother’s lack of understanding had so wounded me from the age of nine to 44, when I accepted it. I recounted the memory. She had experience as a teacher, of parents driving their children to achievements they never realised. That’s close enough. I had accepted my mother’s lack of understanding, but today I accepted my powerlessness and inability to communicate my own feeling, which was a lack of confidence. I wanted to be confident.

I am powerful until I am not. Sometimes I am not as powerful as I would have wished. IT FEELS LIKE DEATH! IT SCARES ME! But it isn’t death, not really. I am still alive, even well-situated and happy. If only I could recognise that.

In the afternoon, in the Quaker business meeting, we considered whether we should become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation or remain Unincorporated when we register as a charity. This is fairly dry and technical. What makes it beautiful is the way we deal with it, in discussion before and in the moment of the Meeting. I am open to persuasion, and I am not going just to give in. So I talk to the former managing director of a company with factories in several countries, and feel somewhat abashed, the queer benefit claimant. He could seek to dominate, and I would defy him; instead, we respond in Loving equality.

Christian Science

I thoughtChristian Science was about Christianity for scientists, then I heard it was much nuttier than that. It has to get over beliefs like this- Has it? Can it?

The Founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother’s need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another’s good. She wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in 1875 that sickness is an illusion that can be cured by faith alone. Such can be deduced from certain Bible verses, such as “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” and “God created humankind in his image”. If we are perfect, in the image of God, we cannot be sick. People tried to convince themselves that they were not sick.

I hear the anger this belief still engenders sixty years after my friend ceased to believe it, aged 12. Her father had migraines, and tried to believe they were not there. Her parents read Eddy’s book, understanding the Bible through it.

How is it Science? Because God is understood to be unchanging Love—the infinite Principle that is constant, universal, inclusive, eternal, the only true power and source of all good. It explains the spiritual laws of Love that enabled Jesus to heal sickness and sin. This divine Science also answers our fundamental questions about evil, reality, and eternal life. And as the word science implies, it is reliable, consistent, and provable, bringing healing to individuals and humanity through a deeper understanding of God. It isn’t, in other words: the term sounded good. Mary Baker Eddy turned wholeheartedly to God when she experienced a critical injury in 1866. As she read accounts of Jesus’ swift, powerful healings, a new sense of God, Spirit, as the only reality flooded her thought and healed her. Impelled to understand the Principle behind this experience, she continued to search for and find in the Bible the underlying laws of God that would form the basis of her teaching and practice of Christian Science. One coincidence or delusion for one charismatic, persuasive woman, and people throw out real medicine. Children have died and parents been convicted of neglect because of it.

It would be so lovely, if only it were true.

Our true nature is spiritual, Eddy decided. No. We are animals, physical creatures. If I am tired I need to sleep. They still teach that if we accept and believe Jesus’ promises, follow his teachings and understand his spiritual laws (as explained by Ms Eddy) we will be healed- so if we are ill, it is our fault.

Hard Brexit

Soft Brexit makes no sense. Only Remaining or hard Brexit are the options.

Soft Brexit, keeping the rules of the Single Market and relinquishing the vote, with some concessions on immigration, would address the concerns of a lot of Leave voters, but Immigration is not the issue. It is the cape in the hands of the bullfighter, distracting us from our real problem, the hard Right.

The Single Market is not a matter of common tariffs but common law. It is our agreement to common standards of product safety, for the good of consumers, as well as common employment rights in the Social Chapter. Outside the Single Market our goods for export to the EU would be subject to “a blizzard of red tape”, as they would all need certified that they complied with EU law for the good of EU citizens. So trade negotiations now are a matter of harmonising not tariffs, but rules.

Britain outside the EU shrinks that trading bloc by more than 12%. It makes it less attractive to export to the Single Market, and less possible for the EU to enforce such rules. It is an attempt by the hard Right to destroy the rules, to increase profits for business at the expense of all of us. Mrs May will not publicise the British negotiating position and negotiating priorities only partly to avoid giving away too much to the other side- for her priorities would be unpalatable to any democratic politician without a great deal more lying and misinformation than there is now. So stories of straight bananas and hate-mongering against immigrants will get worse. TTIP may be foiled, but Brexit could make it unnecessary.

Leave voters from working class districts. You feel left behind, that politics is not for your benefit? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

This is why Labour must work to prevent Brexit, and why Tories cannot be trusted to take any action against lying and hate-mongering by politicians or the press. This is why the Foreign Secretary calls for hard Brexit. We are in danger. I use apocalyptic imagery in the featured picture, because this is what apocalyptic in the Bible is about: overwhelming threat and change in this world justifying talk of the world being born anew.

The fatal flaw in the Referendum, which renders unsustainable the cries that “The Will of the People must be respected” and so there must be some form of Brexit, is that there is no clarity what the will of the people is. Is it hard Brexit? Soft Brexit? An end to immigration? A wish to snub David Cameron? Only the Remain vote is clear. Remainers are the majority! The lies vitiate the Leave vote’s validity, since voters might have thought the NHS would really get more money, and voted for that. The arguments are quite clear that MPs should educate themselves as to the interests of the country, and not be bound by an ignorant vote; see AC Grayling.

My thought has been clarified by Nick Clegg.

True love waits

No-one wants abortions to happen. To reduce the numbers, there are three main paths- legal restrictions, better religious education, and better sex education. I want to speak up for the second.

Better religious education, and more people following in the footsteps of Christ, will reduce abortions. The two great commandments are to love God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. This means respect and care for all, including those who need abortions. It also means care for those who are at risk of needing abortions: social groups which may be found through sociological research. They are our sisters; every hair on their head is numbered. Rescuing them from abortion does not mean enforcing rules on them, but making it as far as possible unnecessary. We enforce rules on subjects. Sisters deserve better.

Constantine used Christianity as the ideology of his empire. It became a system of moral control of the populace: the State could kill the body, and convince the person soul and body would be destroyed in Hell. Before that, Jesus told us how to navigate a strange, unpredictable world, in which the rich, living in luxury and self-indulgence, kept back the wages of the labourers by fraud; a millennial time, when there were wars and rumours of wars, and tales of a Messiah and the coming of God; people trying to live as best they could by following the rules they thought were God’s rules, and a watchful Empire taking over, ready to enforce its will by extreme violence. About forty years after he died, the Empire destroyed the Temple.

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world be saved through him. Jesus did not tell the rich young ruler to rule in a more moral fashion, but to give up all stake in that society and become an itinerant. Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.

So it is not the Christian’s job to enforce rules on others. We recognise that is the State’s job, and every person should be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. We obey because of conscience, not just fear. Jesus sent out the seventy, expecting them to be welcomed and fed, and so we should behave like those hospitable Jews. We should bear one another up with a tender hand.

We should also not judge, but remember our own frailty and need. We each need the support of the community, so should not deny that support to others. So when someone needs an abortion, we should support that; but work so that fewer abortions are needed. Self-respect and respect of others promotes sex in a loving relationship, rather than abusive or exploitative sex.

The Christian who only intervenes to say No- who takes no interest in a woman until she needs an abortion, and then denies her what she needs- behaves in the opposite way to Christ and drives people from Christ.

Dirk van Baburen, Christ washing disciples feet